Carolingian kings ruled until 888 when Odo, also known as Eudes, son of Robert the Strong of the powerful Robertian faction, became king of West Francia. The Carolingians recovered the crown when Charles the Simple was crowned in Reims in 893 as Charles III. But the title he temporarily regained for the Carolingians had become an increasingly empty one. Power had shifted decisively to the magnates. In 911 Charles was sufficiently pressed by the conquering Viking chieftain Rollo to recognize the Vikings’ conquest of the lower Seine River in an area later known as Normandy. In return Rollo professed loyalty to Charles and promised to convert to Christianity. The territories of Burgundy and Aquitaine, already moving beyond the king’s control, became virtually independent states in the following decades. In 922 Charles was deposed by the Robertian faction.
The Carolingians regained the royal title in 936 and ruled without interruption until 987. But they were faced with a growing challenge from the Robertians, who were ably led by Hugh the Great and his son Hugh Capet. Hugh Capet wielded sufficient influence among the magnates to overthrow the Carolingians definitively in 987, much as the Carolingians had overthrown the Merovingians more than two centuries earlier. One usurpation had given birth to another.
The 9th and 10th centuries have been viewed as the time when feudalism took shape. (Feudalism was a system of land tenure and political authority in which a lord granted the use of land in return for political and military services.) Research has now made this idea obsolete as a general description of an enormously complex situation. It is now clear that property was held on a great variety of different legal bases. Much land, especially in the south, was held by magnates and others in the form of alods—that is, land granted without services due to the king or a magnate.
Other territories were held in exchange for feudal services, including military service, and over the Middle Ages these obligations became more formalized and sanctioned by custom. Nonetheless, it is hazardous to generalize about the relationship between the king and the magnates. This relationship, like land tenures, was extremely variable in form and guided by no clear constitutional principles.
In reality royal power always depended largely on the king’s ability to form strategic alliances with the dominating factions. The factions fought for their own interests and sacrificed little for the king or the nation.
The growing weakness of the late Carolingians may have been aggravated by a number of factors: the invasion of the Vikings; a decline in economic production; insufficient supplies of booty to buy support. But the crisis of the Carolingian state was above all a crisis of state management: Like the Merovingians, the Carolingians allowed the magnates to form constellations of power. Eventually the Carolingian rulers succumbed to the aggressive leaders of these constellations. "France" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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