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Redbad, King of the Frisians


Redbad, King of the Frisians

king (or duke) of Frisia
Embroidery depicting the legend in which the Frisian king Radbod is ready to be baptized by Wulfram (in this embroidery replaced by Willibrord), but at the last moment refuses. From the Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht
Reign c. 680 – 719
Predecessor Aldgisl
Successor Poppo
Died 719

Redbad or Radbod (died 719) was the king (or duke) of Frisia from c. 680 until his death. He is often considered the last independent ruler of Frisia before Frankish domination. He defeated Charles Martel at Cologne. Eventually, however, Charles prevailed and compelled the Frisians to submit. Radbod died in 719, but for some years his successors struggled against the Frankish power.


  • King or duke 1
  • Reign 2
  • Relation with the Church 3
  • Legacy 4
  • References 5
    • Other sources 5.1
  • External links 6
  • See also 7

King or duke

What the exact title of the Frisian rulers was, depends on the source. Frankish sources tend to call them dukes; other sources often call them kings. Being Germanic pagans, it is likely that they would have been called kings by their followers, whereas the Christianized Franks, who had inherited the Latin literary tradition, would have referred to them as dukes.


While his predecessor, Aldgisl,[1] had welcomed Christianity into his realm, Radbod attempted to extirpate the religion and free the Frisians from subjugation to the Merovingian kingdom of the Franks. In 689, however, Radbod was defeated by Pippin of Herstal in the battle of Dorestad[2] and compelled to cede West Frisia (Frisia Citerior, meaning Nearer Frisia, from the Scheldt to the Vlie) to the Franks.

Between 690 and 692, Utrecht fell into the hands of Pippin of Herstal. This gave the Franks control of important trade routes on the Rhine to the North Sea. Some sources say that, following this defeat, Radbod retreated, in 697, to the island of Heligoland, others say he retreated to the part of the Netherlands that is still known as Friesland.

Around this time there was an Archbishopric or bishopric of the Frisians founded for Willibrord [3] and a marriage was held between Grimoald the Younger, the oldest son of Pippin, and Thiadsvind, the daughter of Radbod in 711.[4](p794)

On Pippin's death in 714, Radbod took the initiative again. He forced Saint Willibrord and his monks to flee and advanced as far as Cologne, where he defeated Charles Martel,[5] Pippin's natural son, in 716. Eventually, however, Charles prevailed and compelled the Frisians to submit. Radbod died in 719,[6](p90) but for some years his successors struggled against the Frankish power.

As an example of how powerful King Radbod still was at the end of his life, the news that he was engaged in assembling an army was enough to fill France with fear and trembling.[4](p794)

Relation with the Church

During the second journey of Saint Boniface to Rome, Wulfram (or Vulfran), a monk and ex-archbishop of Sens tried to convert Radbod, but not succeeding he returned to Fontenelle. It is said that Radbod was nearly baptised, but refused when he was told that he would not be able to find any of his ancestors in Heaven after his death, since he preferred spending eternity in Hell with his pagan ancestors than in Heaven with his enemies,[7] especially the Franks. This legend is also told with Wulfram being replaced with bishop Willibrord.

Willibrord tried this while on a Carolingian-sponsored mission into Frisia with the express purpose of trying to convert the pagan Frisians living there in the hope that, once they had converted to Christianity, the Franks could gain control of the important trade port Dorestad, which they had up to that point been unable to do.


Saint Radboud was descended from him. Saint Radboud was a bishop of Utrecht who adopted his ancestor's native name. The Nijmegen University and its corresponding medical facility were named after him in 2004.

In Richard Wagner's Lohengrin a certain "Radbod, ruler of the Frisians" is mentioned as Ortrud's father. It is possible that Wagner was thinking of the historical Radbod, although he died more than 150 years before the birth of Henry the Fowler, another character in the opera, who could not, therefore, be contemporary of Radbod's daughter.

In pagan cult, created to combat the efforts of Christian missionaries.

Black metal band Ophidian Forest recorded a concept album Redbad[8] in 2007.

Dutch folk metal band 'Heidevolk' recorded a song 'Koning Radboud' (King Redbad) on their 2008 album 'Walhalla Wacht' singing about the legend of Wulfram and Redbad.

In 2015 the Frisian Folk-Metal band Baldrs Draumar[9] released a full album on the life and deeds of king Redbad called Aldgillessoan.[10] It's is based on the book Rêdbâd, Kronyk fan in Kening[11] (Chronicles of a King) by Willem Schoorstra.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ it Liber Pontificalis (Corpus XXXVI 1, side 168) en Beda Venerabilis (Corpus XLVI9, page 218)
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Friese sagen & Terugkeer (2000), Conserve, Uitgeverij, Redbald en Wulfram. ISBN 978-90-5429-138-1
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^

Other sources

  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
  • Petz, G. H. (ed). MGH Scriptures. (Hanover, 1892).

External links

  • Gesta NormannorumDudo of St. Quentin's : Chapter 9.

See also

Preceded by
Aldegisel I
King of Frisia
Succeeded by
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