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This essay was written as a thesis for the degree of 
Master of Arts in the University of London in 1909. A 
few alterations have since been made in the light of recent 

I should like here to express my thanks to Mr. H. W. C. 
Davis, of Balliol College, Oxford, and Mr. E. I. Carlyle, of 
Lincoln College, Oxford, for their very kind help, the one at 
the outset, the other at the completion of my work. 

H.'M. C. 


H. Adams. Anglo-Saxon Courts of Law. (In Essays in Anglo- 
Saxon Law.) Boston, 1876. 

Annales Laurissenses Majores. Ed. Kwne. 1895. Cited as A. L. M. 

Annales qui dicuntur Einhardi. Ed. Kurze. 1895. Cited as A. Q. D. E. 

Asser. Ed. W. H. Stevenson. 1904. 

A. Baldamxis. Das Heerwesen unter den spatern Karolingern. 1879. 

L. Beauchet. L'organisation judiciaire en France. 1886. 

M. M. Bigelow. Placita Anglo-Normannica. 1879. 

W. de Cf. Birch. Cartularium Saxonicum. 1885-1893. Cited as B. 

H. Brwrmer. Deutsche Rechtsgesohichte. 1892. Cited as E. G. 

-H. Brumner. Forsehungen zur Geschichte des deutschen und franzo- 
sischen Rechtes. 1894. Cited as Forsehungen. 

H. Brwnner. Rechtsgeschichte der Urkunde. 1880. 

H. M. Ohadwich. Studies on Anglo-Saxon Institutions. 1905. 

J. Flach. Les origines de I'ancienne France. 1886-1904. 

Fustel de Ooulanges. Les origines du systfeme f^odal. 1890. 

Fustel de Ooulanges. Les transformations de la royaut6. 1892. 

E. Olasson. Histoire du droit et des institutions de la France. 1889. 
P. Chwilhiermoz. Essai sur I'origine de la noblesse en France. 1902. 
J. M. Kernhle. Codex diplomaticus aevi Saxonici. 1839 ff. Cited as K. 
J. M. Kemble. The Saxons in England. Ed. Birch. 1876. 

M. Krodl. L'immunit6 franque. 1910. 

F. Liebermann. Gesetze der Angelsachsen. 1902. In citations from 

this work Liebermann's own abbreviations are used, for which 
see his page xi. 
F. W. Maitland. Domesday Book and Beyond. 1897. Cited as 

D. B. and B. 
Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Cited as M. G. H. 
Boretius and Krause. Capitularia regum Francorum. 1883-1897. 
(Legum sectio II.) Citations are made from this work by the 
year, page and capitulum of the capitulary. Reference is made 
to the first volume unless otherwise indicated. 
Zeumer. Formulae Merovingici et Karolini aevi. 1886. (Legum 
sectio V.) Citations are made by the name and number of the 



Muhlbacher. Diplomata aevi Karolini. 1906. Cited as Miihlbacher, 

Dummler. Epistolae Karolini aevi — 
I. S. Bonifatii Epistolae. 

Codex Carolinus. 1892. 
II. Alcuini Epistolae. 1895. 
III. Einharti Epistolae. 

Leonis III. Epistolae. 1897-1899. 

E. Miihlbacher. Deutsche Geschichte unter den Karolingern. 1895. 
A. S. Napier and W. H. Stevenson. The Crawford Collection of Early 

Charters and Documents. 1895. 

F. Pollock and F. W. Maitland. History of English Law. 1895. 

Cited as P. and M. 

A. Prenzel. Beitrage zur Geschichte der Kriegsverfassung unter den 

Karolingern. Diss. Leipzig. 1887. 

G. Bichter. Annalen der deutschen Geschichte im Mittelalter. 1873- 

P. Roth. Geschichte des Benefizial Wesens. 1850. Cited as B. W. 
P. Both. Feudalitat und Unterthanenverband. 1863. Cited as P. U. 
J. H. Bownd. Feudal England. 1895. Cited as F. E. 
n. Sie. Les classes ruralos et le regime domanial en Prance au moyen 

age. 1901. 

B. Sohm. Die frankisohe Reiohs- und Gerichtsverfassung. 1871. 
P. Vinogradoff. The Growth of the Manor. 1905. 

P. Vinogradoff. English Society in the Eleventh Century. 1908. 

P. Viollet. Histoire des institutions politiques de la Prance. 1896. 

O. Waitz. Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte. Zweite Auflage. Vol. 
III. 1883 ; IV. 1885. 

The English Historical Review. Cited as E. H. R. 
Revue Historique. Cited as R. H. 
Historische Vierteljahrschrift. Cited as Hist. Viertelj. 
Domesday Book. Cited as Dd. 



I Introduction 1 

II The Eelations op Peancia and England in the 

Eighth and Ninth Centueies ... 6 

III The Govebnment of the Comitatus and the 

Shiee 18 

1. The Comitatus, 768-840. 

(a) The Relation of the Count to the Central Government, 
(6) The Count's District. 

(c) The Count's Tribunal. 

(d) The Count's Subordinates. 

(e) Popular Control. 

2. The Comitatus, 840-887. 

3. The Shiee to 871. 

(a) Kent. 
(6) Meroia. 
(c) Wessex. 

4. The Shire, 871-925. 

(a) The District. 
lb) The Officials, 
(c) Relation of the Officials to the Central Government. 

5. The Shibe, 925-1034. 

(a) The Ealdorman. 
lb) The Shiremoot. 

6. The Hundred. 

7. The Bush. 

IV The Benefice and the Vassal System . . 65 

1. Lordship and Vassaiage in Franoia. 

(a) Vassi dominici. 
lb) The Royal Benefice. 

(c) The Vassals of Private Persons. 

(d) The Relation of the Benefice to the Vassal System. 
(«) The Personal Relations of Senior and Fifsjits. 

2. Lordship and Vassalage in England. 

(as) The King's Thegn and Bookland. 

(i) The Elcrford and the Laen. 

(c) The Personal Relations of Lord and Man. 



V The Immunity 100 

1. The Fkankish Immunity. 

2. The Anglo-Saxon Franchise. 

3. The Lands op the Fisc : a comparison of De Films 

AND Be Sceadwisan Gbkefan. 

VI The Caeolingian and West Saxon Militaet 

Systems 128 

1. The Caroungian Army. 

(a) The Summons. 

(i) The Obligation to Serve. 

(c) Equipment. 

(d) The Leaders. 

2. The West Saxon Army. 

(a) The Summons. 

(i) The Obligation to Serr*. 

(c) Organization. 

(d) The Leaders. 

(e) Cavalry. 

VII Conclusion 154 




From the time of Palgrave onwards, historians, both 
Enghsh and foreign, have discovered analogies between 
Frankish and Anglo-Saxon institutions. Some writers, 
notably Stubbs, have pointed out resemblances so close 
as to provoke inquiry into the relation between the two 
sets of institutions. Has one country borrowed from the 
other, or are the features they have in common part of 
their inheritance from a distant past, or, again, arethe 
resemblances merely coincidences resulting from different 
processes ? 

The Roman heritage gave to the Frankish Empire not 
only a semblance of unity, a centrahzed organization 
and a spurious efficiency, but also the means of putting 
them on record, with the additional rigidity likely to 
follow from that power. In the Capitularies of the Caro- 
hngian kings, disjointed, ambiguous and artificial as 
they are, can be traced out with considerable certainty 
the framework of a governmental system that is fairly 
comprehensive and consistent. Within its limits turbulent 
forces are at work, under the pressure of which the frame- 
work is destined to fall in pieces, but we are given an 
impression of miity, subordination and centrahzation. 

On the other side are the Anglo-Saxon laws and charters, 


both fragmentary and confused. The fact that there 
are two ofl&cial languages instead of one may make for 
greater accuracy, but certainly not for greater simpHcity. 
There are great gaps in our material; between Ine and 
Alfred no legislation and but few other records. The 
scanty light we have shines in turn upon Northumbria, 
Mercia and Wessex ; we have enough material to see that 
there were wide local differences without having the means 
accurately to define those differences. Our govern- 
mental system has to be pieced together from a series of 
facts or references gathered at very different dates, instead 
of from a long series of royal instruments issuing from 
the royal chapel, all within little more than a century. 
It is true that in Francia charters and formulse and other 
private documents introduce many questions of difficulty ; 
but the abundance of material helps to solve its own 

When the question of the relation of the two systems 
arose, the natural inclination was to suppose that the 
less perfect and less symmetrical would borrow the 
institutions of the more centralized and complete. It 
might be thought that England, owing rehgion and all 
that rehgion involved to the Continent, would seek there 
also for governmental improvements. BeHevers in a 
close relation between the two countries have as a rule 
taken this view of the question. But, as is well known, 
and as we shall try to show, the debt was by no means all 
on England's side, and a recent writer ^ has suggested that 
at least one new feature of Carohngian poHcy and ad- 
ministration was borrowed from England. His suggestion 
wiU be noticed, but it does not really touch our problem, 
which is hmited to the relation of West Saxon and 
Carolingian local institutions, and can only incidentally 
refer to those of Northumbria. 

1 Guilhiennoz;, Origines de la noblesse. 


Materials are lacking for the construction of a sketch 
of West Saxon institutions under the contemporaries of 
the earlier CaroUngians. It is only with Alfred that we 
can pick up the thread dropped in the eighth century, and 
attempt to estimate what influence, if any, foreign rela- 
tions have had upon governmental and local institutions. 
If there was a code of Egbert, it is lost. In Alfred's 
prologue, however, in which he speaks of the codes of 
Ine, ^thelberht and Offa, no reference is made to any 
other West Saxon code. It is highly probable, therefore, 
that none such existed. In very many respects, also, 
AMred's reign is one of construction and innovation. 
The prologue to the laws reflects that respect for con- 
servatism which is learnt by the practical reformer. " I 
dared not thrust myself forward, to write down much of 
my own, for it was unknown to me how that would please 
those that come after me." A king who was at once a 
reformer and a pioneer ; who formed new laws to supple- 
ment the old ones ; who recast the classics for the benefit 
of his people ; who found new means to meet new military 
problems, frankly taking the best wherever he found it 
and applying it to the matter in hand ; such a one might 
well look across the Channel for pohtical no less than for 
literary schoolmasters. In a reign of this constructive 
activity we might well seek for the traces of innovation 
and adaptation. 

Such innovation could hardly be based on the decadence 
and disorder of the later Carolingian rule. By whatever 
channel such an influence could arrive, whether by way 
of Mercia or directly from Francia, whether at an earUer 
date through Alfred's grandfather, or at a later date 
through Alfred's contemporaries, it is from the system 
of Charles the Great that a foreigner would draw inspira- 
tion. The system might not fit the {acts of local diverg- 
ence even in Charles's own days ; later it might not agree 

B 2 


with the practice of an empire that was already divided 
and decentralized, an empire only in name ; but it was 
the official theory of government. The numberless 
references to the collection of Ansegis which we find in 
the later Capitularies show that though facts might have 
altered, the ideal polity was the same that it had been 
before the fraternal wars of Lewis's reign. 

We are compelled, therefore, to base our comparison 
on conditions separated by a century, and to set limits 
to the problem. The chief characteristics of the Frankish 
system may be traced in the period 768-840, and though 
occasional references will be made to later developments, 
this wiU be the main theme. In Wessex, the reigns of 
Alfred and Edward the Elder will be the chief period, 
though here we are more dependent on later material, and 
illustrations wiU be drawn from other periods. 

In attempting to investigate this problem the evidence 
for the connection between Francia and England before 
and during the CaroUngian period will first be considered ; 
and then the local governmental system in each country 
will be described and compared. The benefice and the 
vassal system in Francia will be compared with what is 
known of the vassal class and dependent land tenures in 
England, and an attempt will be made to estimate the 
extent of the growth of private jurisdictions. The 
immunity will be compared with the early EngUsh 
franchise, and the position of the royal villa with that of 
the land of the fisc in England. The military systems 
of the two countries wiU be compared also, based as they 
are in each country on the local unit. Lastly, an attempt 
will be made to sum up the results of the study. 

If no practical or even certain results are attained by 
this investigation, the plea of M. Langlois may be offered 
in part excuse. " If historical science does not consist 
Bolely in the critical enumeration of past phenomena, but 


rather in the examination of the laws which regulate the 
succession of such phenomena, clearly its chief agent 
must be the comparison of such phenomena as run 
parallel in different nations ; for there is no surer means of 
knowing the conditions and causes of a particular fact 
than to compare it with analogous facts." ^ 

1 E. H. R., 1890, p. 259. 



Stubbs, in his lecture on the " Beginnings of the Foreign 
Policy of England in the Middle Ages," ^ classifies EngHsh 
relations with the Continent under the three following 
heads : ecclesiastical matters ; royal and noble connec- 
tions; and commercial relations. His treatment is not 
exhaustive, nor his classification entirely satisfactory. 
A better arrangement would seem to be : hterary and 
ecclesiastical matters (the two being practically insepar- 
able) ; pohtical matters ; commercial matters. From 
the facts classified under these heads may be deduced the 
possibihty or probabihty of a connection in institutional 
matters between the England of the West Saxon 
Supremacy and the Continent of the Carohngian period. 

I. It has been often pointed out that England was in 
part repaying an old debt when she sent her missionary 
priests and bishops to Friesland, Saxony and Bavaria in 
the seventh and eighth centuries. From Wilfred's mission 
to Friesland in 678 to the death of Boniface in 755 a 
constant stream of teachers left this island for the 
Continent. Of these Boniface was not the only one to 
reach high position ; LuU of Mainz, Willibald of Eichstadt, 
and Burkhard of Wurzburg were all EngHsh born. 
Their work, moreover, was not all pioneer. Boniface 
in especial had a large share in the work of purifying 
the Frankish Church from the abuses of the times. His 

1 Stubbs, Early English History, p. 364 it. Ed. Hassall, 1906. 



influence is again traceable in the Capitulare Liptinense ^ 
of 743, which in all probability records the compromise 
over Church lands made by Pippin, and confirmed by his 
son at a later date. Brunner has pointed out also that 
the rite of unction appears to have been introduced from 
England in 753, when Boniface anointed Pippin king of 
the Franks.^ We may note also the presence of EngUsh 
bishops at the famous Council of Frankfort in 794. 

Besides this rehgious assistance afforded by England 
to Frankland, hterary help was given. If Boniface re- 
formed the Church in Gaul, and founded the Church in 
Germany, Alcuin had his part to play as a missionary of 
culture. Notwithstanding the learning of the Itahan 
and Irish scholars at the court of Charles the Great, 
Alcuin had the first place there from his arrival in 781 
to his retirement to Tours in 795. Alcuin represented 
the traditions of Northumbrian learning ; he was the last 
great scholar of Bede's school. His position, resting as 
it did on the personal whim of the Emperor, was not 
altogether secure; his intellectual pre-eminence was 
hardly questioned so long as he remained at court. 

In the case of both Alcuin and Boniface we have 
abundance of evidence that the relations with the mother 
country were kept up. Of the hundred and fifty letters 
of Boniface and LuU printed by Diimmler, thirty-five 
at least are addressed to Enghsh monasteries or indi- 
viduals. One letter from Boniface and seven other 
Enghsh bishops in Germany to King j^thelbald refers 
to the latter's effectual repression of feuds among his 
nobles.* On the other hand, ^(Ethelbald is rebuked for 

1 743. 28, 2. Cf. Boniface, Ep. 60. 

' Brunner, R. G., II. p. 19. A.L.M., 750. " Pippinus . . . electus 
est ad regem, et unotus per manum santae memoriae Bonifacii 

* Boniface, Ep. 73, quoted by William of Malmesbury, 6. Begum, 
I. 80. R. S. 


his evil life, and the invasions of the Saracens in Southern 
Gaul are quoted as an example of the evils he may bring 
on England by his sins. The majority of the letters are 
moral and didactic in tone, and do not refer particularly 
to pubhc events. They reveal, however, the close 
relations between the clergy of Francia and England. 
Gifts are exchanged, a copy of Bede is asked for in ex- 
change for a copy of the Epistles of Gregory,^ Cloaks 
and coverlets of goat's hair are sent as gifts.^ A report 
of the General Covmcil of 747 is given in a letter to Cuth- 
bert of Canterbury, in which Boniface suggests that some 
restraint should be put on the pilgrimages of women to 
Rome, since these too often result in their downfall, and 
disgrace to the EngUsh Church.^ The international 
position of the Church is well illustrated in this corre- 

The letters of Alcuin are similar in character to 
those of Boniface. Many of them are directed to 
kings or princesses,* but even these are mainly didactic 
in purport.* He writes to the monks of York, of Wear- 
mouth or of Yarrow, the Archbishop of York, to Lindis- 
fame, to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to private 
friends. His tone throughout is that of the exile ; ^ he 
is continually referring to his hopes of coming over to 
England again. He is keenly interested in Church 
politics at home ; while as to secular politics he preserves 
a non-committal attitude, exhorting kings and ex-kings 
alike to repentance and virtue.' He is impressed by 

1 Boniface, Ep. 75. ^ Ibid., Ep. 75, 76. ^ /jj^.^ Ep. 78. 

« Ale, Ep. 16, 18, 30, 61, 79, 101, 102, 105, 108, 109. 

' The exceptions will be mentioned below. 

' Note letter to ^thelred of Northumbria. " Duplici germanitate 
convives sumus, unius civitatis in Christo, id est matris ecclesiae 
filii.etnnius patriae indigene . . . Ecce trecentis et quinquagenta annis 
quod nos nostrique patres huius puloherrime patrie incole sumua." 
Ep. 16. 

' Ale., Ep. 108, 109. 


the greatness of OfiEa, whilst he laments his bloodshedding 
propensities, and views the early death of Ecgfrith as 
an instance of the visitation of the father's sins on 
the children.^ In one of his letters there is a possible 
reference to the lost code of Offa.^ His first love is for 
Northumbria, to him a different gens from Mercia ; ^ but 
he writes, as we have seen, to all parts of England. His 
letters form a unique and valuable contribution to the 
history of the eighth century, in spite of their vagueness 
and silence on the topics where we are most anxious for 

Thus in the eighth century both Northumbria and 
Wessex bore their part in the advancement of religion 
and learning in Europe. In the ninth century the tables 
were turned. Francia was now the centre of learning; 
internal divisions and external attacks had overwhelmed 
the power and the culture of Northumbria together, 
and Alfred, seeking to restore letters in Wessex, found 
himself obhged to send across the Channel to secure a 
teacher for his ignorant clergy and young noblemen. 
Grimbald of St. Bertin and John the old Saxon were 
sent; and a letter is extant in which Fulco of Beims 
commends Grimbald to Alfred,^ though its authenticity 
has been questioned. Through these channels Prankish 
learning might be directly disseminated in England, 
whilst there is evidence that it was indirectly conveyed 
by other means. Besides Grimbald and John, teachers 
came to Alfred from Mercia; Werfrith of Worcester, 
Plegmund, ^thelstan and Werewulf f and, as we shall 

1 Ale, Ep. 122. 

2 /6ii., Ep. 122, " mores bonos . . . observent, quos beatae memoriae 
Ofia illia instituit." 

3 lUd., Ep. 122. 

' Dr. von Sickel (Akuinatudien, p. 467) suggests that the letters 
containing more important political news or opinions were destroyed 
at once by the recipients, 

» B. 5S6. Asser, o. 77. 


Bee, the relations of Mercia and Francia were close in the 
reigns of Offa and Charles. From Alfred's preface to 
the Cura Pastoralis it may be inferred that Mercia was 
the chief home of learning in England at the beginning 
of his reign.^ Here, then, may be found another channel 
for Frankish influence. Again, the Vita Caroli speaks 
of Charles's relations with the Scots or Irish,^ with whom 
Alfred had deahngs,^ whilst Asser shows traces of both 
Frankish and Irish influence. 

The evidence afforded by Asser's Life has been indicated 
with great completeness by Mr. Stevenson.* In matters of 
style the relation is unmistakable ; not only in the general 
construction of the work, which is clearly modelled on 
Einhard's Vita Caroli,^ and has a considerable resem- 
blance to the Hves of Lewis the Pious by Theganus and by 
the Astronomer, but also in the use of words of Frankish 
origin or with Frankish apphcation. Instances of this 
are Ministeriales,^ Galli ' (for Franks), Capellanus,^ 
Theotisci,^ fiscus,^^ castella^^ (for castle), curtum,^^ indi- 
culus " (letter), satelles,^^ fasellus,^^ senior " (for lord), 
cambra^"^ (camera). Mr. Stevenson discovers traces of 
Celtic (Breton) influence in the use of the word famen,^^ 
suggests that a Gaulish version of the Bible was used by 
Asser instead of the Vulgate,^^ and points out at least one 

^ " There were very few on this side of the Humber who could 
understand their rituals in English or translate a letter from Latin 
into English, and I believe that there were not many beyond the 
Humber. I cannot remember a single one south of the Thames." 

^ Vita Caroli, c. xvi. 

^ Asser, c. 91, 102 ; and 76, " Franci autem multi, Frisiones, Galli, 
pagani, Britones et Scotti, Armorici sponte se suo dominio subdi- 

* Asser's Life of King Alfred, ed. W. H. Stevenson, 1904. 

° Cf. esp. Vita Caroli, Preface ; and Asser, c. 73. 

« C. 70. ' C. 70. s c. 77, 104. 

» C. 13. i».C. 102. "C. 91. 

" C. 22, 75, 81, 100. " C. 79. " C. 100. 

" C. 63, 55. 16 c. 13^ 97. 17 q. §8, 91. 

1' C. 79, 1' Stevenson, Introduction, xciv. 


simile dear to Alcuin and other Frankish scholars.^ In 
addition to the traces of Frankish influence on Asser's 
style, there is evidence of personal knowledge of Frankish 
conditions on his part. Details supplementing the narra- 
tive of the Chronicle which indicate a minuter knowledge 
of Francia are found in chapters 61, 68, 70, 82, 84 and 
85 ; whilst in the account of the eoUpse of 878 or 879 * 
Mr. Stevenson, with great ingenuity, has discovered in- 
dications that the author saw the eclipse from Francia, 
not from England, and suggests Fulda as a Ukely spot.* 

The land-book itself, as used in England from the 
seventh century onwards, is of foreign origin. Brunner * 
believes that it came from Roman law, probably direct 
from Italy, but possibly by way of Francia. It is inter- 
esting, however, to note the appearance of some words 
of Frankish origin in the charters of Egbert's reign and 
later. Such are graphio '' and pardfrithis,^ both of which 
occur in charters passed as genuine by Kemble. Vasallus ' 
and beneficium ^ do not occur till a later date. Stubbs, 
in his preface to the Councils,® indicates the close rela- 
tion of EngHsh and Frankish Penitentials and Canons. 
The Liber Legum Ecclesiastorum, printed by Thorpe as 
" Ecclesiastical Institutes," is a translation of a work by 
Theodulf of Orleans. The so-called Penitential of Theo- 
dore contains quotations from the Ad/monitio Generalis 
of 789.^" The so-called Penitential of Egbert is mainly 
a translation of a work by Halitgar of Cambray (floruit 
825). Boniface's letters, as we have seen, indicate a 
constant interchange of manuscripts between England 

1 C. 76. ^ C. 59; V. Stevenson, p. 280 ff. 

' Note also the evidence afforded by the rapid extension of the 
Carolingian minuscule. 

* Brunner, Urhvmde, p. 187. ^ B. 413. 

« B. 395 (A.D. 828), 413, 544. 

' Found in B. 601 (a.d. 903), 769, 896, 956, 1197. 

8 B. 1136 (A.D. 964). 

» Haddan and Stubbs, I, xiii. ^^ 789. 53-62. 


and Erancia, and the confused condition in which Stubbs 
found the Penitentials is directly traceable to their inter- 
national use. 

Among ecclesiastical channels of influence should per- 
haps be reckoned the intercourse afforded by pilgrimages. 
All who went to Rome would pass through Erancia, and 
the number of pilgrims may be inferred from the letter 
referred to above, as well as from other indications.^ 
Eree passage to the pilgrim was one of the terms of agree- 
ment between Offa and Charles ^ in 790. We may note, 
on the other hand, that a charter of Egbert's refers to 
the Gain et Brittones who are peregrini to Abingdon.' 

Thus aU the evidence goes to show that there was a 
very intimate relation in ecclesiastical and literary matters 
between Erancia and England in the eighth and ninth 

II. The poHtical relations of England and Erancia at 
this period must be inferred from a series of isolated facts, 
whose importance it is difficult to appraise on account 
of the scantiness of the sources. Marriage aUiances make 
up a great part of the evidence. Alfred's father jEthel- 
wulf takes as his second wife Judith, daughter of Charles 
the Bald, in 855, on his return from Rome. Alfred's 
daughter ^Ifthryth marries Baldwin of Elanders. The 
four daughters of Edward the Elder marry Otto I of 
Grermany, Charles the Simple, Hugh the White, and 
WiUiam of Aquitaine.* These marriages should be 
viewed probably as indications, not as causes, of the 
relations between the two countries.^ The influence of 
the queen may be, as Mr. Larson has pointed out,^ of 

1 Ann. Bert., 839. Aaser, c. 11, etc. ^ aIc, Ep. 100. 

' B. 413. * ^thelweard. Prologue. 

° Mr. Plvunmer {Tuxi Saxon Ghronicles, 11. p. 80) suggests that the 
marriage of Judith and iEthelwulf was due to a desire for an alliance 
against the Danes. 

* L. M. Larson, The King's Housdtold before the Norman Conquest, 
p. 194. 1904. 


great importance in the court and kingdom, but from 
what Asser tells of Judith, her influence is not likely 
greatly to have modified existing conditions in Wessex.^ 
Indications as to the international politics of the period 
may be gathered from various sources. Simon of Dur- 
ham speaks of the correspondence of Eadberht of North- 
umbria and Pippin,^ but we have no means of knowing 
on what authority the statement is based. Boniface's 
letters are, as we have seen, addressed not merely to 
bishops and monks, but also to kings and princes. For 
the reign of Charles the Great the Frankish Annals and 
Alcuin's letters are our chief sources, but it is to the Gesta 
Abbatum Fontanellensium ' that we owe our knowledge 
of the marriage negotiations between Charles the Great 
and Offa in 788. Charles sought the hand of Offa's 
daughter for his son, but Ofia suggested also that his 
son should marry Charles's daughter; in consequence 
the negotiations broke down, and Charles threatened to 
close the Frankish ports to English merchants. EarUer 
letters, both those between Charles and the Pope, and 
those between Charles and Offa, indicate intimacy and 
friendliness ; * whilst those of a later date show that 
friendly relations had been restored.* Alcuin's letters 
show him endeavouring to act as a mediator between 
the two kings." He also promises the monks of Lindis- 
fame to speak to Charles on their behalf after the sack 
of their monastery in 793.'' His letter of 796 describes 

1 Asser, o. 17. 

^ Sim. Dunelm., Hist Eccl. Dunelm, Lib. II. o. iii. 

' Oesta Abbatum Fontanellensium, c. 16. " Multis vioibtis ... ad 
piaefatum regem Offam legationibus functus est (Gervoldus). Novis- 
sime vero propter filiam ejuisdem regis quam in conjugium 
expostulabat Carolus junior, sed illo hoc non acquiescente nisi Berta, 
filja Caroli magni ejus filio nuptui traderetur, aliquantulum rex poten- 
tissimus commotus, praecepit ut nemo de Britannia insula ao gente 
Anglorum mercimonii causa littus oceani maris attingeret in Gallia." 

