T. F. (Thomas Frederick) Tout.

The empire and the papacy, 918-1273 online

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intrigued against him, and the prelate's triumph was hastened
by Louis' premature death in the hunting-field (g&j).j He
was the last of the Carolingian kings, j

For a century the Robertian house had struggled with
the house of Charles the Great. Its premature triumph
Election of under Odo and Robert had put off the final day
Hugh Capet, of success. But the patient and shrewd policy
' 87 ' of Hugh the Great and Hugh Capet was at last

rewarded with victory. Louis v. left no son. His uncle



France under the Early Capetians 7 1

Charles, Duke of Lower Lorraine, was his nearest heir,
but was in no position to push forward his pretensions.
The pear was at last ripe, and Hugh Capet had no longer
any motive for avoiding the semblance of the power, of
which he had long enjoyed the reality. Adalbero and
Gerbert now showed great activity. Adalbero harangued the
barons and bishops on the duty that lay before them. ' We
know,' he said, ' that Charles of Lorraine has his partisans
who pretend that the throne belongs to him by hereditary
right. But we believe that kingship is not acquired by
hereditary right, but that we ought only to raise to that
dignity the man who is marked out, not only by noblepess
of birth, but by wisdom, loyalty, and magnanimity. '/ The
magnates took the cue, and elected Hugh king of the
French. The Church ratified the choice of the nobles by
the solemn coronation of the new king at Noyon. The Duke
of the Normans and the Count of Anjou lent him the support
of their arms. The Emperor recognised Hugh, on condition
that he waived all claims over Lotharingia. i

The revolution of 987 was easily accomplished, because the
old order was so nearly dead. It involved no striking change
in form. fThe Capetian kings posed as the lawful successors
of the Carolingians : they had the same conceptions of sove-
reignty, and followed the same principles of its
government. Yet those are not far wrong who "suits,
regard the accession of Hugh as the starting-point of all
later French history. It is easy to exaggerate the nature of
the change. It is unsafe to make the change of dynasty a
triumph of one race over another. It has been the fashion to
say that, with the last of the Carolingians, disappear the last
of the Teutonic conquerors of Gaul, and that their power had
passed on to the Romanised Celts whom they had ruled so
long. But there is no scrap of evidence to prove that the
later Carolings were different in tongue, ideas, or policy from
the Robertian house, j There was no real national feeling in
the tenth century, and, if there were, no proof that the one



7 2 European History, 918-1273

house was more national than the other. Nevertheless, the
passing away of the line of Charles the Great does complete
the process which the Treaty of Verdun had begun. /The
Capetian king had a limited localised power, a power that in
due course could become national; and if he looked back, like
the Carolings, to the traditions of imperial monarchy and
order, he had no temptation to look back, as the Carolings
were bound to look back, to the imperial ideas of uni-
versal dominion. He had no claim to rule beyond the
limits ascribed to the West Prankish kingdom in the Treaty
of Verdun. He was king of the French, the new Romance
people that had grown up as the result of the amalgamation
of conquering Frank and conquered Roman. He spoke the
infant French tongue ; his ambitions were limited to French
soil ; he represented the new nationality that soon began to
take a foremost place amidst all the nations of Europe. But
the triumph of the Capetian was not even in anticipation a
simple national triumph. It was only in after ages, when France
had become great, that she could look back and see in his
accession the beginnings of her separate national monarchy.
Personally, Hugh Capet was doubtless, like Harold of Eng-
land some two generations later, an embodiment of the
new national character and energy. But, less fortunate than
Harold, he had time enough to live to show how power-
less was a national hero, amidst an order o(f society in which
the national ideal could have no place^fHe was rather the
mighty feudatory, raised by his own order to a position of
pre-eminence to represent the predominance of feudal ideas.
The Carolings had fallen, not because of their own weakness,
and still less by reason of any want of sympathy between
them and the French nation. They were pushed out of power
because France had become so fully feudalised that there was
no room for an authority that had no solid basis of feudal
support. France had become divided among a series of great
fiefs. None of these fiefs fell to the ruling family, which
was thus, as the result of the preponderance of the feudal



