Oliver J. (Oliver Joseph) Thatcher.

A short history of mediæval Europe online

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and violence.



CHAPTER VI

POLITICAL HISTORY OF FRANCE, 887-II08

Odo, the newly elected king of France, was the best Odo king,

888-q8

choice that could have been made by the Prankish nobles.
He surpassed them all in valor, was noted for his just and
upright character, and, of all their number, had the largest
landed possessions. His popularity was greatly increased by
that of his father, Robert the Strong, who lost his life in re-
sisting the invasion of the Northmen (866). But his position
was not safe because he was only one of several great nobles,
all of whom regarded themselves as practically his equal.

Under the weak successors of Karl the (jreat the counts
who had been the king's officers had greatly increased their
independence, and had made their office hereditary. In
this way there arose the powerful counts of Flanders, Poitou,
Anjou, Poitiers, Gascony, Paris, and many others, whose
lands came to be called the "great fiefs." The North- The great
men continued their invasions, but Odo was not always so
successful in repelling them as he had been. From 893 on
he had also to contend against the oft-renewed conspiracy
of some of the strongest nobles to restore Cliarles the
Simple to the throne. So long as he lived he successfully
defended his title, but at last, worn out with the struggle,
he died (898) after having named as his successor, not his
brother Robert, who was his heir, but Charles the Simple
(898-929). Robert did homage to Charles, and received
the duchy of France (a strip of territory which included,
among other cities, Paris, Tours, and Orleans).

75



']6 A Short History of Mediceval Europe

Charles the Charles the Simple was in many respects an able man,

898-929. but his too ready confidence in the promises and loyalty of

his subjects often brought him great trouble and loss, and
won for him the title of Simple. The invasions of the
Northmen continued without abatement, and many of their
bands now spent the winter in France, having taken pos-
session of some of the districts about the mouth of the Seine
and elsewhere. In 911 Charles offered their principal
leader, Rolf (Rollo), the valley of the lower Seine and his
Settlement of daughter in marriage if he would settle there and become a
oifthe°Lo\vcr Christian. They met at Clair-sur-Epte and the agreement
Seme. ^^,^^ made. It proved to be a wise measure, for it was to

the interest of Rolf and his people that the invasions should
cease. The various bands of Northmen were soon gathered
together under Rolf, and fresh invaders were repulsed. The
district thus assigned to them received from them the name
of Normandy.

Robert of France repented that he had refused the cro\ATi
in 899, and with two other great nobles conspired to over-
throw Charles and make himself king. In 923 they met
the king's forces near Soissons and defeated them, but
Robert himself was slain. His son Hugo was unwilling
to claim the crown, and the nobles, therefore, elected the
son-in-law of Robert, Rudolf of Burgundy, king. By
treachery they got possession of the person of Charles and
imprisoned him. His wife, however, escaped with her son
to England, where she was received by her father, king
Eadward the Elder. For twelve years Rudolf held the
title of king, although during the first years of his reign
his authority was very limited, and many of the great
nobles refused to obey him. A quarrel with some of his
nobles finally led to a brief restoration of Charles, but he
was again imprisoned, and died soon afterward of star-
vation (929). During these internal troubles the Magyars



Political History of France TJ

(Hungarians) invaded France from both Italy and Ger-
many, and escaped with large booty after committing
great depredations. Lotharingia refused to accept Rudolf,
and again became a part of Germany.

Rudolf died (936) without children, and Louis IV.
(d'Outremer, Transmarinus) was recalled from England
and made king. Duke Hugo of Paris, still unwilling to
risk all for the sake of a title which brought with it great
difficulties but little authority, preferred rather to be the
favorite adviser of the king, for he could thereby greatly
increase his possessions. He was lord of Neustria, duke of
Francia, and suzerain of Blois, Champagne, Chartres, An-
jou, and many other counties. Louis d'Outremer married Louis
the sister of Otto L, king of the Germans, with whom he 936-54.
was generally on good terms, but their relations were dis-
turbed by another attempt of Lotharingia to change its
lord. More than once he was compelled to wage war with
his great vassal Hugo. His sudden death in 954 placed
the crown on the head of his eldest son, Lothaire (954-86), Lothnire,
a boy eight years old. The support of Hugo was bought
with the duchies of Aquitaine and Burgundy, but he died
before he had made himself master of Aquitaine. His two
sons, Hugo Capet and Otto, inherited his vast possessions.
Hugo Capet also followed the policy of his great father and
tried to gain possessions in the south of Gaul. Lothaire
was a man of ability, but he made two fatal mistakes. He
quarrelled with the clergy, especially Adalberon, Arch-
bishop of Rheims, and he set his heart on gaining Lotha-
ringia, which was now a part of Germany. Consequently
he was continually at war with the kings of Germany.
Otto n. carried the war into France and even threatened
Paris. Taking advantage of these hostile relations, Hugo
Capet obtained the friendship of Otto IIL, and when Lo-
thaire turned to Germany for help he found an alliance



