Charles the Bald, Charles the Simple, Hugh Capet, Kingdom of France, Kingdom of the Franks, Louis II The German, Louis Philippe, Louis the Pious, Louis XIV of France, Louis XVI of France
We had last discussed the the first two kingdoms of the three that were created when the Empire of Louis I The Pious was divided in 843 by the Treaty of Verdun.
That leads us to West Francia which was the land under the control of Charles the Bald. It is the forerunner of modern France. It was divided into the following great fiefs: Aquitaine, Brittany, Burgundy, Catalonia, Flanders, Gascony, Gothia, the Île-de-France, and Toulouse. The Capitian dynasty came to rule the Île-de-France as Duke of the Île-de-France. The fact that these territories were fiefs of the Kingdom instead of sovereign sub-kingdoms of their own helped West Francia become a unified kingdom…eventually.
As with the Merovingians the Carolingians also began to falter with weak rulers that were not up to the task of ruling. In 888 Odo, Count of Paris and Duke of the Île-de-France, was elected king temporarily supplanting the Carolingian Dynasty. The Carolingians were restored next year under Charles III the Simple in West Francia, and ruled until 987, when the last Frankish king of that dynasty, Louis V, died. Hugh Capét Count of Paris and Duke of the Île-de-France was then elected king of West Francia and his direct descendants would rule until 1792 when King Louis XVI of France and Navarre was deposed. The monarchy was restored in 1814 and the last Capetian king of France, Louis-Philippe, was deposed in 1848.
That is a lot of history to cover! So who just was the last King of the Franks and the first King of France? Well, like Wessex and England this is up for debate! When did the Kingdom of the Franks end and the Kingdom of France come into existence? It is difficult to tell by the titles of the monarchs. The Latin term Francorum Rex (sometimes the title took the form of Rex Francorum) was the official Latin title of the “King of the Franks” from the founding of the kingdom in 496 and remained as such even after after the accession of the Carolingian and Capetian Dynasties. This title was used in official documents until French replaced Latin as the formal language of legal documents, and this title remained used on coins until the 18th century. However, it was King Philippe II “Augustus” changed the official title in 1990 to the form Franciae Rex (“King of France”) was also used.
Even though the title King of the Franks lasted until it was changed by King Philippe II in 1190, and remained on coins until the 1700s, there seem to be two choices of who was the last King of the Franks and the first King of France. Many historians cite the treaty of Verdun of 843 and the creation of West Francia as the end of the old Frankish Kingdom and the birth of the Kingdom of France. That would make Louis I, the Pious the last King of the Franks and his son Charles I The Bald as the first King of France. If you support the election of Hugh Capét, Count of Paris and Duke of the Île-de-France as King of France in 987 (as many historians also do) then Louis V would be the last King of the Franks.
My choice is for Louis I, the Pious as the last King of the Franks and his son Charles I The Bald as the first King of France via the Treaty of Verdun in 843. Why? By the time of that treaty was established there were already cultural shifts between France and Germany, the domain of Louis II, the German. As time went on these differences were solidified and by the time Hugh Capét was elected King, that which we see as French culture had already taken shape.