Front Page Titles (by Subject) VI.: FEUDALISM - A Source Book for Mediaeval History. Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age
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VI.: FEUDALISM - Oliver J. Thatcher, A Source Book for Mediaeval History. Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age 
A Source Book for Mediaeval History. Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher and Edgar Holmes McNeal (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905).
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Feudalism, as the prevailing order of society, socially, economically, and politically, makes its appearance toward the end of the tenth century. During the disorders consequent upon the disintegration of the empire of the Carolingians (see nos. 15-25) the government failed to supply protection and security, and ceased to act as a bond to hold men together. As a result, certain local, private elements of society, which were very generally diffused throughout that empire, were raised to the rank of public political institutions. It is our purpose to illustrate the origins and growth of feudalism, and the characteristic features of the feudal state. The elements which lay at the basis of the feudal system may be classified under three heads: (1) The personal dependence of one man upon another; (2) dependent tenure of land, in which the holder and user of the land was not the owner, but held it of or from another; (3) the possession by private persons or corporations of extensive sovereign rights over their lands and tenants. These elements were present in various degrees and forms in the German tribes before the migrations and in the later Roman empire, but it will be sufficient for our purpose to show the existence and the character of these elements in the tribal kingdoms and the Frankish kingdom under the Merovingians, for in these states the German and Roman people and institutions were united to form the society of the Middle Age. Then we shall attempt to illustrate the growth and development of these elements in the late Merovingian and in the Carolingian periods, and finally the characteristic features of society in the feudal age. The difficulty in illustrating the situation from public documents will be readily understood; it is due to the fact that these institutions were only partly legal or public, and to the fact that the makers of the laws took for granted a knowledge of the institutions and did not think it necessary to describe or explain them. It is hoped, however, that the notes to the passages translated will make clear their meaning and importance.
In the documents of the tribal kingdoms and Merovingian kingdom (ca. 500-700) there are many evidences of the importance for society of the dependence of one man upon another, and of the fact that this relation was superseding in importance the relation of the private man to the state. On the one hand, men became dependents and retainers of the king and the great officials and lords for mutual advantages, the superior gaining the prestige that came with the possession of a large following, and the dependents gaining employment under and connection with the great persons of the state. On the other hand, poor land-owners, or persons without lands of their own, commended themselves to landlords for the purpose of receiving protection and support. In both cases the personal dependence was connected with the holding of land, for the king or great lord frequently gave land to his followers, while the poor man who commended himself to another usually did it for the purpose of acquiring land to cultivate; this side of the relation, however, will be seen more clearly under the next section.
Form for the Creation of an Antrustio by the King.
Most of the following documents are taken from books of formulæ; that is, collections of forms of documents made by various persons to serve as examples for the drawing up of charters, etc. They were probably made from actual documents by leaving out the names and inserting ille (such an one) or similar expressions. The formulæ of Marculf were written at the end of the seventh century. We quote them from the edition in the Monumenta Germaniæ, Leges, vol. v, giving only the pages in that volume after the first reference.
It is right that those who have promised us unbroken faith should be rewarded by our aid and protection. Now since our faithful subject (name) with the will of God has come to our palace with his arms and has there sworn in our hands to keep his trust and fidelity to us, therefore we decree and command by the present writing that henceforth the said (name) is to be numbered among our antrustiones.1 If anyone shall presume to slay him, let him know that he shall have to pay 600 solidi as a wergeld for him.
Form for the Suspending of Lawsuits.
One great advantage that the dependent possessed was the support and influence of his lord in judicial trials and other matters of the sort.
Know that we have ordered the apostolic man (name) [a bishop] or the illustrious man (name) [a secular official or lord] to go to a certain place, and we now command that as long as he is away all his lawsuits, and those of his clients and dependents and people that live within his jurisdiction, are to be suspended. Therefore we decree and order by the present writing that until he returns all his cases and those of his clients, both those who go with him and those who stay on his lands, and of his people who live within his jurisdiction, shall be suspended, and afterwards he shall do justice to everyone and receive justice from everyone.
Form for Commendation. Middle of Eighth Century.
Notice the reason given by the person who commends himself, the effects of commendation on both parties, and the binding nature of the agreement. The reason alleged (extreme poverty) is probably a mere form of speech, and was not present in each actual instance of commendation.
To my great lord, (name), I, (name). Since, as was well known, I had not wherewith to feed and clothe myself, I came to you and told you my wish, to commend myself to you and to put myself under your protection. I have now done so, on the condition that you shall supply me with food and clothing as far as I shall merit by my services, and that as long as I live I shall perform such services for you as are becoming to a freeman, and shall never have the right to withdraw from your power and protection, but shall remain under them all the days of my life. It is agreed that if either of us shall try to break this compact he shall pay—solidi, and the compact shall still hold. It is also agreed that two copies of this letter shall be made and signed by us, which also has been done.
Form by which the King Allows a Powerful Person to Undertake the Cases of a Poor Person.
Our faithful subject, (name), with the will of God has come to us and told us that he is not able on account of his weakness to defend or to prosecute his cases before the court. Therefore he has besought us to allow the illustrious man (name) to take up his cases for him, both in the local court and in the royal court, whether he prosecutes or is prosecuted, and he has commended his affairs to him in our presence by the staff. Therefore we command, in accordance with the desire of both parties, that the aforesaid man (name) may undertake the cases of the other (name), and that he shall do justice for him and for all his possessions, and get justice for him from others; this shall be so, as long as both desire it.
Dependent Tenure of Land.
Absolute ownership of land was giving place to possession of land owned by others than the holder. The greater landlords (the king, the church, and the great officials and lords) sought to acquire cultivators for their lands, while the poorer land-owners and the persons without lands of their own sought a means of livelihood or protection. The usual form was the benefice or the precarium. The benefice was the name applied generally in this time to land the use of which was granted by the owner to others for a term of years, for life, or in perpetuity. The precarium was a form of the benefice, the name being technically applied to lands thus granted in response to a letter of request or prayer (litteræ precariæ). It will be seen from the documents that the lands were usually those that had been given originally by the poor land-holder to the greater landlord and then received back as benefice or precarium. The reason was undoubtedly in many cases the desire of the owner to come under the protection of the greater landlord. The king also gave land to his followers and officials, either to bind them to him or to reward them for services; it is probable, although not certain, that these lands, in part at least, were held only for life or a term of years, on condition of services or faithfulness, and so were in a sense benefices.
Form for the Gift of Land to a Church to be Received back by the Giver as a Benefice.
. . . I, (name), and my wife, (name), in the name of the Lord, give by this letter of gift, and transfer from our ownership to the ownership and authority of the monastery of (name), over which the venerable abbot (name) presides, and which was founded in the honor of (name) by (name) in the county of (name), the following villas1 (name), situated in the county of (name), with all the lands, houses, buildings, tenants, slaves, vineyards, woods, fields, pastures, meadows, streams, and all other belongings and dependencies, and all things movable and immovable which are found in the said villas now or may be added later; in order that under the protection of Christ they may be used for the support and maintenance of the monks who dwell in the aforesaid monastery. We do this on the condition that as long as either of us shall live we may possess the aforesaid villas, without prejudice to the ownership of the monastery and without diminution of the value of them, except that we shall be allowed to emancipate any of the slaves that dwell on the lands for the salvation of our souls. After the death of both of us, the aforesaid villas with any additions or improvements which may have been made, shall return immediately to the possession of the said monastery and the said abbot and his successors, without undertaking any judicial process or obtaining the consent of the heirs.
Form for a Precarial Letter.
To our lord and father in Christ, the holy and apostolic bishop (name), I (name), and my wife (name). It is well known that we have given in the name of the Lord our villa of (name), situated in the county of (name), in its entirety and with all that we possessed there, by a letter of gift to the church of (name), founded in the honor of (name), and that you have received it on behalf of the said church. And in response to our petition you have granted that as long as we or either of us shall live we shall hold the said villa as a benefice with the right of usufruct,1 with the understanding that we shall not diminish its value in any way or alienate anything that belongs to it, but shall hold it without prejudice to the ownership of the said church or bishop. Therefore we have written this precarial letter in witness that our possession shall not work any prejudice to your ownership or any injury to the said villa; but that we only have the use of it during our lives, and that after we are dead you shall immediately recover it with all the additions and improvements which we may have made, by virtue of this precarial letter, which shall be renewed every five years, and without requiring any judicial process or obtaining the consent of the heirs; and that thereafter you shall hold it forever, or do with it whatever may seem to you to be to the best interests of the said church.
