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HUGH CAPET was no sooner elected king than he found himself in the grip of difficulties, amidst which it might well seem that his authority would sink irretrievably. Nevertheless, he showed every confidence in himself. After having his son Robert crowned at Orleans and granting him a share in the government (30 December 987) he had asked on his behalf for the hand of a daughter of the Basileus at Constantinople, setting forth with much grandiloquence his own power and the advantages of alliance with him. He had just announced his intention of going to the help of Borrel, Count of Barcelona, who was attacked by the Musulmans of Spain; when suddenly the news spread, about May 988, that Charles, Duke of Lower Lorraine, had surprised Laon. Immediately, the weakness of the new king became apparent: he and his son advanced and laid siege to the place, but were unable to take it. In August, during a successful sortie, Charles even contrived to set fire to the royal camp and siege engines. Hugh and Robert were forced to decamp. A fresh siege in October had no better result, again a retreat became necessary, and Charles improved his advantage by occupying the Laonnais and the Soissonnais and threatening Reims.

As a crowning misfortune, Adalbero, archbishop of the latter city, died at this juncture (23 January 989). Hugh thought it a shrewd stroke of policy to procure the appointment in his place of Arnulf, an illegitimate son of the late King Lothair, calculating that he had by this means secured in his own interest one of the chief representatives of the Carolingian party, and, in despair, no doubt, of subduing Charles by force, hoping to obtain his submission through the good offices of the new prelate. Arnulf, in fact, had pledged himself to accomplish this without delay. Before long, however, it was plain to the Capetian that he had seriously miscalculated. Hardly was Arnulf seated on the throne of Rheims (c. March 989) than he eagerly engaged in schemes to bring about a restoration of the Carolingian dynasty, and about the month of September 989 he handed over Rheims to Charles.

It was necessary to put a speedy end to this state of things, unless the king and his son were to look on at a Carolingian triumph. Nevertheless the situation lasted for a year and a half. Finally, having tried force and diplomacy in turn, and equally without success, Hugh resolved to have recourse to one of those detestable stratagems which are, as it were, the special characteristic of the period. The Bishop of Laon, Adalbero, better known by his familiar name of Asselin, succeeded in beguiling Duke Charles; he pretended to go over to his cause, did homage to him, and so far lulled his suspicions as to obtain permission from him to recall his retainers to Laon. On Palm Sunday 991 (29 March) Charles, Arnulf and Asselin were dining together in the tower of Laon; the bishop was in high spirits, and more than once already he had offered the duke to bind himself to him by an oath even more solemn than any he had hitherto sworn, in case any doubt still remained of his fidelity. Charles, who held in his hands a gold cup of wine in which some bread was steeped, offered it to him, and, as a contemporary historian Richer tells us, after long reflection said to him:

“Since today you have, according to the decrees of the Fathers, blessed the palm branches, hallowed the people by your holy benediction, and proffered to ourselves the Eucharist; I put aside the slanders of those who say you are not to be trusted and I offer you, as the Passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ draws near, this cup, befitting your high office, containing wine and broken bread. Drain it as a pledge of your inviolable fidelity to my person. But if you do not intend to keep your plighted faith, abstain, lest you should enact the horrible part of Judas”.

Asselin replied:

“I take the cup and will drink willingly”.

Charles went on hastily:

“Add that you will keep your faith”. He drank, and added: “I shall keep my faith, if not may I perish with Judas”.

Then, in the presence of the guests, he uttered many other such oaths. Night came, and they separated and lay down to sleep. Asselin called in his men, Charles and Arnulf were seized and imprisoned under a strong guard, while Hugh Capet, hastily summoned from Senlis, came up to take possession of the stronghold. It was to this infamous betrayal that the Capetian owed his triumph over Charles of Lorraine. Death was soon to relieve him of his rival (992).

But Hugh was not at the end of his embarrassments. Arnulf was shielded by his priestly character, and it was clear that neither the Pope nor the Emperor, who had countenanced his intrigues, was disposed to sacrifice him. Hugh at last resolved to accuse him before a Council “of the Gauls”, to which he was careful to convoke a majority of prelates favorable to the Capetian cause. The council met at Verzy, near Rheims, in the church of the monastery of Saint-Basle (17-18 June 991). In the end, Arnulf acknowledged his guilt, and casting himself upon the ground before the two kings, Hugh and Robert, with his arms stretched out in the form of a cross, he implored them with tears to spare his life. The kings consented. He was raised from the ground, and the assembly proceeded to the ceremony of degradation. Arnulf began by surrendering to the king the temporalities which he held of him, then he placed in the hands of the bishops the insignia of his episcopal dignity. He then signed an act of renunciation drawn up on the model of that of his predecessor Ebbo, who had been deposed under Louis the Pious. In it he confessed himself unworthy of the episcopal office and renounced it forever. Finally, he absolved his clergy and people from the oaths of fidelity which they had sworn to him. Three days later (21 June) Gerbert was elected in his stead.

All seemed ended, and the future of the Capetian dynasty definitely secured. But they had reckoned without the Papacy. Not only, in defiance of the Canons, the Sovereign Pontiff had not been consulted, but his intervention had been repudiated in terms of unheard-of violence and temerity. Arnulf, the Bishop of Orleans, constituting himself, in virtue of his office of "promoter" of the council, the mouthpiece of the assembly, in a long speech in which he had lashed the unworthy popes of his day, had exclaimed: “What sights have we not be held in our days! We have seen John (XII) surnamed Octavian, sunk in a slew of debauchery, conspiring against Otto whom he himself had made emperor. He was driven out and replaced by Leo (VIII) the Neophyte, but when the Emperor had quitted Rome, Octavian reentered it, drove out Leo and cut off the nose of John the Deacon and his tongue, and the fingers of his right hand. He murdered many of the chief persons of Rome, and died soon after. The Romans chose as his successor the deacon Benedict (V) surnamed the Grammarian. He in his turn was attacked by Leo the Neophyte supported by the Emperor, was besieged, made prisoner, deposed and sent into exile to Germany. The Emperor Otto I was succeeded by Otto II, who surpasses all the princes of his time in arms, in counsel and in learning. In Rome Boniface (VII) succeeds, a fearful monster, of super-human malignity, red with the blood of his predecessor. Put to flight and condemned by a great council, he reappears in Rome after the death of Otto II, and in spite of the oaths that he has sworn drives from the citadel of Rome (the Castle of Saint Angelo) the illustrious Pope Peter, formerly Bishop of Pavia, deposes him, and causes him to perish amid the horrors of a dungeon. Is it to such monsters, swollen with ignominy and empty of knowledge, divine or human, that the innumerable priests of God (the bishops) dispersed about the universe, distinguished for their learning and their virtues, are to be legally subject?”. And he had concluded in favor of the superior weight of a judgment pronounced by these learned and venerable bishops over one which might be rendered by an ignorant pope “so vile that he would not be found worthy of any place among the rest of the clergy”.

This was a declaration of war. The Papacy took up the challenge. John XV, supported by the imperial court, summoned the French bishops to Rome, and also the kings, Hugh and Robert. They retorted by assembling a synod at Chelles, at which it was declared “that if the Pope of Rome put forth an opinion contrary to the Canons of the Fathers, it should be held null and void, according to the words of the Apostle: ‘Flee from the heretic, the man who separates himself from the Church’,” and it was added that the abdication of Arnulf, and the nomination of Gerbert were irrevocable facts, having been determined by a council of provincial bishops, and this in virtue of the Canons, by the terms of which it is forbidden that the statutes of a provincial council should be rashly attacked by anyone (993). The weakness of the Papacy made such audacity possible; a series of synods assembled by a legate of the Pope on German soil, and later at Rheims, to decide in the case of Arnulf and Gerbert, led to nothing (995-996).

But this barren struggle was exhausting the strength of the Capetian monarchy. Hardly had that monarchy arisen when it seemed as if the ground were undermined beneath it. Taking advantage of the difficulties with which it was struggling, Odo (Eudes) I, Count of Chartres, had, in the first place, extorted the cession of Dreux in 991, in exchange for his cooperation at the siege of Laon (which cooperation still remained an unfulfilled promise), then, in the same year, had laid hands upon Melun which the king had afterwards succeeded, not without difficulty, in re-taking. Finally, in 993, a mysterious plot was hatched against Hugh and Robert; the conspirators, it was said, aimed at nothing less than delivering them both up to Otto III, the young King of Germany. Odo was to receive the title of Duke of the Franks, and Asselin the archbishopric of Rheims; possibly a Carolingian restoration was contemplated, for though Charles of Lorraine had died in his prison in 992, his son Louis survived, and was actually in custody of Asselin. All was arranged; Hugh and Robert had been invited to attend a council to be held on German soil to decide upon Arnulf’s case. This council was a trap to entice the French kings, who, coming with a weak escort, would have been suddenly seized by an imperial army secretly assembled. A piece of indiscretion foiled all these intrigues. The kings were enabled in time to secure the persons of Louis and of Asselin. But such was their weakness that they were obliged to leave the Bishop of Laon unpunished. An army was sent against Odo, but when he offered hostages to answer for his fidelity, the Capetians were well content to accept his proposals and made haste to return to Paris.

What saved the Capetian monarchy was not so much its own power of resistance as the inability of its enemies to follow up and coordinate their efforts. Odo I of Chartres, involved in a struggle with Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou, and attacked by illness, could only pursue his projects languidly, and had just concluded a truce with Hugh Capet when he died (12 March 996) leaving two young children. The Papacy, for its part, was passing through a fearful crisis; forced to defend itself with difficulty in Rome against Crescentius, it was in no position to take up Arnulf's cause vigorously. The support of the Empire could not but be weak and intermittent; up to 996 Otto III and his mother, Theophano, had more than they could do in Germany to maintain their own authority.

When Hugh Capet died, 24 October 996, nothing had been decided. Supported by some, intrigued against by others, the Capetian monarchy lived from hand to mouth. Uncertain of the morrow, the most astute steered a devious course, refusing to commit themselves heartily to either side. Even Gerbert, whose cause seemed to be bound up with the king's, since he owed his episcopate only to Arnulf’s deprivation, took every means of courting the favor of the imperial and papal party. He had made a point of hurrying to each of the synods held by the papal legate in the course of 995 and 996 to decide in Arnulf’s case, pretending that he had been passed over immediately after the death of Adalbero “on account of his attachment to the See of St Peter”, and entreating the legate for the sake of the Church’s well-being, not to listen to his detractors, whose he said, was in reality directed against the Pope. Then he had undertaken a journey to Rome to justify himself personally to the Pope, taking the opportunity, moreover, to join the suite of young Otto III who had just had himself crowned there, and succeeding so well in winning his good graces as to become his secretary.

