III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > F. Europe, 461–1500 > 3. Western Europe and the Age of the Cathedrals, 1000–1300 > c. France
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 987)
c. France
Direct line of the Capetian house (the dynasty continued until 1792).  1
HUGH (called Capet, for the cloak he wore as abbot of St. Martin de Tours). At Hugh's accession, the kingship was at its nadir; such power as Hugh had was feudal; the royal title meant little more than hegemony over a feudal patchwork, an ill-defined area called France, and the prestige of ancient monarchical tradition sanctified by ecclesiastical consecration. Hugh's own feudal domain consisted of the Île de France (extending from Laon to Orleans, with its center at Paris) and a few scattered holdings. The great barons of the so-called royal fiefs recognized Hugh as their suzerain, but never did homage nor rendered service. Hugh's special interest was to maintain his control over his chief resources, the archbishopric of Reims and the great bishoprics (Sens, Tours, Bourges) and abbeys of the Île de France, and to wean northeastern France away from the Carolingian and imperial interest. Despite clerical pressure, he avoided submission to imperial suzerainty, a policy that facilitated the demarcation between France and Germany. In defiance of pope and emperor, he forced his own candidate into the archbishopric of Reims. Hugh crowned his son shortly after his own coronation and began a practice (cooptation) that the early Capetians continued (until Philip II no longer felt it necessary), thus ensuring the succession and weakening the principle (dear to the feudality) of elective kingship.  2
ROBERT II (the Pious), an active, well-educated, polished, amiable ruler, a good soldier, supported by the duke of Normandy in constant wars against his neighbors, and by the monasteries of Burgundy in attacks on the dukes of Burgundy. The duchy of Burgundy escheated to the crown and was given to Robert, a younger son. Robert the Pious, like his father, supported the Cluniac reformers. Minor territorial additions signify the revival of royal power.  3
HENRY I, an active, brave, indefatigable ruler whose reign nevertheless marked the lowest ebb of the Capetian fortunes. The rebellion of his brother Robert, supported by Eudes, count of Chartres and Troyes, was put down with the aid of the duke of Normandy, and Robert was pacified by the grant of the duchy of Burgundy (which continued in his family until 1361). Henry supported the duke of Normandy (1047), but led a coalition against him two years later and was defeated. The prévôts were introduced to administer justice and taxation in the royal lands. The kingdom of Burgundy passed (1032) to the empire.  4
Rise and expansion of Normandy. William I became duke (1035) and until 1047 faced a series of baronial revolts. With the aid of his feudal suzerain, King Henry of France, William defeated his revolting barons (1047) and razed their castles. The union of Normandy and Maine was completed (1063) against powerful opposition from the counts of Anjou. William's alliance with Henry was broken (1053), and Henry ravaged the heart of Normandy (1058). Normandy was becoming a developed feudal state under firm ducal control: military service, assessed in knights' fees, was attached to specific pieces of land; no castles could be built or maintained without ducal license; private warfare and blood feud were strictly limited. Coinage was a ducal monopoly. The legal jurisdiction of the duke was wide, local government was under the duke's representatives (the vicomtes), who commanded the local forces, guarded the castles, did justice, collected the revenue (a large part of which was cash). The Church had been revivified with the duke supreme, naming bishops, most of the abbots, and sitting in provincial synods.  5
Norman relations with England had grown closer, and this tendency culminated (1002) in the marriage of Duke Robert's sister Emma with King Ethelred. The son of this marriage, Edward the Confessor, educated largely at the Norman court, came to the throne of England (1042) and died without heirs (1066). The witan at once elected Harold, Earl Godwin's son. William I of Normandy, with a volunteer force (perhaps 5,000–6,000) collected from Normandy and the Continent, defeated Harold in the Battle of Hastings (Oct. 14) and was crowned king of England on Christmas Day (See 1042–66) (See 1066–87). The Bayeux Tapestry (actually a long 230-foot-by-20-inch strip of embroidery), made in the south of England before 1082, gives a narrative in picture and text of events surrounding the Norman Conquest; it is a primary historical source for the period.  6
PHILIP I, enormously fat but active and vigorous; excommunicated and unpopular with the clergy as the result of an adulterous marriage (1092) and because of his hostility to clerical reform. He defeated (1079) Duke William of Normandy (the Conqueror) and steadily supported Robert Curthose, William's son, against Anglo-Norman pressure. His reign was characterized by systematic expansion of the resources of his house and regular annexations to its domains in the face of stubborn feudal resistance.  7
The growth of feudalism tended to diminish anarchy and to improve the general security of life, and ultimately led to decisive economic recovery in western Europe, a trend toward urban economy, and the emergence of a bourgeoisie that was beginning to accumulate capital. This development was a determining factor in the economic, social, and monarchical evolution of the 13th century. The Peace of God and the Truce of God (See 1012–46) were promoted by the Church with Capetian support but had limited effect.  8
A period in which the Capetians reduced the great feudatories north of the Loire and began the transformation of the vague ecclesiastical, judicial, and military rights derived from Carolingian tradition into royal powers.  9
