Friday, April 3, 2009

The House of Paris

The great danger which this Neustrian kingdom had to meet came from the Northmen, or as they were called in England the Danes. These ravaged in Neustria as they ravaged in England; and a large part of the northern coast, including the mouth of the Seine, was given by Charles the Bald to Rolf or Rollo, one of their leaders, whose land became known as the Northman's land, or Normandy. What most checked the ravages of these pirates was the resistance of Paris, a town which commanded the road along the river Seine; and it was in defending the city of Paris from the Northmen, that a warrior named Robert the Strong gained the trust and affection of the inhabitants of the Neustrian kingdom. He and his family became Counts (i.e., judges and protectors) of Paris, and Dukes (or leaders) of the Franks. Three generations of them were really great men—Robert the Strong, Odo, and Hugh the White; and when the descendants of Charles the Great had died out, a Duke of the Franks, Hugh Capet, was in 987 crowned King of the Franks. All the after kings of France down to Louis Philippe were descendants of Hugh Capet. By this change, however, he gained little in real power; for, though he claimed to rule over the whole country of the Neustrian Franks, his authority was little heeded, save in the domain which he had possessed as Count of Paris, including the cities of Paris, Orleans, Amiens, and Rheims (the coronation place). He was guardian, too, of the great Abbeys of St. Denys and St. Martin of Tours. The Duke of Normandy and the Count of Anjou to the west, the Count of Flanders to the north, the Count of Champagne to the east, and the Duke of Aquitaine to the south, paid him homage, but were the only actual rulers in their own domains.

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