« ElőzőTovább »
soldier advancing, rudely seized the foot of Charles, and by a sudden jerk threw the monarch on the ground. The Normans who witnessed the transaction, applauded their comrade's insolence, while the French nobles deemed it prudent to conceal their indignation. The ceremony was continued as if nothing had happened ; the several Norman lords took the usual oaths of allegiance, after which the king returned to Laon. He had chosen this city for his capital, because Paris was included in the fief of one of the great vassals of the crown.
The establishment of the Normans in Neustria put an end to the system of piracy and plunder which for more than a century had devastated western Europe ; the repetition of pillage had so wasted Germany, Gaul, and Britain, that the plunder to be acquired no longer repaid the hazards of an expedition, and as war was no longer profitable, Rollo resolved to cultivate the arts of peace. To prevent the future incursions of his countrymen, he fortified the mouths of the rivers, restored the walls of the cities, and kept his subjects in constant military training. Under Rollo the feudal system, which had been slowly forming, received its full development; immediately after his baptism, he divi. ded the lands of Neustria among his principal followers, to each of whom he gave the title of count, and these counts subdivided the land among their soldiers. The Normans displayed the same ardor in cultivating their new estates which they had formerly shown in devastating them; the peasants resumed the cultivation of their fields ; the priests restored their ruined churches; the citizens resumed their trading occupations; strangers were invited from every country to cultivate the waste lands: and the most rigorous laws were enacted for the protection of person and property. Robberies were so efficiently checked, that Rollo, as a bravado, hung up a golden bracelet in a forest near the Seine, which remained untouched for three years.
While the Normans devastated the coasts, central Europe was devastated by the Hungarians, or, as they called themselves, the Magyars, who extended their ravages into Greece and Italy. Germany suffered most from their hostilities, and was the longest exposed to their fury. These incursions, to which must be added occasional enterprises of the Sclavonians and Saracens, destroyed the political institutions that Charlemagne had formed, and threw Christendom back into the barbarism from which it had just begun to emerge. England, under the government of Alfred, for a brief space preserved the elements of civilizatior ; he expelled the Normans from the island (A. D. 887), restored the ancient seminaries of learning, and founded new schools. But his glorious reign was followed by fresh calamities; the Danish-Normans reappeared in England, and spread trouble and desolation throughout the country
From the reign of Charles the Bald, the royal authority rapidly declined in France, while the power of the feudal lords constantly increased. The dukes and counts, usurping regal rights, raised, on the slightest, or without any provocation, the standard of revolt: the kings, to gain some, and secure the allegiance of others, abandoned to them successively the most valuable royal domains and privileges, until the Carlovingian monarchs, so far from being able to counterbalance the power of the nobility, were unable to support the expenses of their own
A change of dynasty was thus rendered inevitable, and the throne was certain to fall to the lot of the most powerful or most daring of the norninal vassals. This event, which had been long foreseen, took place on the death of Louis the Sluggard, the last of the Carlovingian dynasty, who died without issue at the early age of twenty (A. D. 987). Hugh Capet possessed already the centre of the kingdom ; he was count of Paris, duke of France and Neustria, while his brother Henry held the dutchy of Burgundy. It was not difficult for so powerful a noble to form a party, by whose favor he was invested with the title, after having long enjoyed the power of royalty (A. D. 987). Charles of Lorraine, the late king's uncle, took up arms in defence of his hereditary rights ; but he was betrayed to his rival by the bishop of Laon, and ended his days in prison. Hugh became the founder of the Capetian dynasty in France, a branch of which still retains pussession of that crown. But for many years after the accession of Hugh Capet, France was an aristocratic republic rather than a monarchy, for the royal authority was merely nominal. The domains of the count of Paris were indeed annexed to the crown, and thus the Capetians had greater territorial possessions, and consequently greater influence, than the Carlovingians. But the peers of France, as the great feudatories were called, still preserved their independence: and their tacit assent to Hugh's usurpation was anything rather than a recognition of his authority. In the south of France, Languedoc, no notice was taken of Hugh's elevation; and the inhabitants for many years dated their public acts by the nominal reigns of the children of Charles of Lorraine.
SECTION III.—The Foundation of the Germanic Empire. From the first foundation of the Germanic empire by the treaty of Verdun, the royal authority was extremely limited, and Louis, its monarch, was obliged to swear in a national assembly, held at Marone (A. D. 851), that “ he would maintain the states in all their rights and privileges." His youngest son, Charles the Fat, was deposed by his subjects; and Arnold, the natural son of Prince Carloman, was elected to the vacant throne. The custom of electing emperors was thus established in Germany, and it continued almost to our own times. Arnold was succeeded by his son Louis; the states chose Conrad, duke of Franconia, as his successor, to the exclusion of Charles the Simple, king of France, the legitimate heir male of the Carlovingians. On the death of Conrad, the states elected Henry, surnamed the Fowler, as his successor (A. D. 919), the first of the Saxon dynasty of kings and emperors.
