The Frankish king Clovis founded the Frankish Empire, which at its height included most of what is now France and central Europe. He was the first leader to unite and rule all the Franks, a group of often-warring Germanic tribes along the Rhine River. Clovis also became a champion of Christianity after his famous conversion at the request of his wife Clotilda, a Christian from Burgundy (now eastern France).
Clovis had promised Clotilda that he would convert if he could defeat the Alemanni tribe in a conflict near the Rhine River. According to legend, in battle Clovis spotted irises growing at the river’s edge. Knowing that this indicated shallow water, he forded the river to evade the enemy, won the battle, and was baptized in 497. His shield had borne images of toads, a pagan symbol, but these were changed to the irises associated with his victory. Each toad’s body became the center of the iris; its legs became the stamens and side petals. This flower, the fleur-de-lis, is the national symbol of France.
Clovis established headquarters at Paris. His rule had strong support from the church and was marked by far-reaching military conquests. In this way, he was a predecessor of the emperor Charlemagne (Charles the Great), whose rule was followed by the founding of the Holy Roman Empire.
See also Encyclopedia: Clovis.Died: c. 511