The emperor Theophilus (r. 829-842) appeared every week on horseback at a given church and handed down judgments so fair and equitable that they have passed into legend:
When Hugh Capet (c. 938-996) came to the throne of France in 987, he was the first of a male line that was to continue uninterrupted for almost 350 years. Like the Byzantine emperors, but with better luck, the Capetians had procured the election and coronation of the king’s eldest son during his father’s lifetime. When the father died, the son would already be king.
Many observers feared that there had been a slow breakdown in what was once understood to be the social contract. Much of humanity was struggling with dual goals: to achieve freedom and to create equality, to protect the rights of the individual and to meet obligations to others.
The revolutionary leaders of the post-Napoleonic generation remained firm for liberty, equality, and fraternity. The first two words of the great revolutionary motto continued to signify the abolition of noble and clerical privileges in society and, with few exceptions, laissez-faire economics. They also involved broadening civil rights, instituting representative assemblies, and granting constitutions, which would bring limited monarchy or possibly even a republic.
During its last 372 years, the fate of the Byzantine Empire increasingly depended upon western Europe. The flood of crusaders first made the Byzantines uneasy and ultimately destroyed them. From 1204 to 1261, while the Byzantine government was in exile from its own capital, its chief aim was to drive out the hated Latins. But even after the Byzantine leaders had recaptured Constantinople in 1261, they still could not shake off the West.
The Western attitude is revealed in the crisp words of the great fourteenth-century Italian poet Petrarch:
Meanwhile, the main body of the army was besieging the great fortress city of Antioch, which finally was conquered by treachery after more than seven months. Antioch became the center of the second crusader state under the Norman Bohemond. The other crusaders then took Jerusalem by assault in July 1099. Godfrey of Bouillon was chosen “defender of the Holy Sepulcher.” The third crusader state had been founded.
Augustus’s first four successors are called the Julio-Claudian emperors. Each had been a member of the family of Julius Caesar and Augustus. But now the line had run out. In 68-69, four emperors, each a general supported by his own troops, ruled in rapid succession. The first three died by violence. The fourth was Vespasian, Nero’s commander in Palestine.
Though Catherine the Great failed to apply the ideas of the Age of Reason, her name often appears on lists of enlightened despots. Another name is at times added to the list—George III, king of Great Britain (r. 1760-1820).
George III tried to wrest control of the House of Commons from the long-dominant Whig oligarchy and retain it through patronage and bribery. Virtuous as a person and devoted to his family, George as a monarch was stubborn, shortsighted, and in the long run unsuccessful.
The National Assembly had barely settled down to work when a new wave of rioting swept over France, further undermining the position of the king. Economic difficulties grew more severe in the summer of 1789. Unemployment increased, and bread seemed likely to remain scarce and expensive, at least until after the harvest.
Meanwhile, the commoners feared that the king and the privileged orders might attempt a counterrevolution. Large concentrations of troops appeared in the Paris area early in July—to preserve order and protect the National Assembly, the king asserted.
When Mary died in 1558, Henry VIII’s last surviving child was Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn. She had been declared illegitimate by Parliament in 1536 at her father’s request; Henry’s last will, however, had rehabilitated her, and she now succeeded as Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603). She had been brought up a Protestant, and so once more the English churchgoer was required to switch faith. This time the Anglican church was firmly established; the prayer book and Thirty-nine Articles of 1563 issued under Elizabeth have remained to this day the essential documents of the Anglican faith.