Henry I., by his civil and military institutions, raised Germany to the highest rank among the states of Europe. Profiting by the intestine commotions of France, he conquered the province of Lorraine which he divided into two dutchies, that of Upper Lorraine, or the Moselle, and that of Lower Lorraine, or Brabant. The former retained the name of Lorraine ; it was long governed by the family of Gerard, duke of Alsace, whose descendants obtained the Germanic empire ir the eighteenth century. Brabant was assigned to Godfrey, count of Louvain, whose descendants retained it, with the title of duke, until, on the failure of male heirs, it passed by marriage into the hands of the dukes of Burgundy, who thus found means to render themselves masters of a great portion of the Netherlands. Henry successfully repelled the invasions of the Sclavonians and Hungarians ; by the defeat of the latter he freed the Germans from the disgraceful tribute with which they had been compelled to purchase the forbearance of these barbarians, and the memory of his victory was annually commemorated by a grateful people for several succeeding centuries.
The great merits of Henry secured the election of his son Otho to the Germanic throne. His reign was disturbed by frequent revolts of the powerful feudatories ; their faction and insubordination effectually prevented him from giving his subjects a code of laws, the great object of his ambition ; he was forced to yield to the turbulent spirit of the times, and leave some more fortunate sovereign to gather the laurels of a legislator. One incident will serve to mark the character of the age better than any labored dissertation. During one of the national assemblies or diets, it was debated “ whether children could inherit the property of their fathers during the lifetime of their grandfathers.” After a long discussion, in which the point became more obscure than ever, it was gravely resolved to leave the matter to the decision of a duel. An equal number of combatants, chosen on both sides, entered the lists ; the champions of the children prevailed, and thenceforward the law of inheritance was considered to be fixed.
Italy had been raised into a kingdom after the partition of the Carlovingian dynasty, and several of its princes had taken the imperial title ; but the government of these feeble rulers exposed the peninsula to dreadful calamities; it was harassed by the private wars of the nobles, and devastated by invasions of the Hungarians and Saracens. Adelaide, the widow of Lothaire, king of Italy, menaced with the loss of her dominions by Berenger, or Berengarius the Younger, supplicated the aid of Otho, and her request was strenuously supported by Pope John XII. (A. D. 951). Otho passed into Italy, conquered several of the strongest cities, and gave his hand in marriage to the queen whom he had come to protect. Berenger was permitted to retain the crown of Ialy on condition of doing homage to Otho; but the tyranny and faithlessness of this prince excited such commotions, that the German sovereign was once more summoned to cross the Alps by the united entreaties of the Italian princes and prelates. Otho entered Italy at the head of an army which his rival could not resist; he marched directly to Rome, where he was received with the greatest enthusiasm (A. D 962). The pope revived in his favor the imperial title, which had been thirty-eight years in abeyance, proclaimed him Augustus, crowned him emperor of the Romans, and acknowledged him Supreme Head of the Church. But the pontiff's gratitude was not of long duration ; enraged by the emperor's remonstrances against his vicious courses, he took advantage of Otho's absence in pursuit of Berenger to enter into alliance with Adelbert, the son of his ancient enemy, to form a secret league for the expulsion of the Germans from Italy. Otho heard the intelligence of John's treachery with great indigna.
he returned to Rome, held a council, in which the pope was accused of the most scandalous immoralities, and on his refusal to
appear, he was condemned as contumacious, deposed, and a new pontiff, Leo VIII., elected in his stead. All Italy, as far as the ancient kingdom of the Lombards extended, thus fell under the sway of the Germans ; there were only some maritime places in Lower Italy which, with Apulia and Calabria, still remained subject to the Greeks. Otho transmitted this kingdom, with the imperial dignity, to his successors on the German throne ; but from his reign to that of Maximilian I., no prince took the title of. emperor until he had been consecrated by the pope. Maximilian designated himself “Emperor Elect" (A. D. 1508), and his example was followed by his successors down to our times.
Otho I. died after a prosperous reign (A. D. 975), and was succeeded by his son Otho II. His reign was occupied in sanguinary wars, which harassed Germany and Italy. Otho having married the Greek princess Theophania, claimed the provinces of Apulia and Calabria as her dowry. After a tedious struggle, the emperor was mortally wounded by a poisoned javelin in a battle with the Greeks (A. D. 983). His death is said to have been accelerated by indignation at the joy which Theophania showed for the victory of her countrymen, though it was obtained over her own husband.
