Hugh Capet was the first King of the Franks of the House of Capet from his election in 987 until his death. He succeeded the last Carolingian king, Louis V.
The son of Hugh the Great, Duke of the Franks, and Hedwige of Saxony, daughter of the German king Henry the Fowler, Hugh was born in 941. Hugh Capet was born into a well-connected and powerful family with many ties to the royal houses of France and Germany.
Through his mother, Hugh was the nephew to Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor; Henry I, Duke of Bavaria; Bruno the Great, Archbishop of Cologne; and finally, Gerberga of Saxony, Queen of France. Gerberga was the wife of Louis IV, King of France and mother of Lothair of France and Charles, Duke of Lower Lorraine.
His paternal family, the Robertians, were powerful landowners in the Île-de-France. His grandfather had been King Robert I. King Odo was his granduncle and King Rudolph was his uncle by affinity. Hugh's paternal grandmother was a descendant of Charlemagne.
The realm in which Hugh grew up, and of which he would one day be king, bore little resemblance to modern France. Hugh's predecessors did not call themselves kings of France, and that title was not used by his successors until the time of his descendant, Philip II. Kings ruled as rex Francorum ("King of the Franks"), the title remaining in use until 1190 (but note the use of FRANCORUM REX by Louis XII in 1499, by Francis I in 1515, and by Henry II about 1550, and on French coins up to the eighteenth century.) The lands they ruled comprised only a small part of the former Carolingian Empire. The eastern Frankish lands, the Holy Roman Empire, were ruled by the Ottonian dynasty, represented by Hugh's first cousin Otto II and then by Otto's son, Otto III. The lands south of the river Loire had largely ceased to be part of the West Francia kingdom in the years after Charles the Simple was deposed in 922. Both the Duchy of Normandy and the Duchy of Burgundy were largely independent, and Brittany entirely so - although from 956 Burgundy was ruled by Hugh's brothers Otto and Henry.
Hugh Capet died on 24 October 996 in Paris and was interred in the Saint Denis Basilica. His son Robert continued to reign.
Most historians regard the beginnings of modern France with the coronation of Hugh Capet. This is because, as Count of Paris, he made the city his power centre. The monarch began a long process of exerting control of the rest of the country from there.
He is regarded as the founder of the Capetian dynasty. The direct Capetians, or the House of Capet, ruled France from 987 to 1328; thereafter, the Kingdom was ruled by cadet branches of the dynasty. All French kings through Louis Philippe, and all royals since then, have belonged to the dynasty. Furthermore, cadet branches of the House continue to reign in Spain and Luxembourg.
All monarchs of the Kingdom of France from Hugh Capet to Philip II of France were titled King of the Franks. Philip II of France was the first to use the title of King of France. Many people make this minor error in writing or doing genealogy.
The English translation of the royal style of Hugh Capet was "By the Grace of God, King of the Franks".