Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

How Rollo the Viking Did Homage to the King
Charles III (the Simple) [898-922]

When Charles the Fat was deposed, the great Empire of Charlemagne was at an end forever. Never again have France, Italy, and Germany been united under one ruler. The Germans chose another Emperor, and the French, remembering how bravely Eudes had led the siege of Paris, chose him for their King. He was crowned with great rejoicing. But the gallant young King had no easy task, for France was all torn and desolate with civil war, and five other princes at least set themselves up as kings of different parts.

Besides this, some of the nobles took Charles the young son of Louis the Stammerer and crowned him King. You remember that he had been passed over before because he was too young to rule, and Charles the Fat had been chosen instead. He was now fourteen, still too young to rule, but by placing him on the throne some of the turbulent nobles hoped to win great power for themselves. For Charles was young and gay, and seemed so easy to lead that he is called Charles the Simple.

So Eudes had to fight for his crown. But he was wise as well as brave and kingly; he remembered that, although he was the chosen of the people, the father of Charles had been his king. So he put an end to the quarrel by giving Charles part of the kingdom and promising to him the rest when he died.

And brave, wise Eudes had not long to live. Soon he became very ill. Feeling that he was about to die he called his nobles around him, and begged them to keep faith with Charles. Then, on New Year's Day, 898, he closed his eyes forever, having reigned for ten years. He was buried in St. Denis among the Merovingians and Carolingians who had gone before him.

Eudes was the first of a new race of kings who were to sit upon the throne of France for many generations. But in the meantime the Carolingians were restored. For three days after Eudes's death Charles the Simple was crowned once more.

The country was still torn by civil war, still desolated King by the Northmen. Their chief leader was now called Rollo. He was a hardy old sea-king, taller and stronger than any of his followers, fierce and pitiless as a hungry wolf. He laid waste the land and filled it with tears and mourning till at length Charles, weary of the strife, made a treaty with him.

By this treaty Rollo was to be given the King's daughter Gisella for his wife, and the dukedom of all that part of France which we now call Normandy. In return for this, Rollo was to promise to become a Christian, to cease from ravaging the land, and become the subject of King Charles. To all this Rollo agreed, but he asked for still more land. For Normandy was the part of France which had suffered most from the attacks of the Northmen, and was now little more than a desert waste. So to it Charles added the part of France called Brittany. Brittany was really not his to give, for the Bretons had never owned the rule of the French Kings, but Hollo was satisfied, and so peace was made.

Then, upon an appointed day, there was a great meeting between Hollo and the King. Charles came with all his knights and nobles and Bishops. Hollo with all his best warriors. Charles with his crown upon his head sat upon his throne, while Rollo knelt before him and placed his hands between the King's hands and swore to be his man.

It was hard for the proud sea-king to bend his knee to another, or to put his hand within the hand of another in token of subjection. Rollo, however, knelt and repeated the words as the Bishops bade him. But that was not enough.

"You must now kiss the King's foot," they said.

Rollo started up in anger, "Never, by heaven!" he cried, his blue eyes flashing.

"But you must," said the Bishops. "It is the custom that whoever receives such a gift from the King must kiss his foot."

"Nay, never will I kiss the foot of any man," said Rollo.

But the Bishops still insisted.

"Then let one of my warriors perform it for me," said Rollo.

And to this the Bishops were fain to consent, for it was plain the proud sea-king would never stoop to kiss the foot of Charles.

So one of the Northmen warriors was called forward. But he had little liking for the act which seemed to him beneath the dignity of a freeman. He was told to kneel, but he had no mind to kneel. Stooping, he roughly lifted the King's foot to the level of his mouth, and Charles the Simple fell off his throne backward amid the rude laughter of the Northmen.

In this way Hollo the Northman became Duke of Normandy, and he and his followers took possession of the land and settled there. They forgot their far-off homes, and took France for their home, and the French language for their language. So now we will call them no more Northmen, but Normans, which is the name by which we know them best.

Hollo kept his word and was baptized. Robert, Count of France, brother of brave Eudes, was his godfather and gave him the new Christian name of Robert. But he is best known by his heathen name of Rollo.