France under the Early Capettans 73

principle, deprived of revenue, army, lands, and reputation.
Hugh Capet inherited all that had kept the Carolingian power
alive so long ; but in addition to that he could supplement
the theoretical claims of monarchy by right divine, by the
practical argumerfs drawn from the possession of one of the
strongest fiefs.>/ Thus the new dynasty saved the monarchy
by strengthening it with a great fief. No doubt the feudatories
acted unwisely in having a king at all. /But a nominal
monarchy was part of the feudal system, and the barons could
Console themselves by believing that in becoming kig of
the French, Hugh still remained one of themselves.^ He
was not surrounded with the mystic reverence due to the
descendants of Charlemagne. As Harold, in becoming king
of the English, did not cease to be earl of the West Saxons,
so Hugh, in ascending the French throne, was still in all
essentials the count of Paris. Harold and Hugh alike
found but a questioning, obedience JE^&e ?7 great earls and
counts, who looked upon the upstart kings as their equals.
The "Norman Conquest destroyed Harold before it could
be early demonstrated what a long step in the direction of
feudalism was made by his accession. / Hugh Capet and his
successors had time to bear the full brunt of the feudal
shock. /The most powerful of dukes proved the weakest of
kings. It was only gradually that the ceremonial centre,
round which the cumbrous fabric of French feudalism
revolved, became the real heart of French national life.
Yet, even in the feeble reigns of the first four Canetian
kings, it is plain that France had begun a new existence/ The
history of the Carolingians is a history of decline. The
history of the Capetians is a ..story,. gf prngrpssr While beyond
the Rhine and Alps the continuance of the imperial theory
choked the growth of German and Italian national life,
the disappearance of these remnants of the past proved
a blessing to Gaul. The history of modern Europe is the
history of the development of nationalities. That history
may be said in a sense to begin with the establishment of



74 European History, 918-1273

the first of an unbroken dynasty of national kings over what
was destined to become one of the greatest of modern
nations./

It is only with these limitations that the election of Hugh
can be regarded as a triumph either of feudalism or of
nationality. But it is entirely true that Hugh's accession was
the triumph of the Church. "Adalbero, and Gerbert working
through Adalbero, really gave Hugh the throne. Gerbert could
truly boast that the Church had revived the royal name after
it had long been almost dead among the French. Amidst
the horrors of feudal anarchy, the sounder part of the Church
still upheld in monarchy the Roman tradition of orderly rule,
and taught that the king governed by God's grace, because
without a strong king the thousand petty tyrants of feudalism
would have no restraint upon their lust and greed. But even
this was an ideal far beyond the vision of the tenth century ;
though in later generations it was to bear fruit The im-
mediate results of Hugh Capet's election were far different
from its ultimate results. rThe conditions upon which his
brother magnates had elected him king meant in practice
that they should enjoy in their territories the same power
that he enjoyed on his own domain. Save his theoretical
pre-eminence, Hugh got very little from his royal title.
The only resources ^rT Which he could^depend implicitly
were those which he derived from his own lands and vassals.
There was no national organisation, no royal revenue, and

j^yfl ormy aa h frArm OtfCUdal Service WaS



too short to carry on a real campaign, even if the king
could have trusted his vassals' levies. The royal_title
involved responsibilities, but brought with it littlt correspond-
ing power.'

Struck oy the contrast between their weakness and the com-
manding position of later French kings, historians have dwelt
with almost exaggerated emphasis on the powerlessness of
Hugh Capet and his first three successors. Yet the early
Capetians were not so feeble as they are sometimes described



France under the Early Capet ians 75

The French king was still the centre round which the feudal
system revolved. He had a store of legal claims and traditions
of authority, which at any favourable moment he could put
into force. He was the only ruler whose authority extended
even in name all over France. He inherited the traditions of
the Carolingians and Merovingians,, and, rightly or wrongly,
was regarded as their successor. ( Moreover, the lay fiefs
were, luckily for the monarchy, ^ cut up by the great
ecclesiastical territories, over which the king stood in
a better position. Though feudal in a certain sense, the
great Church dignitary was never a mere feudalist. His
power was not hereditary. On his death the custody of
the temporalities of his see passed into the royal hands,
and it was the settled royal policy to keep churches
vacant as long as possible.) Only in' a few favoured fiefs,
""ITIfe^Normandy, Brittany, and Aquitaine, did the regale slip
altogether into the hands of the local dukes. Moreover, the
disputes and the weakness of the chapters gave the king the
preponderating voice in elections. Even stronger was the
royal position in relation to the monasteries. The greatest
abbeys throughout France were 'royal abbeys,' over which
the king possessed the same right as over bishoprics.
Weaker than the bishops, the abbots looked up even more
than the secular prelates to the roval support against the
grasping and simoniacal lay-lords. (The king favoured the
Cluniac reformers, knowing that the more earnest the Church-
men, the more they would be opposed to feudal influence.
Thus it was that every great Church fief was a centre of royal
influence. Over the Church lands of central France the
provinces of Sens, Reims, Tours, and Bourges the early
Capetian was a real king.) Even from the point of view of
material resources, the king was in every whit as favourable
a position as any one of his chief vassals. His own domains
were large, rich, and centrally situated. Though lavish
grants to the chief monasteries, and the need of paying for
each step of their upward progress by conciliating the



