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The Common Elements in the Administration of the

Angevin Empire.


The constitutional, no less than the political, history of Normandy after 1150 is closely connected with the constitutional history of Anjou and Poitou. Politically almost every crisis in the history of Normandy, the war of 1173, the quarrels between Henry and Richard, and between John and his nephew Arthur, the results of John's marriage with Isabella of Angoulême, had an external origin. In the same way, although it is no longer possible to speak of an Angevin invasion or of an Angevin reconstruction of English and Norman society, it is true to say that most of the administrative changes made by Henry II and his sons originated in their desire to keep the peace throughout a large empire. It was necessary to subordinate each part to the whole in this varied group of States, if all were to be governed effectively. Moreover, it is possible to trace here and there the influence of Anjou

1. AUTHORITIES. Besides the better known chronicles, the chronicles of Anjou, etc., in the Recueil d'annales angevines et vendômoises, edited by Halphen (Picard's Collection de textes, Paris, 1903); Beautemps-Beaupré, Coutumes et Institutions de l'Anjou et du Maine, especially pt. ii, vol. i, Recherches sur les juridictions de l'Anjou et du Maine pendant la période féodal' (Paris, 1890); the Coutumes de T'ouraine-Anjou, edited by M. Viollet in the third volume of his Etablissements de Saint Louis (Paris, 1883); also Guilhiermoz, Essai sur l'origine de la noblesse (Paris, 1902), the works of Halphen referred to in the last chapter, together with his paper on Angevin judicial institutions in the eleventh century (Revue historique, 1901, lxxvii, pp. 279–307), etc. For Poitou, A. Richard, Histoire des Comtes de Poitou (778–1204), Paris, 1903.



in Henry's autocratic rule. Henry would have made tradition his servant wherever he had ruled, but it would be rash to assert that, if his sway had been confined to England or Normandy the impulse and shape which his genius gave to English or Norman institutions would have been the same as they were when these countries formed part of a wider whole with Anjou and Touraine as its centre.

It is said that Count Geoffrey of Anjou, when he lay dying, urged his son to respect the customs of his various territories without seeking to impose the traditions of one country upon the rest. These doctrines of imperialism, which Geoffrey regarded as the secret of successful rule, were interpreted in a limited sense by Henry. It is clear that local customs were generally left to develop undisturbed. Just as the law of Wessex and of Mercia survived for many years after the Norman Conquest of England, and customs continued to differ in different shires or even in different townships, so the variations of local law in Normandy were observed by the courts in the thirteenth century. One result, indeed, of the frequent inquests and recognitions was to record and perpetuate these variations. If this was the case within an area so indivisible politically as England or Normandy, it was much more the case within the empire as a whole, where all traditions of Carolingian unity had long faded away. Thus King Richard refused to enforce a treaty which his Norman officials had made with Philip of France, on the ground that it set aside Poitevin custom;2 and in circumstances less favourable to himself King John was forced to observe the law of Poitou with regard to the

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1. See below p. 48.

2. Howden, iii, p. 255, 'quia videlicet rex Angliae violare nolebat consuetudines et leges Pictaviae vel aliarum terrarum suarum in quibus consuetum erat ab antiquo, ut magnates causas proprias invicem gladiis allegarent.'

forfeiture of sub-vassals.1 Under the shadow of Henry II's government, in all parts of the empire, from England to Gascony, legal principles and customs were reduced to writing in response to the pressure of local forces. 2 This process was fraught with much danger to the political stability of the empire. One natural consequence of it was that vassals who felt that their privileges were invaded were encouraged to appeal from their lord to the king of France. John lost the greater part of the empire as a result of an appeal. But in this chapter it is rather my task, after a brief analysis of this diversity, to trace the extent to which Henry II imposed a common administration upon and developed the common elements in his continental states.

