Clovis, the founder of the Frankish monarchy, born at Tournai about 405, died in Paris in 511. On the death of his father Childeric (481), Clovis, then about 15 years old, was proclaimed king by the Salian tribe, then established around Tournai. Their territory was small, and the Salian warriors wore few in number; nevertheless within 30 years Clovis had secured for himself a powerful empire. On his accession Rome had been for five years in the hands of Odoacer, who had overturned the imperial throne; but the central part of Gaul was still governed by a Roman officer, named Syagrius, who was conquered by Clovis in the vicinity of Soissons (486), and fled to the Visigothic court at Toulouse; but upon the menaces of Clovis he was given up, and afterward put to death. The whole Belgic country, the cities of Soissons, Rheims, Troyes, Boauvais, and Amiens, submitted to the victor, who rapidly extended his dominion from the Scheldt to the Loire. He thus became one of the most powerful princes in Gaul, and was courted by the Catholic bishops of that country, who saw in him the future supporter of their faith, and succeeded in giving him as a wife Clotilda, the only Catholic princess in Gaul. At first she found him reluctant to renounce the worship of his national god, and it is narrated that a miracle was required to overcome his resistance to Christianity. The Alemanni had crossed the Rhine, and, following in the footsteps of the Franks, intended to settle in the rich plains of Gaul. Clovis hastened to repel them, and in a battle near Tolbiac (496) they were already raising the shout of victory, when Clovis in despair thought of the God of his wife, and throwing himself on his knees, exclaimed: "God of Clotilda, give me assistance in this hour of necessity, and I confess thy name." The course of victory was immediately turned; the Alemanni fled, while the flower of their forces and their king were killed.
Within the same year Clovis, true to his vow, was baptized at Rheims by Bishop Remy, and with him 3,000 of his companions. In a short time this example was followed by the greater part of the nation. Henceforth Clovis became popular among the Catholics in Gaul, all the bishops of that communion, impelled by their opposition to the Arians, representing him as the deliverer of the faithful. Yielding to the entreaties of his wife (see Clotilda), Clovis invaded Burgundy, conquered Gundebald near Langrcs, and took several important cities, but finally contented himself with laying a tribute on the Burgundian kingdom. In 507, having summoned his warriors to the banks of the Loire, he thus addressed them: "I am displeased with those Arians possessing that beautiful country of Aquitania; let us go there and take it at once, for the land is very good." He then crossed the Loire and fell upon the Gothic army near Poitiers. The Visigoths were routed, their king Alaric was slain, and the greater part of Aquitania submitted to Clovis. Theodoric, the king of the Ostrogoths, however, succeeded in retaining Septimania. Clovis was then the sovereign of the whole country from the lower Rhine to the Pyrenees, bounded E. by the Vosges and the Cevennes, with the exception of several small districts in the north still belonging to Frankish princes of his own family, some of whom had assisted him in his wars.
But by the most treacherous and cruel means he got rid of these petty rivals, and became the only monarch of his race. He died soon afterward, and was buried in the basilica of the Holy Apostles, which had been built by him and Clotilda. He left four sons, among whom he had divided his dominions. Theodoric, the eldest, born to him by a first wife or mistress, probably of German descent, obtained the eastern country bounded by the Rhine and the Meuse, with the western part of Genhany and some provinces in Aquitania; Childebert, Clodomir, and Clotaire, sons of Clotilda, were kings at Paris, Orleans, and Soissons, the last finally uniting under his power the dominions of his brothers. - Two other Merovingian princes of the same name, Clovis II. and Clovis III., lived in the 7th century; but they were mere tools in the hands of powerful mayors of the palace, and belong to that succession of Frankish kings known as the rois faineants.