Tag Archives: France

Richerus: The Election of Hugh Capet in 987 CE

Meanwhile, at the appointed time the magnates of Gaul who had taken the oath came together at Senlis. When they had all taken their places in the assembly and the duke [Hugh Capet] had given the sign, the archbishop [Adalbero] spoke to them as follows: AKing Louis, of divine memory, having been removed from the world, and having left no heirs, it devolves upon us to take serious counsel as to the choice of a successor, so that the state may not suffer any injury through neglect and the lack of a leader. On a former occasion we thought it advisable to postpone that deliberation in order that each of you might be able to come here and, in the presence of the assembly, voice the sentiment which God should have inspired in you, and that from all these different expressions of opinion we might be able to find out what is the general will. Here we are assembled. Let us see to it, by our prudence and honor, that hatred shall not destroy reason, that love shall not interfere with truth. We are aware that Charles [Charles of Lower Lorraine] has his partisans who claim that the throne belongs to him by right of birth. But if we look into the matter, the throne is not acquired by hereditary right, and no one ought to be placed at the head of the kingdom unless he is distinguished, not only by nobility of body, but also by strength of mind—only such a one as honor and generosity recommend. We read in the annals of rulers of illustrious descent who were deposed on account of their unworthiness and replaced by others of the same, or even lesser, rank.

“What dignity shall we gain by making Charles king? He is not guided by honor, nor is he possessed of strength. Then, too, he has compromised himself so far as to have become the dependent of a foreign king and to have married a girl taken from among his own vassals. How could the great duke endure that a woman of the low rank of vassal should become queen and rule over him? How could he tender services to this woman, when his equals, and even his superiors in birth bend the knee before him and place their hands under his feet? Think of this seriously and you will see that Charles must be rejected for his own faults rather than on account of any wrong done by others. Make a decision, therefore, for the welfare rather than for the injury of the state. If you wish ill to your country, choose Charles to be king; if you have regard for its prosperity, choose Hugh, the illustrious duke. . . . Elect, then, the duke, a man who is recommended by his conduct, by his nobility, and by his military following. In him you will find a defender, not only of the state, but also of your private interests. His large-heartedness will make him a father to you all. Who has ever fled to him for protection without receiving it? Who that has been deserted by his friends has he ever failed to restore to his rights?”

This speech was applauded and concurred in by all, and by unanimous consent the duke was raised to the throne. He was crowned at Noyon on the first of June by the archbishop and the other bishops as king of the Gauls, the Bretons, the Normans, the Aquitanians, the Goths, the Spaniards and the Gascons. Surrounded by the nobles of the king, he issued decrees and made laws according to royal custom, judging and disposing of all matters with success.

The Vikings in France

From Abbo’s Wars of Count Odo with the Northmen in the Reign of Charles the Fat

885. The Northmen came to Paris with 700 sailing ships, not counting those of smaller size which are commonly called barques. At one stretch the Seine was lined with the vessels for more than two leagues, so that one might ask in astonishment in what cavern the river had been swallowed up, since it was not to be seen. The second day after the fleet of the Northmen arrived under the walls of the city, Siegfried, who was then king only in name but who was in command of the expedition, came to the dwelling of the illustrious bishop. He bowed his head and said: “Gauzelin, have compassion on yourself and on your flock. We beseech you to listen to us, in order that you may escape death. Allow us only the freedom of the city. We will do no harm and we will see to it that whatever belongs either to you or to Odo shall be strictly respected.” Count Odo, who later became king, was then the defender of the city. The bishop replied to Siegfried, “Paris has been entrusted to us by the Emperor Charles, who, after God, king and lord of the powerful, rules over almost all the world. He has put it in our care, not at all that the kingdom may be ruined by our misconduct, but that he may keep it and be assured of its peace. If, like us, you had been given the duty of defending these walls, and if you should have done that which you ask us to do, what treatment do you think you would deserve?” Siegfried replied. “I should deserve that my head be cut off and thrown to the dogs. Nevertheless, if you do not listen to my demand, on the morrow our war machines will destroy you with poisoned arrows. You will be the prey of famine and of pestilence and these evils will renew themselves perpetually every year.” So saying, he departed and gathered together his comrades.

