Diana M. Johnson
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Charlemagne's father, Pepin the Short, wins the Frankish crown with Pope Stephen's help.
With Charles Martel's death, Pepin becomes Mayor of the Palace for half the Frankish realm. His brother Carloman will administer the rest. But Pepin yearns to become King of All Franks, a title the Merovingians have claimed for hundreds of years. Even should he succeed, can Pepin fight his beloved older brother, Carloman, for the crown? No such scruples hold him from warring with his contentious younger half-siblings, Grifo and Chiltrudis. Pepin and Carloman ride side by side to protect their realms, until, following a moral and tactical blunder, Carloman resigns and becomes a monk. Pope Stephen II backs Pepin against the Merovingian king, Childeric the Stupid, to become King of All Franks. While his wife, Bertrada governs in his stead, Pepin must scale the Alps to Battle the Lombards, threatening his mentor Pope Stephen and Rome. In donating the cities he wins to the papal chair, Pepin begins what will become the Vatican, geographic territory belonging to the pope.
The people and events are true, but told with a story teller's gift of dialogue and emotions.
October 21, 741 AD.
Pepin paused before the closed gate to the monastery. A sudden gust of chill wind swirled a shower of leaves around him. The nearly bare trees formed a intricate pattern of silhouettes against the overcast sky. He sighed deeply, then pulled firmly on the bell rope.
A black-robed brother opened the gate. "Pepin! God be praised you are in time! They wait for you in the infirmary. he has not long, you know."
"So I have been informed." Pepin felt his heart lurch. He shivered as cold air probed with icy fingers down his neck and inside his sweaty clothing.
Pepin walked with dragging steps. Dry leaves blew across the hard-packed courtyard with the sound of scratching cat's claws.
Inside the infirmary, Pepin blinked. The end must truly be near, he thought, as his glance took in not just any priest, but Archbishop Boniface, himself.
Standing on the other side of the bed, Pepin made out the form of his older brother, Carloman. Tall, slender, his pale blond hair cut short. Pepin hoped Carloman would notice him, but his brother had eyes only for the dying man on the cot.
From the corner of his eye, Pepin became aware of a person standing in shadow at the foot of the bed. Not nearly so tall as Carloman, but equally slender, the young man's fine features were spoiled by a scowl. A look of hatred radiated toward Pepin from his fifteen-year-old half brother, Grifo. Out of habit, Pepin stared back, challenging Grifo to back down.
A movement from the bed caught their attention. Finally forced to acknowledge the reason for his hasty trip to Quierzy sur Oise, Pepin looked at the bed and gasped. Who was that man? Surely not his father! He recognized nothing.
The head above the coverlet looked worse than death. Hair, once burnished gold, lay lank and gray upon the pillow. Once brilliant blue eyes hid behind closed lids, on a face that was sunken and lifeless. Where had gone the energy that drew men to him like dogs to a bitch in heat? Where the voice of command in the fever of battle or the hearty laugh when the joke was on him?
Tears filled Pepin's eyes. He wiped his sleeve across his face. The movement broke the spell.
"My lords," Archbishop Boniface said, facing them all, "I must tell you of your father's wishes concerning Frankish Gaul. As mayor of the palace, Charles has divided the kingdom between Carloman and Pepin."
Although not unexpected, Pepin was taken aback at the anticipation which suddenly welled inside him.
(Boniface reads the will, then continues) "To Grifo, son by Swanahild, shall be given estates as vassal of his brothers."
"God's death!" Grifo glared at Carloman, Pepin, and the unconscious form of Charles Martel in turn. "Will I never be an equal son to that man? Doomed to be forever subservient? I vow to see it will not be so!"
"Ms. Johnson is an expert on this family. She will surprise and entertain you; all the time telling a story based on authentic fact." Alan Caruba, Editor, Bookviews.com
"Deftly written by Diana M. Johnson, Quest for the Crown is a compelling historical novel, engaging and enthusiastically recommended." James Cox, Editor-in-Chief, The Midwest book Review.
Library of Congress: 2001117023
Book Publisher: Superior Book Publishing Company
No. of Pages: 378
Paper Weight (lb): 50#
Illustrations (B&W): 4
Coated Paper: Yes