Thursday 9 June 2011

The Kings and Queens of France

I thought I would post a genealogical table (of sorts) of various monarchies over the next few weeks. Traditionally, the French monarchy was seen by most people in Europe as the premier throne in Christendom. A view, understandably, rejected by the Hapsburgs at every available opportunity for eight consecutive centuries. In any case, because of her early conversion to Christianity, the French kings were entitled to be addressed as "His Most Christian Majesty," an honorific which later moved the kings of Spain and Portugal to such jealousy that they petitioned the Pope to grant them something similar (they got "His Most Catholic Majesty" and "His Most Faithful Majesty," respectively.)

The monarchy in France lasted over fourteen centuries and, even today, it still continues to provoke fairly heated debate. For purposes of clarity, I have excluded the Merovingian dynasty of kings, who ruled France between the fifth and eighth centuries A.D. Although some of that family bore the title "King of the Franks," the monarchy's power was in such a state of flux in that period that they often had to resort to the more honest title of "King of Paris."  I have chosen, therefore, to start with the Carolingian dynasty and continue up to the deposition of Louis-Philippe in 1848. I have not included the two Napoleons who used the title of "emperor" in the nineteenth century. Although they had the title, they were not technically monarchs and few royalists today would accept the Bonaparte family's claim as a legitimate one. In any case, they were "emperors", not "kings".

The medieval monarchy's habit of adding colourful nicknames to the French kings made me laugh - I can't help feeling sorry for Charles the Bald and Louis the Fat.

(752 - 987)

PEPIN "the Short" (752 - 768). He married Bertrada of Laon.

CARLOMAN (768 - 771). Famously remembered as "Charlemagne's idiot brother," he married a German aristocrat called Gerberga. He was co-ruler with his more famous brother.

CHARLEMAGNE (768 - 814). Technically "King Charles I," he is universally remembered by his sobriquet of "Charles the Great," "Charlemagne." He was also the first Holy Roman Emperor, a title to which many of his successors would aspire to and few would succeed in obtaining. One of the most magnificent and celebrated monarchs in European history (above), he was beatified in 814 and in Roman Catholicism is therefore often referred to as "Blessed Carolus Magnus." In 1166, he was canonised but lost his sainthood when the pope who added the halo, Paschal III, was declared a usurper and an anti-pope. He married four times - firstly to Desiderata, Princess of the Lombards, whom he divorced. After that, he married Hildegard of Vinzgouw, then the ferociously brave Queen Fastrada and after that to another German aristocrat, Luitgard.

LOUIS I (814 - 840). Like his father, he too was emperor. Sometimes known either as "Louis the Pious" or "Louis the Debonair," which seems fitting for a monarchy and a nation which never saw a contradiction in those two virtues, the first of France's many king Louis was married twice. His first wife was Ermengarde of Hesbaye and his second was Judith of Bavaria.

CHARLES II "the Bald" (840 - 877). He also held the title of emperor and he married twice; firstly to Ermentrude of Orléans and secondly to Richelda of Provence. 

LOUIS II "the Stammerer" (877-9). He married firstly to Ansgarde of Burgundy and then to Adelaide of Paris.

LOUIS III (879 - 882). The realm was divided with his brother, CARLOMAN II (879 - 884). Neither king married.

CHARLES III "the Fat" (884-8). Also Holy Roman Emperor, he too did not marry.

EUDES (888 - 898). He married Theodorota of Troyes.

CHARLES IV "the Simple" (893 - 922). He married twice - firstly to Frederina of Chalons-sur-Marne, whom he divorced in order to marry Princess Eadgifu of England.

ROBERT I (922-3). He married Beatrice of Vermandois.

RAOUL (923-36). He married Emma, Princess of France.

LOUIS IV "from Overseas" (936 - 954). He acquired his nickname from being taken to England for his own safety during his childhood by his mother, Queen Eadgifu. He married Gerbruga, Dowager Duchess of Lorraine.

LOTHAIRE (954 - 986). He married Emma, Princess of Italy.

LOUIS V "the Lazy" (986-7). He died in mysterious circumstances and was succeeded by Hugh Capet. The Capet dynasty would rule France until the downfall of the monarchy in 1848, through its three cadet branches - Valois, Bourbons and Orléans. The current claimants to the French crown are still descended from King Hugh.

(987 - 1328)

KING HUGH CAPET (987 - 96). He married Adelaide of Aquitaine.

ROBERT II (996 - 1031). Known either as "Robert the Pious" or "Robert the Wise," he went through three marriage ceremonies, although official historians of the monarchy regarded only two as legitimate. His first was to Rozala, dowager Countess of Flanders. He divorced her on becoming king and married Bertha of Burgundy, in a marriage which the Church condemned as illegal. For four years, despite his piety, the King was excommunicated and it was only lifted when he agreed to separate from Bertha and to marry to his third (or second) wife, Constance of Arles, by whom he had issue.