Seeing their leader baptized, many of his warriors followed his example, and became Christians also. Then Rollo, the wild sea-king, settled down and became a wise and peaceful ruler. He rebuilt the churches and towns which before he had ruined. He made good laws, and saw that they were kept. Theft especially was punished so severely that it was almost unknown. No man had need of locks and bolts; ploughs and carts were left in the fields at night, flocks and herds might be shepherdless yet safe. The people said that even gold and jewels might be left upon the highway, and no man would touch them.

One day the Duke thought he would put this to the test. He had been hunting, and at mid-day he and his companions sat down to rest and dine by a lake. And as, after the meal, they sat at ease drinking, and sheltering from the heat of the mid-day sun, it may be the talk fell upon the people, and the laws, and the peace which had come to the land. Rollo lay upon the grass in the shade of a mighty oak tree, and as he listened to the talk he looked up through the green branches and smiled. Then rising he unclasped the golden bracelets from his arms, and hung them upon the branches of the tree. And there he left them.

Hollo and his companions returned to the chase; the sound of the hunting horns and the baying of dogs died away in the distance. The glade by the lake was deserted once more. Only on the tree, like some strange fruit, there hung the glittering jewels. Huntsmen and husbandmen, travelers and pilgrims, passing that way saw them there, but no one touched them. In rain and sunshine, in summer and winter, they hung unharmed, so that when three long years had passed and Rollo returned to the spot, he found his bracelets still upon the branches where he had set them. And ever after the lake was called Roumare, or lake of Rollo.

But while Rollo the Duke was ruling well, Charles the King was showing more and more that he was unable to rule. He allowed himself to be led by a favorite called Haganon, who was a clever soldier, but of humble birth. It made the great nobles angry that they could only reach the King through this common man. And the more power the King allowed to him, the more insolent he became. Once many of the nobles and people of high estate came to see the King. But for four days they stood without his door waiting in vain to see him. For Haganon was with Charles, and he would neither come out to speak with the nobles nor send them any message. So they went away very angry saying, "Haganon will soon be King, or else Charles will be brought as low as Haganon."

At length the King and nobles all gathered to a great council at Soissons. As Charles sat upon his throne in all his royal state, one noble after another advanced before him, holding in his hand his rod of office. Each one as he reached the throne broke his rod, and cast the pieces at the King's feet. "We reject you, O Charles!" they cried; "we will no longer have you as lord and master, for you are but a King of a coward's heart."

Then one by one they turned to go, till at length the King was left sitting in state upon his throne, utterly alone.

The nobles then chose Robert, Count of Paris, to be their King. He was an old man, the brother of brave Eudes. Some of the people, however, still clung to Charles. So there was civil war once more. But Robert was never really King, for, in the battle that followed, Charles indeed was defeated, but Robert was killed.

Robert, however, had a son named Hugh. He might now have been King had he wished. But he refused. He chose rather to be simply Duke of France than take the more glorious and more dangerous title of King. The nobles therefore chose Robert's son-in-law Raoul, and crowned mm as King. King

After the battle in which Robert had been killed Charles had fled. But he was soon taken prisoner by the treachery of Count Herbert, one of the greatest of his nobles. This noble sent a messenger to Charles saying that he was not pleased with the choice of Raoul for King, and promising to set Charles upon the throne again.

Simple Charles believed this, and with his few remaining followers set out for the Count's castle. The traitor received the poor King with great state. He knelt to him, and when his son refused to follow his example he gave him a box on the ear saying, "Learn not to stand when you receive your King."

For one day Charles was surrounded with homage. Then Count Herbert sent away his few followers, saying that the King had no more need of them. They went, and Charles at once found himself in prison.

Then his Queen Elgiva fled to England with her little son Louis and took refuge at the court of Athelstane. For Athelstane was her brother.

Charles remained a prisoner for the rest of his life. Once or twice, indeed, when the nobles, wanting to force King Raoul to do as they wished, they brought the poor old King out of his prison, clothed him in fine clothes and threatened to place him upon the throne again. But as soon as they got what they wanted, Charles was sent back again to prison, and there he died.