Form of Precarial Letter.
To our lord and father in Christ, the holy and apostolic bishop (name), I (name), and my wife (name). Since you have permitted us, as long as we or either of us shall live, to hold the land (name) belonging to your church (name), which (name) gave to the said church for the salvation of his soul, therefore for this permission and for the salvation of our souls we have given this other place (name), to belong to the said church and to you and your successors after we are both dead. This we have done on the condition that as long as we live we may possess the said places, both that which you have permitted us to use and the one which we have given you for the salvation of our souls, with the right of usufruct, without diminishing its value or prejudicing the rights of your church; and that after we are dead the said places shall immediately revert to your ownership by virtue of this precarial letter, without requiring any renewal of the letter, and in spite of any opposition from our heirs or from anyone else.
Form of Precarial Letter.
To the lords (names), we (name), and (name). It is well known that our father lived on your lands and made a precarial letter to you for them, which we now renew and sign, humbly beseeching you to allow us to remain on the same lands.1 In order that our possession of the lands may not prejudice the rights of you and your successors in them, we have deposited with you this precarial letter, agreeing that if we ever forget its terms, or ever refuse to obey you or your agents in anything which you command, or ever assert that this is not your land, we may be punished according to the severity of the law as wicked violators of your rights, and may be driven from the lands without judicial sentence.
Gift of Land to be Received back and Held in Perpetuity for a Fixed Rent.
The first part of the form, including the original gift of the land, is omitted in the original, but may be supplied from a preceding number.
I do this on the condition that as long as I live I may hold the said lands for the said rent, and that my children and their posterity may do the same forever.
Treaty of Andelot, 587.
This is a treaty between two of the Merovingian kings, Gunthram of Burgundy and Childebert II of Austrasia. It forms an incident in the civil war begun between Sigebert and Chilperic; see no. 5, Gregory of Tours, IV, ch. 28, and note.
It illustrates the practice of the kings of giving land to their followers and officials. This was very important in the creation of a landed aristocracy. See the remarks above in regard to the nature of these gifts (introductory note to nos. 184-188).
In accordance with the treaties made between Gunthram and Sigebert of blessed memory, it is likewise agreed that those leudes,1 who after the death of Chlothar I first gave their oaths to Gunthram and then later removed to other parts, are to be made to return from the places where they are now dwelling. It is also agreed that those who, after the death of Chlothar I, gave their oaths to Sigebert and then removed to other parts are in a similar manner to be made to return. Likewise whatever the aforesaid kings bestowed or with the consent of God wished to bestow upon churches or upon their faithful subjects, shall remain in the possession of the churches or subjects. And whatever shall be restored in this way to the subject of either king, legally and justly, shall be held by that person as his own. . . . And let each one possess in security whatever he has received through the munificence of preceding kings, to the time of the death of Chlothar I of blessed memory, and if anything has been taken from the faithful subjects since that time, it shall be restored to them from this moment. . . . Likewise it is agreed that neither of the kings shall entice away the leudes of the other or receive them; but if some of the leudes believe they are justified in leaving their king by reason of injuries done to them, they are to be compensated for their injuries, and made to return. . . .
Grants of Immunity.
In the feudal age practically every landlord exercised over his lands and tenants rights and authority which are now regarded as sovereign rights belonging to the state. This was due in the main to the practice of the Merovingian and Carolingian kings of granting immunity to the churches and the great landlords, a practice which naturally grew with the increasing weakness of the monarchy and the growth of the power of the nobles. A grant of immunity operated to exclude the public officials from lands, which were then in theory under the immediate control of the king. In the late Merovingian period the weakness of the kings and the disorganization of the public administration left the control of immunity domains really in the hands of the landlords. The holder of land covered by a grant of immunity thus came to represent the state to the people on his lands. He established courts for the trial of cases arising among his tenants or represented them before the public courts; he was also frequently given the right to collect the taxes, revenues, tolls, etc., from the lands of people, which would otherwise go to the royal treasury. Most of the grants of immunity which have come down to us are in favor of church lands, but they were also granted to secular lords. The churches preserved their documents better than secular persons did.
Precept of Chlothar II, 584-628.
Notice the references to immunity, to grants of land to “churches and powerful persons” (lords and officials), and the implied right of such landlords to appoint judges for trial of cases among their tenants (private jurisdiction).
11. We grant to the churches the taxes from the fields and pastures and the tithes of swine, so that no collector or titheman shall enter the lands of a church to gather such dues for the royal treasury. Public officials shall not demand any services from the churches of clergymen who have acquired immunity from our father or grandfather.
12. Whatever has been given to churches or to clergymen or to any person through the munificence of our aforesaid predecessors of blessed memory is to belong to them in all security.
14. The property of churches, priests, and of the poor who cannot protect themselves, shall be under the protection of public officials until their cases can be brought to the king and justice be done; only in so far, however, as it shall not infringe on the rights of immunity which have been granted by former kings to any church or powerful person or to anyone else, for the keeping of peace and the preservation of discipline.
19. Bishops and powerful persons who have possessions in various regions shall not appoint travelling judges or any judges except such as belong to the county in which they serve.
Grant of Immunity to a Monastery, 673.
Childeric, king of the Franks, illustrious man. . . . We have commanded it to be made known to all that the venerable and pious abbot Berchar came to us and asked us to grant him a certain place in the forest of Vervo in Gascony, in which he might build a monastery, and to give him material and resources by which he might construct a monastery there and establish a congregation of monks. Now the request of this great man pleased us and we granted him what he asked. Then having built his monastery . . . in the honor of Sts. Peter and Paul and the other saints, he besought us, in order to make secure the whole undertaking, to bestow complete immunity upon the monastery. Therefore, we, moved to this by the kindness which Heaven has shown to us, have hearkened to the prayer of this man . . . and with the consent of our bishops and nobles do now concede entire immunity over the whole possessions of this monastery . . . for the peace of our kingdom and for the reverence which we have for this religious place. We command that no public official of any authority shall presume to enter the lands of this monastery . . . for the purpose of hearing cases, of seizing securities, of collecting taxes, of demanding entertainment, or of extorting tolls from cities or markets; nor shall he presume to exact any taxes or payments whatever, but the monks shall rule and possess, both in our time and in the future, all the property of this monastery in all places and lands, where they have possessions, as aforesaid, without being subject to the entrance of officials or to exactions on the part of the royal treasury. . . .
Form of a Grant of Immunity to a Monastery.
We believe that our reign will best be rendered memorable, if we bestow suitable benefits on churches (or whatever you wish to insert here), with pious purpose, and if we secure these benefits under the protection of God by putting them in writing. Therefore, be it known to you that we have granted the request of that apostolic man, the bishop of (name), for the salvation of our souls; namely, that no public official may enter the lands which his church holds now, by our gift or by the gift of anyone else, or which his church may receive in the future, for the purpose of trying cases, or collecting taxes; but that the said bishop and his successors shall hold the said lands in the name of the Lord with full immunity. We decree therefore that neither you nor any of your subordinates or successors, nor any other public official shall presume to enter the lands of the said church for the purpose of trying cases, of collecting taxes or revenues, or receiving entertainment or seizing supplies or securities. All the taxes and other revenues which the royal treasury has a right to demand from the people on the lands of the said church, whether they be freemen or slaves, Romans or barbarians, we now bestow on the said church for our future salvation, to be used by the officials of the church forever for the best interests of the church.
Form by which the King Granted Lands with Immunity to Secular Persons.
Those who from their early youth have served us or our parents faithfully are justly rewarded by the gifts of our munificence. Know therefore that we have granted to that illustrious man (name), with greatest good will, the villa called (name), situated in the county of (name), with all its possessions and extent, in full as it was formerly held by him or by our treasury. Therefore by the present charter which we command to be observed forever, we decree that the said (name) shall possess the villa of (name), as has been said, in its entirety, with lands, houses, buildings, inhabitants, slaves, woods, pastures, meadows, streams, mills, and all its appurtenances and belongings, and with all the subjects of the royal treasury who dwell on the lands, and he shall hold it forever with full immunity from the entrance of any public official for the purpose of exacting the royal portion of the fines from cases arising there; to the extent finally that he shall have, hold, and possess it in full ownership, no one having the right to expect its transfer, and with the right of leaving it to his successors or to anyone whom he desires, and to do with it whatever else he wishes.
