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ROBERT'S TWO WIVES
OBERT I., who came to the throne four years before the
new century began, was a gentle and very pious man, who
would have made an excellent monk, for he loved to
attend service, sing hymns, and compose church music.
Because he felt such respect for the Church, he was
greatly troubled when the Pope bade him send away his
wife. You must know that a general law of the Church
forbids marriages between cousins, and it happened that
Robert and his wife Bertha were closely related.
Robert, loving his wife dearly, refused at first to
obey the Pope's command, so priests were sent to
 that is to say, to forbid him to enter any church, and
to tell him that he and his wife were accursed, because
they were committing what the Church considered a
The priests first read the Pope's message to the royal
couple, and then turning over a lighted torch, or
taper, which they had brought, they quenched its light,
solemnly crying: "May you be accursed, may you be
banished with Cain the fratricide, with the traitor
Judas, with Dathan and Abiram, who entered hell, and
may your joy be extinguished at the aspect of the Holy
angels as this light is extinguished before your eyes!"
This curse pronounced, the priests filed slowly out,
leav-  ing the king and queen alone with these awful words
still ringing in their ears! After this ceremony, all
churches were closed wherever the royal couple happened
to be, few people consented to obey or serve them, and
the very dishes from which they ate had to be purified
by fire before any one else would touch them.
Robert tried at first to be brave and not mind this
excommunication. But when it became clear that this
firmness was bringing misfortune upon the people
intrusted to his care, both he and his wife—who was a
good woman—perceived that they would have to yield to
the Pope's authority. Bertha therefore sadly withdrew
to a convent, where she spent the rest of her life as a
nun, and the Pope forgave Robert and allowed the
churches to be reopened.
Before long, yielding to his people's entreaties, the
king married a second time, taking Constance, a haughty
young noblewoman, to wife. This queen brought many new
fashions to court, and as she was fond of dress,
display, and amusement, effected many changes in the
pious king's outward life. Instead of monk-like robe,
he now wore long mantles trimmed with gold fringe, and
his weapons were adorned with sliver trappings. But at
heart Robert was quite unchanged. One day, having given
away all his money to the poor, he led a beggar into
his private room, where, with the latter's aid, he
removed the silver ornaments from his lance. Then
giving them tot he poor man, he bade him be off, with
the warning, "Do not let Constance see you!"
When the French king was at his meals, beggars were
always admitted by his order to eat the crumbs which
fell from the royal table. A poor man, sitting at the
 feet, only once slyly cut off a piece of gold fringe at
the bottom of his garment, whereupon the king bent down
and softly whispered: "There, my man, that is enough
for thee; leave a little for the next beggar, who may
need it even more than thou."
The king was so fond of church music that he often
composed hymns, some of which still exist. The new
queen, who greatly admired music of a lighter sort,
often begged her husband to write songs for her. She
was therefore greatly delighted one day when, glancing
at some music he had just written, she caught sight of
the Latin words, "O Constantia Martyrum." You see, she
knew so little of Latin that she fancied she saw her
own name, and thought that the song was all about her,
whereas it referred to the constancy of the martyrs!
Besides the plagues, famines, and all the woes
connected with the dread of the word's end, Robert
suffered many troubles from his barons and his family.
The Normans helped his wife and son when they once rose
up and made war against him. It was also during his
reign that some of the Normans, who were always
thirsting for adventure, went southward and gained a
foothold in Italy.
Poor Robert's troubles ended only with his death
(1031), but as he had wisely followed his father's
example, and had crowned his son, Henry I, during his
lifetime, no serious resistance was made tot his
prince's coming to the throne. In fact, the only
persons who raised any objection were the new king's
mother and younger brother; but Henry satisfied their
claims by giving his brother the duchy of Burgandy,
which his father had recently acquired.