In the X century. the western part of the former empire of Charlemagne was already called, not by Gaul, but by France. But France was not a centralized state at that time. In the IX-X centuries. it was the first in Western Europe to split into a number of independent possessions – the duchies of Normandy, Aquitaine, Gascony, Burgundy, Toulouse, Champagne, Flanders, etc. Each of them was a state in the state, their rulers were at times more powerful than the king, and only portrayed of himself his loyal subjects.
XI century. From the letter of Odon, Count Blois, to King Robert II
… But you surprise me very much, my king, by the fact that… he acknowledged me unworthy of your feud. After all, if it’s about origin, then, thank God, I’ve got birthmarks. If it’s about the quality of the feud that you gave me, it is known that he is not from your estates… but inherited from my ancestors. Concerning the performance of the service, it is
well known to you that while I was at your mercy, I served you and the court, and in the army, and in a foreign land. If, then, when you put on me the opal and decided to take away the feud granted to me, I, by defending myself and my feud, offended you in some way, I did this annoyed with injustice and forced necessity. For how can I leave and not defend my feud? I place my God and my soul in witnesses that I prefer to die at my feud rather than live without it.
But still the royal power, albeit weak, was preserved, since all the French, even the big lords, were interested in it. Someone had to take care of protecting the country from external enemies and to reconcile the feudal lords who could not live a day without quarrels and fights.
At the end of the 10th century, after the death of Louis V Lazy, the last Carolingian, feudal nobility elected King Earl Hugo Capet, who owned Paris and the surrounding lands. He established the Capetian dynasty.
The first Capets only dreamed of strong power. But gradually the power of this dynasty increased. Capetians were rich, they were supported by the church,
small feudal lords and townspeople, who had suffered a lot from feudal self-will. Relying on these forces, the Capetas increased their possessions and gradually united France.
Of course, in the increase of the royal possessions, the Kapets were not always accompanied by luck. Thus, King Louis VII, having married the Duchess Alienor of Aquitaine, received Aquitaine as a dowry for her, but soon divorced.
The divorced queen was married to his vassal Henry Plantagenet, who already owned the county of Anjou and the duchy of Normandy, and now went to Aquitaine. In the middle of XII century. he became an English king. So, the King of England, owning the French lands, was a vassal of the French king! The vast estate of Henry Plantagenet – from the English Channel to the Pyrenees – went to England.
Only at the beginning of the XIII century. French King Philip II Augustus managed to return to France Normandy and a number of adjacent territories, and in his possession was a good half of modern France. The king acquired a hired army and visibly strengthened his authority.
At the beginning of the ХШ в. in France began to spread Albigensian heresy. Among the Albigensians there were many feudal lords who wanted to take possession of church lands and preserve the political independence of the south of France. Alarmed by this, Pope Innocent III organized the Crusade against the Albigenses. King Louis VIII of Leo, who joined this campaign, ravaged the rich Toulouse county, which supported the Albigensians, and annexed it to their possessions. In addition, the king took control of the southern French cities.
The wise and pious king Louis IX. The Holy patron sainted the lands returned to her by France, having concluded with England a special treaty according to which England on the continent reserved only Aquitaine and Gascony. At the German emperors, the king took away southern Italy and Sicily.
Ludovik IX step by step strengthened his state and power. He tempered the feudal robbery, obliging the knights, before resorting to arms, to apply to the royal court. The Royal Court became a nationwide court, he also considered cases that had previously been the responsibility of the lords. The king even issued laws for the whole of France, and not just for royal possessions. He implemented the monetary reform, which enriched the state, limited the appetites of the church, defending the royal dignity and the purses of the laity. Supervision of royal employees was established so that they would steal less and take bribes. The authority of the royal authority, thanks to these actions of Louis IX, has greatly increased.