HENRI I (1031 - 1060). It was under Henri's rule that the French monarchy's territory reached its smallest geographical point. He married Matilda of Frisia and then Anna of Kiev.

PHILIPPE I "the Amorous" (1060 - 1108). There were other French kings who deserved the nickname more than Philippe. He married twice; firstly to Bertha of Holland and then to Bertrada de Montfort.

LOUIS VI "the Fat" (1108 - 1137). He married twice. Firstly to Lucienne de Rochefort, whom he divorced in order to marry Adelaide of Maurienne. Sadly for his queens, his nickname was not ironic.

LOUIS VII (1137 - 1180). He married three times. Firstly to the very famous Eleanor, Duchess of the Aquitaine, whom he divorced before she went on to marry Henry II, King of England. After his divorce, he married Constanza of Castile and when she died in childbed, Louis married Adela of Champagne.

PHILIPPE II (1180 - 1223). Often known by his full name as Philippe-Auguste or Philip-Augustus, a lively historical tradition has identified him as the lover of King Richard the Lionheart of England, although that seems highly unlikely. Much more contemporary controversy was generated by Philippe's marriages. His first to Isabella of Hainaut, was unremarkable, but after his death he entered into a spectacularly unhappy marriage to one of the princesses of Denmark, Ingeborg. Attempting to divorce her, he married Agnes-Maria of Merania, despite the fact that Pope Innocent III had already declared that the marriage to Ingeborg was not canonically suspect. Eventually, Philippe was forced to set aside Agnes-Maria and return to Ingeborg.

LOUIS VIII (1223-6). Given the pretty fantastic nickname of "Louis the Lion," he was married to Blanche of Castile who, along with Margaret Beaufort, has gone down in history as one of the royal mothers-in-law from hell, depending on the historian's viewpoint.

LOUIS IX (1226 - 1270). Canonised by Pope Boniface VIII, unlike Charlemagne, Louis's sainthood was never taken from him. He married Marguerite of Provence.

PHILIPPE III "the Bold" (1270 - 1285). He married twice. His first wife was Isabella of Aragon; his second was Marie of Brabant.

PHILIPPE IV "the Fair" (1285 - 1314). The nickname was a homage to Philippe's legendary good looks and it certainly had nothing to do with this capacity for mercy or justice. He married Jeanne, Queen of Navarre.

LOUIS X, "the Quarreller" (1314-6). He married Marguerite of Burgundy, who was imprisoned on grounds of adultery and very possibly murdered on her husband's orders. His second wife was Clementia of Hungary.

JEAN I "the Posthumous" (1316). King for only five days, he was born after his father's death and died before reaching a week on the throne.

PHILIPPE V "the Tall" (1316 - 1322). He married Jeanne II, Countess of Burgundy.

CHARLES IV "the Fair" (1322 - 1328). He married firstly to Blanche of Burgundy, sister of Louis X's queen, and who was incarcerated in a nunnery on grounds of alleged adultery. Charles married Marie of Luxembourg instead and after her death in childbed, Jeanne d'Evreux. He was succeeded by his nephew, whereupon the royal family's name was changed by most subsequent historians.

(1328 - 1589)

PHILIPPE VI "the Fortunate" (1328 - 1350). He married twice and his wives had two fairly revealing nicknames amongst the people. His first wife, Jeanne of Burgundy, was nicknamed "Jeanne the Lame"; after her death, he married Princess Blanche of Navarre, known as "Blanche the Beautiful" or "Blanche of the Beautiful Wisdom".

JEAN II "the Good" (1350 - 1364). Jean the Good was married twice. Firstly to Bonna of Bohemia and, after her death, to Jeanne, comtesse d'Auvergne.

CHARLES V "the Wise" (1364 - 1380). He married Jeanne de Bourbon.

CHARLES VI (1380 - 1422). Charles VI's two nicknames - "Charles the Beloved" and "Charles the Mad" - reveal the sad journey of his long life and reign. He was married to Isabeau of Ingolstadt-Bavaria.

CHARLES VII (1422 - 1461). Called either "Charles the Victorious" or "Charles the Well-Served," depending on how much you thought he had to do with the defeat of the English armies in France, he was married to Marie of Anjou.

LOUIS XI (1461 - 1483). Called "Louis the Prudent" by his subjects and "Louis the Universal Spider" by his many foreign enemies, he was married to Princess Margaret of Scotland and Charlotte of Savoy, after Margaret's death.

CHARLES VIII (1483 - 1498). He married Anne, Duchess of Brittany.

LOUIS XII (1498 - 1515). He married Jeanne, Princess of France, whom he divorced in order to marry Anne, Duchess of Brittany, his cousin's widow. After her death, he married for a third and final time to Mary Tudor, Princess of England.

FRANÇOIS I (1515 - 1547). One of the great patrons of the arts, he was married twice; firstly to Claude de Valois, Princess of France, his predecessor's daughter and secondly to Archduchess Eleanora of Hapsburg.

