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A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times|
Feudal France And Hugh Capet.
by Guizot, M.
|The reader has just seen that, twenty-nine years after the death of Charlemagne, that is, in 843, when, by the treaty of Verdun, the sons of Louis the Debonnair had divided amongst them his dominions, the great empire split up into three distinct and independent kingdoms—the kingdoms of Italy, Germany, and France. The split did not stop there. Forty-five years later, at the end of the ninth century, shortly after the death of Charles the Fat, the last of the Carlovingians who appears to have re-united for a while all the empire of Charlemagne, this empire had begotten seven instead of three kingdoms, those of France, of Navarre, of Provence or Cisjuran Burgundy, of Trans-juran Burgundy, or Lorraine, of Allemannia, and of Italy. This is what had become of the factitious and ephemeral unity of that Empire of the West which Charlemagne had wished to put in the place of the Roman empire.
We will leave where they are the three distinct and independent kingdoms, and turn our introspective gaze upon the kingdom of France. There we recognize the same fact; there the same work of dismemberment is going on. About the end of the ninth century there were already twenty-nine provinces or fragments of provinces which had become petty states, the former governors of which, under the names of dukes, counts, marquises, and viscounts, were pretty nearly real sovereigns. Twenty-nine great fiefs, which have played a special part in French history, date back to this epoch.
These petty states were not all of equal importance or in possession of a perfectly similar independence; there were certain ties uniting them to other states, resulting in certain reciprocal obligations which became the basis, or, one might say, the constitution of the feudal community; but their prevailing feature was, nevertheless, isolation, personal existence. They were really petty states begotten from the dismemberment of a great territory; those local governments were formed at the expense of a central power.
From the end of the ninth pass we to the end of the tenth century, to the epoch when the Capetians take the place of the Carlovingians. Instead of seven kingdoms to replace the empire of Charlemagne, there were then no more than four. The kingdoms of Provence and Trans-juran Burgundy had formed, by re-union, the kingdom of Arles. The kingdom of Lorraine was no more than a duchy in dispute between Allemannia and France. The Emperor Otho the Great had united the kingdom of Italy to the empire of. Allemannia. Overtures had produced their effects amongst the great states. But in the interior of the kingdom of France, dismemberment had held on its course; and instead of the twenty-nine petty states or great fiefs observable at the end of the ninth century, we find at the end of the tenth, fifty-five actually established. (Vide Guizot's Histoire de la Civilisation, t. ii., pp. 238-246.)
Now, how was this ever-increasing dismemberment accomplished? What causes determined it, and little by little made it the substitute for the unity of the empire? Two causes, perfectly natural and independent of all human calculation, one moral and the other political. They were the absence from the minds of men of any general and dominant idea; and the reflux, in social relations and manners, of the individual liberties but lately repressed or regulated by the strong hand of Charlemagne. In times of formation or transition, states and governments conform to the measure, one had almost said to the height, of the men of the period, their ideas, their sentiments, and their personal force of character; when ideas are few and narrow, when sentiments spread only over a confined circle, when means of action and expansion are wanting to men, communities become petty and local, just as the thoughts and existence of their members are. Such was the state of things in the ninth and tenth centuries; there was no general and fructifying idea, save the Christian creed; no great intellectual vent; no great national feeling; no easy and rapid means of communication; mind and life were both confined in a narrow space, and encountered, at every step, stoppages and obstacles well nigh insurmountable. At the same time, by the fall of the empires of Rome and of Charlemagne, men regained possession of the rough and ready individual liberties which were the essential characteristic of Germanic manners: Franks, Visigoths, Burgundians, Saxons, Lombards, none of these new peoples had lived as the Greeks and Romans had, under the sway of an essentially political idea, the idea of city, state, and fatherland: they were free men, and not citizens; comrades, not members of one and the same public body. They gave up their vagabond life; they settled upon a soil conquered by themselves and partitioned amongst themselves; and there they lived each by himself, master of himself and all that was his, family, servitors, husbandmen, and slaves: the territorial domain became the fatherland, and the owner remained a free man, a local and independent chieftain, at his own risk and peril. And this, quite naturally, grew up feudal France, when the new comers, settled in their new abodes, were no more swayed or hampered by the vain attempt to re-establish the Roman empire.
