Royal Ancestors from France

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 Royal Ancestors from France


The region constituting contemporary France appears in recorded history for the first time with the establishment, about 600 BC, of Massilia, now Marseille.  This colony was founded by the ancient Phocaeans, who named the natives of the surrounding territory Keltoi (Gr. “Celt”).  Probably by extension the term was eventually applied to all of the tribes then dominant in the area bound by the Atlantic, the Rhine River, the Alps and the Mediterranean.

The Celtic-speaking peoples of western Europe called their domain Galetachd (“the land of the Gauls”), the term from which the ancient Roman designation for the region was derived.  In early stages of the Roman Republic, invaders from Gaul occupied the northern portion of what is now Italy.  The Gauls in this region, known in Rome as Gallia Cisalpina (“Gaul this side of the Alps”), and other Celtic-speaking tribes of Gaul engaged in periodic warfare with the Romans for centuries.

After 51 BC, when the Roman general and statesman Gaius Julius Caesar successfully completed an eight-year war of conquest in Gaul, the entire territory became a province of Rome.  The Emperor Augustus divided Gaul into four provinces in 27 BC.  The Gaelic peoples rapidly assimilated the culture of their conquerors and Gaul soon became one of the principal Roman dominions, especially important in the imperial defense system against the Teutonic tribes of the north and east.

With the disintegration of Roman power in the 4th and 5th centuries AD, the Teutonic tribes under pressure from the marauding Huns occupied large sections of the Roman dominions, including Gaul.  The Visigoths took possession by stages of almost the entire region south of the Loire River and west of the Rhone valley.  The Burgundians seized the territory between that of the Visigoths and the Alps.  Most of Gaul to the north of these areas fell to the Franks.  Other Germanic tribes, chiefly the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invaded Britain during the same period.

Unable to expel the barbarians, the hard-pressed Romans and Teutons, chiefly Visigoths, defeated the forces of the Hunnish king Attila near Chalons-sur-Marne, ending the threat of Hunnish dominance in Europe.  The Western Roman Empire lasted for only twenty-five years after this victory.  In 476 Odoacer, king of the Teutonic Heruli, organized a rebellion against imperial authority, deposing the puppet ruler Romulus Augustus, the last Roman emperor of the west.  Ten years later Clovis, a pagan chieftain of the Salian division of the Franks and the greatest of the Merovingian dynasty of Frankish kings, defeated Syagrius, last governor of the shrunken Roman dominions in Gaul.

In 496, largely through the influence of his wife Clotilda, Clovis became a member of the Christian faith, the leaders of which supported his subsequent efforts to attain hegemony over all of Gaul.  Clovis added substantially to his domain during the next decade, winning control of Burgundy in 500 and driving the Visigoths into the Iberian peninsula in 507.  Following the death of Clovis in 511, his realm was apportioned among his four sons.  After a period of ruthless conflict, only Clotaire survived his three brothers and for a short time the Frankish realms were again united.  Clotaire’s division of his land among his four sons resulted in further conflict, from which emerged the kingdoms of Austrasia, in the east and Neustria in the west.  Burgundy, with no king of its own, joined Neustria.  Although the kingdoms were again consolidated for a time under Clotaire II the Frankish realm was torn by continuous internal strife and the authority of the Merovingian monarch diminished steadily.

The Dark, or early Middle, Ages that had enveloped most of Europe following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire was most pronounced in the Frankish realm under the Merovingians.  As political chaos mounted, intellectual stagnation deepened.  Scholarly pursuits were confined to certain monastic organizations of the Church.  The Greek and Roman heritage of learning was otherwise forgotten.  One cultural development of lasting significance gradually evolved.  The west Franks slowly assimilated the Latinized Gallic tongue, while the east Franks retained their native Teutonic speech creating linguistic differences that eventually led to a permanent cleavage of the Frankish domain and laying the basis of modern France and Germany.

The kings of Austria were completely dominated by Pepin of Herstal, Mayor of the Palace from about 687 until his death in 714.  He was succeeded by his son Charles Martel who won control of Neustria and Burgundy, thereby re-establishing Frankish unity.  In 719, Moslem invaders, who had previously seized control of the Iberian peninsula began to occupy the south portion of the Frankish realm.  With the help of the Lombards, Charles Martel decisively defeated the Moslem forces near Tours in 732, saving feudal western Christendom from Moslem domination.