Grant of Immunity to a Secular Person, 815.
In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Ludwig, by divine providence emperor, Augustus. Be it known to all our subjects, present and future, that our faithful subject, John, has come to us and commended himself to us, and has besought us to confirm to him the possession of lands [described] which he and his sons and their men have cleared and occupied. He has shown us the charter which he received from our father Karl the Great. We have consented to do this and have done even more; we have given him certain villas [named] with their extent and dependencies . . . granting that he and his sons and his posterity may hold them in peace and security. No count, vicarius, or their subordinates, or any other public official shall presume to judge or constrain any persons living on those lands, but John and his sons and their posterity shall judge and constrain them. . . .
Growth of the Feudal Elements During the late Merovingian and the Carolingian Period.
The elements which we have just described and illustrated were essentially private in their nature. They assumed, however, political importance in the threatened dissolution of society, due to the failure of the public government. In a period when the state was unable to give adequate protection to the common individual, that person naturally regarded his allegiance to his real protector, his lord or landlord, as of more importance to him than his relation to the state. The natural tendency of powerful persons to increase their power over their dependents and their independence of higher authority was given its opportunity by the weakness of the monarchy and the central government. The four centuries from 550-950 were in the main a period of disorder, interrupted, of course, by the period of Carolingian strength, including the reigns of Karl Martel, Pippin, and Karl the Great. During these four centuries the existing feudal elements developed and hardened into a system of society, and two new features were added: the feudalizing of offices, and the connection of land-holding with military service. These are so characteristic of the feudal age that their origin is illustrated here.
The Feudalizing of Public Offices.
By this is meant the practice of inheritance of office and the union in one person of the characteristics of an official and a great landlord. Thereby the local officials of the king, such as the counts, tended to form an hereditary landed nobility, the office being held usually by the great landed family of the county. It is obvious that this tendency would grow in a period when the monarchy and the central government was weak, the king either being unable to restrain the powerful local officials or else granting them these privileges in order to retain their support. It is obvious also that the local officials would strive to increase their private advantages—possession of land, and personal authority over the inhabitants of their lands or districts—at the expense of their public position as representatives of the king. So in the feudal period in France, Italy, and Germany (in the last named the development was much slower), the titles duke, margrave (marquis), count, etc., ceased to have an official significance and became the titles of a landed aristocracy.
Edict of Chlothar II, 614.
12. No one from another province or region shall be made judge [count] in any county; so that if a count has done injury to anyone he may be forced to make good the injury from his own possessions.
The count, like the grafio of the Salic law, was originally a servant of the king sent into the county to look after the king’s interests there. It appears from this document that the counts were now appointed from among the land-owners of the county.
Capitulary of Kiersy, 877.
The capitulary of Kiersy was published by Charles the Bald, just before he left France for Italy, and was intended to regulate the affairs of the kingdom, which was entrusted to his son during his absence. It shows how completely the practice of inheritance of land and office had developed during the Carolingian period. The office, position, and lands of counts, vassals of the king, and vassals of ecclesiastical and secular lords were regarded as hereditary by this time.
3. If a count whose son accompanies us shall die during our absence, our son with the advice of our faithful subjects shall appoint one of the near relatives of the deceased count to govern the county with the aid of the officials of the county and the bishop in whose diocese it is, until we are notified of the case and have an opportunity to give the son of the count his father’s honors. But if the deceased count shall leave a minor son, that son shall govern the county with the aid of the officials and the bishop in whose diocese it is, until the death of the said count has been brought to our notice and we endow the son with his father’s honors. But if the count shall not leave a son, our son with the advice of our faithful subjects shall appoint someone to govern the county with the aid of the officials of the county and the bishop, until our commands in respect to it are made known. And no one shall feel aggrieved, if we give the county to another than the one who governed it up to the time of our appointment. The same procedure shall be observed in regard to our vassals; and the bishops, abbots, and counts of our kingdom, and our other faithful subjects, shall do the same toward their men.
The Military Obligation of the Holder of Land.
The connection of military service with the holding of land and with noble character is one of the characteristic features of the feudal system. The feudal noble was regularly the holder of a fief on terms of allegiance and military service to his superior. In the Germanic tribes military service was obligatory on every freeman, but there was also a fighting élite, or aristocracy, composed of the chiefs and their followers (see no. 1, Tacitus, chapters 13 and 14). The military obligation of the freeman remained in theory during the Merovingian and Carolingian periods, but in practice it was connected rather with the possession of land and was performed largely by the lords and their followers. Towards the end of the Merovingian period, much of the land was in the possession of the church and was escaping from public burdens because of immunity. Karl Martel found it necessary to increase the military strength of the kingdom; the particular occasion is supposed to have been the need of horsemen to meet the Arab invasion. He accordingly forced the churches to give portions of their lands to secular persons who could perform military service, and the holders of these lands were required to bring a troop of mounted warriors to the army. Such lands were held on terms of military service to the state and as precaria from the church. The same conditions were then attached to lands held from the king, and the term benefice—used in the earlier period of lands held from another in general—now came to be applied technically to lands held from the king or superior on condition of performing military service, usually on horseback. The number of mounted soldiers the holder of a benefice had to furnish of course varied with the size of his holding. The great lords raised the necessary troops by giving portions of their lands to their retainers on condition that the retainers should accompany them to war. So the obligation to perform military service was attached also to the small estates held not directly from the king, but from a great lord. We give here references to the appropriation of church lands, to the relation of the holder of the lands to the church and to the king, and to the extension of the name and practice to other than church lands.
Capitulary of Lestinnes, 743.
This is a capitulary of Carlmann, the brother of Pippin. It is the earliest case which has come down to us of appropriation of church lands for the purpose referred to.
2. Because of the threats of war and the attacks of certain tribes on our borders, we have determined, with the consent of God and by the advice of our clergy and people, to appropriate for a time part of the ecclesiastical property for the support of our army. The lands are to be held as precaria for a fixed rent; one solidus, or twelve denarii, shall be paid annually to the church or monastery for each casata [farm]. When the holder dies the whole possession shall return to the church. If, however, the exigency of the time makes it necessary, the prince may require the precarium to be renewed and given out again. Care shall be taken, however, that the churches and monasteries do not incur suffering or poverty through the granting of precaria. If the poverty of the church makes it necessary, the whole possession shall be restored to the church.
The whole capitulary, of which paragraph 2 is translated, is concerned with ecclesiastical matters; accordingly only the interests of the church in the military benefice is explained here. The relation of the holder to the state comes out in other documents. Notice the express reason given for the appropriation, and the relation of the holder to the church from which the land was held.
Capitulary of Aquitaine, Pippin, 768.
5. Whoever holds a benefice from us shall be careful and diligent in its management; otherwise he shall lose the benefice, but retain his own property.
11. All secular persons who hold church lands shall hold them as precaria.
Paragraph 5 refers to lands held from the king. Notice the distinction made between such land and land held in full ownership. Paragraph 11 repeats the provision made in the preceding number, that lands held from the church as benefices are to be regarded as precaria; this is found in a number of capitularies of this period, suggesting that the holders were apt to forget their obligation to the church and to treat the land as their own property.
Capitulary of Heristal, 779.
14. (Lombard form.) Laymen who hold lands from churches as benefices by the command of the king, are to continue to hold them unless the king orders them restored to the churches.
General Capitulary to the Missi, 802.
Part of this capitulary is also translated as no. 9. This and the following document illustrate the holding of royal benefices, and the difficulty in making the holders perform their duties. It was part of the duty of the missi to look after the royal benefices.
6. No man shall lay waste a benefice in order to improve his own property.
Capitulary to the Missi, 806.
6. We have heard that counts and other men who hold benefices from us have improved their own property at the expense of the benefices, and have made the serfs on the benefices labor on their own land, so that our benefices are waste and those dwelling on them in many places suffer great evils.
7. We have heard that some sell the benefices which they hold from us to other men in full ownership, and then, having received the price in the public court, they buy back the lands as allodial lands. This must not be done, for those who do this break the faith which they promised us.
Capitulary Concerning Various Matters, 807.
3. Concerning the Frisians, we command that our counts and vassals who hold benefices, and all horsemen in general, shall come to our assembly prepared for war.
Effect of the Carolingian Organization on the Growth of Feudalism.