4 Ale, Ep. 87. ' Ibid., Ep. 85, 100. 

• Ibid,, Ep. 7, 9, 82, ' Ibid., Ep. 20. 


Charles's wrath at the news of the death of ^thelred 
of Northumbria.^ The annals for 809 show friendly 
relations still subsisting between Mercia and Francia; 
a papal legate, captured by pirates, and carried off to 
Britain, was there redeemed by CenwuU, Ecgfrith's 
successor, and sent back safely to Rome. In this year 
also Charles extended his hospitahty to Eardwulf of 
Northumbria, ^thelred's son, who was driven from his 
kingdom in 806. He set him on his way to Rome.^ 
There is evidence of his kindly activity on Eardwulf's 
behalf in his correspondence with Leo III. There seems, 
however, no reason to accept the statement of the 
Annates Lindisfarnenses that Eardwidf " duxit uxorem 
fiham regis Caroh " in the face of Einhard's statements.* 

Charles's relations with Wessex are perhaps of most 
interest in connection with our main theme. Egbert, 
driven from Wessex in 787, took refuge with Offa, and 
came on to Charles's court in 788, where he remained 
until his accession in 802 to the throne of Wessex.* 
These fourteen years offer a wide field for conjecture, but 
the silence of the Frankish Annals forbids any determina- 
tion of the probable effects on Egbert of his stay in 
Francia. It may be noted, by the way, that the courtesy 
was repaid in kind when Athelstan received his young 
nephew, Louis d'Outremer, at a later date. 

With these authentic records of royal fugitives may be 
compared the story told by Asser of Eadburh — daughter 
of Offa and wife of Beorhtric, — ^who came to Charles's 
court, having poisoned her West Saxon husband, and was 
offered the choice between Charles himself and one of 

1 Ale, Ep. 101. 

2 A. L. M., 808. Leanis III. Ep. 2, 3. M. G. H., Ep. Ear. Aevi, 
III. p. 89-92. 

^ Vita Caroli, c. 19. " Nullam earum cuiquam aut suorum aut 
exteiorum nuptum dare voMt, sed omnes secum usque ad obitum 
suum in domo sua retinuit." 

* A. 8, Chron., 836. 


his sons as a husband. She chose the son, and was in 
consequence rejected by Charles himself, who, however, 
made her abbess of a convent.^ There is, as Mr. Stevenson 
says, no inherent impossibiUty in the story; but it has 
a romantic tone, and is unconfirmed by any other 

There is thus material for beUef in a fairly close connec- 
tion between Enghsh and Frankish poUtics in the reign 
of Charles. Under Lewis the Pious there is no sign of 
diplomatic relations; and the silence of the Chronicle 
at this period contrasts with the later accounts of the 
invasion of the Northmen from year to year, which in 
the reign of Alfred reflect a realization of unity of interest.^ 

III. There are few indications of the commercial 
relations of England and Francia. As far back as 710 
a charter of Childebert's had referred to the toll paid by 
the Saxons and others from far.* M. Flach points out * 
the significance of the fact that the word used for strangers 
in Francia — albani — means British. When Charles and 
Offa quarrelled in 789, Charles forbade all trade in Enghsh 
goods within his kingdom.'' When friendly relations 
were restored, Charles, in promising a free passage to 
Enghsh pilgrims to Rome, stipulated that they should 
be genuine pilgrims, not merchants and smugglers.® 
In the same letter he promised that English merchants 

2 See the years 880, 881, 882, 883, 884, 886, 887, 890, 891, 893, 897. 

^ Bouquet, IV. 684. It is possible, however, that the continental 
Saxons may be meant. 

" Flach, I. p. 159. 

^ The Oesta Abhatum Fonianelknsium says that Charles threatened 
to close all Erankish ports to English vessels, but was dissuaded from 
doing so by Gerwold. Alcuin's letter, however (Ep. 7), declares that 
Charles and Offa have each excluded the other's merchants. " Ali- 
quid . . . dissensionis . . . nuper inter regem Karolum et regem 
OfFam exortum est, ita ut utrimque navigatio interdicta negotiantibus 

8 Ale, Ep. 100. 


should be under the royal protection, according to old 
custom, and should have direct appeal to him, declaring 
that Frankish merchants would Mkewise appeal to Offa 
in case of suffering any attack. Giles suggests that this 
trade consisted to some extent in gold-work of a kind hke 
that on King Alfred's jewel.^ Again there was, it seems, 
a demand for EngUsh cloaks.^ Evidence of close com- 
mercial relations is to be found in the coinage of the two 
countries. The question is compKcated and somewhat 
technical; it has, however, been shown conclusively* 
that the change from the earher EngUsh Sceatt currency 
to the later currency of pennies is a result of Frankish 
influence. The very name Mancus * is an unmistakable 
proof of foreign origin, being Arabic in etymology, and 
coming probably from Spain, but possibly from the East, 
with which Charles had diplomatic relations.^ Foreign 
bodies are found owning land in England. jElfthryth 
makes a grant in 918 of land to an abbey of Ghent,® 
and St. Denys ' also held land in England.^ 

rV. General resemblances in institutions between the 
two countries have been traced. It appears possible 
that Alfred's court school ® owes something to that of 
Charles the Great for the young nobles. It has been 
suggested that Alfred borrowed a system of Missi Dominici 

1 Memorials of King Alfred, p. 333. (1863.) 

^ Ale, Ep. 100. Charles to Offa. " Nostri de prolizitate sagoium 
deposcunt ; ut tales iubeatis fieri, quibus antiquis temporibus ad noa 
venire solebant." 

^ Seebohm, Tribal Custom in A.-S. Law ; York Powell, E. H. B,, 
p. 133, 1890; Chadwick, p. 6. 

* Chadwiok, p. 11. Mancus is first found in Frankish charters 778, 
in English Charters 799. 

» Vita Caroli, c. 16. « B. 661. 

' Mr. Stevenson (E. H. B., p. 741, 1891), though proving that the four 
charters to St. Denys given in the Cartularium Sazonicum are all 
forgeries, thinks that they relate to genuine grants. 

8 We may note also the emplojrment of £^ian sailors by Alfred. 
cyan., 885, 897. 

» Asser, o. 75, 102. 


from Charles, but the theory is based upon an allusion 
in Asser which might well be interpreted in a more 
general sense. ^ Alfred's manner of administering justice 
in person has been paralleled with that of Charles, but 
again the descriptions are too general to be of much real 
value.^ The divisions of the kingdom on the death of 
.^thelwulf, and indeed before it, and on the death of his 
sons, have been hkened to Frankish Divisiones Regruyrum ; 
but here, again, we have to do with a custom that was 
pretty generally diffused, and is easily exphcable with- 
out a theory of direct imitation. Some inferences may 
perhaps be drawn from Asser's use of the word foga to 
translate shire, the word being pecuUar to him. It is 
just as hkely, however, to imply a false analogy as any 
direct relation of the pagus to the shire. Into the possi- 
bihty of such a relation an inquiry will be attempted 

It has long been the fashion to compare the work and 
the position of Alfred with those of Charles the Great. 
It may be fairly said that such a parallelism is the result 
of a love of analogies not well grounded on facts. Beyond 
the hterary revivals there is hardly a resemblance to be 
found that does not require considerable exaggeration to 
become pointed. On the wider question of institutions, 
however, it is harder to put and to answer the question. 
The relation of Alfred's organization of local government 
to that of the Frankish Empire cannot be dismissed 

1 Asser, c. 106. ^ lUd., c. 105-106 ; B. 591 ; Vita OaroK, c. 24. 



1. The Comitaius, 768-840. 

Comparatively speaking, there is plenty of material 
from which to deduce both the theory and the practice 
of local government under the CaroMngians. The 
Capitularies and other sources give us evidence of the 
ideal relations of the various members of the adminis- 
trative system ; and also of the abuses which forbade the 
reahzation of those ideals. 

Thus it is clear that theoretically the emperor is the 
central point of the organization. The picture drawn by 
Fustel de Coulanges of the magnificent position of 
Charlemagne at the heart of the empire,^ with all things 
dependent on or radiating from him, may perhaps be 
accepted as the ideal at which the emperor aimed, but 
can hardly be considered a faithful representation of facts. 
It is at least as clear that the count is practically the 
backbone of the system at this period, setting aside all 
questions of origins. 

(a) The Relation of the Count to the Central Government. 

His dependence on the king is, however, well marked. 
The Diplomata show a large and constantly varying body 
of coimts in attendance on the king;^ the Capitularies, 
and Hincmar's De Ordine Palatii show him co-operating 

^ Fustel de Coulanges, Transformations de la royaute, p. 614. 

2 Muhlbaoher, Diplomata, Nos. 63, 65, 102, 110, 197, 204, 216, etc. 
The average number of names mentioned is six or seven; the same 
name is very seldom found twice. 



in the forming of Capitularies.^ The count is educated 
at the royal court, and is bound to report himself there 
annually, probably on the occasion of the placitum generale 
which he is bound to attend.^ The Capitularies represent 
him as sending a missus with the yearly report at about 
Easter time.' 

The count is appointed by the king, and his office is 
not hereditary. It is held apparently for Ufe, or so long 
as its holder does not forfeit it by misconduct.* The 
Admonitio of Lewis the Pious (823-825), represents well 
the official relations of the count and the emperor. 
" Monemus vestram fidehtatem ut memores sitis fidei 
nobis promissae et in parte ministerii nostri vobis com- 
missi, in pace videlicet et iustitia facienda vos metipsos 
coram Deo et . . . hominibus tales exhibeatis ut et nostri 
veri adiutores et popuU conservatores iusti dici et vocari 
possitis . . . Etsi aliqua persona in aliquo vobis impedi- 
mentum fuerit nobis illud notum fiat, ut nostra auctori- 
tate adiuti ministerium vestrum digna adimplere possi- 
tis." * This represents the system of government as 
it should be. 

On the other hand, the local independence of the count 
and his abuse of his powers is proved on every hand by 
the restrictions and prohibitions contained in the Capitu- 
laries. His independence and his local authority at once 
are strengthened by the manner in which he receives a 
recompense for his service. He is not paid directly by 
the king, but various privileges and possessions are 
attached to the county itself. He has a special wer ; ® 

^ De Ord. Pal., c. 35. The counts and the other magnates debate 
apart. 803. 112; 801-813. 170; 811. 161, 1. 

2 782/6. 191; 803. 116,14; 829,11. 9. 

3 781/6. 193, 10. 

* 779. 49, 11 ; 782. 192, 7. See instances quoted by P. de C, Trans- 
formaiions de la royauU, p. 425-6. 
" 823-825. 304, 8. « Lex Chamm., o. 7, 



he has the right to exact certain services as a royal 
official ; ^ he has the third part of all freda ^ and of other 
dues ; and he has the enjoyment either of a royal benefice * 
or of certain lands attached to the county.* Thus he 
is a great local landowner as well as a representative 
of the central government,^ and his relations with his 
official subordinates tend to approximate to those of 
any lord with any vassal. EQs vassals have a special 
duty of suit at his courts.* He may have an advocate 
to manage his large estates, and is forbidden to appoint 
his centenarius to the position.'' The very perfection 
of the Carolingian hierarchy paves the way for local 
independence; the tie between the count and the cen- 
tenarius is closer than that between the coimt and the 
king. The count takes advantage of his double position 
to grant out the lands of the fisc or convert them to his 
own uses.* In the capitularies, especially the Italian 
capitularies, there are signs of his oppression of the 

1 826. 315, 10. 

2 790. 201, 5; 811. 166, 2. Possibly some other payments— 
" Solidum unum de notitia." 801/14. 145, 2. 

=> 806. 131, 6. 

^ This land is distinct from the royal benefices as still forming a 
part of the lands of the fisc. Bouquet, VI. 509 (817) : " de fisco nostro 
quem R. comes in ministerium habet." Cf. 864 II. 314, 8 : " Villis 
quae sunt de comitatibus." The land attached to the county comes 
to bear the name comitatvs itself, and can be transferred to another than 
the count. Form. Imp., 3. A count exchanges land, " ex comitatu 
suo aut benefitio suo." 832. II. 64, 8. " Comitatus pertinentia 
quae comites non habent." Waitz, IV. p. 165 ff., gives instances. 
Occasional references are also found to terra mcarialis, and vicecomilalis 
(Foupardin, Le royaume de Provence, pp. 373-4). 

^ Thus he receives a grant of land from the king. His lands are 
referred to : Miihlbacher, D.K. p. 244. He exchanges land with the 
bishop; ibid., 275. Cf. Form,. Imp., 3, 36. He is permitted to divide 
his lands among his sons : D. K., p. 280. Reference is here possibly 
made to a royal benefice. Einhard's letters again show us the count 
as a local magnate rather than a royal official : v. Ep. 48, 58. 

« 809. 148, 5. 

7 QIQ 290 19 

8 MShlbaoher, D. K. 224; I. 217, 9; 806. 131, 6. Note also the 
command against afforestation, 819. 291, 22, 


pagenses by unjust exaction of services and of tolls.^ 
The formulae show the count enslaving free men.^ The 
capitularies give proof that he abuses his military position 
by forcing men to go to the host till they are beggared,^ 
by depriving men of their weapons, and by exacting fines 
twice over.* He abuses his judicial powers not only by 
taking bribes,^ but also by holding placita frequently for 
the purpose of imposing fines for non-attendance ; * whilst, 
on the other hand, he neglects his duties to go hunting, 
or holds placita when he is not sober.' 

Such evidence as this must be borne in mind when the 
position and the duties of the count are being considered. 

(6) The Count's District. 

The social and mihtary position of the dux is in all 
probability superior to that of the comes ; nevertheless 
the comitatus or pa^us,^ and not the ducatus, is the 
administrative unit of the empire. During the earlier 
Carohngian period, indeed, the ducatus has no very 
definite historical significance. The missi dominici pay 
their visits of inspection by counties.® The coimty 
is the limit of the count's jurisdiction ; ^^ witnesses 
before him must be good men of the county,^^ and 
the placitum majus is an assembly of all the natives in 

1 801. 144, 2; 790. 201, 13; 815. 261, 1; cp. 806/10, 211. 

2 Fmm. Imp., 5. 14. = 811. 165, 2, 3. * 808. 138, 6. 

^ 790? 70, 28; 801. 240; 802? 103, 38; 813. 174, 10; 819. 
291 21. 

6 '781/810. 207, 12; 816. 270, 3. 

' 789.63,17; 803.116,15. 

^ Pagus is still found occasionally in the more general geographical 
sense, appearing to include two or more comitatus within it; but a 
general examination of the capitularies and charters proves that, 
generally speaking, the pagus and comitatus are identical. 805. 124, 
11 : " Et de ipso pago, non de altero, testes eligantur, nisi forte longius 
extra comitatem causa sit inquirenda." Cf. 818-19. 283. 10 : 
" Testes vero . . . non aliunde quaerentur nisi de ipso comitatu in quo 
res unde causa agitur, positae sunt." 

» 832. II. 64, 6; 823. 306, 20; 829. II 19, 7, etc. 

" 801-13. 171, 11. 

» 803. 114, 11; 805. 124, 11; 818. 283, 10. 


the county, and those who own land in it.^ The count 
leads the men of the county to war, and sees to the 
repairing of bridges throughout the county.^ The division 
of the country into counties is exhaustive ; a man must be 
in one county or another ; * and as a rule there is one 
count to each county, though there are signs that two or 
more counties may be held by the same count.* 

The count is the king's representative in the county. 
He vindicates the rights of the fisc in the case of lands 
which should fall to it ; ^ he looks to the keeping of royal 
benefices by their holders,^ and generally defends royal 
interests. He exacts the censum, market tolls, and other 
dues on behalf of the king.'' His duties are, in fact, well 
outlined in the general immunity formula — " freda 
exigendum, mansiones aut paratas faciendum, homines 
distrigendum, redibutiones requirendum." He enforces 
the acceptance of good coin, and the rejection of bad coin ;* 
in the later capitularies he is found presiding over a mint 
himself.' He promulgates the law in his ministerium,^'' 
and keeps the record of aU who have taken the oath of 

He is generally responsible for the order and good 
government of the county.^^ Bridge and road mending,^^ 

^ Sohm's denial of the existence of a county court has been refuted 
by M. Beauohet, who follows Waitz in quoting a charter of 825 : " factus 
est publicus conventus P. comitis et totius comitatus eius," and in 
showing the character of the placitum of 803. 112. (Beauchet, p. 131 ; 
Waitz, IV. p. 626 ff.) 

" 829. II. 16, 11. 3 803-13. 157, 4. 

« 808. 137, 4; of. 780 ? 52. ' Miihlbacher. D.K.,^^. 272, 274. 

« 818.287,3; 829.11.14,1. 

' Note the case in Miihlbacher, D. K., p. 17, where the count has 
exacted toll from a privileged person. 

8 823. 306, 20. » 864. II. 315, 14; 820. 299, 1. 

" 803. 112; 805. 141; 823-5, 307, 26. 

" 792. or 786. 67, 4. 

" 809. 162, 7. 

13 787. 197, 7 ; 829. II. 16, 11. The count can exact work for these 
purposes from all men, as the duty, with that of watch and ward, forms 
part of the Trinoda Necessitas, 


and entertainment of the missi dominici ^ fall within his 
sphere of duty, and he controls the holding of markets.^ 
He exercises a pohce supervision, being bound to report 
conspiracies,* and is expected to know the antecedents of 
every newcomer in his district.* He is also bound to 
warn his neighbours when he banishes thieves.* He 
must have a prison in the county.® 

As the lieutenant of the crown, the count enforces the 
duty of military service, the third article of the Trinoda 
Necessitas. His duties in this field will be treated at 
greater length below. He organizes the groups of men 
according to the land they hold, or their other wealth ; ' 
he sees that all are well equipped according to the royal 
commands ; he leads them to war.® He is also bound to 
keep all men to their duty of miUtary service, vassals of 
great men as well as pagenses. Though there are special 
haribannatores appointed, the count evidently often 
exacts the fine for neglect of the host himself. His 
minute knowledge of the district qualifies him to prevent 
the shirking of this duty, directly or indirectly, on the 
part of any of his pagenses. 

(c) The Count's Tribunal. 

It is on his judicial duties, however, that most stress is 
laid. Waitz points out what a weight of responsibUity 
in this matter appears to have rested on the consciences 
of the CaroUngian rulers. Their anxiety for the right 
administration of justice is evident throughout the 

1 802. 96, 28. Form. Sal. Bign. 16 and Form Imp. 7 give letters 
of tractoria addressed to a count. 

2 823. 304, 9. ' 829. II. 16, 10. 

4 The duty of the missus, 801-13. 157, 4; 806. 131, 5; of the count, 
864. II. 323, 31, which purports to repeat a capitulary of 807. 

s 809. 148, 4. « 801-813. 171, 11. ' 825. 325, 3. 

* Note also Einhard's Ep. 41. The emperor issues commands to a 
count to assemble together all the counts of the neighbourhood to 
consider what measures shaJl be taken if war breato out again in Bavaria. 
Cf. 811-813, 177, 12, 


capitularies. The count is repeatedly adjured to do 
justice/ and almost as frequently forbidden to take 
bribes.^ The holding of placita is a considerable part of 
his duty. 

There are two kinds of placita. A capitulary of Charles 
rendered attendance compulsory on aU men at three 
placita only in the year,^ and this command was renewed 
under Lewis.* These were the general assembUes of the 
pagus, at which all men must attend. But for judicial 
purposes placita had to be held at the interval of forty 
days * which the procedure of the national laws required. 
The interval was no doubt not always strictly observed ; 
but the minora placita were held throughout the year. 
At these none were obhged to be present but the scabini, 
the htigants, and the witnesses to any cases that might 
be brought before them ; * though the count's vassals 
might be required to attend.' These minora placita might 
be held wherever the count pleased in the county; but 
the larger placita must be held where it was customary 
from old time.* The placita were to be held under a 
roof, for commands to repair the place are frequently 
given,' but not in a church or a church porch.^" They 

1 781.190,3; 802.104,48; 802.94,14; 801.209,4; 789? 185, 1, etc. 
« 813. 174, 10; 819. 291, 21; 802. 103, 38, etc. 
' 810/10. 210, 14. At an earlier period these were held twice a year. 
769. 46, 12. 

* 823? 320, 2; 819.290,14. 

^819. 292, 1. The interval is variable in the Laws. Note. Lex Rib. 
30, 33, 72. Lex Sal. 40, 47, 50, 56. 

' " Neque cogantvir ad placita venire praeter ter in anno, sicut in 
capitulare continetur, excepto scabinis et causatoribus et testibus 
neoessariis." 823. 320, 2. 

' 809. 148, 5. 

8 818. 284, 14. " Ubi antiquitus consuetudo fuit de libertate sacra- 
mentum adhramire . . . ibi mallum habeatur . . . minora vero placita 
comes sive intra suam potestatem vel ubi impetrare potuerit habeat." 
Here mallum appears to be used of the greater placitum in distinction 
to the lesser. Cf. 821. 301, 5. 

• 809. 151, 25; 809. 149, 13. 

" 787 ? 196, 4; 813. 174, 21 ; 829. IL 46, 54. 


were nolf to be held on Sundays, or on certain saints' 
days ; ^ nor in the months when the missi held their 
placita.^ This last regulation probably applies only to 
the larger meetings. None might bring arms to the 
placita,' which are thus to be distinguished from the 
military assemblies of the county. 

The count's justice is expected to be sufficient for the 
county ordinarily. Appeal lies from his court to that of 
the missus * and to the royal palace ; * but appeals are dis- 
couraged.* Cases between two counts or a count and a 
bishop go before the king,' but royal vassals are judged 
before the count.* Criminal cases and those deaUng with 
land or status ® come before him. He can condemn 
to death and banish ; ^^ he exacts the fredum and the 
faidam,^^ the king's ban, and his own ban, which varies 
according to his law.^^ The count controls the giving of 
evidence to some extent. He has the royal privilege of 
holding an inquest,^* and there are traces of this in the 

' 789. 61, 81 ; 813. 174, 15, etc. 
" 811/13. 177, 8. 
' 803/13. 156, 1. 

* M. Beauohet and M. Glasson hold this opinion, Waitz and Sohm 
the contrary. See 810. 155, 3; 802. 92, 1. 

* 819. 289, 1; 797. 71, 4. The king has immediate jurisdiction 
over those in his mund. 

* 755. 32, 7 ; 781. 190, 2. " Ut unusquisque clamator tertiam vicem 
ad comitem suxun se proclamet . . . et si . . . antea ad palacium se 
proclamaverit legem suum componat." Contrast, however, the free 
access of the Saxon capitulary. 775/90. 70, 26; 829. II. 16, 14. 

' 811/13. 176, 2. 

8 781 ? 191, 13. See below, Chapter IV. 

» 810. 153, 3, etc. Form. I. Sen. 20; II. Sen. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 6. 

w 820. 296,4, 5; 822. 318, 4. The aocoimt of the major es causae 
for which the count has competence probably applies only in the 
Spanish Mark. 

" 818, 282, 9; 818. 284, 13. Form. Sal. Bign. 8, 9; Sal. Lind. 19. 
815. 262, 2. The count can issue a land charter to replace a lost original. 
Form. I. Sen. 38. 

" 790. 70, 31 ; 802. 104, 57 ; 803. 113, 2; paid for resisting a count 
who pursues a thief into an immunity. 

i» 820. 295, 1; 822. 318, 3; 829. 11. 8. 


Diplomata. He administers the oath to Avitnesses, and 
is expected to reject unworthy ones.^ 

The count has rights of jurisdiction even in the case of 
the immunities which he within his county. The grant 
of an immunity always expressly forbids the count or his 
iuniores to enter the immunity to hold pleas or do justice 
or exact freda ; but the count has a right and is com- 
manded to enter the immunity in pursuit of thieves who 
have committed theft outside; whilst cases arising be- 
tween an inhabitant of an immunity and a pagensis from 
without come before the count. ^ There are instances 
also in the Diplomata of an advocate of an immunity 
seeking justice — ^usually on a question of land ownership 
— before the count in the pagus.' 

(d) The Count's Subordinates. 

The count has thus fuU judicial powers in the county ; * 
but he is not the only judge in the county. Reference 
has been made before to his iuniores ; the vicarii, 
centenarii, missi and other lesser officials. Whatever 
their historical origins may have been, their position 
of dependence on the count is clearly marked in the 
Carohngian period. They are described as " the count's." ^ 
There is a formula of doubtful date, certainly anterior to 
the reign of Lewis the Pious, which contains the charge 
of the count to his vicarius, and speaks of the "office 
which we have committed to you."* 

1 801. 210, 12; 781/6. 193, 8; 811/13. 176, 3; 822. 317, 6. 

2 See below, CShapter V. » Muhlbacher, D. K., p. 189 (781). 

* The count has justice not only over those who live in the pagus, 
but also over those who have lands, proprietary or beneficiary, within 
it. A man must seek justice concerning his paternal heritage or his 
liberty in his own pagus. 816. 268, 2; 818/9. 283, 10. 

= 808. 138, 6; "comitis ministeriales." 829. II. 17, 15; 801/14. 
144, 4. Form. Sal. Merk. 51. 822/3. 319. 12; 822/4. 302, 5; 826. 310. 
There are signs that the powers of the oentenarius are being cut down. 
His judicial limitations are probably new. 806/10. 210, 14. 

* Form. Sal. Merk. 51. Indiculimi de comite ad vicarium. " Dilecto 
fidele nostro ego ille comis. Cognuscas, quia mandamus tibi de tuo 


The positions of the vicarius and the centenarius have 
been much discussed, but an examination of the passages 
in the capitularies where they are mentioned makes it 
almost certain that the two were identical in the Carolingian 

M. Glasson ^ is the latest writer of the contrary opinion, 
but his arguments are not convincing. Waitz identifies 
the vicarius with the vicecomes,^ a name that is hardly 
met with before the death of Lewis the Pious. It is 
probable that the use of the names varied locally. 

The vicarius or centenarius is at the head of the sub- 
division of the county known as the vicaria or centena. 
He holds placita * and has judicial power. M. Viollet 
suggests that he may also have military powers, for the 
military force appears to assemble by centenae, and 
the centenarius may countenance a man's neglect of 
the host.^ 

ministerio, quod tibi commendavimus bonum oertamen exinde habeas. 
. . . Domnus rex ille nobis oommendavit, ut iustitias vel driotum in 
nostro ministerio facere debeamus. Propterea has litteras ad te dirigi- 
mus, ut in nostro comitatu vel in tuo ministerio . . . iustitias . . . 
sio inquiras et facias, quasi ego ipse, . . . et nullum honorem nee 
nulla blandia propter hoc aooipere non facias .... Taliter exinde 
oertamen age, qualiter gratia nostra vellis habere." Sohm explains 
quasi ego ipse to mean " as impartially as myself," Waitz, " with 
equal powers to mine." Note, however, that the ministerium of the 
vicarius is distinguished from the comitatus, and is probably a smaller 

1 Both are described as " comitis." 826. 310; 808. 137, 3. Both 
are removable by the missi dominici. 805. 124, 12. All men are 
exhorted to appoint good centenarii, 809. 149, 11, and to remove 
bad vicarii. 801/14. 144, 3. Both are to know the law. 801/14. 144, 
4 ; 802/13. 147, 3. The judicial powers of both have the same limits. 
810. 164, 15; 811/13. 176, 4; 801/10. 210, 14; 810. 153, 3. There is, 
in fact, hardly a statement about one that is not found in connection 
with the other also. 