On the death of Charles Martel in 741, the post of Mayor of the Palace was inherited by his son Pepin the Short.  Pepin ruled in this capacity until 751, when he deposed Childeric III and, with the blessing of Pope Zacharias, assumed the royal title.  Thus began the Carolingian dynasty of Frankish kings, whose combined reigns covered a span of nearly 250 years.

Pepin laid the foundations of the Frankish Empire, the first important state to develop in the European continent after the collapse of the Roman Empire.  Although the Frankish Empire had only a brief history, limited in effect to the reign of Pepin’s son Charlemagne, its appearance signaled the opening of a new stage in the political, intellectual, and religious process at work in Europe.

Charlemagne vastly extended the boundaries of his kingdom, successively subjecting the Saxons, Lombards, and various tribes of central Europe.  By the introduction of several administrative innovations, notably the establishment of counties, a federal officialdom responsible to the crown, and an advisory body of leading nobles, he achieved a centralization of authority and effected curbs on the powers of the feudal lords.  Of equal importance, he sponsored a revival of intellectual activity that to some extent bridged the broad gulf between his times and those of antiquity.  Besides founding numerous schools, he became the patron of men of learning from various parts of the church.  He forcibly converted to Christianity the pagan tribes that he conquered, imposed taxes for the benefit of the Church, waged war against the Moslems, and founded many places of worship.  In recognition of these and other services, Pope Leo III crowned him in 800, Emperor of the Romans.  This move introduced the concept of the later Holy Roman Empire.

In the century following the death of Charlemagne in 814, the Frankish Empire disintegrated into a multitude of warring kingdoms, duchies, and minor fiefs.  The process of disintegration, begun during the reign of Charlemagne’s son and successor Louis I, resulted from a variety of factors.  Before the emperor’s death in 840, his sons, unable to agree on how to divide the empire, resorted to armed conflict.  The costly struggle was terminated three years later by the Treaty of Verdun, by the terms of which Charles the Bald received the western portion of the empire, Louis II the eastern portion, and Lothair the region between these states; Lothair received the imperial title.  In political geography, the first and second of the new states were rough approximations respectively of modern France and Germany.  The intermediate kingdom, composed of Lotharingia, Provence, Burgundy, and Lombardy, shortly became as well as internecine strife and external conquest, a multiplicity of shifting dependencies and principalities.

Under the reign of Charles II the West Frankish kingdom was steadily weakened by internal and external wars.  The king became increasingly dependent on the military support of the feudal lords, one of whom, Robert the Strong, was granted the dukedom of France, which alter gave its name to the entire country.  The Northmen launched broader raids on Charles’ dominions, on one occasion capturing Paris.  The East Frankish king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles III reunited the east and west versions of the former Frankish Empire in 884.  Three years later, as the result of a humbling treaty which he had concluded with the Northmen in 886, he was forced to abdicate.  With his abdication, the cleavage between the east ad west Franks became permanent.

Political turmoil continued in the West Frankish kingdom for a protracted period after the deposition of Charles.  The Northmen multiplied their attacks on the coastal region, and Charles III purchased immunity from further encroachments by ceding to them, in 911, the region later known as Normandy.  By degrees the feudal lords usurped more and more of the remaining authority of the crown, but the Carolingian dynasty persisted until 987.  In that year, a coalition of dominant nobles, rejecting the rightful claimant to the throne, bestowed the crown to Hugh Capet, Duke of France, who thereby became the founder of the Capetian dynasty of French kings.

Like that of his immediate predecessors, the authority of Hugh Capet extended little beyond Paris and Orleans.  The heads of the surrounding feudal domains, including Aquitaine, Burgundy, Normandy, and Flanders, wielded considerably more power than any of the three rulers who succeeded Capet.  In 1066, William Duke of Normandy turned his attention to the west and conquered England, appreciably reducing the immediacy of the threat to the Capetians.  A further improvement in the relative position of the royal power resulted in 1096, when many of the feudal lords of France embarked on the First Crusade, a venture that brought death and economic ruin to many of its leaders.