78 A Short History of Mediceval Europe

existing between his great vassal and the German king.
Lothaire died before the revolution came, and his son,
Louis v., succeeded him in 986. His death, however,
took place the next year, and there was but one Karling
left, Charles, duke of Lower Lotharingia, a man, however,
without power, who could not hope to obtain the votes of
the great nobles. On the other hand, Hugo Capet had the
support of Otto III. of Germany. He was allied by mar-
riage to some of the most powerful counts. The clergy and
the monasteries were on his side, because he had taken
special pains to win them by rich donations. The Arch-
bishop Adalberon of Rheims and the bishops of the whole
country called the nobles together for the purpose of elect-
ing a king, and after a clever address, in which Adalberon
proved that Charles was not the most suitable person for
king, and tliat the crown was not hereditary but elective,
he proposed the duke Hugo Capet and recounted his virt-
Duke Hugo ues and qualifications. The duke was unanimously elected
^ape e ec e ^^^^ crowned as " King of the Gauls, Bretons, Danes, Nor-
mans, Aquitanians, Goths, Spaniards, and Gascons."

In this way the crown came into the possession of the
Capetians, a dynasty which was to rule France in the direct
line for more than three hundred years (987-132S); for
though the crown was declared to be elective, it soon be-
came hereditary in this family. It was of the greatest in-
fluence on the history of the line that there was never lack-
ing a male heir, generally of mature years, able to take up
and carry out the policy of his predecessors. There were,
tlierefore, no disjDuted successions, no disastrous regencies,
no troubled elections.
The position The position of the new line of the Capetians had its

'"^' points of strength and weakness. Both the Merovingians
and the Karlings had been consecrated by the Church and
were therefore regarded as legitimate rulers. The Capets,



Political History of France 79

upon being hailed by the Church, were accepted by a large
part of the nation as the true successors to those great
houses. The king thus became, for the majority of the peo-
ple, an absolute sovereign, a power ordained of God to rule,
to preserve order, and to administer justice. But there was
another class, composed mostly of the nobility, which at
this time was living in accordance with feudal customs and Of the feudal
ideas, and to them the king was by no means absolute.
His authority over them and his demands on them were
limited. They were themselves kings in their domains and
exercised royal prerogatives. These feudal ideas and cus-
toms the Capets were forced to recognize. The royal power
was greatly limited, and it was only by following a consist-
ent policy and by the greatest good fortune that the Capets
were able in the end to triumph over feudalism and to es-
tablish a strong central government. But this was a long
and slow process. For more than a hundred years the dis-
integration of power and of territory went on. The Capets
were not able to keep their officials from making their of-
fices hereditary, and their family possessions, as well as the
royal domain which they had inherited from the Karlings,
were diminished by constant usurpations. Their weakness
was greatest in the eleventh century. The twelfth century
brought a change in their fortunes, and their power from
that time on steadily increased.

The reign of Hugo Capet (987-96) was quite as success-
ful as could be expected under the circumstances. He was
generally recogniztjd by the great vassals, and maintained
an independent attitude toward the German Emperors and
toward the Papacy. Under him tliere was a distinct
growth in the feeling of nationality which helped increase
the separation between France and her neighbors, already
caused by the differences in language and customs.

His son and successor, Robert K. (996-1031), surnamed



8o A Short History of Medicsval Europe



Henry I.,

1031-60, and
the great
vassals.



Philip I.,
1060-1108.



the Pious, because of his humble and upright character and
his regard for the truth, was none the less a warrior of
ability, fighting vigorously for Loth?ringia and adding by
conquest several cities and districts to his estates.