76 European History, 918-1273

feudal magnates, had eaten away much of the old Robertian
domain ; though the great Counts of Anjou and Blois had
established themselves in virtual independence within the
limits of the domain of Hugh the Great, Hugh Capet still
held the country between the Seine and the Loire, including
the county of Paris, Orleans and its district, Senlis, Etampes,
and Melun, with scattered possessions in more distant places,
Picardy, Champagne, Bern, Touraine, and Auvergne. Paris
was not as yet so important a place as it afterwards became,
and it is an exaggeration to make it the centre of his
power. Hugh could only conciliate his chief adviser and
supporter, Bouchard the Venerable, the greatest lord of the
royal domain, and count already of Vendome, Corbeil,
and Melun, by granting him his own county of Paris.
The title of ' royal count ' of Paris suggested that Bouchard
was a royal officer rather than a simple feudatory, and
after Bouchard had retired into a monastery, the county
of Paris was henceforth kept strictly in the king's hands.
The second Capetian acquired with Montreuil-sur-Mer a
seaport near the English Channel. For a time the
Capetians held the duchy of Burgundy. Moreover, they
were men of energy and vigour who made the best of
their limited resources. But their lot was a hard one. Even
in their own domains, between the Seine and Loire, the lead-
ing mesne lords, lay and secular, exercised such extensive
jurisdiction that there- was little room left for the autho-
rity of the suzerain. C Besides the task as yet hopeless
of reducing the great vassals of the crown to order, the
Capetian kings had the preliminary task of establishing
their authority within their own domains. ! Even this smaller
work was not accomplished for more than a century. But,
luckily for the kings, each one ?f ft** p* frnHaton'gg
was simjJazijMlcaipied! The barons of Normandy and Aqui-
taine gave more trouble to their respective dukes than the
barons of the Isle of France gave to the lord of Paris.
Power was in reality distributed among hundre.djLjQLfeudal



France under the Early Capetians 77

Chieftains. It was so divided that no one was strong enough
to really rule at all. France suffered all the miseries of
feudal anarchy, when every petty lord of a castle ruled
like a little king over his own domain. Yet it was something
that her contests were now between Frenchmen and French-
men. Something was gained in the passing away of the
barbarian invasions of the tenth century.

The details of the political history of the first four Cape-
tian reigns are insignificant, and need not be told at length.
Hugh Capet reigned from 987 to 996. He had The first
little difficulty in obtaining general recognition, furCape-
even from the lords of the distant south. But nTgh,
he had some trouble in upholding his claims 987-996.
against the Carolingian claimant, Charles, Duke of Lower
Lorraine, who received the powerful support of the church
of Reims, after Adalbero's death, and continued for some
time to maintain himself in the old Carolingian fortress
of Laon. Hugh continued with wise policy to maintain
his hold over the church of Reims, and so to destroy the
last possible stronghold of the Carolingians. He did not
even scruple to sacrifice the trusty Gerbert to serve his
dynastic ambitions. Within modest limits, the reign of the
founder of the new dynasty was a successful one.