^ Glasson, II. p. 476-9. He admits that the vicaria = the centena, 
and gives no proof of the difference of function between the two officials. 
His arguments are based (1) on the existence of the two names ; (2) on 
the evidence of the Merovingian period. 

3 Waitz, III. p. 398. * 819. 290, 14; 1. 214, 4; 829. II. 19, 5. 

s 80§. 138, 7, See below, Chapter VI. 


His judicial powers are limited ; cases concerning 
land, life or liberty cannot be completed before him.^ 
There is evidence, however, that this theoretical distinc- 
tion was not invariably preserved, and that questions of 
land and liberty were terminated by the vicarius,* whilst 
the capitularies command him to have a gallows.* In 
several of the formulae the vicarius is found sitting with 
the count or apparently in his stead ; * in others he executes 
the count's judgment.^ Probably these, with the Indi- 
culum quoted above, refer rather to an earUer period, when 
the vicarius acted as the count's deputy, somewhat like 
the vicecomes of the later period.^ 

Beyond the difference of competence, it is difficult 
clearly to trace the relations of the placita of the count 
and the centenarius. According to Sohm's theory there 
was no court of the pagus at all, but the court of the 
centena was competent for the whole county. These 
placita majora — " echte Dinge " — ^were held yearly in 
each centena of each county by the count, and the lesser 
placita were as a rule held by the centenarius. This 
theory appears to have been accepted by the majority 
of historians. Waitz ' believes that there was a court of 
the comitatus, but does not clearly indicate the relations 
of this court to that of the centenarius. M. Beauchet* 
has proved the existence of a court for the whole county 
district from the court of the centena, but has not cleared 

1 See passages quoted above. Also 814/40. 315, 3; Cf. 855. II. 
89, 2. A case is terminated at the third of three placita. " Inter 
placitvim vero et placitum sint XV dies, tertium autem quando comes 
placitum habnerit." The preliminary steps might be taken before 
the centenarius; the final judgment can only be given before the 

^ Form. Sal. Merk. 30. ' 801/13. 171, 11. 

* Form. Sal. Bign. 7. ^ porm. Sal. Merk. 29; II. Sen. 1, 3, 6. 

' It is quite possible that the count would appoint the centenarius 
to this position, and that the identity of the two names was thus brought 

' Waitz, IV. p. 369 ff. » Beauchet, p. 131 fi. 


up all the difficulties of the question. One of his most 
forcible arguments against Sohm's theory is based on the 
well-estabUshed custom of holding one of three annual 
placita majora in the week after the Easter octave.^ 
These placita must last three days, and neighbouring 
counts are required not to hold them on the same day,^ 
so that those who own land in two counties may be able 
to attend the placita in both. It is obvious that all 
these conditions could not possibly be fulfilled if the count 
held his placitum majus in each of the four or more 
centenae of his county. 

In one passage the placita of the centenarius are 
apparently identified with the minora placita of the pagus.' 
It is possible perhaps to accept a modified form of Sohm's 
theory, and to hold that the lesser placita, though held in 
all the centenae in turn (or out of turn)* are competent 
for the whole pagus ; that the centenarius usually presides 
at them, so that they are called his placita, but that the 
count can, and sometimes does, preside at them.^ The 
greater placita must be held, as we have seen, at a fixed 
place ; and three only need be held yearly in the pagus. 
This suggestion does not meet all the difficulties of the 
case,* but it must be remembered that the date of Charles's 

1 853. II. 269, 8. Beauchet, p. 139. 

2 864. II. 324, 32. 

" " Constitutio genitoris nostri penitus observanda est, ut . . . in 
anno tria solummodo generalia placita observent .... Ad caetera, 
vero, quae centenarii tenent, non alius venire jubeantur nisi qui aut 
litigat aut iudicat aut testificatur." 819. 290, 14. Re-enacted, 819. 
II. 19, 5. 

* One of the abuses of power on the count's part is the holding of 
placita in the same place time after time. 

6 821. 301, 5; 816. 270, 3; 818. 284, 14. 

* Another possible solution is the existence of two kinds of court for 
the centena as for the pagus. Thus the generalem placitum of I. 214, 4 
could refer to the greater placitum of the centena; whilst in 818. 290, 4 
qiiae centenarii tenent might refer to the first sentence as well as the 
second, the comma after ^lero being omitted. The count and the centen- 
arius alike are exhorted not to hold placita too often. 816. 270, 3; 
829. II. 19, 6. 


organization of the scabini and regulation of the number 
of greater placita is not known, whilst the passage ^ that 
in some ways presents most difficulties is undated. 

Besides the vicarius and the centenarius the count has 
other subordinates. As has been pointed out, he is of 
necessity absent from his county when he leads out the 
military forces, and also if he goes to the palace on any 
errand. A capitulary of 808 authorizes the count to leave 
two men behind when he goes to the host, " propter 
ministerium eius custodiendum." ^ In these M. Beauchet ' 
sees the origin of the vicecomes, who is only mentioned 
once by that name in the capitularies * before the death 
of Lewis, and then in a doubtful passage. There is, 
however, frequent mention of the count's missus,^ 
appointed by him for various purposes, and it seems 
possible that he delegated his power to some person or 
persons in his absence. Waitz, as we have seen, could 
identify this delegate with the vicarius, M. Glasson ® and 
M. Beauchet with the vicecomes. 

Professor Sickel ^ points out that the hmitation by 
Charles of the judicial powers of the centenarius threw 
more work on the shoulders of the count, whilst at the 
same time the growing custom of holding more than 
one county also involved the need of more assistance. 
Thus the custom of appointing a substitute of equal 
powers with the count's arose. The tendency was most 
marked in the west and south, and operated rapidly 
between the reigns of Charles the Great and Charles the 
Bald. The distinction of the vicecomes from the centen- 

^ I. 214, 4. " Centenarii generalem plaeitum frequentius non 
habent propter pauperis; . . . ut hi pauperes qui nullam causam ibidem 
non habeant non cogantur in plaeitum venire nisi bis aut ter in anno." 

2 808. 137, 4. a Beauchet, p. 192. * 789/814 ? 185, 3. 

« 816. 262, 6; 829. II. 9; 781/6. 193, 10; 810. 153, 2; Cf. 779. 
51, 19. 

Glasson II. p. 468 fE. ' Die Vioeoomitat (1907), pp. 3, 5. 


arius is that his power may extend throughout the county, 
whilst that of the centenarius is confined to the centena. 
The centenarius, again, is a pubUc oifioial, whilst the vice- 
comes, as Professor Sickel is careful to show, is appointed 
by the count and is hardly recognized by the capitularies at 
aU.i It is a private matter that concerns the count him- 
self ; it is his right, not his duty, to appoint an assistant ; 
but, once appointed, the vicecomes has the same powers 
as the count in the district, whether a whole county or 
a part of it, over which he is set. It is quite possible 
that the count occasionally made a centenarius his vice- 
gerent in his absence.^ From being a temporary appoint- 
ment the office probably came to be held for life, and at a 
later date it becomes hereditary. 

(e) Popular Control. 

So far the administration has been represented as 
dependent in theory solely on the king ; if not directly, 
at least through the count. The principle of popular 
control, however, is still recognized. The witness of 
the pagenses is mentioned in the Diplomata which 
record discussions of land ownership,^ and the presence 
of the rachiniburgi, boni homines, scabini is also men- 
tioned.* These attend the minora placita ^ in place 
of the larger pubUc, who now find attendance a burden 
and not a privilege. The name scabini is not found in 
the capitularies till 803,® but it occurs much earlier in the 

^ 844. II. 259, 5. The Spaniards of the mark may choose for their 
lord count, vioeoomes or vicarius. 884. II. 374, 9. The count tells 
his vicecomes and his centenarii and vicarii to support the Church. 
864. II. 315, 14. The vicecomes assists the count at the mint. 

^ Professor Sickel quotes an instance for 935. 

3 Muhlbacher, D. K., p. 243 (797). " Inventum est . . . per O. 
episoopum, et alios veraces homines inter patriam habitantes." 
{Patria = pagus.) 

« lUd., p. 273, 201. 

5 809. 148, 5 ; 801/10. 210, 14. They are not needed at the " eohte 
Dinge." Wailz, IV. p. 398. 

8 803. 112; 803, 115, 3. 


Diplomata.^ Probably the name was used popularly as 
an alternative for rachiniburgi about this period,^ but 
by the time of Lewis the name scabini was estabUshed. 
Their business at the placita is to declare the law ; * the 
count's sentence results from that. Thus the judgment 
is called theirs — " postquam scabini eum diiudicaverunt, 
non est hcentia comitis vel vicarii ei vitam concedere." * 
The same fact stands out clearly in the Diplomata. The 
scabini are essential to the count's tribunal; without 
them no judgment can be given.* They are probably 
attached to the county, not to the centena, for they are 
called the count's scabini and are not mentioned in con- 
nection with the centenarius.* They are either appointed 
by the missi dominici or, like the vicarii and centenarii, 
" cum comite et populo " : that is, probably, nominated 
by the count and approved by the pagus at the 

Thus the popular control ^ on the administration of 
justice might appear to be effective. It is to be noted, 
however, that it is the count who is held responsible for 
just judging ; ® that he, no less than are the scabini, is 

1 Miihlbaoher, D. K., p. 189 (781), 201 (782), 243 (797). 
" Note Form. And. 50; Sal. Bign. 7, 27; Sal. Merk. 16, 18, 27, 28; 
Sal. Lind. 19, 21. 

* 809. 148, 1. " In testimonio non suscipiatur neo inter scabinos 
legem iudicandum locum non teneat." Cf. Foim. Sal. Lind. 21. 

* 801/13, 172, 13. 

' 821. 301, 5; Cf. 809. 150, 13; 823. 320, 2, etc. 
« 789/814. 185, 1 ; 826. 310; 803. 112. Note also Form. Sal. Lind. 
19. " Scabini, pagenses scilicet loci illius." Miihlbaoher, D. K., p. 201 

' 809. 151, 22. Scahini is omitted in some MSS. 803. 115, 3. " Ut 
missi nostii . . . soabinios elegant." Apparently they hold office for 
life and are removable for bad conduct. 829. II. 15, 4. 

* The judgment of the convicini in Saxony (797. 71, 4) and in the 
Spanish Mark (816. 262, 2; 844. II. 259, 3) appears to belong to a 
state of things that has not yet been brought into conformity with the 
general governmental system. 

' The references to bribery and to just judgment given above could 
hardly apply to a powerless president. 


expected to know the law.^ His powerful position in 
the county, moreover, makes it probable that he was 
able ia many instances to impose his wiU on the people 
in matters of election, and to modify the judgment of 
the scabini in matters of justice. 

Theodulf's description of a tribunal* minimizes the 
power of the people. In drawing any inference from it, 
however, it must be remembered that its date is prior to 
the reorganization of the missi and of the judicial system, 
which took place about 802 ; and that the description 
applies to the tribunal of the missi dominici, not to the 
count's. The record of the placitum at Istria,' where 
the popular voice is loudly heard, may be set in the 
opposite scale. 

The scabini appear not only in the count's placita, but 
also in those held by the missi dominici.* If the pagus 
is weak in opposing the count, it has a chance of appeal 
to the king directly, or of a complaint at the assembly 
held by the missi. In the system of Charles the Great 
the missi formed an essential link between the central 
and local government. The institution was designed to 
correct the manifest evils of the growing independence 
of the count. But as the count's powers were abused, 
so were those of the missus. Again, the systematic visi- 
tation of the various regions into which the country was 
divided for the purpose was likely to be soon discontinued 
in times of civil disorder.^ Neither the organization itself 
nor the individuals who formed a part of it were fitted to 
fulfil their functions effectively even throughout the reign 

1 802. 147,3; 801. 144,4. 

^ Paraenesis ad judioes (798), lines 425 ff. M. G. H. Poetarum 
Latinorum Medii Aevi, Tom. I. Pars I. p. 504. 

» Waitz, III. p. 488 ff. * 820. 295, 2; 826. 310. 

' The breakdown of the system of Missi Dominici is well described 
by J. W. Thompson, University of Chicago Decennial Publications, 
vol. iv., 1903. 


of Lewis the Pious. Thus the chief instrument of royal 
control fell into disuse, and feudal tendencies were given 
free space to develop along the lines which, as we have 
seen, are clearly traceable under Charles and Lewis. 

2. The Comitatus, 840-887. 

So far the system has been described as it operated. 
Theoretically the system seems to have been httle altered 
in the later period; practically it was being modified 
beyond recovery. One sign of the change is the silence 
of the capitularies with regard to the lesser ofiicials. 
There are not half a dozen references to the vicarius and 
centenarius ^ in all the capitularies for aU the kingdoms 
in the period 840-887. The scabini are barely mentioned. 
The central government is not now concerned, to the same 
degree as at an earher date, that justice be strictly 
enforced and that good officials be appointed. 

As regards the count himself, we see him exercising 
the same functions as before, but his position is altering. 
The tendencies of the earher period are becoming pro- 
nounced. The capitulary of Quierzy,^ as has been shown 
repeatedly, did not make him hereditary ; but it is none 
the less true that it impMes that the descent of the county 
from father to son is the usual practice. Fustel de Cou- 
langes * quotes instances which show that while a count- 
ship might be granted to the son of a count, it was as a 
rule not the one that his father had held. M. Poupardin * 

1 Only one of these has any importance. In 863. II. 274 is given a 
copy of an oath to be taken by a centenarius. " Ego ille adsalituram 
quod scach (open robbery), vocant vel tesceiam (seciet theft) non faciam 
neo consentiam, et si sapuero, non celabo . . . et de Francis hominibus 
in isto comitatu et in meo ministerio commanentibus nullum recelabo, 
quantum recordari potuero, ut per brevem vobis missis dominiois non 
manifestem."- This formula may be compared with the oath taken by 
the twelve senior thegns of III. Atr. 3. 

2 877. II. 358, 9. 

3 Transformations de la royaviS, p. 426. 

* Les grandes families coiritales a I'^poque Carolingienne, B. H, 
vol. 72, pp. 72-95. 


also shows that there were certain great families who 
almost monopolized the office of count before the dynastic 
tie finally gave way to the local tie. 

Under Charles and Lewis the Pious the vassalization 
of the count had been proceeding. The tendencies of 
the earlier years are clearly developing in the period 840- 
887, though still slowly. The count himself is frequently 
a royal vassal, holding a benefice from the king. His 
underlings are becoming his vassals, probably holding 
lands from him ; and they in their turn have vassals 
under them.^ His justice is approximating to that of 
other lords — bishops, abbots and royal vassals.* He, like 
the king's other heges, is exhorted to live of his own and 
not to oppress his neighbours.* He, like other great men, 
may have a private chaplain.* His benefices extend into 
other counties beside his own.^ Although his theoretical 
position is unchanged and he still exacts the oath of fealty 
to the king ^ and maintains order generally, practically 
his position is much modified. 

The change is due as much to the environment as to 
alterations in the office itself. The disorder of the times 
is refiected in the capitularies. The count is commanded 
to support the king in case of a conspiracy ' — ^not the 
collectae or gildoniae of slaves which threatened the peace 
of Charles the Great's rule, but unions of disaffected mag- 
nates. He may have to face local disorder — werra — and 
cope with it on his own responsibihty, only sending to 
the king when it grows beyond his power.^ He is ordered 
to destroy castles erected without royal permission.* 
On the other hand, the development of legitimate spheres 

1 844. II. 259, 5. 

^ 869. II. 337, 2. All of these alike are enjoined to do such justice 
to their vassals as was owed them from of old. 
3 853. II. 76, 6. * 845/50. II. 81, 3. = 864. II. 319, 22. 

« 873. II. 345, 5. ' 865. II. 331, 13. « 877. II. 360, 19. 

» 864. II. 328, 1. 


of influence that rival his own is distinctly traceable. 
The earher capitularies had emphasized the right of the 
count to enter the immunities in pursuit of runaway 
criminals ; these rather lay stress on the privileges of the 
immunity and the count's duty of observing it.^ Again, 
the rights of the vassi dominici are developing at the 
expense of the count's judicial powers. They can claim 
trial before the king, and can refuse to acknowledge the 
count's jurisdiction.^ 

It is possible that the rapidity of this change in the 
national organization has been exaggerated. If the 
capitularies appear to indicate a dissolvent frame of 
government, a growth of local independence, and a 
development of rival powers alongside that of the officials, 
there are also apparently indications that the ordinary 
round of administration proceeded as in the earlier period. 
The regulations as to the mints * indicate a close con- 
nection between the palace and the county. The rules 
as to the holding of placita * are numerous and more 
definite, in some respects, than the earher ones. Yet 
even these provoke the suspicion that the old traditional 
system was breaking down and needed reinforcement. 
The frequent exactions of the general oath of fealty ^ 
may bear the same interpretation. The failure of the 
system of the missi dominici stands evident in one passage 
where these officials are ordered to refer to the count 
whatever they have had no time to accomplish during 

^ The bishop is to report the count's breach of an immunity. 864. 
II. 312, I. 

" See below, Cihapter IV. 

3 864. II. 315, 14; 864. II. 317, 17; 864. II. 320, 23. 

* Several of the passages quoted above belong to this period. 853. 
II. 89, 2 ; sets the interval of a fortnight for the ordinary placita. See 
also 853. II. 269, 8; 845. II. 420, 79; 864. II. 324, 32; 857. II. 286, 2; 
857. II. 294. 

" 853. II. 272, 4; 854. II. 278, 13; 865. II. 330, 2; 873. II. 344, 4; 
873, II. 342. 


their rounds, and report to the king, who will see that the 
counts fulfil their duty.^ The futility of this regulation 
is seen when it is remembered that the chief function of 
the missi was to be a check on the counts, and that they 
were supposed to be the chief if not the only vehicle of 
royal control. 

Speaking broadly, then, it may be said that the chief 
significance of the later period is to be found outside 
the county organization. The changes coming over the 
position of the count and his subordinates are so largely 
attributable to seignorial developments both within and 
without, that a study of these by themselves is necessary. 
The count, although theoretically supreme in judicial, 
administrative and military powers, is in reaUty restricted 
in all these fields by rivals, many of whom can show as 
good royal warrant for their rights and powers as he can. 
By the side of the count are the royal vassal and the 
immunist ; the holders of royal benefices and of royal 
privileges have an authority almost equal to that of the 
holder of royal office. 

3. The Shire to 871. 

The extreme scantiness of the sources for early English 
institutional history makes it difficult not to overestimate 
the importance both of allusions and of omissions in the 
documents that remain. The most that can be done 
is to state the evidence and attempt to construct a work- 
ing hypothesis. Such an attempt will be made in the 
case of the kingdoms of Kent, Mercia and Wessex in the 
seventh and eighth centuries, as it is to the codes of 
.^thelberht, Offa and Ine that Alfred's introduction 

(a) Kent. 

In the Kentish laws the predominance of the ktug 
is traceable throughout. His offices and his privileges 
1 865. II. 331, 12. 


are constantly mentioned,^ and the laws are promul- 
gated by his sole authority ^ in the case of ^Ethelberht 
and Hlothhaere ; and when in Wihtrsed's laws * refer- 
ence is made to the co-operation of others, it is no 
official nobility, such as Ine's ealdormen, which gives 
counsel and consent, but merely eadigan. 

The king's wic gerefa, who witnesses the sale of cattle,* 
and may be required to act as oath helper in cases 
of vouching to warranty in the king's haU,^ appears 
to have no independent jurisdiction. The gerefa of 
Wihtrsed's laws seems to be part steward, part judge, 
exercising a purely domestic jurisdiction.* 

Li the laws of Hlothhaere and Eadric, mention is made 
of deman who are present at a methel or thing, and pre- 
scribe right to men.' It is quite possible that these are 
the dooms-men who declare the law, and thus have 
much in common with the Merovingian rachiniburgi.^ 

Whilst the charters attributed to jiEthelberht are 
" impudent forgeries," ' some information as to official 
ranks may be obtained from the charters of Eadberht 
(738-765). These are witnessed by comites and praefecti 
and by one princeps. Comes may be taken as a translation 
of gesith, and thus corresponds with the mention of the 
gesithcund man in Wihtrsed's laws. Praefectus, which is 
often translated gerefa, may weU bear that meaning here.^" 

1 Abt. 5, 7, 8. HI. 7, 16. 

' " These are the dooms that Kling iEthelberht established." "These 
are the dooms that Hlothhaere and Eadric, kings of Kent, established." 

' Wi. prol. Wi. 5, however, refers to the gemot at which apparently 
the laws were framed. The signatures of the few genuine charters of 
Wihtrsed afford no help in determining the composition of such a 

• HI. 16. » HI. 7. « Wi. 22. ' HI. 8. 

' Dema is found at a later period with the meaning of judge or 
president of a tribunal. See III. Eg. 3 ; Judex ; Alfred's Bede. 

» Kemble, II. p. 132. 

^" B. 194 (765) is signed by an Ecgbald who is " comes atque 


In the Kentish laws, then, there is no mention of any 
territorial division, large or smaU,^ to guide us in estimat- 
ing the importance of the assemblies at which justice 
is done and law declared.^ 

The king's gerefa who witnesses sales may preside at 
such assemblies, though the fact is nowhere stated. 
There is no sign of any nobility but one based on birth. 

(6) Mercia. 

For Mercia the evidence is even slighter than it is 
for Kent, as Offa's laws are not extant in an inde- 
pendent form. His charters, however, are numerous, 
and from these a hierarchy may be deduced. The 
charters are signed by reguU, subreguli, duces, praefecti, 
comites, ministri and one patricius. The regulus or 
svhregulus who signs, is, as a rule, the lord of the Hwiccii ; 
he grants charters himself, which are confirmed by Offa. 
A comparison of the names of the witnesses makes it 
clear that dux and princeps are equivalent titles. Of 
thirty-two signatories who bear one or the other title, 
twelve are called by either indifferently. Of the seven 
praefecti, three are also called principes. The patricius 
is also caUed dux and princeps. Only four ministri are 
mentioned. If minister is to be translated thegn, and 
comes gesith, there can be little doubt that the dux 
or princeps is the ealdorman. Mr. Chadwick ' brings 
evidence to prove this. He is inclined to identify the 
praefectus, whose position is more doubtful, with the 
ealdorman also.* 

No territorial description is annexed except in the case 

^ The king's tun and the wic are the only units mentioned. 

'■ We may note, however, that the methel has its frith (Abt. 1), in 
this resembling the later folkmoot. 

' Chadwick, pp. 329 fE. The Chronicle for 825 mentions five ealdormeri 
of Mercia. 

* The miles of Offa's earlier charters probably is the comes or 


of the dux Suthsaxonum, Oswald.^ A diploma of 825 
refers to the swangerefan, who have care of the woodlands, 
but no general administrative organization can be inferred 
from this.^ 

Thus, whilst the existence of a body of ealdormen 
under Offa is weU attested, there is no evidence of any 
official duties or any special districts assigned to them. 
The position, however, of the ruler of the Hwiccii suggests 
an explanation for their origin. 

(c) Wessex. 

In the laws of Ine there are distinct traces of an 
official organization. The ealdormen who help to frame 
the laws ^ hold shires * or offices, which they may 
forfeit at the king's wiU for neglect of duty. Their 
official position is not less evident than their social 
distinction.* Again, the king's gerefa has duties con- 
nected with poUce organization ; he receives the fine paid 
by those who have allowed a captured thief to escape.® 
This may stiU, however, be no more than the duty of 
a steward caring for his master's fiscal interests. 

No particular district is mentioned in connection with 
the king's gerefa, but the shire to which the ealdorman 
appears to be attached ' has evidently a territorial 
significance.® It appears to be a definite district over 
which the king has set the ealdorman. Whether the 
name attaches to his district alone is not certain ; scirman 
in Ine 8 ® may mean " ealdorman," or merely " official," 
with scir used in the original sense of " office." The 
shireman is, however, a judge before whom right is 
claimed; there is an official judicial system. 

1 B. 208. 2 B_ 386. 3 i^e,, prol. 

* Ine, 36. « Ine, 6, 2, 3. » Ine, 73. 

' Ine, 36, 1. " If he be an ealdorman let him lose his shire." 

' Ine, 39. " If any man leave his lord without permission, or steal 
himself away into another shire." 

' " If any man claim his right before a scirman or any other judge " 


Of the existence of the territorial shire the earliest 
evidence is probably that of the Chronicle, which mentions 
the district of Hampshire in 755, and the men of Wilt- 
shire in 800. Here, again, the connection of the ealdor- 
man with the shire is to be noted.^ From 845 onwards 
there is ample evidence for the shire system in the 

The king's gerefa also is mentioned in the Chronicle. 
When the ships of the Northmen appeared in 787 the 
king's gerefa attempted to make them come to the 
king's tun at Dorchester, taking them for merchants. 
From this, and from other indications, Mr. Chadwick 
would deduce the organization of local government by 
king's tuns, each having a jurisdiction extending some 
distance around it.' There is, at least, no reason to 
associate the gerefa with the ealdorman's shire. 

In a charter of 824 * Egbert books land to his gerefa — 
" praefecto meo " — and the deed is witnessed by five 
other praefecti. This appears to establish the translation 
praefectus for gerefa for Wessex at this period. Of the 
various signatories of Egbert's charters eighteen are 
duces, four of these being praefecti first ; ten are praefecti ; 
eighteen are ministri. Under ^Ethelwulf nineteen duA:es 
sign, only a few of whom bear the same names as 
Egbert's du^es ; and besides nineteen ministri, there are 
ten milites. 

The early West Saxon administration thus appears 
to include a definite territorial organization, with which 
special officials are connected. The duties of the gerefa 
are, perhaps, more clearly indicated than in the other 
kingdoms ; but it is in the shire system that the essential 
difference of Wessex from the other kingdoms appears 

1 " The ealdonnan, Weohstan, met him with the Wiltshire men." 

2 See under years 845, 851, 860, etc. 

8 Chadwick, pp. 215 ff. * B. 377. 


to lie. If its origin is to be traced in the formation of 
separate territories to endow the members of the royal 
family,^ whilst the ealdormen of Mercia represent the 
former rulers of conquered kingdoms, this may to some 
extent explain the eventual prevalence of the shire 
system. The ealdormanries of East and West Kent, 
however, appear to be derived from a former double 

There is no mention of any gemot or assembly at which 
the shireman or any other judge presides. The existence 
of such can only be conjectured by analogy or in the 
hght of later developments. 

4. The Shire, 871-925. 

The contrast between the English and FranMsh systems 
of administration is immediately evident when a com- 
parison is attempted. Whilst the count, as has been 
said, is the backbone of the system in Prancia, the 
ealdorman is of no such essential importance in Wessex. 
No orderly hierarchy of officials can be constructed 
from the data we possess. On the other hand, the 
shire forms a definite unit in relation to which the 
officials may be studied. In describing the local govern- 
ment of Wessex under Alfred and Edward, and in 
comparing it with that of the Caroliagian system, the 
districts wiU first be discussed ; next, the officials and their 
relations to each other ; and, lastly, their relation to the 
central government. 

