James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

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by Count Odo of Anjou. Eventually they
were bought off by a monetary payment.
These disturbances did not cease until the
modern Normandy was conferred as a
duchy upon the Norman Rollo, together

with the hand of the Princess
9 11 - Shortly before
Charles the Bald, the

West Frankish Empire entered
upon a period of apparent prosperity.
After the death of Louis II., the last of
the three sons of Lothair I., on August
I2th, 875, Pope John VIII. invested his
uncle with the position of emperor, which
had been thus left vacant, and the nobles
recognised him as emperor on Christmas
Day, 875. However, his two journeys to
Rome brought little reputation to Charles,
for the Lombards adopted an attitude of
coolness towards an emperor who ruled by
favour of the Pope. His attempt, in 876,
to secure the coveted province of Lothar-
ingia, upon the death of his brother Lewis
the German, proved a failure ; he was
defeated at Andernach, oa October 8th, by
the nephews of Lewis the German, Carlo-
man and Louis the Younger.

Upon his death, on September 5th, 877,
the favourable moment had arrived for the
crown vassals to assert their independence.
Their homage was offered to his son
Louis II., the Stammerer, only upon the
condition that he would acknowledge
himself as an elected king. In 878 Louis
succeeded, at Fouron, to the north-east of
Vise on the Mass, in securing a reconciliation

37 61


with the East Prankish Louis the
Younger, as both rulers were threatened
by the growing power of the papacy.

Upon the death of the Stammerer, on
April loth, 879, a number of the clergy
desired to unite the two Prankish kingdoms
in the hands of Louis the Younger, but
the majority of the nobles firmly supported
his two sons, Louis III. and
ucces Carloman. It was not until their
s premature deaths, in 882 and
884, that the last son of Lewis the
German, Charles III., the Fat, came into
possession of the empire of Charles the
Great. Rarely has a ruler been so con-
spicuously successful with so small an
expenditure of energy. In February, 881,
the imperial throne was offered to him by
Pope John VIII. ; his supremacy was
recognised in Italy, and King Boso was
forced to renounce his claims to the
imperial dignity and to Upper Italy.

Similarly Duke Wido II. of Spoleto, the
opponent both of Charles and of the Pope,
was deprived of his fief in 883, and
restored to favour only in 885. The basis
of these successes was a close connection
with the Pope. The latter regarded the
emperor as a protector against the Sara-
cens, who were settling in Lower Italy,
and even plundering the states of the
Church ; but the alliance implied subjec-
tion to the greater power of the Church.

Only a strong military ruler could com-
pel the respect of the self-asserting nobles.
They deposed Charles at Tribut, on the
Rhine, in November, 887, but were by no
means united among themselves, and the
old opposition between the east and west
empires broke out afresh. One party
desired the appointment of Arnulf of
Carinthia, an illegitimate nephew of
Charles, while the majority of the West
Prankish nobility supported Odo, the
brave defender of the capital* against the
Normans, who had adopted the title of
Count of Paris and Duke of Francia
_ (Isle de France). Arnulf was

obliged to recognise his -ap-

*** pointment. For ten years Odo

of Disruption r t , .,, J , ,

ruled with energy and de-
cision ; however, his kingdom, like the
East Prankish Empire, was in a state of
disruption. In Lower Burgundy Boso
was ruling, and was succeeded by his son
Lewis III., and afterwards by his vassal
Hugo. Upper Burgundy, the country
beyond the Jura, had an independent
ruler in King Rudolf I., who died in 912.


In Italy Berengar I. of Friuli, Wido of
Spoleto, Hugo and Rudolf II. of Burgundy
were struggling for the mastery with
varying success. On February 22nd, 896,
Arnulf secured the imperial throne and
the supremacy over Rome and Italy ;
this, however, was lost to his house upon
the accession of his son Lewis, known as
the Child, in 899.

