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feudal Chiefs, Hugh Capet, got himself declared King by his vassals, on the death of Louis V., the Feeble, the last King of the second dynasty. But Hugh Capet also found his Sovereignty almost as limited as that of the dynasty which he had dispossessed. He was nominally King of France, but beyond his own domains his supremacy was ignored.
At this period France was divided into numerous territories called Duchies and Counties, at the head of which was one of these feudal Barons; who was styled. Duke or Count according as his territory was either a Duchy or County. These titles were of Roman origin, but the Kings of the Franks adopted them with a different signification. They were now applied to territory, and denoted its extent; for a Duchy was usually larger than a County. At the beginning of the tenth century, then, the whole of France was owned by various Dukes and Counts,* who were the hereditary possessors of their lands, wholly independent in their jurisdiction, and exercising, by consent of the Crown, the rights of Sovereignty. They coined money, levied taxes, and, when interest or passion dictated, made war on each other.† Finally, to guarantee their power and wealth, they established Primogeniture towards the end of the tenth century, so that their
*The title of Marquis was rare at this period, and was chiefly honorary. It was given to the owners of land presented by the King with letters patent.
With a view to check the barbarous hostilities constantly raging between the feudal nobles, the Church induced them to consent to a suspension of arms during the days dedicated to religious services. This was called La Paix de Dieu, and began in 1041. Louis IX., in his reign, 1226-1270, issued an ordinance that forty days must elapse after the offence was given before any conflict should begin. This was called La Quarantaine du Roi. These "private wars" between the feudal barons went on up to the fourteenth century, when they were gradually checked by the progress of civilization and the growth of the royal power.
lands and dignities might descend unimpaired to their eldest sons.
No such organization had ever existed before. The Roman law created the rank of nobiles, or known men, but Primogeniture was never recognized. In Greece, Egypt, and India, such a class as this feudal Aristocracy never appeared. It originated in France, as described, and spread over Europe, where it is still extant, though shorn of its ancient power and grandeur. Strange that France which first inaugurated an Hereditary Aristocracy in Europe should be the first to abolish it!
These feudal Nobles, in order to enhance their prestige, began, towards the close of the tenth century, to use family arms and crests to illustrate the exploits of themselves and their ancestors. Heraldry, which was simply the record of the pedigree of these families, came into fashion. Ceremonies, pageantries, and etiquette were gradually introduced to heighten the splendor and gratify the pride of the feudal Aristocracy.
The institution of Chivalry, or Knighthood, was created in the eleventh century, as a new means of adding lustre to the Nobility. No one could be a Knight but a Nobleman, and those who received the honor had special privileges conferred. They could carry a banner, appear at tournaments,* wear a gold
* The first tournament of the Middle Ages took place at Strasburg, in 842, at the interview between Louis of Germany and Charles I. (the Bald) of France. The Emperor Henry I., who died in 936, was very fond of this species of amusement, and made several laws for its regulation. Geoffrey 11. of Brittany was killed in a tournament at Paris, August 19, 1186. Tournaments were introduced into England during the reign of Stephen, 1135-54. They were prohibited by Henry II., 1154-89, and were again established in the reign of Richard I., 1189-99. Edward III. held a tournament at Dartford in 1330, and another at Windsor, January 19, 1334, soon after the institution of the Order of
collar and gilded armor, assume the title of Monseigneur, while their wives were entitled to that of Madame. A Knight had to pass through three degrees of promotion that of varlet, page, and esquire-and received his sword of Knighthood amid religious and military ceremonies, which were all meant to enhance the distinction.*
The object of this feudal institution was partly to stimulate military ardor in the Nobles, partly to soften and improve the manners of a rough and warlike age. To cultivate a spirit of chivalry or courtesy towards women, the weak, the defenceless, a Knight was bound by oath always to draw his sword against injustice, to defend the widow and orphan, and to obey implicitly the orders of his Lady and his King. The Knight who failed in these duties was declared in a Court of Chivalry to be a felon, and lost his privileges. During the period of the Crusades, Chivalry
the Garter. Henry VIII. and the Duke of Suffolk maintained the field against all comers in May 1513. Henry II. of France lost his eye in a tilt with Count Montgomery, and died shortly afterwards of the wound, 1559. After this accident tournaments were discontinued in
A magnificent festivity, in imitation of the medieval tournaments, was held by the Earl of Eglinton at his castle in Ayrshire, August 1839. The Marquis of Londonderry officiated as "King of the Tournament," and Lady Seymour as Queen of Love and Beauty." Many of the guests were in ancient costumes, and the expense of the entertainment is said to have amounted to £40,000. The Emperor Napoleon III., then Prince Louis Napoleon, was one of the mimic warriors on this occasion.
