KING ROBERT AND THE POPE
 THE Merovingian race of kings began with Clovis, and
ended with a shadowy figure of a king called Chilperic.
The Cariovmgian race began with Pepin and ended with
Hugh Capet, Count of Paris, had been the most powerful
noble m France for several years before he became king.
In 987 AD., however, he was raised to the throne by the
nobles of northern France, and thus he became the
founder of the Capetian line of kings.
Hugh's name Capet is said by some to have been given to
him because, instead of a crown, he always wore a
"cape" "cap" or "hood" dedicated to one of the saints
called St Martin. Others tell us that the size of the
king's head made his people call him Capet, caput being
the Latin word for head.
Although the nobles had given Hugh the title of King,
they still considered themselves, if not quite, yet
almost his equal. They could not forget that but lately
he had held only the title of Count.
Some of the lords, especially those in the south of
France who had had nothing to do with bestowing on Hugh
the title of King, refused to do homage to him as their
sovereign. Others were outwardly loyal, but in their
hearts they resented Hugh Capet's claims.
The king took no pains to soothe the pride of these
haughty nobles. Indeed, his treatment made them even
more resentful of his authority.
 "Who made thee a count?" indignantly demanded Hugh
of a noble who behaved in his presence as though the
sovereign were still only the Count of Paris.
"Who made thee a king?" quickly retorted the count to
which rough answer, as far as we know, the king had
nothing to say.
During the nine years that he reigned Hugh was
constantly trying to weaken the power of the nobles. As
he grew stronger he would punish them, too, for their
But, in spite of all he could do, the nobles remained
more powerful than the king wished. To strengthen
himself still more against his enemies, Hugh therefore
thought it would be well to win the favour of the
bishops and priests He had inherited many rich lands
and abbeys from his father, Hugh the White, and these
he now bestowed upon the Church. He thus gained the
goodwill of the clergy and when they called him the
"Defender of the Church," the title pleased him well.
But what perhaps pleased him still more was that the
bishops, who were
powerful, and had great influence with the people, took
his side against the barons.
After Hugh had been made "Defender of the Church" he
would often lay aside his royal robes and appear before
his people in the dress of an abbot
His last words to his son Robert, who succeeded him in
996 A.D., were to bid him ever cherish the Church, and
protect her treasures.
It was during the reign of Hugh Capet that the
difference in language, in dress, and in manners,
between the north and the south of France, became
Those who lived in the south laughed at the way the
people in the north pronounced their words. It was so
much rougher and harsher than their way.
In dress, too, the southern people were more gay, and
as we would say, more fashionable, while their manners
 were more polished and polite than those of the
people who lived in the north of France. But in another
chapter you will read more about those who lived in the
Robert the Pious began to reign when he was twenty
years old. He was a gentle, simple prince, who loved
music, and often he was to be seen in the church of St.
Denis, singing in the choir, side by side with the
"He read his Psalter daily," says an old chronicler,
"and was gentle, gracious, polished, and he sincerely
loved to do a kindness."
But these were rough days in which Robert the Pious
lived, and his people often misunderstood or even
despised his goodness, while of his kindness they were
not slow to take advantage.
One day King Robert saw a priest, as he left church,
steal a silver candlestick from the altar. Instead of
reproving the thief, Robert the Pious said to him, "Friend,
run for your life to your home," and at the
same time he gave him money for the journey.
Meanwhile the candlestick was missed, and the priests
began to search for the thief.
The king said nothing until he thought the man was far
away. Then he asked the anxious seekers, "Why trouble
yourselves so much about a candlestick? God has given
it to one of his poor."
When Robert went for a journey, it was not in royal
state, but accompanied only by twelve poor men. One of
these poor men, knowing the king's gentleness, dared to
cut a rich gold ornament from his robe. The king,
though he saw what the poor man was doing, left him
The rough barons of France had little sympathy with
Robert's ways, and soon they began to laugh at him,
because he was not strong as well as kind.
After King Robert had reigned for two or three years, a
great gloom slowly began to settle upon the country.
 Many people believed that a thousand years after
the birth of Christ the world would come to an end. And
now the time was drawing near.
