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The Story of Old France by  H. A. Guerber
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THE LAST OF THE CAROLINGIANS

A
S the new king was not of the Carolingian race, many of the lords seized this pretext to refuse him obedience, and the country split up into several small parties, until there were as many as six crowned king in France at once!

The best and bravest of all these monarchs was Eudes, who went on fighting against the Normans, over whom he won two great victories. But he had to oppose them almost single-handed, for the peasants were afraid to venture out of the fortresses, even to till the land, and the nobles, jealous of Eudes's power, would not obey him. Many of them selected a king of their own, Charles III, the Simple (a brother of Louis III and Carloman), to rule France, and began a civil war to set him on the throne. First one party, then the other, had the advantage in this conflict, until finally Eudes died and Charles was left to rule alone.

All the early part of Charles the Simple's reign was troubled by Norman raids, and in 911, hoping to end them once for all, this king made a famous treaty with Rollo, promising him a large province on the coast, and his daughter's hand in marriage, if the Norman chief would only become a Christian, do homage to the French king for his lands, maintain order in his own territory, and defend the rest of France against the raids of his fellow-Normans.

[97] Rollo agreed to all this, but he was still so much of a barbarian that his rude manners greatly shocked the French courtiers. When told to do homage, for instance, by kneeling before the king, placing his hands in his master's while he took the oath, and then kissing the royal foot, he flatly refused. After some discussion, it was arranged that one of his men should go through this part of the ceremony in his stead. But the soldier who thus acted as Rollo's substitute, or proxy, raised the king's foot so suddenly to his lips that the poor monarch actually lost his balance and fell over backwards!

The province which Charles thus abandoned tot he Normans was henceforth to be called Nor'mandy, or Land of the Normans, a name which it still bears. Rollo soon established such good order throughout all this state that it is said his golden bracelets hung three years on the branch of a tree by the roadside without any one daring to lay as much as a finger upon them.

It is thus that the Normans, who first appeared off the coast of France as pirates in 799, won a lasting foothold there in 911. They became so strong and so civilized that about a century and a half later (in 1066) they crossed the Channel with a mighty army to conquer England.

For ten years following the gift of Normandy to Rollo, such government as there was in France was carried on wholly by the king's favorites. During this time, weak Charles either gave his lands away, or allowed them to be taken from him, until he had nothing left except one town (Laon), which had been his capital.

[98] The nobles, exasperated by his weakness and laziness, finally deposed him in 922, and as Eudes had died, leaving no children, they now offered the crown to his brother, Robert, Count of Paris. This newly elected king had not much time granted him to show what he could do, for he was soon killed in battle, but his son-in-lay, Rodolph, succeeded him as king, and to prevent Charles from making any further vain attempts to regain the crown, clapped him into prison, where he kept him the rest of his life.

Charles's wife and son had, meantime, taken refuge in England, and when Rudoph died, his brother-in-law, Hugh the Great—the most powerful nobleman in the realm—invited them to come back. The young Carolingian prince, who is known as Louis IV. (d'Outre-mer, or "From Beyond the Seas"), was now crowned by Hugh's order. But of course Hugh fully expected to exercise the royal power in his name, and when he found the young king very independent, they quarreled hotly, and even came to open warfare.

Louis IV. proved most unlucky during his reign of eighteen years, and when he died, still young, his son and grandson, Lothair and Louis V, became puppet kings in turn. At Hugh's death, in 956, all the real power passed into the hands of his son Hugh, called Capet (cā'pet, or ca-pĕ'), which means the "wearer of a hood," or a "long-headed" man. Very brave and capable, too, Hugh ruled for a time, while Carolingians had the name of king; but when the last Louis V secretly made an alliance with the Germans, the indignant nobles assembled, and after setting aside the Carolingian race forever, offered the crown tot he most powerful nobleman in France (987).

[99] It is thus that Hugh Capet became founder of the third dynasty of kings. He was crowned at Rheims, where six noblemen and six bishops, called the king's peers or equals, were granted special honors and privileges. Hugh Capet, being Count of Paris, continued to dwell in the city, which was ever after to be the capital of the kingdom. For the first time the country, hitherto known by different names, can now really be called France, although for convenience' sake we have already used that term.


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