In 548, Theudebert II, the Merovingian king of Austrasia, was assassinated in a coup led by his cousin Clotilde.
Theuderic, another cousin, succeeded him on the throne. It is not known who exactly killed Theudebert II, though it is suspected that either Clotilde or her husband Chilperic I were behind it.
The assassination of Theudebert II was part of a larger power struggle between the Merovingian kings and their nobles.
In 511, Clovis I had divided the kingdom among his four sons: Childebert I got Paris and the royal title; Lothair I got Soissons; Charles I got Orléans; and Alberic I got Rheims. But this division did not last long; upon Childebert’s death in 558, all four brothers fought for control over the entire kingdom. This conflict continued until 561 when Lothair finally emerged victorious and became sole ruler of the Franks.
During this time of political instability, many Frankish nobles saw an opportunity to increase their own power at the expense of the kings. One such noble was Fredegund, wife of Chilperic I and mother-in-law of Clotilde (who was married to Chilperic’s son). Fredegund used her influence to have her husband declare war on Austrasia in order to take advantage of the chaos caused by Theudebert II’s assassination. This plan worked; in 562, Chilperic invaded Austrasia and deposed Theuderic from the throne. He then installed his own son as king (a child named Sigebert) and ruled Austrasia himself until Sigebert came of age.
The assassination of Theudebert II marked an important turning point in Frankish history.
It signaled the beginning of increased nobility power at the expense of royal authority – a trend that would continue throughout the rest of Merovingian rule and eventually lead to its downfall.
Theudebert II, son of Theuderic II and grandson of Clovis I, was the King of Austrasia from 533 until his death in 548. His father, Theuderic II, had divided the Frankish kingdom between Clovis’ sons, and Theudebert had thus become King of Austrasia, with his brother Theudebald I ruling in Burgundy. However, the brothers often waged war against each other, and in 548, Theudebert took advantage of Theudebald’s death in an accident and annexed Burgundy to his kingdom.
Theudebert II was a skilled general and an effective politician.
He expanded the boundaries of his kingdom, annexing territory from the Alamanni and the Burgundians. He also cultivated alliances with the Gothic Kingdom of Toulouse and the Vandal Kingdom of North Africa, diplomatically isolating his rival Theudebald.
Theudebert II’s reign was cut short, however, by his assassination in 548. His killers were never found, but suspicion fell on Theudebald’s supporters. The assassination plunged the Frankish kingdom into chaos, and Theudebert’s young son, Theudebald II, was unable to maintain control of the realm.