The reign of Henry I. (1031-60) was very disastrous for
the royal power, although the king himself was both brave
and active. He was continually engaged in a struggle
with the nobles whose territories surrounded his own, espe-
cially with the counts of Blois and the dukes of Normandy.
The only outlet from his estates to the sea was the Seine, the
lower part of which was in the possession of the Normans,
whose numbers and warlike qualities made their duke a
"dangerous neighbor of the king. Henry I. appreciated the
situation and made every effort to make himself master of
Normandy. He met, however, with two severe defeats (at
Mortemer, 1054, and Varaville, 1058) at the hands of
duke William the Bastard (1035-87), afterward known as
William the Conqueror, the first Norman king of England
(1066-87).

Philip I. (1060-110S) followed the policy of his father
in regard to Normandy and the other great fiefs. He was
too young to prevent duke William from making his con-
quest of England, but he did all he could to weaken him
by fomenting quarrels in the family of William and by en-
deavoring to keep Normandy and England as independent
of each other as possible. This policy he handed down to
his successors, who eventually were successful in it. He
carried on, in a creditable manner, several wars with other
great vassals, and was successful in adding certain lands to
his possessions. He refused to go on the first crusade, re-
sisted the claims of Gregory VH., and treated that part of
the clergy of France which supported the Pope with a good
deal of severity. Such conduct, now regarded as specially
creditable to him, brought upon him the disfavor of the



Political History of France 8 1

chroniclers who have generally painted him in the darkest
colors, charging him with gluttony, laziness, debauchery,
highway robbery, and many other vices and crimes. Some
of the charges may be true, but many of them can safely be
set down as the inventions or exaggerations of his enemies.
In his later years his activity was limited by his abnormal
obesity, which amounted in his case to a disease. His
reign, however, was not without its achievements, although
the growing feudalism of the country daily diminished the
actual power of the king. Feudal castles and strongholds
were everywhere, and the king met with resistance on all
hands. The famous castle of Montlhery was at the very
gates of Paris, and the king was actually in danger of being*
taken prisoner by his own brigand subjects and held for a
ransom if he ventured outside of his city without a strong
guard. The chaos and anarchy of feudalism were at their
height; but the reign of Louis VI. (1108-37) brought a
change. Under him the power of the king increased, the
lawlessness of the times was checked, order was reestab-
lished, at least in part, and feudal customs became more
fixed, thereby diminishing the violence that had been so
prevalent and increasing the general security. The condi-
tion of the country was by no means perfect, but it was of
the greatest importance that a large amount of stability was
introduced into the customs and practices of the govern-
ment and of society. The kings of France possessed a
great advantage over the kings of Germany in that they
were allowed to retain all fiefs which fell vacant, while in
Germany the great dukes compelled the king to relet all
fiefe within a year. The kings of France, therefore, had an
excellent opportunity to increase their possessions, while
the kings of Germany were cut off from that advantage.



CHAPTER VII



GERMANY AND ITS RELATION TO ITALY (887-IO56)

Araulf, 887-99. The deposition of Karl the Fat left Arnulf in the pos-
session of the German crown (887-99). As successor of
Karl the Great, he assumed that he was entitled to a cer-
tain sovereignty over all the rulers of the west, and accord-
ingly demanded and received the acknowledgment of his
supremacy from the kings of Burgundy, Italy, and the West
Franks. He defeated with great slaughter the Northmen
(891), but was unable to subdue the Slavic kingdom of
Moravia, which included much of what is now Bohemia and
Austria. At the invitation of the Pope, Arnulf made two
journeys into Italy for the purpose of restoring order there
and relieving the Pope from the tyranny of his enemies, in
return for which services the Pope crowned him Emperor
(896).
Ludwig the The reign of his son, known as Ludwig the Child (899-

Child. 899-911. ^^^^^ ^y^ f^^^j ^Q ^j^g ^j^jjy Qf Germany. The local nobil-
ity, filled with a desire for independent power, seized
offices and lands and made them hereditary in their own
families. As the Empire of Karl the Great had broken up
into many little states, so the kingdom of Arnulf fell apart
into five great duchies, known as Franconia, Saxony,
Bavaria, Suabia, and Lotharingia. Owing to the weakness
of the king, certain men in these duchies were able to usurp
authority and assume the title of duke, and were, in their
duchies, practically independent of the king. The boun-
daries of the duchies, following tribal lines, helped preserve

82



Germany and its Relation to Italy 83

and perpetuate the differences that already existed among
these five great groups of Germans. The people of each
duchy longed to be independent of all the others, and pre-
ferred their own narrow interests to those of the kingdom.