Hugh Capet had hardly closed his eyes when a fresh complication arose. King Robert had fallen in love with the widow of Odo I of Chartres, the Countess Bertha, and had resolved to make her his wife. But Bertha was his cousin, and he had, besides, been sponsor to one of her children, thus the priests and the Pope, who was also consulted, firmly opposed a union which they looked upon as doubly “incestuous”. Robert took no notice of their prohibitions, and found a complaisant prelate, Archibald, Archbishop of Tours, to solemnize his marriage, towards the end of 996. This created a scandal. With the support of Otto III, Pope Gregory V, who had in vain convoked the French bishops to Pavia at the beginning of 997, suspended all who had had any share in the Council of Saint-Basle, and summoned the king and all the bishops who had abetted his marriage to appear before him on pain of excommunication.

Alarmed at the effect of this double threat, Robert opened negotiations. Gerbert, naturally, would be the first sacrificed, and, losing courage, he fled to the court of Otto III. The Pope, far from inclining to any compromise, made it plain to the Capetian envoy, the Abbot of St-Benoit-sur-Loire, that he was determined to have recourse to the strongest measures. The unlucky Robert hoped that he might soften this rigor by yielding on the question of the archbishopric of Reims. As Gerbert had fled, Arnulf was simply and merely restored to his see (January or February 998).

Thenceforward, besides, Arnulf was no longer dangerous. The Carolingian party was finally destroyed. Charles of Lorraine had been several years dead; his son Louis had, it would appear, met with a like fate, or was languishing forgotten in his prison at Orleans; the other two sons, Otto and Charles, had gone over to the Empire (the first in the character of Duke of Lower Lorraine), and no longer had any connection with France. From this quarter, then, the Capetian had nothing to fear. A fresh revolt of Asselin, the same Bishop of Laon who had so flagitiously betrayed Arnulf, was soon crushed. Only the Papacy refused to be won over as easily as Robert had calculated; as the king refused to separate from Bertha, Gregory V pronounced the anathema against him. But when Gerbert succeeded Gregory V, under the name of Sylvester II (April 999), relations with the Papacy improved, and Robert, to whom Bertha had borne no children, before long separated from her in order to marry Constance, daughter of William I, Count of Arles, and of Adelaide of Anjou (circa 1005).

The period of early difficulties was over. But the position of the monarchy was pitiable. From the material point of view, it was limited to the narrow domain which, after many infeudations, remained to it of the heritage of the Carolingians and the March of Neustria. This, in its essence,—not reckoning some outlying possessions, of which the most important was the county of Montreuil at the mouth of the Canche,—consisted in the territories of Paris, SenlisPoissyEtampes and Orleans, with Paris and Orleans as chief towns. Within this modest domain the king was only just able to exact obedience; he was unable directly to put an end to the exactions of a petty baron, the lord of Yèvre, who oppressed the Abbey of St-Benoit-sur-Loire with his violence. In the other parts of the kingdom his authority had sunk still lower; the great feudatories openly spoke of him in contemptuous terms; a few years later at the village of Fiery in the diocese of Auxerre, almost in his presence, and just after the Peace of God had been proclaimed, the Count of Nevers was not afraid to plunder the monks of Montierender, “knowing well”, as a contemporary tells us, “that the king would prefer to use gentle methods rather than force”.

The task of Robert the Pious and his successors was to work slowly and unobtrusively, but perseveringly and successfully, to build up afresh the domain and the moral strength of the monarchy which had so greatly declined. The domains were, it is true, not extensive, but a policy of additions and enlargements built up around them a compact and constantly enlarging kingdom. And on the moral side something of the prestige and tradition of the old anointed kings still held the minds of men. The firm but not aggressive rule of the new dynasty skillfully used both sentiment and territorial fact, and did so not only to their own advantage but to that of the land in which they stood for peace and order amid contending vassals.

Little is known to us of the first Capetian kings. Their unimportance was such that contemporaries scarcely think it worthwhile to mention them. Robert the Pious is the only one of them who has found a biographer, in Helgaud, a monk of St-Benoit-sur-Loire, but he is so artless and indeed so childish a biographer, so reverential an admirer of the very pious and gentle king, so little acquainted with affairs, that his panegyric has very little value for the historian. He paints his hero for us as tall, broad-shouldered, with well-combed hair and thick beard, with eyes lowered and mouth “well-formed to give the kiss of peace”, and at the same time of kingly mien when he wore his crown. Learned, disdainful of ostentation, so charitable as to let himself be robbed without protest by the beggars, spending his days in devotion, a model of all the Christian virtues, so much beloved of God that he was able to restore sight to a blind man, such, if we may believe him, was good King Robert, he for whom posterity has for these reasons give the name of the ‘Pious’.

It is hardly necessary to say that this portrait can only have had a distant relation to reality. Doubtless, Robert was a learned king, educated at the episcopal school of Rheims while it was under Gerbert’s direction, he knew Latin, loved books, and carried them with him on his journeys. As with all the learned men of the day his knowledge was chiefly theological. He loved church matters, and in 996 the Bishop of Laon, Asselin, could derisively suggest that he should be made a bishop “since he had so sweet a voice”.

But the pious king, who was not afraid to persist in the face of anathemas when passion raised its voice in him, who did not hesitate to set fire to monasteries when they hindered his conquests, was a man of action too. All his efforts were directed towards the extension of his domain, and it may be said that he let no opportunity slip of claiming and, when possible, occupying any fiefs which fell vacant or were disputed. This was the case with Dreux, which his father, as we have seen, had been forced to bestow on Odo I, Count of Chartres, and which Robert succeeded in re-occupying about 1015; it was also the case with Melun, which Hugh Capet had granted as a fief to the Count of Vendome, Bouchard the Venerable, and of which Robert took possession on the death (1016) of Bouchard’s successor, Reginald, Bishop of Paris. Some years later (circa 1022), when it chanced that Stephen, Count of Troyes, died without children, Robert energetically pushed his claims to the inheritance against Odo II, Count of Blois, who, apparently, had up till then been co-owner, on an equal footing with the deceased count. He did not hesitate to enter upon a struggle with this formidable vassal which, no doubt, would have lasted long if other political considerations had not led the king to yield the point.

It was above all at the time of the conquest of the Duchy of Burgundy that Robert could give proof of the full extent of his, energy and perseverance. Henry, Duke of Burgundy, brother of Hugh Capet, died (15 October 1002), and as he left no children, the king might fairly claim to succeed him. He was anticipated by Otto-William, Count of Macon, the adopted son of the late Duke, whose connection with the country gave him great advantages. In the spring of 1003 Robert collected a strong army, and proceeding up the river Yonne, laid siege to Auxerre. He met with desperate resistance. Otto-William’s partisans in Burgundy were too strong and too numerous to allow of the question being settled by a single expedition. For nearly two years Robert ravaged the country in every direction, pillaging and burning all that he met with. Otto-William ended by submitting, and before long his son-in-law, Landry, Count of Nevers, after standing a siege of three months, was forced to capitulate at Avallon (October 1005). Then came the turn of Auxerre (November 1005). But a struggle of more than ten years was still necessary before Robert could reduce all the revolted lords to submission, and it was only after having taken Sens and Dijon that he could at last count himself master of the duchy (1015-16).

Following the example of the last Carolingians, Robert endeavored to push his claims further and to aggrandize himself at the cost of the Empire. As long as the Emperor Henry II lived (1002-1024) relations on the whole remained cordial, indeed in 1006 the two sovereigns co-operated in an expedition to bring their common vassal, Baldwin, Count of Flanders, to his bearings, he having seized Valenciennes. In August 1023 a solemn meeting took place between them at Ivois on the banks of the Meuse. Robert and Henry, each accompanied by a stately train of great nobles and churchmen, exchanged the kiss of peace, heard mass, and dined together and exchanged gifts. They swore mutual friendship, proclaimed the peace of the Church, and resolved to take joint action for the reformation of the clergy. But the interview had no results; almost before a year was over Henry had ceased to live (13 July 1024).

From that time Robert’s attitude changed. Having his hands free on the side of Champagne and Burgundy, and rendered bold by success, he contemplated a struggle with the new Emperor, Conrad II of Franconia (1024-1039), for a part of his inheritance. Far-reaching negotiations centering in the king of France, which show how much his prestige had gradually been heightened, were opened between him, the Duke of Aquitaine, and Odo II, Count of Blois. Nothing less was intended, it would appear, than to proceed to a dismemberment on a large scale of the Germanic Empire. William, Duke of Aquitaine, was to take as his share, or his son’s, the Lombard crown, Odo II of Blois was to have the kingdom of Burgundy as soon as Rodolph III should be dead', while Lorraine was to be Robert’s share. But this passed all measure, and when it came to carrying out the magnificent programme, obstacles arose which not one of the princes concerned was strong enough to overcome. William of Aquitaine was soon forced to give up the idea of disputing Lombardy with Conrad; Robert’s plans miscarried in Lorraine whither Conrad's alarmed partisans hastily summoned their master; and King Rodolph III inclined to the new Emperor. The check was decisive, but surely a considerable step forward had been taken when for several months Robert had succeeded in guiding such a coalition and had for a time spread terror among the Emperor’s faithful Lorrainers.

On the death of Robert the Pious (20 July 1031) the question of the succession came to a crisis. After the example of his father, by whom he had been associated in the government from 987, Robert had taken care in 1017 to crown his eldest son by Queen Constance, then ten years old. But Hugh had died in the flower of his youth in 1025 (September). Two parties had then arisen at court, Robert desiring to have his second son Henry crowned at once, and Queen Constance holding out for a younger son, Robert, whom she preferred to his elder brother. The king’s will had prevailed, and Henry had been crowned with great pomp in 1027. But hardly had Robert the Pious closed his eyes when Queen Constance raised the standard of revolt. She succeeded in gaining possession of SenlisSensDammartin, Le Puiset and Poissy, and won over Odo II of Blois, by the gift of half the town of Sens.

Henry, supported by Robert, Duke of Normandy, defended himself vigorously. He retook Poissy and Le Puiset, and forced his mother and his brother Robert to make peace. Unfortunately it was purchased by yielding a point which involved a lamentable retrogression. Robert was given the duchy of Burgundy, which Robert the Pious had after so many efforts united to the Royal Domain (1032). At this price the submission of the rebels was dearly bought.

