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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.