Page images



The Administration of Normandy.

I. The duchy of Normandy consisted of several distinct counties or pagi, and was not a single political area in Frankish times as the counties of Anjou and Poitou had been. The Norman divisions had been occupied by the Northmen at various times 1 and continued to develop local peculiarities of custom ;2 moreover, they retained and developed a Frankish civilisation. The view of some older scholars that the land to which the Northmen gave their name became in any real sense a Scandinavian country, is no longer tenable. The language of the Frankish inhabitants prevailed in the court as well as in the fields, and Scandinavian place names are not found except along the coast of Caux, where little pirate towns grew beneath the cliffs, and in the bold promontory of the Côtentin. It is impossible to say whether the men who settled in the

1. Prentout in Revue de synthèse historique, xx, 42.

2. The most striking example is the difference between the rules of succession in Caux and those which prevailed in the rest of Normandy; see Génestal, Le Parage Normand, p. 32. The custumal and the judgments of the exchequer, in the 13th century, frequently refer to local varieties of custom. See also Viollet, in the Histoire litteraire de la France (xxxiii, 78-9), where it is pointed out that the grand custumal and later reformed custom were only in full force in the Côtentin. Note also the local additions in the Vatican MS. of the earliest custumal (Ibid, p. 56). The fact that fouage or focagium, a tax on the hearth to compensate for the depreciation of the unchanged coinage, which was levied every third year (Stapleton, I, xvi, cxxxvi) was not payed in Mortain, Breteuil, Alençon and other places tells in the same direction (Brussel, Usage des fiefs, i, p. 212 : the scriptum de foagio. Cf. Viollet, p. 78, note). For the survival of local customs in the English shires see Vinogradoff : English Society in the Eleventh Century, pp. 90–96.

3. Revue de synthèse historique, xix, 55, 57.

valley of the Seine were Danes or came from Norway or Sweden, 1 so quickly did the memory of law and speech and kindred fade.

The obscurity in which the history of the Norman settlements is hidden, has not revealed its secrets to modern inquiry. It is still impossible to measure the extent of Scandinavian intiuence upon the development of Frankish institutions, just as it is impossible to guess to what extent, if any, Frankish institutions had to fight for their continued existence. It is certain that the tradition of the north must have done something to produce the peculiarities of Norman society and Norman administration, such as the simple and effective financial system, or the subtle combination of ducal authority with feudal privilege. It is abundantly clear that the Norman baronage retained a strong sense of racial unity, which took the form of a selfconscious mastery of alien institutions. Their wonderful energy and certainty of purpose are stamped upon the history of Europe as they were stamped in stone from Ireland to Sicily. But it is wiser to be content with this obvious truth, and to leave on one side inquiries into Scandinavian origins. 2

1. Ibid, xx, 41. See also Prentout, Essai sur les origines et la fondation du duché de Normandie (Paris, 1911).

2. The chief authority for the administration of Normandy in the twelfth century, and to some extent for earlier centuries also, is the exchequer rolls. They show the administrative areas and give a wealth of detail which can be elucidated by means of the ducal and other charters, the earliest custumal, the later judgments of the exchequer, and the other Norman rolls. For these see the introduction, above p. 5. The best guide is still Stapleton, whose introduction to the exchequer rolls reveals a knowledge of Norman documents which has not been surpassed even by Prévost or Delisle. Other essential guides are the articles of M. Delisle and Mr. Haskins, and M. Valin's Le Duc de Normandie et sa Cour. My articles in the English Historical Review for 1906–1907 deal more fully with some matters than does this chapter, but on several points I have either modified my opinion or prefer to reserve judgment. For a complete bibliography, see Prentout in Revue de Synthèse historique, February, 1910 (vol. xx, pp. 50–55).

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


The old Frankish counties can be discerned as the obvious base of Norman divisions even at the end of the twelfth century. To some extent, as, for example, in the case of the district between the rivers Seine and Risle, new districts had been formed in accordance with natural barriers. Here and there, especially along the border between Normandy and the more southern provinces, new fortresses had become the centres of new divisions, as Verneuil, Nonancourt and, near the coast, in the Bessin, Amanville (Osmanville). One or two of the ancient boundaries, as that between the pagus Lexoviensis and the pagus Oximiensis, had become confused, a fact which was reflected in the confusion of ecclesiastical boundaries. Yet, for the most part, the older pagi continued to exist for one purpose or another. The areas of the dioceses and archdeaconries had of course helped to maintain the secular areas. In the diocese of Rouen, which comprised several pagi, the archdeaconries seem to have corresponded to the Frankish pagi and to the later Norman bailiwicks. The archdeaconries of the dioceses of Bayeux, Avranches, and Coutances correspond on the whole to the Norman viscounties into which the earlier counties of the Bessin, Avranchin, and Côtentin were divided. The evidence is sufficient, therefore, to permit a direct connection to be made between the Carolingian and the Norman

