Posts Tagged ‘Normandy’

Charles the Simple and Eugene the Pedantic

Posted in General, On This Day on September 17th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 3 Comments

First, this is the anniversary of FinermanWorks.  And you’d thought that I would run out of history by now.

When I began, my musings were frequently more contemporary–with the emphasis on contempt.  Of late, as you have noticed,  I have become an antiquarian.  This is not a symptom of short-term memory loss but rather a belated case of prudence.  Maintaining a middle-class standard of living requires a certain amount of corporate work, and I must not frighten the Human Resources with any incriminating Democratic views.  Let’s face it, the HR departments are unnerved by any hint of humor or even correct grammar; why risk being a complete pariah.  So I am trying to avoid anything since 1914.

But those Byzantines, Hapsburgs and the rest still allow me to draw inferences.  And HR types never catch those….

We now resume our regularly scheduled pedantics.

September 17, 879:  The French Prince of Belle Heir

No one in 9th century France was literate enough to write a birth announcement, but if you were in proximity to a town crier you would have heard of the birth of a heir to the throne. History would remember the birthday boy as Charles the Simple. Of course, a town crier–the medieval version of a press secretary–would have insisted that the epithet of “Simple” referred to Charles’ straight-forward manner.

However, then that town crier would have to explain the rest of the family’s nicknames. Charles’ father was “Louis the Stammerer”, his uncle “Charles the Fat, and his grandfather “Charles the Bald.” In fact, the Carolingian dynasty was plagued by its epithets. The royal line began with Pepin the Short and ended with Louis the Sluggard. Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was the happy exception among the miserable monikers. Even Charlemagne’s son had the nickname curse. He was known as Louis the Pious, which suggests that he was better at prayers than statecraft. (And his prayers couldn’t have been very efficient because they did not protect France from either his feuding sons or the Vikings.)

At least, Charles the Simple solved the Viking attacks. He simply surrendered. In 911 he ceded northwest France to the Norsemen. The region is still known as Normandy.  The Viking leader Hrolf the Gangly (the Norse nicknames weren’t flattering either) was obliged to go demonstrate his fealty to the French king.  According to court etiquette, Hrolf had to kiss the foot of Charles.  Hrolf approached the throne but rather than bend down to the royal toes, the Norseman grabbed the foot and lifted it to his lips.  Unfortunately, Charles’ body followed his foot and he slipped off the throne.

And Charles would spend the rest of his life (879-929) trying to stay on the throne.  The Counts of Paris had no respect for Charles or the Carolingian claims to the throne.  Until 987, French history would be the tale of  those two vying families.  If those ambitious Counts had succeeded, Paris would have become the capital of France.

But wait, have I given away the ending?