Hugh the Great

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Hugh the Great (898 – 16 June 956) was duke of the Franks and count of Paris, son of King Robert I of France and nephew of King Odo. He was born in Paris, Ile-de-France, France. His eldest son was Hugh Capet who became King of France in 987. His family is known as the Robertians.

Hugh's first wife was Eadhild, daughter of Edward the Elder, king of England, and sister of King Athelstan. At the death of Rudolph, duke of Burgundy, in 936, Hugh was in possession of nearly all the region between the Loire and the Seine, corresponding to the ancient Neustria, with the exception of the territory ceded to the Normans in 911. He took a very active part in bringing Louis IV (d'Outremer) from the Kingdom of England in 936, but in the same year Hugh married Hedwige of Saxony, a daughter of Henry the Fowler of Germany and Matilda of Ringelheim, and soon quarrelled with Louis.

Hugh even paid homage to the Emperor Otto the Great, and supported him in his struggle against Louis. When Louis fell into the hands of the Normans in 945, he was handed over to Hugh, who released him in 946 only on condition that he should surrender the fortress of Laon. At the council of Ingelheim (948) Hugh was condemned, under pain of excommunication, to make reparation to Louis. It was not, however, until 950 that the powerful vassal became reconciled with his suzerain and restored Laon. But new difficulties arose, and peace was not finally concluded until 953.

On the death of Louis IV, Hugh was one of the first to recognize Lothair as his successor, and, at the intervention of Queen Gerberga, was instrumental in having him crowned. In recognition of this service Hugh was invested by the new king with the duchies of Burgundy (his suzerainty over which had already been nominally recognized by Louis IV) and Aquitaine. But his expedition in 955 to take possession of Aquitaine was unsuccessful. In the same year, however, Giselbert, duke of Burgundy, acknowledged himself his vassal and betrothed his daughter to Hugh's son Otto. At Giselbert's death (8 April 956) Hugh became effective master of the duchy, but died soon afterwards, on the 16 or 17 June 956, in Dourdan.

Hugh and Hedwige's daughter Beatrice married Frederick I, Duke of Upper Lorraine, thus making Hugh an ancestor of the Habsburg family. From their son Hugh Capet sprung forth the lineage of many kings of France, and descendants including King George III, Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II.

In the Divine Comedy Dante meets the soul of Duke Hugh in Purgatory, lamenting the avarice of his descendants.


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