LOUIS VI (the Fat). A brave soldier of tremendous physique, intelligent, affable; liked by the peasantry, commercial class, and clergy; the first popular Capetian. Consolidation of his Norman frontier (wars with Henry I of England: 1109–12; 1116–20), and steady reduction of his lesser vassals as far as the Loire. His charters to colonizers (hôtes) of waste lands, and frequent if inconsistent support of the communes, especially on the lands of the Church and the baronage, began the long alliance of the Capetians with bourgeois interests; Louis's charter of Lorris, widely copied in town charters, was a significant sign of the great urban development setting in all over Europe in this period. As protector of the Church, Louis gained a foothold in the lands of his vassals. Careers at court were opened to talented clergy and bourgeois. Louis's compromise with the Church over feudal patronage and investiture initiated the king of France's effective role as eldest son of the Church. He was the first Capetian to intervene effectively outside his own feudal lands. He defeated the alliance of Henry I of England with the Emperor Henry V, and stopped a German invasion (1124). The marriage (1137) of his son Louis to Eleanor, heiress of William X of Aquitaine (i.e., Guienne (Aquitania Secunda) and Gascony), marked the Capetian effort to balance the Anglo-Norman menace in the north with additions of territory south of the Loire. The Anglo-Norman danger had appeared in aggravated form when, in 1129, Geoffrey became count of Anjou, Maine, and Touraine. He had married Matilda (daughter of Henry I of England) in 1128 and proceeded (1135) to conquer Normandy.  10
Development of royal administration under the early Capetians. The court of the king, usually known as the curia regis, consisting as it did of magnates, royal vassals, and court officials (mainly chosen from the baronage), was essentially feudal in spirit and tradition. Meeting on royal summons and relatively frequently, its early duties were undifferentiated, its functions judicial, advisory, legislative. The royal administration was in control of the great officers of the crown, whose aim was to concentrate power in their own hands, a process that culminated in a virtual monopoly of such power by the Garlande family early in the 12th century. Louis VI, after a struggle (1128–30), terminated their dominance, and thenceforth the Capetians relied increasingly on lesser and more docile nobles, clerics, and bourgeois men of affairs. These career men were devoted to the crown rather than to feudal ambitions, and their presence in the curia regis began the differentiation of its functions and its subjection to royal rather than feudal influences. Most notable of these careerists was Suger, Louis's old tutor, a cleric of peasant origin, who became abbot of St. Denis (1122). An able statesman, his influence was decisive in the reigns of Louis and his son Louis VII. Suger began (c. 1136) the new abbey church of St. Denis, the first edifice Gothic in design.  11
Rise of towns. The economic revival of western Europe was paralleled by a resumption of town life and development throughout the west, which was most notable in France, where the movement reached its apogee in the 12th century, before the consistent advance of the Capetian monarchy began to retard its progress. Types of town development were by no means uniform, but important general categories can be distinguished. (1) The commune proper, a collective person endowed with legal rights and powers (e.g., financial, judicial), able to hold property. As a feudal person, the commune could have vassals, render and exact homage, establish courts for its tenants, and even declare war and make treaties. Symbols of its independence were the belfry, town hall, and seal. Typical communes of northern France and Flanders were the communes jurées (e.g., Beauvais, St. Quentin (chartered before 1080), Rouen (chartered 1145), and Amiens (chartered in the 12th century)); in southern France the corresponding communes were called consulates, which enjoyed even greater rights than in the north, especially in Roussillon, Provence, Languedoc, Gascony, and Guienne. In the south the nobles took an active part in the formation of consulates and shared in their government. (2) Villes de bourgeoisie (or communes surveillées) had elements of communal powers in varying degrees, but lacked full political independence (i.e., they were privileged but unfree). They were found all over France, but especially in the center, and were the prevailing type in the royal domain. Citizens enjoyed specific privileges, but the crown retained judicial and other powers in varying degrees. (3) Villes neuves (characteristic of the commercial north) and bastides (typical of the south, and usually strongholds) were small rural creations of kings or feudal lords, given a charter from the first that established their status. (4) Peasant associations and village federations (influential in the north), which sought to define and guarantee the rights of their citizens. Governmentally, town development seems to have been hardly the result of conscious effort to introduce a new political dispensation. It was, rather, an attempt to establish and define the rights of nonfeudal groups, and aimed at economic prosperity and personal security. The movement constantly enjoyed royal support, but royal policy toward it was governed by immediate political or financial considerations, and the crown always strove to reduce or control town independence in the interest of its own power. Ultimately monarchy triumphed, but not before the bourgeois groups and the serfs had gained substantial advantages.  12
LOUIS VII (the Young). Pious and therefore popular with the clergy. He remained under the influence of Suger until the latter's death in 1151. A papal interdict on the royal lands, resulting from Louis's insistence on his feudal rights, led to intervention by Bernard of Clairvaux.  13
Louis inspired the Second Crusade (See 1147–49). He induced the German king, Conrad III, and Bernard of Clairvaux to join him, and, leaving the kingdom in the hands of Suger, he set out for the east. He returned (1149) beaten, humiliated, and estranged from his wife, Eleanor, who had accompanied him. The marriage was annulled (1152), probably due to lack of a male heir. This step cost the Capetians the territories of Poitou, Guienne, and Gascony, for Eleanor at once married Henry, duke of Normandy, who in 1151 had succeeded his father as count of Anjou, Maine, and Touraine. The acquisition of Eleanor's domains made Henry master of more than half of France and put him in a position to bring pressure on the holdings of the king of France both from the north and the south. When Henry in 1154 became king of England, the so-called Angevin Empire extended roughly from the Tweed to the Pyrenees.  14
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.