Feudalism In Europe, Its Frankish Birth And English Development

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Feudalism,  A general Overview

Author:     Stubbs, William

Feudalism: Its Frankish Birth And English Development


Part Six


     The history of the royal revenue in France is, however, too important to

be slightly passed over.  As the necessities of government increased, partly

through the love of magnificence and pageantry introduced by the crusades and

the temper of chivalry, partly in consequence of employing hired troops

instead of the feudal militia, it became impossible to defray its expenses by

the ordinary means.  Several devices, therefore, were tried, in order to

replenish the exchequer.  One of these was by extorting money from the Jews.

It is almost incredible to what a length this was carried.  Usury, forbidden

by law and superstition to Christians, was confined to this industrious and

covetous people. ^p It is now no secret that all regulations interfering with

the interest of money render its terms more rigorous and burdensome.  The

children of Israel grew rich in despite of insult and oppression, and

retaliated upon their Christian debtors.  If an historian of Philip Augustus

may be believed, they possessed almost one-half of Paris.  Unquestionably they

must have had support both at the court and in the halls of justice.  The

policy of the kings of France was to employ them as a sponge to suck their

subjects' money, which they might afterwards express with less odium than

direct taxation would incur.  Philip Augustus released all Christians in his

dominions from their debts to the Jews, reserving a fifth part to himself. ^q

He afterwards expelled the whole nation from France.  But they appear to have

returned again - whether by stealth, or, as is more probable, by purchasing

permission.  St. Louis twice banished and twice recalled the Jews.  A series

of alternate persecution and tolerance was borne by this extraordinary people

with an invincible perseverance, and a talent of accumulating riches which

kept pace with their plunderers; till new schemes of finance supplying the

turn, they were finally expelled under Charles VI., and it was not till long

afterwards that they obtained any legal establishment in France. ^r


[Footnote p: The Jews were celebrated for usury as early as the sixth century.

- Greg. Turon. l. iv. c. 12, and l. vii. c. 23.]


[Footnote q: Rigord, in Du Chesne, Hist. Franc. Script. t. iii. p. 8.]


[Footnote r: Villaret, t. ix. p. 433.  Metz contained, and I suppose still

contains, a great many Jews; but Metz was not part of the ancient kingdom.]


     A much more extensive plan of rapine was carried on by lowering the

standard of coin.  Originally the pound, a money of account, was equivalent to

twelve ounces of silver; ^s and divided into twenty pieces of coin (sous),

each equal consequently to nearly three shillings and four pence of modern

English money. ^t At the revolution the money of France had been depreciated

in the proportion of seventy-three to one, and the sol was about equal to an

English halfpenny.  This was the effect of a long continuance of fraudulent

and arbitrary government.  The abuse began under Philip I. in 1103, who

alloyed his silver coin with a third of copper.  So good an example was not

lost upon subsequent princes; till, under St. Louis, the mark-weight of

silver, or eight ounces, was equivalent to fifty sous of the debased coin.

Nevertheless these changes seem hitherto to have produced no discontent;

whether it were that a people neither commercial nor enlightened did not

readily perceive their tendency; or, as has been ingeniously conjectured, that

these successive diminutions of the standard were nearly counterbalanced by an

augmentation in the value of silver, occasioned by the drain of money during

the crusades, with which they were about contemporaneous. ^u But the rapacity

of Philip the Fair kept no measures with the public; and the mark in his reign

had become equal to eight livres, or a hundred and sixty sous of money.

Dissatisfaction, and even tumults, arose in consequence, and he was compelled

to restore the coin to its standard under St. Louis. ^v His successors

practised the same arts of enriching their treasury; under Philip of Valois

the mark was again worth eight livres.  But the film had now dropped from the

eyes of the people; and these adulterations of money, rendered more vexatious

by continued recoinages of the current pieces, upon which a fee was extorted

by the moneyers, showed in their true light as mingled fraud and robbery. ^w


[Footnote s: In every edition of this work, till that of 1846, a strange

misprint has appeared of twenty instead of twelve ounces, as the division of

the pound of silver.  Most readers will correct this for themselves; but it is

more material to observe that, according to what we find in the Memoires de

l'Acad. des Inscriptions (Nouvelle Serie), vol. xiv. p. 234, the pound in the

time of Charlemagne was not of 12 ounces, but of 13 1/3. We must, therefore,

add one-ninth to the value of the sol, so long as this continued to be the

case.  I do not know the proofs upon which this assertion rests; but the fact

seems not to have been much observed by those who had previously written upon

the subject.]


