It ended when the Vikings were bought off and the Emperor deposed.
Continuing Empire of the Franks Splits and Decays,
our selection from A Popular History of France from the Earliest Times by François P. G. Guizot. published in 1869. The selection is presented in ten easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Empire of the Franks Splits and Decays.
Hastings returned to the Gallo-Frankish army, and Rollo prepared to march on Paris. Hastings had gone back somewhat troubled in mind. Now there was among the Franks one Count Tetbold (Thibault), who greatly coveted the countship of Chartres, and he said to Hastings: “Why slumberest thou softly? Knowest thou not that King Charles doth purpose thy death by cause of all the Christian blood that thou didst aforetime unjustly shed? Bethink thee of all the evil thou hast done him, by reason whereof he purposeth to drive thee from his land. Take heed to thyself that thou be not smitten unawares.” Hastings, dismayed, at once sold to Tetbold the town of Chartres, and, removing all that belonged to him, departed to go and resume, for all that appears, his old course of life.
On the 25th of November, 885, all the forces of the Northmen formed a junction before Paris; seven hundred huge barks covered two leagues of the Seine, bringing, it is said, more than thirty thousand men. The chieftains were astonished at sight of the new fortifications of the city, a double wall of circumvallation, the bridges crowned with towers, and in the environs the ramparts of the abbeys of St. Denis and St. Germain solidly rebuilt. Siegfried hesitated to attack a town so well defended. He demanded to enter alone and have an interview with the bishop, Gozlin. “Take pity on thyself and thy flock,” said he to him; “let us pass through the city; we will in no wise touch the town; we will do our best to preserve, for thee and Count Eudes, all your possessions.” “This city,” replied the bishop, “hath been confided unto us by the emperor Charles, king and ruler, under God, of the powers of the earth. He hath confided it unto us, not that it should cause the ruin but the salvation of the kingdom. If peradventure these walls had been confided to thy keeping as they have been to mine, wouldst thou do as thou biddest me?”
“If ever I do so,” answered Siegfried, “may my head be condemned to fall by the sword and serve as food to the dogs! But if thou yield not to our prayers, so soon as the sun shall commence his course our armies will launch upon thee their poisoned arrows; and when the sun shall end his course, they will give thee over to all the horrors of famine; and this will they do from year to year.”
The bishop, however, persisted, without further discussion; being as certain of Count Eudes as he was of himself. Eudes, who was young and but recently made Count of Paris, was the eldest son of Robert the Strong, Count of Anjou, of the same line as Charlemagne, and but lately slain in battle against the Northmen. Paris had for defenders two heroes, one of the Church and the other of the empire: the faith of the Christian and the fealty of the vassal; the conscientiousness of the priest and the honor of the warrior.
The siege lasted thirteen months, whiles pushed vigorously forward with eight several assaults, whiles maintained by close investment, and with all the alternations of success and reverse, all the intermixture of brilliant daring and obscure sufferings that can occur when the assailants are determined and the defenders devoted. Not only a contemporary but an eye-witness, Abbo, a monk of St. Germain des Pres, has recounted the details in a long poem, wherein the writer, devoid of talent, adds nothing to the simple representation of events; it is history itself which gives to Abbo’s poem a high degree of interest. We do not possess, in reference to these continual struggles of the Northmen with the Gallo-Frankish populations, any other document which is equally precise and complete, or which could make us so well acquainted with all the incidents, all the phases of this irregular warfare between two peoples, one without a government, the other without a country. The bishop, Gozlin, died during the siege. Count Eudes quitted Paris for a time to go and beg aid of the Emperor; but the Parisians soon saw him reappear on the heights of Montmartre with three battalions of troops, and he reentered the town, spurring on his horse and striking right and left with his battle-axe through the ranks of the dumfounded besiegers. The struggle was prolonged throughout the summer; and when, in November, 886, Charles the Fat at last appeared before Paris, “with a large army of all nations,” it was to purchase the retreat of the Northmen at the cost of a heavy ransom, and by allowing them to go and winter in Burgundy, “whereof the inhabitants obeyed not the Emperor.”
Some months afterward, in 887, Charles the Fat was deposed, at a diet held on the banks of the Rhine, by the grandees of Germanic France; and Arnulf, a natural son of Carloman, the brother of Louis III, was proclaimed emperor in his stead. At the same time Count Eudes, the gallant defender of Paris, was elected King at Compiegne, and crowned by the archbishop of Sens. Guy, Duke of Spoleto, descended from Charlemagne in the female line, hastened to France and was declared king at Langres by the bishop of that town, but returned with precipitation to Italy, seeing no chance of maintaining himself in his French kingship. Elsewhere Boso, Duke of Arles, became King of Provence, and the Burgundian Count Rudolph had himself crowned at St. Maurice, in the Valais, King of transjuran Burgundy. There was still in France a legitimate Carlovingian, a son of Louis the Stutterer, who was hereafter to become Charles the Simple; but being only a child, he had been rejected or completely forgotten, and, in the interval that was to elapse ere his time should arrive, kings were being made in all directions.
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