Nor did it avail to put down the revolt. Odo II of Blois refused to disarm. Twice the king besieged him unsuccessfully in Sens (1032-1033); each time he met with fierce resistance and was obliged to retreat. In May or June 1033, despairing of getting the better of this formidable vassal, Henry, in an interview at Deville on the Meuse, made a defensive alliance with the Emperor Conrad, who was Odo’s rival for the Burgundian throne, left vacant by the death of Rodolph III, some few months earlier (September 1032). In the end, Odo submitted (1034). But three years later he died, leaving his counties in Champagne to his son Stephen, and the rest of his possessions to his other son Theobald. At once the struggle was renewed, whether through some attempt on Henry’s part to lay hands on any portion of the inheritance left by Odo, or simply because Theobald and Stephen thought the opportunity favorable for taking their revenge. A plot was set on foot by them with Odo, the king's youngest brother, the object of which was, briefly, to replace Henry on the throne by Odo. The king contrived to baffle their calculations. Odo, surrounded in a castle, was taken prisoner and immured at Orleans; Stephen was completely routed and put to flight; his ally, the Count of Vermandois, was made prisoner; and finally, against Theobald the king enlisted the help of the Count of Anjou, Geoffrey Martel, by granting him in advance the investiture of Tours which he left it to him to conquer.

On all sides the monarchy had again lost ground. Burgundy had been lost, and it had been necessary to cede the French Vexin to the Duke of Normandy, who had been one of the king's most faithful supporters, as a reward for his services; and finally, the handing over of Tours to Count Geoffrey Martel, who got possession of it in 1044, meant an extension of the Angevin principality, which before long would become dangerous. Moreover the king came out of the crisis so much weakened that, for the future, he had perforce to play a very minor part. While all his feudatories strove without ceasing to round off their territories, he either lived in a pitiable fashion inside his narrow domain, or else interfered in the struggles between his vassals, supporting now one and now another, as need seemed to suggest; such was his poor and his only attempt at a policy.

It was in the west of France that the events of most real importance occurred. Two powers, whose struggles were to occupy the whole of the second half of Henry I’s reign, found themselves opposed, namely, the Angevin power and the Norman.

Since the middle of the tenth century, the Counts of Anjou had never ceased to extend their borders at the expense of their neighbors. The terrific Fulk Nerra (987-1040) had throughout his life struggled to bind to one another and to his own lands the new possessions in the midst of Touraine which his predecessors had succeeded in acquiring, as well as to surround Tours with a circle which grew daily narrower. In 994 or 995 he had reached Langeais; about 1005 Montrichard and Montbazon; in 1016 he had inflicted a tremendous defeat on Odo II, Count of Blois, on the plains of Pontlevoy; next year he had built a fortress at Montboyau at only a few miles distance from Tours; in 1026 he had surprised the stronghold of Saumur which for more than a century had been in the hands of the Counts of Blois. Geoffrey Martel, his son (1040-1060), had boldly pushed on the enterprise; taking advantage of the hostility of the new Count of Blois, Theobald III, to King Henry, he had, as we have seen, secured the investiture of Tours from the latter and had proceeded to lay siege to the town. In vain had Theobald and his brother Stephen attempted to raise the blockade; Geoffrey Martel had offered them battle at Nouy, near the village of St-Martin-le-Beau, and here again the Count of Anjou had won a striking victory. Theobald, being taken prisoner, had been forced to cede Tours and the whole of Touraine to the victor (August 1044). At the same time Geoffrey Martel had succeeded in bringing the Count of Vendome under his suzerainty, and to this the king’s consent had not been wanting.

But it was in another direction that the House of Anjou felt itself drawn. The Counts of Maine, hemmed in between Normandy and Anjou, were destined sooner or later to fall under the suzerainty of one or other of their neighbors. As early as the days of Fulk Nerra, the Counts of Anjou had succeeded in bringing them under theirs. Gervase, Bishop of Le Mans, having usurped the guardianship of the young Count Hugh III, Geoffrey Martel had marched against the prelate and put him in prison (1047 or 1048). Thus all things seemed to be moving according to Angevin interests when the king and the Duke of Normandy came upon the scene.

The intervention of the latter had been delayed by serious difficulties within his own borders. Duke Robert the Magnificent (sometimes wrongly called the Devil) had died on pilgrimage in 1035, leaving as successor an illegitimate son, William, barely eight years old. The circumstances favored the discontented; before long rebellion had been muttering on all sides, and in 1047 it burst forth, headed by Guy, lord of Vernon and Brienne, and by the Viscounts of Coutances and Bayeux. Young William appealed to the king for help, and a battle took place at Val-es-Dunes, to the east of Caen, where Henry fought valiantly in person. It was an utter rout for the rebels, who, after a few attempts at resistance, before long submitted entirely.

The king and the duke then decided upon a joint expedition against the Count of Anjou. Together they invaded Anjou and proceeded to besiege Mouliherne which surrendered (1048). Thus, after having supported the Count of Anjou throughout his struggle with the Count of Blois, the king suddenly changed sides and became his enemy. In 1049 he renewed his attack, and while William flung himself upon Maine, the king invaded Touraine, and even momentarily succeeded in occupying the stronghold of Sainte-Maure where Geoffrey Martel advanced and besieged him.

Three years had not passed before the parts were redistributed. Geoffrey, victorious in Maine, was treating with the king (105), and the Duke of Normandy saw his late ally take sides against him. In February 1054 the king and the count jointly invaded his duchy. But the attempt did not prosper. The invading army had been divided into two corps; Odo, the king's brother, crossing the Seine, had devastated the Caux country while Henry I and Geoffrey Martel occupied the district of Evreux. William, marching in person to meet the southern army, sent a considerable part of his troops against the northern detachment. Odo allowed himself to be surprised at Mortemer, to the east of Neufchatel, just as his men were giving themselves up to pillage.

A general rout of the French followed. The news of the defeat discouraged Henry I, who, leaving Geoffrey Martel at grips with the enemy, thought only of withdrawing from the contest as quickly as possible and with the least damage to his own interests.

Geoffrey Martel was obliged to retreat at once. William again invaded Maine, and took up strong positions at Mont-Barbet, near Le Mans, and at Ambrieres, not far from the junction of the Varenne with the Mayenne. Soon, however, provisions failed and the duke was obliged to let a part of his army scatter itself into small bodies. When this news reached Geoffrey, who had obtained reinforcements, he hurried up and laid siege to Ambrieres. The place held out, giving the Duke of Normandy time to reassemble his troops and force the Angevin army to retreat. Marching straight upon Mayenne, where the lord, Geoffrey, was one of the chief supporters of Geoffrey Martel, William took the town and carried off Geoffrey of Mayenne to Normandy, where he compelled him to do him homage.

These successes were only temporary. Geoffrey Martel soon recovered the ground lost in Maine, and in 1058, as had happened four years before, in his desire for revenge he persuaded the king to join him in an invasion of Normandy. This time also the campaign, at least in its earlier stages, was unfortunate. Henry I and Geoffrey Martel had barely traversed the Hiémois district, when their rear-guard was surprised just as it was crossing the river Dive at the ford of Varaville. This ford being impracticable through a rising tide, the king and the count could only look on helplessly at the massacre of their troops.

The war went on for some time longer. Negotiations had just been begun when Henry I died suddenly at Dreux on 4 August 1060.

A year before his death, on 23 May 1059, Henry I had been careful to have his son Philip I crowned at Rheims. But Philip, born in 1052, was still a minor, thus Henry had made his brother-in-law Baldwin, Count of Flanders, guardian to the young king, a post which he retained until Philip reached his majority at fifteen years of age at the end of 1066 or the beginning of 1067.


Philip I

Under Philip, the eclipse of the monarchy only became more complete. It must be said, however, that this eclipse is largely an illusion due to the paucity of our information. Philip was of a very practical turn, and played a part which was somewhat inglorious, but on the whole very profitable to the material interests of his house. The royal power had fallen so low that there could be no question of an aggressive policy, but Philip had at least the art to manoeuvre, and to turn to advantage all circumstances which offered him any opportunity to fish his profit out of troubled waters. Above all, he worked, with much more consistency and perseverance than is usually thought, at the task of enlarging his insignificant domain.

During his father’s reign only the county of Sens, vacant through the death without heirs of Count Renard (Reginhard), had been (in 1055) reunited to the crown, an important acquisition, but one for which King Robert himself had prepared the way, by separating in 1015 the county of Sens from the duchy of Burgundy: thus it cost Henry no effort whatever. Philip had no sooner taken the reins than an opportunity arose for him to link together his possessions in the Orleanais and the Senonais by making himself master of the county of Gatinais. Geoffrey the Bearded, who bore the title of its Count, and had succeeded his uncle, Geoffrey Martel, in the county of Anjou (1060), had just been imprisoned by his brother Fulk Rechin, who had usurped power in both counties. Philip, without hesitation, joined a coalition formed by the Count of Blois and the lords of Maine against the usurper, and, as the price of peace, exacted the cession of the county of Gatinais (1068).

A few years later he used the minority of Simon of Crepy, Count of Valois and Vexin, as an opportunity to fall upon his estates. These were very extensive, comprising not only the Vexin and Valois, but the county of Bar-sur-Aube and the territory of Vitry-en-Perthois, which Simon’s father, Raoul III of Valois, had acquired by marriage, and, on the north, the county of Montdidier, and Péronne which he had taken from the Count of Vermandois. Entrusting to his vassal, Hugh Bardoux, lord of Broyes, the task of seizing Simon’s possessions in Champagne, Philip invaded his other domains in 1075. For two years the struggle went on, almost without a break, fiercely and pitilessly. At last, in the beginning of 1077, the unlucky Simon was forced to beg for peace, and to cede to the king the county of Vexin.

At about the same time, Philip claimed the town of Corbie, which had come to Baldwin of Lille, Count of Flanders, as the dowry of Adela, daughter of Henry I of England; and as Count Robert the Frisian refused to surrender it, he entered it by surprise and caused the inhabitants to swear fealty to him. Robert, confronted by an accomplished fact, after a brief attempt at resistance, found no resource but to submit. Corbie was never again to be detached from the royal domain.

Again, in 1101, Philip was to be seen profiting by need of money on the part of Odo-Harpin, Viscount of Bourges, who was about to set off for the Holy Land. The king enlarged the royal domain by purchasing from him an extensive district comprising, besides Bourges, the lordship of Dun-le-Roi.

