Between 987 and 1328 fourteen successive kings, all of the same family and descended in the direct line from the same ancestor, Hugh the Great, Duke of Francia, sat on the throne of France. During this epoch France was born. In all essentials the framework of the French nation was then assembled. Before we recount their actions and try to decide the part they played in the development of France, we must make a character-sketch of each of these kings, in the hope of illuminating his share in the dynasty’s development. This task is hard — the harder for poor documentation; hardest of all when we turn from portraying kings to sketching their counsellors. Social and economic forces incontestably play a dynamic and often a preponderant part in history, but so do individual men and women, especially in periods like that under consideration, when a nation is neither territorially unified, nor conscious of its own existence.
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