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The Fleur-de-Lys , used from the early 13th century until 1830 as the coat of arms of the royal family and thus as the coat of arms of France

The Capetians (French Capétiens ), also simply called House Capet in a modern paraphrase , are an aristocratic family of Franconian origin , which is considered by the historiography of France as the third French ruling family after the Merovingians and the Carolingians . As kings of the Franks ( reges Francorum) and from the 13th century as kings of France (reges Franciae) , the Capetians played a prominent role in the development of the French nation that emerged from the West Franconian part (Francia occidentalis) and in the establishment of the central French state .

The progenitor and namesake of the family is King Hugo Capet , who was a member of the Frankish aristocratic Robertin family, which was attested from the 7th century . In the broader sense, all agnatic descendants of Hugo Capet are members of this sex, in a narrower sense only the kings ruling France between 987 and 1328 are called Capetians, but all subsequent kings were members of subsidiary lines of the Capet dynasty.

As a direct continuation of the Robertines, the Capetians represent the oldest ruling family of the European high nobility still existing in the direct male line, represented by the houses Bourbon , Orléans and Braganza . In the course of its over a thousand-year history, it represented the kings of France as well as a large number of monarchs from already extinct and still existing monarchies. The current ruling monarchs of Capetian descent are King Philip VI. of Spain and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg .


The meaning of the word capet is unclear today; possible is an origin from the Latin “caput” , which means head or head and thus could stand for “leader” or “chief” in the figurative sense. What is certain is that it is not a surname in the classic sense, but an honorable nickname.

The epithet "Capet", which is characteristic of King Hugo today, was neither contemporary nor was it first used for his person. A few years after his death, his father, the dux francorum Hugo Magnus , was first mentioned in the history of Ademar von Chabannes († 1034) as Ugoni Capetio ducatum . But shortly afterwards the epithet was first referred to King Hugo in the middle of the 11th century in a retrospective entry for the year 1031 in the chronicle of the Abbey of Saint-Médard von Soissons (Robertus [Robert II.] Inclytus Rex Francorum, filius Hugonis Chapez [ Hugo Capet], ...) . In the 12th century, Robert von Torigni († 1186) affirmed in his revision of the Gesta Normannorum Ducum the name separation between the dux Hugo Magnus and the King Hugo Capet (Supradictus vero Hugo Magnus [Hugo Magnus] genuit ex filia Ottonis regis Saxonum [Hadwig von Saxony], postmodum uero imperatoris Romanorum, Hugonem Capeiet [Hugo Capet] et fratres eius.) .

Around the same time as Robert von Torigni, the Anglo-Norman author Radulfus de Diceto († 1202) first applied the term capétien to the entire royal family of France in his second work, Ymagines Historiarum . He was also the first to provide an explanation for this name, according to which it is derived from the mantle of St. Martin of Tours , which was simply called cappa . Saint Martin was the patron saint of the first Capetian kings before he was ousted by Saint Dionysius in the 12th century . Both Hugo Magnus and Hugo Capet acted as lay abbots of the Abbey of Saint-Martin of Tours , where the gray-blue cloak relic was kept and was finally carried as a banner by the first Capetians.

The name Capet established itself in colloquial usage no later than the 13th century in France as a dynasty name for the royal family, which, however, referred to itself as Maison de France (House of France) . In the first work on the official French historiography that began in the 13th century, the Roman aux rois des primacy of Saint-Denis , a dynastic periodization of the history of the Franks into the three royal families (Merovingians, Carolingians, Capetians) was made for the first time.