Throughout this general confusion both
the great vassals and the Popes had
secured the mastery of the royal power.
There was a possibility of replacing the
broken power of the French Empire by a
papal theocracy which should include all
nations in an iron net and overcome all
other forces, ecclesiastical and temporal.
This seductive prospect could not fail to
arouse the ambitions of individual Popes,
whose secular power had already involved
them in political quarrels. During the
party struggles between Louis the Pious
and his sons, the project was set in circu-
lation in a collection of councils and papal
documents ascribed to Bishop Isidore
of Seville. At the close of the ninth
century these forgeries reappeared in the
episcopate of Rheims. They
contained a forged donation
o j. ^ e m p eror Constantine,

bequeathing Rome and Italy
to Pope Sylvester I. (314-335) ; the
origin of the papal patrimony in the
presentations of the French kings was
one that did not correspond with papal

On the basis of some sixty forged
letters and decretals ascribed to Popes
during the first four centuries of the Chris-
tian Church, the papal power was re-
presented as absolutely unlimited, and all
bishops as unconditionally subject to it.
The Pope alone had the right of induct-
ing, transferring, and deposing bishops.
Metropolitan bishops could consecrate
their subordinate provincials only as
papal plenipotentiaries ; the Pope could
convoke councils and confirm their con-
clusions. The ecclesiastical functions of
the crown were not so much as mentioned.

This comprehensive but purely eccle-
siastical position provided the Popes with
full reason for interference in wholly
political matters, to secure their spiritual
interests. Such was the action of Gregory
IV., who joined the side of the revolted
sons against the Emperor Lewis. Nicholas I .
(858-867), who was the first to make
full use of the forged decretals, represented




Authority of
the Popes

himself as the supreme judge upon
earth, against whose decision there was no
appeal. The power thus conferred upon
himself was used only to protect Christian
morality and religion. A synod sum-
moned by him to Rome condemned the
immoral proceedings of Lothair II in 865,
annulled the opposite conclusions of the
Prankish episcopal synods, re-
moved the Archbishops of
Cologne and Treves, as they had
permitted the king's adultery,
and threatened all disobedient bishops
with excommunication. His successors,
especially Pope Innocent III., interfered
a|t a later date in royal matrimonial affairs
in similar fashion.

The inadequate criticism of that age
was unable to discover the reality of
these forgeries, and would indeed have
forgiven them, as the principle of the
decretals had often been put into
practice in the early days of the Church
by tampering with canonical and non-
canonical letters and writings. These
decretals encouraged Pope John VIII.
(872-882) to give away the imperial
throne as he pleased, and to act as arbi-
trator in disputes concerning the succes-
sion and other matters of the kind. The
Popes of the tenth century, however, were
too often quite unable to advance such
high claims, apart from the fact that they
were hard pressed and hampered by Italian
claims to the crown, by Arab pirates,
and by the Byzantine emperors. Otto
the Great was therefore able to administer
ecclesiastical affairs as independently as
Charles the Great, and to make the papacy
the footstool of his power. The offensive
measures of Nicholas I. were not resumed
until the time of Gregory VII.

As the Pope claimed to bestow the
imperial crown according to his will and
pleasure, so also the great vassals assumed
the right of electing the king, without
reference to the principle of hereditary
How the succession, while in compacts,
Kings were ^ hich Preceded the election,
Elected thev . secured their privileges
and their territory, making
their own possessions independent and
diminishing those of the king. The West
Prankish Carolingians, who occupied the
throne of France after the death of Odo,
were Charles the Simple (898-929), Louis
IV. (929-954), Lothair (954-986), and
Louis V. (986-987) ; these were not the
foremost among the nobles with equal


claims, but rather the inferior and power-
less members of the class, and entirely
dependent upon the good or bad will of
their vassals.

As under the degenerate Merovingians
the Carolingian family rose to power
and eventually seized the throne, so now
we may mark the rise of the family of
Robert of Anjou, who had fallen in battle
in 867 against the Normans; the Odo
mentioned above was his son, and their
descendants rose to supreme power in
France first in fact and afterwards in
name. Odo's brother, Robert, had al-
ready made an attempt and been crowned
at Sens in 922 ; he had fallen fighting
against the mercenary forces of Charles
at Soissons on June i6th, 923. He had
a large following among the nobility,
and was father-in-law of Duke Raoul
of Burgundy ; hence his party chose his
son-in-law to succeed him. However, his
son Hugo, after the death of his brother-
in-law, raised the Carolingian Louis IV.,
surnamed d'Outremer, to the crown, and
enthroned him at Rheims.

