1242 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.
CHAPTER LXXXV-FEUDAL FRANCE.
Louis V of France died
childless. With him the
French Carlovingians became extinct. Even before his death that once
illustrious line of kings
had sunk to a level with
the earth. The blood of Charlemagne no
more asserted itself as a living force in the
state. For many years the powerful Hugh Capet, son of Hugh the Great, had wielded
the power of the kingdom. Louis the Sluggard was no more than putty in his hands.
Now that the puppet king was dead, now
that only a distant collateral and discredited
representative might claim the crown, the
issue was squarely made whether Hugh
would himself accept an election to the
throne or allow the choice to fall upon another.
As soon as King Louis was dead the
French nobles assembled at Senlis. The
tide of public opinion ran strongly in the
direction of the choice of Hugh Capet. A
feeble effort was made by the remaining
descendant of the Carlovingians, Duke Charles
of Lower Lorraine, to obtain the royal power
for himself; but his claims were treated
with contempt. In June of 987 the grandees
reassembled at Senlis and proceeded to
an election. Count Hugh was present among
them and addressed the assembly. The
nobles were of one opinion as to him who
should be raised to the seat of Charlemagne.
Hugh Capet was unanimously elected, and
on the following day was crowned king of
the Gauls, the Bretons, the Normans, the
Aquitainians, the Goths, the Spaniards, and
the Basques. Thus, in the year 987, the Capetian line was substituted for the Carlovingian on the throne of France.
One of the first cares of the new king was
to establish the succession. He proposed
to the nobles that to secure the stability
of the kingdom his son Robert should be
associated with himself in the royal power.
At first the proposal was met with opposition. In the recent interval between the death of the Sluggard and the election of Hugh it had been urged by the champions
of the latter that the hereditary principle
ought not to prevail over fitness in the choice
of a king of France. Now there was a manifest disposition on the part of the supporters of the king to reverse the late rule
of action and restore the law of descent.
After some debates Duke Robert was solemnly crowned in the basilica of Sainte Croix, and associated with his father in the
The election of Hugh Capet to the throne
of France was the substitution of a feudal
kingdom in the place of the constitutional
monarchy established by Charlemagne. King
Hugh was the greatest feudal chieftain of his
times. He was duke of the country called
France, and count of the city of Paris. His
coronation as king of the French was a public
recognition of the fact that the Imperialistic
claims of the Carlovingians had given place
to Feudalism as the essential principle of
the state. The very nobles who had elected
Hugh to the throne forbare not presently to
assert their independence of it. A certain
Adelbert, who had participated in the recent
royal election, fell into an altercation with
his sovereign, and hot words passed between
them. "Who made thee Count?" demanded
the king of his vassal. And the vassal replied with the equally pertinent question,
"Who made thee King?" The incident is
illustrative of the fact that feudal insubordination had already triumphed over monarchical prerogative.
Duke Charles of Lorraine made a spasmodic and inglorious attempt to regain
the throne of his fathers. The struggle was
vain, being in the face of fate. A new order
had taken possession not only of France,
but of all Western Europe. In the year
992 Duke Charles died, and his family
fell into still greater obscurity than ever.
King Hugh, meanwhile, entered upon his
reign with wisdom and moderation, and the
throne was soon securely established in his
House. From the very first, however, it