[Footnote t: Besides this silver coin there was a golden sol, worth forty

pence.  Le Blanc thinks the solidi of the Salic law and capitularies mean the

latter piece of money.  The denarius, or penny, was worth two sous six deniers

of modern French coin.]


[Footnote u: Villaret, t. xiv. p. 198.  The price of commodities, he asserts,

did not rise till the time of St. Louis.  If this be said on good authority it

is a remarkable fact; but in England we know very little of prices before that

period, and I doubt if their history has been better traced in France.]


[Footnote v: It is curious, and not perhaps unimportant, to learn the course

pursued in adjusting payments upon the restoration of good coin, which

happened pretty frequently in the fourteenth century, when the States-General,

or popular clamor, forced the court to retract its fraudulent policy.  Le

Blanc has published several ordinances nearly to the same effect.  One of

Charles VI. explains the method adopted rather more fully than the rest.  All

debts incurred since the depreciated coin began to circulate were to be paid

in that coin, or according to its value.  Those incurred previously to its

commencement were to be paid according to the value of the money circulating

at the time of the contract.  Item, que tous les vrais emprunts faits en

deniers sans fraude se payeront en telle monnoye comme l'on aura emprunte, si

elle a plein cours au temps du payement, et sinon, ills payeront en monnoye

coursable, lors selon la valeur et le prix du marc d'or ou d'argent: p. 32.]


[Footnote w: Continuator Gul. de Nangis in Spicilegio, t. iii.  For the

successive changes in the value of French coins the reader may consult Le

Blanc's treatise, or the Ordonnances des Rois; also a dissertation by Bonamy

in the Mem. de l'Acad. des Inscriptions, t. xxxii.; or he may find a summary

view of them in Du Cange, v. Moneta.  The bad consequences of these

innovations are well treated by M. de Pastoret, in his elaborate preface to

the sixteenth volume of the Ordonnances des Rois, p. 40.]


     These resources of government, however, by no means superseded the

necessity of more direct taxation.  The kings of France exacted money from the

roturiers, and particularly the inhabitants of towns, within their domains.

In this they only acted as proprietors, or suzerains; and the barons took the

same course in their own lands.  Philip Augustus first ventured upon a stretch

of prerogative, which, in the words of his biographer, disturbed all France.

He deprived by force, says Rigord, both his own vassals, who had been

accustomed to boast of their immunities, and their feudal tenants, of a third

part of their goods. ^x Such arbitrary taxation of the nobility, who deemed

that their military service discharged them from all pecuniary burdens, France

was far too aristocratical a country to bear.  It seems not to have been

repeated; and his successors generally pursued more legitimate courses.  Upon

obtaining any contribution, it was usual to grant letters-patent, declaring

that it had been freely given, and should not be turned into precedent in time

to come.  Several of these letters-patent of Philip the Fair are extant, and

published in the general collection of ordinances. ^y But in the reign of this

monarch a great innovation took place in the French constitution, which,

though it principally affected the method of levying money, may seem to fall

more naturally under the next head of consideration.


[Footnote x: Du Chesne, t. v. p. 43.]


[Footnote y: Fasons scavoir et recognoissons que le derniere subvention que

ils nous ont faite (les barons, vassaux, et nobles d'Auvergne) de pure grace

sans ce que ils y fussent tenus que de grace: et voulons et leur octroyones

que les autres subventions que ils nous ont faites ne leur facent nul

prejudice, es choses esquelles ils n'etoient tenus, ne par ce nul nouveau

droit ne nous soit acquis ne amenuisie. - Ordonnance de 1304, apud Mably, l.

iv. c. 3, note 5.  See other authorities in the same place.]