Norman counts and viscounts; in fact the counts of Evreux (pagus Ebroicensis) and of Eu (Talogiensis pagus), and, for a brief period, a count of

1. This results from a comparison of the districts in the exchequer rolls with the archdeaconries. See, for the latter, Longnon, Pouillés de la province de Rouen (1903), pp. xi, xii. For the pagi, see Revue de synthèse historique, xix, 221, and, among the authorities there mentioned, Le Prévost, Anciennes divisions territoriales de la Normandie, in Mém. de la Soc. des Antiquaires de Normandie xi. Stapleton's scattered observations are invaluable for Norman geography, but are so confusing that they should be read and compared with great care.

2. The chief fact is the division into the city and the county proper : Bayeux and the Bessin, Coutances and the Côtentin, etc.



Avranches, 1 had as much independence of the duke of Normandy as was compatible with Norman feudalism.

Some of the greatest franchises, however—the honours of the counts of Mortain and Alençon, for example--were of more artificial origin. The unity of Normandy and the nature of the duke's authority, which was that of a count, 2 put the older divisions at the mercy of the central power.

As a result of these facts the older divisions never tended to become hard and fast units of local government like the English shires. It is true that the Norman bailiwicks of the later twelfth century might have become similar to the English shires, governed as they were by an almost identical system of law and judicial procedure; indeed, it is possible to observe a tendency of this kind in the second half of Henry II's reign.3 But the interference of the great franchises, the needs of defence, and, it may be added, the course of trade, prevented such a result. The ducal borough, the ducal castle and the ducal demesne were the real units of Norman administration, and though in their origin and grouping these units show the influence of Frankish divisions, Normandy was a land of cities and châtellenies, like Anjou and Poitou,-not a land of shires, like England. 4

1. Henry II's charter to Earl of Chester, quoted in Stapleton, I,

p. xcii.

2. The duke is so called as late as 1092 in Philip I's charter to the archbishop of Rouen (Prou, Recueil des actes de Philippe I, p. 323). See, for its significance, American Historical Review, xiv, 460.

3. Below p. 74.

4. Above p. 34; and below c. vii. The Norman charters collected by Delisle in his Cartulaire Normand provide many instances of the word castellania, e.g., no. 39, p. 278, ‘Castellum Paciaci cum tota castellania' (1195). The royal demesne was the centre and origin, in like manner, of some of the English shires; e.g., the Wiltunensis paga and the Summuttunensis paga of Asser (De rebus gestis Aelfredi. c. 55, ed. Stevenson, p. 45) take their names from the royal vills of Wilton and Somerton. Cf. Chadwick, Studies on Anglo-Saxon Institutions, pp. 236, 255.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

This quality of Norman administration was connected with the chief principle of Norman society. All historians have observed the superior position of the duke in Norman feudalism when compared with the position of other feudal lords who held extensive lordships; but, owing to a curious perversion of the facts, most of the older writers have seized upon the

monopoly of justice as the distinctive mark of this superiority. While recognising, of course, that every feudal lord exercised purely feudal jurisdiction, these writers have contended that the duke of the Normans succeeded in keeping to himself all higher jurisdiction comprised in the 'pleas of the sword.'1 Now it is certainly difficult to say whether the pleas of the sword had been held by any Norman magnate apart from a grant from his lord; the name seems to imply that originally, as later, they could not have been held otherwise. But it is certain that from the outset the early companions of the dukes and the great monasteries founded by the dukes exercised what later lawyers call haute justice. The superior position of the duke of Normandy did not lie in a monopoly of this jurisdiction, but in the fact that in Normandy the right to feudal service was insisted upon and gradually interpreted in logical fashion in favour of the lord. The Northmen regarded Frankish feudalism with fresh and curious gaze. They seem to have fastened upon the idea of the beneficium, or, to use its later name, the fief (feodum) with pertinacity and without fear; and, in spite of the evidence that the companions of Rollo claimed to be equal with their leader, there is no real doubt that the military relations of the pirate host were translated into terms of feudalism without any period of delay. It is true that in the lands which became western Normandy, and

1. Haskins in American Historical Review, xiv, 460, 461, for criticism of Brussel and Luchaire; and for a less guarded criticism, see M. Valin, pp. 182, 183, etc. The early custumal gives every lord his court : Statuta et Consuetudines, c. 59 (Tardif, Coutumiers, I, i, 50).

« PreviousContinue »