Establishment of a dynasty

Hugo Capet (940 / 41–996), from 960 Duke of France , from 987 King of France

In 987 the Robertine Hugo Capet was elected their new king by the West Franconian clergy and aristocracy after the Carolingian Ludwig V had died. At the time, this was not the first breach of blood law in the succession to the West Franconian royal throne; before Hugo, his great-uncle Odo and his grandfather Robert I were already elected kings as counter-pretenders to the Carolingian dynasty. However, since the Carolingians were able to take over the throne again after their death, it was not foreseeable that Hugo's contemporaries would establish a new royal dynasty, especially since a Carolingian pretender still existed in the form of Duke Karl of Lower Lorraine . In order to secure the kingship for his family, Hugo had his son Robert II crowned co-king in the year of his coronation , so that when his father died in 996 he was able to succeed as sole ruler immediately and without another coronation or election.

Capétiens directs

"Capétiens directs" (direct Capetians) are the kings of France from 987 to 1328, as they represent an uninterrupted line of succession in the kingship from father to son.

Despite the end of the Carolingian family with the death of Duke Otto of Lower Lorraine in 1005/06, Hugo Capet's descendants stuck to the succession plan he had practiced for several generations. This mainly depended on the particular political weakness of the first Capetian kings in the 11th and 12th centuries, whose real rulership was limited to a core region in their kingdom, today comparable to the Île-de-France , due to the feudalism established in West Franconia . Furthermore, their general reputation was damaged by the assumption that they had come to the throne only through a breach of blood rights.

This changed, however, from the reign of King Philip II Augustus (1180-1223), from which the kingship began to overcome feudalism and replace it with the idea of ​​a centralized state idea, the monarchy , tailored to the king . The work of Philip II was continued and consolidated by his immediate successors, in which especially Louis IX. the saint (1226–1270) and Philip IV the Handsome (1285–1314) stand out. The establishment of the royal central state also promoted the early development of a French national consciousness, Philip II Augustus was the first to be called "King of France", his victory in the Battle of Bouvines in 1214 was considered by contemporary authors to be a victory for the French people stylized about the English and the Teutons. The Capetians also experienced their ideological breakthrough in their acceptance as the legitimate French royal house in the 13th century, when they claimed dynastic continuity with the Carolingians, which they based on a legendary prophecy by St. Walaric . Hugo Capet is said to have predicted that his house would rule for seven generations, after which the tribe of Charlemagne would return to the throne of the Franks (Reditus regni Francorum ad stirpem Karoli Magni) . Philip II Augustus was the seventh Capetian king and he had already claimed an ascendency to the Carolingians through his mother Adela of Champagne . But it was only in the genealogy of Louis VIII the Lion (1223–1226) that the prophecy was successfully proven by the Abbot of the Benedictines of Marchiennes . He saw this prediction confirmed in the fact that Louis VIII was the son of Isabella von Hainaut , whose family allegedly descended in direct line from the great emperor.

Through the dynastic connection to the Carolingians, which ironically relied on a female line of succession, they were not only to be given the justification of their legitimacy, but also to be granted a right to universal royal power, as they would have once had the Carolingians.

Valois, Bourbon and Orléans

With the death of King Charles IV (1322-1328), the direct line of the Capetians ended, as neither he nor his brothers had left sons entitled to inherit according to Salian law . However, by this time the dynasty had already ramified into several subsidiary lines that could put pretenders on the throne. In 1328, with the support of the Estates General, the Count of Valois proclaimed himself Philip VI. (1328–1350) as the new king. On his father's side he was a grandson of King Philip III. the Bold (1270–1285) and established the rule of the House of Valois . Against the claims of the English kings to the French throne, which they claimed through female succession, the Valois had to fight the Hundred Years War , which they were able to end victoriously in the 15th century.

The House of Valois followed in 1589 with King Henry IV (1589–1610), the House of Bourbon , which was run by Louis IX. descended from the saint. During the French Revolution , which broke out in 1789 , the monarchy was abolished for the first time in 1792 and restored after the end of Napoleon Bonaparte's rule in 1814/1815 .

After the July Revolution of 1830 , the monarchy assumed a constitutional character and was occupied by a representative of the House of Orléans , which in turn descended from the Bourbons. King Louis-Philippe I , however, was deposed by the February Revolution in 1848 and was thus the last French monarch of the Capetians.