Hugo's efforts were directed to extending
the power of his dynasty and to

weakening the royal prestige ;
Hugo the b r ,. 1 j

M in course of time he considered

, P that the royal title would

of r ranee , , J ..

naturally fall to the most power-
ful of the vassals. Hence he secured from
the king the grant to himself of the
title of Duke of the Franks. His father
had already been margrave of three
marks and also possessed the county of
Maine. These possessions were increased
by Louis' successor, Lothair, so that a con-
temporary, the later Archbishop Gerbert
of Rheims, could write that Hugo was
the actual master of France, and this he
was in practice between 948 and 950.
Lothair's position was assured only in
Aquitaine, where his son Charles had
married the widow of the duke. Both
Hugo and Louis married sisters of the
German Otto the Great. Hugo died in
956, two years after Louis.

These phantom kings of the West Franks
were guilty of the greatest impolicy
through their interference in the affairs
of the German Empire ; they ought rather
to have consolidated their weak forces
against their all-powerful vassals, and to
have secured the friendship of the house
of Robert and of the powerful Norman
dukes. Louis IV. had already quarrelled
with his brother-in-law Otto, and his

With the event represented in this illustration a new dynasty sat upon the throne of France. The last of the French
Carolingians passed away in the person of Louis V., and when the next heir, his uncle, Charles of Lorraine, a vassal of
the German emperor, failed to secure the throne it passed to Hugh Capet, the son of Hugo of Francia. The country
was much unsettled when the crowning ceremony at Rheims was performed by Archbishop Adalbert on July 3rd, 987.



successor Lothair III. (954-986) attempted
to secure possession of Lorraine, the
apple of discord between the East and
West Prankish rulers, on the basis of a
claim that the provinces had been a per-
sonal possession of Otto, and not one which
he could bequeath. For this purpose he
advanced into the duchy with 20,000 men,
_. _ surprised Aix-la-Chapelle, and

Arm " B tUI71ed the 6a & le f Charles the
H&Helu'ah Great,' which was placed upon
1 UJ * the palace, towards the west as
a sign that this ancient capital of the em-
pire now belonged to France. The Emperor
Otto II. marched at the head of his troops
upon Paris, which, however, offered a
brave resistance under the son of Hugo of
Francia, the later ruler of France. The
German king therefore contented himself
with striking up a hallelujah with his army
on the heights of Montmartre, after which
he retreated, pursued by Lothair's troops
as far as the Aisne.

In the year 980 Lothair proposed an
alliance of peace and friendship with the
German king. He was greatly afraid
that this ruler might make common cause
with the disobedient French vassals.
Lothair, therefore, renounced his claim
to Lotharingia at the conference of Chiers.
However, when Otto II. had died, upon
the threshold of old age, in 983, Lothair
renewed his claims and attempted to secure
the guardianship of Otto III., who was
still a minor. Neither attempt, however,
proved successful. His son Louis V., who
was given the undeserved nickname " Le
Faineant " (the do-nothing), continued a
show of imperial power for one' year.

After the death of Louis V., the last of
the French Carolingians, the next heir, his
uncle Charles of Lorraine, a vassal of the
German emperor, failed to .secure the
throne of France, which passed to Hugh
Capet, the son of Hugo of Francia ; ;he
possessed not only the wide territory -of
his family but also connections- by mar-
Hugh Capet ria S e with Burgundy, Aquitaine,
Crowned Normandy, and Vermandois.

. RK He was crowned in Rheims

at Kneims . /, , , . ,

by Archbishop Adalbert -on

July 3rd, 987. The country was in a
state of disturbance ; agricultural and
civil prosperity was at a low ebb ; .the
people were subject to the oppression
of the powerful lords and of the royal
demesnes ; practically nothing remained
to the crown save Laon. Now began a
period of constitutional order, of legal

protection, and of renewed prosperity for
the people belonging to the middle classes.

The deposition of the lawful king was
not so easy a task for the Capets as it had
been for the Carolingian Pippin. The old
royal house possessed many adherents
among the nobles, while the new dynasty
lacked the support of the higher eccle-
siastical powers. With the help of the
nobility who remained faithful, Charles
of Lorraine seized Laon, which for the last
century had been the capital of the kings
and the centre of France. The corona-
tion city of Rheims, the archbishops of
which had been more or less independent
since the beginning of the ninth century,
also came under the ecclesiastical supre-
macy of Arnulf the Carolingian after the
death of Adalbert.