The consequences of such a state of things and of such a disposition of persons were rapidly developed. Territorial ownership became the fundamental characteristic of and warranty for independence and social importance. Local sovereignty, if not complete and absolute, at least in respect of its principal rights, right of making war, right of judicature, right of taxation, and right of regulating the police, became one with the territorial ownership, which before long grew to be hereditary, whether, under the title of alleu (allodium), it had been originally perfectly independent and exempt from any feudal tie, or, under the title of benefice, had arisen from grants of land made by the chieftain to his followers, on condition of certain obligations. The offices, that is, the divers functions, military or civil, conferred by the king on his lieges, also ended by becoming hereditary. Having become established in fact, this heirship in lands and local powers was soon recognized by the law. A capitulary of Charles the Bald, promulgated in 877, contains the two following provisions:—
"If, after our death, any one of our lieges, moved by love for God and our person, desire to renounce the world, and if he have a son or other relative capable of serving the public weal, let him be free to transmit to him his benefices and his honor, according to his pleasure."
"If a count of this kingdom happen to die, and his son be about our person, we will that our son; together with those of our lieges who may chance to be the nearest relatives of the deceased count, as well as with the other officers of the said countship and the bishop of the diocese wherein it is situated, shall provide for its administration until the death of the heretofore count shall have been announced to us and we have been enabled to confer on the son, present at our court, the honors wherewith his father was invested."
Thus the king still retained the nominal right of conferring on the son the offices or local functions of the father, but he recognized in the son the right to obtain them. A host of documents testify that at this epoch, when, on the death of a governor of a province, the king attempted to give his countship to some one else than his descendants, not only did personal interest resist, but such a measure was considered a violation of right. Under the reign of Louis the Stutterer, son of Charles the Bald, two of his lieges, Wilhelm and Engelschalk, held two countships on the confines of Bavaria; and, at their death, their offices were given to Count Arbo, to the prejudice of their sons. "The children and their relatives," says the chronicler, "taking that as a gross injustice, said that matters ought to go differently, and that they would die by the sword or Arbo should give up the courtship of their family." Heirship in territorial ownerships and their local rights, whatever may have originally been their character; heirship in local offices or powers, military or civil, primarily conferred by the king; and, by consequence, hereditary union of territorial ownership and local government, under the condition, a little confused and precarious, of subordinated relations and duties between suzerain and vassal—such was, in law and in fact, the feudal order of things. From the ninth to the tenth century it had acquired full force.
This order of things being thus well defined, we find ourselves face to face with an indisputable historic fact: no period, no system has ever, in France, remained so odious to the public instincts. And this antipathy is not peculiar to our age, nor merely the fruit of that great revolution which not long since separated, as by a gulf, the French present from its past. Go back to any portion of French history, and stop where you will; and you will everywhere find the feudal system considered, by the mass of the population, a foe to be fought and fought down at any price. At all times, whoever dealt it a blow has been popular in France.
The reasons for this fact are not all, or even the chief of them, to be traced to the evils which, in France, the people had to endure under the feudal system. It is not evil plight which is most detested and feared by peoples; they have more than once borne, faced, and almost wooed it, and there are woful epochs, the memory of which has remained dear. It is in the political character of feudalism, in the nature and shape of its power, that we find lurking that element of popular aversion which, in France at least, it has never ceased to inspire.
It was a confederation of petty sovereigns, of petty despots, unequal amongst themselves, and having, one towards another, certain duties and rights, but invested in their own domains, over their personal and direct subjects, with arbitrary and absolute power. That is the essential element of the feudal system; therein it differs from every other aristocracy, every other form of government.
There has been no scarcity in this world of aristocracies and despotisms. There have been peoples arbitrarily governed, nay, absolutely possessed by a single man, by a college of priests, by a body of patricians. But none of these despotic governments was like the feudal system.
