Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Most That Once Was Has Passed, But Some Remain (Capet, Part III)

And as things have come and passed, so too has the great expanse of the Capetian empire. Not that the French truly had an empire (since they had no emperor) but over the years, the dynastic expanse of the House of Capet was definitely vast. Next week I plan to delve into the Spanish-Parma branch of the Capetian family which still rules Spain and Luxembourg today, but this week I feel it necessary to linger on those Capetian domains that are no longer controlled by them, and in most cases no longer exist, today. I mentioned quite a few of them in my previous post just to get their names out there, but today I will complete the task in the form of a sort of list. Behold, the many domains of Capet:
Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy
The Duchy of Burgundy – Burgundy was perhaps the longest-held and most important of the Capetian landholdings since it bordered on France itself. Burgundy traveled in and out of the senior line a few times until finally falling into the House of Habsburg in the person of Philip the Handsome. The original members of the family who controlled Burgundy were not even Capetians! They were Robertians, younger sons of Hugh the Great, Hugh Capet's father. But their line died out early and the title went to France where it was passed to Robert II's second son, Robert. The family of Robert continued for many generations, gathering up small neighboring counties, duchies, etc. and generally just increasing in size and prestige. By the death of the last in the line, Philip I, Artois, Franche-Comté, Auvergne, and Boulogne (all in France) were all part of the duchy. A great re-distribution occurred following his death and Burgundy returned to France. John II of France gave the duchy to his fourth son, Philip II the Bold. When Philip the Bold married the heiress of Flanders, Burgundy exploded in size and quickly, through more marriages, gobbled up the County of Burgundy, Rethel, Nevers, Namur, Brabant, Limburg, Hainaut, Holland, Zeeland, Luxembourg, Guelders, and Zutphen. In other words, the entire Low Countries became a fief of the Duke of Burgundy. With much dread, the lands passed through the last duke, Charles the Bold's, daughter, Mary, to Philip the Handsome and out of Capetian hands forever...pretty much.
Emperor Peter I of Byzantium (Latin Empire)
The Empire of Byzantium (or the Latin Empire) – The Fourth Crusade was perhaps the most damaging event sponsored by the Papacy during the Middle Ages. While the previous Crusades had aimed at the Holy Land, the Fourth Crusade misfired and ended up sacking Constantinople itself, sending the various members of the imperial family fleeing for their lives into the surrounding Black Sea and Aegean regions. For around 60 years a "Latin", or rather Papal, Empire of Byzantium existed at Constantinople while the imperial princelings awaited their restoration. The first two Latin Emperors were not Capetians, but the third, who had married the sister of the first two, was elected emperor after the second died. He was the youngest son of Louis VI of France, Peter of Courtenay, and was crowned Latin Emperor at Rome by Pope Honorius III in 1217. He never actually made it to Constantinople, though, having been kidnapped and imprisoned by one of the aforementioned princelings and dying in prison. His two sons ruled the Empire in succession after him. Robert, the first son, ruled only seven years, most of them fighting just to get TO Constantinople. Once there, he was driven out by an angry gentleman from whom Robert had stolen his fiancée. He died during his flight in 1228. His brother, Baldwin II, proved to be the last acting Latin Emperor, losing his throne in 1261. Baldwin was a child of 11 when he ascended the throne and by the time he was 18, the Latin Empire encompassed little more than its capital city. He spent the majority of his adulthood seeking out allies to help him expand, and later reclaim, his empire.
King Charles I of Naples & Sicily
The Principality of Achaea – This little relic of Byzantine Venetia encompassed the entirety of the Peloponnese Peninsula in Greece and was also created from the mess caused by the Fourth Crusade. It was not intended in any way as a Capetian dominion but ended up one nonetheless. It was the expansive Charles I of Naples (see below) who obtained the region and kept it in the family for a surprising nine generations. Few of the rulers actually lived there, being based mostly in Italy, but it did act as a staging ground for a number of failed crusades. The claim to Achaea was never solid, there being a rival line from a female, but it did come and go quite frequently until the death of Charles II of Hungary, where after the title fell into disuse.