Karl the Great succeeded in reducing the great dukes to subjection (see no. 7, Einhard, ch. 5 and 11, and notes), and enforcing obedience to law in general throughout his empire, but he did not interfere with the immunity rights of churches and lords over the inhabitants of their lands or with dependence of vassals and tenants on the great land-owners. Indeed, his attempt to reduce everything to law and system resulted in completing and fixing these relations. The following passages illustrate the increased dependence of the lower orders and the greater and more complete authority of the powerful persons in the state.
General Capitulary to the Missi, 805.
16. Concerning the oppression of poor freemen: that they are not to be unjustly oppressed by more powerful persons on any pretext, and forced to sell or give up their property.
Capitulary of 811.
This and the preceding document illustrate the attempts of the great lords to round out their domains and increase the number of their dependent tenants by forcing poor free land-owners to give up their lands and become tenants.
2. Poor men complain that they are despoiled of their property, and they make this complaint equally against bishops and abbots and their agents, and against counts and their subordinates.
Capitulary of Worms, 829.
6. Freemen who have no lands of their own, but live on the land of a lord, are not to be received as witnesses, because they hold land of another; but they are to be accepted as compurgators, because they are free. Those who have land of their own, and yet live on the land of a lord, are not to be rejected as witnesses because they live on the land of a lord, but their testimony shall be accepted, because they have land of their own.
Notice the effect that dependent tenure of land is having on the legal status of freemen.
Capitulary of Aachen, 801-813.
16. No one shall leave his senior, after he has received from him the value of a solidus, unless his senior attempts to kill him, to beat him with a club, to violate his wife or his daughter, or to take his hereditary possession from him.
Agreement of Lothar, Ludwig, and Charles, 847.
2. We decree that every freeman shall accept whatever senior he wishes in our kingdom, from among us and our faithful subjects.
3. We command that no man shall leave his senior without good cause, and that no lord shall receive a man who has left his senior, unless it be in accordance with the customs of our predecessors.
4. Every subject of each one of us shall go to war or other necessary expedition with his senior, unless the kingdom is invaded and all the subjects are called out in mass to repel it, which is called landwehr.
Capitulary of Bologna, 811.
5. If any man who holds a benefice of the king shall release his subject from going to war with him or shall refuse to allow him to go and fight with him, he shall lose his benefice.
7. Concerning the vassals of the emperor who serve him in the palace, and have benefices. It is decreed that those who remain at home with the emperor shall not keep their tenants with them, but shall let them go to war with the count of the county.
The name senior is used in Carolingian documents for the lord who has authority over dependent tenants and vassals. Notice in the two documents preceding that the subjects of a lord are bound to him by law, and that they go to war, not with the general levy under command of public officials, but with their fellows of the same lands under command of the senior.
The Feudal System in its Definite Form.
The elements already described became the system of society and government in the states which in the ninth and tenth centuries developed from the empire on its dissolution. The system gradually became settled and organized, the feudal kingship developed to give it a head, and it took the form recognized as the feudal system.
The features to be noticed are the relation of the vassal to his lord, the position of the king, and the economic organization of the land and the obligations of the cultivators to the landlords. The origin and growth of these features in the earlier age have been shown in nos. 180-208; it only remains to show how they were organized in the feudal age.
The vassal was bound to the lord of whom he held a benefice or fief by the oath of fidelity and homage. He also owed his lord certain services of noble character, the chief of which was military service. This was not perpetual service, but was limited by law or custom, usually consisting of 40 days’ active service, and a certain amount of guard in the castle of the lord or in the castle which the vassal held as a fief of the lord. Aids or money payments were also paid by vassals on certain occasions, such as the marriage of the lord’s oldest daughter, the knighting of the lord’s oldest son, and the captivity of the lord. The lord had also certain rights over his vassals, which were frequently commuted for money: wardship, the right of guardianship of minor heirs, and the management and use of the fiefs during the minority; marriage, the right to choose or be consulted in the choice of a husband for female holders of fiefs; relief, the right to exact a certain payment from the heir when he succeeded to a fief; escheat, the right of taking back the fief into his own possession upon the failure of heirs, etc. These rights and payments have their origin in the personal dependence of the vassal upon the lord. They were occasional and did not form a part of the regular income of the lord, although they might be worth considerable at times. The regular income of the lord came from his domain lands, the lands which were not let out in fief, but which were cultivated by tenants or serfs, and which supplied the lord with money, resources, and services.
The authority of the king in the feudal state was very limited. This was due chiefly to the fact that each lord exercised practically sovereign rights over his lands and dependents. The feudal king was in origin one of the great feudal lords (cf. in France, Hugh Capet, duke of Francia; and in Germany, Henry I, duke of Saxony), who was chosen by the great lords and became their overlord. He had the same rights on his own domains as any feudal lord, but had only the authority of an overlord over his great vassals. He had no direct control over the vassal of his vassal, but could reach such an one only indirectly through that person’s immediate superior. The holders of great domains exercised not only jurisdiction over the tenants on their lands, but possessed also other sovereign rights, such as the right of coinage, of collecting tolls and taxes, etc.
The basis of the economic life of the feudal age was the cultivation of land. Commerce, trade, and organized industry did of course exist during the Middle Age, but they were non-feudal in spirit and grew up outside of and in spite of feudalism. Land was organized in domains or estates, containing each a group of cultivators forming a community or little village. These cultivators held their land from the landlord on very complex terms of rent and services. Rents were paid in money or in a portion of the produce of the land. In each village the lord had a house, and a farm (manor-farm or head farm) which was worked by personal serfs and by the services owed by tenants. Aside from rents and services the lord possessed certain rights over his tenants, which were a source of revenue. The chief of these were: justice, the right to hold courts on his lands for the trial of cases arising among the tenants, and to levy and collect the fines; banalities (banvin, etc.); the right to sell his own wine, grain, etc., a certain number of days before the tenants could sell theirs (this he frequently released for a certain tax); the rights of market, mill, bake-oven, etc., which were owned by the lord, and from which he received tolls (these were frequently let out to other persons for an annual rent). A great lord, as a count or duke, would own a great many such domains, and would have a house or castle and farm in each one, and an agent or representative to care for his interests in the domain. Nobles of the lowest rank, as the knight or chatelain, might own only two or three, or even a single domain.
Homage, Investiture, Aids, etc.
These documents illustrate the form of feudal practices after the system had become fairly well fixed. Most of the passages are from Coutumiers, codes or digests of feudal law and practice, of which there were a great many in the Middle Age. Some of the famous ones are: in England, those of Bracton and Littleton; in France, the Établissements de St. Louis, Coutumes de Beauvaisis, by Beaumanoir, and several provincial customs, as the Coutumes of Normandy, of Anjou, etc. Most of the references were taken from Du Cange, Glossarium, Hominium. See no. 180, for an early form of homage.
The man should put his hands together as a sign of humility, and place them between the two hands of his lord as a token that he vows everything to him and promises faith to him; and the lord should receive him and promise to keep faith with him. Then the man should say: “Sir, I enter your homage and faith and become your man by mouth and hands [i.e., by taking the oath and placing his hands between those of the lord], and I swear and promise to keep faith and loyalty to you against all others, and to guard your rights with all my strength.”
The manner of doing homage to another is as follows: The man who wishes to enter the homage and fealty of a lord should humbly request the lord to receive him into his faith; his head should be uncovered, and the lord may be seated if he wishes; the vassal should take off his belt and sword, and should kneel and say the words of homage, etc.
The form of homage is as follows: The vassal who holds by noble tenure reaches out his hands and places them between the hands of his lord and says, etc.
The tenant [vassal] should place his clasped hands between the hands of the lord; by this is signified, on the part of the lord, protection, defense, and guarantee; on the part of the vassal, reverence and subjection.
I, John of Toul, make known that I am the liege man of the lady Beatrice, countess of Troyes, and of her son, Theobald, count of Champagne, against every creature, living or dead, saving my allegiance to lord Enjorand of Coucy, lord John of Arcis, and the count of Grandpré. If it should happen that the count of Grandpré should be at war with the countess and count of Champagne on his own quarrel, I will aid the count of Grandpré in my own person, and will send to the count and the countess of Champagne the knights whose service I owe to them for the fief which I hold of them. But if the count of Grandpré shall make war on the countess and the count of Champagne on behalf of his friends and not in his own quarrel, I will aid in my own person the countess and count of Champagne, and will send one knight to the count of Grandpré for the service which I owe him for the fief which I hold of him, but I will not go myself into the territory of the count of Grandpré to make war on him.1
Homage of Edward III of England to Philip V of France, 1329.
