1243 FEUDAL ASCENDENCY.---FEUDAL FRANCE.
was evident that the incipient struggle was
on between the independent claims of the
feudal baron and the assertion of kingly
authority. It was the beginning of a conflict which was to continue for centuries,
and which was finally to be decided in favor
of the crown by the triumph of Louis XI.
over Charles the Bold.
The reign of Hugh Capet was of nine
years' duration. He administered the affairs
of state wisely and well. He had the advantage of continuing the policy which
he himself had instituted during his uncrowned career before the death of the Sluggard. Under his auspices the civilization
of France, destined to remain under the
direction of his House for eight hundred
years, began to move forward with rapid
strides, and the kingdom soon surpassed in
refinement and culture any other state north
of the Alps. In 996 Hugh Capet died, and
was quietly succeeded by his son Robert,
already king-elect of France.
The new sovereign of the now feudal kingdom entered upon a long, obscure, and inglorious reign. No regular annals of the
period are in existence, and the partial records
which have been preserved are confused and
contradictory. In the year before his accession to the throne the king had taken in marriage Bertha, the widow of Eudes, count of
Chartres, for whom he had long cherished a
romantic affection. The Church of Rome,
however, was little given to romancing in such
matters. It happened that Robert and
his queen were cousins in the fourth degree,
and this relationship was, according to the
canons of the church, an insuperable obstacle
to marriage. Pope Gregory V issued an
edict ordering an immediate divorce under
pain of excommunication. But the marriage
clung together even under the dire anathema
They remained in the palace, abandoned by
their friends, destitute, suffering, starving;
for none durst bring them food or minister to
their necessities. The whole kingdom was
placed under an interdict. Still the law of
love prevailed in the royal bosom. At length
the queen became a mother, but her child
was born dead. Thereupon the monks proclaimed that it was the curse of God upon
the kingly pair for their unholy marriage.
They circulated the report that the dead
child was a monstrous deformity, having no
semblance to the offspring of man. Terror
now seized upon the mind of King Robert,
and he consented to divorce the queen.
Bertha was sent in her sorrow to a convent,
and there passed the remainder of her life
as a nun.
In abilities and energy Robert, who now
received the surname of the Pious, was
greatly inferior to his father. He paved his
way with good intentions, but the superstructure of his reign was reared of weakness and
folly. The king mixed an amiable disposition
and kindly designs with foolish