The first king to significantly challenge the feudal lords within the Capetian domain was Louis VI, who ascended the throne in 1108.  His vassals, subdued after more than twenty years of armed struggle, finally recognized the royal authority, which thereby acquired the material and political basis for further expansion.  Thus strengthened, the kingdom repelled an invasion led by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V.  The next member of the Capetian dynasty, Louis VII, conquered Champagne and, through marriage, added Aquitaine to his dominions, but he lost the region in 1152 as a result of the dissolution of his marriage.  Aquitaine shortly passed again through marriage to Henry, Duke of Anjou, who acquired the crown of England as Henry II in 1154.

Philip II who succeeded Louis in 1180, resumed the war with England and Henry, and finally won control of Normandy, Anjou, and most of the other English possessions in France except Gascony.  During his reign, Philip instituted important governmental reforms, particularly in the administration of justice.  Philip also divided his dominion into smaller political units, known as communes, established a national standing army, and strengthened the royal treasury.

The process of consolidating the kingdom continued during the reigns of Philip’s son Louis VIII and grandson Louis IX.  Louis IX (canonized as St. Louis) achieved a reputation as the most chivalrous and just monarch of his time.  His reign (1226-1270), termed the golden age of Medieval France, Witnessed the consolidation of the French monarchy and the decrease of power of the feudal lords and churchmen; improvements and reforms in national administration; and the peaceful adjustment of the problem of English possessions in France by the treaty of Paris (1259), whereby Henry III of England was recognized as feudal lord of Poitou, Gascony, and Guienne, but relinquished claims to Normandy, Anjou, Touraine, and Maine.

Following the reign of Louis’ son Philip III, a generally inept ruler, the borders of France were further extended at the expense of neighboring fiefs, and the drive for the French monarch to secure absolute control of the state was intensified.  In a move to subordinate ecclesiastical power to royal authority, at the same time strengthen the royal treasury.  Philip IV imposed a tax on the clergy.  The move precipitated a bitter controversy with Pope Boniface VIII, in the course of which Philip secured dominance of the Parliament by granting representation to the burgher class or tiers etat of the realm.  With the subsequent election in 1305 of Clement as Pope, the struggle was resolved in favor of Philip, who thenceforth had the support of the papacy in his campaign to strengthen the kingdom.

The powerful religious and military order of the Knights Templar was destroyed in France with Clement’s help.  Philip substantially increased the authority of the crown; additions to his domain included Franche-Comte and several other fiefs to the east.

The death without male issue of Philip’s three sons Louis X, Philip V, and Charles IV brought the Capetian dynasty to an end.  In that year, the throne passed to Philip VI, a nephew of Philip IV and founder of the House of Valois.

The Western Franks                     
The name “Franks” applied to about the middle of the 3rd century AD to the Germanic tribes dwelling along the lower and middle Rhine River.  They appeared in the Roman provinces around 253 and soon thereafter established themselves in two distinct groups, the Salian Franks and the Ripuarian Franks.  The Salian Franks inhabited the lower stretches of the Rhine and the Ripuarian Franks along its middle course.  The Franks played a paramount role in the history of Europe.  The elaborate government that Charlemagne set into motion established order and a respect for law unknown in Europe since the best days of the Roman Empire.

The Franks were a martial people, distinguished by their proud bearing, great stature, and long, fair hair.  Their basic attire consisted of snug-fitting trousers extending to the knee, and a tunic secured by clasps.  Their chief weapons were the framea, an iron spearhead secured in a wooden shaft; the bow and arrow; the francisca, a single-edged battle-ax used for striking or throwing; and the scramasax, a large knife used for fighting and hunting.

Carolingian Dynasty – Ripurian Franks

Ruler/Ancestor Born Reign
Pepin "The Short" 714 751-768
Charlemagne 742 768-814
Louis I "The Pius" 778 814-840
Charles "The Bald" 823 840-877
Louis II 846 877-879
Carloman   879-884
Charles III "The Simple" 879 922-923
Louis IV d'Outremer 921 936-954
Lothair 941 954-986
Louis V "The Sluggard" 967 986-987

Capetian Dynasty

Ruler/Ancestor Born Reign
Hugh Capet 940 987-996
Robert II 970 996-1031
Henry I 1008 1031-1060
Philip I 1052 1060-1108
Louis VI "The Fat" 1081 1108-1137
Louis VII "The Young" 1121 1137-1180
Philip II 1165 1180-1223
Louis VII "The Lion" 1187 1223-1226
Louis IX "Saint Louis" 1214 1126-1270
Philip III "The Bold" 1245 1270-1285
Philip IV "The Fair" 1268 1285-1314

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