Nearly all the enterprises of Philip I show the same character, at once inglorious and practical. His chief efforts were in the direction of Normandy, where two parties confronted each other, on the one hand the King of England, William the Conqueror, and on the other, Robert Curthose, his son. Philip’s entire policy consisted in supporting Robert, though he was ready, it would appear, to desert him as often as there seemed any prospect of his becoming dangerous: a course which did not fail to draw from the English chroniclers a charge of engaging in shameless speculation, taking pay from one party for his help and from the other for his withdrawal. In 1076 we find him as far off as Poitiers collecting an army to go to the relief of Dol which William the Conqueror is besieging; then, in 1077 or 1078, he welcomes Robert Curthose and procures his entrance into the stronghold of Gerberoy, on the borders of Beauvaisis and Normandy; he seems ready to help him against his father, when, in 1079, he suddenly changes sides, and goes with William to besiege Gerberoy. A few years later Robert is again at the French king's court, and hostilities are once more begun between the latter and William. In 1087 the people of Mantes having committed depredations on Norman soil, the Conqueror formulates his complaint, and demands that Philip shall hand over to him not only Mantes, but also Pontoise and Chaumont, that is to say, the whole of the Vexin, which, formerly ceded to Robert the Magnificent by Henry I, had since fallen afresh under the suzerainty of the king of France, and had then, as we have seen, been re-conquered by him in 1077. Promptly proceeding from claims to action, William invaded the territory, took Mantes, entered it and set it on fire. It does not appear, however, that he was able to push his advantages much further, for, having suddenly fallen sick, he was forced to have himself brought back to Normandy where, not long after, he died (9 September 1087).

The Conqueror’s death made Robert Curthose Duke of Normandy, while his brother, William Rufus, received the English inheritance. A party was at once formed to substitute Robert for his brother on the throne of England; whereupon, as a return stroke, William invaded Normandy. Philip hastened to further a movement which could not fail to injure both brothers, and as William was marching against Robert, he went to the help of the latter prince. Practical as usual, however, Philip contrived to get his support paid for by some fresh concession. In 1089, for instance, as the price of his co-operation in the siege of La Ferte-en-Brai which had gone over to the king of England, he had the domain of Gisors ceded to him; on other occasions he preferred ready money.

His church policy bears the impress of the same character, and is what has chiefly earned for him the bitterest censures of the chroniclers, all of whom belong to the clergy. Reform was in the air, the idea of it was permeating the Church, and its ultimate consequences would have been nothing less than to deprive princes of all power in ecclesiastical appointments. Shocking abuses, indeed, prevailed; the process of appointment had become for princes a regular traffic in ecclesiastical offices. Philip I, notably, had no hesitation in practicing simony on a vast scale. But the claims of the reforming party which the Popes, since Gregory VII, had made their own, would have brought about a real political revolution, since kings would have been stripped of all rights over the temporalities of bishops and abbots. If the papal theory had triumphed, all the ecclesiastical baronies of the kingdom, the most constant support of the monarchy, would have been withdrawn from the royal control. Philip fiercely defended what he could not but consider his right.

The question, besides, became further complicated when in 1092 he carried off Bertrada of Montfort, wife of the Count of Anjou, Fulk Rechin, and succeeded in finding a complaisant bishop to solemnize the adulterous marriage. The Pope, Urban II, did not hesitate to excommunicate the king even in his own kingdom, when he presided at the great Council held at Clermont in 1095. The position in which he found himself was too common for Philip to attach any very special importance to it. For the rest, in spite of the reiterated excommunications which Urban II, and later on his successor Paschal II, launched against him, Philip found prelates favorable to him among his clergy. Some were even seen, in the year 1100, who were not afraid openly to oppose the rigorous policy of the Holy See by performing, according to a custom then fairly frequent, a solemn coronation of the king on Whitsunday.

In reality the question of the marriage with Bertrada, that of simony, and the higher question of ecclesiastical elections and investiture were all interconnected. To avoid a complete rupture, perhaps even a schism, Paschal II saw that it would be more prudent to yield. On the morrow of the Council held at Poitiers in November 1100, at which the Pope’s legate had renewed before a large assembly the excommunication pronounced against Philip, the relations between the Pope and the king became somewhat less tense. On both sides something was conceded; in the matter of an episcopal election to the see of Beauvais the king and the Pope sought for common ground; the royal candidate, Stephen of Garlande, whom Manasse, Archbishop of Rheims, had not hesitated to maintain in the face of every comer, was to be consecrated Bishop of Beauvais, while the candidate of the reforming party, Galo, formerly Abbot of St-Quentin of Beauvais, was to obtain the episcopal see of Paris, just then vacant. Philip was to be “reconciled” on condition that he pledged himself to separate from Bertrada. On these bases the negotiations took place. Ivo, the illustrious Bishop of Chartres, who represented in France the moderate party, equally opposed to the abuses of the older clergy and to the exaggerations of the uncompromising reformers, pleaded with Paschal for conciliatory measures. Nor did the Pope remain deaf to his exhortations; on 30 July 1104 the king’s case was submitted to a council assembled at Beaugency by Richard, Bishop of Albano, the Pope’s legate. The council, unable to agree, came to no decision, but a fresh assembly immediately met at Paris, and Philip having engaged “to have no further intercourse with Bertrada, and never more to speak a word to her unless before witnesses” was solemnly absolved.

In spite of this oath, Philip and Bertrada continued to live together, but for the future, the Pope indulgently closed his eyes. On most of the points raised an agreement was arrived at, and in the beginning of the year 1107 Paschal even travelled through France, had a meeting at St. Denis with Philip and his son, and spoke of them as “the very pious sons of the Holy See”.

But already Philip, grown old before his time, was king only in name. Since 1097 he had handed over to his son Louis the task of leading military expeditions, for which his own extreme corpulence unfitted him. It was necessary not only to repress the brigandage to which the turbulent barons of the royal domain were becoming more and more addicted, but above all to make head against the attacks of the King of England, to whom, on his departure for the crusade in 1096, Robert Curthose had entrusted the safe-keeping and government of the Norman duchy. William Rufus, indeed, casting away all restraint, had again invaded the French Vexin, and drawing over to his side Duke William of Aquitaine, threatened to carry his conquests as far as Paris. The situation was all the more dangerous as William Rufus had contrived to gain over several of the barons of the Vexin and a regular feudal coalition was being formed there against the Capetian monarchy. Fortunately, the loyal barons gathered under Louis’s banner succeeded in keeping the English king’s troops in check, and after an unrelenting warfare of skirmishes and sieges William was forced to retreat and abandon his enterprise (1099).

Admitted about this period, as king-elect and king-designate, to a share in the government, Louis (in spite of the intrigues of Bertrada, who more than once tried to have him assassinated, in order to substitute one of her own children) was now, at nearly twenty years old, in fact the real king. We find him travelling about the royal domain, chastising rebellious vassals, dismantling Montlhéry (1105), seizing the castle of Gournay-sur-Marne, the lord of which had robbed merchants on a royal road (1107), and besieging Chevreuse and Brétencourt. Louis has his own officers and his own counselors; he intervenes directly in the affairs of the clergy, authorizes abbatial elections and administers justice; as it is expressed in a charter of the south of France in 1104 “Philip, king of the French, was still alive; but Louis, his son, a young man of character and courage worthy to be remembered, was at the helm of the kingdom”.

Philip was weighed down by disease and felt his end approaching. Like a good Christian he made his confession, then calling around him all the magnates of the kingdom and his friends, he said to them: “The burial-place of the kings of France is, I know, at St-Denis. But I feel myself too heavily laden with sins to dare to be laid near the body of so great a Saint”. And he added naively, “I greatly fear lest my sins should cause me to be delivered over to the devil, and that it should happen to me as formerly happened, they say, to Charles Martel. I love Saint Benedict; I address my petition to the pious Father of the Monks, and desire that I may be buried in his church at Fleury on the banks of the Loire. He is merciful and kind, he receives sinners who amend, and, faithfully observing his rule, seek to gain the heart of God”. He died a few days later at Melun on 29 or 30 July 1108.

It is surprising, on a general view of the Capetian monarchy down to Philip I that it successfully maintained itself and only encountered trifling opposition easily overcome. Its weakness, indeed, is extreme; it is with difficulty that it proves itself a match for the petty barons within its domain. At the opening of the year 1080 Hugh, lord of Le Puiset, rebelled; and to resist him the king collected a whole army counting within its ranks the Duke of Burgundy, the Count of Nevers, and the Bishop of Auxerre. Shut up in his castle, Hugh defied all assaults. One fine day he made a sortie, whereupon the royal army, stupefied by his audacity, took to its heels; the Count of Nevers, the Bishop of Auxerre and nearly one hundred knights fell into Hugh’s hands, while Philip and his followers fled wildly as far as Orleans, without the least attempt to defend themselves.

The resources which the monarchy has at its disposal are even more restricted than of old; the king has to be content with the produce of his farms, with a few tolls and fines, the dues paid by the peasants, and the yield of his woods and fields, but as the greater part of the royal domain is granted in fiefs, the total of all these resources is extremely meager. They could fortunately be augmented by the revenues of vacant bishoprics to which the king had the nomination, for from the death of one occupant until the investiture of another the king levied the whole revenue and disposed of it at his pleasure. There are also the illicit gains arising from the traffic in ecclesiastical offices, and these are not the least. Yet all these together amount to very little, and the king is reduced either to live in a pitiful fashion, or to go round pleading his “right to bed and purveyance (procuration)” to claim food and shelter from the abbeys on his domain.

Surrounded by a little group of knights, and followed by clerks and scribes, the king roved about, carrying with him his treasure and his attendants. This staff, as a whole, had changed but slightly since Carolingian times; there are the same great officers, the Seneschal, the Chamberlain, the Butler, the Constable, the Chancellor, who directed at once the administration of the palace and of the kingdom. But the administration of the kingdom was henceforward hardly more than that of the royal domain.

Local administration is now purely domanial, undertaken by the directors of land improvement, the mayors or villicivicarii and prevôst (praepositi) whose duty there, as on all feudal domains, was to administer justice to the peasants and to collect the dues.

