Source – unless otherwise referenced, the facts in this post have been sourced from Reference 18.
Last time we talked about the decline of the empire of Charlemagne (or Charles the Great), through Louis the Pious to Charles the Fat and Charles the Simple. Unfortunately for our story, however, I missed Charles the Bald – an important figure in the rise of the Capetian Empire.
Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald was the youngest son of Charlemagne’s heir, Louis the Pious, and half brother of Louis’ successor Lothar I. Louis the Pious’ plan was for Lothar I to rule as King, whilst Louis the German would rule East Francia (which eventually evolves into Germany) and Charles the Bald would rule West Francia (which would broadly evolve into France)(19). This plan held for many years, until Lothar I died and Lothar’s children fought for control over the empire. After years as a lesser royal, Charles the Bald conspired with two of L0thar’s children (his nephews) and took the crown for himself, becoming the Holy Roman Emperor in 875 (18).
The reason that we are so interested in Charles the Bald is because he appointed Robert the Strong (Count of Anjou and my 38th Great Grandfather) as Commander and defender of West Francia. Robert was a successful christian defender of the King’s realm from the Vikings – winning 3 victories in three years from 863. Robert the Strong was also the founder of the Robertian line that would grow from these beginnings into the Capetian Dynasty of French Kings – my Great Grandfathers. He died in a battle with the Vikings in 866, leaving two sons, Count Odo and Robert I.
To get to the Capetian Kings we need to follow the Carolingians (descendents of Charlemagne) a bit further.
Charles the Bald was succeeded by Louis the Stammerer in 877 and Charles the Fat in 881 (I am not making up these names).
Charles the Fat
In 885, during the reign of Charles the Fat, Count Odo (Robert the Strong’s son and my 37th Great Uncle, also spelt King Eudes) played a central role in defending Paris from a major Viking siege, earning favour with the people and the King.
When Charles the Fat died in 888, his natural successor, Charles the Simple (again – I am not making these names up) was only nine years of age. Odo was the Count of Paris (an increasingly important region) and chief defender of the West of Francia. From his position and fame, Odo was elected as King of West Francia – the first non-Carolingian King and the first Robertian king.
King Odo (Eudes)
King Odo died in 898 with no heir. Whilst Odo’s brother (Robert I) was a potential heir, he supported the election of Charles the Simple as heir to the former King Charles the Fat. He was rewarded for this loyalty by being recognised as marquis between the Seine and Loire of Neustria.
Charles the Simple’s reign was less than than positive for Francia. The West of Francia continued to be pressured by Viking invasions and in 911, Charles the Simple sought to appease them by gifting a region of land that would become Normandy to the Viking leader, Rollo (direct ancestor of William the Conqueror). Charles the Simple also sought to include the Eastern areas of Francia under his reign in moves that unfortunately alienated his supporters and, in 920, encouraged Robert I (my 37th Great Grandfather) to join a rebellion against the Crown. Charles the Fat was overthrown in 922 and thrown into prison. Robert I was elected as the second Robertian king.
King Robert I (37th Great Grandfather)
Unfortunately for Robert, Charles the Fat got out of prison and raised a force against him in Lotharingia in 923. Charles lost the battle, but Robert I was killed. Charles was then tricked into a meeting at St-Quentin, where he was captured and imprisoned until his death in 929. Charles’ son, Louis (IV) escaped into exile in England.
Robert I had a son Hugh (to become Hugh the Great and my 36th Great Grandfather). In 923, Hugh the Great was one of the most powerful figure in West Francia. He did not, however, seek the throne because an equally powerful rival lord, Herbert of Vermandois, refused to accept him as King. In the absence of a Carolingian or Robertian successor, Ralph, son of Richard the Justiciar, was elected King. Ralph ruled until his death in 936. He had no direct heir.
Hugh the Great (36th Great Grandfather)
By the time King Ralph died, Hugh the Great was clearly the most powerful Lord of West Francia – and yet once again he did not claim the crown. As a consequence, Louis IV (the exiled son of Charles the Simple) was invited back to take the thrown by hereditary right.
It is not entirely clear why Hugh the Great did not seek the crown (again), although it is reported that Hugh declared that his father, Robert I ‘…committed a great crime in reigning when one was still living who alone had the right to reign’. It is also reported that Hugh did not want to suffer his fathers’ fate – as being King made everyone’s problems your own, and did not necessarily attract the rewards (this seems to be a more likely explanation – as they say, always back the horse called ‘self-interest’).
Hugh the Great died in 956 with three sons: Hugh Capet (my 35th Great Grandfather), Odo and Otto-Henry.
So that’s the scene-setter. Sorry it took a bot of time, but we are now ready to explore the life of Hugh Capet (King) and start the journey towards Allen Airy (convict). Is suspect that this may take some time, as there are many interesting people to explore along the way. However, I am sure that we will get there.