     4. There is no part of the French feudal policy so remarkable as the

entire absence of all supreme legislation.  We find it difficult to conceive

the existence of a political society, nominally one kingdom and under one

head, in which, for more than three hundred years, there was wanting the most

essential attribute of government.  It will be requisite, however, to take

this up a little higher, and inquire what was the original legislature of the

French monarchy.


     Arbitrary rule, at least in theory, was uncongenial to the character of

the northern nations.  Neither the power of making laws, nor that of applying

them to the circumstances of particular cases, was left at the discretion of

the sovereign.  The Lombard kings held assemblies every year at Pavia, where

the chief officers of the crown and proprietors of lands deliberated upon all

legislative measures, in the presence, and nominally at least with the

consent, of the multitude. ^z Frequent mention is made of similar public

meetings in France by the historians of the Merovingian kings, and still more

unequivocally by their statutes. ^a These assemblies have been called

parliaments of the Champ de Mars, having originally been held in the month of

March.  But they are supposed by many to have gone much into disuse under the

later Merovingian kings.  That of 615, the most important of which any traces

remain, was at the close of the great revolution which punished Brunehaut for

aspiring to despotic power. Whether these assemblies were composed of any

except prelates, great landholders, or what we may call nobles, and the

Antrustions of the king, is still an unsettled point.  Some have even

supposed, since bishops are only mentioned by name in the great statute of

Clotaire II. in 615, that they were then present for the first time; and

Sismondi, forgetting this fact, has gone so far as to think that Pepin first

admitted the prelates to national councils. ^b But the constitutions of the

Merovingian kings frequently bear upon ecclesiastical regulations, and must

have been prompted at least by the advice of the bishops.  Their influence was

immense; and though the Romans generally are not supposed to have been

admitted by right of territorial property to the national assemblies, there

can be no improbability in presuming that the chiefs of the church, especially

when some of them were barbarians, stood in a different position.  We know

this was so at least in 615, and nothing leads to a conclusion that it was for

the first time.


[Footnote z: Liutprand, King of the Lombards, says that his laws sibi

placuisse una cum omnibus judicibus de Austriae et Neustriae partibus, et de

Tusciae finibus, cum reliquis fidelibus meis Langobardis, et omni populo

assistente. - Muratori, Dissert. 22.]


[Footnote a: Mably, l. i. c. i. note 1; Lindebrog.  Codex Legum Antiquarum, p.

363, 369.  The following passage, quoted by Mably (c. ii. n. 6), from the

preamble of the revised Salic law under Clotaire II., is explicit: Temporibus

Clotairii regis una cum principibus suis, id est 33 episcopis et 34 ducibus et

79 comitibus, vel caetero populo constituta est.  A remarkable instance of the

use of vel instead of et, which was not uncommon, and is noticed by Du Cange,

under the word Vel.  Another proof of it occurs in the very next quotation of

Mably from the edict of 615: cum pontificibus, vel cum magnis viris



[Footnote b: Voltaire (Essai sur l'Histoire Universelle) ascribes this to the

elder Pepin, surnamed Heristal, and quotes the Annals of Metz for 692; but

neither under that year nor any other do I find a word to the purpose. Yet he

pompously announces this as "an epoch not regarded by historians, but that of

the temporal power of the church in France and Germany." Voltaire knew but

superficially the early French history, and amused himself by questioning the

most public as well as probable facts, such as the death of Brunehaut.  The

compliment which Robertson has paid to Voltaire's historical knowledge is much

exaggerated relatively to the mediaeval period; the latter history of his

country he possessed very well.]


     It is far more difficult to determine the participation of the Frank

people, the allodialists or Rachimburgii, in these assemblies of the Field of

March.  They could not, it is said, easily have repaired thither from all

parts of France.  But while the monarchy was divided, and all the left bank of

the Loire, in consequence of the paucity of Franks settled there, was hardly

connected politically with any section of it, there does not seem an

improbability that the subjects of a king of Paris or Soissons might have been

numerously present in those capitals.  It is generally allowed that they

attended with annual gifts to their sovereign; though perhaps these were

chiefly brought by the beneficiary tenants and wealthy allodialists.  We

certainly find expressions, some of which I have quoted, indicating a popular

assent to the resolutions taken, or laws enacted, in the Field of March.

