Why France had so much influence in the middle ages ? The Capetians were one of the strongest dynasty in Europe and managed to put their relatives on the thone of Hungary, Portugal, Sicily. But it's not just the royal family, the university of Paris was the most important, and Paris itself was the biggest town in medieval Europe. Gothic architecture was created in France, the crusades were mostly french, the Normans who invaded England culturally french, the duchy of Burgundy became one of the most important in Europe. Even the pope was defeated and then they stayed in Avignon.
What can explain this influence over all Europe ?
Well Byzantine was the top dog for long before France, until it fell to different religion. And well Italian towns (Venice, Florence, Milan) were really powerful, but because nobody managed to unite these city states (because they were so powerful, nobody wanted to succumb under rule of anyone else) they eventually lost the quantity>quality war.
fertile land, Celtic & Roman heritage, ruled by numerous relatively strong barbarians who got quickly civilized, not ruined by Muslims, Byzantines, Hungarians, Mongols, etc. (only by Vikings a bit), Mediterranean AND Atlantic trade, having all those things combined unlike any other country.
France was very fragmented in the days of William the Conqueror. There were about 8 dukes or counts that were about as strong (or in some cases stronger) as the King of France. In no particular order, the Duke of Normandy, the Count of Barcelona, the Count of Champaigne-Blois, The Count of Flanders, the Count of Anjou, the Duke of Aquitaine, the Count of Toulose. The Duke of Burgundy had a lot of lands but was mostly a bandit in an anarchic land where he didn't do much other than robbing people.
The "rise" of the Kingdom of France happened due to the ability of the Capets.
The Capetian King of Portugal didn't create Portugal because of the resources of France. He was related to the King of France, but it was a weak King of France and he was actually the grandson of the Duke of Burgundy, that as mentioned before was not really that powerful.
But the Capets were very competent in increasing their own power. At first, it was not supposed to be the case that the Kingdom of France would be only theirs. When Hugh Capet was first elected, none of the Nobles electing him thought that his heirs would always be Kings of France. But the Capets managed to keep their throne, by electing their sons while they were still reigning.
Also, eventually, via smart marriages (the heiresses of powerful counts and dukes), they managed to increase the royal domain. And then, we had Phillip II Augustus, that managed to take back most of the land of the Plantagenet dynasty. Of course, the Capets were also very lucky. Most dynasties end due to a lack of male heir. Until the sons of Phillip IV died without male heirs (other than one of them, who had a baby son that was King for 5 days), they never had a problem with succession.
So, this increase in the power of the King of France led to a kind of centralization that ended up being good for France. On the other hand, the Holy Roman Empire ended up going in the opposite way. It was more centralized than France and became more decentralized.
Btw, the only part of France that was much richer than most of the rest of Europe was the County of Flanders. But then, the North of Italy, that was part of the Holy Roman Empire was also as rich as Flanders, if not more so.
The rest was similar.
(and both regions had rebellion problems)
>Also, eventually, via smart marriages (the heiresses of powerful counts and dukes), they managed to increase the royal domain. And then, we had Phillip II Augustus, that managed to take back most of the land of the Plantagenet dynasty. Of course, the Capets were also very lucky. Most dynasties end due to a lack of male heir. Until the sons of Phillip IV died without male heirs (other than one of them, who had a baby son that was King for 5 days), they never had a problem with succession.
Didn't they have primogeniture?
The clearances and development of the northern French plains, the agricultural, economic, and cultural osmosis in Southern France from Byzantine and Moorish influences, the navigable rivers that crossed the country, and the religious endowments and urban privileges granted by the Carolingians made France populous and industrious at a time when most of Germany was still undeveloped forest.