In the case where the sovereign power has been placed in the hands of a single man, the condition of the people has been servile and woful. At bottom the feudal system was somewhat better; and it will presently be explained why. Meanwhile, it must be acknowledged that that condition often appeared less burdensome, and obtained more easy acceptance than the feudal system. It was because, under the great absolute monarchies, men did, nevertheless, obtain some sort of equality and tranquillity. A shameful equality and a fatal tranquillity, no doubt; but such as peoples are sometimes contented with under the dominance of certain circumstances, or in the last gasp of their existence. Liberty, equality, and tranquillity were all alike wanting, from the tenth to the thirteenth century, to the inhabitants of each lord's domains; their sovereign was at their very doors, and none of them was hidden from him, or beyond reach of his mighty arm. Of all tyrannies, the worst is that which can thus keep account of its subjects, and which sees, from its seat, the limits of its empire. The caprices of the human will then show themselves in all their intolerable extravagance, and, moreover, with irresistible promptness. It is then, too, that inequality of conditions makes itself more rudely felt; riches, might, independence, every advantage and every right present themselves every instant to the gaze of misery, weakness, and servitude. The inhabitants of fiefs could not find consolation in the bosom of tranquillity; incessantly mixed up in the quarrels of their lord, a prey to his neighbors' devastations, they led a life still more precarious and still more restless than that of the lords themselves, and they had to put up at one and the same time with the presence of war, privilege, and absolute power. Nor did the rule of feudalism differ less from that of a college of priests or a senate of patricians than from the despotism of an individual. In the two former systems we have an aristocratic body governing the mass of the people; in the feudal system we have an aristocracy resolved into individuals, each of whom governs on his own private account a certain number of persons dependent upon him alone. Be the aristocratic body a clergy, its power has its root in creeds which are common to itself and its subjects. Now, in every creed common to those who command and those who obey there is a moral tie, an element of sympathetic equality, and on the part of those who obey a tacit adhesion to the rule. Be it a senate of patricians that reigns, it cannot govern so capriciously, so arbitrarily, as an individual. There are differences and discussions in the very bosom of the government; there may be, nay, there always are, formed factions, parties which, in order to arrive at their own ends, strive to conciliate the favor of the people, sometimes take in hand its interests, and, however bad may be its condition, the people, by sharing in its masters' rivalries, exercises some sort of influence over its own destiny. Feudalism was not, properly speaking, an aristocratic government, a senate of kings—to use the language used by Cineas to Pyrrhus; it was a collection of individual despotisms, exercised by isolated aristocrats, each of whom, being sovereign in his own domains, had to give no account to another, and asked nobody's opinion about his conduct towards his subjects.
Is it astonishing that such a system incurred, on the part of the peoples, more hatred than even those which had reduced them to a more monotonous and more lasting servitude? There was despotism, just as in pure monarchies, and there was privilege, just as in the very closest aristocracies. And both obtruded themselves in the most offensive, and, so to speak, crude form. Despotism was not tapered off by means of the distant and elevation of a throne; and privilege did not veil itself behind the majesty of a large body. Both were the appurtenances of an individual ever present and ever alone, ever at his subjects' doors, and never called upon, in dealing with their lot, to gather his peers around him.
And now we will leave the subjects in the case of feudalism, and consider the masters, the owners of fiefs, and their relations one with another. We here behold quite a different spectacle; we see liberties, rights, and guarantees, which not only give protection and honor to those who enjoy them, but of which the tendency and effect are to open to the subject population an outlet towards a better future.
It could not, in fact, be otherwise: for, on the one hand, feudal society was not wanting in dignity and glory; and, on the other, the feudal system did not, as the theocracy of Egypt or the despotism of Asia did, condemn its subjects irretrievably to slavery. It oppressed them; but they ended by having the power as well as the will to go free.
It is the fault of pure monarchy to set up power so high, and encompass it with such splendor, that the possessor's head is turned, and that those who are beneath it dare scarcely look upon it. The sovereign thinks himself a god; and the people fall down and worship him. But it was not so in society under owners of fiefs: the grandeur was neither dazzling nor unapproachable; it was but a short step from vassal to suzerain; they lived familiarly one with another, without any possibility that superiority should think itself illimitable, or subordination think itself servile. Thence came that extension of the domestic circle, that ennoblement of personal service, from which sprang one of the most generous sentiments of the middle ages, fealty, which reconciled the dignity of the man with the devotion of the vassal.