In the very year of his accession, Hugh provided for the
hereditary transmission of his power by associating his son
Robert in the kingship. On Hugh's death RobertII
Robert, already with nine years' experience as a the Pious,'
crowned king, became sole monarch. He had " 6 ~ 1031 -
been a pupil of Gerbert's, and was sufficiently learned to be
able to compose hymns and argue on points of theology with
bishops. His character was amiable, his charity abundant;
he was of soft and ready speech, and amiable manners. He
showed such fervent devotion that he was surnamed Robert
the Pious, and contributed more than any other Capetian
king to identify the Church and the dynasty. He was not the
weak uxorious prince that his enemies describe him, but a



78 European History, 918-1273

mighty hunter, a vigorous warrior, and an active statesman.
He made constant efforts, both to enlarge his domain and
establish his authority over the great vassals. He kept up
friendly relations with Normandy. He married Bertha, widow
of Odo i., Count of Chartres, Tours, and Blois, his father's
worst enemy, in the hope of regaining the three rich counties
that had slipped away from the heritage of Hugh the Great.
But Bertha was within the prohibited degrees ; and the Pope
insisting upon the unlawfulness of the union, Robert was
excommunicated, and after a long struggle gave her up. But
in 1019, the establishment of Odo 11. of Blois, the son of
Bertha by her former marriage, in the county of Troyes, did
something to avenge the lady's memory. Robert's third
marriage with Constance of Aries, the daughter of a Provencal
lord, led to several royal visits to his wife's native regions
which was a step towards establishing Capetian influence in
the south. But the men of Robert's own territories disliked
the hard, greedy queen, and the clergy in particular resented
her introduction, into the court of Paris, of the refined
but lax southern manners. Robert's most important exploit
was the conquest of Burgundy. His uncle, Duke Henry, had
died without an heir, and after a struggle of fourteen years'
duration, Robert got possession of the great fief; but he soon
granted it to his eldest surviving son Henry, whom, faithful
to his father's policy, he had crowned king in 1027. He
twice went on pilgrimage to Rome, and was offered the throne
of Italy by the Lombard lords, who were opposed to Conrad
the Salic; yet he found much difficulty in chastising any
petty lord of the Orle'anais or the Beauce, who chose to defy
him.

During the declining years of Robert n., Queen Constance

exercised an increasing influence. She wished to set aside

Henry i., the young king, Henry of Burgundy, the natural

1031-1060. ne j rj j n favour of his younger brother Robert.

But the old king insisted on the rights of the first-born, and

civil war broke out between the brothers, though before long



France under the Early Capetians 79

they united their arms against their father. When King
Robert died, the contest was renewed ; but finally Henry
secured the throne for himself, and pacified his younger
brother by the grant of Burgundy, which thus went per-
manently back to a separate line of rulers. Henry i.'s
inauspicious beginning lost some ground to the monarchy,
which under him perhaps attained its lowest point of power.
But Henry, if not very wise, was brave and active. Though
his resources prevented any great expeditions, he strove by a
series of petty fights and sieges to protect his frontiers against
two of the strongest and most disloyal of his vassals the
Count of Blois, and the Duke of Normandy. In neither case
was he successful. Odo n., after a long struggle, was able
to establish his power on a firm basis, both in Champagne
and Blois. But after Odo's death in 1037, Henry managed
to absorb some of his fiefs in the royal domain, and scored a
considerable triumph by transferring Touraine from the over-
powerful house of Blois to Geoffrey Martel, Count of Anjou.
The young duke, William of Normandy, who owed his throne
to the support of Henry, which had secured the defeat of the
rebel barons at Val-es-Dunes, soon grew so powerful as to
excite the apprehensions of his overlord. In an unlucky
hour, Henry broke the tradition of friendship that had so
long united Rouen and Paris. He twice invaded Normandy,
but on both occasions the future conqueror of England proved
more than a match for him. In 1054 Henry was defeated
at Mortemer, and again, in 1058, at Varaville. Another
difficulty in the way of the monarchy was the fact that Henry
married late, and his health was already breaking up when the
eldest son, borne to him by his wife Anne of Russia, was still
a child. Nevertheless, in 1059, Henry procured the coro-
nation of his seven-year-old son Philip at Reims, and the
great gathering of magnates from all parts of France that
attended the ceremony showed that the succession to the
throne was still an event of national interest. Yet with all
his weakness, Henry i. held firm to the ancient traditions of the