HENRI II (1547 - 1559). He married Catherine de Medici.

FRANÇOIS II (1559 - 1560). The first of Henri II and Catherine de Medici's three sons to sit on the throne, he was married to Mary, Queen of Scots.

CHARLES IX (1560 - 1574). He was married to Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria, but his reign is chiefly remembered for the Wars of Religion and, in particular, the horrific massacre of French Protestants known as "the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre" in 1572.

HENRI III (1574 - 1589). King of Poland during his brother's reign, he abdicated it upon becoming King of France and married Louise of Lorraine. He was assassinated in 1589 by a fanatical young Catholic, disguised as a priest, who felt the King had been insufficiently zealous in crushing Protestantism. The throne then passed to Henri's brother-in-law and distant cousin and the merging of the two thrones of France and Navarre. The reign of the House of Bourbon began.

(1589 - 1830)

HENRI IV (1589 - 1610). One of the most popular kings in French history, he too was assassinated by an overly-zealous Catholic, who doubted the sincerity of the King's conversion from Protestantism. Henri was married twice - firstly to Marguerite de Valois, Princess of France, known as "La Reine Margot." He divorced her on generous terms to marry her cousin, Marie de Medici.

LOUIS XIII (1610 - 1643). Immortalised for many people today by being the King in The Three Musketeers, Louis married Anne of Austria, Infanta of Spain.

LOUIS XIV "The Sun King" (1643 - 1715). The builder of Versailles and the longest reigning monarch in European history was married twice. His first wife was his cousin the Infanta Maria-Teresa of Spain, but after her death he entered into a morganatic marriage with a commoner, Madame de Maintenon, who had once been governess to some of his children. 

LOUIS XV (1715 - 1774). He married Maria Leczszynska, Princess of Poland.

LOUIS XVI (1774 - 1793). He married Marie-Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria. Louis's reign saw the outbreak of the Revolution, during which the monarchy was overthrown and he himself was executed.

LOUIS XVII (1793 - 1795). Louis's reign was purely de jure, since he remained in prison for the entire time and was subjected to horrific abuse which resulted in his death at the age of ten.

LOUIS XVIII (1795/1814 - 1824). Louis XVIII was the younger brother of Louis XVI and took the name out of homage to most of the kings of his line. For the majority of his reign, he was in exile and power in France was held by a succession of republics and then by Napoleon Bonaparte. He was restored in 1814, by which time his wife, Princess Marie-Josephine of Savoy, had already died. Louis XVIII was the last sovereign in France to die on the throne.

CHARLES X (1824 - 1830). He was married to Princess Maria-Teresa of Savoy. The youngest of Louis XVI's brothers, he was an ultra-conservative who was forced to abdicate during the 1830 "July Revolution." One of the principle clauses of the document, however, was not honoured, which has led to many French royalists, even today, insisting it was null and void. On this basis, the current claimant to the French throne would be Louis, Duc d'Anjou. 

(1830 - 1848)

LOUIS-PHILIPPE "The Citizen King" (1830 - 1848). Head of a junior branch of the royal family which took the throne in the controversial circumstances of July 1830, he was married to Princess Marie-Amélie of the Two Sicilies. He was deposed during the 1848 uprisings and sought asylum in England, where he died. It is from his children with Queen Marie-Amélie that the current Orléanist pretender to the French throne, the comte de Paris, is descended.


  1. Great! I am looking forward to this. Has salic law / primogeniture ALWAYS been observed by France?

  2. Tubbs, that's a really interesting question, especially considering that Salic Law actually originated in France itself and derives its name from the Salian Franks who created the system. It was certainly being invoked as a kind principle of the monarchy as far back as the reign of Charlemagne, but it really began to assert a dominant influence following the tragic death of Jean I in 1316. An attempt was made to assert the Salic idea as Salic Law, in order to preserve a pure-blood inheritance of the crown by the closest living male members of the King's family. It was in 1328 that it was formally applied as a law for the monarchy, rather than simply a dominant principle and that was a pragmatic decision to prevent the seizure of the French crown by King Edward III of England, whose claim to it came through his mother, Isabella, one of Philippe IV's daughters. Edward's refusal to accept Salic Law was a direct cause of the Hundred Years War, but it's interesting that medieval French chroniclers mocked Edward by saying that Salic Law had always been the CUSTOM in France, even before 1328, and it therefore wasn't something Edward could object to. The English did attempt to overturn Salic Law again in 1420 with the Treaty of Troyes, by which the succession of the French crown would pass through Charles VI's daughter, Catherine de Valois, to her son Henry VI of England. But again, it was doomed to failure and Salic Law triumphed again in France.

  3. H.I.M. Prince Corey30 July 2011 at 06:23

    Maybe it's time for the House of Vermandois to take the Reigns.


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