(a) The District. 

The shire, so briefly mentioned in Ine's laws, appears 
in full working order for military purposes in the 
Chronicle of the ninth and tenth centuries.^ The struggle 

1 Chadwiok, pp. 284 ff. 

* See below, Chapter VI. In the Chronicle 755-891 all the shires 
south of the Thames are mentioned; 756 Hampshire, 800 Wiltshire, 
837 Dorset, 851 Devonshire, 860 Berkshire, 878 Somersetshire, 891 


with the Northmen is carried on in a series of local 
efforts, each shire in turn coming out against them 
under its ealdorman. On the other hand, there is but 
one reference to the shire in Alfred's laws,^ and none 
in those of Edward. The laws of Ine, however, form an 
integral part of Alfred's code, and the small number of 
references is to some extent explained by this. 

These passages, however, make several facts clear. 
The division into shires, as into pagi, is comprehensive ; 
every man must be in one such district. For leaving 
a shire a man must have the witness of its ealdorman, 
and if such leave is not obtained a fine is due in each of 
the two shires in question. Thus the shire, like the pagus, 
is a financial and pohtical unit as well as a mihtary 

It is also a judicial unit. The ealdorman is found 
presiding over a gemot ^ which, hke the Kentish methel, 
has its own peace. This is in aU probabihty the later 
shiremoot, which in some respects answers to the placitum 
of the comitatus in Francia. 

At the outset the analogy thus appears close. The 
West Saxon shire corresponds in many ways to the 
Frankish pagus. The question of origin is the most 
doubtful. As parts of a working system both owe their 
form to the central government, but, apart from other 
evidence, the two names for the Frankish district indicate 
a popular as well as a royal origin,* whilst the word shire, 
with its original meaning of office, points to imposition 
of a system from above. It is in connection with the 
shire that there appears to be most evidence for dehberate 
innovation on the part of the crown.* Yet, as we have 

1 Af. 37; 37,1. 

2 Af. 38 ; 38, 1. 

' This is also suggested by the frequent use of patria for pagus. 
* Cf. Mr. Chadwick's theory referred to above. 


seen, traces of the system are found as early as Ine's 
reign, and its development is explicable without any 
theory of foreign influence. 

The theory has been advanced that " the shire of the 
seventh century is the hundred of the tenth." ^ The 
author of this suggestion brings forward numerous 
proofs of the existence, during the eighth and ninth 
centuries, of a district smaller than the later shire; 
described in the charters as regio ; and known in English, 
so he believes, as the shire. It is, perhaps, of no very 
great importance whether these districts bore the EngHsh 
name of shire; it is possible that its use had not yet 
become specialized. No traces, however, of any resem- 
blance to the later shire ^ are to be found in these few 
references to the regio. When it is considered that the 
regiones cannot be identified with the hundreds,^ as soon 
as their limits are traceable, even in Kent, from which 
Mr. Adams drew most of his examples, it will be seen 
that his formula has Mttle value. It may be noted that 
it is in Kent that Mr. Chadwick finds the clearest traces 
of the district smaller than the shire, that he believes 
was organized round the king's tun there.* 

The existence of districts for taxation purposes is 
suggested by Mr. Corbett,^ and by him traced back to 
a very early date and connected with the semi-mythical 
Bretwealda-ship. The evidence afforded by the Tribal 
Hidage, however, is too isolated and problematic to 
contribute much to the understanding of the adminis- 
trative system in Wessex. A reference to a lesser 
district than the shire has, however, been traced in the 

^ Adams, A. S. Law, p. 19. 

^ The only official mentioned in connection with the regio is the 
gerefa, not the ealdorman. 

3 Stevenson, H. H. B. (1905), p. 330. 

* Chadwick, pp. 249 ff. 

5 Trans. B. Hist. Soc. XIV. pp. 187 ff. (1900). 


laws of Alfred himself. Dr. Liebermann ^ suggests that 
the boldgetad of Alfred 37 ^ is the unit which later came 
to be known as the hundred. He supports his theory 
by iEIfric's gloss — getalu for centurias.^ Unsupported as 
the suggestion is by any other passage in the laws, it 
must stand as a conjecture only, but it is of too much 
interest to be ignored. 

Whatever may be thought of these suggestions, the 
contrast between the ambiguous and hypothetical regio, 
hundred hides, or boldgetad of Wessex and the clear-cut 
centena or vicar ia of Francia is striking. 

(6) The Officials. 

From the first appearance of the shire it is associated 
with the ealdorman. The ealdorman, like the count, is 
dependent on the king for his position.* His social 
dignity is well marked, no less than his official character." 
He presides, as we have seen, at the folkmoot,* where 
he receives the wiie due to the king,' and he has the power 

^ Gesetze der Angelsachsen, Worterbuoh. Deutsche Literaiurzeitung 
(1905), 12, p. 736 (reviewing Chadwick). 

^ "If a man from one boldgetael wish to seek a lord in another 
boldgeiael, let him do it with the witness of that ealdorman whom he 
before followed in his shire." The new boldgetael apparently lies in 
a different shire. 

' Further evidence in favour of Dr. Liebermann's theory is afforded 
by the Alfredian version of Gregory's dialogues, where boldgetael appears 
three times as a translation of proidncia. In one instance scir is an 
alternative rendering. Grein, Angel-SSchische Prosa, Vol. V. pp. 45, 
185, 229. Professor Vinogradofi (Growth of the Manor, p. 250) accepts 
the theory, which accords well with Bede's reckoning by households. 
Professor Rietschel (Zeitachrift der Savigny-Stiftung (1907), p. 412, 
Gferm. Abt.) adds the suggestion that geiael has a definite numerical 
significance and that bold — hide. On the other hand, Frh. v. Sohwerin 
(Zeitachrift der Savigny-Stiftung (1908), p. 290. Germ. Abt.) considers 
that the word means a group of holdings subject to one lord. 

* Ine, 36, 1. 

° The ealdorman's burgbryce is 80s. (Ine, 45) or 20s. (Af. 40), and 
his flhtvdie 60s. (Ine, 6, 2) or 100s. (Af. 15). In each case he is equalled 
with the bishop. The penalty for breaking his borh is also equal to 
the bishop's (Af. 3). The will of the ealdorman Alfred refers to his 
double wer (B. 668). 

• Af. 38, 1. ' Af. 37, 1. 


to pervert justice.^ He has the right to give the king 
counsel,^ Uke the count, and like him has important 
military duties. His position is as yet strictly official, 
but tends, like the count's, to become hereditary. 

The recompense that the ealdorman receives may be 
compared with that of the count. There are indications 
that as the count was in many cases paid Avith a benefice 
or with comitatus pertinentia, so there were lands specially 
attached to the ealdormanship.^ From the passage in 
Alfred's law, which has been already quoted more than 
once, it appears that the ealdorman had some pecuniary 
interest in the king's wite, since half was to be paid in 
each shire.* Not tiU the twelfth century is it expressly 
declared that the earl has the third penny ^ of forfeiture in 
the shire, but the right recurs frequently in Domesday, 
and has evidently been long transferable.* Thus it does 

1 Ine, prol. 

* Ine, prol. The ealdorman is here coupled with the other witan. 
The signatures to Alfred's charters indicate at once the position of 
the ealdorman at the national council, and the number of ealdormen 
at a given time. In the reign of Alfred (Mr. Chadwick's figures are 
given) twenty-three comites sign ; under Edward nineteen, five being the 
same as Alfred's. It thus appears probable that there was an ealdorman 
to each shire in Alfred's reign, Kent having two. There are signs of 
a falling off in numbers under Edward, which Mr. Chadwick attributes 
to a temporary breakdown of the shire system. 

' Kemble, II. p. 140, points out that the " ealdormonnes land " was 
a permanent landmark, frequently mentioned in the charter bound- 
aries. I. As. prol. ' may refer to this official land in exhorting the 
ealdorman to pay the tithe first from his own land. Domesday refers 
to mansiones de comitaiu, a,nd the Instituta Cnuti (1103-1120) to ccmi- 
tales villos qui pertinent ad comitatum eius (In. Cn. III. 55). 

* Af. 37, 1. 

° E. Cf. 27, 2. " Comes comitatus qui tertium denarium habet de 
f oris f aoturis." In. Cn. III. 55. " Tertius denarius in villis ubi mercatum 
oonveniunt et in castigatione latronum." Dial. deScaoo. 1. 17. "Comes 
est qui tertiam portionem eorum quae de placitis proveniunt in quolibet 
comitatu percipit . . . sed hii tautum . . . quibus regum munificentia 
. . . deoernit. 

* The third penny of the shire is the earl's in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, 
Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The third penny of various boroughs 
is the earl's. The third penny of the shire occasionally (Dorset, Dd. 1. 75. 
Warwickshire, Dd. 1.238), and more frequently of a hundred or hundreds 


not seem an improbable supposition that from a very 
early date the ealdorman, and possibly other royal 
officials, had a third part of the judicial fines paid to 
the king. We have noticed traces of a similar custom 
in Francia. In both countries, however, the very fact 
that there are so few specific notices of the right suggests 
extreme antiquity of custom, and it is far more probable 
that it has a common origin in the two countries than 
that one borrowed from the other. 

The ealdorman, again, appears to have the right of 
exacting services and dues. Reference is frequently made 
in the charters to pastus principum ^ as one of the burdens 
from which the land is freed. This can only mean the 
ealdorman's feorm ; the duty of giving him lodging and 
sustenance, which in Francia is known as mansionaticus. 
Other services are generally referred to in one charter ^ 
in such a manner as to suggest that the ealdorman had 
power to exact them, whether for his own ends or for 
the king. 

The ealdorman's judicial duties are but slightly out- 
lined as compared with those of the count. Beyond the 
fact that he has a position of dignity in the folkmoot and 
that he can exact wite for himself and for the king, there 
is scarcely any account of his judicial activity. Even 
at a later date his duties are the general ones of keeping 
peace and enforcing law,* no closer definition being 
given. The most detailed instance of his enforcement 
of order in Alfred's laws * is connected rather with his 
mihtary than with his judicial powers. The man who 

(Dd. I. 38b, 86b, 87b, 101, II. 294b) is annexed to a manor, often 
royal, sometimes comital. For the transferable nature of the right, 
note I. 280b. " Horum omnium nemo habere potuit terciam denarium 
comitis nisi eius concessu et hoc quamdiu viceret." 

1 B. 416, 443, 450, 454, 488, etc. 

^ B. 551. " ^ghwelces jjinges to freon ge wi* oyning, ge wiis ealdor- 
man ge wis gerefan ieghweloes Jjeodomes lytles o«8e mioles." 

3 II. Atr. 6. * Af. 42, 3. 


cannot overcome his home-sitting foe is to ride to the 
ealdorman for help, and if the ealdorman fail him, to 
the king. The help given by the ealdorman would 
presumably take the form of armed assistance with some 
of the forces of the shire. Under Edgar we find that it 
ig the ealdorman 's duty to set forth the law in the shire- 
moot.^ It was also the duty of the count to know and 
enforce the law, as the capitularies declare repeatedly. 
The count is also exhorted to appoint good subordinates 
or iuniores ; and similarly the ealdorman has a gingra,^ 
whom he appoints himself.* Of the position of this 
gingra we have practically no information, beyond the 
fact that his dignity is equal to that of a priest, unless 
he is to be identified with the grere/a.* 

There are more traces of judicial activity on the part 
of the gerefa than on the part of the ealdorman. The 
gerefa, like the ealdorman, assists at legislation,^ takes 
the wedd, or pledge of loyalty from his own shire * — a 
similar duty to that entrusted to the missi dominici in 
Francia. He pursues thieves' and has the custody of 
offenders during their imprisonment in the king's tun.^ 
He exacts the bot,^ which may be paid only in his presence," 
and the wite on pain of paying the king's oferhyrnesae 
himself .^^ He is commanded to deem just dooms, to set 
a fixed term for cases and to declare folkright truly,^^ 
and he is forbidden to take bribes for the perversion of 
justice.^' He has a limited manung or jurisdictional 
district.^* He holds a gemot,^^ whereas the ealdorman is 

1 III. Eg. 5. 2 Af. 38, 2 » Judex, 8 (980-1050). 

* See below, p. 51. " VI. As. prol. « VI. As. 10. 

' VI. As. 8. 8 Af. 1, 3. » II. Ew. 2. 

»» I. Atr. 1, 14 (980-1013). 

" V. As. 1, 2; of. II. As. 26. " I. Ew. prol. I. Ew. 2. 11. Ew. 8. 
IS V. As. 1, 3. 

'* V. As. 1, 5. VI. As. 8, 2. In VI. As. 8, 4 manung is used for the 
men of the distriet. 
" II. Ew. 8. 


only described as being present at one. He is a public 
official before whom debts are declared ^ and sales take 
place.^ Merchants from a distance must make known 
to the king's gerefa at the folkmoot the men whom they 
bring with them, as often as new ones arrive.* The 
gerefa also controls the commendation of men to their 

The gerefa holds a gemot every four weeks. ^ This, as 
has been frequently pointed out, is the interval at which 
the hundred court is later held. In only two passages 
to which reference has been made is the gerefa connected 
with the shire,® and these occur in the laws of ^thelstan. 
There appears no obstacle to the theory that the district 
over which the gerefa of this period presides is one smaller 
than the shire. The word gerefa in itself impUes no 
special district; it is found in connection with the port 
and the tun and the wic, and only much later with the 
shire. It seems quite possible that the gerefa of Alfred 
and Edward administered the district that became 
known as the hundred. 

It might seem that the gerefa is therefore to be paralleled 
with the centenarius. There is, however, one essential 
difference, a difference that is characteristic of the whole 
governmental system of the two countries. Whilst the 
centenarius is entirely dependent on the count — ^for the 
relic of popular election is Uttle more than a form — 
the gerefa is pre-eminently the king's gerefa. Whilst 

1 Af. 22. " II. As. 10. ' Af. 34. 

* V. As. 1, 2. In this instance the gerefa appears to be stepping 
into the shoes of the ealdorman. Af. 37. 

« II. Ew. 8. 

" VI. As. 10. In VI. As. 8, 4, whilst the shire is described as the 
gerefa's, his manung is apparently distinct from it, and reference is also 
made to the gerefscipas of the two gerefan. The relation of the gerefa 
to the shire at this date is not clear from this passage (see below). Scir 
is undoubtedly used in the territorial sense, for when the forfeiture 
of office is mentioned, the word folgoS is employed. (VI. As. H.) 


the centenarius and vicarius are always " comitis 
iuniores," we hear nowhere of the " ealdorman's gerefa." 
Mr. Chadwick has brought forward good evidence for 
the derivation of the office from a stewardship over the 
royal estates/ and the use of the name in various other 
connections supports the theory. Whatever his origin, 
however, the dependence of the gerefa on the king is 
unmistakable. He is plainly placed in his oflBce to 
defend the royal interests.^ He is most frequently' 
referred to as " the king's gerefa.' He is liable to lose 
his office through inefficiency.* " If any of you is 
neglectful and wiU not obey me, and wUl not take that 
wedd of those below him . . . then be that gerefa without 
his office and without my friendship, and let him pay me 
120 shillings." 

It appears, also, that the jurisdiction of the gerefa is 
superior to that of the centenarius, for he can do justice 
in questions of land, whether it be bookland or folkland,^ 
whilst the centenarius, as we have seen, has no juris- 
diction over cases of land, life or liberty. Such cases 
were later heard in the hundred, a fact which affords 
another reason for connecting the gerefa with the hundred. 

There seems, therefore, no ground for identifying the 
ealdorman's gingra with the gerefa of Alfred's laws. Yet 
it is possible that the ealdorman, like the count, may 
have come to appoint subordinates. It has been sug- 

^ Chadwick, pp. 228 ff. There are several passages in the laws in 
which the name still bears this meaning. E. g. IV. Eg. 13, 1. In 
I. As. prol. the gerefan first mentioned are ordered to pay the tithe 
from the king's lands, and would therefore appear to be royal 
stewards; later in the passage the king's gerefan, coupled with his 
ealdormen, are ordered to pay tithe from their own lauds, and would 
seem to be public officials. But the offices may well have been 

2 I. Atr. 1, 14. The gerefa of B. 591 confiscates land which is forfeit 
to the king. 

3 Ine. 73. Af. 1, 3. Af. 22. I. As. Prol. II. As. 25, etc. 
« VI. As. II. 11. As. 25. 6 I. Ew. 2. 


gested, and seems very probable, that the gingran of 
" judex " and the iuniores of the charters were a class 
of subordmates of the ealdorman, of whom the scir gerefa 
was one.^ The breakdown of the shire system, if it may 
be so called, took the form of an aggregation of several 
shires in the hands of one ealdorman. Mr. Chadwick ^ 
shows that not more than six " comites " are to be traced 
contemporaneously as witnessing charters under iEthel- 
stan. Thus it is possible that as the ealdormanries 
develop it becomes customary for the ealdorman to 
appoint a gerefa as his substitute in the shire, at first, 
it may be, temporarily, but later as a permanency. 
We have already noted two passages ' in ^Ethelstan's 
laws where the gerefa is mentioned in connection with 
the shire, as well as with his own gerefscype or manung, 
and another * where he appears to be exercising a function 
that formerly belonged to the ealdorman. If this is the 
case there is a somewhat close analogy to the Prankish 
vicecomitatus.^ The comes, as we have seen, frequently 
appoints his vicarius or centenarius to the office of vice- 
comes, and the necessity for a substitute often arises 
from the fact that the count holds several comitatus. 

This theory * accounts for the rise of the scirgerefa,'' and 
also perhaps for some of his later powers and priAoleges, 
such as the control of the miUtary powers of the shire.* 
As the vicecomes was in all probability rewarded with 

1 Zinkeisen, Pol. Sci. Quarterly (1895), p. 139. 

2 Chadwick, p. 197. 

= VI. As. 8, 4. VI. As. 10. * V. As. 1, 2. 

' The gingra of Af. 38, 2 may be a temporary substitute parallel 
perhaps to the comitis missus of the capitularies. 

6 Chadwick, p. 231. 

' Note the continued existence of the title gerefa. K. 840 : " nan 
soyrgerefa o*Se motgerefa Sar habban aeni socne oStSe gemot." In 
Latin ; " nullus vicecomes vel prepositus." The last word appears to 
mean gerefa of a hundred. The charter belongs to the Confessor's 

8 Dd. I. 179. 
£ 2 


land, so the later scirgerefa appears to have "reveland " ^ 
as an appendage to his office. These developments, 
however, probably belong to a later period. 

The social position of the ealdorman is throughout 
superior to that of the gerefa. He is a great local land- 
owner, in this resembling the count, and is concerned in 
many of the transactions recorded in the landbooks. 
Unlike the gerefa, he has a special wer and other privileges 
at law. His miUtary duties are doubtless part cause and 
part effect of this superiority. The count, in common 
with other royal Frankish officials, has a threefold wer. 
Socially however, the position of the ealdorman seems 
almost more analogous to that of the dukes than to that 
of the counts of Francia, especially when the later great 
ealdormanries develop.* 

Grenerally speaking, the contrast between the institu- 
tions of the two countries is one between elaboration and 
simpUcity. The Frankish system is at once more com- 
plicated and more closely described. The judicial com- 
petence of the various courts is defined, it not so as to 
preclude discussion, at least with great fulness, as com- 
pared with that of the English gemots, whose relations 
only begin to be discernible under Edgar. The duties 
and positions of the various subordinates of the counts 
are indicated, and the co-operation of the people in the 
judgment of the courts, by means of the scabini and 

1 Dd. I. 179b ; 1. 69 ; I. 57b ; I. 181. Cf . B. 412, in which the gerefa 
Abba refers to the land which he has received from his lords 833. 
Compare also the connection of the sheriff with the mint to that of the 
comes and vioecomes. Dd. I. 252. 

* Perhaps the nearest parallel to the relation of the ealdorman and 
the scirgerefa is that of Herzog and Pfalzgraf under the Saxon and 
Salian emperors. The Pfalzgraf was in a sense a successor of the 
missus dominicus. He was appointed by the emperor to care for his 
interests. There was a Pfalzgraf to each duke, but his special functions 
are not easily definable. He tended to lose his individual character- 
istics, and become like any other count. Richter, Annalen, Vol. III. 
p. 734. 


otherwise, is traceable. The doubtful nature of the 
relation in which the few West Saxon officials stand to 
each other has been indicated ; of the popular judgment 
there is as yet no sign in the EngHsh laws. 

(c) Relations of the Officials to the Central Government. 
The most striking difference between the official organiza- 
tion of the Frankish and West Saxon governments is to 
be found in the missi dominici of the Carolingians. This 
is due in great part to the difference in size of the two 
states. The occasion for such envoys would scarcely 
arise in the West Saxon kingdom, where a few days' 
journey would bring the king in touch with almost any 
part of his realm. The comprehensive control exercised 
by the missi dominici under Charles and Lewis has no 
corresponding feature in England. The passage in Asser 
from which the existence of such a system has been 
deduced ^ gives very httle ground for such an interpreta- 
tion.^ It more probably describes the arbitration of the 
king on some case submitted to him ia consequence of 
the law's delays, and it may be compared to the case 
recorded in one of the charters of Edward's reign. Here 
Alfred eventually sends back the case to the popular 
courts.^ Royal control is so close, in fact, that there is 
no place for a system of missi dominici. 

In both countries the officials are directly and ostensibly 
dependent on the king. In both countries local inde- 
pendence tends to grow out of the local omnipotence of 
the royal official ; but in England the ealdorman's growth 
of power appears to foUow on the temporary failure of 

^ This theory is found in Kemble, PauU, Stubbs, Pollock and 

^ Asser, o. 106. " Si aliquam in illis judiciis iniquitatem intelligere 
posset . . . illos ipsos iudices, aut per se ipsam, aui per alios suoe fdelea 
quos libet interrogabat, quare tarn nequiter judicassent. . . . Quibus 
auditis verbis . . . comites et prepositi ad aequitatis discendae 
studium totis viribus se vertere nitebantur." 

» B, 591. 


the shire system, for the great lords of iEtheked's reign 
are rulers of many shires, not of one ; whilst in Francia 
it is the institution of the missi that breaks down, and it 
is the consequent loosening of royal control, with other 
causes, that brings about the independence of the counts. 

There are traces of appeal to the tribunal of the palace 
in Francia which cannot be directly paralleled in EngMsh 
documents. M. Beauchet^ has shown that there is 
appeal from wrong judgment, as weU as appeal for delay 
of judgment, whilst English law only knows the last type, 
which is, strictly speaking, not appeal at all.^ Besides a 
number of cases on which the Witan decide ' there are a 
few instances hke that referred to above,* in which the 
royal arbitration is sought.^ If the system is not so 
elaborate as in Francia, there is yet proof of an effective 
royal control in things judicial as well as administrative. 

5. The Shire, 925-1034. 

(a) The Ealdorman. 

The change in the ealdorman's position is among 
the most striking and best-established facts of this 
period. The evidence of the charters bears out that 
of the Chronicle. By ^thelstan's reign, as has been 
said, there are apparently only six ealdormen, and 
the number remains low during the following reigns. 
Mr. Robertson ^ has shown that there grew up a great 

1 Beauohet, p. 320. 

^ Stevenson, Asser, p. 342. Adams, A. 8. Law, pp. 24. fF. 

* See cases quoted in A. S. Law, pp. 314-37. 
< B. 591. K. 693. 

^ In several well-known passages men are forbidden to seek justice 
from the king till they have failed to obtain it in the ordinary courts. 
II. As. 3. III. Eg. 2. II. Cn. 17. Similar passages are to be found 
in the capitularies. 754/5. 32, 7. 829. II. 17, 14. Immediate appeal 
lay to the missi, both for delay of justice and for wrong judgment, and 
appeal to the king was only allowed if the missi failed to do justice. 
The capitularies are not altogether consistent on this point. Beauohet, 
pp. 329 ff. 

• E. W. Robertson, Historical Essays (1872), pp. 177 ff. 


clan of ealdormen, related amongst each other and 
connected with the royal family, and that shire was added 
to shire to form their great provinces. Even at this time 
the ealdormanship is hardly hereditary ; ^ as with the 
Frankish countships, members of the same family hold 
office in different parts of the country, though the con- 
nection of the land and the family tends to strengthen. 
The ealdorman's position is thus considerably modified, 
but there are signs that the shire system is still operative 
for judicial purposes. 

(6) The Shiremoot. 

The first mention of the shiremoot by name occurs 
in III. Edgar, 5, 1. In this well-known passage it is 
commanded that the hundredgemot be held as before 
fixed, and the burhgemot thrice a year, and the scirgemot 
twice a year. From the mention of the ealdorman's 
presence it seems probable that the shiremoot is to 
be identified with the folkmoot of Alfred's and ^Ethel- 
stan's laws whenever it is mentioned in connection with 
an ealdorman. The compiler of the Leges Henrici 
identifies the gemot of II. As. 20 with the shiremoot ; * 
and from this passage we gather that seven days' notice of 
each meeting must be given, and that a fine is exacted 
for repeated failure to attend the gemot.* The bishop 
and the ealdorman are present at the shiremoot and declare 
God's law and secular law.* 

From the mention of the fine for non-attendance, as 
well as from the provision of jEthelstan's and Edgar's 
laws for enforcing attendance,^ it might be inferred that 
suit to the shire court was compulsory on aU. Indica- 
tions, however, have been found that attendance was not 
compulsory at every meeting alike. After the Conquest 

1 Chadwick, pp. 292 ff. ° Hn. 51. 

3 II. As. 20. 20, 1. Cf. III. Eg. 7. and Dd. I. 269b. Ten shillings 

* III. Eg. 5, 2. ' in. Eg. 7, re-enacted II. Cn. 5. 


the county court is found sitting twice a year in some 
records, twelve times a year in others ; and for a long time 
two half-yearly meetings of the county court are dis-^ 
tinguished as " the great counties " from the ordinary 
monthly meetings.^ The necessity for meeting oftener 
than twice a year would lie, as in Francia, in the amount 
of routine procedure that was involved in carrying 
through any case. It is not probable, nor do the sources 
appear to indicate, that procedure was less comphcated 
at an earlier date than it was at those for which we have 
information.^ It is very Ukely, then, that whilst there 
were two great meetings of the shiremoot every year, at 
which all men of the shire had to be present, there were 
also other meetings in between for necessary judicial 
business, to which those only need come who had a case 
to pursue or who were summoned by the presiding official. 
If this were so, the analogy to the placitum majus and 
placitum minus of the comitatus would be obvious. It is 
impossible to speak with certainty for lack of material, 
but it is quite conceivable that Edgar's regulation is 
parallel to that lost capitulary of Charles the Great,* 
in which he declares that aU men should come to three 
placita in the year, and to others when they are summoned. 
There is, however, so far as can be seen, no transference 
of the duty of attendance to a small body of men like 
the Frankish scabini. It is not tiU a later date that 
this duty begins to be specialized, and then it appears 
to be real, not a personal burden.* 

We are thus brought to the question of popular control. 

1 P. and M. I. p. 526. 

' On the other hand, there was probably far less business in the 
shiremoot before the Conquest, the hundred moot disposing of the 
ordinary judicial work. 

