Frankland : the Franks and the world of early middle ages, Manchester University Press , pp. 167-190 (2008)
‘The holy laws of kinship have purposed to take root among monarchs for this reason: that their tranquil spirit may bring the peace which peoples long for.’ Thus in the year 507 wrote Theoderic, king of the Ostrogoths, to Clovis, king of the Franks. His appeal to the ideals of peace between kin was designed to avert hostilities between the Franks and the Visigoths, and drew meaning from the web of marital ties which bound together the royal dynasties of the early-sixth-century west. Theoderic himself sat at the centre of this web: he was married to Clovis’s sister, and his daughter was married to Alaric, king of the Visigoths. The present article is concerned with a much later period of European history, but the Ostrogothic ruler’s words nevertheless serve to introduce us to one of its central themes, namely the significance of marital alliances between dynasties.
Unfortunately the tenth-century west, our present concern, had no Cassiodorus (the recorder of the king’s letter) to methodically enlighten the intricacies of its politics, but Theoderic’s sentiments were doubtless not unlike those that crossed the minds of the Anglo-Saxon and Frankish elite families who engineered an equally striking series of marital relationships among themselves just over 400 years later.