France remained one of the most important regions throughout the medieval era of Europe. It was one of the kingdoms which had a decisive role in pan-European matters.
The kingdom fell under the reign of different dynasties over time.
It passed from the Merovingian dynasty to the Carolingian dynasty in the 8th century until the 10th century.
In the 10th century, the French reign passed from the Carolingian dynasty to the Capetian dynasty who would rule it for the rest of the medieval period.
Charlemagne was one of the most prominent French kings throughout medieval history. In fact, it was under his reign that the French identity was decisively defined for a long time to come.
He assumed the title of the King of the Franks in 768. He then went on to become the King of Italy in 774 and soon had the region of Germany under his control as well.
He assumed the title of Emperor in 800, effectively becoming the most powerful ruler in all of Europe. It was largely during his reign that Christianity decisively became the defining identity of Europe. He halted Muslim incursions in Spain, Christianised Saxony, and became the patron of the Papacy. He died in 814.
Charles the Simple became the King of France in 898. He soon had a vast realm under his realm which included Germany and Italy as well.
Charles’ reign was a time when the nobility in France had gained significant power and often acted as king-makers. It was during his reign that the Vikings has become solidly entrenched in northern France.
Although Charles successfully withstood the Viking ruler Rollo, he agreed to give up the region of Normandy to the Normans. This step would leave a lasting impact on the outlook of Europe.
Towards the latter part of his rule, Charles lost the favor of the nobility. He was consequently deposed in 922 and later defeated and imprisoned in 923. He later died in prison in 929.
Louis VII ascended to the French throne in 1137. He was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the most well-known and powerful women of the period.
However, his marriage with Eleanor was soon annulled. Louis also led an expedition to the Holy Land as part of the Crusades but was routed by a Turkish army in 1147.
Louis barely survived himself and after some disastrous attempts at further military expeditions in and near the Holy Land, Louis returned with the French army in 1149. During his reign, the power of the Count of Anjou increased significantly.
Since Louis didn’t produce any male heirs from his first two marriages, it was hoped that the French crown may pass to the hands of the English monarchs.
But this changed when his son Philip II Augustus was finally born in 1165. Louis died in 1180. Although the royal might of the French crown waned during his reign, he was able to forge lasting ties with the Church and profit greatly from these.