Historical setting: 584 C.E. Ligugè
This morning I follow the stable master to his workplace after morning prayers and before our work begins. I want to assure him I have prayerfully considered my attitude and he was right. My father would surely be dismayed at my insolence. I won’t try to untangle the confusion he nurtures over any of the versions of eternal fatherhood this may invoke. Eternal anything is confusing and mortally unverifiable.
A messenger arrives in a flurry on a tired horse. As the soldier’s saddle is changed to a fresh mount, the messenger announces the news he is spreading of King Chilperic: “The King is dead!”
“How? What happened?”
“He was assassinated returning from a hunting trip.”
“Who did this?”
“So it was by God’s own hand,” the stable master surmises.
The messenger answers with detail. “As is usual when our hefty king dismounts his horse he had one hand on his retainer’s shoulder when the king was stabbed under his arm, then in his stomach. He died quickly in a great flow of blood at the hand of an unknown assailant.” [Footnote]
The stable master assumes, “So surely, if the assailant was unknown, yet standing at the intimate distance of dagger, it must have been…”
“The message from the Bishop of Tours is that he deserved it.”
Whatever we thought of the king the news left a huge lump of quiet in our midst. When words returned to our circle the questions were of justice. Was this God’s justice? Who was the assassin? Was it a servant sent by a hated brother or another queen? Was it an angel of the Lord who did this? In these times, in this land hatred is administered in extravagant acts of torture. Stories abound of one who was tortured, then allowed to heal so that he may endure the full pain of his torture onto death. Complicated acts of violence to remove evil from the earth may include lashings, or burdening with chains, or having animals – horses or camels — drawing and quartering a man or woman. Was the king’s quick and easy demise simply a blessing by a servant? It’s well known that God has already punished this king with plague – bringing death to two of his sons and sickness to his household even to himself. Then he did acknowledge that it was God’s punishment for the heavy taxes he had placed on the poor farmers who paid it with vats of wine. After that he lifted much of the burden on the poor then, and God was apparently appeased.
[Footnote]The account of Chilperic’s death, and much of what is known of the history of these times in France was written by Gregory of Tours in his ”History of the Franks” This account is paraphrased from Gregory’s Book VI, number 46. [Murray, A.C., editor and translator, Gregory of Tours: The Merovingians Broadview Press, Ontario, 2000.]