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Dec. 24, 2021

66 – War for the Throne Part 2

66 – War for the Throne Part 2

Part 2 of War for the Throne sees the Carolingian House fail and a new dynasty take its place.


The year is 936, and King Rodolphe is dead. Yet again, West Francia is in a political crisis over who will be the next king. The only Carolingian with a strong claim to the throne had been exiled to England since he was a baby, and was derisively called ‘Louis d’Outremer,’ ‘Louis from overseas.’ The obvious choice for king was Hugh. As head of the House of Robert le Fort, Hugh was the most powerful noble in all of West Francia. This made other nobles, notably Heribert of Vermandois, oppose his coronation. Hugh was already powerful enough. In the words of historian Jim Bradbury, “He held the counties of Paris, Étampes, Tours, Angers, Poitiers and Orléans, as well as the [polities] of Blois, Chartres and Chateaudun. He was recognized as lord by the counts of Normandy, Vendome, Dreux, Melun and Beauvais. He controlled lands in Berry and Maine. He was lay abbot or count-abbot of the Robertian monasteries, including St-Martin of Tours, Marmoutier, St-Germain-des-Pres and St-Denis.”

With the crown on his head Hugh’s political rivals would have even more to fear. Hugh likely could have seized the throne if he had wanted so it’s surprising that he didn’t. When Rodolphe died, Hugh sent emissaries to England to recall Louis. When Louis arrived at Boulougne-sur-Mer, Hugh led the nobility in acclaiming him as their rightful king and ushered the fifteen year-old to Reims where he was crowned Louis IV on 19 June 936.

Why did Hugh uplift another Carolingian? One of the chronicles claims that Hugh submitted to Louis in order to undo the crime his father had committed by rebelling against Louis’ father, Charles le Simple. This is almost certainly propaganda. More likely, Hugh did not want to stretch himself too thin. The position of King of West Francia carried with it incredible responsibilities and only moderate power. Even as Hugh submitted to Louis IV, he remained the most powerful man in the entire kingdom. By leading the nobles in acclaiming Louis IV, Hugh even forced the king to give him a new title: Duke of the Franks, second in all matters only to the king himself. This title carried incredible symbolic weight, since Charles Martel held the title Duke and Prince of the Franks back when he was the real power in West Francia and the king a mere figurehead. Hugh may very well have been posturing as a new Charles Martel. Like Charles he was the most powerful man in the kingdom and like Charles he was a great warrior who defended the realm from non-Christian attacks, though while Charles fought Muslims in the southwest, Hugh fought Viking pagans in the north. Thus, Hugh decided it was better to be a new Charles Martel ruling behind the throne than a Robert I, who died under the weight of the crown. No, instead of wearing a crown on his head, Hugh preferred to wear a monastic hood called a chape or cappa, leading some to nickname him ‘Hugh Capet,’ though most historians use that name to refer to his son. The elder Hugh is usually called Hugues le Grand, Hugh the Great, or Hugues le Blanc, Hugh the White, for his pale skin.

Louis IV was initially ill-suited for the job. He only learned how to speak Old English, and could not understand either Old French or Latin, meaning he literally couldn’t talk to anyone in his kingdom, which he had not set foot in since he was an infant. Hugh ruled in his stead, as Duke of the Franks and Prince of Neustria. In 937 Louis tried to assert his independence from Hugh and rule in his own right by appealing to other powerful nobles such as Artald, Archbishop of Reims, Hugh the Black of northern Burgundy and Guillaume Longue-Épée, in English: William Longsword, son of Rollo and leader of the Normans. Louis also appealed to Heribert of Vermandois, but Heribert was never truly loyal; by all accounts Heribert only cared for Heribert.

In 938 Louis and Hugh openly warred against each other when a group of nobles pleaded for Hugh to assist them against the king’s unjust domination. Hugh captured one of Louis’ fortresses and the two signed a temporary peace. The following year the tide of war shifted. With Hugh the Black on his side Louis invaded Hugh the Great’s territory forcing him to hand over hostages.

