Page images

it was interpreted more and more in favour of the overlord in those communities where the idea of the state was most developed. In Gascony the tradition of unity was still sufficient to cause response to the strong hand of the duke; and in later years Henry III and Edward I were able to apply many of the principles of government which had been applied by Henry II in Normandy or Anjou. But in the reigns of Richard and John, Gascony was on the fringe of the empire; its organisation was only developed after the loss of those lands which were the centre of imperial strength. It was in these that feudalism first became the basis of a real state.

I have laid stress upon the diversity in the political condition and in the history of the various lands which were brought together under the rule of Henry II. Is it possible to point to any common element, any institutions by means of which these territories could acquire some sort of constitutional unity?

There is abundant evidence that Henry II regarded his continental dominions as a whole, in contrast with England. Our chief authority upon this point is the official chronicler known under the name of Benedict of Peterborough. In September 1177, Henry, after he made peace with Louis VII and had decided to go with him on a crusade, held a court at Verneuil. Here, in the presence of his barons, he promulgated a statute dealing with the debts of crusaders and limiting the responsibility of their vassals for them. The king, adds the chronicler, ordered the statute to be observed in all his estates (villae) and everywhere in his dominions (potestas), namely, in Normandy and Aquitaine, Anjou and Brittany. In the same year Henry made changes in the personnel of his administration in Normandy 'and his other lands across the sea.'? Again, in 1180, he kept

1. Ben Pet., i, 194.

2. Ibid, i, 198. `justitias suas et rectores, de quorum fidelitate et prudentia confidebat, in Normannia et in caeteris terris suis transmarinis constituit.'


Christmas at Le Mans; it is expressly stated that the archbishop of Bordeaux was present; and after the feast Henry issued an assize of arms, which he ordered to be published and observed throughout his lands across the sea.' 1 The model of this assize was followed, we are told, by Philip of France and Philip of Flanders, and by Henry himself in England. Traces of its operation may be found in the middle of the following century, in the inquests ordered to be made by Alfonse of Poitiers in his Poitevin domain. 2

These measures, though they imply the existence of similar judicial and ministerial systems in all these continental states, do not carry us very far. The scanty details which may be gathered from the local chroniclers and the numerous charters are more suggestive. As a starting point the difference between the administrative unit in England and on the Continent must be noticed. In England the unit was the shire, throughout the continental domains it was the city, castle or royal vill. Even the Norman bailiwick, based though it was Frankish territorial divisions, was an administrative rather than a geographical area, and in the old Frankish counties, such as Anjou and Touraine, the Frankish divisions, or vicariæ, had disappeared. Hence there was no method of comprehending efficiently as one whole the demesnes of the duke or count in a given area. In England the sheriff was responsible for the royal dues and for the administration of royal justice within the borders of his

1. Ibid, i, 270. 2. See the Etat du domaine du comte de Poitou à Chizé, edited by A. Bardonnet in Archives historiques du Poitou, vii, 73. On pp. 113-4 is a section 'de armis apud Faiam Monjant,' with the following entries : “Hii sunt qui debent habere loricas et capella ferrea et enses et lanceas vel arcus cum sagittis'; also 'qui debent habere loriculas,' etc.; and 'qui debent habere perpunctos cum aliis armis.' Compare the requirement from persons possessing 100 l. Angevin, in 1180 : ‘equum et arma militaria, scilicet loricam, scutum, gladium et lanceam,' etc. (Ben. Pet., i, pp. 269, 270.)


[ocr errors]

shire; even if a borough had contracted for separate treatment, he was brought into direct relations with it in half-a-dozen ways. It is true that, at the end of the twelfth century, the English shire was regarded, so to speak, as appurtenant to the royal castle at its centre, where a castle existed; and that a somewhat similar relation between the castle and bailiwick is frequently observable on the Continent about the same time. As will be shown in the next chapter, the conditions in Normandy were somewhat peculiar. The general truth holds, however, for all the continental lands, that the geographical divisions were secondary and subject to change, and that the power of the overlord had grown through the development of the demesne, combined with the activities of a central civil service. In this development the castle played the chief part. I will endeavour first to trace it in Anjou, and afterwards in the continental empire.