With the death of Ludwig the Child the line of Karl the
Great came to an end in Germany, and it was therefore
necessary to elect a king. The honor fell to Conrad I. Conrad i., of
(91 1-18), duke of Franconia. Although able, brave, active, king, 911-18.
and ambitious to rule well, his reign was spent in a vain en-
deavor to make good the traditional authority of the king
over the dukes. He allied himself closely with the clergy,
and at a council at Altheim (916) they threatened with the
ban all who should resist him. Political disaffection was to
be regarded as heresy and punished in the same way. But
even with their aid Conrad could not reduce the dukes ;
and at his death he designated as his successor his most
powerful rival, Henry of Saxony.

The nobles of Saxony and Franconia came together in The Saxon
Fritzlar and elected Henry king (called the Fowler, also the \^^i<j-.l^.
Builder of Cities, 919-36). He was a practical man, who
saw all the difficulties of the position and was persuaded
that a feudal kingship was the only kind now possible. The
days of the Karlings were gone forever. The power of the
dukes was not to be broken ; their independence in their
own territory was not to be questioned ; and they were to
be held responsible to the king only for the feudal duties
which they recognized as due him. This feudal conception
of the kingship was new, and radically changed the attitude
of the king toward the clergy and the dukes, for as he meant
to be friendly with the dukes, he did not need the special
help of the clergy. After his election, the Archbishop of
Mainz, as Primate of the kingdom, wished to anoint him, Henry I. and
but Henry refused, saying that the election alone was suffi-
cient.



84 A Short History of Medicsval Europe

In 924 the Magyars, or Hungarians, invaded Saxony.
Henry was unable to meet them in the field, and therefore
made a nine years' treaty with them, paying them a heavy
tribute. These years Henry used to put his country into a
Progress in good State of defence and to improve his army. His prep-
Germany, arations are described by Widukind (i., 35) as follows:
'' He first chose one out of every nine soldiers who were
living in the countr.y and compelled him to live in a city
(urbs) in order that he might build dwellings for the other
eight and lay by one-third of all the grain produced, while
the other eight should sow and harvest for the ninth. In
these cities, on the construction of which they labored day
and night, the king ordered that all trials, meetings, and
festivals of whatever sort, should be held, in order that the
people in times of peace might become accustomed to
what would be necessary in time of war (i.e., to living
together in close quarters)." Towns are mentioned which
he fortified, such as Merseburg, Meissen, and Quedlinburg.
There were walled towns before his time, but most of the
Germans lived in open, straggling villages. Henry gave
a great impulse to town life, and it was due to his activity
that the German towns now became more numerous, and
that in the next century there was a large and important
citizen class. Commerce was also thereby greatly pro-
moted. During these years of peace Henry also devel-
oped a good army. All who did military service were
trained in the use of arms by military sports, and a cavalry
troop was formed. The Saxons, it would seem, up to this
time, had fought only on foot. The new mode of fighting
was soon to become common, since it was generally those
Avho had some means who were called on to follow the
king on his campaigns. The poorer people nearly all now
sunk to the position of serfs or slaves and so escaped mili-
tary service.



Germany and its Relation to Italy 85



936-73-



Henry was successful in wresting territory from both the
Danes on the north and the Slavs on the east. In 933 he
refused to pay the Magyars tribute, met them in the field,
and defeated them with great loss in several battles. The
superiority of the improved method of defence, the walled
towns, the cavalry, and the trained army, was now appar-
ent. Before his death (936) he had his son Otto recog-
nized as his successor.

