History Jar Challenge 16 – kings of France

Henry VI was crowned King of France when he was a child. Unfortunately for him the Hundred Years War took a downturn and by the end of his reign the majority of his father’s gains had been lost – the effect of this was to ensure that his wife Margaret of Anjou was deeply unpopular and that Richard of York who was a successful military leader gained political allies when Henry’s chosen general – the Duke of Somerset managed to make a complete mess of things.

King Henry VI of England

I very foolishly didn’t specify a time frame and I know some of my readers are very interested in the Early Medieval Period – or Dark Ages as it was called in that dim and distant time when I went to school. I’d have to say Dark Ages sounds more dramatic but I can see why it’s been changed.

France is named after the Franks who were a Germanic tribe. Clovis I is probably the best known of these kings. There are no prizes for identifying that the French were ruled by many kings called Louis!

Merovingian and Carolingian Dynasties (c. 410 to 843)

Chlodio – 428-445

Mervoch 445 (or possibly 448)- 457

Childeric I 457- 481

Clovis I 481-511 – he was effectively the first real king of the Franks with a kingdom that we would recognise, broadly speaking, as France. When he died his kingdom was split between his sons. So Childebert I was king of Paris, Chlothar the Old and Charibert were his brothers and ruled other parts of the kingdom- Neustria and Burgundy- which meant that further down the line the extended family went to war with one another to reunite elements of the kingdom.

Chilperic I

Chlothar the Great or the Young to distinguish him from the first Chlothar.

Dagobert I 629-639

Clovis II or the Lazy 639-657

Chlothar III 657-673

Childeric II 673-675. He and the previous king were both sons of Clovis II as was Theudric III who ruled from 675-691.

Clovis IV 691-695

Childrebert III know as the Just ruled from his brother Clovis IV’s death until 711 when he was succeeded by his son Dagobert III the Just, Chilperic II, Theuderic IV and Childeric III a.k.a “The Phantom King,” which sounds like something out of a Marvel comic. He was actually the last Merovingian monarch. By this time the so called “idle kings” had been overshadowed by their mayors of the palace – or household managers.

In 751 a new dynasty took control: The Carolingians

Pepin the Short ruled until 768 when he was succeeded by his son Carloman I and in turn by his brother Charlemagne – Charles the Great who ruled until 814. He successfully united much of western and central Europe.


814–840 King Louis I was not a king of ‘France’. He was also called Louis the Pious. He was the only son of Charlemagne who had been identified as an heir to survive his father. He was forced to abdicated in 833.

840–877 Charles II (the Bald)

877–879 Louis II (the Stammerer)

879–882 Louis III ruled jointly with Carloman.

884–888 Charles the Fat

888–898 Eudes (also Odo) of Paris (non-Carolingian)

898–922 Charles III or the Simple which is a bit unkind as the alternative translation simply means straightforward.

922–923 Robert I (non-Carolingian)

923–936 Raoul (or Rudolf, non-Carolingian)

936–954 Louis IV (d’Outremer or The Foreigner)

954–986 Lothar (Lothaire)

986–987 Louis V the Do-Nothing – which probably says everything that needs to be said.

Capetian Dynasty

Hugh Capet is usually considered the first king of France as we would recognise it. But it wasn’t as straightforward as all that – the kingdom of France was centred on Paris – it took time to expand.

  • 987–996 Hugh Capet
  • 996–1031 Robert II (the Pious)
  • 1031–1060 Henry I
  • 1060–1108 Philip I
  • 1108–1137 Louis VI (the Fat). This particular Louis was a key centraliser and a man who spent a long time fighting the Normans who had made their base in England. Much of the problem stemmed from the fact that Henry I of England having deprived his elder brother Robert Curthose of Normandy also took Gisors which was French.
  • 1137–1180 Louis VII (the Young) was first married to Eleanor of Aquitaine but the marriage was annulled and she married Henry II of England.
  • 1180–1223 Philip II Augustus
  • 1223–1226 Louis VIII (the Lion)
  • 1226–1270 Louis IX (St. Louis)
  • 1270–1285 Philip III (the Bold)
  • 1285–1314 Philip IV (the Fair) was the king who had the Knight’s Templar burned at the stake and who had his daughters-in-law imprisoned following the scandal of the affair of the Tower of Nesle.
  • 1314–1316 Louis X (the Stubborn or the Quarrelsome). His reign was short but he allowed serfs to buy their freedom. He had married Margaret of Burgundy ( a cousin) in 1305 but she was involved in the scandal of Nesle and imprisoned for adultery where she died. There was one child from the marriage – Joan who in addition to being a girl was also stigmatised by her mother’s behaviour. Louis married for a second time and had one sone John who inherited the throne in 1316.
  • 1316–John I died without a male heir which was unfortunate as under France’s salic law women were prohibited from inheriting. he ruled for less than a week under the regency of his uncle and when he died it ended a centuries old line of fathers handing the crown to their sons. Philip the Tall was Louis X’s brother but his uncle Charles of Valois wanted to rule.
  • 1316–1322 Philip V (the Tall)
  • 1322–1328 Charles IV (the Fair).

Valois Dynasty 

The Valois dynasty as more famous in English History books for their role as England’s adversaries in the Hundred Years War. Henry V married Katherine of Valois, the daughter of Charles VI.

  • 1328–1350 Philip VI (the Fortunate) wasn’t really that fortunate because his reign was dominated by who should be king of France.
  • 1350–1364 John II (the Good)
  • 1364–1380 Charles V (the Wise)
  • 1380–1422 Charles VI (the Mad, Well-Beloved, or Foolish) Charles believed that he was made of glass and that he would break if anyone touched him.
  • 1422–1461 Charles VII (the Well-Served or Victorious)
  • 1461–1483 Louis XI (the Spider)
  • 1483–1498 Charles VIII (Father of his People)
  • 1498–1515 Louis XII
  • 1515–1547 Francis I who was of an age with Henry VIII.
  • 1547–1559 Henry II
  • 1559–1560 Francis II was Mary Queen of Scots’ first spouse.
  • 1560–1574 Charles IX
  • 1574–1589 Henry III

Bourbon Dynasty 

The Bourbon kings of France included the absolute apogee of a European monarch, the Sun King Louis XIV, and just two people later, the king who would be beheaded by a revolution.

  • 1589–1610 Henry IV
  • 1610–1643 Louis XIII
  • 1643–1715 Louis XIV (the Sun King)
  • 1715–1774 Lousie XV 
  • 1774–1792 Louis XVI who managed to get himself executed along with his wife Marie-Antoinette.

And that is probably more than enough for the time being.

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