One of the most successful of the barbarian tribes that punctured the Roman Empire. The Frankish confederation expanded from their territories in Western Germany to conquer Gaul, where they established the Great Frankish Kingdom. Today their name can be recognised in that of France, especially in various other languages (such as German Frankreich), but the modern groups most closely related to them linguistically are the Dutch and the Flemish.
The Franks started out on the eastern shore of the Rhine, which they began crossing around 250 AD, both to raid and to settle. They swept across Gaul in 274-5 before Emperor Diocletian reinforced the border. The pacified barbarians were settled in northern Gaul and joined the
Roman army. However, the Empire crumbled, and soon the Franks were their own masters. And first among them was the king of Tournai, Clovis (Chlodovech) of the Merovingian dynasty, who conquered all of Gaul, and kept it.
The Franks went on to battle amongst themselves and against neighbouring barbarians, but they stayed put. After 700 AD the Merovingians gradually lost control over the kingdom, which was taken over by the Carolingians. General Charles Martel started the overtaking by crushing the Muslims at the battle of Tours; his son Pepin the Short then became king with the votes of the Frankish nobles and papal approval.
The summit of the Frankish rule was with Charlemagne, who in addition to making new conquests also built up a capable bureaucracy, a fair judicial system, and revived the arts. In reward for converting most of his new subjects to Christianity, he was crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day, 800 by Pope Leo III. After his death, Western Europe was again split into smaller kingdoms by inherital division.