That year Gislebert led much of the nobility of Lotharingia in rebellion against King Otto I and this aristocratic cabal offered Louis IV their allegiance. This was an opportunity Louis could not afford to pass up, as he believed that the new lands would finally give him the power to counter Hugh. Louis IV marched on Verdun and received the acclaim of the local nobility, while the great magnates raised an army to defend against Otto I. The German king’s forces met the rebellious dukes at Andernach on 2 October 939. Andernach has a special, though often overlooked, place in German history. 63 years prior, on the 8 October 876, the leader of the Western Franks, Charles the Bald, met a smaller German force. Charles believed he would conquer the German lands and reclaim the whole empire, but the Germans defeated him and repulsed the Franks. In this Battle of Andernach it wasn’t Western Franks versus Germans but Lotharingians versus Germans, though just as before it was a conflict over whether or not a Western king could dominate east of his realm. Yet again, the Germans were victorious. Gislebert escaped the battle but his horse stumbled while crossing a river and he drowned. Otto I rapidly reclaimed Lotharingia and called Hugh, Heribert and Guillame Longue-Épée to a council where they united against King Louis IV.

By 940 Louis IV was in dire straits. His only powerful ally was Hugh the Black of Burgundy. Early that year he did get Guillaume to pledge fealty to him…but then Guillaume joined Hugh the Great and Heribert in besieging Reims. If Guillaume had a house motto it would be, “I’m always playing both sides so I always come out on top.” Meanwhile Otto I erected fortifications across the Seine from Hugh the Black’s territory, which scared him into offering hostages and promising not to fight Hugh the Great or Heribert, who were Otto I’s allies. In 941 Louis placed an ally in power in Laon, prompting Hugh and Heribert to besiege the city. Louis IV went to the Duchy of Burgundy to gather support. On his way back, Hugh and Heribert ambushed the king’s army, crushing it. The king himself was dragged away from the battle by his loyal men who understood the fight was lost.

Louis IV was in a bad spot. By 942, it would have taken divine intervention for him to recover his kingly power. [Priestly chanting sound effect] Oh wait, what’s that? A deus ex machina? Why yes, it’s Pope Stephen IX with a proclamation that all inhabitants of West Francia and Burgundy must accept Louis IV as their king, and any who forcefully opposed him would be excommunicated. The order led bishops across West Francia to intercede with the great nobles on Louis IV’s behalf, and the great lords reconciled with him, even Hugh. Louis IV emerged from the brink of irrelevance and was yet again one of the most powerful rulers in West Francia.

Louis IV’s luck continued into the next year, when Guillaume Longue-Epée was assassinated. Louis IV supported his ten-year-old son Richard I to succeed him and gained the allegiance of many Normans, although some declared for Hugh. Shortly thereafter Heribert died, and his realm was divided between his four sons, further weakening Louis IV’s enemies. Finally, Louis IV and Hugh mutually campaigned against the Northman to subjugate them and convert them to Christianity. Like Jesus Christ, Louis IV’s kingship had been resurrected from the dead.

For the next two years Louis IV put down the last vestiges of revolt around Reims and Vermandois, while waging war against the Normans. Then things took a hard dramatic turn when in 945 Harold, Norman ruler of Bayeux, and vassal of the king, called upon Louis IV. The king agreed to meet with him, riding out with only a small cohort of loyalists. Harold arrived at the meeting place with a large force which ambushed Louis IV and slaughtered all of his followers, save the king himself and one man, both of which fled to Rouen. There Louis IV was betrayed again, and the guard at Rouen seized him and held him as hostage. The Normans then demanded Queen Gerberga send her two eldest sons Lotaire and Charles as hostages. Gerberga kept Lotaire but gave Charles to the Northmen. So, that’s one way to find out you’re not mom’s favorite. Flodoard recounts that Hugh must have been involved in the Norman treachery; a biased but probably accurate opinion, given that after receiving hostages the Normans handed over Louis IV into Hugh’s care.

In 946 nobles across West Francia and even emissaries from England, pressured Hugh to release Louis IV. Hugh restored his king, but not before taking Laon, the jewel of what little lands remained in the king’s personal demesne. With scant land or strong castrums under his control, Louis IV was reduced to a figurehead monarch while Hugh was the ruler and arbiter of West Francia. But no one has ever gained power without making enemies, and Hugh had a powerful enemy in the east. Otto I, King of the Germans, was disturbed at Hugh’s incredible power and how he so easily dealt with Louis IV. Furthermore, Queen Gerberga sent emissaries to Otto I begging him to liberate Louis IV from Hugh’s oppressive influence. Otto I seized the opportunity and amassed a large army, which linked up with a force led by Conrad, King of Burgundy, Arnulf, Count of Flanders and Louis IV’s remaining loyalists. Thus, the three kings and the powerful count invaded West Francia.