Further, it was not from a numerous aristocratic senate, but from himself, and almost from himself alone, that every possessor of fiefs derived his strength and his lustre. Isolated as he was in his domains, it was for him to maintain himself therein, to extend them, to keep his subjects submissive and his vassals faithful, and to correct those who were wanting in obedience to him, or who ignored their duties as members of the feudal hierarchy. It was, as it were, a people consisting of scattered citizens, of whom each, ever armed, accompanied by his following or intrenched in his castle, kept watch himself over his own safety and his own rights, relying far more on his own courage and his own renown than on the protection of the public authorities. Such a condition bears less resemblance to an organized and settled society than to a constant prospect of peril and war; but the energy and the dignity of the individual were kept up in it, and a more extended and better regulated society might issue therefrom.
And it did issue. This society of the future was not slow to sprout and grow in the midst of that feudal system so turbulent, so oppressive, so detested. For five centuries, from the invasion of the barbarians to the fall of the Carlovingians, France presents the appearance of being stationary in the middle of chaos. Over this long, dark space of anarchy, feudalism is slowly taking shape, at the expense, at one time, of liberty, at another, of order; not as a real rectification of the social condition, but as the only order of things which could possibly acquire fixity, as, in fact, a sort of unpleasant but necessary alternative. No sooner is the feudal system in force, than, with its victory scarcely secured, it is attacked in the lower grades by the mass of the people attempting to regain certain liberties, ownerships, and rights, and in the highest by royalty laboring to recover its public character, to become once more the head of a nation. It is no longer the case of free men in a vague and dubious position, unsuccessfully defending, against the nomination of the chieftains whose lands they inhabit, the wreck of their independence, whether Gallic, or Roman, or barbaric; it is the case of burgesses, agriculturists, and serfs, who know well what their grievances and who their oppressors are, and who are working to get free. It is no longer the case of a king doubtful about his title and the nature of his power, at one time a chieftain of warriors, at another the anointed of the Most High; here a mayor of the palace of some sluggard barbarian, there the heir of the emperors of Rome; a sovereign tossing about confusedly amidst followers or servitors eager at one time to invade his authority, at another to render themselves completely isolated: it is the case of one of the premier feudal lords exerting himself to become the master of all, to change his suzerainty into sovereignty. Thus, in spite of the servitude into which the people had sunk at the end of the tenth century, from this moment the enfranchisement of the people makes way. In spite of the weakness, or rather nullity, of the regal power at the same epoch, from this moment the regal power begins to gain ground. That monarchical system which the genius of Charlemagne could not found, kings far inferior to Charlemagne will little by little make triumphant. Those liberties and those guarantees which the German warriors were incapable of transmitting to a well-regulated society, the commonalty will regain one after another. Nothing but feudalism could have sprung from the womb of barbarism; but scarcely is feudalism established when we see monarchy and liberty nascent and growing in its womb.
From the end of the ninth to the end of the tenth century, two families were, in French history, the representatives and instruments of the two systems thus confronted and conflicting at that epoch, the imperial which was falling, and the feudal which was rising. After the death of Charlemagne, his descendants, to the number of ten, from Louis the Debonnair to Louis the Sluggard, strove obstinately, but in vain, to maintain the unity of the empire and the unity of the central power. In four generations, on the other hand, the descendants of Robert the Strong climbed to the head of feudal France. The former, though German in race, were imbued with the maxims, the traditions, and the pretensions of that Roman world which had been for a while resuscitated by their glorious ancestor; and they claimed it as their heritage. The latter preserved, at their settlement upon Gallo-Roman territory, Germanic sentiments, manners, and instincts, and were occupied only with the idea of getting more and more settled, and greater and greater in the new society which was little by little being formed upon the soil won by the barbarians, their forefathers. Louis the Ultra-marine and Lothaire were not, we may suppose, less personally brave than Robert the Strong and his son Eudes; but when the Northmen put the Frankish dominions in peril, it was not to the descendants of Charlemagne, not to the emperor Charles the Fat, but to the local and feudal chieftain, to Eudes, count of Paris, that the population turned for salvation: and Eudes it was who saved them.