The nobles were afraid, and wished to atone for all the
wrong things they had done. They could think of no
better way to do this than to give their lands, houses,
slaves to the Church, and to go themselves on a
pilgrimage to Palestine, where Jesus had lived and
The poorer folk left their fields untilled, unsown, for
where was the need to plough and sow when before
harvest time they might all have perished? Rich and
poor alike crowded into the churches to confess their
The dreaded year 1000 dawned at last, and, to the
wonder of every one, the sun still rose day after day,
and the world still went on its quiet way. Then, little
by little, the people forgot their fears, and went back
to their old selfish, thoughtless lives. But the Church
had grown richer and more powerful during those last
terrible months, and it had now a stronger hold than
ever over the people.
King Robert was, as you know, devoted to the Church,
yet he drew down her anger on himself and on his
people. He had married a lady named Bertha, whom he
dearly loved. Queen Bertha was a cousin of the king,
and the Pope said that cousins were forbidden to marry
one another. The king must therefore send his wife
away, or incur the anger of the Church.
But King Robert loved Bertha too well to send her away,
so the Pope excommunicated both the king and the queen.
This was a terrible punishment, for to be
excommunicated meant to be banished from the Church and
all her sacraments, and to be shunned and forsaken by
every good Catholic.
No sooner had the Pope pronounced his sentence of
excommunication, than the king and queen were deserted
by their court, and forced to live almost entirely
alone. They found it difficult sometimes to get enough
 for all their servants had run away, save two poor
slaves. Even they would not stay in the room with the
king a moment longer than they could help, so great was
the power of the Pope's curse.
But I have not yet told you the worst. As the king
would not yield, the Pope next put the whole land under
an Interdict or Ban.
An Interdict meant that all the churches were closed,
that all the bells hung silent in the belfries, that
the images of saints were taken down and laid upon beds
of ashes and thorns, and that the pictures in the
churches were covered up, although, as the churches
were shut, there was no one to look at them.
As long as the Interdict lasted, no baptism service, no
marriage service, could take place. The dead were
buried as was needful, but no prayers were said over
Thus stricken and sad, the people suffered with their
King Robert, for all his gentle ways, defied the Pope
for many weary weeks, but at length he could no longer
bear to think of the sufferings of his people, and for
their sake he sent Queen Bertha to a convent. And in
the convent the poor queen often wept, for well she
knew that never again would she see King Robert.
The Pope was triumphant. As for the king, he was at
once taken back into the favour of the Church, and the
Interdict was removed from the land. Then the doors of
the churches were thrown wide open, and the bells rang
joyful peals. The images, too, were put back in their
niches, and the pictures were unveiled.
King Robert knew that he had made his people glad, but
he never forgot Queen Bertha, not even when he married
a beautiful lady called Constance, who unhappily was as
cruel as she was beautiful.
Constance was the daughter of the Count of Toulouse,
 one of the greatest nobles of southern France. In
her father's house she had ruled as a queen, and was
both gay and haughty. She and her lords and ladies
brought with them to Paris many new customs and new
ways of dressing.
"Short hair, shaven chins, ridiculous boots turned up
at the toes," such were some of the new fashions; while
the strangers" "mode of living, their appearance, their
armour, the harness of their horses, are," says an old
writer, "all equally whimsical." It seemed too that
these people" thought and spoke as strangely as they
As I told you, Queen Constance was a cruel woman.
Through her influence the king too sometimes forgot his
Two priests, one of whom was the queen's own confessor,
were charged with not believing all that the Pope said
they ought to believe. This crime was called Heresy.
The king, urged by the queen, actually commanded that
these two priests should be punished for their heresy
by being burned alive.
As the two priests passed Constance on their way to the
stake, the queen, it is said, thrust out one of her
confessor's eyes with a small iron-tipped staff which
she held in her hand.
This was the first time that Christians put other
Christians to death for not believing all that the Pope
said they ought to believe.
Constance had three sons. She taught these princes no
reverence for their father the king, and when they grew
up they rebelled, and at length even took up arms
King Robert was strong enough to compel his sons to lay
down their arms, but their conduct and his wife's
cruelty broke his heart. He died in the year 1031. If
his family were not grieved at his death, his subjects
wept bitterly, because they had lost the king who had
almost always been kind and gentle.
 "Widows and orphans did beat their breasts and
went to and from his tomb, crying, 'Whilst Robert was
king and ordered all, we lived in peace, we had nought
to fear. May his soul . . . mount up and dwell for ever
with Jesus Christ, the King of kings.' "
Thus, amid the tears and blessings of his people,
Robert the Pious was laid to rest.