II. The crude feudalism which regulated Angevin society in the first part of the eleventh century had been gradually displaced by organised government during the century previous to Henry II's accession. Fulk Nerra and Geoffrey Martel had imposed unity upon Anjou and Touraine, and it is worth while to observe the process which made these districts such a perfect example of the feudal state. From the outset Fulk placed his reliance in the great stone keeps with which Touraine is still crested. He built Langeais and established a new family there, in 984, with the

1. The distinction between England and the continental lands is well expressed, officially, in the charter to the Templars, of August 31, 1199, confirming a charter of Henry II (Rot. Chart., p. 13b). The king grants one silver mark a year from every English shire (vicecomitatus) which brings in 1001. or more to the exchequer, “et de unaquaque civitate et castello et villa aliarum terrarum nostrarum, videlicet, Normanniae, Cenomaniae, Andegaviae, Turoniae, Pictaviae, et Gasconiae, quae annuatim nobis c. li. vel plures reddit, unum cipphum argenteum.”

expressed purpose of securing easier access to the earlier acquisitions of his family, especially Amboise and Loches. 1 At Montrésor he established a fidelis who bore the expressive name of Roger the Devil. In Anjou he built Baugé, Château-Gontier, and probably commenced to build Durtal; in the north of Poitou, now attached to Anjou, he built Mirebeau (where Arthur of Brittany two centuries later attacked his grandmother Eleanor of Aquitaine), Montreuil-Bellay, where he established a recreant vassal of the count of Blois, and Passavant. Many of these fortresses passed into the hands of new feudal families, but whether they remained with the count or not, they altered the social aspect of the compact territories which they bound together. Some of them, like Baugé, became the centres of new towns; monasteries were founded in the neighbourhood of others; and gradually the borders between the old counties became practically indistinguishable.

A common custumal served, in the thirteenth century, for Anjou and Touraine. In the reign of John one seneschal administered Maine, Anjou and Touraine. 3 The greater abbeys, such as Saint-Aubin, Saint-Florent near Saumur, and Marmoutier, sent out colonies which further helped to bind the two counties together. From early times the counts of Anjou had been apt in law and letters; their example was copied in these new foundations, so that in the days of Fulk Réchin a historical school, in which the count himself took the lead, flourished in most of the chief 1. Hist. S. Florent. in Marchegay, Eglises d'Anjou, p. 274.

For Fulk's castles, see Halphen, Essai sur l'authenticité du fragment d'histoire, pp. 22 seq.

2. The same process is seen in Maine. See Latouche, Histoire du Comté du Maine, pp. 57–69. In other respects the history of Maine is parallel to that of Anjou.

3. e.g., William des Roches. Andegavia seems occasionally to be used to include a wider district, in the royal letters.

4. Halphen, Le Comté, pp. 91–93. For the extensive penetration of the abbey of Saint Florent into Poitou, see Archives hist. du Poitou (1873), ii, pp. 2, 3.

monasteries in his territories.1 The great families, in their turn, contributed to the co-operation of Church and State by supplying bishops. It is true that the archbishopric of Tours was beyond the count's influence, and the abbey of Saint-Martin possessed a cosmopolitan rather than a local importance, but otherwise the count seems to have kept a firm control over the clergy, and, however independent the ecclesiastical life of Tours might be, it brought him prestige and indirectly added to his wealth.

In course of time the demesne was administered systematically by prepositi who formed part of the count's civil service; the court developed ritual and ceremony and the great feudal officers, the seneschal and constable, the chaplain who acts as chancellor, appeared. For a time the greater barons often served in the great offices, and so were worked into the administration; while the ceremonial gatherings or courts, at which all kinds of business could be formally transacted, were held more regularly at fixed places. The count, in virtue of his strength, was able to provide speedy justice. After all, a Frankish county was not very large; traditions of Frankish procedure still lingered;2 and it was not difficult for the count to take cognisance of what went on throughout his dominions.

All the attributes of a feudal state are visible in the reign of the learned Fulk le Réchin. The element of fixity alone was wanting : it was necessary that the castles should be, to a great extent, in the count's hands, that no other person should be allowed to build without permission, that the chancery should use writs for drawing cases before

1. Halphen, in works mentioned, and Etude sur les chroniques des comtes d'Anjou et des seigneurs d'Amboise (Paris, 1906).

2. As in the use of Frankish phrases : boni homines, rachimburdi, etc. For all this see the passages in Beautemps-Beaupré, pt. ii, vol. 1, which I have summarised in the English Historical Review, xxi, pp. 648–9.

3. Halphen, Le Comté, pp. 192 and foll.

« PreviousContinue »