The Kingdoms of Naples & Sicily – Naples and Sicily, consisting generally of everything south of Rome in Italy, have been culturally and socially linked for millenia. Normans conquered the region in the early 1100s and turned it into two linked yet rivaling states. It soon fell under the dominion of the powerful Hohenstaufen family of Germany, Holy Roman Emperors with a penchant for arguing with popes. Pope Clement IV didn't like the Hohenstaufen king Manfred and quite liked the Capetian duke of Anjou Charles. In 1265 Clement crowned Charles king of Sicily and Charles took off on a whirlwind tour that saw the death of Manfred and the rise of one of the most powerful Capetians in Medieval history. Charles conquered Albania proclaiming himself king, conquered Naples and incorporated it into Sicily and purchased the kingdom of Jerusalem, although it later reverted to its old masters. Naples, the Italian peninsular side of the two kingdoms, remained in Capetian hands for almost two hundred years before falling to the Aragonese. Both Naples and Sicily would later be reunited to the Capetian dynasty through the Spanish-Parma branch.
King Louis I of Hungary & Poland
King & Saint Hedwig of Poland
The Kingdoms of Hungary & Poland – Hungary became an appendage of the Capetian dynasty for a short 86 years from 1300 until 1386. The claim to the throne was through Charles I of Hungary's mother, who was of the House of Árpád. Charles himself was a grandson of Charles II of Naples & Sicily (see above) through his son, Charles Martel, who pretended to Hungary for a number of years. It was a difficult challenge for Charles, who was Franco-Italian, to get a foothold in Hungary, which was primarily Magyar in culture and hostile to outsiders. The majority of his reign was spent appeasing and attacking various Hungarian holdings, largely in Wallachia and Transylvania (modern-day Romania). His son, Louis I the Great, was one of the most important kings of Eastern Europe in the 14th century. He consolidated his power in Hungary just in time to fight advances by the early Ottoman Empire in the south and the Golden Horde in the east. He was a soldier-king and was feared by many enemies in the east. In 1370, he succeeded to the Polish throne of his childless uncle, Casimir III. He fought against Bohemians, Lithuanians and Mongols to endear himself to the public. When he died, the personal union of Hungary and Poland ended with Hungary going to his eldest daughter, Mary, and Poland going to his second, Hedwig. Mary struggled as a child ruler and was briefly overthrown by the king of Naples before being restored with her husband, Sigismund of Luxembourg. She passed to the background of history then, with her husband ruling alone and eventually becoming the Holy Roman Emperor. Hedwig, meanwhile, was elected "king" of Poland and ruled for 15 years, eventually becoming a saint in the Catholic Church. She married the Grand Duke Jagaila of Lithuania which began the long personal union of the two neighbors. When Hedwig died in 1399, Jagaila ruled both regions for another 35 years and his son through another marriage inherited the personal union. Hungary left the Capetian family forever, but Poland would return once more in the form of Henry V, the brother of Francis II and Charles IX of France, who was elected king of Poland in 1573 only to abandon the throne the next year when he became king of France as Henry III.
Louis X of France & I of Navarre, receiving Jews at Court
The Kingdom of Navarre –Interestingly, Navarre is perhaps the oldest dominion in this list and certainly the smallest. At its height, Navarre encompassed the majority of the Pyrenees region of Spain and France, but the Capetians never really ruled it during its height. Navarre was a reconquista state, quite likely the oldest of them with origins in Visigoth Hispania, and it fell into the French royal family the first time in 1305 when Louis X of France's mother, Jeanne I of Navarre, died. It only stayed in the French royal family for three kings before Jeanne II, Louis X's daughter, was finally able to reclaim her birthright (her uncles stole the throne from her). Jeanne II renounced all claims to France and her hereditary French lands to keep her Navarrese throne, but managed it pretty well. Her husband, Philip III of Navarre, was also a Capetian, the grandson of Philip III of France. Navarre stayed in this family, called the House of Evereux because of Philip III's hereditary lands in France, for four generations until Queen Blanche, the last of the line, died. The throne then passed out of the family for a short time as John II of Aragon, Blanche's husband, took control. His son, Ferdinand II of Aragon (of Ferdinand & Isabella fame) forcibly took the southern majority of Navarre and annexed it to Aragon. The remaining portion passed to a minor Gasgan house before returning again to the Capetian dynasty in the form of the House of Bourbon with Henry III. In 1589, Henry III became the king of France as Henry IV and the kingdom of Navarre became an appendage in personal union with the kingdom of France.

It must be emphasized that this list is not all-exhausting; rather, it is a summary of the most important domains once held by Capetians. Other smaller regions, especially in France, remained in Capetian hands for generations or were inherited in-and-out of the family over multiple generations. The expanse of the family during the High Middle Ages was extremely uncommon with no other royal family really experiencing this flux until the Early Modern Era. The unfortunate fact that the family failed to retain most of their empire hints at the instability of this expanse. While it may have been fairly easy for an aspiring Medieval royal family to expand its domains, it took a great deal of patience, cooperation, regional acceptance, and power to maintain that power. The major failing of the Capetians was that they generally failed to maintain their foothold once they got it. One by one regions broke away, were inherited away, or were conquered by rivals, leaving the Capetians at the start of the 17th century with a much smaller dynastic empire than they could have claimed three centuries prior. However, the size of the French, Spanish and Portuguese empires were at their height at that time.

Next week we will delve deeper into the mysterious circumstances of the Spanish Capetians and their forays into Italy and their acquisition of Luxembourg. To Portugal after that!

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