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Palgrave's Normandy and England.


ART. VI. The History of Normandy and of England. By Sir FRANCIS PALGRAVE. Vol. I. London: 1851.

THE name of Sir Francis Palgrave is more than sufficient

to fix public attention on any historical work which proceeds from him. His Archaic tastes, his multifarious reading, his peculiar familiarity with documents and writers full of instruction, yet already half buried and neglected, were all made manifest in his Rise and Progress of the English Common'wealth.' With that work no serious reader of English history can have omitted to make himself acquainted, or have failed to derive from it new and wide views of the progress of our legal and political institutions.

When he states his convictions on the present occasion, that the History of the Normans is an essential part of the foundations of our knowledge of our own history, he will meet with ready assent from his most intelligent readers: they will go along with him also, we think, when he enlarges the field to which he claims attention, and desires them to follow him into a survey of the influence of the great fourth empire, — or the Roman, (the Assyrian, Persian, and Greek being the three first), on the progress of the civilisation and institutions of all European States.


This first volume is given up to the early history of France, from Charlemagne to the establishment of Rollo; and for ourselves, so far from agreeing with those who may suggest that its title is a misnomer, we are of opinion that in tracing the stream of Roman influence through Normandy to England, Sir F. Palgrave would have been justified in going still further back. The condition of Normandy can be ill understood, unless we trace the progress of the Frankish conquerors, not from the Carlovingians only, but from Clovis.

In the present work, and in his history of our own Commonwealth, he has dwelt much, with great richness of learning, on the remains of Roman laws and administration, to be discovered in various countries of Europe, long after the former masters of the world had ceased to reign; but he has not, as it seems to

* In those lectures on the History of France, by which Sir James Stephen has so ably opened the new course of the Moral Sciences' at Cambridge, he recognises the necessity of carrying back his retrospect while tracing the national institutions of France, and of advert'ing to the state of Gaul both at the dissolution of the Roman empire, ' and during the existence of the empire of the Franks.'

us, dwelt enough on the really antagonist feelings, principles, and institutions, which were brought by the barbarian invaders into contact and often into collision with the Roman, or rather Romanesque, influences on which he dilates with so much fervor.

The Franks had encamped in Gaul for three centuries, and there is abundant evidence that the antagonism we are speaking of had lost little of its youthful vigour. Clovis had been received by the Church and the Christian population of Gaul almost with acclamation: an early convert to the orthodox faith, he was invested at once by the provincials with the attributes and powers of a Roman prince; and they brought the laws and customs of the Lower Empire to describe and support his absolute power, limited only by the pretension and the influence, not the authority, of the civil codes. Lawyers and clergy and provincials were immediately submissive to a despotism familiar to them, though new to the Teutonic chief himself.

However readily he accommodated himself to this preferment, the Frankish nation had not the very slightest share in his acquiescence; but while they themselves were carefully exempted from the yoke, they, and indeed the various Teutonic tribes contained in the Frankish Empire, looked on the pretensions and theories of government of the provincials, their hierarchy, and their codes of law, with quiet indifference, mixed unquestionably with much contempt. To show the slowness with which, not the fusion of the various races, but even the modification of their antagonism, took place, let us look forward through three centuries. The Merovingians had disappeared, the Carlovingians were not only monarchs but emperors, august, anointed, imperial; invested by the clergy and provincials with all the attributes of a Jewish basileus and Roman prince. Precious monuments of their legislation remain in the Capitulars, indisputable authority for the state of the mixed population by whom they were to be obeyed and used.

While the Franks saw their chiefs converted into Romanesque sovereigns, they and the other Teutons continued to constitute, till the declining days of the Carlovingians, the military force of the nation. It was on them alone that the sovereign race could rely in foreign or domestic difficulties. At the same time, new relations arose between them, productive of anything but harmony. The Franks had become occupiers, hardly yet proprietors, of large tracts of land. Their rights to these depended on grants from the sovereign. Had that sovereign any, and what, rights of resumption and control? and


The Teutons and the Franks.


how were such rights to be exercised? The hardy warriors were not long before they were prepared altogether to resist such resumption, whether of offices or benefices. The sovereigns had ever at hand counsellors, churchmen and lawyers, who interpreted their rights according to very high notions of the sacred prerogatives of a monarch. The Frank soldiery rapidly becoming in fact a Teutonic landed aristocracy, could debate such points ill, or not at all; but they were conscious of their physical strength, and after a long period of discontent, irritation, and distrust, hit upon a method, which, leaving theoretical disputes alone, contented and satisfied them. The great officers of the Merovingian, as afterwards of the Carlovingian palaces, managed and distributed the rude revenues of the period, and were practically the fiscal, military, and legal heads of administration. With the exception of the clerical order, they were ordinarily Teutons, among the foremost for property and influence. Of these, the discontented Franks chose one on whom they could rely for administering affairs according to their own notions of their own merits and deservings. They then abandoned, without apparent reluctance, to their puppet monarch the state and nominal prerogatives which the Romanesque portion of the population ascribed to them, and proceeded to appropriate the domains and revenues of the Crown, till the real weakness of their nominal sovereigns made all vain pretensions still more vain and hopeless.

