The Frisian Realm
|Capital||Dorestad, Utrecht and others|
|Common languages||Old Frisian|
o c. 600
o c. 678
o c. 680-719
|50,000 km2 (19,000 sq mi)|
|Today part of|| Netherlands|
The Frisian Kingdom (West Frisian: Fryske Keninkryk), also known as Magna Frisia, is a modern name for the Frisian realm in the period when it was at its largest (650-734). This empire was ruled by kings and emerged in the mid-7th century and probably ended with the Battle of the Boarn in 734 when the Frisians were defeated by the Frankish Empire. It lay mainly in what is now the Netherlands and - according to some 19th century authors - extended from the Zwin near Bruges in Belgium to the Weser in Germany. The center of power was the city of Utrecht. In medieval writings, the region is designated by the Latin term Frisia. There is a dispute among historians about the extent of this realm; There is no documentary evidence for the existence of a permanent central authority. Possibly Frisia consisted of multiple petty kingdoms, which transformed in time of war to a unit to resist invading powers, and then headed by an elected leader, the primus inter pares. It is possible that Redbad established an administrative unit. Among the Frisians at that time there was no feudal system.
The ancient Frisii were living in the low-lying region between the Zuiderzee and the River Ems. In the Germanic pre-Migration Period (i.e., before c. AD 300) the Frisii and the related Chauci, Saxons, and Angles inhabited the Continental European coast from the Zuyder Zee to south Jutland. All of these peoples shared a common material culture, and so cannot be defined archaeologically. What little is known of these early Frisii and their kings is provided by a few Roman accounts about two Frisian kings visiting Rome in the 1st century: Malorix and Verritus. By AD 400 the Frisii abandoned the land and disappeared from archeological records.
Frisia suffered marine transgressions that made the land largely uninhabitable during the 3rd to 5th centuries. Whatever population may have remained dropped dramatically, and the coastal lands remained largely unpopulated. In the 6th century, Frisia received an influx of new settlers, mostly Angles, Saxons and Jutes, who would come to be known as "Frisians" even though they were not necessarily descended from the ancient Frisii.(p792) A legendary king of the Migration Period is Finn, associated with the Battle of Finnsburg. An early historical king is Audulf, who minted coins dated to the first third of the 7th century.
The Frisians consisted of tribes with loose bonds, centered on war bands but without great power. In the second half of the 7th century the Frisian kingship reached its maximum geographic development.
The earliest Frisian records name four social classes, the ethelings (nobiles in Latin documents) and frilings, who together made up the "Free Frisians" who might bring suit at court, and the laten or liten with the slaves, who were absorbed into the laten during the Early Middle Ages, as slavery was not so much formally abolished, as evaporated.[a] The laten were tenants of lands they did not own and might be tied to it in the manner of serfs, but in later times might buy their freedom.(p202)
The exact title of the Frisian rulers depends on the source. Frankish sources tend to call them dukes; other sources often call them kings. Only three Frisian rulers are named in contemporary written sources.
Under the rule of the king Aldgisl, the Frisians came in conflict with the Frankish mayor of the palace Ebroin, over the old Roman border fortifications. Aldgisl could keep the Franks at a distance with his army. In 678 he welcomed the English bishop Wilfrid, who, like him, was not a friend of the Franks.(p795)
Under Redbad, the tide turned in favour of the Franks: in 690 the Franks were victorious in the battle of Dorestad under the Austrasian mayor of the palace, Pepin of Herstal. Though not all the consequences of this battle are clear, Dorestad became Frankish again, as did the castles of Utrecht and Vechten. It is presumed that the influence of the Franks now reached from south of the Oude Rijn to the coast, but this is not entirely clear because the influence of the Frisians over the central river area was not entirely lost. In any case there was a Catholic Church mission to pagan Frisia with a monastery and episcopal see in Utrecht from 695, founded for Willibrord, and a marriage was arranged between Grimoald the Younger the oldest son of Pepin, and Thiadsvind, the daughter of Redbad, in 711.(p794)
After Pepin died, in 714, Redbad took advantage of the battle for succession in Francia and regained southern Frisia. He made a treaty with the Neustrasian mayor of the palace, Ragenfrid, so that in 716 his armies could enter the Frankish land as far as Cologne, where they were victorious in the Battle of Cologne. The army returned to the north with a large war loot. Redbad made plans to invade Francia for the second time and mobilised a large army, but before he could do this he fell ill and died in the autumn of 719.(p90)
It is not certain who the successor of Redbad was. It is believed that there were troubles with the succession, because the Frankish opponent Charles Martel could easily invade Frisia and subjugate the land. The resistance was so weak that Charles Martel not only annexed Frisia Citerior ("nearer" Frisia south of the Rhine), but he also crossed the Rhine and annexed "farther" Frisia, to the banks of the river Vlie.(p795)
In 733 Charles Martel sent an army against the Frisians. The Frisian army was pushed back to Eastergoa. The next year the Battle of the Boarn took place. Charles ferried an army across the Almere with a fleet that enabled him to sail up to De Boarn. The Frisians were defeated in the ensuing battle,(p795) and their king Poppo was killed. The victors began plundering and burning heathen sanctuaries. Charles Martel returned with much loot, and broke the power of the Frisian kings for good.
After the Battle of the Boarn in 734, the Franks annexed the Frisian lands between the Vlie and the Lauwers. They conquered the area east of the Lauwers in 785, when Charlemagne defeated Widukind. The Carolingians laid Frisia under the rule of grewan, a title that has been loosely related to count in its early sense of "governor" rather than "feudal overlord".(p205) The Lex Frisionum, the "Law Code of the Frisians" was recorded in Latin during the reign of Charlemagne.
Before 1101, sources talk about counts ruling over Frisia, west of the Vlie as Frisian counts. But in this year count Floris II is mentioned as Florentius comes de Hollant (Floris, Count of Holland). Holland is probably from the Old Dutch holt lant, literally "wood land", describing the district around Dordrecht, the nucleus of the County of Holland. The counts generally kept to this single title until 1291, when Floris V, Count of Holland decided to call himself Count of Holland and Zeeland, lord of Friesland. This title was also used after Holland was united with Hainault, Bavaria-Straubing, and the Duchy of Burgundy. The titles eventually lost their importance, and the last count, Philip II of Spain, only mentioned them halfway through his long list of titles.