Perhaps the most probable hypothesis may be that the presence of the nation

was traditionally required in conformity to the ancient German usage, which

had not been formally abolished; while the difficulty of prevailing on a

dispersed people to meet every year, as well as the enhanced influence of the

king through his armed Antrustions, soon reduced the freemen to little more

than spectators from the neighboring districts.  We find indeed that it was

with reluctance, and by means of coercive fines, that they were induced to

attend the mallus of their count for judicial purposes. ^c


[Footnote c: Mably generally strives to make the most of any vestige of

popular government, and Sismondi is not exempt from a similar bias.  He

overrates the liberties of the Franks.  "Leurs ducs et leurs comtes etaient

electifs: leurs generaux etaient choisis par les soldats, leurs grands juges

ou maires par les hommes libres" (vol. ii. p. 87).  But no part of these

privileges can be inferred from the existing histories or other documents.

The dukes and counts were, as we find by Marculfus and other evidence, solely

appointed by the crown.  A great deal of personal liberty may have been

preserved by means of the local assemblies of the Franks; but we find in the

general government only the preponderance of the kings during one period, and

that of the aristocracy during another.]


     Although no legislative proceedings of the Merovingian line are extant

after 615, it is intimated by early writers that Pepin Heristal and his son

Charles Martel restored the national council after some interruption; and if

the language of certain historians be correct, they rendered it considerably

popular. ^d


[Footnote d: The first of these Austrasian dukes, say the Annals of Metz,

"Singulis annis in Kalendis Martii generale cum omnibus Francis, secundum

priscorum consuetudinem, concilium agebat." The second, according to the

biographer of St. Salvian - "jussit campum magnum parari, sicut mos erat

Francorum.  Venerunt autem optimates et magistratus, omnisque populus." See

the quotations in Guizot (Essais sur l'Hist. de France, p. 321).]


     Pepin the younger, after his accession to the throne, changed the month

of this annual assembly from March to May; and we have some traces of what

took place at eight sessions during his reign. ^e Of his capitularies,

however, one only is said to be made in generali populi conventu; the rest are

enacted in synods of bishops, and all without exception relate merely to

ecclesiastical affairs. ^f And it must be owned that, as in those of the first

dynasty, we find generally mention of the optimates who met in these

conventions, but rarely any word that can be construed of ordinary freemen.


[Footnote e: Essais sur l'Hist. de France, p. 324.]


[Footnote f: Rec. des Hist. v. 637.]


     Such, indeed, is the impression conveyed by a remarkable passage of

Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, during the time of Charles the Bald, who has

preserved, on the authority of a writer contemporary with Charlemagne, a

sketch of the Frankish government under that great prince.  Two assemblies

(placita) were annually held.  In the first, all regulations of importance to

the public weal for the ensuring year were enacted; and to this, he says, the

whole body of clergy and laity repaired; the greater, to deliberate upon what

was fitting to be done; and the less, to confirm by their voluntary assent,

not through deference to power, or sometimes even to discuss, the resolutions

of their superiors. ^g In the second annual assembly the chief men and

officers of state were alone admitted, to consult upon the most urgent affairs

of government.  They debated, in each of these, upon certain capitularies, or

short proposals, laid before them by the king.  The clergy and nobles met in

separate chambers, though sometimes united for the purposes of deliberation.

In these assemblies, principally, I presume, in the more numerous of the two

annually summoned, that extensive body of laws, the capitularies of

Charlemagne, were enacted.  And though it would contradict the testimony just

adduced from Hincmar, to suppose that the lesser freeholders took a very

effective share in public councils, yet their presence, and the usage of

requiring their assent, indicate the liberal principles upon which the system

of Charlemagne was founded.  It is continually expressed in his capitularies

and those of his family that they were enacted by general consent. ^h In one

of Louis the Debonair, we even trace the first germ of representative

legislation.  Every count is directed to bring with him to the general

assembly twelve Scabini, if there should be so many in his county; or, if not,

should fill up the number out of the most respectable persons resident. ^i

These Scabini were judicial assessors of the count, chosen by the allodial

proprietors, in the county court, or mallus, though generally on his

nomination. ^j


[Footnote g: Consuetudo tunc temporis talis erat, ut non saepius, sed bis in

anno placita duo tenerentur.  Unum, quando ordinabatur status totius regni and

anni vertentis spatium; quod ordinatum nullus eventus rerum, nisi summa

necessitas, quae similiter toti regno incumbebat, mutabat.  In quo placito

generalitas universorum majorum, tam clericorum quam laicorum, conveniebat;