' Referred to in 801/10. 210, 14. " Ilia tria plaoita quae institnta 

* P. and M. pp. 527 ff. But note the jvdices el juratores of Yorkshire. 
Pipe Roll H. I. 31. Cf. Vinogradoff, Orowth of the Manor, pp. 197 ff. 


The theory of it, as we have seen,^ was present in the 
Carolingian period, but the extent to which it proved 
a real check on official power is very dubious.* The 
capitularies as a whole certainly appear to indicate the 
supreme power of the count at his tribunal, yet it is stated 
that he cannot act contrary to the judgment of the 
scabini.3 It seems probable, however, that he or the 
missi have a leading part in appointing the scabini, who 
can hardly be described as merely popular representatives. 
The scabini, however, only exercise their functions in the 
placita minora ; at the general placitum the popular 
voice has possibly more weight. In any case, however, 
there is more evidence for the efficacy of popular control 
in the EngUsh courts. There are records of cases in 
Edgar's reign * in which it is clear that the judgment is 
given as that of the whole shire. There is probably 
speciaUzation of function here also : the witan of K. 693 
may be, like the scabini, men especially learned in 
the law; but there is a wide difference between such 
inevitable precedence and the legalized representation of 
the scabini. Moreover, the records of the Norman period 
show that this procedure still persists in its fuU vigour.^ 
The shiremoot, like the count's placitum, is not merely 
a judicial tribunal, but also a pubhc assembly at which 

1 p. 31. 

^ We have referred above to Theodulf a evidence. That afiorded by 
the references to buildings in which the placita were held is also against 
popular control. References in English charters appear to indicate 
that the gemot was held in the open air. B. 392, the gemotheorh is 
mentioned as a landmark. A gemot-hus is referred to in B. 596, 
(asterisked by Kemble). A thousand men are present at one gemot 
(K. 1288). 

3 808/813. 172, 13. * K. 693. 1288. 

5 See cases in Bigelow's Placiia Anglo-Nornumnica. On the other 
hand, the reference in III. Atr. 3 to the 12 senior thegns points to 
a specialization somewhat parallel to that of the Frankish scabini. 
This institution, however, like that of the Domesday " lawmen " in 
Lincoln, Stamford and other northern boroughs, is traceable to Scandi- 
navian influence. Vinogradoff, Eng. Soc. in the Eleventh Cent. p. 5. 


deeds which require pubUcity are transacted.^ The 
shire, like the pagus, may bear witness as a body,^ thodgh 
it is not found giving evidence under inquest, as the 
pagus does, till after the Conquest.* 

Both the ealdorman and the bishop are found sitting 
in the shiremoot to declare law.* On some occasions 
the ealdorman and the sheriff are found in the same 
gemot ; ^ on others the sheriff is found alone or supported 
by the bishop.^ The power of the bishop, especially 
in the reign of Cnut, has been pointed out by Dr. 
Zinkeisen.'' The gerefa deems just dooms by the witness 
of the shire bishop,* and is especially exhorted to respect 
and assist him. The evidence of the charters thus 
supports the theory that the sheriff is the deputy of the 
ealdorman, even though he is still the king's gerefa and 
is responsible to him. 

The large majority of cases heard before the shiremoot 
turn on questions of land.® We saw that at an earher 
date the gerefa had competence in land cases, and in the 
later period the hundred moot is the first court to which a 
man must turn for justice. " Let no man take a man's 
property in distraint within the shire or out of the shire 
before he have thrice demanded his right in the hundred. 

1 II. As. 2. A lord is found for a man. II. As. 20, 3. The king's 
commands are declared. B. 1064. An oath is taken. Note also the 
cases quoted in A. 8. Law, pp. 369, 374. 

2 II. Cn. 79. 

* As in Prancia occasional provincial assemblies of several counties 
were held (812. 177, 12), so we find late instances of assemblies of more 
shires than one in England. Bigelow, pp. 17, 64. Cf. Vinogradoff, 
Eng. Soc. in the Eleventh Cent. p. 91. 

* III. Eg. 5, 2; K. 693, 755, 898, 1334. It will be noted that the 
bishop and the count co-operate also in Prancia. The question of 
ecclesiastical jurisdiction cannot here be entered on. M. Beauchet has 
treated the matter very thoroughly ; and it is evident from his work 
that the rival spheres of secular and religious jurisdiction were more 
clearly defined in Francia than in England. 

s K. 755, 802, etc. « K. 693, 732, 929, 1288. 

' Pol. Sci. Qmrlerly (1895), p. 1405. » Cn. 1020. 11. 

' Dr. Zinkeisen gives instances. Pol. Sci. Quarterly (1895), p. 136. 


And if he have no right the third time, then let him go to 
the shiremoot and the shire shall set him a fixed day." ^ 
It is thus evident that the greater part of judicial business 
is transacted in the hundred moot. 

6. The Hundred. 

The evidence for the early existence of the district 
known later as the hundred has been given above.* 
An apparent reference to the hundred court was 
noticed under Edward ; the first trace of the name itself 
is found in Edmund's laws,^ where the hundred appears 
as a body to which payment is made. In the Ordin- 
ance of the Hundred attributed to Edgar the hundred 
appears as a local community,* a body to which penal 
payments are made,'^ a judicial tribunal,® a police organiza- 
tion,' and a territorial division.^ A system so elaborate 
does not present the appearance of complete novelty. 

It does not seem probable that the problem of the 
hundred will ever be solved.^ The ruling opinion appears 

1 II. Cn. 19. ' Pp. 44 £f. 3 III. Em. 2. 

* Hu. 4. 6 Hu, 2, 3. 6 Hu. 1. 7. 

' Hu. 2, 5. 8 Hu. 5. 

' The question has recently been raised once more by Freiherr von 
Schwerin in his Die aligermamische Hundertschaft (1907). His theory 
that the Old Germanic word hund had originally no definite numerical 
significance, but simply implied a large number, is a distinct contribu- 
tion towards the solution of the problem, though it must be left to the 
philologists to determine its soxmdness. On the other hand, he excepts 
England from his general theory (pp. 176-192), finding in the English 
hundred not a development of the Old Germanic hundred, formed on 
English soil at the time of the Anglo-Saxon settlement, but an adminis- 
trative innovation of the tenth centm-y, originating in the personal 
association of a hundred men for police purposes described in Edgar's 
Ordinance of the Hundred and the Judicia Civitatis Lundonie. The 
hundred moot developed from the personal hundred in consequence of 
its thief-catching duties. This statement provoked a reply from 
Professor Rietschel {Zeitschrift der Savigny Stiftung (1907), pp. 342-434, 
Germ. Abt.), who upholds the numerical origin of the hundred, which 
he believes to have consisted of a hundred hides. He draws his illustra- 
tions from Scandinavia and England, and maintains that the division 
into districts of a hundred hides dates back to the Anglo-Saxon settle- 
ment; that the districts thus formed were organized by the people 
with a popular official known as the hundredes-ealdor at their head ; 


to be in favour of the existence of the district in question 
before the reign of Edmund. Those who believe in a 
numerical origin, whether of individuals, of households, 
or of hides, must hold that this district had always been 
known as the hundred, although it is not so mentioned in 
any records. Those who hold that the thing is old, but 
the name new, attribute the name to foreign influence. 
Mr. Adams ^ has no hesitation in affirming that Alfred 
took the name from Prancia. A rival theory supported 
by Mr. Chadwick ^ and Dr. Liebermann * is that the name 
was borrowed from Scandinavia, and that its use is 
attributable to Danish influence.* The chief argument 
against Mr. Adams' suggestion is the dangerous argu- 
ment from silence. It seems unlikely that no trace 
would be left in the laws of Alfred, Edward and ^thelstan 
of a new term introduced by Alfred. A name, moreover, 
is more readily borrowed from a neighbour who is close 

and that in the tenth century the central government, using the 
machinery already in existence, added a king's geref a for administrative 
purposes, imposing a complete royal and judicial organization on the 
district (p. 416). He accounts for the silence of the laws before the 
tenth century by the fact that the hundred was a purely popular imit, 
and therefore ignored by royal legislation ; and points out the scantiness 
of the references after, as well as before, the reign of Edgar. Professor 
Rietschel's argument is to some extent discredited by the length to 
which the numerical theory is carried, and by his indiscriminate use of 
Domesday material, but his revival of Stubbs" suggestion of the dual 
organization of the hundred under hundreds-ealdor and reeve is inter- 
esting, though it should be noted that Mr. Chadwick (p. 235) has 
considered and rejected this theory. Freiherr von Sohwerin, in his 
reply (Zeitschr. der Sav. Stift. (1908), pp. 261-304, Germ. Abt.), whilst 
exposing the difficulties of the numerical "Hide-theory" in both 
England and Scandinavia, and reasserting his conviction that the English 
hundred is purely personal in origin, allows (p. 291) that before the 
tenth century a district and a court existed, the functions of which 
were eventually taken over by the hundred moot, which first came into 
existence to deal with cattle-thefts. 

^ Adams, A. S. Law, p. 21. ^ CJhadwick, p. 245. 

' Deutsche Literaturzeitung (1905), 12. 

* For the close resemblance in organization and functions between 
the hundari of North Sweden and the Anglo-Saxon hundred see Rietsohel, 
op. cit., pp. 348 S. 


at hand than from one across the Channel : of the two the 
Scandinavian theory seems the more plausible. 

The analogy between the English ordinance and those 
of the Merovingian kings was long ago pointed out. 
There is little to add, however, to Stubbs' statements ^ 
as to the impossibihty of connecting the two documents. 
There are no signs in the Carolingian capitularies that 
Chlothar's capitulary was stiU operative in the centena, 
and the relation of the personal and territorial centenae 
at the Merovingian period has been a matter of consideu- 
able dispute. 

The centena is seldom mentioned in the Carolingian 
capitularies. The oath to the emperor is taken per 
singulis centenis : and the missi examine the able-bodied 
men who can serve in the host by centenae. The court 
of the centena is always described as the centenarii 
placitum. Here, again, the contrast between Enghsh 
and Erankish institutions is evident. The official side 
predominates to such an extent in Francia that the 
centena is lost in the centenarius, whilst in England the 
hundred is so prominent that we can hardly tell what 
were the functions of the hundreds ealdor,^ and whether 
he is to be identified with the gerefa or no. 

The hundred gemot is held every four weeks, and all men 
are bound to attend it on pain of paying wite.^ As we have 

^ Select charters, p. 69. 

^ Hu. 2, 5. The hundred man summons men to the pursuit of a 
thief, and assists any men from another hundred who are pursuing a 
trail through his district. A similar task is performed by the gerefa 
under ^thelstan. VI. As. 8, 2, 4. The jere/a is mentioned in connection 
with the wapentake. III. Atr. 3, 2. IV. Eg. 8, 1. The secret introduc- 
tion of strange cattle into the common pasture is reported by the 
tunesmen to the hundreds ealdor. Cf. II. As. 10. In the Leis Willelme 
5 he is described as praepositus hundredi or greve (?) and takes charge of 
stray animals. He appears, exercising similar functions, as the prefectus 
hundredi E. Cf. 24, 2. The Leges Henrici 8, la, describe the head of 
the hundred as aldremarmus, probably an attempt at hundreds ealdor ; 
the passage throwns no light on his functions. 

» II. Cn. 17, 1. Cf. Dd. I. 269 (five shillings). 


seen, most cases come here before they are brought to the 
shiremoot. Oaths are taken ^ and purgations made here.^ 
Folkright is to be declared here, as at any other gemot, and 
a term is to be set for every suit.* No man is to appeal 
to the king for justice unless he cannot obtain right in 
his hundred.* 

Eew records of proceedings in hundred courts are 
extant.* It is thus impossible to determine who presides 
at the later period in succession to the gerefa of the earUer 
period. A writ of Edward the Confessor's, quoted above, 
refers to the scirgerefa and the motgerefa in this connec- 
tion. It is possible that the motgerefa is to be identified 
with the hundreds ealdor of Edgar's laws or the greve of 
the Leis Willeme. 

We have seen that in Francia there is difficulty in 
determining the relation of the courts of the centenarius 
and the count. The clearest distinction is that of com- 
petence. In Wessex, on the other hand, the gemot of 
the hundred has apparently similar powers to that of the 
shire, but the procedure is quite different in the two 
countries. A suit could not be begun in the hundred and 
completed in the shire, as a case could be carried on before 
the centenarius and completed before the count. Thus, 
apart from the position of the officials, the contrast of 
the courts themselves is unmistakable, in spite of 
coincidences such as those between the great county and 
the placitum majus.^ 

7. The Burh. 

Edgar's laws declare further that the burhgemot shall 

1 I. Atr. 1, 2; II. Cn. 30, 2. = II. Cn. 22, 1. 

- Hu. 7. * II. Cn. 17. 

^ Dr. Zinkeisen mentions only one instance in the charters. Pol. 
Sci. Quarterly (1895), p. 143. 

' We have seen that it is possible that there were two sorts of plaoita 
held by the centenarius himself. It is not clear at what date the special 
courts of the hundred, later known as the sheriff's toum, came to be 
distinguished from the ordinary meetings. 


year.i Mr. Chadwick ^ has brought 
forward a theory, based on the Burghal Hidage and on 
various indications in the laws of Edward and ^thelstan, 
according to which the union of different shires to form 
the great ealdormanries was accompanied by a develop- 
ment of the burh system, primarily for military purposes, 
but also for administrative purposes. The shire, according 
to this theory, was organized into districts, each bound to 
support a burh in its midst, probably by some system such 
as Maitland and Mr. BaUard have described. Various 
references in .iEthelstan's laws, especially those mentioning 
" the men who pertain to the burh " ^ support the theory, 
and the silence of the laws and of the Chronicle as to the 
shire of this period is perhaps significant.* It is difficult, 
however, in the face of our lack of material, to say how 
far the shire system may have fallen into abeyance. If 
there is no longer an ealdorman to each shire, the shire 
itself appears as a judicial and administrative district in 
fuU working order, and it has been pointed out that the 
creation of the Mercian shires^ must be placed between 
1000 and 1016, and is probably to be attributed to military 
motives. A failing system would hardly be extended to 
such a degree. If the shire system had fallen into abey- 
ance it was very effectively revived. There is nothing 
in the Carohngian system of government comparable to 
the burghal organization. The castella occasionally men- 
tioned appear as mihtary, not poHtical units ; there is no 

^ Miss Bateson (E. H. R. (1905) p. 146) has suggested that here, again, 
the double system of sessions is to be traced, and that the three meetings 
of the law are only the " great " ones. 

2 Chadwick, pp. 219 ff. 

3 II. As. 20, 1, 4. 

* The organization of a hundred may (Chadwick, p. 247) be imposed 
on a burghal system. On the other hand, it is quite as possible that 
the burh system is imposed on the hundred system (Stevenson, 
E. H. R. (1905) p. 349). 

° Rev. C. S. Taylor. Trans, of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeo- 
logical Soc. (1898) pp. 32 fE. 


trace of any other local placitum besides those of the 
count, the centenarius and the immunity. 

Thus if the two systems of administration are con- 
sidered as a whole the resemblances are found to be 
numerous, yet in no case so strong as to suggest the direct 
indebtedness of one country to another. The differences 
in geographical and other conditions are so great as to 
accentuate the existing variations in institutions, whilst 
the difference of fulness in the sources tends further to 
obscure the comparison. The gaps in the history of the 
two countries are wide enough to leave room for many 
alternative explanations of the scattered facts which are 
as yet safely ascertained. 



1. Lordship and Vassalage in Frankland. 

In the Carolingian Empire the influence exercised by 
the growth of the beneficiary system on the local admin- 
istration is so great as to render necessary a slight con- 
sideration of the institutions of personal and territorial 
dependence, both here and in England. 

From the long and heated discussions on the question 
of origin a form of compromise has been reached between 
the rival theories of Waitz and Roth. Brunner has set 
forth the present state of the question, whilst M. Flach 
has introduced a fresh subject for debate. His main 
contention has something in common with the views of 
Lehiierou, who derived the whole feudal system from the 
extension of the mund. To M. Flach the personal element 
predominates in the relation of the lord and vassal, and 
he denies the complete territorialization of the connection 
during the ninth century, departing, in his second volume, 
from the view set forth in his first.^ If Waitz goes wrong 
in his anxiety to base the whole system of government 
on landownership, M. Flach is also led astray by his 
predilection for the Tacitean comitatus and analogous 
institutions. M. Pfister^ has pointed out the danger of 
using the French Chansons de Geste as Flach does, and 
has also supported Waitz in his contention that the latter 
vassals did not develop from the antrustions.* In spite 

1 Plaoh, I. p. 123; 11. pp. 430 ff. " B. H. (1893) vol. 53, p. 365. 
» Waitz, II. pp. 343 fi.; IV. pp. 250 £E. 
F 65 


of exaggeration, however, M. Flach may be said to have 
estabUshed the priority, both in time and in importance, 
of the personal relation to the territorial, and thus, 
although it is the beneficiary system that most directly 
concerns our subject, we must consider the vassal system 
before the benefice. 

The main innovation during the Carohngian period in 
the development of seignorial relations is their recognition 
by the government. Charles the Great not only recog- 
nizes the importance of the lord as a member of society 
by giving him duties and responsibilities alongside of the 
count; he not only makes the benefice a reward and 
condition of loyal service and a part of the military 
organization of the country, but he also regulates in the 
capitularies the relations between lords and vassals, de- 
claring the causes for which a man might leave his lord, 
and the conditions under which a lord might receive a 
man who commended himself to him.^ 

(a) Vassi Dominici. 

The capitularies indicate a very general prevalence of 
the relationship. Special predominance in these royal 
ordinances is given to the vassi dominici, whose semi- 
official position emerges more and more clearly as the 
ninth century advances. 

They enter into this relation by commendation, the 
ceremonial of which is best described in the often-quoted 
entry in the Annals dealing with Tassilo of Bavaria.^ 
" Tassilo . . . venit et more Prancico in manus regis in 
vassaticum manibus suis semetipsum commendavit fideli- 

1 801/13. 172, 16 ; I. 215, 8 ; 847. II. 71, 3. M. Guilhiermoz thinks that 
Charles attempted, in vain, to uphold the vassal as distinct from the 
beneficiary tie. Guilhiermoz, p. 240. 

^ A. L. M. and A. Q. D. E. 757. Note also the second commenda- 
tion of 787 and cf. Vita Walae, II. 17. "Mementote etiam quod 
mei vasalli estis mihique cum iuramento fidei firmastis." M. O. H. 
Scripiores, II. p. 583. 


tatemque tarn ipso regi Pippino quam filiis eius Karlo 
et Carolomanno iure iurando . . . promisit ; " or, as the 
older entry says : " recta mente et firma devotione per 
iustitiam sicut vassus dominos suos esse debent . ' ' Though 
Tassilo is finally condemned on national rather than on 
personal grounds, the clerical annalist blames him above 
all for the breach of his oaths ; the conspiracy with Charles's 
other vassals is the most flagrant breach of aU.^ 

The two sides of the relationship thus entered upon are 
already partly indicated. The vassus dominicus, whether 
he be a mighty duke or a palace servant, owes faith to 
the king, " as any man does to his lord." He also owes 
service, which may be performed in the royal palace or 
in the country. Flach * has pointed out the three classes 
of vassi dominici to which the capitula of 825 refer ; * the 
austaldi^ "qui in nostro palatio serviunt;" those who 
live on their own property ; and those who have benefices 
and live without, that is, away from the palace. Ex- 
emption from military service is granted to those who are 
living in the palace and to their men if these are with 
them. For those who live on their own lands special 
consideration is given to each case; whilst all who hold 
benefices and live on them must go to the host.* It is 
on these last, who live without, that the general duties 
of assisting the count will fall. Their semi-official position 
is brought out very clearly in the capitularies. In the 
Spanish Mark, for instance, new-comers are to commend 

^ A. L. M. 788. Tassilo . . . confessus est . . . vassos supradioti 
domni regis ad se adortasse et in vitam eorum oonsiliasse." 

2 Flaoh, III. p. 476. 

3 825. 325, 1. 

* This term is used, apparently only in Italy, for those vassals who 
live in the house of their lord. It is possible that this threefold classifi- 
cation applies only to Italy. 

^ Vassi dominici are mentioned at war in Charles's letter to Fastrada, 
M. O. H. Ep. Kar. Aevi. II. p. 528, and of. A. Q. D. E. 782, where 
clari atque ndbiles probably refers to them. 
F 2 


themselves to the count or to a vassus dominicus.^ The 
vassi dominici, like the count, are exhorted to do justice.^ 
They are described as ministeriales,^ they collect dues from 
the lands of the fisc,* and appear in categorical lists with 
bishops, abbots, counts, and reliqui fideles.^ They may 
be called upon at any moment to perform special duties 
for the king or his count.^ The counts themselves are 
frequently vassi, commending themselves, perhaps, on 
receipt of their office.'' The vassi are bound to attend 
the placita of the missi,^ and they are found under the 
later kings assisting at the trial of one of their numbers, 
constituting, in fact, the first court of peers.® They 
assist at the granting of royal diplomata. Roth quotes 
from the Astronomer's hfe of Lewis an account of their 
duties ; " to them, as to the counts and abbots, was com- 
mitted the care of the realm, the defence of the frontiers, 
the protection of the royal vills. Walafrid Strabo,^^ 
again, compares their duties to those of the capellani 

To these duties correspond various privileges. The 
vassus dominicus does not appear to have had a triple 
worgeld as the antrustion had ; this is, in fact, one of the 
main arguments against the development of the vassus 
dominicus from the antrustion. From the scale of the 
contributions which the king's missi are allowed to levy 
on the neighbourhood we gather that the royal vassal is 
below the count in social standing,^^ whilst from another 

1 816. 263. » 779. 51, 21. 

" 802. 98, 39. * Bouquet, VI. 652. 

» 802. 101, 18 a; 818/9. 285, 18; 864. II. 316, 15, etc. 

" Einh. Ep. 21. 

' Ann. Lauresh. 799. " Comites et alios vassos suos." Ann. Bert, 
837 ad. fin. 

8 826. 310; 821. 300, 4. » 851. II. 74, 8. Flaoh, I. p. 232. 

'", Astronomus, o. 3, quoted Roth, F. V. p. 214. 

"^ Cap. II. p. 515. This description applies to the austaldi. 

" 819. 291, 29. The royal vassal who is also a count of course takes 
the higher standing. 


passage it appears that the vassus with a large holding 
is equal to the comes mediocris.^ The royal vassal has, 
however, a " dignity " * which is to be preserved and 
respected. By this is probably meant the right of pre- 
cedence at the count's tribunal,^ where, according to the 
Capitulare Mantuanum, he must receive and render 
justice.* The later capitularies indicate his right to 
demand trial before the king himself,'^ and the king's 
desire to keep control of the trial of his vassals." The 
vassi, as we have seen, have a right to exercise the royal 
privilege of mansionaticum in all places, when acting as 
missi, whilst the similar right of the counts and abbots 
is more restricted.' 

Another judicial privilege possessed by the royal vassal, 
at any rate in Italy, is the right to be represented at law 
by an advocate,* and also the right to appoint one of his 
own vassals to take an oath for him.* This last privilege 
is apparently of late growth. 

The most tangible gain to the vassal, however, is the 
land which he holds of the king. The class of vassal who 
lived permanently in the royal palace was probably not 
large; in this case service was rewarded with sustenance 
and with special gifts. Those vassals who hved on their 
own. property formed a diminishing class : the greater part 
of the royal vassals appear to have held benefices of the 

(6) The Royal Benefice. 

The relation of commendation to the benefice is well 

1 780. 52. 2 823/5. 307, 26. Re-enacted 864. II. 313, 4, 

3 781-810. 207, 9. 823 ? 321, 3. 

« 781 ? 191, 13. Note also 810, 155. 5. 801/10. 210, 10. 

= 884. II. 374, 11 ; 863. II. 272, 4. An instance of such a trial is given 
in Form. Imp. 46. 

6 825. 326, 1. ' 819. 291, 26. 

« 801/10. 210, 10. ' 884. II. 374, 11. 

i» 779. 48, 9; 807? 136, 4; 815. 262, 6; 811. 167, 7; 825. 325, 1. 
Tassilo held his duchy of Pippin (A. L. M. 787, 748), and also held two 
vills as benefices from Charles. 806. 127, 2. 


illustrated in Einhard's letters. He writes in one case 
on behalf of a man whose grandfather and father have 
held a royal benefice in Oenawense pago. The man 
himself is too unwell to come to the palace and com- 
mend himself to the emperor; he asks to be allowed 
to keep the benefice until he is able to take the journey.^ 
In another letter the writer asks Lewis the German to be 
allowed to keep the benefice he has. He had thought it 
lay within Lothar's lands, and now he asks for Lewis's 
patience tiU he is well enough to come and commend 
himself." This recalls a clause in the Divisiones of 806, 
817, and 831,* where, however, men are expected to get 
new benefices, not new lords, on the death of the emperor. 
From these letters it would seem that if commendation 
has been prior to the original grant it has become of less 
importance than the benefice; the territorial connection 
is stronger than the personal. This makes us the readier 
to prefer the opinion of M. Flach's first volume to that of 
his second.* Waltz's ' conclusion that he who receives a 
benefice commends himself to the grantor of it, whilst he 
who wishes to obtain a benefice must commend himself 
to the lord of the land, seems the safest formula to adopt. 
As M. Guilhiermoz * says, the promise of a benefice was a 
bait by which vassals might be secured. As we have 
seen above, the duties of the vassi who held benefices 
were different from those of the others, and the benefice 
was forfeit for failure to fulfil certain conditions and 
perform certain services,' whether these were looked upon 
as a " gift for a gift " * or as a duty owed from the land. 

1 Einh., Ep. 27. » Ibid., Ep. 25. 

* 806. 128, 9. " Ut post nostrum ex hao mortalitate discessum 
homines uniuscuiuscumque eorum accipiant beneficia imusquisque in 
regno domini sui et non in alteriua." Note also 817. 272, 9; 831. II. 

* Flaoh, I. p. 123, 129; II. p. 430. 

^ Waitz, IV. pp. 256, 257. » Guilhiermoz, p. 239. 

' 779. 48, 9; 811. 167, 5; 818/9, 284, 16, etc. » Flaoh, III. p. 69. 


Probably the question did not present itself in that form 
at that period. 1 

The important part played by the benefice in the 
national economy is clear from the frequent references 
in the capitularies. The obligation to care duly for the 
emperor's benefice is included under the general oath of 
fealty, along with the ostile bannum.^ The missi dominici 
are charged with the duty of seeing that the royal benefices 
are bene condricta,^ and that their owners are not diverting 
them to their own use or ownership. The counts and the 
officials on the royal viUs hold benefices,* in payment for 
their services in aU probability. The connection of the 
benefice with military service is essential, as will be seen 
later. Brunner's description of the holders of benefices 
as the kernel of the vassalage ^ applies with particular 
force to the royal benefice. 

The connection of the king and his vassal was only 
terminated by death or by breach of the contract. The 
Divisiones Regnorum declare the vassi dominici free to 
commend themselves to whomsoever they will, though 
they are evidently expected, as Einhard's letters have 
shown, to commend themselves to one of the king's sons. 
Charles the Bald in 856 * gives all his vassi leave to choose 
new lords, but the emphatic manner of his assurance that 
they need not distrust him is proof of the novelty of the 
proceeding. The connection was thus for Hfe and tended 

1 It is to be noted, however, that the gradual transformation of 
meaning by which honor comes to be the equivalent of beneficium indi- 
cates the incumbency of duty on the land itself. Note 877. II. 354 B. ; 
Nithard, II. i. and instances given by Waitz, IV. p. 216. 