In this painful parturition of French monarchy, one fact deserves to be remarked, and that is, the lasting respect attached, in the minds of the people, to the name and the reminiscences of the Carlovingian rule, notwithstanding its decay. It was not alone the lustre of that name, and of the memory of Charlemagne which inspired and prolonged this respect; a certain instinctive feeling about the worth of hereditary monarchy, as an element of stability and order, already existed amongst the populations, and glimpses thereof were visible amongst the rivals of the royal family in the hour of its dissolution. It had been consecrated by religion; the title of anointed of the Most High was united, in its case, to that of lawful heir. Why did Hugh the Great, duke of France, in spite of favorable opportunities and very palpable temptations, abstain perseveringly from taking the crown, and leave it tottering upon the heads of Louis the Ultramarine and Lothaire? Why did his son, Hugh Capet himself, wait, for his election as king, until Louis the Sluggard was dead, and the Carlovingian line had only a collateral and discredited representative? In these hesitations and lingerings of the great feudal chieftains, there is a forecast of the authority already vested in the principle of hereditary monarchy, at the very moment when it was about to be violated, and of the great part which would be played by that principle in the history of France.
At last the day of decision arrived for Hugh Capet. There is nothing to show that he had conspired to hasten it, but he had foreseen the probability of it, and, if he had done nothing to pave the way for it, he had held himself, so far as he was concerned, in readiness for it. During a trip which he made to Rome in 981, he had entered into kindly personal relations with the Emperor Otho II., king of Germany, the most important of France's neighbors, and the most disposed to meddle in her affairs. In France, Hugh Capet had formed a close friendship with Adalberon, archbishop of Rheims, the most notable and most able of the French prelates. The event showed the value of such a friend. On the 21st of May, 987, King Louis V. died without issue; and, after his obsequies, the grandees of the kingdom met together at Senlis. We will here borrow the text of a contemporary witness, Richer, the only one of the chroniclers of that age who deserves the name of historian, whether for the authenticity of his testimony or the extent and clearness of his narrative. "The bishop," he says, "took his place, together with the duke, in the midst of the assembly, and said to them, 'I come and sit down amongst you to treat of the affairs of the state. Far from me be any design of saying anything but what has for aim the advantage of the common weal. As I do not see here all the princes whose wisdom and energy might be useful in the government of the kingdom, it seems to me that the choice of a king should be put off for some time, in order that, at a period fixed upon, all may be able to meet in assembly, and that every opinion, having been discussed and set forth in the face of day, may thus produce its full effect. May it please you, then, all of ye who are here assembled to deliberate, to bind yourselves in conjunction with me by oath to this illustrious duke, and to promise between his hands not to engage yourselves in any way in the election of a Head, and not to do anything to this end until we be re-assembled here to deliberate upon that choice.' This opinion was well received and approved of by all: oath was taken between the hands of the duke, and the time was fixed at which the meeting should assemble again."
Before the day fixed for re-assembling, the last of the descendants of Charlemagne, Charles, duke of Lower Lorraine, brother of the late King Lothaire, and paternal uncle of the late King Louis, "went to Rheims in quest of the archbishop, and thus spake to him about his rights to the throne: 'All the world knoweth, venerable father, that, by hereditary right, I ought to succeed my brother and my nephew. I am wanting in nought that should be required, before all, from those who ought to reign, to wit, birth and the courage to dare. Wherefore am I thrust out from the territory which all the world knows to have been possessed by my ancestors? To whom could I better address myself than to you, when all the supports of my race have disappeared? To whom, bereft as I am of honorable protection, should I have recourse but to you? By whom, if not by you, should I be restored to the honors of my fathers? Please God things turn out favorably for me and for my fortunes! Rejected, what, can become of me save to be exhibited as a spectacle to all who look on me? Suffer yourself to be moved by some feeling of humanity: be compassionate towards a man who has been tried by so many reverses!'"