Otto I. (936-73) came to the throne with a different Otto I.,
character and with ideas about his office entirely different
from those of his father. Henry was noted for his mod-
esty and humility. He was practical and never strove for
the impossible. He clearly recognized that he could not
destroy the power of the dukes, and was therefore willing
to recognize their independence. Otto, on the contrary,
was proud and ambitious. He had high ideas about his
royal rights and prerogatives. He was not content with
the position of feudal king, but regarded himself as the
snccesoor of Karl the Great. The sacred character of the
king, acquired by anointment and by the peculiar relations
existing between himself and the clergy, had been neg-
lected by Henry, but Otto revived it. The dukes had
been his father's equals ; Otto determined to make them
his officials. Henry had not relied on the clergy, because
he was determined to be on friendly terms with the dukes;
Otto, on the other hand, needed the help of the clergy to
strip the dukes of their power. The events connected with
his election and coronation show the difference between
his ideals and those of his father. There had been some
dissatisfaction with Henry because of his simplicity, and
there was now a desire that the traditions of Karl the Great
should be revived. In accordance with this wish, Aachen,
the ancient capital, was appointed as the place for the for-
mal election of Otto. All the dukes and the highest nobil-



86 A Short History of Mcdkeval Etirope



His corona-
tion.



Otto's policy
toward the
Barbarians.



The Slavs
Christianized
and German-
ized.



ity were present, and Otto was anointed and crowned with
great pomp. Afterward he partook of the coronation ban-
quet, at which he was served by the dukes. Duke Gisel-
bert of Lorraine was his chamberlain, i.e., he had charge
of the palace, Eberhard Of Franconia was his steward or
dish-bearer, Hermann of Suabia his cup-bearer, and Arnulf
of Bavaria his marshal.

But Otto's haughty manner angered the dukes, and they
plotted with his ambitious brothers for his overthrow. A
long struggle ensued, in which Otto was successful in dis-
possessing all the dukes, and making their duchies depend-
ent on himself by giving them to members of his o\vn fam-
ily. As a counterpoise to the power of the nobles. Otto
followed the policy of strengthening the clergy by enriching
them and conferring authority upon them.^ The clergy
thus became a large and powerful part of the nobility.
This policy proved to be disastrous, for in the struggle
which came later between the Empire and the Papacy,
the clergy of Germany turned against their benefactors and
helped destroy them.

Toward the Barbarians east of Germany Otto had a well-
defined policy. In 955, on the Lech river, near Augsburg,
he won a decisive victory over the Magyars, and put an end
to their invasions by compelling them, after accepting Chris-
tianity, to settle in the territory which they have ever since
occupied (Hungary). The Slavs, too, were compelled to
acknowledge Otto's over-lordship. As a defence against
them several marches were established along the whole east-
ern frontier and put under able men.

Magdeburg was made the religious capital of the Slavs by
establishing there an Archbishop. Mission work was vig-
orously carried on among them, and for this purpose Otto

• Bryce : The Holy Roman Empire, Chap. VIII., develops this thought
at some length.



Germany and its Relation to Italy 87

established the bishoprics of Havelberg, Brandenburg,
Merseburg, Zeitz, Meissen, and Posen. Monasteries arose
everywhere, and the monks became not only the mission-
aries but also the teachers and civilizers of these barbarian
peoples. German colonists went with the monks and clergy,
and the process of Germanizing the Slavs was begun. To
Otto the Great belongs the honor of having pointed out the
direction in which Germany should expand. The way to
the west was closed, but to the east there were extensive
territories which could be conquered and Germanized. If
these peoples could be kept dependent on Germany for their
civilization and Christianity, it must inevitably follow that
they would lose their nationality and become German.
From this time on the expansion of Germany to the east
among these peoples, her conquest and absorption of them,
is one of the most important parts of her history. In this
way all of Prussia that lies east of the Elbe was won from
the Slavs. Bohemia and Hungary were not Germanized
because through the weakness of the successors of Otto they
succeeded in getting an independent ecclesiastical establish-
ment, thereby preserving their own nationality.

Since the coronation of Arnulf, Italy had fallen upon The condition
evil times. She was hopelessly divided, the theatre of con- '^ ^'
tending peoples and factions. The Greek Emperor held
many places in the southern part of the peninsula, while the
Mohammedans had possession of Sicily and other islands,
and a few ports on the mainland. In Rome the Pope
claimed to be master, but the city was the prey of factions
among the nobility. The duchies of Benevento and Spoleto



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