Page 1243

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

of Rome.

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