Such language was more calculated to inspire contempt than compassion. "The metropolitan, firm in his resolution, gave for answer these few words: 'Thou hast ever been associated with the perjured, the sacrilegious, and the wicked of every sort, and now thou art still unwilling to separate from them: how canst thou, in company with such men, and by means of such men, seek to attain to the sovereign power?' And when Charles replied that he must not abandon his friends, but rather gain over others, the bishop said to himself, 'Now that he possesses no position of dignity, he hath allied himself with the wicked, whose companionship he will not, in any way, give up: what misfortune would it be for the good if he were elected to the throne!' To Charles, however, he made answer that he would do nought without the consent of the princes; and so left him."
At the time fixed, probably the 29th or 30th of June, 987, the grandees of Frankish Gaul who had bound themselves by oath re-assembled at Senlis. Hugh Capet was present with his brother Henry of Burgundy, and his brother-in-law Richard the Fearless, duke of Normandy. The majority of the direct vassals of the crown were also there—Foulques Nerra (the Black), count of Anjou; Eudes, count of Blois, Chartres, and Tours; Bouchard, count of Vent-Mine and Corbeil; Gautier, count of Vexin; and Hugh, count of Maine. Few counts came from beyond the Loire; and some of the lords in the North, amongst others Arnulf II., count of Flanders, and the lords of Vermandois were likewise missing. "When those present were in regular assembly, Archbishop Adalheron, with the assent of Duke Hugh, thus spake unto them: 'Louis, of blessed memory, having been taken from us without leaving issue, it hath become necessary to engage seriously in seeking who may take his place upon the throne, to the end that the common weal remain not in peril, neglected and without a head. That is why on the last occasion we deemed it useful to put off this matter, in order that each of ye might come hither and submit to the assembly the opinion with which God should have inspired him, and that from all those sentiments might be drawn what is the general will. Here be we assembled: let us, then, be guided by our wisdom and our good faith to act in such sort that hatred stifle not reason, and affection distort not truth. We be not ignorant that Charles hath his partisans, who maintain that he ought to come to the throne transmitted to him by his relatives. But if we examine this question, the throne is not acquired by hereditary right, and we be bound to place at the head of the kingdom none but him who not only hath the distinction of corporeal nobility, but hath also honor to recommend him and magnanimity to rest upon. We read in the annals that to emperors of illustrious race, whom their own laches caused to fall from power, succeeded others, at one time similar, at another different; but what dignity could we confer on Charles, who hath not honor for his guide, who is enfeebled by lethargy, and who, finally, hath lost head so far that he hath no shame in serving a foreign king, and in misuniting himself to a woman taken from the rank of the knights his vassals? How could the puissant duke brook that a woman issuing from a family of his vassals should become queen, and have dominion over him? How could he walk behind her whose equals and even superiors bend the knee before him and place their hands beneath his feet? Examine carefully into the matter, and consider that Charles hath been rejected more through his own fault than that of others. Decide ye rather for the good than the ill of the common weal. If ye wish it ill, make Charles sovereign; if ye hold to its prosperity, crown Hugh, the illustrious duke. Let attachment to Charles seduce nobody, and let hatred towards the duke distract nobody, from the common interest. . . . Give us then, for our head, the duke, who has deeds, nobility, and troops to recommend him; the duke, in whom ye will find a defender not only of the common weal, but also of your private interests. Thanks to his benevolence, ye will have in him a father. Who hath had recourse to him and hath not found protection? Who, that hath been torn from the care of home, hath not been restored thereto by him?'
