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History Primers. _Edited by_ J.R. GREEN.























[Illustration: MAP OF FRANCE.

_Shewing the Provinces._]

[Illustration: MAP OF FRANCE.

_Shewing the Departments._]




1. France.--The country we now know as France is the tract of land
shut in by the British Channel, the Bay of Biscay, the Pyrenees, the
Mediterranean, and the Alps. But this country only gained the name of
France by degrees. In the earliest days of which we have any account, it
was peopled by the Celts, and it was known to the Romans as part of a
larger country which bore the name of Gaul. After all of it, save the
north-western moorlands, or what we now call Brittany, had been
conquered and settled by the Romans, it was overrun by tribes of the
great Teutonic race, the same family to which Englishmen belong. Of
these tribes, the Goths settled in the provinces to the south; the
Burgundians, in the east, around the Jura; while the Franks, coming
over the rivers in its unprotected north-eastern corner, and making
themselves masters of a far wider territory, broke up into two
kingdoms--that of the Eastern Franks in what is now Germany, and that of
the Western Franks reaching from the Rhine to the Atlantic. These Franks
subdued all the other Teutonic conquerors of Gaul, while they adopted
the religion, the language, and some of the civilization of the
Romanized Gauls who became their subjects. Under the second Frankish
dynasty, the Empire was renewed in the West, where it had been for a
time put an end to by these Teutonic invasions, and the then Frankish
king, Charles the Great, took his place as Emperor at its head. But in
the time of his grandsons the various kingdoms and nations of which the
Empire was composed, fell apart again under different descendants of
his. One of these, _Charles the Bald_, was made King of the Western
Franks in what was termed the Neustrian, or "not eastern," kingdom, from
which the present France has sprung. This kingdom in name covered all
the country west of the Upper Meuse, but practically the Neustrian king
had little power south of the Loire; and the Celts of Brittany were
never included in it.

2. 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

3. The Kingdom of Hugh Capet.--The language of Hugh's kingdom was
clipped Latin; the peasantry and townsmen were mostly Gaulish; the
nobles were almost entirely Frank. There was an understanding that the
king could only act by their consent, and must be chosen by them; but
matters went more by old custom and the right of the strongest than by
any law. A Salic law, so called from the place whence the Franks had
come, was supposed to exist; but this had never been used by their
subjects, whose law remained that of the old Roman Empire. Both of these
systems of law, however, fell into disuse, and were replaced by rude
bodies of "customs," which gradually grew up. The habits of the time
were exceedingly rude and ferocious. The Franks had been the fiercest
and most untamable of all the Teutonic nations, and only submitted
themselves to the influence of Christianity and civilization from the
respect which the Roman Empire inspired. Charles the Great had tried to
bring in Roman cultivation, but we find him reproaching the young Franks
in his schools with letting themselves be surpassed by the Gauls, whom
they despised; and in the disorders that followed his death, barbarism
increased again. The convents alone kept up any remnants of culture; but
as the fury of the Northmen was chiefly directed to them, numbers had
been destroyed, and there was more ignorance and wretchedness than at
any other time. In the duchy of Aquitaine, much more of the old Roman
civilization survived, both among the cities and the nobility; and the
Normans, newly settled in the north, had brought with them the vigour of
their race. They had taken up such dead or dying culture as they found
in France, and were carrying it further, so as in some degree to awaken
their neighbours. Kings and their great vassals could generally read and
write, and understand the Latin in which all records were made, but few
except the clergy studied at all. There were schools in convents, and
already at Paris a university was growing up for the study of theology,
grammar, law, philosophy, and music, the sciences which were held to
form a course of education. The doctors of these sciences lectured; the
scholars of low degree lived, begged, and struggled as best they could;
and gentlemen were lodged with clergy, who served as a sort of private

4. Earlier Kings of the House of Paris.--Neither Hugh nor the next
three kings (_Robert_, 996-1031; _Henry_, 1031-1060; _Philip_,
1060-1108) were able men, and they were almost helpless among the
fierce nobles of their own domain, and the great counts and dukes around
them. Castles were built of huge strength, and served as nests of
plunderers, who preyed on travellers and made war on each other,
grievously tormenting one another's "villeins"--as the peasants were
termed. Men could travel nowhere in safety, and horrid ferocity and
misery prevailed. The first three kings were good and pious men, but too
weak to deal with their ruffian nobles. _Robert, called the Pious_, was
extremely devout, but weak. He became embroiled with the Pope on account
of having married Bertha--a lady pronounced to be within the degrees of
affinity prohibited by the Church. He was excommunicated, but held out
till there was a great religious reaction, produced by the belief that
the world would end in 1000. In this expectation many persons left their
land untilled, and the consequence was a terrible famine, followed by a
pestilence; and the misery of France was probably unequalled in this
reign, when it was hardly possible to pass safely from one to another of
the three royal cities, Paris, Orleans, and Tours. Beggars swarmed, and
the king gave to them everything he could lay his hands on, and even
winked at their stealing gold off his dress, to the great wrath of a
second wife, the imperious Constance of Provence, who, coming from the
more luxurious and corrupt south, hated and despised the roughness and
asceticism of her husband. She was a fierce and passionate woman, and
brought an element of cruelty into the court. In this reign the first
instance of persecution to the death for heresy took place. The victim
had been the queen's confessor; but so far was she from pitying him that
she struck out one of his eyes with her staff, as he was led past her to
the hut where he was shut in and burnt. On Robert's death Constance took
part against her son, _Henry I._, on behalf of his younger brother, but
Henry prevailed. During his reign the clergy succeeded in proclaiming
what was called the Truce of God, which forbade war and bloodshed at
certain seasons of the year and on certain days of the week, and made
churches and clerical lands places of refuge and sanctuary, which often
indeed protected the lawless, but which also saved the weak and
oppressed. It was during these reigns that the Papacy was beginning the
great struggle for temporal power, and freedom from the influence of the
Empire, which resulted in the increased independence and power of the
clergy. The religious fervour which had begun with the century led to
the foundation of many monasteries, and to much grand church
architecture. In the reign of _Philip I._, William, Duke of Normandy,
obtained the kingdom of England, and thus became far more powerful than
his suzerain, the King of France, a weak man of vicious habits, who lay
for many years of his life under sentence of excommunication for an
adulterous marriage with Bertrade de Montfort, Countess of Anjou.

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