Clovis I was the son of Childeric, a military commander in the Gallic province of Belgica Secunda in the then declining Roman Empire. In 463 Childeric had defeated the Visigoths in Orléans and become known as ‘King of the Franks’. On succeeding him, aged 15, in 481, Clovis began to extend and unify Frankish dominion over a large area of northwestern Europe. In 486 at the Battle of Soissons, Clovis decisively defeated the Roman army under the command of Syagrius, who was executed. In 491 Clovis launched further campaigns against the Burgundians and the Thuringians, and in 496 at the fortress of Tolbiac he won a narrow, if costly, victory over the Alamani, who retreated eastwards, allowing the Franks to take control of the lands around and beyond the River Rhine. Clovis is regarded as the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, which for the next two centuries ruled the kingdom that was in time to become modern France. He is also important on account of his conversion in 496, at his wife Clotilde’s instigation, to Roman Catholicism, which resulted in the spreading of Christianity throughout western Europe. Clovis was baptised on Christmas Day in 508 and Clotilde was later canonized.
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