Clovis (Latin: Chlodovechus; reconstructed Frankish: *Hlōdowig) was the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the form of leadership from a group of royal chieftains to rule by a single king and ensuring that the kingship was passed down to his heirs. He is considered to have been the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Frankish kingdom for the next two centuries.
Clovis was the son of Childeric I, a Merovingian king of the Salian Franks, and Basina, a Thuringian princess. In 481, at the age of fifteen, Clovis succeeded his father. He conquered the remaining rump state of the Western Roman Empire at the Battle of Soissons (486), and by his death in 511 he had conquered much of the northern and western parts of what had formerly been Roman Gaul.
Clovis is important in the historiography of France as "the first king of what would become France". His name is Germanic, composed of the elements hlod ("fame") and wig ("combat"), and is the origin of the later French given name Louis, borne by 18 kings of France. Dutch, the most closely related modern language to Frankish, reborrowed the name as Lodewijk from German in the 12th century.
Clovis is also significant due to his conversion to Christianity in 496, largely at the behest of his wife, Clotilde, who would later be venerated as a saint for this act, celebrated today in both the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church. Clovis was baptized on Christmas Day in AD 508. The adoption by Clovis of Catholicism (as opposed to the Arianism of most other Germanic tribes) led to widespread conversion among the Frankish peoples, to religious unification across what is now modern-day France, Belgium and Germany, and three centuries later to Charlemagne's alliance with the Bishop of Rome and in the middle of the 10th century under Otto I the Great to the consequent birth of the early Holy Roman Empire.
When Clovis died, his kingdom was partitioned among his four sons, Theuderic, Chlodomer, Childebert, and Clotaire. This partition created the new political units of the Kingdoms of Rheims, Orléans, Paris and Soissons, and inaugurated a tradition that would lead to disunity lasting until the end of the Merovingian dynasty in 751.
The legacy of Clovis's conquests, a Frankish kingdom that included most of Roman Gaul and parts of western Germany, survived long after his death. To the French people, he is the founder of France. Detracting, perhaps, from this legacy, is his aforementioned division of the state. This was done not along national or even largely geographical lines, but primarily to assure equal income amongst his sons after his death.