The king of England was received by the king of France with great honor, and he and his company remained there at Amiens fifteen days, during which many conferences were held and many ordinances drawn up. It seems to me that on that occasion king Edward did homage in words, but did not place his hands in the hands of the king of France, nor did any of his princes, prelates or representatives do so for him. By the advice of his council king Edward refused to proceed further until he had returned to England and had examined the ancient charters in order to determine the manner in which the kings of England had done homage to the kings of France. . . . At last the king of England wrote letters patent, sealed with his great seal, in which he acknowledged the sort of homage that he ought to pay to the king of France. This is the form of that letter:
Edward, by the grace of God king of England, lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine, etc. Know that when we did homage to our beloved lord and cousin, Philip, king of France, at Amiens, he insisted that we should acknowledge that our homage was liege homage, and that in it we should expressly promise to be faithful and true to him. We would not agree to this at the time, because we did not know whether we owed him liege homage or not. Accordingly we did homage in general terms, saying that we entered into his homage in the same manner as our predecessors, the dukes of Guienne, had formerly entered into the homage of the kings of France. But now having found what that manner was, we acknowledge by the present letter that the homage which we paid to the king of France at Amiens was, is, and ought to be held to be liege homage; and that we owe him loyalty and fidelity as duke of Aquitaine, peer of France, count of Ponthieu, and count of Montreuil; and we hereby promise him such loyalty and fidelity. In order that similar disputes may not occur in the future, we promise for ourselves and for future dukes of Aquitaine that homage shall be performed in the following manner: The king of England as duke of Aquitaine shall put his hands within the hands of the king of France, and the person who speaks for the king of France shall say to the king of England as duke of Aquitaine: “You become the liege man of my lord the king of France as duke of Aquitaine, and peer of France, and you promise to keep faith and loyalty to him? Say yea.” And the king of England, or the duke of Guienne, or their successor, shall say “Yea.” Then the king of France shall receive the king of England, as duke of Guienne, by mouth and hands [see no. 209], saving their other rights. Moreover, when the said king of England does homage to the king of France for the counties of Ponthieu and Montreuil, he shall put his hands in the hands of the king of France for those counties, and the person who speaks for the king of France shall say, etc. . . .
The chief aids of Normandy are so called because they are rendered to chief lords [i.e., to lords who receive liege homage]. It is the custom in Normandy to pay three aids . . . first, for the knighting of the lord’s oldest son; second, for the marriage of the lord’s oldest daughter; third, for the ransom of the lord.
In the chatelainerie [territory dependent on a castle] of Poitou and that region, according to the custom of the land, those who hold fiefs pay five aids to the lord: for the knighting of the lord’s son, for the marriage of the lord’s oldest daughter, for the rachat1 of the lord’s fief, for the crusade, and for the ransom of the lord from the hands of the Saracens.
Feudal Aids, etc.
In the first part of Magna Charta, John promises to give up the abuses of feudal law which he had practiced. Thus he had exacted exorbitant payments from heirs for inheritance of fiefs (reliefs); he had forced widows and female heirs under his wardship to marry his favorites and supporters, or had exacted heavy fines if they refused; he had levied unjust aids and services, and a heavy scutage, or payment for exemption from military service.
2. If one of our knights or barons or other tenants-in-chief [i.e., direct vassals] who hold by military service shall die and shall leave an heir who is of age, the heir shall receive his father’s fiefs by paying only the ancient relief; namely, the heir or heirs of an earl shall pay 100 pounds for the whole earldom; the heir or heirs of a knight shall pay 100 solidi for the whole fief of the knight; and those who inherit smaller holdings shall pay smaller reliefs according to the ancient custom.
3. But if the heir of any of our tenants-in-chief is under age and is under our ward, he shall have his fiefs when he comes of age without relief or fine.
8. No widow shall be forced to marry unless she wishes to; but she must give security that she will not marry without our consent, if she holds of us, or without the consent of her lord, if she holds of another.
12. No scutage or aid shall be exacted in our kingdom, unless by the common consent of the realm, except for the ransom of our body, the knighting of our oldest son, and the marriage of our oldest daughter; and these shall be levied at reasonable rates.
The Feudal System in Practice, Illustrated by the County of Champagne.
Actual conditions under the feudal system will, it is thought, be best illustrated by showing in some detail the workings of the system in a single important case. The following documents are taken from the great French collection of documents called “Documents inédits sur l’histoire de France”; two volumes are devoted to the county of Champagne and contain all the important documents relating to the growth and formation of the feudal territory of Champagne, the relation of the counts to their overlords on the one hand, and to their vassals on the other, and the organization of the lands retained by the counts as domain lands, i.e., cultivated by tenants for the count and not let out in fief. The county of Champagne is chosen because it is one of the best examples of the formation of a great feudal territory, and because the two volumes referred to form the most complete as well as most accessible collection of illustrative material for the feudal régime in its practical working.
Homages Paid by the Count of Champagne.
Homage to the Duke of Burgundy, 1143.
The count of Champagne held his lands from several overlords; the ones mentioned in the following documents are: the king of France, the duke of Burgundy, the bishops of Langres and Châlons, and the abbot of St. Denis; he also held parts of his lands from the emperor, the archbishops of Sens and Rheims, and the bishops of Auxerre and Autun. This plurality of superiors is characteristic of most of the great domains. The great fiefs came under the control of one lord by various means, inheritance, marriage, purchase, subinfeudation, etc. The great lord endeavored to complete his control of a whole region by becoming the feudal holder of all the land in the region. Since holding by feudal tenure, including homage, etc., was the regular method of acquiring land in the feudal system, it was used as a form of contract, and the personal subjection and dependence was in many cases a mere form. In cases like that of the count of Champagne the holder did homage to all the lords from whom he held lands, but could not of course observe complete allegiance to each one. So one of the superiors was recognized as his chief and liege lord, and to him the holder did liege homage (see no. 213, note). Notice that the count of Champagne pays liege homage to the king of France, who is his chief lord.
Be it known to all men, present and future, that count Theobald of Blois1 did homage to Odo, duke of Burgundy, at Augustines, and acknowledged that he held the abbey of St. Germain at Auxerre, Chaourse, the castle of Maligny with all its dependencies, the castle of Ervy with all its dependencies, the county of Troyes, the city of Troyes, and Château-Villain, as fiefs from the duke.
Homage to Philip II of France, 1198.
Philip, by the grace of God king of France. Be it known to all men, present and future, that we have received our beloved nephew, Theobald, count of Troyes, as our liege man, against every creature, living or dead, for all the lands which his father, count Henry, our uncle, held from our father, and which count Henry, the brother of Theobald, held from us. Count Theobald has sworn to us on the most holy body of the Lord and on the holy gospel that he will aid us in good faith, as his liege lord, against every creature, living or dead; at his command the following persons have sworn to us that they approve of this and will support and aid him in keeping this oath: Guy of Dampierre, Gualcher of Châtillon, Geoffroy, marshal of Champagne, etc. [vassals of the count of Champagne]. If count Theobald fails in his duty to us and does not make amends within a month from the time when they learn of it, they will surrender themselves to us at Paris, to be held as prisoners until he makes amends; and this shall be done every time that he fails in his duty to us. We have sworn with our own hand that we will aid count Theobald against every creature, living or dead; at our command the following men have sworn that they approve of this and will support and aid us in keeping this oath: Pierre, count of Nevers, Drogo of Mello, William of Galande, etc. [vassals of the king]. If we fail in our duty to count Theobald, and do not make amends within a month from the time when they learn of it, they will surrender themselves to him at Troyes to be held as prisoners there until we make amends; and they shall do this every time that we fail in our duty to him. . . . We have also agreed that our beloved uncle, William, archbishop of Rheims, and the bishops of Châlons and Meaux, may place those of our lands that are in their dioceses under interdict, as often as we fail in our duty to count Theobald, unless we make amends within a month from the time when they learn of it; and count Theobald has agreed that the same archbishop and bishops may place his lands under an interdict as often as he fails in his duty to us, unless he makes amends within a month from the time when they learn of it.1
Homage to the Duke of Burgundy, 1200.