At the same time, however wretched may have been his material position, by the very fact that he was king the Capetian had a situation of moral preponderance. The tie of vassalage which bound all the great feudatories of the kingdom to him was not merely a theoretical bond; apart from cases of rebellion they do not, as a rule, fail to fulfill their duties as vassals when called on. We have already seen the Duke of Burgundy and the Count of Nevers come in 1080 and do personal service in Philip I's campaign against Hugh, lord of Le Puiset. In the same way, about 1038 we find the Count of Flanders furnishing troops to the king to suppress the revolt of Hugh Bardoux. When the siege of Dol was about to be undertaken in 1076, the Duke of Aquitaine was required to supply troops. Besides this, in the royal armies contingents of Aquitanians, Burgundians and Champenois are constantly found.

Nor do the great lay and ecclesiastical dignitaries fail to attend in large numbers at the great royal assemblies. If one of them is prevented from coming he sends his excuses, makes known the reasons which hinder him from attending when convoked, and prays that his excuses may be favorably received. “I beg you, my lord”, writes the Bishop of Chartres to King Robert in 1018, “be not angry that I did not come to Paris to your court, on Sunday last. I was deceived by the messengers who told me that you would not be there that day, and that I was summoned to the consecration of a bishop of whom I knew nothing whatsoever. As, on the other hand, I had received no letter on the subject of this consecration, either from you or from my archbishop, I abstained from attending. If I have committed a fault it arises from my having been misled. My pardon will, I hope, be easily obtained from the royal piety, since even from the point of view of justice the fault is a venial one. With my whole heart I assure thee of my attachment hoping that thou wilt deign to continue to me your confidence”.

In a word, it seems as if for the great feudatories there could be no worse misfortune than a formal rupture with their sovereign. In this connection nothing is more characteristic than the attitude of perhaps the most powerful vassal of Robert the Pious, the celebrated Count of Blois, Odo II, when in about 1022 a dispute arose between him and the king touching the succession in Champagne. Finding what he considers his right attacked by the king, Odo defends himself with a strong hand. On this account Robert considers him guilty of forfeiture, and seeks to have his fiefs declared escheated. At once Odo is terrified, and writes his sovereign a letter full of respect and deference, expressing astonishment only at the measure which the king demands. “For if birth be considered, it is clear, thanks be to God, that I am capable of inheriting the fief; if the nature of the fief which you has given me be considered, it is certain that it forms part, not of your fist, but of the property which, under your favor, comes to me from my ancestors by hereditary right; if the value of my services be considered, you know how, as long as I was in favor with you, I served you at your court, in the host and on foreign soil. And if, since you have turned away your favor from me, and have attempted to take from me the fief which you gave me, I have committed towards you, in defense of myself and of my fief, acts of a nature to displease you, I have done so when harassed by insults and compelled by necessity. How, in fact, could I fail to defend my fief? I protest by God and my own soul, that I should prefer death to being deprived of my fief. And if you will refrain from seeking to strip me of it, there is nothing in the world which I shall more desire than to enjoy and to deserve your favor. For the conflict between us, at the same time that it is grievous to me, takes from you, lord, that which constitutes the root and the fruit of your office, I mean justice and peace. Thus I appeal to that clemency which is natural to you, and evil counsels alone can deprive you of, imploring you to desist from persecuting me, and to allow me to be reconciled to you, either through your familiars, or by the mediation of princes”. Such a letter proves, better than any reasoning, how great was the power which respect for royalty and for the obligations of a vassal to his lord, still exercised over minds imbued with tradition.

Moreover, none of the great feudatories who shared the government of the kingdom among them would have been strong enough to overthrow the Capetian dynasty. Independently of the rivalries between great houses, in which their strength was exhausted, the princes found themselves, from the middle of the eleventh century, a little sooner or a little later according to the province they ruled, involved in a struggle with internal difficulties which often paralyzed their efforts.

One of the feudal states for which the history is the best known is the county of Anjou. It has already been seen how under the two counts, Fulk Nerra (987-1040) and Geoffrey Martel (1040-1060), the county of Anjou, spreading beyond its frontiers on all sides, had been steadily enlarged at the expense of its neighbors. The count’s authority was everywhere strong and respected, and as he had his lay vassals and clergy well in hand, they had a general awe of him. And yet the germs of disintegration were already present. Indeed, in order to provide for the protection of their territories, and above all to have a basis of attack against their neighbors, the counts of Anjou had, from the end of the tenth century, been led to cover their country with a network of strong-holds. But to construct the great stone keeps (donjons) which at that time were beginning to take the place of mere wooden buildings, and to guard them, time, men and money were needed. Therefore, quite naturally, the counts had not hesitated to grant them out as fiefs, leaving to their vassals the task of completing and defending them. As a result, within a short time, the county had come to be filled, not merely with castles, but with a multitude of lords-castellans handing on the domain and the fortress from father to son.

In this way, Fulk Nerra, about 994, built the castle of Langeais, and almost immediately we note that Langeais becomes the seat of a new feudal family. Hamelin I, lord of Langeais, comes into view about 1030, and when he dies [c. 1065] his fief passes to his descendants. A few years after Fulk built the castle of Montrevault, and immediately invested Stephen, brother-in-law of Hubert, the late Bishop of Angers, with it. Here again a new lordship had been founded, as Stephen had married his daughter Emma to Raoul, Viscount of Le Mans, who succeeded his father-in-law, and took the title of Viscount of Grand Montrevault, while close by, on land which had also been received as a fief from Fulk Nerra by a certain Roger the Old, the fortress and family of Petit Montrevault had grown up. About the same time Fulk had founded the castle of Montreuil-Bellay, and again he had without delay enfeoffed it to his vassal Bellay.

A little later Geoffrey Martel had built the castles of Durtal and Mateflon and enfeoffed them to two of his knights. In the same way lords-castellans had been installed at Passavant before 1026; at Maulevrier, at Faye-la-Vineuse, at Sainte-Maure and at Troves before 1040, all of these being castles built by the count. Everywhere great families had arisen: here, that of Briollay who had received the castle as a fief from Fulk Nerra, there, that of Beaupreau, founded by Jocelyn of Rennes, a soldier of fortune, no doubt singled out by Fulk Nerra. At this time also had their origin the houses of Chemille, of Montsoreau, of Blaison, of Montjean, of Craon, of Jarze, of Rine, of Thouarce and others. Established in their castles, which secured to them the dominion of the surrounding flat country, and by that very fact, forming a higher class among the barons, daily strengthening their position by the marriages which they concluded among themselves leading to the concentration of several castles in a single pair of hands, the great vassals were only waiting an opportunity to show their independence. This was supplied by a dispute which arose over the succession.

Geoffrey Martel, dying childless in 1060, had left his county to his eldest nephew, Geoffrey the Bearded, already Count of Gatinais, whereupon the younger nephew, Fulk Rechin, declaring himself aggrieved, rose in rebellion without delay. Geoffrey the Bearded by his unskillful policy precipitated the crisis; a discontented party growing up in the country gathered itself round Fulk; in the end, Geoffrey was seized and thrown into prison while Fulk gained his own recognition as Count (1068). But in the course of the conflict, which lasted several years, the passions of the great barons who had been called on to take sides in it had been given free play; for months together Fulk was obliged to struggle with the rebels, to go and besiege them in their castles, and to repress their ravages. When at last he succeeded in gaining general recognition, the country, as he himself acknowledges in one of his charters, was a mere heap of ruins.

Even the general submission was only apparent. After 1068 revolts still broke out in all parts of the county. Thus on the death of Sulpicius, lord of Amboise and Chaumont, it was in obedience to threats that Fulk set at liberty Hugh, son and successor of the deceased, who had been given up to him as a hostage. Soon after, the count decided to commit the custody of his castle at Amboise called “The Domicile” to a certain Aimeri of Courron. This choice was distasteful to Hugh’s men, five of whom slipped into the donjon, surprised the watchman whom they made prisoner, and planted their master's standard on the tower. Hugh, meanwhile, retired to a fortified mansion which he possessed in the town, and set himself to harass the count's troops. At last Fulk came up, and not daring to try conclusions with his adversary, preferred a compromise with him. Their agreement did not last long, as the unsubdued vassal was merely watching his opportunity to rebel afresh. Suddenly, in 1106, one day when the castellan of “The Domicile”, Hugh du Gué, was out hunting in the direction of Romorantin, Hugh of Amboise surprised the castle and destroyed it. The struggle began again: Fulk Rechin, calling to his aid several of his vassals, Aubrey, lord of Montrésor, and Jocelyn and Hugh, sons of the lord of Sainte-Maure, flung himself upon St-Cyr, one of the hereditary possessions of the house of Chaumont and Amboise. Hugh of Amboise, supported by his brother-in-law John, lord of Lignières, retorted by pillaging the suburbs of Tours, and the environs of LochesMontrichard, and Montresor. In all directions the same situation was reproduced; one day it was the lord of Alluyes, Saint-Christophe and Vallières who rebelled, another day it was the lord of Maillé; again he of Lion d'Angers; in 1097, he of Rochecorbon. A regular campaign was required against Bartholomew, lord of l'Ile-Bouchard, a fortress had to be built at Champigny-sur-Veude, which, by the way, Bartholomew seized and set on fire, taking the garrison prisoners.

Fulk was incapable of resisting so many rebels. Following the example of Philip I, he handed over his military powers to his son, Geoffrey Martel the Younger. Zealous, feared by the barons, in sympathy with churchmen, the young count entered boldly on the struggle with those who still held out. With his father he took La Chartre and burnt Thouars, and was about to lay siege to Candé. But he was killed in 1106, and with him disappeared the only man who might have proved a serious obstacle to baronial independence.

In the other provinces the situation seems to have been almost the same. In Normandy, on the accession of William the Bastard, the mutterings of revolt were heard. Defeated at Val-es-Dunes in 1047, the rebels were forced to submit, but on the smallest opportunity fresh defections occurred. Shut up in, their castles, the rebellious vassals defied their sovereign. The revolt of William Busac, lord of Eu, about 1048, and above all, that of William of Argues in 1053 are, in this respect, thoroughly characteristic. The latter fortified himself on a height and awaited, unmoved, the arrival of the ducal army. It attempted in vain to storm his fortress; its position was inaccessible, and the duke was obliged to abandon the idea of taking it by force. In the end, however, he reduced it, because the King of France, hastening up to the relief of the rebel, allowed himself to be deplorably defeated. William of Argues, however, held out to the very last extremity and stood a siege of several weeks before he was reduced by famine.

