The Capetian Dynasty (987–1328) began without legitimacy, significant wealth or military power. Its genius would reside in its exploitation of the Law of Escheat: the seizure – and retention – of aristocratic and ecclesiastical fiefdoms that fell vacant within its reach. This would have mattered little if the succession had not been secured, and this the Capetians managed to do, again and again. Robert the Pious (r. 996–1031) inherited the throne successfully, largely because his father Hugh took the precaution of making him co-ruler for nine years. In 1016, he achieved his major coup, inheriting the vacant duchy of Burgundy. His son Henry I (r. 1031–60) lacked the resources to hold Burgundy, but kept it in the family (his brother Robert), where it remained, for over 400 years. Fortunately for Capetian survival prospects, the surrounding dukedoms in Brittany, Normandy and Aquitaine were vitiated by unruly feudal nobles and dynastic feuds.
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