Such was the origin of the Mayors of the Palace: their ultimate adoption into the constitution closed the first stage of conflict between the license of the Teutons and the theoretical submission of the provincials to the royal power of the


The moment of the triumph of Frankish freedom and interests, very nearly, however, sealed their ultimate destruction. The authority of the elective Mayors of the Palace soon became hereditary in the Carlovingian House. It was not easy to shake it off or prevent its growth. The descendants of the early Mayors of that House were soon engaged in a mighty mission, which they fulfilled with an extraordinary combination of talent and success. Heathendom and Mahometanism overshadowed for a time Christianity and European civilisation: when the Carlovingian, Charles Martel, drove back the all but successful Arabs. He and his successors waged constant and much more arduous warfare with the apparently indomitable tribes and nations of heathens advancing from both North and East. The military portion of the Franks were the willing and ardent instruments of these victories, and in the midst of them

Charlemagne appeared. He was the man of his time, beyond his time perhaps, but emphatically the man of his time, and wellfitted, if one man could then have done it, to control after-times.

The progress of his conquests led him to Italy, and to the empire of the West. No painted figure like the Merovingian kings, whom his family had supplanted, -in him there seemed to be called to real and powerful life the basileus and prince, whom the legal and clerical guides of the Romanesque population revered, even while the stern Teuton was but scoffing and amusing himself with the royal puppets. The Emperor was really powerful : the efficiency of his sceptre rested on the willing-for the most part on the ready-obedience of the still military Teutonic population. He was a mighty general, and, during his lifetime, remained therefore in fact, and not merely in title, a mighty monarch. He died, and his corpse was deposited in his cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle, with a gorgeous pomp not unworthy the magnificence of his name, or of that sound of his power which filled his own and other ages. Yet the vast funeral pomp had hardly left the lonely aisles of his favourite cathedral, when the handwriting could be perceived on the wall which proclaimed the almost instant doom of his family. No heroes succeeded him. The struggle for the existence of Christendom and its civilisation was over. The Franks retained the power of the sword; they reduced his descendants rapidly to an insignificance as hopeless as that of the Merovingian puppets whom his ancestors had displaced. The antagonism between their license and the dutiful obedience of an empire to its chief, was only a renewal of the contest begun with the coronation of Clovis.

Charlemagne had done something to ward off this result. But he had not done enough: it is doubtful if enough could have been done by descendants as able as himself, without a like train of wars and successes and military pre-eminence.

In the Carlovingian laws we can descry, among others, three distinct objects, which, had they been accomplished, would have secured some permanence to the authority of the family, and given a different path to the progress of their empire.

The first of these objects was to preserve the military service of all the freemen to the crown.

The second, to preserve the royal domains and revenues from dilapidation.

The third, to preserve to the monarch a direct appeal from all the inferior legal courts and functionaries, and to make him the substantial ruler of his motley and varied crowd of subjects.

The instruments by which these objects were to be obtained were identical. They were called Missi and Missi Dominici.

1852. Mademoiselle Lezardière's View of the Frankish Court. 157

These may be traced to the Lower Empire, but were employed by the Carlovingians for somewhat different objects, and under new and peculiar regulations. Regular circuits were established for them, and distinct duties assigned to them.

They were to inquire diligently into the number of freemen, and arrange that their quota to the army should be ready on the summons of the sovereign. They were to examine carefully the royal domains, and see that neither royal officers nor neighbouring beneficiaries encroached on their boundaries; nor, what seems to have been yet more common, abstracted the husbandmen and employed them to cultivate their own lands, while those of the King were deserted. Had these objects been secured, the King might have depended on an army and a


The third object was somewhat wider, but hardly less essential. Gaul was still governed by personal laws. The Romans and the Franks, both Salic and Ripuarian, the Burgundians and other tribes, could each appeal to their peculiar codes. The King's officers were to be present at the administration of each, and an appeal lay from every decision to the Palatial Court; an institution which combined in a remarkable degree the elements both of Teutonic and Romanesque authority. The King sat there as the head of what might be called a committee of the Teutonic tribe, in the recess of their annual meetings. The court was composed of the great officers of his household; of leading Franks; of the principal landholders who chanced to be in the palace, of whom there were always some; of lawyers, called there as counsellors; and of bishops, versed ordinarily in civil and canon law. The King, or in his absence, the Count of the Palace, presided, but did not vote; the sentence was that of the counsellors; as formerly, on great occasions, the decision was that of the tribe, not of the chiefs. It was, indeed, in many respects, a committee of the general assembly of the tribe carrying on business during the recess of such assemblies. Yet with these intrinsic Teutonic elements, the court had an exterior which makes it easy for careless observers to confound it with the Palatial Court of Appeal of the Roman Emperor, deciding himself alone with supreme and undivided authority, and surrounded by assessors, who performed no function but that of advising him. For a distinct view of this Frankish Court,-its composition, its functions, and its history, we are indebted principally to Mademoiselle Lezardiere, who, in a really wonderful book, which we regret to name and quit here so lightly, has established the facts of this part of

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