seniores propter consilium ordinandum; minores, propter idem consilium

suscipiendum, et interdum pariter tractandum, et non ex potestate, sed ex

proprio mentis intellectu vel sententia, confirmandum. Hincmar, Epist. 5, de

ordine palatii.  I have not translated the word majorum in the above

quotation, not apprehending its sense.  [Note XVI.]]


[Footnote h: Capitula quae praeterito anno legi Salicae cum omnium consensu

addenda esse consuimus.  (A. D. 801) Ut populus interrogetur de capitulis quae

in lege noviter addita sunt, et postquam omnes consenserint, subscriptiones et

manufirmationes suas in ipsis capitulis faciant.  (A. D. 813.) Capitularia

patris nostri quae Franci pro lege tenenda judicaverunt.  (A. D. 837.) I have

borrowed these quotations from Mably, who remarks that the word populus is

never used in the earlier laws.  See, too, Du Cange, vv. Lex, Mallum, Pactum.]


[Footnote i: Vult dominus Imperator ut in tale placitum quale ille nunc

jusserit, veniat unusquisque comes, et adducat secum duodecim scabinos si

tanti fuerint; sin autem, de melioribus hominibus illius comitatus suppleat

numerum duodenarium.  Mably, l. ii. c. ii.]


[Footnote j: This seems to be sufficiently proved by Savigny (vol. i. p. 192,

217 et post).  His opinion is adopted by Meyer, Guizot, Grimm, and Troja.  The

last of these has found Scabini mentioned in Lombardy as early as 724; though

Savigny had rejected all documents in which they are named anterior to



     The Scabini are not to be confounded, as sometimes has been the case,

with the Rachimburgii, who were not chosen by the allodial proprietors, but

were themselves such, or sometimes, perhaps, beneficiaries, summoned by the

court as jurors were in England.  They answered to the prud' hommes, boni

homines, of later times; they formed the county or the hundred court, for the

determination of civil and criminal causes.  [Note XVI.]]


     The circumstances, however, of the French empire for several subsequent

ages were exceedingly adverse to such enlarged schemes of polity.  The nobles

contemned the imbecile descendants of Charlemagne; and the people, or lesser

freeholders, if they escaped absolute villenage, lost their immediate relation

to the supreme government in the subordination to their lord established by

the feudal law.  Yet we may trace the shadow of ancient popular rights in one

constitutional function of high importance, the choice of a sovereign.

Historians who relate the election of an emperor or king of France seldom omit

to specify the consent of the multitude, as well as of the temporal and

spiritual aristocracy; and even in solemn instruments that record such

transactions we find a sort of importance attached to the popular suffrage. ^k

It is surely less probable that a recognition of this elective right should

have been introduced as a mere ceremony, than that the form should have

survived after length of time and revolutions of government had almost

obliterated the recollection of its meaning.


[Footnote k: It has been intimated in another place, p. 156, that the French

monarchy seems not to have been strictly hereditary under the later kings of

the Merovingian race: at least expressions indicating a formal election are

frequently employed by historians.  Pepin of course came in by the choice of

the nation.  At his death he requested the consent of the counts and prelates

to the succession of his sons (Baluzii Capitularia, p. 187); though they had

bound themselves by oath at his consecration never to elect a king out of

another family.  Ut nunquam de alterius lumbis regem eligere praesumant.

(Formula Consecrationis Pippini in Recueil des Historiens, t. v.) In the

instrument of partition by Charlemagne among his descendants he provides for

their immediate succession in absolute terms, without any mention of consent.