We, Odo, duke of Burgundy, make known to all men, present and future, that we have received our relative and faithful subject, Theobald, count of Troyes, as our man for the land which his father, count Henry, held of our father, Hugo, duke of Burgundy, just as his father, count Henry, was the man of our father. We have promised count Theobald that we and our heirs will guarantee that land to him and his heirs against every creature, living or dead, and will aid him and them in good faith with all our power to hold that land in peace and quiet.
Agreement between Blanche of Champagne and Philip II, 1201.
Letter of Blanche.
Notice the rights of wardship and marriage exercised by the lord in this case. The counts of Champagne claimed to be hereditary counts palatine of France (see nos. 223 and 225); notice, however, that the king of France does not use the title in speaking of the countess.
I, Blanche, countess palatine of Troyes. Be it known to all, present and future, that I have voluntarily sworn to my lord, Philip, king of France, to keep the agreements contained in this charter. . . .
I have voluntarily sworn that I will never take a husband without the advice, consent, and wish of my lord, Philip, king of France, and that I will place under his guardianship my daughter and any child of whom I may be pregnant from my late husband, count Theobald. In addition, I will turn over to him the fortresses of Bray and Montereau, and give him control of all the men who dwell there and all the knights who hold fiefs of the castles, so that if I break my promise to keep these agreements, all the aforesaid men shall hold directly of my lord, Philip, king of France; and they shall all swear to aid him even against men and against every other man or woman. The lord of Marolles shall put himself and his castle also under the control of the king, and similarly all the knights who hold fiefs of Provins, and all the men of Provins, and all the men of Lagny and Meaux, and all the knights who hold fiefs of these places. . . . I will do liege homage to my lord, Philip, king of France, and I will keep faith with him against all creatures, living or dead.
Letter of the King.
In the name of the holy and undivided Trinity, amen. Philip, by the grace of God king of France. Be it known to all, present and future, that we have received Blanche, countess of Troyes, as our liege woman, for the fief which our beloved nephew and faithful subject, Theobald, former count of Troyes, held from us. . . . We have sworn to her that we will keep the agreements written in this charter in good faith, as to our liege woman; namely, that we will protect and nourish her daughter whom she has placed in our ward, in good faith and without deceit, and that we will not give her in marriage until she reaches the age of twelve years. After she has reached that age, we will provide her with a husband in accordance with the desires and advice of ourself, our mother, the lady Blanche, and the barons whose names are written here, or of the persons who hold their fiefs, if they have died. These are the barons: William, archbishop of Rheims; Odo, duke of Burgundy; Guy of Dampierre; Gualcher of Châtillon, etc.
Homage to the Bishop of Langres, 1214.
I, Blanche, countess palatine of Troyes, make known to all who see these presents that while my beloved lord, William, bishop of Langres, was at Troyes on certain business, I besought him, if he was willing, to receive there the homage of my beloved son, count Theobald. He replied that the homage ought to be made only at Langres, but that, as a favor to me and out of love to my son, he would receive it at Troyes, in order that I might be spared the journey, saving his rights and the rights of the church of Langres, and the rights of my son. Accordingly he received the homage of my son at Troyes, and I conceded and concede that this shall work no prejudice to the rights of the church of Langres, or the bishop, but that the rights of the bishop and of my son shall remain unimpaired.
Homage to the Bishop of Châlons, 1214.
Gerard, by the grace of God bishop of Châlons, to all who see these presents, greeting and sincere love in the Lord. Know that when our beloved son and faithful subject, Theobald, count of Champagne, came to us at Cherville, we were ill, and so he did homage at St. Memmie. Now in order that this may not work prejudice to future counts of Champagne, we acknowledge and bear witness that homage ought to be done at Cherville or elsewhere in the march [i.e., frontier], where the bishops of Châlons and the counts of Champagne are wont to come together for conference and the transaction of business.
Homage to the Abbot of St. Denis, 1226.
Peter, by the grace of God abbot of St. Denis, to all who see these presents, greeting in the Lord. Know that the noble man, Theobald, count palatine of Champagne and Blois, did homage to us for the castle of Nogent-sur-Seine and its dependencies, in the same manner as Milo of Châlons, former lord of that castle, who held it as a fief from the church of St. Denis. With the advice and consent of our chapter we have granted that the said count shall be bound to appear only in our court in matters pertaining to that fief.
List of the Fiefs of Champagne, about 1172.
These documents illustrate the relation of his vassals to the count of Champagne. They are taken from a register of the fiefs and vassals of the count of Champagne, drawn up about 1172. There are many instances of such registers or inventories in the feudal age; the relations of lord and vassals were apt to become confused and subject to dispute. The particular purpose of the register in this case was to determine the number of knights owing military service to the count of Champagne, and the amount of service owed by each one.
OF CHÂTILLON AND FISMES.
Count of Rethel, liege homage.
Count of Grandpré, liege homage.
Count of Roucy, liege homage.
Count of Chiny.
Roger of Rozoy, for the fief of Chaourse. Roger of Rozoy, his son [did homage].1
Lord of Montmort, liege homage. Guy of Montmort [did homage]. He holds in fief the rights of the forest of Vassy and many other fiefs.
Hugo of Oisy, a year’s guard.
Gaulcher of Châtillon, guard and liege homage.
The sons of Guy of Châtillon, a year’s guard and liege homage, etc., etc.
Count of Soisson. His fief is thirty pounds of the tolls and taxes of Château-Thierry.2
Lord of Pierrefonds.
Lord of Nesles, Fresnes, and Roiglise.
Lord of Braisne.
Lord of Bazoches is liege man of the count after the bishop of Soissons,3 and owes three months’ guard. For Coulonges and the forest as far as Ste. Gemme [his fief].
André de Ferté, liege homage and a year’s guard.
Bartholomé de Thury, liege homage and a year’s guard. His fief is at Thury, Coulombs, and Chacrise, etc., etc.
Count of Vermandois.
Count of Beaumont.
Bishop of Beauvais, for the fief of Savignies.
Bochard of Montmorency. His fief is at Marly and Ferrières.
Lord of Crécy-en-Brie. For Crécy and many other fiefs.
Lord of Montjay.
Viscount of La Ferté, liege homage and guard. For his holdings at Gandelus, Fresnes, La Ferté-Gaucher, La Fertésous-Jouarre, and Lizy, and their dependencies, except the fief which he holds of the bishop of Meaux and the abbot of St. Faron.
Theobald of Crespy. For Bouillancy, etc., etc.
Sum of the Knights [who owe Service to the Count of Champagne].
This table occurs at the end of the register of the fiefs of the count of Champagne of which the preceding number is a part. It is the sum of the knights who owe regular military service to the count, and is also therefore the number of knights whom the count should bring in answer to royal summons to war.
Extent of the Lands of the County of Champagne and Brie, about 1215.
This is an inventory of the domain lands of the count of Champagne, made to determine the revenues, possessions, and rights of the count, and the obligations and dues of the tenants and serfs. They were determined by the examination of certain trustworthy inhabitants of each domain or village. The result was arranged according to bailiwicks (large administrative districts), and domains or villages. Thus the cases given here are taken from the four villages of Troyes, Nogent, Pont, and Seant, in the bailiwick of Troyes. The student should notice the rights of the lord (justice, banvin, rachat, mainmort, markets, tolls, etc.); the revenues from the lands; the position of the prévôt (the lord’s agent in the village), whose services are paid by allowing him to collect and keep part of the revenues. Note also that in this age many of the rights of the lord are commuted for money or let out to others for an annual rent; this was a common tendency of the later feudal age, when the lord came more and more to appreciate the advantages of ready money over services and rents in produce.
BAILIWICK OF TROYES.
The count has at Troyes pure and mixed justice in Troyes and all jurisdiction over all persons,1 except the men who have charters of privilege and the men who live on the lands of churches which have jurisdiction over their men by charter or long usage.
Fines in cases coming under the high justice are levied at the will of the count according to the character of the crimes and the custom of the city. They are not estimated here. Escheat and confiscation of goods for the great crimes, such as killing, theft, rapine, heresy, etc., belong to the high justice. The prévôt has 20 solidi of the fines which are levied, and 60 solidi of the escheats. Besides these the prévôt has no share in these fines, but they go to the count.
Fines for cases coming under the low justice are levied according to the custom of Troyes. . . .
The count also has the right of mainmort by which he takes all the goods of men who die without children or heirs who should succeed, and all the goods of low-born men who die without children. . . .