"This opinion having been proclaimed and well received, Duke Hugh was unanimously raised to the throne, crowned on the 1st of July by the metropolitan and the other bishops, and recognized as king by the Gauls, the Britons, the Normans, the Aquitanians, the Goths, the Spaniards, and the Gascons. Surrounded by the grandees of the kingdom, he passed decrees and promulgated laws according to royal custom, regulating successfully and disposing of all matters. That he might deserve so much good fortune, and under the inspiration of so many prosperous circumstances, he gave himself up to deep piety. Wishing to have a certainty of leaving, after his death, an heir to the throne, he conferred with his grandees, and after holding council with them he first sent a deputation to the metropolitan of Rheims, who was then at Orleans, and subsequently went himself to see him touching the association of his son Robert with himself upon the throne. The archbishop having told him that two kings could not be, regularly, created in one and the same year, he immediately showed a letter sent by Borel, duke of inner Spain, proving that that duke requested help against the barbarians. . . . The metropolitan, seeing advantage was likely to result, ultimately yielded to the king's reasons; and when the grandees were assembled, at the festival of our Lord's nativity, to celebrate the coronation, Hugh assumed the purple, and he crowned solemnly, in the basilica of Sainte- Croix, his son Robert, amidst the acclamations of the French."
Thus was founded the dynasty of the Capetians, under the double influence of German manners and feudal connections. Amongst the ancient Germans royal heirship was generally confined to one and the same family; but election was often joined with heirship, and had more than once thrust the latter aside. Hugh Capet was head of the family which was the most illustrious in his time and closest to the throne, on which the personal merits of Counts Eudes and Robert had already twice seated it. He was also one of the greatest chieftains of feudal society, duke of the country which was already called France, and count of Paris—of that city which Clovis, after his victories, had chosen as the centre of his dominions. In view of the Roman rather than Germanic pretensions of the Carlovingian heirs and of their admitted decay, the rise of Hugh Capet was the natural consequence of the principal facts as well as of the manners of the period, and the crowning manifestation of the new social condition in France, that is, feudalism. Accordingly the event reached completion and confirmation without any great obstacle. The Carlovingian, Charles of Lorraine, vainly attempted to assert his rights; but after some gleams of success, he died in 992, and his descendants fell, if not into obscurity, at least into political insignificance. In vain, again, did certain feudal lords, especially in Southern France, refuse for some time their adhesion to Hugh Capet. One of them, Adalbert, count of Perigord, has remained almost famous for having made to Hugh Capet's question, "Who made thee count?" the proud answer, "Who made thee king?" The pride, however, of Count Adalbert had more bark than bite. Hugh possessed that intelligent and patient moderation, which, when a position is once acquired, is the best pledge of continuance. Several facts indicate that he did not underestimate the worth and range of his title of king. At the same time that by getting his son Robert crowned with him he secured for his line the next succession, he also performed several acts which went beyond the limits of his feudal domains, and proclaimed to all the kingdom the presence of the king. But those acts were temperate and wise; and they paved the way for the future without anticipating it. Hugh Capet confined himself carefully to the sphere of his recognized rights as well as of his effective strength, and his government remained faithful to the character of the revolution which had raised him to the throne, at the same time that it gave warning of the future progress of royalty independently of and over the head of feudalism. When he died, on the 24th of October, 996, the crown, which he hesitated, they say, to wear on his own head, passed without obstacle to his son Robert, and the course which was to be followed for eight centuries, under the government of his descendants, by civilization in France, began to develop itself.
It has already been pointed out, in the case of Adalberon, archbishop of Rheims, what part was taken by the clergy in this second change of dynasty; but the part played by it was so important and novel that we must make a somewhat more detailed acquaintance with the real character of it and the principal actor in it. When, in 751, Pepin the Short became king in the place of the last Merovingian, it was, as we have seen, Pope Zachary who decided that "it was better to give the title of king to him who really exercised the sovereign power than to him who bore only its name." Three years later, in 754, it was Pope Stephen II. who came over to France to anoint King Pepin, and, forty-six years afterwards, in 800, it was Pope Leo III. who proclaimed Charlemagne emperor of the West. From the Papacy, then, on the accession of the Carlovingians, came the principal decisions and steps. The reciprocal services rendered one to the other by the two powers, and still more, perhaps, the similarity of their maxims as to the unity of the empire, established between the Papacy and the Carlovingians strong ties of gratitude and policy; and, accordingly, when the Carlovingian dynasty was in danger, the court of Rome was grieved and troubled; it was hard for her to see the fall of a dynasty for which she had done so much and which had done so much for her. Far, then, from aiding the accession of the new dynasty, she showed herself favorable to the old, and tried to save it without herself becoming too deeply compromised. Such was, from 985 to 996, the attitude of Pope John XVI., at the crisis which placed Hugh Capet upon the throne. In spite of this policy on the part of the Papacy, the French Church took the initiative in the event, and supported the new king; the Archbishop of Rheims affirmed the right of the people to accomplish a change of dynasty, and anointed Hugh Capet and his son Robert. The accession of the Capetians was a work independent of all foreign influence, and strictly national, in Church as well as in State.
