With the deposition of Charles and after his futile struggle to maintain power, Ugo, a descendant of Odo, reserved the direction of state affairs and passed on the crown to his brother-in-law, the Duke of Burgundy Rodolfo, then again to a Carolingian, the son of Charles the Simple, Luigi, and finally to Lothair son of the latter. Ugo, now the true head of the state, was nicknamed by his contemporaries Ugo the Great: his son Ugo, called Capeto, succeeded him (956) as Duke of France, exercising effective power alongside the king while continuing the reign of Lothair who was succeeded for fourteen months by Louis V. On his death Ugo Capeto, proclaimed king in Noyon by the Assembly of the great in 987, fixed his residence in Paris. The royal domain was controlled by a collective of great lords, true independent principalities, although their lords theoretically remained vassals of the crown. At the cost of great efforts and concessions, the founder of the Capetian dynasty (who would have reigned for eight centuries) managed to submit them to his authority. Realizing that only a dynastic prince would guarantee the continuity of power, Ugo associated his son Roberto with the throne, who, crowned in 996, reigned for thirty-five years.
His son Henry I reigned for thirty years and Philip I, son of the former, for forty-eight years. The three sovereigns, succeeding each other regularly for more than a century, consolidated the dynastic principle. Their efforts were essentially aimed at strengthening royal power in the interior of the country, while foreign policy left them rather indifferent. Louis VI, who ascended the throne in 1108, instead showed a keen interest in what was happening abroad, especially in England, which had recently been conquered by the Duke of Normandy, who remained, at least nominally, his vassal. The intervention of Louis VI in the family quarrels that agitated the descendants of William the Conqueror carried within it the seeds of future Franco-English conflicts. His son, Louis VII said the Younger, at the age of eighteen, in 1137, he married the daughter of the Duke of Aquitaine, the fourteen-year-old Eleonora, who brought him an immense domain as a dowry: Guienna, Gascogne, Poitou, Marche, Limousin, the Angoumois, the Saintonge, the Périgord. This fact and the subsequent divorce of Louis VII from Eleonora, who later offered his dowry to Henry II (future king of England), were among the causes that gave rise to the subsequent Hundred Years War. Louis VII died in 1180; his son, who went down in history with the name of Philip II Augustus, skilful and energetic sovereign, after having taken part, with the King of England Richard the Lionheart, in the III Crusade, dedicated himself to regaining the domains passed into the hands of the Plantagenets.
He managed to recover Anjou, Maine, Touraine, Normandy, the north of Poitou and Saintonge. The victory achieved by Philip Augustus in Bouvines in 1214 against the coalition between John Without Land, king of England and Otto IV emperor brought about the end of English domination N of the Loire, the weakening of the royal power in England and the decline of the political importance of the empire. Within the kingdom, Philip Augustus reorganized the administrative and judicial organization, making the urban bourgeoisie the support of the monarchy. The crusade against the Albigensians, which began in 1209, during his reign, and characterized by ferocious excesses of cruelty, was an opportunity to effectively unite to the crown certain provinces that by now had only a very mild bond of vassalage with it. After the brief reign of Louis VIII (1223-26) who succeeded Philip Augustus, Louis IX, the future Saint Louis, inherited the throne at the age of eleven. Bianca of Castile exercised her regency with firmness and skill, sowing discord among the great rebel lords, ready to take advantage of the king’s minor age to regain the privileges lost during the reign of Philip Augustus. Having come of age (1242), Louis IX revealed himself to be a mystic and a dreamer. After the failure of the crusade he organized, he reigned peacefully for eighteen years. He had the Sainte-Chapelle built, intended to house the crown of thorns, bought for a Latin emperor of Constantinople, and founded the hospice of the Quinze-vingts for blind or wounded knights in Palestine. In 1270 a new attempt to organize a crusade brought him to Tunis, where the army was infected by the plague and he perished as a victim of the disease. His son Philip (third of this name) was proclaimed king near Tunis and brought what remained of the army back to France. The following year he inherited from his uncle, Alfonso of Poitiers, the Poitou, the Auvergne and the county of Toulouse.