In 1077, it was Robert Curthose, William the Conqueror’s own son, who gave the signal for revolt. This spendthrift complained of want of money. “I have not even the means”, he said to his father, “of giving largesse to my vassals. I have had enough of being in thy pay. I am determined now at length to enter into possession of my inheritance, so that I may reward my followers”. He demanded that the Norman duchy should be handed over to him, to be held as a fief under his father. Enraged at the refusal he received, he abruptly quitted the Conqueror’s court, drawing after him the lords of BellémeBreteuilMontbrai and Moulins-la-Marche, and wandered through France in quest of allies and succors. Finally he shut himself up in the castle of Gerberoy, in the Beauvaisis but on the borders of Normandy, welcoming all the discontented who came to him, and fortified in his donjon, he bade defiance to the wrath of his father. Once again a whole army had to be levied to subdue him. Philip I of France was called on to lend his aid. But the two allied kings met with the most desperate resistance; for three weeks they tried in vain to take the place by surprise. Robert, in the end, made a sortie; William the Conqueror, thrown from the saddle, was all but made prisoner; William, his younger son, was wounded; the whole besieging army was ignominiously put to flight (January 1079), and nothing remained for the Conqueror but to give a favorable hearing to his rebel son's promises of submission on his father's pledging himself to leave Normandy to him at his death.

As soon as William the Conqueror had closed his eyes (9 September 1087) and Robert had become Duke of Normandy the barons rose, seized some ducal castles, and spread desolation through the land. The anarchy soon reached its height when the rupture between Robert and his brother William occurred. Thenceforward revolt never ceased within the duchy. Aided by the King of England who sent them subsidies, the rebels fortified themselves behind the walls of their castles and braved the duke’s troops; in November 1090 the rebellion spread even to the citizens of Rouen. Weak and fitful as he was in character, even Robert was forced to spend his time in besieging the castles of his feudatories, who, luckily for him, agreed no better with one another than with their duke. In 1088 he besieged and took St Ceneri, in 1090 Brionne; in 1091 he besieged Courci-sur-Dive, and then Mont-St-Michel, where his brother Henry had fortified himself; in 1094 he besieged Breval.

Thus incessantly occupied in defending their authority in their own territories, the Dukes of Normandy, like the Counts of Anjou and like all the other great feudatories of the kingdom, found themselves in a position which made it impossible for them seriously to threaten the power of the Capetian sovereign. Each ruler, absorbed by the internal difficulties with which he had to struggle, followed a shifting policy of temporary expedients. The period is essentially one of isolation, of purely local activity.

Since France was thus split up into fragments, it would be in vain to attempt to give a comprehensive view of it. The more general aspects of civilization, the feudal and religious life of the eleventh century, both in France and in the other countries of Western Europe, will be examined in succeeding chapters. But some information must be given touching the characteristics of each of the great fiefs into which France was then divided, e.g. in what manner these states were organized, what authority belonged to the ruler of each of them, who and what were those counts and dukes whose power often counterbalanced that of the king. Owing to the lack of good detailed works on the period, something must necessarily be wanting in any attempt to satisfy curiosity on all these points.



On the northern frontier of the kingdom the county of Flanders is one of the fiefs which presents itself to us under a most singular aspect. Vassal both of the King of France for the greater part of his lands, and of the Emperor for the islands of Zeeland, the “Quatre-Métiers”, and the district of Alost, the Count of Flanders in reality enjoyed almost complete independence. “Kings”, says a chronicler of the period, William of Poitiers, “feared and respected him; dukes, marquesses and bishops trembled before his power”. From the beginning of the tenth century he was considered to have the largest income in the whole kingdom, and in the middle of the eleventh century an Archbishop of Rheims could still speak of his immense riches, “such that it would be difficult to find another mortal possessed of the like”. Great was the ascendancy exercised by Baldwin V of Lille (1036-1067); as guardian of Philip I, King of France, he administered the government of the kingdom from 1060 to 1066, and by marrying his eldest son to the Countess of Hainault he succeeded in extending the authority of his house as far as the Ardennes (1050). Robert the Frisian (1071-1093) bore himself like a sovereign prince, he had an international policy, and we find him making an alliance with Denmark in order to counterbalance the commercial influence of England. He gave one of his daughters in marriage to Knut, King of Denmark, and in conjunction with him prepared for a descent upon the British Isles.

The count was even strong enough, it appears, to give Flanders immunity, to a large extent, from the general anarchy. By procuring his own recognition as advocate or protector of all the monasteries in his states, by monopolizing for his own benefit the institution of the “Peace of God” which the Church was then striving to spread, by substituting himself for the bishops in the office of guardian of this Peace, the count imposed himself throughout Flanders as lord and supreme judge in his state. He peremptorily claimed the right of authorizing the building of castles, he proclaimed himself the official defender of the widow, the orphan, the merchant and the cleric, and he rigorously punished robbery on the highways and outrages upon women. He had a regularly organized administration to second his efforts. His domains were divided into castellanies or circumscriptions, each centering in a castle. In each of these castles was placed a military chief, the castellan or viscount, along with a notary who levied the dues of the castellany, transmitting them to the notary-in-chief or chancellor of Flanders, who drew into a common treasury all the revenues of the country.

Thus it is not strange that Flanders should have attained earlier than other provinces to a degree of prosperity well worthy of remark. As regards agriculture, we find the counts themselves giving an impulse to important enterprises of clearing and draining in the districts bordering on the sea, while in the interior the monastic foundations contributed largely to the extension of cultivation and of grazing lands. At the same time the cloth industry was so far developed that the homegrown wool no longer sufficed to occupy the workmen. Wool from neighboring countries was sent in great quantities to the Flemish fairs, and already commerce was bringing Flanders into contact with England, Germany and Scandinavia.

The contrast with the territories of the Counts of Champagne is striking. Here there is no unity; the lands ruled by the count have no cohesion whatever; only the chances of succession which at the opening of the eleventh century caused the counties of Troyes and Meaux to pass into the hands of Odo II, Count of Blois, Tours and Chartres (996-1037).

The count’s power, naturally, suffered from the scattered position of his lands. The first to unite under his authority the two principalities of Blois and Champagne, Odo II, has left in history only a reputation for blundering activity and perpetual mutability. In Touraine, in place of steadily resisting the encroaching policy of the Counts of Anjou, we find him rushing headlong into one wild enterprise after another, invading Lorraine on the morrow of his defeat by Fulk Nerra at Pontlevoy in 1016, then joining with reckless eagerness in the chimerical projects of Robert the Pious for dismembering the inheritance of the Emperor Henry II (1024), and upon the death of Rodolph III, flinging himself upon the kingdom of Burgundy (1032). We shall see how the adventurer fared, how Odo, after a brilliant and rapid campaign, found himself face to face with the Emperor Conrad, threatened not only by him but by Henry I King of France, whose enmity, by a triumph of unskillful handling, he had brought upon himself. A prompt retreat alone saved him. But it was only to throw himself into a new project; he at once invaded Lorraine, carrying fire and sword through the country; he began negotiations with the Italian prelates with a view to obtaining the Lombard crown, and even dreamed of an expedition to Aix-la-Chapelle to snatch the imperial scepter from his rival. But the army of Lorraine had assembled to bar his way; a battle was fought on 15 November 1037, in the neighborhood of Bar, and Odo met with a pitiful end on the field of carnage where his stripped and mutilated body was found next day.

With the successors of Odo II came almost complete obscurity. The counties of Champagne and Blois, separated for a brief interval by his death, then reunited up to 1090 under the rule of Theobald III, go on in an uneventful course, diminished by the loss of Touraine, which the Counts of Anjou succeed in definitely annexing.



 The history of the duchy of Burgundy in the eleventh century is hardly less obscure. Its Dukes, Robert I, son of King Robert the Pious, Hugh and Odo Borel seem to have been insignificant enough, with neither domains, nor money, nor a policy. Although theoretically they were masters of very extensive territories, they saw the greater part of their possessions slip from under their control to form genuine little semi-independent principalities, such, for example, as the counties of Chalon-sur-Saône and Macon, or else ecclesiastical lordships such as the Abbey of Molesme which, before fifty years from its foundation (1075), came to possess immense domains all over the north of Burgundy as well as in southern Champagne.

There is thus no reason for surprise that the Dukes of Burgundy in the eleventh century should play rather a petty part. Robert I (1032¬1076) seems, unlike a duke, to have been the type of an unscrupulous petty tyrant such as at this period the lords of the smaller castles too often were. His life was spent in pillaging the lands of his vassals, and especially those of the Church. He carried of the crops of the Bishop of Autun, seized upon the tithes of the churches of his diocese, and swooped down upon the cellars of the canons of St Stephen of Dijon. His reputation as a robber was so well established throughout his country that about 1055 Hardouin, Bishop of Langres, dares not adventure himself in the neighbourhood of Dijon to dedicate the Church of Sennecey, fearing, says a charter, “to be exposed to the violence of the Duke”. He hesitates at no crime to satisfy his appetites and his desire for vengeance; breaks into the abbey of St-Germain at Auxerre by armed force, has his young brother-in-law, Joceran, assassinated, and with his own hand kills his father-in-law, Dalmatius, lord of Semur.

His grandson and successor, Hugh I (1076-1079), was far from imitating the example set him, but he was quite as incapable as Robert of establishing any real control over Burgundy, and after having taken part in a distant expedition into Spain to succor Sancho I of Aragon he suddenly carried his contempt for the world so far as to exchange a soldier's restless life for cloistered peace, becoming a monk at the age of twenty-three.

Odo Borel, Hugh’s brother (1079-1102), returned to the family tradition and became a highway robber. We have on this subject a curious anecdote, related by an eyewitness, Eadmer, chaplain to Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury. As Anselm was passing through Burgundy in 1097 on his way to Rome, the duke was informed of his approach and of the chance it afforded of booty worth taking. Allured by the account, Odo, mounting his horse immediately, took Anselm and his escort by surprise. “Where is the Archbishop?” he cried in a threatening tone. Yet at the last moment, confronted by the calm and venerable demeanor of the prelate, some remnant of shame held him back, and instead of falling on him he stood confounded, not knowing what to say. “My lord Duke”, said Anselm to him, “suffer me to embrace you”. In his confusion the duke could only reply “willingly, for I am delighted at thy coming and ready to serve you”. It is possible that the good Eadmer has manipulated the incident somewhat, yet it is a significant anecdote: evidently the Duke of Burgundy was looked upon as a common bandit.