Overview of the main lines

Coats of arms of the original main line and the House of Valois
Coat of arms of the Dukes of Bourbon
Coat of arms of the Bourbons as kings of France
Coat of arms of the Elder House of Burgundy

Tribe list of Capetians (direct line)

A detailed description can be found in the main article “ Tribe List of Capetians” .

Hugo Capet
Robert II the Pious
Henry I
House of Burgundy
(until today)
Philip I
House Vermandois
(until 1213)
Louis VI. the thick
Louis VII the Younger
Dreux House
(until 1514)
House Courtenay
(until 1768)
Philip II August
Louis VIII the Lion
Louis IX the saint
House Artois
(until 1472)
House Anjou
(until 1435)
Philip III the bold
House Bourbon
(until today)
Philip IV the Handsome
House Valois
(until 1589)
House Évreux
(until 1441)
Louis X. the brawler
Philip V the Tall
Charles IV the Handsome
John I the Posthumous
Family relationships

Rulers lists


Kings of France

Philipp V. (Spanien) Ferdinand Philippe d’Orléans, duc de Chartres Louis-Philippe I. Louis-Philippe II. Joseph de Bourbon, duc d’Orléans Louis Philippe I. de Bourbon, duc d’Orléans Louis I. de Bourbon, duc d’Orléans Philippe II. de Bourbon, duc d’Orléans Philippe I. de Bourbon, duc d’Orléans Karl X. (Frankreich) Ludwig XVIII. Louis Charles de Bourbon Ludwig XVI. Louis Ferdinand de Bourbon, dauphin de Viennois Ludwig XV. Louis de Bourbon, dauphin de Viennois, duc de Bourgogne Louis de Bourbon, dauphin de Viennois Ludwig XIV. Ludwig XIII. Heinrich IV. (Frankreich) Antoine de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme Charles de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme François de Bourbon, comte de Vendôme Jean VIII. de Bourbon, comte de Vendôme Louis I. de Bourbon, comte de Vendôme Jean I. de Bourbon, comte de La Marche Jacques I. de Bourbon, comte de La Marche Louis I. de Bourbon Robert de Clermont François-Hercule de Valois, duc d’Alençon Heinrich III. (Frankreich) Karl IX. (Frankreich) Franz II. (Frankreich) Heinrich II. (Frankreich) Franz I. (Frankreich) Charles de Valois, comte d’Angoulême Jean de Valois, comte d’Angoulême Ludwig XII. Charles de Valois, duc d’Orléans Louis de Valois, duc d’Orléans Karl VIII. (Frankreich) Ludwig XI. Karl VII. (Frankreich) Karl VI. (Frankreich) Karl V. (Frankreich) Johann II. (Frankreich) Philipp VI. (Frankreich) Karl I. (Valois) Karl IV. (Frankreich) Philipp V. (Frankreich) Johann I. (Frankreich) Ludwig X. (Frankreich) Philipp IV. (Frankreich) Philipp III. (Frankreich) Ludwig IX. (Frankreich) Ludwig VIII. (Frankreich) Philipp II. (Frankreich) Ludwig VII. (Frankreich) Ludwig VI. (Frankreich) Philipp I. (Frankreich) Heinrich I. (Frankreich) Robert II. (Frankreich) Hugo Capet

Current pretenders of Capetian descent

Senior Capets




  1. For the use and meaning of the epithet, see Ferdinand Lot : Etudes sur le règne de Hugues Capet et la fin du Xe siècle , Appendix VI, pp. 304–323 (Paris, 1903)
  2. Raoul de Diceto, Ymagines Historiarum , ed. by William Stubbs: The Historical Works of Ralpf of Diss , in: Rolls Series 68 (1876), Vol. 1, pp. 290-291 and 440
  3. ^ Gesta Francorum usque ad annum (1214)
  4. Andreas von Marchiennes: L'Historia succincta de gestis et successione regnum francorum (1196)