The coalition forces arrived at Laon, but decided that the castrum was impregnable and moved on to Reims. After besieging it for a few days the archbishop surrendered the city. Then they marched against the castrum of Senlis. The coalition leaders saw the fortifications and decided a siege would be too costly. Hugh’s defensive strategy was working, and the invading armies couldn’t gain a foothold in West Francia. Unable to enter Hugh’s territory they turned north to attack his ally Richard I, Duke of the Normans. Otto I’s allies believed that the fourteen year-old duke and the Normans were weak compared to Hugh and his elite soldiers. They could not have been more wrong; the Normans were cunning, creative and utterly ruthless. Norman spies saw an army led by Otto I’s nephew march on the main road to Rouen, then passed on the information to an awaiting cavalry force. The cavalry burst upon the Germans, slaughtering them and their leader, in a battle which came to be known as La Mer Rouge, The Red Sea, for how much blood was spilled. To this day in Rouen there is a square called ‘place de la Rougemare.’

Passing by the dead, the coalition armies arrived at Rouen and laid siege to the city. The Normans couldn’t hope to defeat them in open combat so they used treachery to undo their enemies. Using double agents, the Normans spread the rumor that Otto I was negotiating a peace with Richard without consulting the Flemish. Count Arnulf of Flanders believed these and left the battlefield. After the Flemish left the Normans waited until nightfall. As the Germans slept the Norman cavalry charged into their midst sowing chaos and destruction before retreating back to the city walls. Otto I and his army survived but the war was becoming far too costly. What was supposed to be a quick campaign season to reinstate Louis IV turned into a disaster. The coalition forces had been rebuffed at every turn, save Reims. His nephew was killed and he lost far more than his enemies did. For all these reasons Otto I abandoned the field and returned to the east.

With few options, Louis IV stationed himself at Reims, where he held off an attack by Hugh and called on the realm to recognize him as the rightful ruler. After Louis IV repulsed a siege by Hugh it was his turn to launch a failed attack, this time on Montreuil. As I mentioned quite a few times before, the early medieval period had great fortifications but terrible siege equipment, meaning this period heavily favored defensive tactics. With neither side able to dislodge the other militarily, Louis IV turned to God to deliver him yet again. Well, first he had to talk to Otto I; Otto I had a closer connection to God at the time. In 948 Otto I convened a synod at Ingelheim of all the bishops of his kingdom, alongside those of Reims and Laon. There the bishops excommunicated Hugh for breaking his fidelity to his king. The synod was hardly definitive; after all it included no bishops of West Francia except those under the personal command of King Louis IV. But the combined weight of all the German bishops and their allies was a serious attack on Hugh’s authority. Moreover, Hugh always faced rebellious vassals; without a foreign invasion to unite the Franks, the lords in the west regarded Hugh as their primary threat. For two years Louis IV warred against Hugh until 950. Then Otto I sent Duke Conrad the Red of Lorraine to negotiate a peace. After these initial talks, Louis IV, Hugh and their respective armies encamped on opposite sides of the Marne. Emissaries passed back and forth and they agreed on a peace wherein Hugh would recognize Louis IV as his king.

Louis IV had spent decades asserting his right to rule. He had fought energetically and led numerous armies across a dozen campaigns across West Francia. After all that he controlled a few strips of land around Laon, while Hugh easily held much of the north and center. In 952 Hugh the Black, Duke of Burgundy died and Hugh the Great seized his duchy as well. While Hugh expanded his vast holdings, Louis IV was preoccupied fighting a Magyar invasion in Aquitaine and repulsing raids by Arnulf of Flanders in the north.

In the summer of 954 Louis IV was out riding his horse when he spotted a wolf. Louis urged his steed after the creature and the two sprinted through the forest in a chase that was so violent Louis IV’s horse threw him to the ground. The king’s men carried their injured lord to nearby Reims where he lingered until early September. He died either 33 or 34 years old and had ruled for 18 years. Louis d’Outremer had spent 15 years growing up in England only to be told he was the king of West Francia. Despite not speaking the language he came to the continent with a vigor and a will to rule. But by then the kings of the west were fading, their power somewhere between that of a great Carolingian monarch and a late-Merovingian figurehead. Despite all of Louis IV’s efforts and numerous anti-Hugh coalitions, royal power continued to wane.