But in the event of the decease of one of his sons leaving a child, whom the

people shall choose, the other princes were to permit him to reign.  Baluze,

p. 440.  This is repeated more perspicuously in the partition made by Louis I.

in 817.  Si quis eorum decedens legitimos filios reliquerit, non inter eos

potestas ipsa dividatur, sed potius populus pariter conveniens, unum ex iis,

quem dominus voluerit, eligat, et hunc senior frater in loco fratris et filii

recipiat.  Baluze, p. 577.  Proofs of popular consent given to the succession

of kings during the two next centuries are frequent, but of less importance on

account of the irregular condition of government.  Even after Hugh Capet's

accession, hereditary right was far from being established.  The first six

kings of this dynasty procured the cooptation of their sons by having them

crowned during their own lives. And this was not done without the consent of

the chief vassals.  (Recueil des Hist. t. xi. p. 133.) In the reign of Robert

it was a great question whether the elder son should be thus designated as

heir in preference to his younger brother, whom the queen, Constance, was

anxious to place upon the throne. Odolric, Bishop of Orleans, writes to

Fulbert, Bishop of Chartres, in terms which lead one to think that neither

hereditary succession nor primogeniture was settled on any fixed principle.

(Id. t. x. p. 504.) And a writer in the same collection, about the year 1000,

expresses himself in the following manner: Melius est electioni principis non

subscribere, quam post subscriptionem electum contemnere; in altero enim

libertatis amor laudatur, in altero servilis contumacia probro datur.  Tres

namque generales electiones novimus; quarum una est regis vel imperatoris,

altera pontificis, altera abbatis.  Et primam quidem facit concordia totius

regni; secundum vero unanimitas civium et cleri; tertiam sanius consilium

coenobiticae congregationis.  (Id. p. 626.) At the coronation of Philip I., in

1059, the nobility and people (milites et populi tam majores quam minores)

testified their consent by crying, Laudamus, volumus, fiat.  T. xi. p. 33.  I

suppose, if search were made, that similar testimonies might be found still

later; and perhaps hereditary succession cannot be considered as a fundamental

law till the reign of Philip Augustus, the era of many changes in the French



     Sismondi has gone a great deal farther down, and observes that, though

John assumed the royal power immediately on the death of his father, in 1350,

he did not take the name of king, nor any seal but that of Duke of Normandy,

till his coronation.  He says, however, "notre royaume" in his instruments (x.

375).  Even Charles V. called himself, or was called by some, Duke of

Normandy, until his coronation; but all the lawyers called him king (xi. 6).

The lawyers had established their maxim that the king never dies; which,

however, was unknown while any traces of elective monarchy remained.]


     It must, however, be impossible to ascertain even the theoretical

privileges of the subjects of Charlemagne, much more to decide how far they

were substantial or illusory.  We can only assert in general that there

continued to be some mixture of democracy in the French constitution during

the reigns of Charlemagne and his first successors.  The primeval German

institutions were not eradicated.  In the capitularies the consent of the

people is frequently expressed.  Fifty years after Charlemagne, his grandson

Charles the Bald succinctly expresses the theory of legislative power.  A law,

he says, is made by the people's consent and the king's enactment. ^l It would

hardly be warranted by analogy or precedent to interpret the word people so

very narrowly as to exclude any allodial proprietors, among whom, however

unequal in opulence, no legal inequality of rank is supposed to have yet



[Footnote l: Lex consensu populi fit, constitutione regis. Recueil des Hist.

t. vii. p. 656.]


     But by whatever authority laws were enacted, whoever were the constituent

members of national assemblies, they ceased to be held in about seventy years

from the death of Charlemagne.  The latest capitularies are of Carloman in

882. ^m From this time there ensues a long blank in the history of French

legislation.  The kingdom was as a great fief, or rather as a bundle of fiefs,

and the king little more than one of a number of feudal nobles, differing

rather in dignity than in power from some of the rest.  The royal council was

composed only of barons, or tenants in chief, prelates, and household

officers.  These now probably deliberated in private, as we hear no more of

the consenting multitude. Political functions were not in that age so clearly

separated as we are taught to fancy they should be; this council advised the

king in matters of government, confirmed and consented to his grants, and

judged in all civil and criminal cases where any peers of their court were

concerned. ^n The great vassals of the crown acted for themselves in their own

territories, with the assistance of councils similar to that of the king.