2 802. 93, 6. 

» 768. 43, 5; 789. 64, 35; 789. 65, 6; 802, 100, 10; 802. 104, 49; 809. 
152, 9; 810. 153, 14; 810. 154, 9; 801/13. 171. 4; 819. 290, 11; 860. II. 
300, 6. 

« 800. 84, 10; 800. 88, 50; 806. 131, 6; 811. 177, 7, etc. In some of 
these instances reference may be made to private, not royal benefices. 

5 Brunner, B. G. II. p. 266. 

6 856. II. 282, 13. 


to become hereditary on both sides, as Einhard's letters 

The vassi dominici have been treated apart as forming 
a specially privileged class, and also because some writers 
have given them a special origin, tracing them back to 
the antrustions. The latest author to revive this theory 
— against which Waitz, Brunner, and de Coulanges have 
declared — is M. Guilhiennoz, who, like M. Flach, derives 
the vassi dominici from the king's triiste, but, unlike him, 
finds for them an extra-Germanic origin. He believes 
that they, like the Visigothic Buccellarii, were constituted 
in imitation of the household troops of the late Roman 
emperors and magnates. He holds that their number 
was great and their position menial, and attributes their 
rise in power under the early Carolingians to English 
influences. His arguments are not convincing; he does 
not make good his antithesis between the antrustions and 
the Tacitean comitatus, nor does he indicate at all clearly 
the steps by which the antrustions rose to a higher posi- 
tion.^ M. Pfister has answered M. Flach's arguments.' 
The special position of the vassi dominici is attributable 
largely to the royal command of land and power to great 
benefices, and also to the special protection which the 
king could accord to those who commended themselves 
to him, in virtue of the special character of his mund. 

1 Einh., Ep. 27. The man's father and grandfather held the 
benefice before him. Ep. 29 refers apparently to a partition of royal 
benefices between two sons of the original holder. Note also Vaissete 
II. No. 105. (quoted Brunner, B. 0. II. p. 252). " Depreoati . . . ut 
nos siout avus noster avis eorum et postmodum genitor noster patribus 
eorum . . . concessit, ita et nos illis." The Capitulare Carisiacum shows 
that the practice is becoming common. 877. II. 358, 9 and 363, 4. 
M. Flaoh gives instances, I. p. 126. It is still, however a favour and not 
a right. Form. Imp. 49. Migne, oxxv. 1050. " Cum de rebus ecclesiae 
propter militiam beneficium donat, aut filiis patrum qui eidem ecclesiae 
profuerunt, et patribus utiliter suooedere potuerunt." 

2 See Molinier, R. H. vol. 78, p. 341. 

3 R. H. vol. 63, pp. 357-67. 


(c) The Vassals of Private Persons. 

The capitularies, as has been stated above, contain 
numerous regulations of the relations of private lords with 
their vassals. The connection is entered upon by com- 
mendation,^ accompanied by an oath, whose character is so 
sacred as to serve as a model for the universal oath of fealty 
to the emperor. ^ There is possibly some ceremony of giving 
a coin to the newly commended, but the one passage in 
which this is mentioned is ambiguous.* It appears that 
the king has some control of men's commendations,* and 
the count's rights are guarded in one passage.^ The 
connection thus established is for life, the causes for which 
a vassal may leave his lord being defined in a famous 
passage * as attacks by the lord on the life, liberty, or 
honour of the vassal, and failure to protect him after he 
has commended himself into his lord's hands. He cannot 
commend himself to a new lord without the leave of his 
first lord ;' the tie is, therefore, it seems, dissoluble by the 
will of the lord though not by the vassal's. After the 
death of the lord the vassal is free to choose a new one,* 
but, as in the case of the vassi dominici, he is expected to 
prefer one from the family of his late lord,® and an hereditary 
connection, though not yet estabhshed, is foreshadowed. 

That which tends most of all, however, to perpetuate 
the relationship from one generation to another is the 
beneficiary tie. 

1 816. 263; 823 ? 321, 3; 825. 325, 1, etc. Vita Hlud. o. 61, refers to 
commendation by a third person. M. 0. H. Scriptores, II. p. 646. 

2 805. 124, 9 ; 802, 101. 

3 801/13. 172, 16. * 805. 125, 19; 816, 262, 6. 

* 787. 200, 13. The account of the placitum at Istria in 804 may 
be noted here. The duke promises : " Liberos homines vos habere 
permittam ut vestram habeant commendationem, sicut in omnem 
potestatem domini nostri faoiunt." Waitz, III. p. 492. 

» I. 215. 8. 

' 787. 199, 5 ; 809. 150, 10 ; 865, II. 93, 6 ; etc. In Einh. Ep. 63, the 
lord gives his vassal commendatorias liieras. 

» 806. 128, 10. » 757. 38, 9. Cf. Viollet, p. 430. 


(d) The Relation of the Benefice to the Vassal System. 

It will be as well to consider the general question of the 
relation of the benefice to the vassal system at this point. 
It is at least as debatable ground as the question of the 
legal origin of the benefice. As has been indicated above 
in the case of the vassi dominici, Waltz's conclusion seems 
on the whole the most satisfactory; that whilst the 
personal tie is the older, and, in fact, the more essential, 
it becomes in this period inseparable from the real tie. 
The commendation may be prior in time to the granting 
of the benefice, though even this, as we have seen, is not 
an invariable rule, but the benefice is becoming not merely 
an indispensable means for the lord to the getting of 
vassals, but also, from the vassal's point of view, the end 
itself, to which commendation is a means. This is a 
process which is by no means accomplished as yet. On 
the Spanish Mark, where practically new soil is being 
settled by new men under exceptional local tenures and 
customs, the distinction between vassalage and the 
tenure of benefices is stiU well marked.^ The Spaniards 
may commend themselves to the counts or the royal 
vassals, and if, after this, they are granted benefices by 
their lords, they are bound to do service from it as other 
men do from their benefices. Thus, whilst vassalage 
without a benefice is possible, it does not involve the same 
duties as vassalage with a benefice. Einhard's letters 
show that a benefice was a necessity to the performing 
of due service. A certain man has lost his little benefice 
— how is he to serve his lord unless it is restored to him 1 ^ 
Einhard's letters also make it clear that a man might hold 
a benefice of one lord whilst he was the vassal of another.^ 

Thus, on the whole, the beneficiary tie is not as yet 
identified by custom or enactment with the tie of vassus 
and senior, but it is not far from this, and is even tending 
> 816. 262, 6. ' Einh., Ep. 30. » IMd., Ep. 1, 24, 39. 


to become the more important element in the relation of 
man and man. 

Into the question of the legal origin of the benefice we 
cannot enter here; a good authority has pronounced it 
as yet unsolved.^ A working hypothesis may be obtained 
by accepting the theories of Fustel de Coulanges and 
Brunner, who derive the beneficium from the precarium,'^ 
whilst recognizing, with Roth and M. Guilhiermoz, that 
the precarium persists as a distinct form of grant alongside 
of the benefice.* As regards the historical development 
of the benefice, Brunner's theory of the influence of 
military exigencies is the most satisfactory that has yet 
been presented. It is accepted by M. VioUet and M. 
Guilhiermoz, though it does not satisfy M. Molinier. It 
may, however, be felt that Brunner over-emphasizes the 
miUtary character of the benefice. It is true that military 
service is especially attached to it in the case both of 
royal benefices and of those held from private persons, 
but the personal relations of the beneficiary and his lord 
are not dependent solely on this fact. It is the need for 
protection on the part of the weak rather than the need 
of troops on the part of the strong that fosters the rapid 
spread of beneficiary tenures. There is danger in over- 
emphasis of any of the various elements that go to make 
up the relations of lord and vassal, benefice -holder and 

Brunner's hypothesis as to the historical origin of the 
benefice may be thus stated.* The natural process by 
which lands throughout Francia were being granted out 
on revocable tenures was accelerated by Charles Martel, 

1 Molinier, E. H. vol. 78, p. 341. 

2 The royal grants were made in the form of precaria because they 
oonsdsted mainly of Church lands, which by canon law could only 
be held in usufruct. 

* A good proof of this fact is the record of holdings given in the 
supplement to the capitularies. 810. 253. 

* Forschungen, pp. 1-75. 


who seized a large quantity of Church lands * and granted 
them out by the ecclesiastical tenure of the precarium,^ 
with a view to obtaining cavalry in his wars with the 
Saracens in Aquitaine; his two sons readjusted the 
grants and arranged the conditions by which such lands 
should be held ; * and the process was continued under 
Charles the Great and his successors as being found the 
most efl&cient means of providing heavy armed cavalry. 
Circumstances, as we have seen, tended to forward the 
process of commendation, and the various classes of 
dependent tenures became assimilated to one type. The 
holders of benefices granted out portions of their benefices 
in their turn. Whether the right to do this was included 
in the first grant is not clear ; it was undoubtedly done.* 

(e) The Personal Relations of Senior and Vassus. 

From the territorial relations of lord and vassal we can 
now turn to their personal relations ; to the rights and duties 
of each party to the contract of commendation. The 
lord, as we have seen, owes protection to his men.^ He 
assists them in difficulties ® and carries on feuds on their 
behalf.' He may or may not grant them benefices, but 
he provides them with horse and armour ^ and leads them 
to war.* He is^ indeed, responsible for their appearance 

^ Roth's view has been controverted by Ribbeck. Die sogenannte 
Divisio des frdnkischen Kirchengutes. Diss. Leipzig, 1883. 

' This theory does not exclude M. Guilhiermoz's suggestion that the 
benefices were analogous to grants by servile tenures to unfree 

» 742. 25, 1 ; 743. 28, 2; of. 779. 50, 14 (Forma Langobardica). 

• Trad. Fris. 323. The regranting of the benefice is forbidden; 
also in Form. Imp. 25. But see 757. 38, 9 ; 807 ? 136, 4. Form. Imp. 

" I. 215, 8. 

^ Einhard is occupied with the marriage affairs of his vassals, 
Ep. 62. 

' I. 217, 7; 850. II. 86, 3. Form. Sal. Bign. 9. 

« Ermold. Nig. IV, 607. M. Q. H. Poetae aevi CaroUni, II. p. 75. 
811. 167, 10. 

» See below. Chapter VI. 


there, and pays the heriban if they fail to appear. ^ He 
is also generally responsible for their conduct. He is 
bound to prevent them from committing depredations 
on the common grass.^ In one passage we are told that 
he who consents is as guilty as he who commits a crime ; 
the count is, therefore, to admonish the senior to punish 
his men.* More often, however, the senior is commanded 
to present his men to justice at the courts. The national 
administration is attempting to shift the burden of 
responsibihty on to the shoulders of the senior ; * this 
is doubtless the motive for the regulation that all who 
wiU not take lords shall forfeit their alod to the royal fisc,* 
and thus become, we may suppose, demesne vassals. 
We have seen before that all strangers must have lords,* 
and the isolated capitulum concerning landless ' men 
impHes that such must be dependent on some one who 
will be responsible for their appearance in the courts. 

The lord might, instead of presenting his vassal to 
justice, appear as his representative in the courts. Two 
formulae show us the lord seeking justice for his vassal 
against another man through that man's lord.^ This 
becomes the customary procedure. The lord's duty in 
this respect is merging in a right to judge bis vassal 

Two passages of Charles's capitularies suggest a growth 
of seignorial jurisdiction. From the first,* which has 

' 811. 167,9; 808. 137,5. 

" 853. II. 274, 13. The men may, however, be unfree. Over his 
slaves the lord had absolute control. 804/13. 181, 9. 
2 862. II. 308. 

♦ 865. II. 93, 6; 866. II. 97, 1 ; 884. II. 372, 3. 

s 873. II. 345, 4. » 803/13. 157, 4. ' I. 218, 11. 

* Cart. Sen. 27, 30. Maroulf I. 27. Form. Alsat. 5. " Supplioamus 
vobis ut illi aut cui vobis placet jubeatis commendare ut nostrimi 
iastitiam oonsequi valeamus." Note also Einhard's intercession for 
his vassal, Ep. 65. 

» 787. 200, 13. This passage occurs in an Italian capitulary, and 
therefore may not apply throughout Franoia. 


already been noticed, it may be inferred that the count 
suffers in some way when men commend themselves. 
The man who is commended is enjoined stiU to perform 
his duty to his count. In the other ^ the missi are warned 
to see that royal justice does not suffer because men 
commend themselves to others. The clearest reference, 
however, is to be found in the Concessio Generalis (823 ?). 
In the case of the vassals of royal vassals : — " Si quid ab 
eis quaeritur, primum senioribus eorum moneatur ut 
iustitiam suam quaerentibus faciant; et si ipsi facere 
noluerint, tunc legaliter distringantur." ^ A later capitu- 
lary commands the lords to punish their vassals if they 
refuse to obey the royal decrees : ' whilst yet a later one 
declares that vassals are to have such justice of their 
lords as their fathers had had of their lords.* Appeal 
from the lord's injustice is to lie to the king, who wiU 
amend it. 

From these instances it seems certain that at least 
under the later Carolingians the lord had a definite juris- 
diction over his vassals, whilst almost the earliest of 
Charles's capitularies recognizes his judicial responsibility 
for them.^ This justice and this responsibihty, as has 

^ 805. 125, 19. This refers especially to the payment of the heriban. 

2 823 ? 321, 3. Penal jurisdiction seems to be impUed in 823/5. 305, 
17. The lord who will not correct the violator of the peace shall be 
deprived of his honor. It is possible, however, that this refers only to 
military discipline. 

3 851. II. 73, 8. 

* 869. II. 337, 2. "Vassalli . . . talem legem et iustitiam apud 
seniores suos habeant sicut eorum antecessores apud illorum seniores 
. . . habuerunt. Et si aliquis . . . suo homini contra rectum et iusti- 
tiam feoeritetseinde ad nosreclamaverit . . . hoc emendare faoiemuB." 
Cf. 819, 291,23. 

* 779, 61, 21. The " facere iustitiam " of this clause has been much 
discussed. Roth [F. U. p. 213) explains it in the general sense of " act 
justly." This general interpretation is not recognized by the editors 
of the capitularies, who classify their references under the two strictly 
judicial headings — " Reoht geben " and " Beoht pflegen" — to answer 
to justice and to do- justice (Vol. II. pp. 649-50). The phrase is found 
with the meaning of " answer to justice " in 782/6. 192, 6, and in numer- 


been often shown,i is nearly related to that which the lord 
possesses over his unfree dependents.* In so far as it 
exists apart from an immunity grant, it seems probable 
that seignorial justice is a modified form of domestic 
justice.^ The forms and terms are similar; the right of 
representation, the duty of presentation for the graver 
offences. Its nature and extent in the Merovingian 
period have been analysed by M. KroeU.* These judicial 
rights, however, are not identical with those conferred 
by an immunity grant. One formula given by Zeumer * 
distinguishes very clearly between the benefice and the 
immunity ; and the analogy of the holding of the royal 
vassal and an immunity which M. Guilhiermoz points 
out in the Capitulare Haristallense ^ is not by any means 
a proof that the vassi dominici were ipso facto immunists. 
The grant of immunity rights by Charles the Bald, in 877,' 
is evidently exceptional and temporary; there is, there- 
fore, no ground for asserting that the tenure of a benefice 
gave such rights in the earlier part of the period. It is 

ous other passages of the capitularies; and Waitz {VassalitUt, p. 21) 
and M. Plach (I. p. 96) are probably right in explaining this passage as 
referring to the duty of presenting criminals at the count's plaoitum. 
782/6. 192, 7 also connects the duty " faoere iustitiam " with the 
holding of a benefice. Its holder is parallel with the pontifical advo- 
cate of the preceding clause. Territorial rather than personal rights 
seem intended. 

1 Flach, I. p. 94. H. S6e, pp. 19, 108. Guilhiermoz, p. 318. 

^ Of the lord's penal and judicial power over his slaves there can be 
no question. It is established beyond doubt by numerous passages. 

^ Modified, however, by state action, as is shown by the capitularies 
already quoted. Note Dr. Seeliger in the Hist. Viertdj. (1905) p. 309, 
and in the Am. Hist. Bev. (1909) p. 241. 

4 Kroell, pp. 33-43. 

^ Cart. Sen. 35, " cuius nos nimc beneficium gradante animo pro 
mercedes nostrae augmentum non solum confirmasse sed etiam in novo 
sub immunitatis nomine concessisse cognoscite." 

« GuilMermoz, p. 134. 779. 48, 9. Compare also 779. 51, 21 with 
803. 1 15, 23. The count assists the missus to force the vassus dominicus 
" facere iustitiam," whereas only the missus can interfere with the 

' 877. II. 360, 20. 


to the right of the lord over his unfree dependents that 
his judicial control may be traced, and also the con- 
nection of the judicial rights and the land. The tendency 
has been, as M. Flach shows,^ to exaggerate the import- 
ance of the upper rungs in what later became the feudal 
ladder. The personal tie is closest in the lowest ranks; 
to the precarium of the small folk no less than to the 
beneficium of the great, is due the rapid development of 
the system ; territorial lordship contributes as much to 
the growth of feudal justice as does the seniorate. 

The duties of the lord to the vassal having been 
examined, the duties that the vassal owes the lord may 
now be considered. A trace of the obUgation that later 
becomes suit of court may be found in the regulation 
that the count's vassals must attend the count's placita.^ 
M. GuUhiermoz does not adduce any proof of his state- 
ment that this duty was becoming general.' The duties 
of the vassal were general in character,* being probably 
closely related to those of the unfree ; ^ he was bound 
to obey his lord's commands whatever they might be. 
Especial reference is made to his military duties. 

We have seen that in the case of royal vassals their 
vassals might take an oath for them at law. The counts 
were allowed to leave vassals to fulfil their official duties 
when they were at the host.® Similar hberties to other 
lords' indicates that the vassals might have to perform 
administrative if not judicial duties for their lords ; and 
suggests, in the case of the count, that he would find it 
expedient to make some of his centenarii and vicarii his 
vassals. One indication of the value of vassals is given 
in the passage which relates how a bishop succeeds in 

' Flach, II. p. 495. " 809. 148, 5. » Guilhiermoz, p. 260. 

* Guilhermoz, p. 252. Bruimer, R. 0. II. p. 269, who quotes Lex 
Alam. 36. 3 and Lex Baiuw. II. 14. 
=* H. S6e, pp. 312 8. 
« 808. 137, 4; 819. 291, 27; 866. II. 95, 1. ' 811. 167, 9. 


usurping a see — " sollicitando clericos et vassallos eius 
omnemque familiam." ^ 

The closeness of the tie is revealed by the fact that the 
vassal swears the national oath of fealty in the place 
where his lord lives,^ and that he foUows his lord even to 
the desertion of his wife if she refuse to accompany him.^ 
In the account of the battle of Mount Siintel* there is 
a trace of that personal loyalty which is exemphfied so 
frequently in Anglo-Saxon hterature, notably ia the 
story of Csmewulf and Cyneheard and in the poem of 
Maldon. We have seen before that CaroUngian legislation 
sanctioned the permanency of the tie and encouraged the 
formation of such a connection if it were not previously 
existent. Alongside of the organization of the comitatus, 
this new machinery was coming into use for administra- 
tive, judicial and military purposes. If the classification 
" tarn seniores quam et vassaUi " ^ was not exhaustive 
in 787, it was before the fall of the Carolingian Empire. 

2. Lordship and Vassalage in England. 

Here, again, our materials are so scanty and ambiguous 
that it is not easy to construct a clear statement of the 
position of the English vassal either of the king or of other 
men. For persons apparently dependent on the king we 
find the expressions comes and minister, gesith and thegn, 
and the precise significance of these words is hard to 
determine, whilst in later sources we find the words 
satelles and vassallus employed, apparently with a similar 
meaning. For the Latin dominus or senior of Francia 
we have the two words hlaford and landrica ; the dis- 
tinction here is not so difficult to find. 

1 859. II. 448, 6. 

2 792 or 786. 67, 4; of. 816. 268, 2. 

3 758/63. 41, 9. 

* A. Q. D. E. 782, " qui hos secuti potius cum eis perire quam po8t 
eos vivere maluerunt." 
« 787. 198, 4. 


(a) The Gesith and the King's Thegn. 

Mr. Chad wick ^ has suggested that, whilst the comes of 
Bade is the Latin translation for gesith, this word bore 
a different meaning in Northumbria and Wessex. The 
Alfredian translation of Bede's comes is almost invariably 
gesith, whilst Bede's minister or miles is translated thegn ; ^ 
but the other West Saxon sources appear to prove that 
the gesith-cund man was dependent not on the king him- 
self, but on some other men, and he disappears from the 
laws after the time of Ine, save for the reference to 
gesith-cund kin in Northleoda laga. 

Mr. Chadwick points out that the position of the king's 
thegn in Ine's laws is superior to that of the gesith, and 
that the thegn appears to owe his superiority to his 
dependence upon the king; and he suggests that the 
gesith was never under the immediate lordship of the 
king.' In this conclusion he is in accordance with M. 
Guilhiermoz,* who, however, makes no distinction between 
the Northumbrian and West Saxon gesith. From the 
use of the expressions in Beowulf it seems that the terms 
gesith and thegn were originally used of the same person, 
and it appears quite possible that their meaning was 
specialized differently in Wessex and in Northumbria.^ 
The meaning of the cognate form gasindius is of interest. 
It is found among the Lombards, and, to a certain extent, 
among the Pranks, for the personal dependents not only 
of kings and queens but also of duces and judices.^ Per- 
haps it offers a closer analogy than does the antrustiqn, 
with whom Brunner compares the gesith at some length.' 

» Chadwick, p. 325, 349. 

^ See instances given by Mr. Plummer, Life of Alfred (1902), p. 175. 
^ Chadwick, pp. 326, 346, 349. Dr. Liebermann does not accept this 
limited definition. 
* Guilhiermoz, p. 94. * Chadwick, p. 348. 

« Brunner, B. 0. II. 260. 
' Ibid., B. 0. 259; 98-100; Forschungen, p. 84. 


Both gesith and antrustion, he says, were originally 
personal dependents of the king, hving in his haU, owing 
special service, having a special wergeld and hereditary 
rank; both tend to become a territorial class; both 
are succeeded by a body of men which develops along 
somewhat similar lines. 

The chief objection to Mr. Chadwick's theory is the 
difficulty of finding a class of men below the king of such 
power that their dependents, whether owning land or 
no, should have a hereditarily privileged position. The 
gesith is a person of some importance, evidently having 
men under his control. He may make an agreement 
for them with the king,^ thus exercising some sort of 
domestic justice. Strangers put themselves under his 
protection, and he has his share in their wer." He has to 
pay a heavier wite for neglect of the fyrd * than the 
ordinary ceorl, especially if he owns land. Mr. Chad wick 
suggests that landagend implies a holding of some par- 
ticular minimum size, such as five or ten hides,* and that 
this in its turn implies lordship over a certain number of 
gafolgeldan.^ The gesith's lands are large enough for him 
to need a gerefa,^ and he has a burgbryce of thirty-five 
shillings.' By the period of Northleoda laga his position 
is apparently based on land rather than on personal 
relations with another.* 

The gesith's position is thus semi-official, and if Mr. 
Seebohm's account of his functions * is over definite, there 
is still enough to make Mr. Chadwick's interpretation 
doubtful. M. Guilhiermoz argues from these passages that 

1 Ine, 50. 

* Ine, 23, 1. Dr. Liebermann, however, explains gesii here to mean 
fellowship, not taking it in its technical sense. His translation is based 
on the reading congildones in the Quadripartitus version, this being the 
word used in Alfred's laws for the O. E. gegildan. 

3 Ine, 51. * Ine, 24, 1, 2. 70. = Chadwick. p. 102. 

« Ine, 63. ' Ine, 45. « Northl. 11. 

» Seebohm, Tribal Custom in A.S. Law, pp. 417-22. 
G 2 


in England the thegns of private persons had a highly 
privileged position, and that England by the end of the 
seventh century had a nobility such as was not known 
to French law till the twelfth century.^ He represents 
the Iring's thegn as already occupying a high position in 
the eighth century, holding land and possessing hereditary 
rank. This he regards as an advance from an earlier 
subordinate and semi-servile condition,* and to it he 
attributes a corresponding rise in the position of the vassi 
dominici under Charles Martel. The Northumbrian kings 
had granted out lands for the support of soldiers on the 
frontier, and Charles Martel was only copying them in 
his creation of benefices, as he copied them in the rites 
used at his coronation.^ 

This theory is based on the supposition that the English 
king's thegns, like M. Guilheirmoz's antrustions, were 
originally largely an unfree class ; a supposition supported 
by no facts. If Beowulf is to be considered a picture of 
early Anglo-Saxon life, there seems no obstacle to the 
acceptance of the chief's following as there described — 
" dugu? and geogoS " — ^as the predecessors of the king's 
thegns of Alfred's days. M. Guilhiermoz's theory, again, 
attributes a very definite meaning to an obscure passage 
in Bede * that has been explained variously.^ The borrow- 
ing of an ecclesiastical rite stands on a somewhat different 
level from that of an entirely secular administrative 
measure, as the Church was the great medium of inter- 

^ Guilhiermoz, p. 464. 

2 This humble position is deduced from the meaning of the word 
thegn or minister, and from Bede, H. E. III. 14. 

3 Guilhiermoz, pp. 92-100. 

* Bede, epistle to Egbert, c. 11. 

« Chadwick, pp. 367 ff. Professor VinogradofiE {E. H. B. (1893) p. 
13) does not tlunk that the passage implies temporary or even con- 
ditional tenure. There seems no more reason to derive Charles 
Martel's measures from Northumbria than to give them an emphyteutic 


national communication. Moreover, Boniface, who intro- 
duced the ceremony of unction in Francia, was a West 
Saxon and would hardly be likely to introduce North- 
umbrian expedients. Finally, the analogy discovered 
by M. Guilhiermoz is not in reality very close. Charles 
Martel, by hypothesis, took Church lands for lay purposes 
— ^to furnish soldiers. Bede's letter states that the lands 
which ought to provide for soldiers do not do so ; because 
— and this is his chief ground of complaint — ^the king has 
granted them out, for the purpose of founding monasteries, 
to men who do not found true monasteries but homes of 
wickedness. When M. Guilhiermoz says, therefore, of 
Charles's policy " Nous sommes tres portes a voir la une 
adaptation des usages Anglo-Saxons," ^ we are not 
inclined to agree with him. 

We can now examine the position of the king's thegn 
and consider in what respects it presents a parallel with 
that of the vassus dominions . There is no trace of a 
ceremony of commendation, though such may well have 
existed.^ Whilst treason to the hlaford is a " botless " 
crime,^ hlaford is not used as an attribute of the king till 
a fairly late date.* Similarly, the general use of senior 
for the king of Francia does not begin to be common till 
after the reign of Lewis the Pious.* 

The duties of a king's thegn are somewhat vaguely 
described in Gepync'So, which professes to give an account 
of old times. The thegn has special duty in the king's 

^ Guilhiermoz, p. 92. 