When Louis IV died West Francia held its collective breath. On the one hand, the ageing Hugh the Great reassured Queen Gerberga that he would support Louis IV’s eldest son Lotaire, in English, Lothar, as the new king. But Lotaire was only 13 years old and Hugh was unrivaled in the west. If Hugh had wanted he could have easily swept Lotaire aside. But Hugh chose not to, and he bent his ageing knee to the teenager, who became king on 10 September 954. Hugh had spent a lifetime fighting for power and had succeeded. All he lacked was the crown. Yet, he was then 55 or 56 years old, and he knew his time was coming. If he did take the throne he risked plunging the realm into civil war while his three sons were all minors and not yet ready for such a conflict. Hugh toured throughout the west with Lotaire, parading in Laon, Paris, Orléans, Chartres, Tours, Blois and Aquitaine [Bradbury]. As compensation for Hugh’s backing Lotaire named him Duke of Burgundy and Duke of Aquitaine.

Hugh served honorably at the young king’s side, receiving him warmly in Paris for the Easter holiday before the two marched together to put down a rebellion in Aquitaine. On 16 June 956 Hugh died at Dordan, near Paris, aged either 57 or 58. He left behind his vast realms and titles to his two eldest sons, Hugh, known as Hugh Capet and Otto. Hugh the Great had committed his third son Odo to the church, as was common. Most of Hugh the Great’s power passed to his eldest, who ruled over Paris, Orléans and a number of important regions.

King Lotaire understood that the young Hugh would be his lifelong rival for power, even if they acted cordially in public. Lotaire’s first move against Hugh was to appoint his brother Otto to the position of Duke of Burgundy, splitting Robertian power. When Count Arnulf died in 965 Lotaire took Flanders which he hoped would be a useful stepping stone towards an invasion of Middle Francia. As usual, the West Frankish king believed that to enhance his power he needed to take Lotharingia. But the balance of power in the Frankish world had shifted east. The Germans had dominated Carolingian politics since Odo I. West Francia was its own realm and its kings were on paper independent. Yet, they relied on support from the German Emperor and his realm, which was alternately called ‘the Christian Empire’ or ‘the Roman Empire’ but which historians recognize as The Holy Roman Empire starting in 962 when the pope crowned Otto I uniting the German and Italian lands into one great Christian empire. This realm wouldn’t call itself The Holy Roman Empire until the 13th century, but it was the HRE in all but name.

Anyway, back to West Francia. King Lotaire didn’t get the memo that Otto I was the new bigshot in Europe and Christendom and he wanted to use his Carolingian heritage to reclaim Lotharingia. In 966 Lotaire married Otto I’s stepdaughter Emma of Italy, to further his ambitions. There was relative peace in the West and East Francias for a time, but in 976-977 Otto II faced a noble rebellion, which Lotaire may have secretly aided. Otto II quelled the uprising and decided to grant honores to men who would be more loyal to him. Otto II made Lotaire’s brother Charles Duke of Lower Lorraine, upsetting the king in the West who had exiled him after Charles accused Emma of having an affair with the bishop of Laon.

In 978 Lotaire took decisive action. Alongside his faithful, though unenthusiastic, ally Hugh Capet the Franks made a rapid march on Aachen. The forced march caught Otto II off-guard, but he and the empress managed to escape before the Franks arrived. After failing to capture the Emperor, Lotaire settled on pillaging the royal palace for three days, and notably turned the bronze eagle of Charlemagne to face west, towards his kingdom, whereas before the Germans had it facing east towards theirs. Lotaire led his forces back west, stopping only to besiege Metz, which held.

While taking the imperial palace must have felt great in the moment, Lotaire had poked a bear. Otto II summoned his vassals from across the empire and assembled an army that easily dwarfed Lotaire’s. The Germans and Italians marched west and in quick order took Reims, while razing the royal palaces at Compiègne, Attigny, and Soissons. Then Charles betrayed his brother and turned over Laon to Otto II. In return, the Emperor had Charles crowned king in the west. Then Otto II, Charles and their forces moved towards Paris and set up camp on the hill of Montmartre. But upon arriving they found Hugh Capet with a sizeable army defending the city. The Germans decided to raid the surrounding countryside for three days, perhaps in retribution for the three-day pillage of Aachen, before retreating east. As the Germans marched home Lotaire raised a force and shadowed them. Lotaire found Otto II’s army at the Aisne. Most had already crossed the river, leaving a much smaller force on the western bank, which the Franks fell upon, utterly slaughtering those Germans unfortunate enough to be in the rear-guard. With Otto II back in his empire, and his treacherous brother gone, West Francia was secure. The following year, in 980, Lotaire met Otto II at Margut-sur-Chiers where they negotiated a peace, wherein Lotaire renounced all claims to Lotharingia. But the peace was not just a strategic defeat vis-à-vis the Germans, it also antagonized Hugh Capet, who was not invited to discuss terms. Hugh considered this an assault on his honor; after all, he had loyally marched with the king during the invasion of Aachen, even though he personally was opposed to it. Furthermore, Hugh held out against the army at Paris, which forced Otto II to turn back in the first place. That Lotaire did not consult such a loyal and powerful vassal was a clear snub, and a sign which everyone understood: the king was signaling that his temporary alliance with Hugh against the Germans was over and now the Carolingians were again in conflict with the Robertians.