In the morning the Northmen, boarding their ships, approached the tower and attacked it [the tower blocked access to the city by the so-called "Great Bridge," which connected the right bank of the Seine with the island on which the city was built. The tower stood on the present site of the Châtelet]. They shook it with their engines and stormed it with arrows. The city resounded with clamor, the people were aroused, the bridges trembled. All came together to defend the tower. There Odo, his brother Robert, and the Count Ragenar distinguished themselves for bravery; likewise the courageous Abbot Ebolus, the nephew of the bishop. A keen arrow wounded the prelate, while at his side the young warrior Frederick was struck by a sword. Frederick died, but the old man, thanks to God, survived. There perished many Franks; after receiving wounds they were lavish of life. At last the enemy withdrew, carrying off their dead. The evening came. The tower had been sorely tried, but its foundations were still solid, as were also the narrow bays which surmounted them. The people spent the night repairing it with boards. By the next day, on the old citadel had been erected a new tower of wood, a half higher than the former one. At sunrise the Danes caught their first glimpse of it. Once more the latter engaged with the Christians in violent combat. On every side arrows sped and blood flowed. With the arrows mingled the stones hurled by slings and war-machines; the air was filled with them. The tower which had been built during the night groaned under the strokes of the darts, the city shook with the struggle, the people ran hither and thither, the bells jangled. The warriors rushed together to defend the tottering tower and to repel the fierce assault. Among these warriors two, a count and an abbot [Ebolus], surpassed all the rest in courage. The former was the redoubtable Odo who never experienced defeat and who continually revived the spirits of the worn-out defenders. He ran along the ramparts and hurled back the enemy. On those who were secreting themselves so as to undermine the tower he poured oil, wax, and pitch, which, being mixed and heated, burned the Danes and tore off their scalps. Some of them died; others threw themselves into the river to escape the awful substance. . . .

Meanwhile Paris was suffering not only from the sword outside but also from a pestilence within which brought death to many noble men. Within the walls there was not ground in which to bury the dead. . . . Odo, the future king, was sent to Charles, emperor of the Franks, to implore help for the stricken city. One day Odo suddenly appeared in splendor in the midst of three bands of warriors. The sun made his armor glisten and greeted him before it illuminated the country around. The Parisians saw their beloved chief at a distance, but the enemy, hoping to prevent his gaining entrance to the tower, crossed the Seine and took up their position on the bank. Nevertheless Odo, his horse at a gallop, got past the Northmen and reached the tower, whose gates Ebolus opened to him. The enemy pursued fiercely the comrades of the count who were trying to keep up with him and get refuge in the tower. [The Danes were defeated in the attack.]

Now came the Emperor Charles, surrounded by soldiers of all nations, even as the sky is adorned with resplendent stars. A great throng, speaking many languages, accompanied him. He established his camp at the foot of the heights of Montmartre, near the tower. He allowed the Northmen to have the country of Sens to plunder; and in the spring he gave them 700 pounds of silver on condition that by the month of March they leave France for their own kingdom. Then Charles returned, destined to an early death.

Excerpted from the Internet History Sourcebook

An Age of War and Revolution

The western world of the 18th century saw the philosophies and theories of Enlightenment philosophers (like John Locke) put to the test of being made the concrete foundations of political systems. In North America, the Caribbean, and Europe violent revolutions emerged, producing new states (the United States of America, Republican France, and Haiti for example.
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European/Native Relations: the French

The relationship between the French and the Native American tribes they encountered was a product of the French goals in North America. Unlike the Spanish they did not arrive with large armies or attempt to enslave the Natives. Unlike the English, the French did not attempt to establish large-scale settlements. In many, but not all, cases, the relationship between the French and the Native tribes was based on mutual gain–the French gained access to natural resources such as beaver pelts and the Natives gained access to high quality European goods.

Cultural differences did exist, however, as evidenced by this account from a leader of the Micmac tribe, recorded by a French priest named Chrestian LeClerq.

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Images of the French Revolution

Choose three of the images located at the Imaging the French Revolution site.  Answer the applicable questions below (note: not every question is relevant to every picture!)

  1. How do the images you’ve chosen characterize the people of France?
  2. How do the images you’ve chosen characterize the political rulers of France?
  3. How do the images you’ve chosen characterize the religious rulers of France?
  4. Describe some of the different ways the images present women.