" The subordination of one man to another is expressed by the 
phrases ga to honda (Ine, 62) ; on handa gan (Af. 42, 1) ; hand on hand 
ayUe (II. Ew. 6). These at once recall the expression se in manus eiua 

» Af. prol. 49, 7 ; Af. 1, 1 ; Af. 4, 2. 

* VI. As. 8, 9 is the first instance. 

^ All the instances given in the index to the capitularies are of a 
later date than 840. The rapid extension of the term is, however, 
remarkable, 866, II. 284, 6, senioratum means allegiance to the king. 


hall/ which corresponds to that performed by the vassi 
famulantes or austaldi ; ^ he performs riding service,' 
which may be compared with the duty referred to in 
Einhard's letter quoted above.* We may note, also, 
Maitland's suggestion that riding service includes special 
military service. Whilst the gesith apparently owes 
such service ^ there is no direct evidence for a similar 
dxity on the part of the king's thegn, though, as will be 
shown later, there is some indirect evidence.^ 

The general official position of the king's thegn 
resembles that of the vassus dominicus. In several 
instances he is mentioned together with the king's gerefa. 
He, like the gerefa, is forbidden to take bribes.' He is 
commanded to keep order and obey the royal commands,* 
in connection possibly with the general taking of wedd. 
He is ordered to have his men under pledge,' like the 
gerefa. He is expected to assist in making the priests 

There is no record of any institution similar to the 
Frankish judgment of peers which is being evolved at 
the close of the Carolingian period. We may note, how- 
ever, the signature of the ministri to the royal charters of 
Wessex from 833 ^^ onwards, for these in many cases 
indicate the presence of king's thegns at the royal councils. 

* Ge]jynoSo, 2. Cr. Beowult, 1. 667. " Haefde cyning seleweard 
aseted, sundor nytte beheold." The account of Ge]jynciSo has much 
iQ common with that given by Asser, c. 100, of the duties of Alfred's 

2 811. 167, 7; 821. 300, 4; 823/5. 307, 26; 864. II. 313, 4. 

' Ge]5ync«o, 3. * Einh. Ep. 21. " Ine, 51. 

' The use of the words miles regis for king's thegn would be more 
conclusive were not the meaning of miles and militia somewhat ambigu- 
ous. The institution of the heriot, recorded only in Cnut, but traceable 
as early as Beowulf, suggests such a duty, and all the evidence of 
Beowulf is in favour of such an idea. 

' V. As. 1. 4. 8 VI. As. 11. 

» III. Em. 7. '» IV. Eg. 1, 8. 

'* B. 393 ; B. 41 1, etc. The number of ministri who sign varies from 
one to sixteen. 


A difficulty in determining the significance of references 
to the thegn is the later use of the word absolutely/ with- 
out a preceding possessive. When this occurs the thegn 
may be dependent on some other than the king, though 
in many instances the king's thegn is evidently meant. 

Alongside of the duties owed by the thegn, privileges 
and rights are traceable. His social status is in some 
respects more clearly marked than that of the vassus 
dominicus. His burhbryce is sixty shillings in Ine's 
laws, as contrasted with the thirty-three or thirty-five 
shillings of the gesithcund or twelfhyndman.^ His oath 
apparently has a special value.' Like vassus dominicus. 
Icing's thegn is a term which may be used to include bishops 
and ealdormen.* From the special mention of king's 
thegns in the Chronicle *, asweU as from other passages, it 
may be inferred that they were people of importance. 
Their dignity is especially referred to in Edgar's laws,® 
the passage recalling those in which the honour of the vassi 
dominici is upheld.' 

The judicial privilege which the vassi dominici possess 
under the later Carolingians is assured to the thegns by 
.^thelred.* " Over a king's thegn none but the king shall 
have jurisdiction." Though the existence of such a 
privilege before this time is quite possible, there is no 
sign of it in the laws. Ge^ync'&o declares that the thegn 
of a king's thegn might take the fore-oath on his behalf ; ® 
a right that recalls the similar privilege of the vassi 
dominici. In II. Cnut, 22, 2, the same right is apparently 
attributed to all thegns, whether royal or medial. Thus 

^ Not till the reign of ^thelstan. Chadwick, p. 84. 

2 Ai. 39; Ine, 45 ; cf. Ine, 6. ' A. Gu. 3. 

« Chron. 897. » C!hron. 871, 874, 897, 905, 917. 
' IV. Eg. 2a, " mine Jiegnas haebben heora soipe on minum timan 
swa hi haefdon on mines faeder." 
' 823/5. 307, 26; 864. II. 313, 4. 

8 III. Atr. 11. » Ge))yncSo, 3. 


the two main judicial privileges of the Frankish royal 
vassals are shared by the Enghsh king's thegns; but 
there is no proof of their existence till a late period. 

Whilst it is quite possible that the thegn class originated 
in landless vassals who lived in the king's hall, there is 
evidence in plenty for the territorial position of the king's 
thegn from 828 downwards.'^ The charters record grants 
of land by the West Saxon kings to their thegns — fdeli 
meo ministro — in consideration of faithful service. These 
grants are made fully and freely, with permission to the 
thegn to bequeath the land to whomsoever he pleases at 
his death. In most cases the land is freed from secular 
burdens, the trinoda necessitas being excepted. In some 
instances the grant is made in consideration of money. 
Beyond the fact that they are made in consideration of 
past services, no condition appears to attach to these 
grants.* Maitland suggests, however, that duties may 
be impHed which are not expressly stated.' Without 
St. Oswald's own account of the terms* on which he grants 
his laens we could hardly guess the many and various 
duties that such a tenure involved. Bookland, whenever 
referred to in the laws, appears to be specially connected 
with the king — to be held, in fact, by a royal privilege.^ 
As such there appeared to be obligations attaching to it. 
The man who has bookland, by Alfred's laws, may not 
leave it from his kin but by the witness of the king and his 

1 E.g. B. 396, 442, 467, 468, 491, 496, 506, 520, 550. B. 591, in re- 
ferring to a transaction of Alfred's reign, relates how the king's gerefa 
confiscated the territory of a certain thief " because he was the king's 
man." It is not stated whether the yrfe in question was bookland or 

^ An exception pointed out by Brunner is a Mercian charter of 801 
(B. 303). Land is granted by Csenwulf and his brother to their common 
thegn " in sempiternam possessionem eo videlicet iure si ipse nobis et 
optimatibus nostris fidelis manaerit minister et inconvulsus amicus." 
A general condition is found in later grants. B. 814. 

3 D. B. and B. p. 317. « K. 1287 ; B. 1136. 

' p. B. and B. p. 316. 


bishop.^ The thegn who has a church on his booklaiid 
must give to it a third part of his own tithe." The king's 
gerefa has to take care that none of the mtes paid on 
bookland fail to reach the king,* whosoever man the 
outlaw be, if he have bookland.* It seems as if in some 
respects bookland is the West Saxon equivalent of the 
royal benefice.^ 

We may note further the relation between service and 
land in the account given by Gepync'So ; whatever is the 
precise meaning of utware " it is evidently a service due 
from the five hides held by the thegn.'' The thegn 
of Rectitudines Singularum Personarum owes mihtary 
service from his bookland ; ^ and according to Cnut's law 
the man who flees in battle forfeits his bookland to the 
king.® It is a far call from Cnut to Beowulf , but this 
last law recalls the passage, quoted by Mr. Chadwick, in 
which Wiglaf tells the cowardly thegns of Beowulf that 
now their kindred will go landless when the story of their 
desertion of Beowulf shall be known.^" It is thus just 
possible that the custom has a Scandinavian origin, but 
it is more probable that it rests on a wider basis. The 

1 Af. 41. 

^ II. Eg. 2; I. Cn. 11. Note also the cyrican and bellhus on the estate 
of the thegn in GeJjyncSo. Churches could be held as benefices in the 
Carolingian Empire (Imbart de la Tour, R. H. vol. 68, p. 41), and 
dues were owed by the beneficiary to the church on his land (nonae et 
decimae, etc.). 

3 I. Atr. 1, 14. * II. Cn. 13. 

s Vinogradofi, Growth of the Manor, p. 127. " The followers receive 
land on conditions closely resembling the continental practices of 
beneficiary endowment." But all thegns do not necessarily hold 
bookland. Vinogradofi, Eng. Soc. in the Eleventh Cent. p. 405. 

« See below. Chapter VI. 

' GeJjynciSo, 3. This refers, however, to a medial thegn, not to a 
king's thegn. 

8 Rect. Sing. Pers. 1. We may compare the regulations of Ine, 64 f., 
by which a gesith must not leave his land uncultivated, with the duty 
of keeping a benefice bene condrictum as enforced in the capitularies. 

II. Cn. 77,11.?*.^ 

w Beowulf, 2885. 


possible grants of the Northumbrian kings, as we have 
seen, give no clear evidence.^ 

Bookland then presents some analogies to the Frankish 
benefice. " It proceeds from the wish to place the 
fighting and prajang portions of the community in a 
privileged position." ^ It must be remembered, however, 
that bookland, as a form of tenure, owes its existence, so far 
as can be seen, to a desire for relaxation of the traditional 
laws of family inheritance,^ and that privileges over land 
already possessed are as often the subject of a grant as 
new land itself.* It is because popular desires coincide 
with royal necessities that the bookland becomes a means 
of securing special services from men. Maitland thinks 
it possible that the tenure of bookland in the narrower 
sense was modified by the practice of loaning land.* It 
is, of course, impossible to speak with certainty where 
there are so few data, but all the facts we have are 
opposed to a theory of such gxtensive territorial depend- 
ence of the thegns on the West Saxon kings as is apparent 
in the relation of the vassi dominici to their kings. 

There is no proof that the class of the king's thegns 
was hereditary any more than that of the vassi dominici. 
The expression " thegnbom " is found only once,® and 
is there used very broadly ; the passage could scarcely be 

^ The instances given by Mr. Chadwickin his note on prehistoric land 
tenure indicate that the early kings made revocable grants of land to 
their followers. He does not consider that these were grants of book- 
land, the use of the book for secular purposes being of a comparatively 
late period. Chadwick, pp. 367 fi. 

' Vinogradoff, Eng. Soc. in the Eleventh Cent. p. 196. 

^ Ibid., Growth of the Manor, pp. 143, 246. 

" Ibid., p. 216. 

5 D. B. and B. p. 317. See below, pp. 93 fi. 

" Buns. 5 (935 ?). If a Welshman slay an Englishman (beyond the 
river) he need only pay half the wergeld, nor need an Englislunan pay 
more than that for a Welshman there : " Sy he ]7egenboren, sy he 


adduced as evidence for an hereditary class of thegns, 
certainly not of the heredity of king's thegns. 

The clearest distinction between king's thegns and those 
of other men is only found in II. Cn. 71, where three 
distinct classes of thegns are described. The meaning of 
the word itself implies dependence, and it is clear from 
very early times other men besides the king possessed 
dependents. As the Frankish royal vassal had his own 
vassals, so the thegn of Oepync'So was followed by another 
thegn, and bishops had thegns no less than the king and 
queen. ^ In the later laws, however, when the word 
thegn is used absolutely, the sense of service and sub- 
ordination is being metged in that of rank. Dr. Lieber- 
mann explains the thegn of the later laws as being little 
more than a free landowner. He points out, for instance, 
the difficulty of finding two men of high rank in each 
wapentake to help in the collection of Peter's pence,* or 
the twelve men of III. ^thelred 3. Ge^ync^o, which makes 
the true antithesis, " ]jegen ond feoden," is professedly 
archaic. It seems plain that the word thegn in its later 
use implies social position rather than personal depend- 
ence on a superior. 

(6) The Hlaford and the Laen. 

In seeking a relation corresponding to that of senior 
and vassus, more may he learnt from a study of the 
position of the hlaford and the landrica than of the 
medial thegn. The universality of the connection is 
indicated by the number of passages in the laws which 
have to do with the relations of the freeman and his 
lord. The allusion in AKred's preface reflects a well- 
established institution. The word hlaford is used for 

^ Vinogradoflf, Eng. Soc. in the Eleventh Cemt. p. 408. 
" Northu, 57, 2. Cf. I. Atr. 1, 2, and note the references in the 
charters to the thegns of the shire. 


the lord both of free and of unfree ; in Episcopus the 
lord is to be urged to justice both to his men and to 
his slaves ; ^ but it is not difficult, as a rule, to determine 
with which class of relations the laws are deahng. 

The regulations with regard to hlafordsokne recall 
those on commendation in Francia. The witness of 
his former ealdorman is required by Alfred's laws for 
the man who wishes to seek a new lord.* The power of 
the count to control commendations, at least in Italy, 
has been noticed above ; * he was also bound to keep an 
account of the lords of strangers,* though this had earher 
been the task of the missi.* The commendation of a man 
by his friends is known in Francia, though it does not 
appear to have taken place in the mallus as the Enghsh 
" commendation " does in the folkmoot.* The declara- 
tion that all men are to have free hlafordsoknej is almost 
identical with that of the Divisiones Regnorum : " Et 
unusquisque liber homo . . . Mcentiam habeat se com- 
mendendi ... ad quemcumque voluerit." Again, as in 
Francia, no man is permitted to receive the runaway 
man of another without the leave of his late lord.^ 
Treason to the lord, as was shown above, is a crime to 
which no mercy may be shown as early as Alfred's reign, 
and the later legislation is not more lenient to it.* Whilst 
it is not allowable that a man fight against his lord, it is 
right and fitting that either fight on behalf of the other.^" 

The question of the real connection of the lord and 
vassal again arises. Does the hlaford grant land to his 

^ Episo. 10. " His mannuin ne forSan his nyd-Jieowan." 

- Af. 37. 3 787. 200, 13. * 864. II. 323, 31. 

s 802/13. 157, 4. e II. As. 2. II. Ew. 3. 

' IV. As. 5. III. As. 4. V. As. 1, 1. " I will that every man who 
is innocent follow such a lord as he wishes." l , 

» II. Ew. 7. II. As. 22. III. As. 4. IV. As. 4. V. As. 1. '1 

» Af. prol. 49, 7. Af. 1. 1. Af. 4, 2. II. As. 4. III. Eg. 7, 3. 
II. Cn. 26, 57, 64. 

W At 42, 5, 6, 


man as the king does to his thegn ? If so, is the land 
held by a conditional tenure ? Gelpync'So shows us the 
thegn's thegn holding land, but it is to the king's utware 
that he holds it. He serves his lord in the king's hall, 
and he may represent him at law, but there is no sign 
that he holds his land from his lord or that he owes his 
lord service from his land.^ On the other hand, the 
charters prove the existence of loans of land made by 
others than the king, from 721 onwards.^ In every 
case, however, these are the grants of clerics, and the 
large majority are made by the see of Worcester. They 
prove the existence of an institution which offers, as 
Maitland has shown, close resemblances to the precarium 
and the benefice of Frankish law. The services of 
Oswald's law, given at length by St. Oswald,* are, as 
Maitland says, almost feudal. The riding service in 
especial suggests the similar duties owed by Frankish 
beneficiaries to their lords. The resemblances are, in 
fact, so striking, as to make the possibihty of imitation 
worth considering. The ecclesiastical source of the 
custom is an additional ground for expecting such a 
connection. Maitland has pointed out that there are 
signs that " some of the EngMsh kings occasionally did 
what had been done on a large scale by Charles Martel 
or his sons, namely, compelled the churches to grant 
benefices to lay noblemen." * He gives instances dating 
from 849 5 (Birhtwulf of Mercia), 858 « (.Ethelbald of 

^ Mr. Chadwick suggests that the reversion of the heriot to the grantor 
is analogous to a similar tenure of land. (Chadwick, p. 376.) If the 
gesith is not immediately dependent on the king, the service due from 
his land is probably owed to his lord. 

" B. 166, 271, 307, 455, 490, 608, 1087, etc. K. 617, 630, 679. 

3 B. 1136. 

* D.B. and B. p. 301. Cf. the Domesday record of grants made by 
churches " ob amorem regis." Vinogradoff, Eng. Soc. in the Eleventh 
Cent. p. 225-6. 

s B. 455. ' B, 495. 


Wessex) and 908 1 (Edward the Elder). When it is 
noted that the very word beneficium ^ is used in this 
connection it is diflficult to avoid the conclusion that 
here, at last, there is conscious imitation of Carolingian 
custom ; though the full phrase beneficium prcestitum ^ is 
not found till a later date. 

Judging by the charters that are extant it is only in 
the tenth century that this type of tenure is fully evolved. 
On the other hand, the first instances of the laen are found 
in the eighth century, and it is clear that whatever 
borrowing there was, must have taken place in the 
Merovingian period. The laen is evidently more like 
the precarium than the beneficium. The beneficium of 
the Carolingian period is granted for a life, and is revocable 
for neglect or breach of faith on the part of the holder; 
the precarium is granted for one, two, or three hves,* 
but is often renewable every five years.^ The laen is, 
as a rule, granted for three lives,* but does not contain 
a reference to quinquennial renewal. Again, the pre- 
carium usually contains a stipulation for the pajnnent 
of a census, whilst the laen sometimes, but not always, 
refers to services that are to be rendered by the holder. 
Above all, the precarium is essentially an ecclesiastical form 
of grant, whilst the beneficium is frequently granted by 
a layman. The laens of which we possess records are 
practically all grants by churches, though this may be 
due in part to the longer traditions and better muniment 
rooms of the clergy, and at least one early record refers to 
a laen held of a private person. In a document already 

' B. 618. 2 B. 495. * B. 1136. 

* Form. Aug. CoUeotio B. 16, 17, 7 ; 6, 5, 3, 2, 15. Sal. Merk. 34, 
35, etc. 

» Form. Sal. Lind. 3, 4. Sal. Merk. 5. 845. II. 404, 22. 

* Seebohm {Tribal Custom in A.S. Law, p. 526) shows reasons for 
believing that the piecariouB grant for three lives may have had a 
native origin. 


quoted,! after the gerefa seizes on the thief's yrfe, a 
certain Ordlaf then takes possession of his own land 
which Helmstan, the thief, had as a laen from him, since 
Hehnstan could not forfeit Ordlaf's land to the king. 
A very interesting passage at the end of Alfred's preface 
to the translation of Augustine's Soliloquies,^ is evidence 
of the distinction between loanland and bookland, as 
well as of the fact that laens might be granted by in- 
dividuals. " Every man after he has built any cottage 
on his lord's laen, desires that he may remain there for 
a time . . . and provide for himself in every way from 
the laen . . . until the time that he gain bookland and 
an eternal inheritance (aece yrfe) through his lord's 
kindness." ^ 

The parallel with the Frankish precarium is so marked 
that it is no surprise to discover that ^Kric's gloss for 
precarium is laen. We have some ground, then, for sup- 
posing that the tie of lord and vassal was at times 
strengthened by a grant of loanland, though it is probable 
that such grants were made where no such personal 
connection existed. We have also a good case for a 
deUberate imitation by EngUsh prelates of a practice 
prevalent among their Frankish brethren, and for the 
extension of this practice amongst laymen as well as 
clergy, small men as well as great. The tenures of 
Oswaldslaw may or may not be the result of foreign 
influence ; they are explicable on purely insular grounds, 
and the resemblances may be the result of coincidence, 
but the process of which they are the product was begun 
by an impulse from without. It cannot be said, however, 
that there is any exact parallel in England for the 
official use of the benefice in Francia, or in Prancia for 

1 B. 591. 

2 Ed. H. L. Hargrove, Tale Studies in English, XIII, 1902. 

^ Compare the phrase on ece erfe in the landbooks, e. g. B. 605. 


the distinction of loanland and bookland (in the narrower 
sense of the word) in England.^ 

(c) The Personal Relations of Lord and Man. 

The laws throw considerable Mght on the personal 
relations of the hlaford and his man. Like the Frankish 
senior he maintains his man's quarrel ; ^ like the Frankish 
senior he has a large responsibility for his man's actions, 
and a domestic if not a larger jurisdiction.' Li both 
countries it is not difficult to trace the lord's duties and 
privileges back to the original mund or patrocinium. We 
have seen that the gesithcund man made a compact for the 
men of his household,* and thus exercised some corrective 
jurisdiction. A similar authority is referred to in the 
passage where men are forbidden to receive a runaway 
whom his lord has not been able to keep in order at home.* 
For certain offences his man owes him payments,^ and he 
has a share in the wer for the death of his man,' and 
compensation from him who takes in his runaway man.* 
When cattle has been stolen the hlaford has his share of 
what is left when the ceapgyld has been paid.* In this 
last passage, however, we are dealing with territorial 
rather than with personal lordship, and a different 
problem is raised.^" II. Cnut 42, refers to the lord's 
mund bryce ; it is quite possible, as Mr. Chadwick suggests, 
that the lord's rights have developed from a primitive 
" house peace." The powers of the lord over his geneat 
are extensive ; if he persists in refusing to pay gafol it is 

' Vinogradoff, Eiig, Soc. in the Eleventh Cent. p. 253. 

" Af. 42, 5. ' Vinogradoff, Growth of the Manor, p. 214. 

* Ine, 50. V. As. 1. 

" II. Cn. 36 (Perjury). Duns. 6, 3 (Complicity with a stranger). 
I. Atr. 1, 7 (Neglect on the part of a borh). II. Cn. 42 (Ill-treatment 
of a priest). Ine, 39 (Running away). In Af. prol. 49, 7 : " The 
world-lords receive a money hot for most crimes," " World-lords " 
may have a broad meaning and include the gerefan. 

'Ine, 74. » Af. .37, 1. » I. Eg. 2. 

" See below, Chapter V. pp. Ill ff. 


probable that the lord will leave him neither his posses- 
sions nor his hfe.^ The status of the geneat is, however, 
not certain; reference is, perhaps, made here to a juris- 
diction over unfree or semi-free. The lord's command is 
an adequate excuse for non-attendance at the gemot,^ but 
this does not prove that the lord had a court of his own. 
There are, however, as Maitland has shown, indications 
of the ; growth of private jurisdictions, but these will 
be considered later along with the Frankish immunity. 
The landrica of Edgar's and jEthelstan's laws is in all 
probabihty an immunist. 

The general responsibility of the lord for his men is 
indicated in other passages besides the well-known one 
that states that no law may be got of lordless men.^ The 
passage which most forcibly recalls Frankish enactments 
is Mihelat&n II. 8 : " And we commanded that if any 
landless man seek a lord (folgode) in another shire . . . 
that he lead him to folkright if he work guilt there, or 
else make bot for him." This is practically identical 
with the stray capitulum which Boretius attributes to 
Charles's reign.* " Et quia sunt noimuUi qui . . . non 
habentes res aut substantiam pro quibus constringi 
possint ideo mahtias exercere non cessant : de illis nobis 
placet ut ipsi cum quibus manere videntur aut eos prse- 
sentent aut pro eorum malefactis rationem reddant." 
The lord holds his men in fideiussio or horh,^ and is 
bound to pay the wer of any one of them whom he suffers 
to escape while under accusation.* He is not to impede 

1 IV. Eg. 1, 1, 2. " I. Eg. 7, 1. 3 II. As. 2. 

* I. 218, 11. An equally close analogy is presented to the passage 
from Ine's laws which has been frequently referred to, by a capitulary 
of 862. Any borrowing in this instance must be on the Frankish side. 
866. II. 309. " Si vero servus hoc fecerit sententiae capitali subiaceat, 
et dominus omnia similia restituat, quia servum suum non correxit nee 
custodivit ut talia non fefpelraret." Cf. The gesith's "compact" of 
Ine, 50. 

» III. As. 7. I. Atr. 1, 10. « I. Atr. 1, 11. 



the course of justice,^ and if accused of connivance with 
any of his men he must clear himself with five oath- 
helpers.^ He must pay the alms penny if his men will 
not.' It may be noted that aU these passages are of 
fairly late date. They appear, like the similar Frankish 
capitularies, to indicate a surrender of responsibilities 
on the part of a weakening central government. 

The services owed by a man to his lord are nowhere 
fuUy set forth. We have seen that he might take a 
fore-oath for him, and that he served him in the king's hall. 
The account given in the Rectitudines of the services 
owed to a lord, apphes rather to the semi-free, and is 
to be compared with that of the Capitulum in pago 
Cenomannico datum, rather than with any account of 
the duty of the vassus. It must be remembered that in 
Francia the status of the vassal varied infinitely, and that 
" domanial " and seignorial rights were alike in origin to 
a considerable extent and tended to merge in one. The 
process of feudalization was at work at either end of the 
ladder. If the whole feudal structure was erected on 
the basis of patronage and protection, the relations of 
the lord and his humbler dependents are not irrelevant. 

It is not easy to arrive at any definite conclusion with 
reference to the relation of seignorial institutions in the 
two countries. The analogies are close and constant, 
but they seem to rest on an universal basis, and it appears 
equally impossible to prove that Charles Martel borrowed 
ideas from the Northumbrian kings, or that Alfred, 
Edward or .iEthelstan deliberately copied the Frankish 
system of vassi dominici and royal benefices.* As regards 

1 II. As. 3. 2 I, Atr. 1, 12. ^ yil. a Atr. 5. 

* It is true that the use of the word beneficium in the English 
charters is a strong argument in favour of external influence. As the 
word, however, is found in very early Frankish formulae, and is used 
in the precaria grants themselves, it may have been taken over when 
the laen was devised in imitation of the precarium, that is, long before 
the time of Alfred. 


the legal relation of lord and vassal it is possible that the 
transference of responsibility to the lord was to some 
extent counterbalanced in England by the growth of 
the system of frithborh among equals. There are fewer 
indications here than in Francia of private jurisdictions 
apart from royal grant. None of the similarities in 
detail noticed above are inconsistent with the separate 
development of institutions in the two countries. 

In the matter of land tenures, however, a transfer of 
legal practice seems more probable. The landbook has 
been borrowed from without; the methods of booking 
land might well be borrowed also. But if so, as has been 
shown, the first borrowing must have taken place during 
the Merovingian period, and the later developments 
might well have taken place without the operation of 
any exterior influence. 




We have considered patrimonial or domestic justice 
with its possible developments and limitations in Francia 
and England ; it remains to compare the seignorial 
justice that rests on royal privilege — the immunity — ^in 
both countries. " It is highly probable," says Maitland, 
" that the EngUsh immunity is not independent of the 
Merovingian immunity ; still ... it is a significant fact 
that two different formulas should be equally open to the 
blame of not deciding just that most important question 
which according to our ideas they ought to decide." ^ 
This is the question of the judicial rights of the immunist ; 
the precise meaning of the terms of the royal grant which 
creates the immunity. 

1. The Frankish Immunity. 

The origins of the immunity are to be found in the 
Boman period.^ Under the later Empire the exemption 
enjoyed by the lands of the fisc from both financial 
burdens and judicial interference is extended, both 

1 D.B. and B. p. 278. 

" Brunner, Waitz and M. Plach uphold the theory that the immunity 
is a development of the royal rmmd ; the protection of certain persons, 
most often connected with the Church, from disturbance and harm. 
It is possible that the charter of mwnMiv/ti, which sometimes includes 
exemption from taxes (v. Flach, I. p. 107), and which continues to be 
granted alongside that of immunity till the reign of Lewis the Pious 
(Waitz, IV. p. 291 ; Brunner, R. 0. II. p. 55), may have influenced 
indirectly the position of the immunist. M. Kroell has, however, 
pointed out the essential contrast between the two institutions; the 
rmmd carries with it the king's protection against all men, whilst the 
immunity charter ia directed solely against the invasion by the public 
ofBoials of the immunist's territory. Kroell, pp. 87 fi. 



formally and informaUy, to the lands of potentes. These 
traditional privileges, persisting under the Merovingians, 
are seriously threatened by the growing powers of the 
local representative of the central authority — ^the count. 
To safeguard their lands against the aggressions of the 
count, the magnates seek and obtain from the king 
diplomas of immunity, forbidding all pubUc officials to 
enter their domains, and putting them in immediate 
relation with the king. 