Hugh Capet knew an alliance with the Emperor would secure him against Lotaire’s schemes and he travelled to Rome. There he met the Emperor to discuss terms during which Jim Bradbury recounts, “An interesting episode occurred at the meeting when Otto II left his sword on a chair, and asked Hugh Capet to pass it to him. Hugh was about to do so when his companion Arnulf bishop of Orléans forestalled him, snatching up the sword and passing it to Otto. The point was that handing the sword could have been construed as making him Otto’s vassal…However, Otto did not seem upset by the failure of his trick. He was openly reconciled with Hugh and now it was Lotaire’s turn to feel suspicious and worried.”

Lotaire was understandably paranoid when he found out his most powerful internal rival met with his most powerful external rival. He called for Hugh’s arrest while simultaneously invading his territory in Neustria. On his return journey Hugh disguised himself as a servant and walked with the baggage train, successfully avoiding capture. When Hugh returned to his lands Lotaire knew his scheme had failed and the two made peace, though Hugh never trusted Lotaire again.

Next Lotaire decided he would forge his own alliance and married his fifteen year-old son Louis to the forty-year old Adelaide from Burgundy. Bradbury suggests that the couple probably never consummated the marriage and argues that “The couple did not get on; they could not stand to be in the same room together, and slept in different hostelries. They did not speak to each other except in public, and then briefly. [At one point] the lady tricked Louis into taking her home and then left him. She eloped with [Guillaume] count of Arles, which [the chronicler] Richer saw as ‘public adultery’. Louis quickly sought a divorce.”
On 7 December 983 Otto II died and left the empire to his three year-old son. Despite renouncing his claim to Lotharingia, Lotaire believed this was an opportunity he could not afford to pass up and raised an army to invade the middle kingdom. But Hugh refused to join him, and since Hugh refused so did many other Frankish lords. Thus, Lotaire entered with a far weaker force than he had hoped. Lotaire took Verdun, though he was personally injured in the foot during the siege. The king then attacked Reims, while simultaneously holding an in absentia trial for its archbishop Adalbero who he accused of treason. Hugh was a stalwart ally of the Catholic Church and he led a force to the city, rescuing the archbishop. This prompted Gerbert of Aurillac, an important French theologian and future pope, to write, “[Lotaire is] king in name only, Hugh is the real master.” From 984 through 986 Lotaire continued his war in Lotharingia to no avail. That spring he fell ill and died at Laon on 2 March at the age of 44. Like his father Louis d’Outremer, Lotaire spent decades fighting against the Robertians within West Francia and fighting with the Germans for control of Lotharingia and failed on both counts.

Lotaire left behind a nineteen year-old son, Louis V. Nine years before his death, Lotaire had Louis V crowned as co-ruler in 979, though this was just to secure his succession, as Louis V did not exercise real power until his father’s passing, and when I say ‘real power’ that is a bit of a stretch. The royal demesne was remarkably small by this point. Furthermore, the backbone of Carolingian rule going back to Charles Martel had been the Catholic Church, which served as a core administrative apparatus for the monarchy. Since the decline of royal power and the fragmentation of the realm, the monarchy no longer had a monopoly on religious power. Quite the opposite; Hugh held far more monasteries, churches and important holy sites than the king, and was known as a pious defender of Catholicism. In contrast, Lotaire regularly fought against bishops who disagreed with him, something which Louis V continued by maintaining his father’s siege against Reims as he hoped to defrock Archbishop Adalbero.