Let us go back to the early history of Anjou and compare it with that of Poitou and Gascony. Fulk Nerra (987—1040) and Geoffrey Martel (1040—1060) had bound their territories together, as in chains of iron, by their fortresses, many of which became the homes of new families dependent on the favour of the count. In the reigns of their successors the rough and ready feudalism of Fulk's day was elaborated and refined. It must be remembered that the counts of feudal times were for the most part the successors of the Frankish

1. When John received the homage of Chalon de Rochefort after his treason (May 23, 1214) he secured him this right : 'si vero aliqui hominum suorum ad servicium nostrum redire noluerint, vel in aliquo nobis foris fecerint, unde de terris suis disseisiri debeant, idem Chalo habebit in manu sua terras eorundum et proventus earum secundum consuetudinem Pictavie donec redierint ad servicium nostrum' (Rot. Chart., 198 b).

2. M. Rogé has recently shown that the renovation of the For général de Béarn goes back to 1188, and not to 1288. See a review of his Anciens fors de Béarn in Revue historique (1910), civ, 107–8. The early custumal of Anjou and Touraine, printed by Viollet in the Etablissements de Saint Louis, though of later date, probably describes the customs of the twelfth century. For the Très ancien Coutumier of Normandy, see above p. 4.

counts. These latter had been local administrators appointed by the Frankish kings, and their jurisdiction did not extend—or at most extended very partially-over the greater royal vassals or churches and religious houses on the royal demesne. In some parts of France these greater vassals succeeded in maintaining their direct relations with the kings down to the twelfth century, and in this respect Poitou was in contrast with Anjou and Touraine. John of Salisbury, for example, refers in his letters to Poitevin abbots who denied the jurisdiction of the count, and regarded themselves as immediate vassals of Louis VII, and the constant appeals of the barons of Berri and Auvergne to the French king were a permanent source of weakness to the duke of Aquitaine. In Anjou, on the other hand, the counts succeeded in securing the control over the royal vassals, as did many other counts in the tenth century. It is true that the process was very slow; the distinction remained between greater and lesser vassals, and the former gradually became identified with the fortunate people who held castles. This fact, conversely, gave a distinctive and independent character to the successors of Fulk Nerra's castellans, who had occasionally contributed to the expense of erecting the strongholds entrusted to them.3 These greater vassals naturally recognised few, if any, rights of jurisdiction in the count. In the eleventh century, all disputes between them were decided, however many formalities may have been observed, by reference to a judge selected for the occasion by both parties; or, in cases of oppression, by resort to the strength

1. Memorials of Thomas Becket ed. Robertson (Rolls Ser.), vi, p. 456. The abbot of Charroux said at La Ferté Bernard that his monastery belonged to the king of France and had done so since its foundation by Charles the Great.

2. Guilhiermoz, Essai sur l'origine de la noblesse, p. 139. 3. Château-Gontier is the best example. Below p. 268.

of a powerful neighbour. The officials of the count, the vicarii, or, as they were called later, the prepositi, administered the demesne; they received the dues, demanded customary labour, directed the levy, did justice on the peasants; but they did not interfere in other matters.2 The power of the count grew because he was stronger than his neighbours : strength rather than law gave him predominance. If he had no legal machinery at his disposal, he had tremendous powers of enforcing his will, and no one questioned his absolutism if he could secure it. A family may be prosperous in one generation; it comes against the power of the count; there is a struggle and it disappears. The rough remedy of extermination is always in reserve, and Fulk Nerra did not hesitate to use it. In time his successors, under its sanction, worked out forms of government.

Aquitaine, on the other hand, never lost its composite character. At their court in Poitiers the dukes had, it is true, encouraged learning, and elaborated a chancery.3 But even in Poitou the distinction between the ducal domain and the feudal estates seems to have been more marked in the twelfth century than it was in Anjou; the vassals were necessarily influenced by the independent leanings of such important persons as the viscount of Thouars or the lord of Issoudun.4 Outside Poitou, Aquitaine was a medley. Saintonge and, so far as its inhabitants allowed, Gascony were governed by the duke. The rest of the duchy consisted of separate states in which the duke had no powers other than those of overlord. The

1. Halphen, in Revue historique (1901), vol. lxxvii, p. 305. 2. Halphen, Le Comté d'Anjou, pp. 107 seq.

The title of vicarius lingered on. Vicarii appear frequently in Angevin charters of Henry II (Delisle, Introduction, p. 220).

3. For the Poitevin chancery compare Giry, Manuel de diplomatique, p. 809, and the charters in the Recueil des actes de Philippe I, (pp. 216, 219), with Prou's notes.

4. Below p. 223.

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