8o European History t 918-1273

Prankish monarchy. When the reforming Pope Leo ix. held
his synod of Reims to denounce simony, Henry was so jealous
of the Pope that he prevented the French prelates from attend-
ing it He watched with alarm the results of the absorption
of Lorraine and the kingdom of Aries in the Empire, and
boldly wrote to Henry in., claiming by hereditary right the
palace at Aachen, possessed by his ancestors, and all the
Lotharingian kingdom kept from its rightful owners by the
tyranny of the German king. It is significant that the weakest
of the early Capetians should thus pose against the strongest
of the Emperors as the inheritor of the Carolingian tradition.
In 1060 Henry died, and the little Philip i. was ac-
knowledged as his successor without a murmur. During his
Philip i., minority, Count Baldwin v. of Flanders held the
1060-1108. regency, paying perhaps more regard to his
interests as a great feudatory, than to his duty to his ward.
It was possibly owing to this attitude that Baldwin allowed
his son-in-law, William the Bastard, to fit out the famous
expedition which led to the conquest of England, and thus
gave one of the chief vassals of France a stronger posi-
tion than his overlord. The year after the battle of Hastings
Baldwin of Flanders died, and henceforward Philip ruled
in his own name. As he grew up, he gained a bad reputa-
tion for greed, debauchery, idleness, and sloth. Before
he attained old age he had become extraordinarily fat
and unwieldy, while ill-health still further diminished his
activity. Yet Philip was a shrewd man, of sharp and
biting speech, and clear political vision. His quarrel with
the Church was the result of his private vices rather than
his public policy. As early as 1073 he was bitterly
denounced by Gregory vn. as the most simoniac, adulterous,
and sacrilegious of kings. But he gave most offence to
the Church when, in 1092, he repudiated his wife, Bertha
of Holland (with whom he had lived for more than twenty
years), in favour of Bertrada of Montfort, the wife of Fulk
Re"chin, Count of Anjou, whom he married after a complaisant



France under the Early Capetians 81

bishop had declared her former union null. This bold step
brought on Philip's head not only the arms of the injured
Fulk, and of Bertha's kinsfolk, but a sentence of excommunica-
tion from Urban 11. (1094). Though a way to reconciliation
was soon opened up by the death of Bertha, the Pope never-
theless persisted in requiring Philip to repudiate his adulterous
consort Philip never gave up Bertrada, and never received
the full absolution of the Church. Nevertheless, the war
which he carried on against the Papacy did not cost him the
allegiance of his subjects, though to it was added a long
conflict with Gregory vn.'s ally, William the Conqueror. So
weak was he that he dared not prevent the holding of
councils on French soil at which he was excommunicated,
and the great crusading movement proclaimed. But Philip
was more active and more shrewd than his ecclesiastical
enemies thought. He turned his attention with single-minded
energy towards the increase of the royal domain, preferring
the inglorious gain of a castle or a petty lordship to indulging
in those vague and futile claims by which his three pre-
decessors had sought in vain to hide their powerlessness.
He took possession of the lapsed fief of Vermandois, and,
not being strong enough to hold the district in his own
hands, established there his brother Hugh the Great, the
famous crusading hero and the father of a long line of
Capetian counts of Vermandois, who were all through the next
century among the surest supports of the Capetian throne.
Philip also absorbed the Vexin and the Valois, thus securing
important outworks to protect his city of Paris from Normandy
and Champagne. By his politic purchase of Bourges, Philip
for the first time established the royal power on a solid basis
south of the Loire. But the weak point of Philip's acquisi-
tions was that he had not force sufficient to hold them firmly
against opposition. Hampered by the constant unfriendliness
of the Church, broken in health and troubled in conscience,
he ended his life miserably enough. Formally reconciled to
the Pope before the end of his days, he died in the habit

PERIOD II. F



82 European History ', 918-1273

of a monk, declaring that his sins made him unworthy to
be laid beside his ancestors and St. Denis, and humbly
consigning himself to the protection of St Benedict. When
the vault at Fleury closed over his remains, French history
began a new starting-point. Philip i. was the last of the early
Capetianswho were content to go on reigning without governing,
after the fashion of the later Carolingians. It was reserved
for his successors to convert formal claims into actual posses-
sions. Nevertheless, the work of Philip set them on the right
track. In his shrewd limitation of policy to matters of practical
moment, and his keen insight into the drift of affairs, the gross,
profligate, mocking Philip prepared the way for the truer



Online LibraryT. F. (Thomas Frederick) ToutThe empire and the papacy, 918-1273 → online text (page 7 of 45)