The count also has within the district of Troyes the right of rachat,2 which the widows of noble holders of fiefs must pay if they wish to marry again. The rate of the rachat has been decided to be equal to the income of the fief for a year. The prévôt has no share in the rachat.
The count also has the markets of St. John, which begin on the first Tuesday two weeks after the day of St. John the Baptist and end about the day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. They are now estimated to be worth 1,000 pounds,3 besides the fiefs of the holders of the markets which are worth 13 pounds. This market is called the “hot-weather fair” (la foire chaude).
He also has the markets of St. Rémy, called the “cold-weather fair” (la foire froide). They begin on the day after All Saints’ day and last until a week before Christmas. They are estimated to be worth now about 700 pounds. . . .
The count also has the house of the German merchants where cloth is sold. . . . It is sold or rented out at the fairs of St. John and St. Rémy, and is estimated to be worth 400 pounds a year, deducting the expenses.
The count also has the stalls of the butchers . . . which are held from the count for an annual rental, paid half on the day of St. Rémy, and half on the day of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. The count also has jurisdiction in cases arising in regard to the stalls of the butchers.
He also has the hall of the cordwainers [shoemakers], where shoes are sold on Saturday; it is situated next to the stalls of the butchers. It is held from the count for an annual rental, paid at the above-mentioned times.
The count and Nicholas of Bar-le-Duc have undivided shares in a house back of the dwelling of the prévôt, which contains 18 rooms, large and small. The rooms are rented for an undivided rent of 125 solidi, of which half goes to the said Nicholas. . . .
The count and the said Nicholas have undivided shares in seventeen stalls for the sale of bread and fishes. They are now rented for 18 pounds and 18 solidi. . . .
The count has a house there and the orchard that goes with it, which the count retains for himself [i.e., has not let out in fief].
According to the statement under oath of Pierre of Pampeluna [etc.], the count has also all the justice, except that which is held by others by charter or long usage. . . .
Escheat and confiscation of goods come under the high justice, and the prévôt has the same rights in fines and escheats as in the case of Troyes [see above]. The smaller fines from cases belonging to the high justice are estimated as belonging to the office of the prévôt.
The count also has the market hall and the toll from the markets and the village, every day in the week. They are estimated at 80 pounds.
He also has the banvin, which lasts a whole month, beginning on the day after Easter. It is valued at 30 pounds.
The count also has the right over the streams of Noe and Vileure. . . .
5. Extent of the domain of Pont-sur-Seine, determined by the statements of Pierre Molventre, Th. Coichard, and Robert of Besançon, who were sworn to speak the truth.
The count has a house there, and has all the justice in the village and the chatelainerie, except that which is held by others by charter or long usage. The high and low justice is exercised as described in the chapter on Troyes. The jurisdiction exercised by the prévôt is estimated to be worth 100 pounds a year, the jurisdiction over the fiefs at 14 pounds, 10 solidi, and the jurisdiction over the clergy at 26 solidi, 8 denarii.
These are the dues collected by the prévôt:
Taxes and toll from the market, and 18 solidi of the ancient small tax. Also the lods et ventes,1 which are now estimated at 42 pounds.
The banvin, which lasts for 15 days, beginning about the day of St. Mary of Magdala, when the count wishes to exercise it; it is worth about 60 solidi when the count wishes to sell it. The monks of St. Étienne have the same banvin, but they are not allowed to sell it unless the count sells his.
The rents from the inhabitants of Villeneuve, now worth 60 solidi. The prévôt takes half, and the other half goes to the canons of the church of Provins. Each farm also pays 12 denarii and a measure of oats, half to the count (the prévôt does not take this) and half to the said canons. . . .
The count also has the following rents and lods et ventes:
Lods et ventes from the house of Robert of Besançon, and 12 solidi rent; the same from the house of Claude and 10 solidi rent; the same from the house of Ordinetus the serf, and 25 solidi rent. . . .
He also has from Saint-Martin-de-Bossenay 5 solidi of the small tax, lods et ventes, three hens a year, and 15 measures of oats. . . .
The count also has from Le Châtelot, near Villeneuve, seven hens a year, and five measures of oats to be paid on Christmas, and they belong to the office of the prévôt. . .
Hugo of Villeneuve, clergyman, Renerius, his brother, the prévôt of the village, Pierre Florie, Pierre Fromerit, former prévôt, and Hugo Florion, say on their oath that the count has the right of escheat from all who die in the village without heirs. . . .
6. Extent of Séant, determined by the statements of Theobald the bailly, Ithari le Paalier, Felicité Huilliet, Guillot le Convert, and Milauti Veitu, sworn to speak the truth.
They said on their oaths that Henry, king of Navarre of blessed memory, bought the village of Séant, with its men, lands, woods, domains, and appurtenances, from the lord of Montmorency, with the dowry of lady Blanche his wife, now the wife of lord Edmund, son of the king of England, paying for it 6,500 pounds Tours.1 The said lady Blanche has a house there and all the justice, high and low, within the boundaries of Séant. . . .
The lord of Montmorency had and the lady Blanche has 20 journata2 of land in the place known as the clearing of Forni, 10 journata in the clearing of John of Pont, 10 journata in the clearing of Pierre Courbe, and 5 journata in the clearing of Val de Laroi. In all, 45 journata, which are equal to about 42 arpents.
The lady also has the land tax from all the clearings; these are in meadows and contain about 250 arpents.
The lady also has the land taxes from the great field of Séant; this tax is divided into twelve parts, of which the abbeys of Valle Lucenti, Pontigny, and Dillo have five parts, and the lady the other seven. . . .
The lady also has rents, customs, and taxes from the following men:
Theobald the bailly is the man of the lady Blanche and holds of her in fief five of the eight parts of the bake-oven of Séant;3 the other three parts are held by Adelicia and her children. The said Theobald also has a farm from the countess, for which he pays 5 solidi, 1 denarius rent, and a measure of wine, a hen, a loaf of bread, and three measures of oats.
The children of Bertelon are men of the countess and hold land of her at a rent of 11 measures of oats and the taille.4
The children of Baudonnet are men of the countess and hold land of her at a rent of 12 denarii and a measure of oats, and the taille. . . .
The Attempt of the King to Control the Feudal Nobles.
The Feudal Law of Conrad II, 1037.
The feudal king naturally was not content with his restricted authority under the feudal régime and attempted to assert his right as head of the state to enforce general laws for the whole realm. When the king was strong and able, he could do this to some extent, but when he was weak, his commands received little attention. In the reigns of Conrad II and Frederick I, in Germany, the monarch was able to control his great vassals and enforce obedience to his laws. But the triumph of the papacy, allied with the great nobles of Germany, over the emperor was fatal to the development of a strong monarchy, and after the death of Frederick II the feudal lords became independent princes. See the progressive concessions to princes, nos. 136, 139, 153, 160. In France the monarchy became absolute by acquiring, in accordance with feudal law, actual possession of all the great fiefs. In England, the conflict between the king and the feudal lords gave opportunity for the rise of a representative system of government, which was used sometimes by the king to control the lords (as in the cases of Henry I and Henry II), sometimes by the great lords to control the king (John and Henry III). Thus the feudal system, under different conditions, resulted in France in an absolute monarchy, in England in a constitutional monarchy, and in Germany in a weak central government and a kingdom composed of many practically independent principalities.
In the name of the holy and undivided Trinity. Conrad, by the grace of God emperor of the Romans, Augustus.
(1) Know . . . that we have ordained and established that no knight of a bishop, abbot, margrave, count, or of anyone else, who holds a benefice from the royal or from church lands, shall be deprived of his benefice unless he has been convicted of a crime by his peers, according to the laws of our ancestors. This applies to both our great vassals and their knights.
(2) If a conflict shall have arisen between a great vassal and his knight, and the peers shall have judged that the knight should lose his benefice, and if the knight alleges that he was condemned unjustly, he shall keep his benefice until both parties have come into our presence, where the case shall be settled justly. But if the great vassal is not able to get the peers of the accused to give judgment, the accused shall hold his benefice until he and his overlord and the peers shall have come before us. In such cases, the party who appeals shall notify the other party to the suit, six weeks before he sets out to the royal court. This applies to our great vassals as well.1
(3) But cases between lower vassals shall be tried before their lords or before our missi.
(4) We ordain also that when any knight, either of a great vassal or of a rear-vassal, dies, his son shall have his benefice. If he does not leave a son, but a son of his son survives, this grandson shall receive his benefice, observing the custom of great vassals by giving horses and arms to his lord.2 But if the knight leaves neither son nor grandson, but a brother or a half-brother on the father’s side, that one shall have the benefice, if he is willing to become the knight of the lord of that benefice.
