The long-haired kings of the Franks: ‘like so many Samsons?’


  • I am very grateful to Mayke de Jong, Guy Geltner, Ian Wood, Rob Meens, Janneke Raaijmakers, Carine van Rhijn, Sven Meeder and Dorine van Espelo for their most helpful suggestions and comments on earlier versions of this article.


As the paradigm of Germanic sacral kingship has lost its appeal, historians have begun to rethink the concept of Merovingian kingship. Most of the arguments once used in support of its alleged Germanic and pagan character have now been refuted. However, the meaning of their long hair has thus far proven difficult to explain. This article will argue that the Merovingian hairstyle took up Christian meaning shortly after their conversion, presenting them in the image of the biblical Samson. Consequently, their use of biblical analogies to legitimize royal power further challenges the once-held dichotomy between Merovingian and Carolingian kingship.