Otho III., when elected successor to his father, was only twelve years of age ; ambitious rivals prepared to dispute his title, but the affection of the Germans for his family enabled him to triumph over all opposition. His authority was more fiercely questioned in Italy, where Crescentius, an ambitious noble, became such a favorite with the Roman populace, that he deposed Pope Gregory, and gave the pontifical dignity to John XVI. Otho hastened to Italy, captured Rome, and put both Crescentius and John to death. These severities did not quell the turbulence of the Italians ; fresh insurrections soon compelled the emperor to return to the peninsula, where he was poisoned by the widow of Crescentius, whom he had seduced under a promise of marriage (A. D. 1002). He died without issue.
After some competition, the electors chose Henry, duke of Bavaria, descended from the Othos in the female line, emperor of the West. His reign was disturbed by repeated insurrections, both in Germany and Italy; he succeeded in quelling them, but was so wearied by these repeated troubles, that he seriously designed to abdicate and retire into a monastery. The clergy took advantage of his piety and liberality to extort from him several rich donations, which proved, in an after age, the cause of much evil. His death (A. D. 1024) put an end to the Saxon dynasty
Conrad II., duke of Franconia, being chosen by the electors, united the kingdom of Burgundy, or, as it was called, Arles, to the empire. But this was an acquisition of little real value; the great vassals of the kingdom, the counts and bishops, preserved the authority they had usurped in their respective districts, leaving the emperors a merely nominal sovereignty. It is even probable that the high authority possessed by the Burgundian lords, induced the German nobles to arrogate to themselves the same prerogatives. The power of the clergy was increasing even more rapidly than that of the nobles, for they extorted fresh privileges and grants from every successive sovereign ; Conrad,
who was naturally of a generous disposition, * impoverished the state by imitating the unwise liberality of his predecessors. Italy, during this reign and that of Conrad's son and successor, Henry III., continued to be distracted by rival factions; but Henry was an energetic supporter of the imperial authority; he deposed three rival popes, who claimed succession to St. Peter at the same time, and gave the pontifical chair to a German prelate, Clement II. He even exacted an oath from the Romans, that they would never elect a pope without having previously received the imperial sanction. The imperial pov er, wielded by an energetic monarch like Henry, was still formidable, but its resources were exhausted ; and when a feebler sovereign attempted to exercise the way
over the church which his father had held, he found the papacy stronger than the empire.
The great struggle between the papal and imperial power began in the reign of Henry IV., whose long minority, for he succeeded his father when only five years old, necessarily weakened the influence of the sovereign. On the other hand, the circumstances of Europe, at this crisis, were peculiarly favorable to the policy of the popes. The Saxon line, restored in England by Edward the Confessor, had lost its nationality: Edward conferred the chief ecclesiastical dignities of his kingdom on foreigners, or persons remarkable for their foreign attachments; and thus those who wielded the power of the church in the island, were more like missionaries, laboring for the benefit of a distant see, than clergymen, attentive only to their flocks. In Spain, the new provinces wrested from the Moors, when the unity of their empire was destroyed by the subversion of the Ommiade khaliphs, became closely attached to the Roman see. The spread of Christianity in Norway, Poland, Russia, and the other northern states, gave additional vigor to the papal power; for the Northerns, with all the zeal of new converts, became eager to prove their sincerity by some enterprise in support of the pontiff, whom they regarded as the great director of their faith.
But the most potent allies obtained by the church were the Normans of England and Italy. William, the natural son of Robert, duke of Normandy, had been nominated heir of the English throne by Edward he Confessor, who had no right to make any such appointment. Harold, the son of Godwin, earl of Kent, was the favorite of the English people, and it was generally known that he would be elected to the throne on the death of the confessor. Unfortunately Harold's brother was detained as a hostage in Normandy, and in spite of the warnings of King Edward, he crossed the sea in order to obtain his deliverance. The vessel in which the Saxon chief crossed the channel was wrecked near the mouth of the Somme, and, according to the barbarous custom of the age, the court of Ponthieu seized upon the shipwrecked strangers, nand threw them into prison, for the purpose of obtaining large ransom. Harold and his companions appealed to Duke William, who procured their liberation, and invited them to his court. A grand council of the Norman prelates and nobles was then convoked, in whose presence
* Many remarkable anecdotes are related of Conrad's generosity ; one deserves to be recorded. A gentleman having lost his leg in the imperial service, Conrad ordered that his boot should be filled with gold coins, to defray the expenses of his