Such, indeed, was the symmetry of feudal customs, that the manorial court of

every vavassor represented in miniature that of his sovereign. ^o


[Footnote m: It is generally said that the capitularies cease with Charles the

Simple, who died in 921.  But Baluze has published only two under the name of

that prince; the first, a declaration of his queen's jointure; the second, an

arbitration of disputes in the church of Tongres; neither, surely, deserving

the appellation of a law.]


[Footnote n: Regali potentia in nullo abuti volentes, says Hugh Capet, omnia

negotia reipublicae in consultatione et sententia fidelium nostrorum

disponimus.  Recueil des Hist. t. x. p. 392.  The subscriptions of these royal

councillors were necessary for the confirmation, or, at least, the

authentication, of charters, as was also the case in England, Spain, and

Italy.  This practice continued in England till the reign of John.


     The Curia regis seems to have differed only in name from the Concilium

regium.  It is also called Curia parium, from the equality of the barons who

composed it, standing in the same feudal degree of relation to the sovereign.

But we are not yet arrived at the subject of jurisdiction, which it is very

difficult to keep distinct from what is immediately before us.]


[Footnote o: Recueil des Hist. t. xi. p. 300, and preface, p. 179. Vaissette,

Hist. de Languedoc, t. ii. p. 508.]


     But, notwithstanding the want of any permanent legislation during so long

a period, instances occur in which the kings of France appear to have acted

with the concurrence of an assembly more numerous and more particularly

summoned than the royal council.  At such a congress held in 1146 the crusade

of Louis VII. was undertaken. ^p We find also an ordinance of the same prince

in some collections, reciting that he had convoked a general assembly at

Soissons, where many prelates and barons then present had consented and

requested that private wars might cease for the term of ten years. ^q The

famous Saladine tithe was imposed upon lay as well as ecclesiastical revenues

by a similar convention in 1188. ^r And when Innocent IV., during his contest

with the Emperor Frederic, requested an asylum in France, St. Louis, though

much inclined to favor him, ventured only to give a conditional permission,

provided it were agreeable to his barons, whom, he said, a king of France was

bound to consult in such circumstances.  Accordingly he assembled the French

barons, who unanimously refused their consent. ^s


[Footnote p: Velly, t. iii. p. 119.  This, he observes, is the first instance

in which the word parliament is used for a deliberative assembly.]


[Footnote q: Ego Ludovicus Dei gratia Francorum rex, ad reprimendum fervorem

malignantium, et compescendum violentas praedorum manus, postulationibus cleri

et assensu baroniae, toti regno pacem constituimus. Ea causa, anno Incarnati

Verbi 1155, iv. idus Jun.  Suessionense concilium celebre adunavimus, et

effuerunt archiepiscopi Remensis, Senonencis et eorum suffraganei; item

barones, comes Flandrensis, Trecensis, et Nivernensis et quamplures alii, et

dux Burgundiae.  Ex quorum beneplacito ordinavimus a veniente Pascha ad decem

annos, ut omnes ecclesiae regni et omnes agricolae, etc., pacem habeant et

securitatem. - In pacem istam juraverunt dux Burgundiae, comes Flandriae, - et

reliqui barones qui aderant.


     This ordinance is published in Du Chesne, Script.  Rerum Gallicarum, t.

iv., and in Recueil des Histor. t. xiv. p. 387; but not in the general



[Footnote r: Velly, t. iii. p. 315.]


[Footnote s: Ibid. t. iv. p. 306.]


     It was the ancient custom of the kings of France as well as of England,

and indeed of all those vassals who affected a kind of sovereignty, to hold

general meetings of their barons, called Cours Plenieres, or Parliaments, at

the great festivals of the year.  These assemblies were principally intended

to make a display of magnificence, and to keep the feudal tenants in good

humor; nor is it easy to discover that they passed in anything but pageantry.

^t Some respectable antiquaries have however been of opinion that affairs of

state were occasionally discussed in them; and this is certainly by no means

inconsistent with probability, though not sufficiently established by

evidence. ^u


[Footnote t: Du Cange, Dissert. 5, sur Joinville.]


[Footnote u: Mem. de l'Acad. des Inscript. t. xli.  Recueil des Hist. t. xi.

preface, p. 155.]


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