Louis V’s reign was off to a terrible start as he assaulted the holiest man in the kingdom. But Louis V did not live long enough to see the error of his ways. Louis V was out hunting in the forests near Senlis when he fell from his horse. On 22 May 987 he died at the age of 20. He was the second Louis in a row to die from falling off his horse, following his grandfather Louis IV. After the unremarkable king’s death Hugh marched to Compiègne and declared that the archbishop Adalbero was innocent, undoing the treason trial, the king’s only significant act during his reign. Louis V left behind no heirs; his only marriage ended in disaster. The only Carolingian capable of taking the throne was Charles, brother of Lotaire. But Charles was a traitor to his country for turning Laon over to the Germans. He was an enemy of the church for accusing a bishop of sleeping with the queen. He barely held any territory and what he did hold had been allocated to him by the German Emperor, making him beholden to a foreigner. Ironically, even the Germans didn’t like him; during the last war, Charles had sided with Lotaire against Otto III, who he viewed as weak on account of him being three years old. When Otto III’s loyalists won the war, Charles was in it deep, and he was despised as a faithless opportunist on both sides of the Rhine. Furthermore, the Germans were tired of the Carolingians in general, not just Charles in particular, since the Carolingians had a claim to Lotharingia. Charles’ wife was relatively unimportant and he was poor. Finally, in 980 when the bishop of Cambrai died Charles had sex in the deceased bishop’s bed, an insult which the clergy could not abide. Adalbero condemned Charles as a “man without honour, without faith, without character.” Francia’s hottest bachelor he was not.

Meanwhile, Hugh Capet was the most powerful man in the west. He was a defender of the Catholic Church, defender of Paris from the Germans. He was descended from two kings, including the legendary Odo I who protected Paris from the Vikings. He was wealthy. He was also married to Adelaide of Aquitaine, giving him authority over a regularly troublesome region. Importantly, he had no claim to Lotharingia or East Francia, meaning that the German Emperor could accept him and the Franks would not have to worry as much about their king leading them into costly wars in the east. The archbishop Adalbero championed Hugh as the best claimant to the throne, in no small part because Hugh had just saved him and his city. Not everyone was in favor of Hugh, but he was much more acceptable than the alternative. On 1 June 987 Adalbero crowned him at Noyon and on 3 July consecrated him at Reims.

The Carolingian dynasty had ruled for roughly two centuries from 751-987 with brief interruptions by Odo, Robert I and Rodolphe. Despite what later historians claimed the Carolingian House did not fail because their rulers became corrupt, incompetent or weak. The latter Carolingians were intelligent, powerful, energetic and morally decent, except for Charles of Lower Lorraine. Their house failed due to a lack of suitable heirs and the historical trend towards regionalization. Finally, they lost their monopoly on the Catholic Church’s administrative capabilities. Given how many dynasties rose and fell in the Middle Ages, the latter Carolingians were not failures by the standards of the time. They failed to live up to Charlemagne’s imperial designs, as only he had the wisdom and gravitas to maintain such an empire. In retrospect, perhaps Charlemagne should be blamed for shouldering his house with too large a realm to oversee.

The end of the Carolingians also meant the end of West Francia, Francia and of the Franks. Now, those words didn’t simply drop from the common lexicon in 987. But historians looking back at the rise of Hugh mark a definite change in what the words meant. Ever since Charlemagne created the vast Carolingian Empire, the traditional lands of the Franks from Clovis through to Pepin the Short, became part of a greater whole. What had been ‘Francia’ became ‘West Francia.’ West Francia was an administrative and political subunit of the Frankish Empire. Charlemagne’s grandsons divided the empire in practice, but they maintained the idea that each regnum was part of one united country. The Carolingians in various realms used this excuse to claim territory in the former empire as they asserted their rights to Charlemagne’s legacy. Hugh Capet was not a Carolingian. He made no claim to the old empire. That empire was over. The Germans had already moved on in 962 when the Emperor Otto I led a new dynasty in what later came to be known as The Holy Roman Empire, an entity which had its roots in the Carolingian tradition but which was separate from it. That was a German and Italian Empire, one whose rulers had little interest in conquering Francia. With Hugh’s ascendancy the west followed the Germans and abandoned the notion that they were just one part of a greater empire. With Hugh’s rise West Francia died and France was born.


The Annals of Flodoard of Reims, 919–966, edited and translated by Steven Fanning and Bernard S. Bachrach, 2011.

Jim Bradbury, The Capetians: Kings of France 987-1328, 2007.