"The young man, the esquire," says Guizot, "who aspired to the title of knight, was first divested of his clothes and put into the bath
-a symbol of purification. Upon coming out of the bath, they clothed him in a white tunic-a symbol of purity; in a red robe-a symbol of the blood which he was bound to shed in the service of the faith; in a saga, or close black coat—a symbol of the death which awaited him as well as all men."
It may be added, the modern practice of duelling grew out of the institution of chivalry.
+ There were other classes of knights sworn to defend the Church against the infidels, as the Knights Hospitallers, founded in Jerusalem
was at its zenith, but declined with the Feudal System.*
The feudal Lords, who lived with all the pomp the age could furnish in their chateaux or castles, had no other occupation than warfare with each other from motives of rivalry or plunder. Their amusements were the chase, or festivities at the castle. A few facts from the lives of some of them will illustrate the character of the Middle Ages better than any description.
William I., Duke of Normandy, forced the Count of Bretagne to acknowledge himself his vassal in 928. He defeated the Count of Cotentin, who laid siege to Rouen, the capital of Normandy, in 933; defended King Charles the Simple against the Duke of Burgundy; aided in restoring Louis IV. to the throne; and, finally, was assassinated by the Count of Flanders in a conference proposed by the latter, in 943.
Another William of Normandy, in 1035, went into Italy with two of his brothers, and followed by three hundred Norman adventurers disguised as pilgrims. He first took service with the Prince of Salerno, and afterwards with the Greek Patriarch. He fought for six years to recover Sicily from the Infidels or Saracens. His last exploit was the capture of Calabria; of which he declared himself the sovereign Count, dividing a portion of his conquests with his followers.
in 1099, afterwards known as the Knights of Malta, who wore a white cloak with a red cross; also the Knights Templars, founded also in Jerusalem by some of the Crusaders in 1118. This last order became very powerful and rich. They were suppressed in France by Philip le Bel in 1307, and by the Pope Clement in 1312. Their number and wealth made them dangerous in the eyes of these rulers.
* In our days, the title of Knight or Chevalier is given to those admitted to any order of honor, as the Orders of the Garter and Bath in England, the Legion of Honour in France, the Golden Fleece in Spain, &c.
Roger, a brother of William, invaded Sicily, then occupied by the Saracens, in 1061, with a band of mercenaries; and, after fighting for twenty-eight years, conquered the whole island, and restored the Christian religion, obtaining in 1098 from the Pope Urbain, for himself and successors, the dignity of Apostolic Legate, with all the powers of that high function.
Simon de Montfort, Baron and Count, joined the Fourth Crusade in 1199, and distinguished himself in Palestine. On his return, he was elected by the Barons, Chief of the army against the Albigeois heretics, who were commanded by the Count of Toulouse. He signalized himself by his courage and cruelties, overthrew the Count of Toulouse, 1213, and seized his estates, which Pope Innocent III. bestowed on him. Montfort was killed, 1218, by a stone whilst besieging Toulouse, which had again revolted. He was called the "Maccabee" of his epoch.
Guy de Dampierre, Count of Flanders and Peer of France, accompanied Louis IX. to Africa in 1270. Having married his daughter to Edward of England without the permission of Philip III., his Suzerain, the King declared war against him, defeated him, and seized on his castle and estates. Dampierre came to Paris to beg forgiveness of the King, but was imprisoned at Compiègne, where he died.
The Counts of Flanders were vassals of the King of France; but in 1297, the Count Guy de Dampierre revolted against Philip IV., which led to the conquest of the County of Flanders, and its annexation to France. In 1302, however, the Flemish rebelled and defeated Philip, who was obliged to restore their feudal Counts. In 1337, the Flemish cities recognized Edward