(5) Moreover, we forbid that any lord should trade the benefice which his knight holds, or dispose of it in any way without the knight’s consent. And no one shall dare to take from his knight the lands which he holds by proprietary right or as a libellum or precarium.3
(6) The fodrum from the castles which was paid to our ancestors shall be paid to us, but we will not require any which was not paid to them.
The Feudal Law of Frederick I for Italy, 1158.
Frederick, by the grace of God emperor of the Romans, Augustus, to all the faithful subjects of our empire. . . .
At the diet of Roncaglia, where we held a court of justice, as was the custom of our ancestors, the princes of Italy, the rulers of the church, and other faithful subjects made complaint that their vassals were in the habit of pawning or selling the fiefs and benefices which they held of them without their consent. Thereby the princes were deprived of the services due them from these fiefs and the dignity and the revenues of the empire were diminished. Having taken counsel with the bishops, dukes, margraves, counts, palatines, and other nobles, we therefore decree by this edict that no one henceforth shall sell or pawn or devise by will or in any way dispose of his fief or any part of it without the consent of the lord from whom he holds it. The emperor Lothar commanded under similar circumstances that such things should not be done in the future; we, however, hereby declare void not only future alienations of this sort, but also all illegal alienations that have already been made; the purchaser of the fief in such cases shall have an action at law against the seller for the recovery of the price, without regard to the length of time that has elapsed since the transaction. And as some resort to fraudulent sales and transfers under the form of free investiture after receiving the purchase price, we declare that such fictitious sales are void and condemn both seller and purchaser to the loss of the fief, which shall revert to the lord. Any lawyer who draws up such a contract knowingly shall be deprived of his office and lose his hand and be stigmatized with infamy. If any person over fourteen years of age, who has inherited a fief, fails through his own negligence to seek investiture for it from his lord within a year and a day, he shall lose the fief and it shall revert to the lord. If any vassal refuses to obey the summons of his lord to accompany him on an imperial expedition, or fails to come at the time set, or to send a suitable person in his place or to give half the revenue of the fief [as compensation for his service], he shall lose the fief and it shall revert to the lord.1
Duchies, marks, and counties may not be divided.2 Any other fief may be divided if the co-heirs desire, but on the following conditions: Everyone who holds a part of the fief shall swear fidelity to the overlord; no vassal shall have more than one lord for one fief; and the lord shall not transfer the fief to another lord without the consent of the vassal. Vassals shall be responsible to the lord for the conduct of their sons; if the son of a vassal offends the lord, the father, on pain of losing his fief, shall compel him either to make satisfaction to the lord for his fault or to leave his household. If the son refuses to obey, he shall not be allowed to inherit the fief on his father’s death unless he has made satisfaction. Vassals shall in a similar manner be responsible to their lord for the conduct of their vassals, and all their dependents.
In case of a controversy between two vassals of the same lord in regard to a fief, the matter shall be tried and decided by the lord. In case of a controversy between a vassal and his lord, it shall be decided by a court of peers of the vassal, sworn on their oath of fidelity to do justice in the case.
We also decree that in every oath of fidelity the fidelity to the emperor shall be excepted by name.
[1 ] The position of the antrustio is explained in the note to the Salic law, XLI, no. 4. See also the reference to the leudes in no. 189.
[1 ] The term villa, as used in these documents, means a domain or estate with a group or village of dependent cultivators.
[1 ] To hold land with the right of usufruct or to have the usufruct of land, means to hold, use, and enjoy the products of land the ownership of which belongs to another. Thus a benefice is a form of usufruct. It corresponds practically to modern long lease, which is sometimes expressed in our legal usage as lease for 99 years, etc.
[1 ] This and the following document are instances of a very common practice; the heirs of the holder of a precarium took it over on the same terms. The result was that the relation tended to become permanent, and a regular class of dependent land-holders grew up. Notice also the subjection of the holders of the precarium to the grantors, in this case secular lords.
[1 ] The leudes are evidently the personal dependents of the king, that is, antrustiones. They were probably given land by the king. Notice the other references in the treaty to persons holding land from the “munificence” of the king. The same thing is referred to in nos. 190, 193, 194.
[1 ] This is a good illustration of the confusion of the feudal relation in practice. The vassal held land in this case from four lords, to all of whom he did homage and owed allegiance and military service. It was the usual practice for the vassal to do liege homage to one of the lords, who was his chief or liege lord, and to whom he owed service first of all. Notice the compromise arrived at in this case. For distinction between liege homage and simple homage see also no. 214, and no. 218, introductory note.
[1 ] Rachat, see no. 228, Troyes, note 2.
[1 ] The territory of the count of Champagne included the counties of Blois, Troyes, Champagne, and Brie, and the holder was called by these different titles at various times.
[1 ] Notice the securities given by each party; a suggestion that the oath alone was not always sufficiently binding.
[1 ] This expression means apparently that the person named did the homage and performed the services for the holder of the fief, as his representative.
[2 ] Here is a case where the fief of a vassal is a portion of the revenues of the lord. As already noted, holding by feudal tenure was the regular form of contract in the feudal age; it was used not only in regard to the holding of land, but also for the acquisition of other possessions, as a sum of money, etc.
[3 ] The bishop of Soissons is the liege lord of the lord of Bazoches.
[1 ] Justice was divided into high and low, or into high, middle, and low justice. These distinctions were not everywhere the same, but in general high justice meant jurisdiction over cases the penalty for which was death or mutilation, and low justice, or middle and low justice, the jurisdiction over less serious crimes. The same general difference was understood by pure and mixed justice. When the lord is said to have “all the justice, high and low,” or “pure and mixed justice,” it is meant that he has complete jurisdiction over his subjects in all cases.
[2 ] Rachat is the sum paid by the new holder of a fief at the time of his entrance into the fief; it is about the same as the relief (see no. 217, § 2, and introductory note to nos. 209-228). Here it refers to the sum which the widow of a vassal of the count must pay when she remarries, not for the privilege of remarrying, but for the right to take the fief with her to her new husband.
[3 ] Note the great value of the markets to the count. Troyes was not a small village, but a city of some importance, and the market rights were worth a good deal. This is a good illustration of the seignorial or feudal control of cities, against which the citizens continually struggled. (See nos. 308, 309.)
[1 ]Lods et ventes were payments made to the lord when the farm changed hands. The holder in these cases had the right to sell or rent his holding subject to the payment of lods et ventes. It may be compared to rachat or relief in the case of fiefs.
[1 ] An illustration of the acquisition of a fief by purchase. All the rights of the former holder went with the land to the new holder.
[2 ]Journatum is a measure of land, literally the amount which could be cultivated in a day. Probably in this case the lord had allowed some of his tenants to clear and reduce to cultivation part of his waste lands, on condition that he be given a portion of the cleared land from each tenant as payment for the permission.
[3 ] Note that the village bake-oven, which the lord originally erected and from which he collected tolls, has been let out as a fief and is now in the possession of two families of tenants.
[4 ] The taille, poll tax.
[1 ] Note the right of the vassal to be tried by a court of his peers, i.e., a court composed of the other vassals of the same lord; and also the right of appeal claimed for the court of the king.
[2 ] This is an old form of relief.
[3 ] Feudal tenure of land was not the only form known in the Middle Age. Other more ancient forms still existed in exceptional cases; as here: land held by proprietary right, that is, allodial possessions that had never been feudalized; land held as libellum or precarium, which are about the same. A libellum was a piece of land held by one person from another for a term of years, for life, or with the right of inheritance, for a fixed rent, the libellus being the charter or grant. Libellum, precarium, usufruct, and emphyteusis, are forms of land-holding known to the later Roman law, and differing one from the other only very slightly.
[1 ] Notice the attempt of the king to enforce his authority in military matters over the vassals of his vassals. In strict feudal law the rear-vassal was responsible only to his immediate lord for the fulfillment of his duties, but the king generally claimed authority over them in matters in which the welfare of the state was concerned, as in the matter of military service in public wars.
[2 ] In Germany the great lords retained for a long time in theory their character of public officials and their fiefs were regarded as administrative districts of the state. Hence the idea that they were indivisible, a character which still adhered to the lands of the electoral princes in later times (see no. 160, Golden Bull, ch. XX).