Page images

would combine with the indivisibility of the office to prevent the division of the fief.' The practice of the Norman kings of England suggests that they used their influence to oppose the division of baronies; at any rate the Norman barons do not seem to have applied invariably the principle of division beyond the separation of English from Norman fiefs. Although there were numerous cases of large families of sons, the greater holdings of Normandy remained, on the whole, intact. The story of Tancred of Hauteville, who urged his sons to seek their fortunes elsewhere, explains this to a great extent. The epic poets of the twelfth century reveal a similar view that it is good form for younger sons not to stay at home. Again, a good marriage, a sudden death, or the cloister brought relief as often as not. It is probable that, so far as baronies were concerned, the statutory doctrine of the Statuta et consuetudines, which forbad the division of the single fief, legalised general practice. The necessity of maintaining entire the service of the barony operated in favour of primogeniture. Moreover, Normandy is not likely to have been uninfluenced by the early appearance of primogeniture in England.

Apart from the barony, equal division among males was the rule. It is possible that, at the other end of the social scale, local custom may have maintained peasant holdings entire in some parts of Normandy. So far as it goes, the existence of a class of 'cottars' might be urged as evidence of this. But, if we take the great majority

1. Pollock and Maitland, ii, 264–267.

2 On this see v. Amira in Historische Zeitschrift (1878), Neue Folge, iii, 248–250.

3. e.g., the address of Aymeri of Narbonne to his sons, Narbonnais, quoted by Bédier, Les Légendes Epiques, i, 35.

4. Local custom might override the rule of division in Normandy, as in England (cf. Glanvill, Bk. vii, c. 3, § 3). For 'cottars' in Normandy, see Delisle, Etudes sur la condition de la classe agricole, p. 15. The class of cottars is now supposed to be the younger men of the family who are landless and settle in crofts round the main holdings. (Vinogradoff, English Society in the Eleventh Century, p. 460.)

in Les

of Norman holdings, we see them subjected to division among the male heirs. The emphatic assertion of the equality of brothers in a thirteenth century custumal may have been influenced by the custom of parage which was defined in the second half of the twelfth century; but in the early Statuta et consuetudines it is stated that any brother who felt himself unfairly treated by a paternal division of the property could claim a formal revision on the death of his father. Henry II encouraged primogeniture in order to prevent the constant division of knights' fees or of portions of a knight's fee. As will be seen he also tried to maintain the integrity of holdings, even where primogeniture was not enforced.2

The combination of feudal with social principles of other kinds due to a sense of national unity or family justice, was characteristic of the Norman State as a whole, and enabled the dukes to introduce changes of great importance in public law. Throughout the history of the duchy until the conquest of Philip Augustus the dukes transacted important public business in assemblies of the magnates. Nearly thirty councils of principes, optimates, proceres or majores, to give some of the titles by which the magnates are named, have been counted in the chroniclers for the period between 927 and 1066. At these assemblies the great questions of state, ducal succession, relations with France, war and peace, the maintenance of order, were discussed, and oaths of fealty were taken.3

It is not paradoxical to say that feudalism in Normandy was worked out in such a logical and systematic way because feudal relations were regarded as the material of the state rather than as the end of its being. In England this was still more the case, mainly on account of the mainten

1 C. x (Tardif, I, i, p. 10). 2. Guilhiermoz, pp. 214–219. See note B at the end of this chapter. 3. Coville, Les états de Normandie (Paris, 1894), pp. 10–20.

ance of the old courts of public law and of the old areas of administration. From this point of view England and Normandy differ, for in Normandy, as I have explained, these local institutions took a secondary place, or disappeared. The state in Normandy was more distinctly feudal, and feudal law developed on more logical lines than it developed in England. For example, after the French conquest, when the native energy of Norman law had more freedom, a divergence between English and Norman law at once became apparent. Thus, while the English lawyers encouraged free alienation of land subject to the extensive power of the king to control it, the Norman lawyers, whose thinking had always shown more feudal precision, strengthened the rights of the lord." Again, the English lawyers gave very wide extension to primogeniture, but took away the right of the eldest son to share by consent or by reversion in the grants made by his father. In Normandy feudal development was less arbitrary; primogeniture, in accordance with current sentiment, continued to be limited to certain forms of tenure and to the single fief; but, on the other hand, the rights of reversion of the eldest son were secured. The difference was not only due to the influence of purely feudal ideas in France : it goes back also to the difference between Normandy and England in the twelfth century, which a common administration obscured. But, in spite of this fact, the Norman kings and their advisers simply applied more thoroughly in England the principle which they had used in Normandy—that feudalism may form the basis of a state.