The county of Anjou presents us with a case intermediary between Flanders which was strong, and already partly centralized, and that of Burgundy which was split up and in a state of disintegration. It has already been related in detail how, from the middle of the eleventh century onwards, the Count was engaged in the interior of his state in combating a crowd of turbulent barons strongly ensconced in their castles. But in spite of this temporary weakening of the count's authority, the Angevin lands form even in the second half of the eleventh century a coherent whole of which the count is the effective head. Controlling the episcopal see of Angers which could not be filled up without his consent, and finding commonly in the Bishop a devoted and active helper ready to brave Archbishops, Legates, Councils and Popes at his side, secure of the loyalty of the greater number of the secular clergy, master of the chief abbeys also, besides being, as it would seem, rich in lands and revenues, the count, in spite of everything, remains an imposing figure. Under Fulk Rechin (1067-1109), when the spirit of independence among the lesser Angevin fief holders was at its height, the great lords of the county, such as those of Thouarce or Treves, were to be found contending for the offices about the count's court which was organized, apparently, on the model of the royal court, in a regular fashion, with a seneschal, a constable and a chaplain (who was also charged with the work of the chancery), chamberlains, cellarers, etc. Nothing, however, more plainly shows the space which the Counts of Anjou filled in the minds of contemporaries than the considerable body of literature which, throughout the eleventh century and up to the middle of the twelfth gathered round them, by means of which we have come to know them better, perhaps, than even most of their contemporaries did. Few figures, for instance, are stranger or more characteristic of the time than that of Fulk Nerra, whose long reign (987-1040) corresponds with the most glorious part of the formative period of the county. He appears before us as a man ardent and fierce of mood, giving free course to his ambition and cupidity, and governed by a passion for war, then suddenly checking himself at the thought of eternal retribution, and trying by some gift or some penance to obtain pardon from God or the Saints whom his violence must needs have offended. One charter shows him to us too much engrossed in warfare to give a thought to ecclesiastical affairs; in another there is an allusion to his fierce, hasty temper incapable of bearing any contradiction. Does he find himself hampered by a rival? He will not show himself scrupulous in the choice of means of getting rid of him. In 1025 he lured the Count of Maine, Herbert Wake-dog into an ambush, giving him a rendezvous at Saintes, which, he said, he intended to grant him as a fief in order to put an end to a dispute which had arisen between them. Herbert presented himself unsuspectingly, and was seized and thrown into prison, while the gentle Hildegarde, the Countess of Anjou, planned a similar fate for his wife. Less dexterous than her husband, she missed her stroke, but Herbert remained two years under lock and key and was only set at liberty after the deepest humiliations. A few years before, in 1008, the count of the palace, Hugh of Beauvais, being an obstacle to his designs, Fulk posted cutthroats to wait for him while he was hunting in company with the king and had him stabbed under the very eyes of the sovereign.

Elsewhere, on the contrary, we find him, stricken with fear, making a donation to the Church of St Maurice of Angers, “for the salvation of his sinful soul and to obtain pardon for the terrible massacre of Christians whom he had caused to perish at the battle of Conquereuil”, which he had fought in 992 against the Count of Rennes. A charter shows him in 996, just as Tours had been taken, forcing his way into the cloister of St Martin, and suddenly, when he saw the canons wreathing the shrine and the crucifix with thorns, and shutting the gates of their church, coming in haste, humbled and barefoot, to make satisfaction before the tomb of the Saint whom he had insulted. In 1026, when he took Saumur, being carried away, at first, by his fury, he pillaged and burnt everything, not even sparing the church of St Florent; then, his rude type of piety suddenly re-asserting itself, he cried out “Saint Florent, let thy church be burned, I will build thee a finer dwelling at Angers”. But as the Saint refused to be won over by fair promises, and as the boat on which Fulk had had his body shipped refused to stir, the count burst out furiously against “this impious fellow, this clown, who declines the honor of being buried at Angers”.

His violence is great, but his penances are not less striking; in 1002 or 1003 he set out for Jerusalem. Hardly had he returned when he defiled himself afresh by the murder of Hugh of Beauvais, and again there was a journey to the Holy Land from which neither the perils of an eventful voyage nor the hostility of the infidel could deter him (1008?). Finally, at the end of 1039 when he was nearly seventy years old, he did not hesitate for the sake of his salvation once again to brave the fatigues and dangers of a last pilgrimage to our Savior’s tomb.

All this shows a nature fiery and even savage but constantly influenced by the dread of Heaven's vengeance, and legend has copiously embroidered both aspects. This violent-tempered man has been turned into the type of the most revolting ferocity, he has been depicted as stabbing his wife, giving up Angers itself to the flames, forcing his rebellious son, the proud and fiery Geoffrey Martel, to go several miles with a saddle on his back, and then when he humbly dragged himself along the ground towards him, brutally thrusting him away with his foot, uttering cries of triumph. He has been made the type of the brave and cunning warrior, capable of performing the most extraordinary feats; for instance, he is represented as overhearing, through a partition wall, talk of an attempt upon his capital, plotted during his absence by the sons of Conan, Count of Rennes. Instantly he gallops without stopping from Orleans to Angers where he cuts his enemies to pieces, and hastens back to Orleans with such speed that there has not even been time to remark his absence. He has been made to figure as the defender of the Pope whom by his marvelous exploits he saves from the fiercest robbers and from the formidable Crescentius himself. Finally, he has been credited with so subtle a brain as to know how to avoid all the traps which the utmost ingenuity of the Infidels could set for him to hinder his approach to the Sepulchre of Christ. Out of this man, on whom the fear of Heaven’s wrath would sometimes fall, legend has made the ideal type of the repentant sinner. Not three times, but four or five times he is represented to have performed the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and is pictured as having himself dragged half-naked, with a cord round his neck, through the streets of Jerusalem, scourged by two grooms, and crying aloud: “Lord, have pity upon the traitor!”. Does not all this exaggeration of the good as well as the evil in him, these legendary, almost epic, touches, do more to convince us than any argument could, of the strange importance which the Angevins of the period attributed to the person of the count? In comparison with the shadowy figures of the kings who succeed one another on the throne of France, that of a Fulk Nerra stands out in high relief against a drab background of level history.



It has been useful, in order to give something like a life-like conception of the great feudatories of the eleventh century, to spend some time over one of the few personalities of the time which we are in a position to know at least in its main outlines. In dealing with the Dukes of Normandy, we may be the briefer because many details concerning them belong to the chapters devoted to the history of England. More than any other feudal principality, Normandy had derived from the very nature of its history a real political unity. It was not the fact that the chief Norman counties were held as fiefs by members of the duke’s own family which secured to the duke, as some continue to repeat, a power greater than was enjoyed elsewhere, for we have already seen that family feeling had no effect in preventing revolts. But the duke had been able to keep a considerable domain in his own hands, and there were hardly any abbeys in his duchy to which he had not the right of nomination, many were part of his property and he freely imposed his own creatures upon them. His word was law throughout the ecclesiastical province of Rouen, and he disposed at his pleasure of all its episcopal sees. Without differing notably from what prevailed elsewhere, the administrative organization of the duchy was perhaps more stable and regular. The ducal domain was divided into a certain number of viscounties, with a castle in each of them where a viscount had his seat, who was invested at once with administrative, judicial, and military functions. Military obligations were strictly regulated, each baronial estate owing a certain number of days’ service in the field. In a word, Normandy constituted a real state which was, besides, fortunate enough to have at its head throughout the eleventh century, with the exception of Robert Curthose, a succession of brilliant rulers.



As under the Carolingians, Brittany continued to form an isolated province, almost a nation apart. Having its own language, a religion more impregnated here than elsewhere with paganism, special customs of its own, and manners ruder and coarser than was usual elsewhere, Brittany in the eyes even of contemporaries seemed a foreign and barbarous land. A priest, called by his duties to these inhospitable regions, looked upon himself as a missionary going forth to evangelize savages, or as a banished man, while the idea of Ovid in his Pontic exile suggested itself readily to such minds as had given themselves to the cultivation of letters. But in spite of its well marked characteristics, Brittany did not form a very strong political entity. Already a severe struggle was in progress between the Gallo-Roman population along the March of Rennes, and the Celtic people of Armorica, each group representing its own distinct language. In other respects, the antagonism took the form of a rivalry between the great houses which contended for the dignity of Duke of Brittany. Which among the counts, he of Rennes, or of Nantes, or of Cornouailles had the right to suzerainty? In the eleventh century it seemed for a moment as if the chances of inheritance were about to allow the unification of Brittany to become a fact, and as if the duke might be able to add to the theoretical suzerainty which his title gave him, a direct control over all the Breton counties. Hoel, Count of Cornouailles, after inheriting in 1063 the county of Nantes on the death of his mother Judith of Cornouailles, found himself in 1066 inheritor of the counties of Rennes and Vannes in right of his wife Havoise, sole heiress of her brother the Breton Duke, Conan II. But in order to complete the unification of the duchy it was necessary that the duke should succeed in making himself obeyed on the northern slope of the rocky mass of Brittany. Now the Léon country escaped his control, and he was to exhaust himself in vain efforts to reduce Eon of Penthièvre and his descendants who ruled over the dioceses of DolAlet, Saint-Brieuc and Treguier, and even disputed the ducal dignity with the Counts of Rennes. At a loss for money, and forced to alienate their domains to meet their expenses, neither Hoel (1066-1084), nor his son and successor, Alan Fergent (1084-1112), succeeded in turning Brittany into a unified province.


Aquitaine and Gascony.

The destiny of the countries south of the Loire has all the appearance of a striking paradox. While everywhere else the tendency is to the minutest subdivision, the Dukes of Aquitaine, by a policy almost miraculously skilful, succeed not only in maintaining effective control over the inhomogeneous lands between the Loire and the Garonne (with the exception of Berry and the Bourbonnais) but in making good their hold on Gascony which they never again lose, and even for a time in occupying the county of Toulouse and exacting obedience from it. Direct rulers of Poitou, of which district they continue to style themselves counts at the same time that they are known as Dukes of Aquitaine, rulers also of Saintonge (which was for a short time a fief of the Count of Anjou) the dynasty of the Williams who succeed one another in the eleventh century on the Poitevin throne, successfully retained the Counts of Angouleme and la Marche and the Viscount of Limoges in the strictest vassalage, while they compelled obedience from the other counts and viscounts in their dominions. Everywhere or almost everywhere, thanks to perpetual expeditions from one end of his state to the other, the duke presents himself as the real suzerain, ever ready for action or intervention in case of need. In episcopal elections he has contrived to preserve his rights, at Limoges, for instance, as at Poitiers and Saintes, or at Bordeaux after he has taken possession of that town; in the greater part of the episcopal cities he plays an active, sometimes decisive part, often having the last word in the election of bishops.

