After making some enquiries and giving this matter more thought, I don't think that Laon can be reasonably discounted as the Frankish capital alluded to, although Aachen in modern Germany; Charlemagne's capital, is another possibility, if an outside chance as it does not seem to have remained a Frankish capital over an extended period.
To complicate matters further, Charlemagne nominated Rome as the joint capital (with Aachen) of the Frankish empire, and upon his somewhat doubtful coronation in Rome as Holy Roman Emperor (where everybody concerned seems to have been confused about what was going on and what the significance may have been, not least Charlemagne himself) in theory he inherited Byzantium as the recognized capital of the Roman Empire, although that notion was furiously disputed by the then Byzantine powers-that-be. As you would, short of successful invasion and occupation by the barbarians. The Franks typically spent all their lives fighting, but never got quite that far, although it was a huge empire. Which reminds me that the idea of a capital, or 'Seat' is unlikely to have had for those rulers the significance it has for us, as those pugnacious leaders spent so much time in the saddle, with a relatively small supporting administrative base, and all of these places were small towns by modern standards.
Perhaps the most powerful evidence for someplace other than Paris is the choice of appellation: 'Seat of the King of the Franks'. Paris, which was in 1140 the relatively new capital of the relatively new dynasty of French kings, was for centuries earlier, since Roman times, an important centre but never seems to have been recognised as the capital of the Franks.
George argues sweetly:
"I presume that the intervening 150 years would allow time for that news to
The same period would have just as presumably allowed news of the change of regime to filter through. Perhaps the chronicle is deliberately worded 'Seat of the King of the Franks' to exclude Paris, the then impudent upstart capital of the emerging French nation.
As one illustration of how France and the Frankish empire were not quite the same thing, as the words George uses implies, the most common language of the Franks was the lingua franca of the Rhine (literal meaning: Frankish language !) or Low German, whose descendants today are Flemish and Dutch. The French language, then as now, was based on a corrupted form of Latin.
George, as a self-appointed pedant extraordinaire, there can be little excuse for misquoting your own source. You claim:
"No, not [Laon] after 987AD, when Hugues Capet shifted the capital of the Franks to
Paris. Or so says the reference to Laon in Encyclopedia Brittanica"
Well, this is what the EB has to say on the matter:
"Laon was the medieval capital of the Carolingian
kings. Hugh Capet
, however, who became king in 987, seized the town with the connivance of the local bishop and then moved the capital to Paris."
Kindly note that the date for the move, after taking the town, is not stated, although it presumably occurred before 996 when this first French king died in Paris. I realise its a minor point but I know how you like setting straight minor points; the more minor the merrier.
Laon remained an important centre for some centuries, as the EB goes on to recount:
"In the 12th century Laon revolted against the authority of the bishops, but Louis VI
quashed the rebellion. During the Hundred Years’ War
(1337–1453) Laon changed hands a number of times but was finally retaken by the French king. The bishopric was abolished in 1790 during the French Revolution
On Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 9:54 PM, Peter Fogg wrote:
No, not [Laon] after 987AD, when Hugues Capet shifted the capital of the Franks to
Paris. Or so says the reference to Laon in Encyclopedia Brittanica (it's a
period about which my own ignorance is total).
I presume that the intervening 150 years would allow time for that news to
I've been troubled by similar doubts since I wrote earlier. Its true that Laon's period as capital belongs to the first millennium. By 1140 the era of the French kings had got underway and, as the Encyclopaedia Britannica says, the capital was moved by them back to Paris. However, the reference is to Sedes regis Francorum; 'Seat of the King of the Franks' rather than to those more modern upstarts, and despite George's heavy sarcasm ingrained ideas about capitals some distance away may have lingered. Marseilles was quite remote from the north of France. So I'm not sure.
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