The views then prevalent among the
French clergy were hostile to the secular
power and to its supremacy over Church
affairs. The powerful Count William of
Auvergne, who had been made Duke of
Aquitaine by Odo of Anjou, had founded a
monastery in 910 at Cluny in the northern
part of the Cevennes. By the terms of
Wh th ^ e foundation charter the

er , e n e monastery was to be indepen-
Pope s Power , ,. ,-i , .

, . .. dent of all secular or episcopal
was Limited

power, and was to choose its

superior by independent election ; even
the Pope was prohibited from any inter-
ference or diminution of its foundation,
and was allowed to exercise no influence
upon the election of the abbot. The mon-
astery attained great prosperity under its
second abbot, Odo (927-941), and at that
time during the fasts some 17,000 poor
were fed; Naturally, this isolated founda-
tion joined the papacy against the secular
and episcopal powers, and defended that
unconditional supremacy of the Pope
over the secular rulers which Hildebrand
afterwards secured.

The special opponent of Cluny was
Bishop Arnulf of Orleans, the president of
the synod of 991, which assembled in a
church near Rheims to decide the succes-
sion to the archbishopric of that city.
King Hugh naturally did not wish to leave
this ecclesiastical metropolis in the pos-
session of his political opponents, who had
indeed sworn fidelity to him, but had
placed the Carolingian Charles in posses-
sion of Rheims and Soissons. The synod
was now to decide whether Arnulf could
be removed from his office by the vote of
the West Prankish clergy, or only by the

When Hugh Capet ascended the throne of France he found the country much disturbed. Among- the most powerful of
the new king's enemies was Charles, Duke of Lorraine, who seized Laon, which for a century had been the capital of
the kings and the centre of France. In this illustration we see Charles making Adalberon, Bishop of Laon, swear fidelity.



decision of the Pope. The latter view was
championed by all the adherents of the
Cluniac doctrine, and appeals were made
to the false decretals. Bishop Arnulf
then delivered a violent speech upon the
decisions of the ruling Pope, John XV.,
whom he compared with Antichrist. He
did not venture to maintain the falsity of
, the decretals, the main founda-
w c J^.f. s tion of the papal claims; even

Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims,
Opponents , , r . f , , ,,

who had defended the epis-
copal power against the papal supremacy
about 860, during the time of Nicholas I.,
did not venture upon this step.

However, King Hugh and his ecclesi-
astical supporters induced the synod to
agree that Arnulf should voluntarily
resign his archbishopric, and that the
learned Abbot Gerbert should be his
successor. Hugh Capet having mean-
while treacherously imprisoned Duke
Charles, who died in captivity, had thus
disposed of two of his main opponents.
In contrast, however, to the time of Pippin,
not only the papacy, but the strict
religious party among the clergy and the
national enthusiasm inspired by Cluny,
supported his opponents. Archbishop
Gerbert found his position in Rheims
extremely difficult. Mass was deserted
when celebrated by himself, and no one
would sit at his table, while he was actually
menaced upon his journey to a council
of the French .bishops in 995. Otto III.
contrived to relieve him of this un-
tenable position by making him spiritual
adviser at court in 997, and in 999 he
became Pope Sylvester II.

King Hugh attempted to secure the
favour of the clergy by confirming ecclesi-
astical possessions and privileges ; on the
other hand, he showed no hesitation
in retaining his royal privileges, especi-
ally where the right of interference in
ecclesiastical matters was concerned.
The state over which he ruled was in a
. period of even greater disrup-

Divisions of f. ,1 j ,, ,

_, ... tion than under the weak

the Frankish , . . , .

.,. Merovingians, or during the

Kingdom , ' , ,, . .

last century of the nominal

Carolingian rule. He was not even the
sovereign power in his own crown domain,
the Isle de France ; one record of doubtful
authenticity speaks of him as possessing
only five towns Paris, Orleans, Etampes,
Senlis, and Melun. The whole of the
Frankish kingdom was divided, not only
into a number of larger and practically



independent fiefs, but also into a quantity
of secondary fiefs and smaller estates, the
holders of which had formed close federa-
tions with one another. Seigneuries 1 ,
chatellenies, baronies, vicomtes, ancjl
other forms of feudal possession were
recognised. The vassals had resumed
their power of independent administra-
tion, and only insignificant lords managed
their own properties. Every village had
its intendant ,. or ; administrator, while
larger estates were supervised by an
official known in the north as Prevost,
and in the south as bailli or viguier. The
great duchies and counties had their own
legal codes and law courts.

