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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

This was called the Lehen lien


style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER X.

THE DYNASTY OF THE ROYAL STEWARDS.

(638--768.)

The Steward of the Royal Household. --His Government of the Royal _Lehen_. --His Position and Opportunities. --Pippin of Landen. --His Sway in Germany. --Gradual Transfer of Power. --Grimoald, Steward of France. --Pippin of Heristall. --His Successes. --Cooperation with the Church of Rome. --Quarrels between his Heirs. --Karl defeats his Rivals. --Becomes sole Steward of the Empire. --He favors Christian Missions. --The Labors of Winfried (Bishop Bonifacius). --Invasion of the Saracens. --The Great Battle of Poitiers. --Karl is surnamed Martel, the Hammer. --His Wars and Marches. --His Death and Character. --Pippin the Short. --He subdues the German Dukes. --Assists Pope Zacharias. --Is anointed King. --Death of Bonifacius. --Pippin defeats the Lombards. --Gives the Pope Temporal Power. --His Death.

[Sidenote: 638.]

We have mentioned Pippin of Landen as the Royal Steward of Clotar II. His office gave birth to the new power which grew up beside the Merovingian rule and finally suppressed it. In the chronicles of the time the officer is called the _Majordomus_ of the King,--a word which is best translated by "Steward of the Royal Household"; but in reality, it embraced much

more extended and important powers than the title would imply. In their conquests, the Franks--as we have already stated--usually claimed at least one-third of the territory which fell into their hands. A part of this was portioned out among the chief men and the soldiers; a part was set aside as the king's share, and still another part became the common property of the people. The latter, therefore, fell into the habit of electing a Steward to guard and superintend this property in their interest; and, as the kings became involved in their family feuds, the charge of the royal estates was intrusted to the hands of the same steward.

The latter estates soon became, by conquest, so extensive and important, that the king gave the use of many of them for a term of years, or for life, to private individuals in return for military services. This was called the _Lehen_ (lien, or loan) system, to distinguish it from the _Allod_ (allotment), whereby a part of the conquered lands were divided by lot, and became the free property of those to whom they fell. The _Lehen_ gave rise to a new class, whose fortunes were immediately dependent on the favor of the king, and who consequently, when they appeared at the national assemblies, voted on his side. Such a "loaned" estate was also called _feod_, whence the term "_feudal_ system," which, gradually modified by time, grew from this basis. The importance of the Royal Steward in the kingdom is thus explained. The office, at first, had probably a mere business character. After Chlodwig's time, the civil wars by which the estates of the king and the people became subject to constant change, gave the steward a political power, which increased with each generation. He stood between the monarch and his subjects, with the best opportunity for acquiring an ascendency over the minds of both. At first, he was only elected for a year, and his reelection depended on the honesty and ability with which he had discharged his duties. During the convulsions of the dynasty, he, in common with king and nobles, gained what rights the people lost: he began to retain his office for a longer time, then for life, and finally demanded that it should be hereditary in his family.

[Sidenote: 638. THE "LEHEN" SYSTEM.]

The Royal Stewards of Burgundy and Germany played an important part in the last struggle between Clotar II. and Brunhilde. When the successful king, in 622, found that the increasing difference of language and habits between the eastern and western portions of his realm required a separation of the government, and made his young son, Dagobert, ruler over the German half, he was compelled to recognize Pippin of Landen as his Steward, and to trust Dagobert entirely to his hands. The dividing line between "Austria" and "Neustria" was drawn along the chain of the Vosges, through the forest of Ardennes, and terminated near the mouth of the Schelde,--almost the same line which divides the German and French languages, at this day.


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