Capetian dynasty

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The Capetian dynasty is the largest and oldest European royal house, consisting of the descendants of Hugh Capet of France in the male line. In contemporary times, both King Juan Carlos of Spain and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg are members of this family, both through the Bourbon branch of the dynasty.


Name origins and usage

The name of the dynasty derives from its founder, Hugh, who was known as "Hugh Capet". The meaning of "Capet" (a nickname rather than a surname of the modern sort) is unknown. While folk etymology identifies it with "cape", other suggestions suggest it to be connected to the Latin word caput ("head"), and thus explain it as meaning "chief" or "big head". 

The name "Capetian" came to be applied to both the ruling house of France, and to the wider-spread male-line descendants of Hugh Capet, by historians. It was not a contemporary practice. The name "Capet" has also been used as a surname for French royals, particularly but not exclusively those of the House of Capet – one notable use was during the French Revolution, when the dethroned King Louis XVI (a member of the House of Bourbon, though a direct male-line descendant of Hugh Capet) and Queen Marie Antoinette (a member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine) were referred to as "Louis and Antoinette Capet" (the Queen being addressed as "the Widow Capet" after the execution of her husband).

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