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L'Année des Rois (In the Footsteps of Charlemagne)

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L'Année des Rois (Eng: The Year of Kings) is the name given in France to the year 1080, in which the country saw five kings ascend the throne. This year also saw the first monarch from the House of Vermandois - Eudes II - the first Carolingian ruler of France since Louis V.

Background

The Last Capetians

Philippe I

Louis VI

Louis VI succeeded his father at the age of only six, afflicted with an unrelenting case tuberculosis. The situation in France was already looking dangerous, and the sudden change in rulers did little to aid that. The sharp decline in the adult male population caused by the war had had direct impact on the agrarian French society, with a dearth of farmers now present.

This was especially true of the southern regions of Aquitaine, just far enough from Paris and Toulouse so as not to benefit greatly from trade, yet still wracked by the war. The Duke of Aquitaine, Guillaume de Poitiers, had contributed vast numbers of men to the war effort, leaving his farms empty – manned often by women, adolescents and those elderly men not yet in their dotage.

Perhaps miraculously, despite the tension, the French (and especially Aquitain) peasantry at no point saw fit to revolt in any way. This was in no small part down to the actions of Louis, acting in council. His elite group of regents had formed an informal council, which was to become the precursor to the short-lived Conseil Privé. Headed by the charismatic Étienne, Baron of Saint-Gobain, the council issued a decree in May 1080 that limited feudal tax to 80% of its level before (and during) the war. The Decree of Sympathies, as it was officially known, went a long way to assuage many of the tensions in the country, and was revolutionary in its intent. It was this shrewdness that saw Saint-Gobain remain a fixture of Louis' successors' councils, until his own death in 1103. Debatably, it was also the baron's acumen that saw the council remain a feature of government outside of regencies. 

Nevertheless, the sickly Louis died in July 1080 at the age of only six – leaving the throne to his first cousin once removed. The heir was Robert de Bourgogne – son of Duke Robert the Old, the would-be king, and arguable cause of the problems in which France found herself.

Robert III

Being a controversial choice for the throne, Robert was never able to build upon the work of Saint-Gobain and the council, instead seeking to curb their influence and power in a desperate attempt to show his authority. Robert sought to ensure that he was the only figure able to act with executive authority. Though he didn't disband the council, he did everything but.

Robert's reign was marked by trouble, both with his advisors and in the realm. Though he did keep Saint-Gobain on as somewhat more intimate advisor outside of his duties on the council, it was in a move that was ultimately for nought. Robert was set in the mindset that he was king, and therefore that he alone had the knowledge needed to rule. The baron did advise the king, though it is apparent from the administration of Robert's reign (or rather, lack thereof) that his role was a way of placating those who felt that his talents shouldn't go to waste.

Robert met his end in dubious circumstances after only two months on the throne, being killed in an accident whilst hunting in the royal forests just outside of Paris. How much of an accident his death truly was has been debated for centuries, but, ultimately, it was a loss that saw the end of the reign of an ineffectual king, who did very little to help France's situation.

Simon I

For main article, see Simon de Valois (In the Footsteps of Charlemagne)

Eudes II

For main article, see Eudes II (In the Footsteps of Charlemagne)

Disputed Kingship

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