Page 1242

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

government.

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