Capetian dynasty

Capetian dynasty

For the Direct Capetians, who ruled France 987–1328, see the House of Capet.

The Capetian dynasty is the largest European royal house. It includes any of the direct descendants of Hugh Capet of France. King Juan Carlos of Spain and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg are members of this family, both through the Bourbon branch of the dynasty.

Name origins and usage

The name of the dynasty derives from its founder, Hugh, who was known as "Hugh Capet". The meaning of "Capet" (a nickname rather than a surname of the modern sort) is unknown. While folk etymology identifies it with "cape", other suggestions suggest it to be connected to the Latin word caput ("head"), and thus explain it as meaning "chief" or "big head".

The name "Capetian" came to be applied to both the ruling house of France, and to the wider-spread male-line descendants of Hugh Capet, by historians. It was not a contemporary practice. The name "Capet" has also been used as a surname for French royals, particularly but not exclusively those of the House of Capet – one notable use was during the French Revolution, when the dethroned King Louis XVI (a member of the House of Bourbon, though a direct male-line descendant of Hugh Capet) and Queen Marie Antoinette (a member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine) were referred to as "Louis and Antoinette Capet" (the Queen being addressed as "the Widow Capet" after the death of her husband).

The Robertians and before

The Robertians probably originated in the county Hesbaye, around Tongeren in modern-day Belgium. The first certain ancestor is Robert the Strong count of Paris. From this Robert is derived the dynastic surname given to the family prior to Hugh Capet's election as King of France: the Robertians or Robertines.

The sons of Robert the Strong were Odo and Robert, who both ruled as king of Western Francia. The family became Counts of Paris under Odo and Dukes of the Franks under Robert, possessing large parts of Neustria.

The Carolingian dynasty ceased to rule France upon the death of Louis V. After the death of Louis, the son of Hugh the Great, Hugh Capet, was elected by the nobility as king of France. Hugh was crowned at Noyon on July 3, 987 with the full support from Holy Roman Emperor Otto III. With Hugh's coronation, a new era began for France, and his descendants came to be named, after him, the Capetians.

Robertians (Robertiner) Family Branches

Capetians through history

Over the course of the preceding centuries, Capetians spread throughout Europe, ruling every form of provincial unit from kingdoms to manors. Besides being the most numerous royal family in Europe, it also is one of the most incestual, especially in the Spanish Monarchy.

Salic Law

Salic Law, reestablished during the Hundred Years' War from an ancient Salic Frank tradition, caused the French monarchy to permit only direct male descendants of Hugh to succeed to the throne of France.

Without Salic Law, upon the death of Charles IV, the crown would have passed to Isabella of France, the last surviving child of Philip IV of France, and her heir, Edward III of England.

Thus instead of the above succession, the French crown passed from the House of Capet after the death of Charles IV to Philip VI of France of the House of Valois, a cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty,

  • then to Louis XII of Valois-Orleans, a cadet line of the Valois,
  • then to François d'Angoulème (who became François Ier), belonging to a cadet line of the Valois-Orleans,
  • then to Henri de Navarre, (who became Henri IV of France), from the House of Bourbon, a cadet line of the Capetian Dynasty.

This did not affect monarchies not under that law such as Portugal, Spain, Navarre, and various smaller duchies and counties. Therefore, many royal families appear and disappear in the French succession or become cadet branches upon marriage. A complete list of the senior-most line of Capetians is available below.

Capetian Cadet Branches

The Capetian Dynasty has been broken many times into (sometimes rival) cadet branches. A cadet branch is a line of descent from another line than the senior-most. This list of cadet branches shows most of the Capetian cadet lines, although some sub-branches are not shown:

Capetians and their domains

Senior Capets

Throughout most of history, the Senior Capet and the King of France were synonymous terms. Only in the time before Hugh Capet took the crown for himself and after the reign of Charles X is the term necessary to identify which. However, since the Salic Law provided for the succession of the French throne for most of French history, here is a list of all the predecessors of the French monarchy, all the French kings from Hugh until Charles, and all the Legitimist pretenders thereafter. All dates are for seniority, not reign. It is important to note that historians class the predecessors of Hugh Capet as Robertians, not Capetians.

Noblemen in Neustria and their descendants (dates uncertain):

Count in the Upper Rhine Valley and Wormgau:

King of France:

Count of Paris:

King of France:

Count of Marnes:

Count of Chambord:

Count of Montizón:

Duke of Madrid:

Duke of Anjou and Madrid:

Duke of San Jaime:

King of Spain:

Duke of Anjou and Segovia:

Duke of Anjou and Cádiz:

Duke of Anjou:

The Capetian dynasty today

Many years have passed since the Capetian monarchs ruled a large part of Europe, however they still remain as kings, as well as other titles. Currently two Capetian monarchs still rule in Spain and Luxembourg. In addition, seven pretenders represent exiled dynastic monarchies in Brazil, France, Spain, Portugal, Parma and Two Sicilies. The current legitimate senior family member is Louis Alfonso, the Duke of Anjou, who also holds the Legitimist claim to the French throne. Overall, dozens of branches of the Capetian dynasty still exist throughout Europe.

Current Capetian rulers

Current Capetian pretenders

Further reading

  • Fawtier, Robert. The Capetian Kings of France: Monarchy & Nation (987–1328). Macmillan, 1960. (translated from French edition of 1941)
  • Le Hête, Thierry. Les Capetiens: Le Livre du Millenaire. Editions Christian, 1987.

External links

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