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Pippin (or Pepin) the Hunchback was the eldest son of Charlemagne by Himiltrude.
Accounts describe Pippin as normally proportioned with attractive features. However, his looks were marred by a spinal deformity from which his nickname is derived.
Due to his disability, and possible illegitimacy, Pippin was never likely to inherit much of the Frankish domains. Nevertheless, Charles treated his son well, giving him precedence over his younger brothers as was appropriate for his age. Pippin was an amiable fellow, and he grew to be a well-liked member of Charles' court. The hunchbacked prince probably held some hope for succession from his father. In addition, Pepin was an easy target for discontented nobles, who lavished sympathies on him and lamented the treatment his mother had received when Charles had put her aside in order to marry a Lombard princess, Desiderata.
In 780, Charles formally disinherited Pippin and had the pope baptize his third son, Carloman, who now received the name Pepin. The name had a special significance as Pepin had been a recurring name in the Carolingian dynasty. This move may have been prompted by Hildegard, Charles' wife and Carloman's mother, who felt her son's inheritance expectations threatened by the hunchbacked prince.
Pippin was allowed to remain at court, and Charles continued to give the boy precedence over his younger brothers. Pippin also remained a popular "friend" of discontented nobles, and in 792, several counts played upon Pippin's dislike for his brothers to convince the deformed prince to play the figurehead in their rebellion. The conspirators planned to kill Charles, his wife Hildegarde, and his three sons by her. Pippin the Hunchback would then be set upon the throne as a more sympathetic (and more easily manipulated) king. The day of the assassination, Pippin pretended to be ill in order to meet with the plotters. The scheme nearly succeeded, but a Lombard deacon named Fardulf ultimately exposed it.
Charlemagne held an assembly at Regensburg to try the conspirators, and all were found guilty of high treason and ordered executed. Charles seemed still to have held fond feelings for his first son, however, for Pippin's sentence was commuted. Instead, Pippin was forced to enter the monastery of Prüm to live out the rest of his life as a monk. Pepin died there some twenty years later.
Pippin died childless.
Namesakes of Pippin the Hunchback (c769-811)