Hugues Capet, King of France and founder of the dynasty

Hugues Capet, King of France and founder of the dynasty

Duke, then King of France from 987 to 996, Hugues I Capet is the founder of the Capetian dynasty. When he came to power in place of the last Carolingian pretender, the royal authority, reduced to a few territories in Ile de France, appeared weak in the face of the power of the great feudal lords. But the new king will be able to demonstrate to establish his authority as much skill as he took to supplant the last representatives of the Carolingian dynasty, installing his line on the throne of France for eight centuries.

The origins of Hugues Capet

Hugues Capet's father, the Duke of France and Count of Paris Hugues the Great, belongs to one of the most active feudal families, that of the Robertians, whose glorious representatives have already been raised to royal dignity. Originally, the regional roots of this illustrious house can be traced to Anjou. But very quickly, thanks to an increased political sense, Hugues made sure to promote family success, to the point that his own possessions, first between the Seine and the Meuse, were then supplemented, after 943, by Burgundy. . Familiar with or ally of the last Carolingian rulers, such as Emperor Otto I, Kings Louis IV of Overseas and Lothair, Hugues the Great exercised, in addition to important local prerogatives, a considerable influence on the institutions of the central state. This is why some historians sometimes make him the true founder of the future Capetian dynasty.

Nicknamed the "maker of kings", Hughes intervenes in person on numerous occasions during the election or the maintenance in place of several monarchs. As the accession to royalty was no longer hereditary at the end of the Carolingian period, only the great barons and the main prelates of Francia occidentalis were brought to elect their sovereign, at the cost of negotiations and concessions sometimes heavy with consequences for the autonomy and decision-making power of the future king. At the end of his existence, the domination of the Duke of France and Count of Paris was such that King Lothaire, only confirming certain succession arrangements, was forced to assist, powerless, at the distribution of Hugues' territories among his different threads. The eldest, the future Hugues Ier Capet, receives the Duchy of France, while the younger, Eudes, is granted the Duchy of Burgundy.

A throne to conquer, a crown to defend

Hugues Capet was not the first baron who, although not a descendant of the Carolingian house, nevertheless acceded to the throne of Francia occidentalis. In 888, for example, Hugh's great-uncle, King Eudes I of France, obtained the crown for his heroic conduct against the Normans in Paris.

After the unexpected death of King Louis V the Slacker in 987, Hugues Capet obtained his election as King of the Franks thanks to the decisive place his family occupied within the administration and the court of the kingdom. The same year, Adalbéron de Laon, archbishop of Reims and the most influential prelate of the kingdom succeeded in convincing all the lay and ecclesiastical electors to elect a powerful feudal prince rather than a king of Carolingian descent, Charles de Lower Lorraine. In the eyes of the great, electing a powerful king is also a guarantee of protection against the possible greed of competing neighboring states. From then on, on July 3, 987, Hugues Capet received Royal Office in Noyon, during a ceremony aimed at conferring the royal throne on the new sovereign. The young dynasty can now count on divine authority and legitimacy.

The first of the Capetians

Hugues Ier Capet, first Duke of France and Burgundy, suzerain of the Dukes of Normandy and Aquitaine, therefore becomes the first king of the new French dynasty of the Capetians. However, at the time of his election and then of his coronation and coronation, no one could predict that the new dynastic line would remain at the head of the French royal house until 1792.

In the 12th century, when it was necessary to name this dynasty definitively established on the throne of France, we chose to call it "Capetian", taking inspiration from a nickname which from the 11th century had called Duke Hugues the Great. But it was not until the 12th century that King Hugues I, following his father, in turn received the nickname of Capet, probably because respecting the custom of his ancestors, he was lay abbot of Tours where a fragment of the cloak of Saint Martin was preserved. It is this same nickname that is derisively given to Louis XVI after his dismissal.

The coming to power of the young dynasty would probably have gone unnoticed if the early monarchs had not been smart enough to associate their eldest son with the throne during their own reign. Thanks to this co-regency, a real monarchical continuity can be set up within the Robertian family which has become sovereign. The first Capetian kings had their sons elected and crowned heir during their lifetime, so that from 1174, heredity finally replaced the election. In this context of stability and dynastic continuity, peace and abundance can take hold. Countryside, towns and monasteries are expanding, as trade intensifies.

The reign of Hugh Capet

Hugues Capet succeeded in establishing himself thanks to an alliance with monasticism. It has abbeys rich in land. Linked to Cluny by a very old family tradition, Hugues was very influenced by the spirit of this abbey from his youth. One of his first "royal" acts was to protect the monasteries and their property, and he governed with the advice of Adalberon, archbishop of Reims, his faithful until his death (989).

He fights against Charles of Lorraine, uncle of Louis V and legitimate Carolingian pretender to the crown, who never stops plotting. The great vassals do not help him much in this task. They are independent princes. Charles’s intrusion cuts the expedition against the Saracens threatening Barcelona. Charles has for support the count of Vermandois and Arnoul, new bishop of Reims and bastard of king Lothaire.

After overcoming Charles, Hugues decides to dispense with the pope (an authority that is normally absolutely necessary for the dismissal of a bishop) in order to eliminate Arnoul. On June 18, 991, Arnoul was condemned to ecclesiastical degradation by a so-called “Gaul” council and replaced by the faithful Gerbert.

Although King of the Franks, Hugues Capet only owns a small estate in Ile-de-France. He is only the first of the lords. The Dukes of Aquitaine, the Counts of Périgord, Poitou, Anjou, Champagne, Flanders, the Dukes of Normandy, Brittany equal him in power and sometimes refuse him obedience. This situation is illustrated by a famous word. Hugues, writing to Aldabert, count of Périgord, refusing to obey: "Who made you count? ", Heard himself answer," Who made you king? ".

It will take time and patience for the Capetians to consolidate and enlarge the royal domain, and thus strengthen their authority. During the 12th century royal suzerainty will eventually impose itself on all the lords of the kingdom, drawing particular strength from the coronation and support of the Church. The fate of the kingdom will be inextricably linked to that of the Capetian dynasty for eight centuries.

Bibliography

- Hugues Capet: The Founder, by Georges Bordonove. Pygmalion, 2011.

- Hugues Capet: Birth of a dynasty. Historical biography of Yves Sassier. fayard, 1987.

- The Capetians: History and dictionary (987-1328). Collective work, Robert laffont, 1999.


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