Language itself was broken into different
dialects. The chief groups of these were
the Frankish, Norman, Burgundian, Picard,
and Lotharingian or Walloon, apart from
the special Provencal language in the
south. Every dialect had thrown out
offshoots, and was in no case strictly
confined to geographical boundaries.
Hence, the only uniform ecclesiastical and
official language was Latin.

The unfree classes suffered severely
under the exactions of numerous petty

. tyrants, especially during the
An Age of f u

. eleventh century, when a period


T rann commerce began to supplant

the old regime of self-sufficing
estates. The oppressive demands of the
overlords, which were added to the former
obligations of forced service, often drove
the subject peasantry into armed revolt'.
Trade and commerce and the prosperity
of the middle classes were largely impeded
by the quarrels and raids of the nobles.
It was difficult for the feeble power of the
king to enforce the obedience of these
domineering lords, each of whom had his
own castle or fortified capital, and hi
own retainers or military comrades. Ijt
was especially impossible for the crown
to assert its rights within the greater fiefs,
which, as in the time of the later Merovinj-
gians and Carolingians, had secured an
independence that was complete in actual
fact and partially recognised by law.

Such, in particular, was the case with
the duchies of Normandy and Aquitaine,
and the provinces of Lower and Upper
Burgundy, which since 933 had been
united to form the kingdom of the
Arelate, and did not revert to the
German Empire until 1032-1034. The
duchy of Brittany stood entirely outside
of the French constitutional union. In

938 it had replaced the original federation
of Armorica, which was at first inde-
pendent, and had been then subdued
by Charles the Great and afterwards by
the Normans. The counties of Flanders,
Champagne, and Toulouse were in a
similar position ; Lorraine, with Metz,
Toul and Verdun belonged to the
German emperor, and Provence to the
Spanish county of Barcelona.

The object of the Capets was to restore
the shattered political unity, to replace
feudal tyranny by law and order, to
extend the crown demesnes, to advance
the middle classes at the expense of the
nobility, to secure their ecclesiastical
powers and the independence of their
bishops at the expense of the papacy, and
to make their elective position hereditary ;
towards these purposes they were helped
by a variety of circumstances. The great
feudal lords were constantly at variance
among themselves, and were accustomed
upon such occasions to appeal to the
arbitration of the king. It would have
been dangerous for them to set an example
of infidelity to their own vassals by show-

-,. _ ing too open a contempt for

The Days of ,,_ r i, i- .1 j .

the Clergy's the fealt y whlch the y Wed tO


the crown, the more so as the

subject vassals would have
found a ready protector in the king. The
clergy needed the help, of the crown
against the oppression of the rapacious
lords, and also appealed to the arbitration
of the crown in the case of territorial
disputes. They also supported the crown
by a natural community of interests
against the aggression of Rome, which
threatened their traditional privileges.
In particular, the communes which began
to rise in and after the eleventh century
looked for the protection of the king if
they were to maintain the rights and
privileges which they had bought from
the greedy nobility.

In their efforts to make their succession
hereditary the Capets could not venture
to infringe the electoral rights of their
vassals, for the result might have been
a revolt with which they could not
have coped ; they therefore adopted
the device of appointing and crowning
the eldest son during their lifetime and
acknowledging him as co-regent. In this
way the crown descended from father
to son for more than three centuries.
The main care of the new rulers was
naturally the restoration of domestic

peace, which was disturbed by the con-
tinual feuds and raids of the nobility.
For this purpose they readily accepted the
help of religion and the influence of the
Church. Since the dissolution of con-
stitutional and social order throughout
the French kingdom, the clergy had
endeavoured to supply the defects of
secular law by ecclesiastical

Powerful -, A , ,, J

w . decrees. At the synod of the

Weapons of , . , ,-. ... J .

the Church dlocese of Poitiers in 989, the
curse of God was uttered upon
all who should plunder or even threaten
churches, clergy, or poor. Excommunica-
tion or exclusion from Church fellowship,
and interdict or refusal of the Church
sacraments, were the weapons used against
evildoers who broke the peace. National
calamities helped these efforts at pacifi-
cation. Between the years 1031 and
1034 France was devastated by a famine,
and the desperate inhabitants sought

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 37 of 55)