III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > F. Europe, 461–1500 > 1. Western Europe in the Early Middle Ages, 461–1000 > h. The West Franks under the Carolingian Kings
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
h. The West Franks under the Carolingian Kings
Charles the Bald (emperor, 875–77). His kingdom under the Treaty of Verdun was roughly equivalent to modern France, with additions in the north and south and a restricted frontier on the east. Charles was effective master of Laon, but his sway over Neustria was nominal, his control sporadically maintained by war and intrigue. Charles granted three great fiefs as a buffer for his frontiers: the county of Flanders to his son-in-law, Baldwin Iron-Arm (862); Neustria to Robert the Strong as “duke between Seine and Loire”; the French duchy of Burgundy to Richard, count of Autun. Brittany (Amorica) was semi-independent under its own dukes and counts in the 9th century and continued so virtually to the end of the Middle Ages. Aquitaine, joined to Neustria for Charles (838), soon emerged as a duchy and was consistently hostile. The duchy of Gascony was joined to Aquitaine in 1052. From Neustria were carved the counties of Anjou (870) and Champagne. Septimania remained refractory.  1
Carloman, Charles's son, emerged from monastic retirement and led a series of intrigues that ended when he was blinded and fled to his uncle, Louis the German. He died in 874. Charles was further weakened by his intrigues in Lorraine and Italy, and by his efforts to win the imperial crown, leaving France open to invasion, anarchy, and brigandage.  2
The crown, impotent and virtually bankrupt, commanded no respect from magnates or prelates, and the Capitulary of Mersen (847) shows clear evidence of the progress of essentially feudal ideas: every free man is to choose a lord; none may quit his lord; each must follow his lord in battle. It must be noted that this was purely a military measure. France was already divided into comtés under counts theoretically removable by the king.  3
Expedition of Charles to Italy and imperial coronation.  4
The Capitulary of Kiersy made honors hereditary, but lands were still granted only for life.  5
Louis II (the Stammerer), son of Charles the Bald, maintained himself with difficulty, despite the support of the Church.  6
Charles the Fat, son of Louis the German, already king of the East Franks (879) and emperor (876–87), was chosen king of the West Franks instead of Charles the Simple, the five-year-old brother of Louis and Carloman. Charles the Fat, having failed (886) to aid the gallant Odo (Eudes) against the Northmen, was deposed (887).  7
Odo (Eudes), count of Paris, marquis of Neustria (son of Count Robert the Strong), was elected king of the West Franks by one faction of magnates, to avoid a minority on the deposition (887) of Charles the Fat. Another faction chose Charles III, the Simple, son of Louis II (Carolingian).  8
Despite five years of civil war, Charles III ruled from Laon, the last Carolingian with any real authority in France. Charles, unable to expel the Northmen from the mouth of the Seine, granted (911) Rollo (Hrolf the Ganger, d. 931), a large part of what was later Normandy, for which Rollo did homage.  9
Formation of Normandy. Rollo was baptized (912) under the name Robert, acquired middle Normandy (the Bessin, 924) and the western part of the duchy (Cotentin and Avranche, 933). Fresh settlers from Scandinavia were recruited for the colony for the best part of a century, and it was able to retain a strong local individuality. Yet soon after 1000, the duchy was French in both speech and law. Between this period and the accession of Duke William I (the Conqueror), Norman history is fragmentary.  10
The French kingship. Robert, count of Paris, duke between the Seine and Loire, won the West Frankish crown with the aid of his sons-in-law, Herbert, count of Vermandois, and Rudolf, duke of Burgundy, but was killed (923), leaving a son (later Hugh the Great) too young to rule.  11
Rudolf followed Robert as the foe of Charles the Simple, and ruled with no opposition after Charles's death. Hugh the Great, master of Burgundy and Neustria, declined the crown, preferring to rule through the young Carolingian heir,  12
Louis IV, a son of Charles the Simple. Hugh's title, duke of the French, seems to have implied governmental functions as much as territorial sovereignty, and he held most of the northern barons under his suzerainty.  13
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.