Few of the rulers of the feudal chiefs at this time knew as they did how to act as the real heads of the state or could manoeuvre more cleverly to extend and maintain their authority. Although praised by a contemporary chronicler, Adhémar of Chabannes, for having succeeded in reducing all his vassals to complete obedience, William V (995 or 996-1030) appears to have been above all things a peaceful prince, a lover of learning and belles lettres, for which indeed Adhémar eulogizes him in a hyperbolical strain, comparing him to Augustus and Theodosius, and at the same time to Charlemagne and Louis the Pious. But among his successors, Guy-Geoffrey, called also William VIII (1058-1086), and William IX (1086-1126) were born politicians, unburdened with scruples, moreover, and ready to use all means to attain their ends. By naked usurpation, helped out by a sudden stroke of arms and by astute diplomacy, Guy-Geoffrey succeeded in obtaining possession of the duchy of Gascony, which had fallen vacant in 1039 by the death of his half-brother, Odo, and so ably was his undertaking carried out that Gascony was subdued almost on the spot. His son William IX nearly succeeded in doing as much with regard to the county of Toulouse, some sixty years later, in 1097 or 1098. Profiting by the absence of the Count, Raymond of St-Gilles, on Crusade, he claimed the county in the name of his wife Philippa, the daughter of a former Count of Toulouse, William IV; and notwithstanding that the possessions of Crusaders were placed under the guardianship of the Church and accounted sacred, he invaded his neighbor’s territory and immediately took possession of the lands that he coveted. In 1100, on the return of Raymond of St-Gilles, he was forced to restore his conquest. The struggle was only postponed; on the death of Bertrand, son of Raymond, in 1112, he was again to conquer the county of Toulouse, and, this time, refuse to surrender his prey. It took Alphonse-Jourdain, the rightful heir, ten years of desperate strife to gain his point and tear the booty from his terrible neighbor.

This same William IX is besides the very type of a feudal bel esprit, possessed of a pretty wit and apt at celebrating his endless amours and intrigues in graceful, profligate verse, but he was shameless and brazen, trampling the principles of morality underfoot as old-fashioned prejudices, provided that he could indulge his passions. The carrying-off of Maubergeon, the beautiful wife of the Viscount of Chatellerault, whom he claimed to marry without further formalities, in the life-time of his lawful wife, Philippa, and of the Viscount himself, gives one the measure of the man. If we may believe the chronicler, William of Malmesbury, he replied with jests to the prelates who exhorted him to change his manner of living: “I will repudiate the Viscountess as soon as your hair requires a comb”, he said to the Bishop of Angouleme, Gerard, who was bald. Being excommunicated for his evil courses, he one day met Peter, Bishop of Poitiers. “Give me absolution or I will kill you”, he cried, raising his sword. “Strike”, replied the bishop, offering his neck. “No”, replied William, “I do not love you well enough to send you straight to Paradise”, and he contented himself with exiling him.



Less fortunate and much less skilful than the Dukes of Aquitaine, the Counts of Toulouse nevertheless succeeded in the eleventh century in collecting in their own hands a considerable group of fiefs, all contiguous: they included fiefs within the Empire as well as in France, and stretched from the Garonne to the Alps from the day when Raymond of Saint-Gilles, Marquess of Gothia, had succeeded both his brother William IV in the county of Toulouse (1088) and Bertrand of Arles in the Marquessate of Provence (1094). But even taking Languedoc alone (the county of Toulouse and the Marquessate of Gothia) the unity of the state was only personal and weak, and was always on the point of breaking down. A law of succession which prescribed division between the direct heirs male necessarily involved the division of the component fiefs; besides this, the chiefs of the house of Toulouse had not the continuity of policy necessary if the counts, barons, and citizens, who, within the confines of the principality, were ever seeking to secure a more and more complete independence, were to be held in subjection. They had also to reckon with the rivalry and ambition of two neighbors: the Dukes of Aquitaine, who, as we have seen, sought to lay hands upon the county of Toulouse, and the Counts of Barcelona, who, rulers of Roussillon and in theory vassals of the French crown, were ever ready to contend with the house of Saint-Gilles for the possession of the March of Gothia.

To sum up, if the strength of the feudal tie and the energy or diplomacy of some of the great feudatories prevented France from crumbling into a mere dust-heap of fiefs, contiguous but unconnected, the evil from which the nation was suffering was, none the less, dangerous and deep-seated. The realm was frittered away into principalities which seemed every day to grow further and further apart.


Fulbert and Ivo of Chartres

From this general disintegration of the kingdom, the clergy, and especially the bishops, escaped only with the greatest difficulty. Too many members of the episcopate belonged both by birth and tendencies to the feudal classes for them to furnish the elements of a reaction or even to desire it. But there were a few among the mass, who were in a position, either through greater openness of mind, or more genuine culture, to see things from a higher point of view, who succeeded in imposing their ideas above all local divisions, and, while the royal authority seemed bankrupt, were able to exercise in the kingdom some sort of preponderating moral influence. The most illustrious examples are those of two bishops of Chartres, Bishop Fulbert in the time of King Robert, and Bishop No in the time of Philip I.

With Fulbert the whole kingdom seems to have been in perpetual consultation on all manner of questions, even those in appearance most trivial. Does a point in feudal law need clearing up? is there a canonical difficulty to be solved? or a feeling of curiosity to be satisfied? recourse is had to him. About 1020 the Duke of Aquitaine, William the Great, asks him to expound the mutual obligations of suzerain and vassal, and the bishop at once sends him a precise and clear reply, which, he says at the end, he would like to have drawn out further, “if he had not been absorbed by a thousand other occupations and by his anxiety about the rebuilding of his city and his church which had just been destroyed by a terrible fire”. Some years later the public mind throughout the kingdom had been much exercised by a “rain of blood” on the coast of Poitou. King Robert, at the request of the Duke of Aquitaine that he would seek enlightenment from his clergy as to this terrifying miracle, at once writes off to Fulbert, and at the same time to the Bishop of Bourges, seeking an explanation and details concerning previous occurrences of the phenomenon. Without delay Fulbert undertakes the search, re-reads Livy, Valerius Maximus, Orosius, and Gregory of Tours and sends off a letter with full particulars. Next comes the scholasticus of St Hilary's of Poitiers, his former pupil, who overwhelms him with questions of every kind and demands with special insistence whether bishops may serve in the army. In reply, his kind master sends him a regular dissertation.

But these are only his lighter cares; he has to guide the king in his policy and warn him of the blunders he makes. About 1010 Robert was on the point of convoking a great assembly to proclaim the Peace of God at Orleans which at that time was under an interdict. Immediately Fulbert takes up his pen and writes to the king: “Amidst the numerous occupations which demand my attention, my anxiety touching thy person, my lord, holds an important place. Thus when I learn that thou dost act wisely I rejoice; when I learn that thou doest ill I am grieved and in fear”. He is glad that the king should be thinking on peace, but that with this object he should convoke an assembly at Orleans, “a city ravaged by fire, profaned by sacrilege, and above all, condemned to excommunication”, this astonishes and confounds him. To hold an assembly in a town where, legally, neither the king nor the bishops could communicate, was at that time nothing short of a scandal! And the pious bishop concludes his letter with wise and firm advice.

A few years earlier, in 1008, the Count of the Palace, Hugh of Beauvais, the bosom friend of King Robert, had been killed, as we have related, under the very eyes of the sovereign, by assassins placed in ambush by Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou, who immediately gave them asylum in his dominions. Such was the scandal, that Fulk was near being proceeded against for high treason, while a synod of bishops sitting at Chelles wished at all events to pronounce him excommunicate on the spot. Here again Fulbert intervenes, he enjoins clemency upon all, obtains a delay of three weeks, and of his own accord writes to Fulk, though he is neither his diocesan nor his relation, a letter full of kindness, but also of firmness, summoning him to give up the assassins within a fixed time and to come himself at once and make humble submission.

In the days of Ivo the good understanding between the king and the Bishop of Chartres was broken. But amidst all the religious and political difficulties in which Philip was involved, and with him the whole kingdom, the bishop’s influence is only the more evident. In personal correspondence with the Popes, who consult him, or to whom on his own initiative he sends opinions always listened to with deference, in correspondence with the papal legates whom he informs by his counsels, No seems the real head of the Church in France. In the question so hotly debated on both sides as to the king's marriage with Bertrada of Montfort. No did not hesitate to speak his mind to the king without circumlocution, he sharply rebuked the over-complaisant bishops, acted as leader of the rest, and personally came to an agreement with the Pope and his legates as to the course to be pursued. He writes in 1092 to the king who had summoned him to be present at the solemnization of his marriage with Bertrada: “I neither can nor will go, so long as no general council has pronounced a divorce between you and your lawful wife, and declared the marriage which you wish to contract canonical”. The king succeeded in getting this adulterous union celebrated, and in spite of warnings he refused to put an end to it. Pope Urban II addressed to the bishops and archbishops a letter enjoining them to excommunicate this impious man, if he refused to repent. No then appeared as arbiter of the situation. “These pontifical letters”, he writes to the king’s seneschal, “ought to have been published already, but out of love for the king I have had them kept back, because I am determined, as far as is in my power, to prevent a rising of the kingdom against him”.

He was fully informed of all that was said or done of any importance; in 1094 he knew that the king meant to deceive the Pope, and had sent messengers to Rome; he warned Urban II, putting him on his guard against the lies which they were charged to convey to him. Later on, in the time of Pope Paschal II, it was he who finally preached moderation with success, who arranged everything with the Pope for the reconciliation of the king. There is no ecclesiastical business in the kingdom of which he does not carefully keep abreast, ready, if it be useful, to intervene to support his candidate for a post, and to give advice to bishop or lord. Not only does he denounce to the Pope the impious audacity of Ralph (RanulfFlambard, Bishop of Durham, who in 1102 had seized on the bishopric of Lisieux in the name of one of his sons, but he calls on the Archbishop of Rouen and the other bishops of the province to put an end to these disorders. He does even more, he writes to the Count of Meulan to urge him to make representations without delay, on his behalf, to the King of England whose duty it is not to tolerate such a scandal.

At a period when religion, though ordinarily of a very rude type, was spreading in all directions, and when the gravest political questions which came up were those of Church policy, a prelate who, like No of Chartres, knew how to speak out and to gain the ear of popes, kings, bishops and lords, certainly exercised in France a power of action stronger and more pregnant with results than the obscure ministers of a weak, discredited king.