1. Pollock and Maitland, i, 340–343 and notes. 2. Ibid, ii, p. 313.


Under the early dukes the Frankish pagi and vicarice were still the names of local divisions in Normandy. The former became counties; the latter died out. The counties were reserved for the relatives of the sovereign. They were distributed with an arbitrary hand, and although occasionally granted as late as the middle of the twelfth century,2 the position of count was gradually confined to the borders or marches of Normandy, where the counts enjoyed the franchises of a great baron. Their official origin, however, may still be traced in the fact that viscounties and preposituræ survived, in more or less feudalised form, upon their lands, as in Normandy as a whole. The county or honour of Mortain contained viscounties, and its vassals contributed the auxilium vicecomitis ;3 Evreux contained a viscounty and preposituræ;t the counts of Meulan, a French title, who succeeded the counts of Brionne in Brionne, seem to have had a viscount of Brionne among their vassals. There would have been nothing very remarkable in the growth of independent sovereigns, like the counts of Blois or of Anjou, on Norman soil. But the distribution of the office and title among their near relatives was evidently part of a general policy by which the dukes kept Normandy together; and with the exception of those who survived as great marcher barons the counts were succeeded by the administrators of the ducal demesne.

In the twelfth century, besides the counts of Eu, Aumâle, Evreux, Alençon, and Mortain, a number of rich


1. Stapleton, Observations, I, lvii.

2. Duke Robert sold the counties of Coutances and Avranches to his brother Henry; and Henry II, before he became king, gave the county of Avranches to the Earl of Chester.

3. Rot. Scacc., i, p. 9. Cart. Norm., p. 66, no. 412.
4. English Historical Review, xxi, 647, note.
5. Cart. Norm., p. 7, no. 24.

families and corporations had secured lands and franchises in east and central Normandy. The west, especially the Avranchin, was, for the most part, occupied by less important persons, and most of the castles were in the ducal demesne. 1 English or French earls, Chester, Leicester, Giffard, Meulan; wealthy monasteries like Fécamp, St. Ouen, Mont Saint-Michel; bishops; and feudal families, such as those of Bertram, Montfort, Bohon, Vernon, Gournai, Saint-Saens, had built up vast lordships which imposed a serious limitation on the ducal authority. Like the counts, these feudatories reproduced upon their own estates the financial and judicial administration which was characteristic of Normandy. They had their feudal court and administrative officers, and, as the escheats mentioned in the exchequer rolls show, farmed their lands in a similar manner to that of the ducal officials.3 Many of them had the right to hold the pleas of the sword except recognitions and other pleas of late origin. In the rest of Normandy the duke was represented by the viscounts, and it is probable that some ducal property was farmed separately by prepositi from an early date, 4 subject to the general control of the viscounts. The Frankish viscount was originally the representative of the count, and took the place of his missi about the middle of the ninth century.5 Gradually these

1. Gerville, Mémoire sur les anciens Châteaux du département de la Manche in Mém. de la Soc. des Antiquaires de la Normandie, 1827,

P. 65.

2. For the geographical distribution of the great families, see Delisle, Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des Chartes, xi, 400–3. The most convenient list is in the Red Book of the Exchequer, ii, 624.

3. The escheats, farmed or accounted for in the Exchequer Rolls, frequently owed tithes and payments of old standing. See also the list of alms payable from the honour of Evreux in Cart. Norm., p. 21, no. 117; and cf. no. 120.

4. Haskins, American Historical Review, xiv, 466.

5. Lasteyrie, Etude sur les comtes et vicomtes de Limoges antérieurs à l'an 1000 (Bibl. de l'école des hautes études, Paris, 1874), pp. 48–50, 61.

« PreviousContinue »