The authority of Adalberon was of great weight in the matter. As archbishop he was full of zeal, and at the same time of wisdom in ecclesiastical administration. Engaging in politics, he showed boldness in attempting a great change in the state, and ability in carrying it out without precipitation as well as without hesitation. He had for his secretary and teacher a simple priest of Auvergne, who exercised over this enterprise an influence more continuous and still more effectual than that of his archbishop. Gerbert, born at Aurillac, and brought up in the monastery of St. Geraud, had, when he was summoned to the directorate of the school of Rheims, already made a trip to Spain, visited Rome, and won the esteem of Pope John XIII. and of the Emperor Otho II., and had thus had a close view of the great personages and great questions, ecclesiastical and secular, of his time. On his establishment at Rheims, he pursued a double course with a double end: he was fond of study, science, and the investigation of truth, but he had also a taste for the sphere of politics and of the world; he excelled in the art of instructing, but also in the art of pleasing; and the address of the courtier was in him united with the learning of the doctor. His was a mind lofty, broad, searching, prolific, open to conviction, and yet inclined to give way, either from calculation or attraction, to contrary ideas, but certain to recur, under favorable circumstances, to its original purpose. There was in him almost as much changeableness as zeal for the cause he embraced. He espoused and energetically supported the elevation of a new dynasty and the independence of the Roman Church. He was very active in the cause of Hugh Capet; but he was more than once on the point of going over to King Lothaire or to the pretender Charles of Lorraine. He was in his time, even more resolutely than Bossuet in the seventeenth century, the defender and practiser of what have since been called the liberties of the Gallican Church, and in 992 he became, on this ground, Archbishop of Rheims; but, after having been interdicted, in 995, by Pope John XVI., from the exercise of his episcopal functions in France, he obtained, in 998, from Pope Gregory V., the archbishopric of Ravenna in Italy, and the favor of Otho III. was not unconnected, in 999, with his elevation to the Holy See, which he occupied for four years, with the title of Sylvester II., whilst putting in practice, but with moderation and dignity, maxims very different from those which he had supported, fifteen years before, as a French bishop. He became, at this later period of his life, so much the more estranged from France in that he was embroiled with Hugh Capet's son and successor, King Robert, whose quondam preceptor he had been and of whose marriage with Queen Bertha, widow of Eudes, count of Blois, he had honestly disapproved.
In 995, just when he had been interdicted by Pope John X VI. from his functions as Archbishop of Rheims, Gerbert wrote to the abbot and brethren of the monastery of St. Geraud, where he had been brought up, "And now farewell to your holy community; farewell to those whom I knew in old times, or who were connected with me by blood, if there still survive any whose names, if not their features, have remained upon my memory. Not that I have forgotten them through pride; but I am broken down, and—if it must be said—changed by the ferocity of barbarians; what I learned in my boyhood I forgot in my youth; what I desired in my youth, I despised in my old age. Such are the fruits thou hast borne for me, O pleasure! Such are the joys afforded by the honors of the world! Believe my experience of it: the higher the great are outwardly raised by glory, the more cruel is their inward anguish!"
Length of life brings, in the soul of the ambitious, days of hearty undeception; but it does not discourage them from their course of ambition. Gerbert was, amongst the ambitious, at the same time one of the most exalted in point of intellect and one of the most persistent as well as restless in attachment to the affairs of the world.