THE YEAR ONE THOUSAND
HE Merovians and Carolingnians had occupied the throne
during more than five centuries, and the scepter had
now passed into the hands of the third, or Capetian race, which was to supply all the other kings who
afterward ruled in France.
The new ruler had, at first, very little power, and was
master merely of his own duchy, which included only
about one twentieth of what we now call France. Besides
humoring his twelve peers, Hough tried to keep on good
terms with some hundred and fifty petty noblemen, who
had the right to coin money and were practically kings,
their castles begin their capitals.
In those days such lords made war against one another
without consulting the king, and sometimes even annexed
lands and assuming titles. One nobleman having done
this, Hugh haughtily inquired, "Who made you count?"
But the nobleman, in nowise daunted, pertly retorted,
"Well, who made you king?"
 In fact, Hugh was so little a king at first that he
dared not even punish such insolence as this, but was
obliged to overlook it, and go on as best he could. He
felt far from secure on the throne, and to make sure
his son Robert would eventually succeed him, he had the
young man crowned during his own lifetime.
No great progress was made in France under Hugh Capet.
Not only were the nobles turbulent, but many people
were already uneasy at the thought that the end of the
world was drawing near. You must know that there were
some people in those days who said that in the year
1000 the Last Judgment would take place; for it was
thus that they interpreted a passage in the Bible.
Many people, thinking they would soon have no further
use for their money, houses, and lands, now gave all
they had to the Church, or distributed their goods
among the poor; for they believed that such gifts would
help to secure the forgiveness of sins they might have
committed. Some farmers thought it useless to sow grain
as usual in the fall, or to plant crops of any kind,
since they could not expect to gather the harvest. As
the weather happened to be very bad just then, every
storm was viewed as a new and sure sign that the end of
the world was near at hand.
But the year 1000 came, and nothing happened! Day after
day people expected the Judgment, which did not come.
Then they fancied that perchance an error had been made
in reckoning the exact time of Christ's birth, and two
or three years passed thus in uncertainty. As they
still continued to exist, they now imagined that the
end of the world would come 1000 years after Christ's
 instead of after His birth, and as Christ lived some
thirty-three years, this view kept people uneasy a long
All through the beginning of the eleventh century,
therefore, few improvements were made in the country,
and at times many people merely lived from day to day,
in hourly expectation of the end. As there were many
little wars in this period also, the result was great
poverty and several terrible famines.
Then, as always happens, after the famines came
plagues; for idle, dirty, ill-fed people are much more
likely to catch and spread diseases than those who work
hard, keep clean, and are properly fed. In fact, so
many people died of the plague that whole towns and
villages were deserted, and wolves roamed through the
empty streets and houses, vainly seeking something to