The preface to Book Five of Gregory's Histories suggests that civil war was one of the great threats to the legacy of Clovis. In fact civil wars may not have endangered the Merovingian state to the extent that Gregory implies . In a sense they were integral to the structure of Frankish politics, serving to strengthen the bond between the Merovingian family and the aristocracy. At the same time Gregory's emphasis on the civil wars tends to divert attention from the very real achievements made by the Merovingians in keeping the peace. One of the chief functions of an early medieval king was the enforcement of justice. Einhard's criticism that the late Merovingians travelled around in ox-carts ignored the fact that in so doing they were copying late Roman provincial governors, who used this means of transport to ensure that they were accessible to petitioners . 1 Many of the petitions would have been concerned with justice. Fortunately a considerable quantity of Merovingian legal material survives to offiet the negative images left by Gregory and Einhard. Some of it belongs to the years directly after 5 9 1 , when Gregory's narrative comes to an end, and has the additional significance of casting some light on the later years of the reign of Childebert II (575-96) , which are otherwise poorly represented in the sources . At the same time, the reign of Childebert itself provides a dear point of access to the history of Merovingian law, which all too easily can be swamped in the problems of origins , chronology and manuscript transmission.