The immunity is found with frequency as early as 
the seventh century,^ and in the Formulae of Marculf * 
there are signs that laymen, as well as clergy, obtain these 
privileges. The overwhelming majority of grants extant, 
however, are those made to churches and monasteries, 
and in the Carolingian period the institution is practically 
confined to the Church,' the disappearance of the lay 
immunity being chiefly due to the development of the 

The immunity is pre-eminently a royal privilege. 
None but a royal command is sufficient to keep the royal 
officials from entering a territory. The grant is made, 
as we have seen, both to laymen and to churches : 
" potentibus et ecolesiae " ^ — ^but in the case of a church 
the grant is made to one person,® not to a community. 
The abbot is regarded as proprietor of the lands of the 

The form taken by the immunity grant is well known. 
A command is addressed to the count and his subordinates 
not to enter the land of the privileged person, " ad causas 
audiendum vel freta exigendum nee mansiones aut paratas 

^ Fustel de Coulanges, Origines du aystkne feodal, p. 341. 

^ Marc. I. 14; I. 3, " loca ecolesiarum aut oui volueris dioere.'' 

a Kroell, p. 156. « Ibid., p. 161. ^ eu. 22. 14 ? 

' Marc. I. 3. " apostolioo viro illo . . .'' It must be noted that the 
privilege is conferred on the holder of the land, not on the land itself. 
Kroell, p. 95. 


faciendum nee fideiussores tollendum nee homines ipsius 
ecclesiae de quaslibet causas distringendum nee nulla 
redibutione requirendum : " ^ and in many oases it is added 
that whatever within the immunity might have gone to 
the fisc by way of profit shall now go to the immunist.^ 
There is little doubt that the positive right is implied 
whenever the corresponding exemption is granted ; ^ 
the immunity grants were for the benefit of the holder, 
not of the men who lived on the immunity. 

These rights are thus financial to a considerable extent ; 
the right of making requisitions and exacting lodging was 
one of the main sources of royal revenue. But beside 
these are some that seem to depend on judicial procedure. 
The fredum is the judicial fine which corresponds to the 
English wite ; and the right to exact this implies the 
right to hold a court which can impose it. No one is 
likely to hold a court of which another reaps aU the 
benefits ; * and the right of a lord to claim at the public 
courts a part of the profits of justice in cases where his 
own men are concerned appears to have been as exceptional 
in Francia ^ as in England at a later date.* Brunner ' 
sums up the controversy as to immunist jurisdiction, 
and shows that the majority of writers favour the theory 
of separate immunity courts which has been so ably set 
forth by M. Beauchet.* The passage which proves almost 

^ Marc. I. 4. 

'■ Miihlbacher, D. K. pp. 73, 96, 131. Cf. the unique grant of 808 
(p. 277) of profits of justice without an immunity, marked, however, as 
of doubtful authenticity. 

' M. Kroell draws a distinction, for the Merovingian period, between 
the immunities of the east and the west. In the west the immunist 
ooUeoted the dues and paid them over to the king ; in the east he kept 
them. In tho Carolingian period all alike keep the dues. Kroell, p. 115. 

4 D. B. and B. 217. 

^ The diploma to Piaoenza, referred to above, may be an example of 
such a privilege. Miihlbacher, D. K. p. 277. 

« P. andM. I. p. 570. ' Brunner, R. 0. IT. p. 298, note 55. 

* Beauchet, pp. 418-85. 


conclusively the existence of such courts occurs in a 
diploma for Trier of 772.^ " Nee homines eorum per 
mallobergiis nullus deberet admallare aut per aliqua 
ingenia praesumat condempnare neque freta vel thelonea 
exigere . . , sed in eorum privatas audientias agentes ipsius 
ecclesiae unicuique de reputatis condicionibus directam 
facerent et ab aliis simulque perciperent veritatem." 
The men of the immunity are exempted from the mallus,^ 
and audientice are held by the agentes of the immunity. 
The same word is used of the courts held by the ivdex 
on the royal vill ; * and the fact that the lands of the fisc 
set the pattern for all immune territories would of itself 
lead us to expect to find jurisdictional privileges in the 

So much of the character of the immunity and of its 
history down to the Carolingian period may be learnt 
from a study of the diplomas themselves.^ The capitu- 
laries indicate the position of the immunity in the general 
scheme of Carolingian government. Two Merovingian 
capitularies refer briefly to the immunities, reaffirmiag 
their privileges,^ but under Charles the Great there is 
a series of regulations, culminating in the Gapitulare 
legihus additum of 803,'' which recognize the position 

1 Muhlbaoher, D. K. pp. 95 fi. Cf. Charter for Metz, 775. p. 131. 

* Note also a diploma of 847, quoted by M. Beauchet on p. 444. " Si 
vero in eadem immunitate reus repertus fuerit vel ductus, ... a nemine 
distringatur nisi a jam dicto loci mandatario, nisi forte exinde latronis 
fuerit eiectio"; that is, one who has committed theft outside the 
immunity must be given up to the public judge. The various regulations 
as to the appointment of good advocates in the capitularies are only 
explicable if the advocates have judicial functions. 

3 800 ? 88, 56. « Kroell, p. 134. 

' From the " Capitula Remedii " we learn that in some instances at 
least the immunist possessed legislative powers. F. Kroell, p. 266, and 
M. a. H. Leges V. (folio ed.) pp. 441-4. 

« 584-628. 19, 11; 614. 22. 14, "salva emimitate domnorum, quod 
ecclesiae aut potentum vel cuicumque visi sunt indulsisse pro pace atque 
disciplina facienda.^' 

' 803. 113, 2. 


and privileges of the immunities, and at the same time, 
subordinate them effectively to the royal power. As 
in the case of seignorial relations, Charles the Great 
appears to attempt to check the harmful tendencies of 
the main development of his period by according govern- 
mental recognition, and imposing legal restrictions.^ 
To quote Flach, " Si Charlemagne enrayait d'une main 
la formation de la feodalite qui, avec une aristocratie 
Hvree a eUe-mSme, se serait peut-gtre constitute d^s le 
huitifeme siecle, il travaiUait de I'autre a en perfectionner 
les organes." ^ 

The capitularies are concerned rather with limiting 
than with defining the rights of the immunities. Gteneral 
commands are given repeatedly that the rights of the 
immunities be respected, but there is no statement as to 
what these rights are. We find, however, what they do 
not include. 

The general duty of watch and ward is owed from men 
on the immunity, and they are bound to assist in the 
general work of bridge and road mending.' The men on 
the ecclesiastical immunities are allowed, however, to 
work under their lord's direction and not with the other 
pagenses under the count's immediate control, unless they 
get behindhand with their task.* Pew of the diplomas 
refer expressly to these universal duties, in this respect 
presenting a striking contrast with the Enghsh land-books. 
Li the Charter to Metz, however, for 1775, we find the 
clause : " Ulud addi placuit scribendum, ut de tribus 
causis : de hoste pubhco . . . et wacta vel pontes 

^ M. Kroell considers that it was the deliberate policy of Charles 
the Great to strengthen the immunity, as part of a system of " adminis- 
trative deconcentration." Kroell, p. 249. 

2 Flach, I. p. 124. Of. Dr. Seeliger in Hist. Vierielj. (1906) p. 582. 

' 782/6. 192, 4; 820. 294, 3; 822/3. 319. 11. Cf. aUo 844. II. 259, 
Prologue and cap. I. 

« 787 ? 197, 7. 


componendum, illi homines bene ingenui, qui de suo 
capite bene ingenui immunes esse videntur, qui super 
terras ipsius ecclesiae . . . commanere noscuntur, si in 
aliquo exinde de istis tribus causis neglegentes apparuerint, 
exinde cum judicibus nostris deducant rationes ... in 
reliquo vero . . . sub emunitate ipsi sint conservati." ^ 
The object of this clause is to preserve judicial rights to 
the king and to support the administrative rights of the 
count ; * it is not directly stated that the men on the 
immunity owe the three services mentioned, but the 
inference is unmistakable. It is thus highly probable 
that these three duties were reserved in all grants of 
immunity, unless exemption were expressly granted.* 
Reference may be made to such exceptions in a memoran- 
dum of 865, which orders the missi to discover who owe 
paraveredae, bridge duty, and the like ; * we have a few 
instances of exemption. Waitz quotes a charter of Lewis 
the Pious * in which performance of the duty of tuendum — 
probably wacta — exempts men from all other public 
duties. Grants such as are found of banni and aribanni ® 
suggest exemption from host duty, since the authority 
who exacts the fine has the power of dispensiag from the 
duty.' The history of the privileges of Corvey is of interest 
in this connection, the convent having had its exemption 
from military duty granted by Lewis the Pious and con- 
firmed by Lewis the Gterman and Charles the Fat ; the 

I Muhlbaoher, D. K. p. 132. 
" Waitz, rV. pp. 33 £E. 

3 825. 330, 2. " Liberi homines . . . quousque ipsas res possident, 
hostem at reliquas publicas functiones faciant. Quod si jussa facere 
neglexerint, licentiam eos distringendi oomitibus permittimus . . 
nostro non resistente emunitate." 

4 865, II. 94, 4. 

6 Waitz, IV. p. 629. 

8 Miihlbacher, D. K. pp. 87, 153, 195. 

' On the other hand, such immuniats are, in some cases at least, 
bound to pay over the heriban to the king after collecting it. Kioall, 
p. 111. See below, p. 136. 


last, however, limiting the number of those exempt to 
twenty, in consideration of military exigencies.^ 

Exemptions from these pubUc duties are as a rule of 
late date,^ and indicate the advance of the disruptive 
tendency. Another duty which, it seems probable, had 
to be specifically reserved, was the rendering of the 
dona annualia * to the king. This was not included under 
the general head of the fisc dues from which the immunity 
was exempt, as the " gifts " were payable directly to the 
king and not to the count.* A list of monasteries of the 
year 817 shows how many had already gained such 
exemption as well as those who were exempt from military 

Another limitation to the rights of the immunist is 
frequently mentioned in the capitularies. Thieves * and 
other criminals ' who have committed crimes outside 
the immunity, and runaway slaves * who take refuge in 
the immunity must be hunted down by the count. For 
a refusal to admit the count or his underlings the fine 
is 15 solidi for the first offence and 30 solidi for the 
second, whilst the third offence must be reported to 
the king.® It appears that later the count commands 
the advocate to present the fugitive before his tribunal 
without himself entering the immunity.^" The judge of 
the immunity, therefore, had no jurisdiction over offences 
committed outside the immunity ; but from the fact that 

^ Baldamus (pp. 46-7) gives numerous instances. 

2 Brunner, R.0. 11. p. 295. Waitz, IV. p. 35. Kroell, p. 182. They 
are, however, so common by the end of the Carolingian period that an 
immunity grant is popularly held to involve exemption from military 
service. Kroell, p. 187. 

3 Waitz, IV. pp. 312, 316. 

* Similarly the king's own right to mansionaticos and paraveredae 
was not surrendered when exemptions were granted from these duties 
under the count. 

5 817.350. » 803, 113, 2, etc. 

' 864, II. 317, 18; 825. 330, 2. » 857, II. 292, 4. 

» 803. 113, 2; 804/13. 181, 5. i» 873. II. 344, 3. 


these passages expressly refer to such offences it might 
be gathered that the judge of the immunity had criminal 
jurisdiction within the immunity. On the other hand, 
in one Italian charter ^ criminal causes are reserved for 
the count's tribunal, and it has been shown that a capitu- 
lary which appears distinctly to state that the advocate 
has power of life and death over those who dwell on the 
lands of the immunity," refers merely to the Church's 
right of sanctuary.' Criminal causes are, therefore, prob- 
ably reserved for the count, together with those arising 
from neglect of the public duties mentioned above. 

In civil cases, when a man from the immunity has done 
wrong to one without, the advocate becomes representative 
instead of judge. It is probably to an immunity that the 
Capitular e de Monaster io 8. Grucis refers when it declares, 
" De caeteris vero quaestionibus, quas aut alii ab ipsis 
aut ipsae quaerunt ab aliis, secundum consuetudinem 
ante comitem vel vicarios eius justitiam reddeant et 
recipiant." * There is a distinction, however, between 
the free and the unfree; the freemen may themselves 
appear at the count's tribunal to defend themselves,^ 
whilst the unfree, if not summarily punished by the 
advocate, are presented or represented by him at the 
public courts.* If a man of the immunity is the injured 
party it seems that if free he will seek justice himself 
at the count's tribunal, whUst if he is unfree the advocate 
will seek it for him. 

' Charter for Xovalese. 845. "Pro criminalibus culpis . . . non 
est lioitum iudicare, ante comitem eiusdem loci iustitias reddant." 
Quoted Kroell, p. 213. Cf. Form. Imp. 43, " Nullus comes aut iudiciaria 
potestas eos de quibuslibet oausis distringere praesumet, exceptis 
criminalibus causis." 

2 810 ? 158, 1. ' Kroell, p. 211. » 822/4. 302, 5. 

^ 787 t 196, 5. " Ceteri vero liberi homines qui vel oommendationem 
vel beneficium eoolesiastioum habent siout reliqui iustitias faoiant." At 
a later date the outsider may claim justice at the court of the immunity. 
Bninner,/;. C.II. p. 301. 

« 806 ? 211, 16. 


It is not probable, however, that there was any simple 
or universal limitation of immunist jurisdiction. Accord- 
ing to Dr. Seeliger,^ it cannot be classified as equivalent 
to that of the centenarius or of the count; to the later 
haute justice or to the later basse justice. The significance 
of the Carolingian period for the history of the immunity 
lies not so much in the increased competence of the tribunal 
as in the acceptation of the institution as a part of the 
organization of the State. 

Another limitation to the grant is made in favour of the 
king himself. Any charter of this period which renounces 
the royal right of entering the territory is to be regarded 
as spurious. As we have seen, the immunity was theoreti- 
cally immediately dependent on the king, and justice 
might be sought directly of him. Some charters exclude 
the missi,* but as a rule these envoys of the Crown might 
enter the immunities. 

The form of the grant is perpetual,' but it is usually 
renewed on the death of the grantor. That granted to the 
Spaniards of the March * is of interest, as it appears to 
secure to them a peculiar communal justice with duty of 
suit to the count's court only for " the greater causes." 

Expressions are found which suggest that certain 
possessions had a right of immunity without a definite 
grant. We find that a right of immunity is granted to 
Corvey " talem . . . qualem omnes ecclesiae in Francia 
habent," and the language of the late capitularies suggests 
that every church must be an immunity.^ This is pro- 

1 Hist. Viertelj. (1906) p. 580; (1905) p. 313. Thus over-definite 
limitations are set by Waitz, IV. p. 453 ; Brunner, B. 0. II. p. 302. 

2 Muhlbaoher, 2>. K. pp. 76, 91, 192. 

^ Marc. I. 3. " Tarn presentis quam futuris temporibus . . . per- 
maneat." Cf . also the references to hereditarius jus in the charter for a 
lay immunity quoted by M. Beauohet, p. 472. 

« 844. II. 259, 1, 3. 

' 865, II. 92, 2. " Ut ecclesiae Dei per totius regni nostri . . . sub 
nostras immunitatis tuitione securae . . . permaneant." Cf. 869. II. 
333, 1, 


bably due to the great extension of immunities ; there is 
no sign that such rights were ever held without express 
royal grant. An expression in the Capitulare Haristel- 
lense which has been taken to mean that the benefices 
of all royal vassals were ipso facto immunities ^ need not 
bear this interpretation. A late capitulary appears to 
indicate the existence of immune rights without an immune 
grant, the royal officials being resisted not only in immu- 
nities but in " cuiuslibet hominis potestatem vel proprie- 
tatem." ^ This passage appears to indicate the extension 
of seignorial rights to a considerable extent, and increases 
the probability of seignorial jurisdiction apart from 
immunity grants : its importance, however, may be 
exaggerated, as it is found only in Ansegis's collection. 
Some passages quoted by Waitz appear to set the question 
beyond doubt, at any rate in the case of ecclesiastical 
benefices. A passage from the works of Hincmar declares 
that the lands from which the vassals owe military 
service are under the royal immunity and ought to be 
defended by the king for the use of the Church.* A charter 
of Lewis the German grants to Saint Gall the same rights 
that other monasteries and benefices have.* 

It seems probable, therefore, that rights similar to 
those conferred by an immunity charter were recognized 
alongside of the more regular immunities. The sources 
do not, however, indicate the existence of these un- 
chartered franchises tiU late in the Carolingian period, 
for, as we have seen, the analogy of the vassus dominicus 
and the ivdex immunitatis in the Capitulare Uaristalhnst 

^ 779, 48, 9. " Ut latrones de infra immunitatem . . . presente- 
tur . . . vassus noster, si hoc non adimpleverit, beneficimn et honorem 
perdat, et qui beneficiuiu non habet, bannum solvat." M. Beauchet 
thinks that an immunity grant always accompanied the grant of a royal 

» 864, II. 317, 18. Cf. Flaoh, I. p. 103. 

» Hincmar. Quoted Waitz, IV. p. 295. 

* Quoted Waitz, IV. p. 295. 


cannot be accepted as proof that the judicial rights of 
the vassi dominici were equivalent to those of the 

The official at the head of the immunity is the advocatus, 
also called the vicedominus on ecclesiastical immunities. 
His duties, as we have seen, are to represent the men of 
the immunity when necessary at the count's tribunal ; ^ 
and to preside over the courts of the immunity itself.' 
The need for a lay representative and defender on the 
part of ecclesiastics had long before created a defensor 
ecclesiae* but his importance is much increased by the 
judicial rights conferred by the immunity, and the lay 
immunist also has his advocate.* The importance of 
his position is indicated by the frequent references in 
the charters to the appointment of good advocates.* 
According to some passages they are to be appointed by 
the people and count.' Some of the charters give the 
immunist the right to choose his own advocate ; * in one 
passage the missi elect him ; ® by one charter he appears 
to have been nominated by the king himself,^" and in 
a capitulary he is called " advocatus noster." ^^ The 
advocate is not appointed for life,^* and limitations are 
set to his selection. 1* 

These restrictions on the choice of an advocate are 
signs of the determination of the Carolingian kings 

^ See above, p. 79. 

^ 787 ? 196, 1 : " pei advocatum . . . causa ipsa ante comite vel 
judioe veniat." 

' 787 7 196, 1 : " (episcopus) faciat eum per advocatum iustitiam 

« Brunner, B. G. II. p. 303. » 802. 101, 18a. 

« 803. 93, 13; 802. 101, 18a; 790. 201, 3. 

» 809. 151, 22; 805. 124, 12; 802. 210, 11. 

' Waitz, IV. p. 469; cf. charter of 856. "Advocatus eoium quam 
ipsi monachi cum consensu nostro elegerint nostra vice eos adiuvet 
. . . et defendat." Cf. also 822-3, 319, 9. "Episcopus una cum 
comite advocatum elegat." 

» 803. 115, 3. w Waitz, IV. p. 469. 

" 826. 310. " 825. 326, 4. " 801/13. 172, 14; 801/10. 210, 11. 


to keep an effective control on the administration of 
the immunities. The advocate is almost as much a 
representative of the royal as of the ecclesiastical 
power.i The most strikiag instance, however, of the 
royal concern for the immunities, is the Capitulare legibus 
additum of 803. Here a privilege which had been granted 
to a few isolated monasteries * is extended to aU the 
immunities and given the sanction of law, not merely 
of royal authority. The man who infringes the immunity 
or does any violence within it pays 600 shillings.* From 
the charters we gather that of this composition one-third 
went to the fisc and two-thirds to the judge of the 
immunity.* We find this payment itself referred to at 
a later date by the name of " immunity." ^ 

2. The Anglo-Saxon Franchise. 

If it is difficult to disentangle the personal and terri- 
torial elements in the history of seignorial privilege in 
Francia, it is impossible in England. Professor Vino- 
gradoff indicates four distinct " Saxon roots of the 
manor," ^ and three at least of these must be examined to 
find the equivalent of the Frankish immunity. If book- 
land supphes a parallel for the benefice, it also has points 
in common with the immunity; and the soke, and the 
position of the landrica must also be considered. 

The difficulties of the problem are further increased by 
the fact that there is a far wider margin of uncertainty, 
both as to the facts themselves and as to their chronology, 
in the history of privileged private jurisdictions in 
England. One can venture to do little more than tread 
cautiously in the footsteps of Maitland. 

1 Kroell, p. 264 

2 Muhlbacher, D. K. p. 173 (779. St. Marcel), p. 192 (782. St. Martin 
of Tours). 

' 807. 113, 2. Brunner, R. 0. II. p. 297, points out that this is the 
wergeld of the invading count. Cf. Form. Imp. 15. 

* See note 6. ^ 832. II. 64, 11 ; 876. II. 101, 3. 

° VinogradofE, Eng. 8oc. in the Eleventh Cent. pp. 340-5. 


In the second section on " Sake and Soke " in Domesday 
Book and Beyond,^ Maitland suggests that the private 
jurisdictions which existed to so great an extent under 
Edward the Confessor were no innovation, but are to 
be traced back to the tenth and perhaps even to the 
eighth century. Traditions and formulae ahke bear the 
signs of age. 

The chief and almost the only source of our information 
on the subject is to be found in the land-books. The 
diplomatic contrast between the English and Frankish 
charter of privilege is marked; the command to the 
officials not to enter the lands of the immunist is lacking 
in the English book, whilst stress is rather laid on the 
exemption from fiscal burdens. There is no one official 
type of charter ; the forms vary locally, and thus there 
is no official collection of formulae comparable to the 
Frankish Formulae Imperiales. Nor is there any un- 
ambiguous reference in the laws. There is, in fact, no 
one name to correspond to the Frankish emunitas,^ and 
thus from the first it is apparent that the position of 
these English liberties in the national system differ 
considerably from that of the immunities, whose rights 
are recognized and enforced by legislation. 

The English grants are, like the Frankish, made almost 
exclusively in favour of the Church, and they appear to 
originate in financial privileges. An early example is 
the grant of .^thelweard of the Hwicci in 706.* " Ut ab 
omni publico vectigaH, a victu, ab expeditione, ab opere 
regio sit Hbera, tantum ut aecclesiae praefatae beatae 
Mariae . . . cuncta quae in eo loco ad aptum et ad utilita- 
tem pertinere possunt serventur." This grant stands 
almost alone at this date. It is particularly remarkable 

^ D.B.amd B. pp. 258 £f. 

^ Treols is used in some late charters, but is in no general use. 

» B. 116. 


in its apparent reference to military duty, but ezpeditio 
here may be taken to mean no more than riding duty. 
There is no sign of exemption from judicial dues such 
as the Frankish freda, however ; the privilege appears to 
be merely financial. A general grant of exemption from 
jmblicis vectigalihus is made to the monasteries and 
churches of his kingdom by .^thelbald of Mercia in 749,^ 
the Trinoda Necessitas being reserved. Two Kentish 
grants of 759-765 * concede to the privileged lands all 
the tribute which was given thence to the kings. It 
is in 767 that the first reference to the profits of justice 
is found in a grant by Uhtred of the Hwicci,* to a certain 
iEthehnund fddi meo ministro. The land is freed from 
all pubhc tribute, small and great, and all services of 
king or prince except the Trinoda Necessitas, and it is 
added, " Interdicimus ut si aliquis in hac . . . terram 
ahquid fores furaverit alicui solvere aliquid nisi specialiter 
pretium pro pretio ad terminum, ad penam nihil foras." 
The simple payment of the hot — the angild — ^is to be made 
ad terminum, and no other penalty without. This 
appears to imply that other payments may be made 
within; and it is to be noted that the theft in question 
has been committed without the territory. Again, the 
fact that the payment is to be made ad terminum, sug- 
gests that no court could be held on the land in question ; 
or at least that the lord could represent at justice any 
person on his land. A grant by Off a of the preceding 
year is endorsed in 799-802 by PUheard, comis regis.* 
The land, granted in this case to an abbot, is freed " ab 
omnium fiscalium redituum operum onerumque seu 
etiam popularium conciHorum, vindictis nisi tantum 
praetium pro praetio." The Trinoda Necessitas is again 
reserved. The reference to the popular councUs suggests 
forcibly freedom from suit to shire and hundred, which, 
1 B. 178. " B. 192, 194. ^ B. 202. * B. 201. 



as Maitland points out,^ is a duty analogous to that of 
fyrd sokn. Even apart from the fact that we have no 
data as to the existence or constitution of such popular 
courts in Mercia, it would be dangerous to press the mean- 
ing of this isolated phrase. Other instances ^ are found 
of the grant of angild — singulare pretium — pretium pro 
pretio — coupled with the provision that no other external 
payment is to be made.^ Angild is referred to as a fourth 
causa with the Trinoda Necessitas.* The first example 
of the grant in English is found in 883, in a charter of 
the ealdorman ^thelred of Mercia for Berkeley.^ 

It is to be noted that only Mercian grants are found 
before the ninth century. The majority of early charters 
of all kinds now extant are Mercian, but if the foreign 
land-book became common more speedily in Mercia than 
in Wessex, it is quite possible that this particular form 
of privilege was also developed earlier in Mercia. The 
first West Saxon charter that refers to the angild is 
granted by Egbert in 835,* though there are general 
grants of privileges ' of 825, 826, and 828, in which the 
Trinoda Necessitas is reserved and in one of which juris 
comprehensio intus et foris is granted.^ In the charter 
of 835 the general term witereden ^ is used for the judicial 
payments that are not to go out ; we have here a parallel 
for the Frankish freda. The general services of enter- 
tainments, conveyances, etc., from which the grant frees 
the land, are very similar to those referred to in the 

1 D. B. and B. p. 274. 

" B. 351, 357, 368, 370, 400, 455, 487. 

' B. 351, 368, 370, 487. * B. 370, 487. 

^ B. 551. " ^ghwelces Jingea to freon ge wiS cyning, ge wi8 
ealdorman, ge wiS gerefan SBghweloes ])eodomes lytles and micles, butan 
fjrrd socne and faesten geworce and bryog geworce and angyld wiS 
o8rum and noht ut to wite." 

« B. 413. ' B. 389, 390, 391, 393, 395. 

8 B. 395. 

* Found also in B. 447 (general exemption by ^thelwulf of the 
tenth mansio of all Church land) ; B. 544. 


Frankish charters; in one case the foreign expression 
appears to be used.^ 

Egbert's charters, then, appear to prove that the profits 
of justice were granted out to monasteries and to private 
persons by the beginning of the ninth century. The right 
that " nought should go out to wite" is the right to re- 
ceive the wite ; and some charters, as Maitland shows,^ 
seem to indicate that the wite is exacted within the land 
by the authority who pays the angild or sees that it is 
paid. Freedom against the ealdorman and the gerefa * 
may mean merely freedom from performing services for 
them ; but may include freedom from attendance at their 
courts, or subjection to their jurisdiction, and correspond 
to the absque introitu indicum of the Frankish immunity. 
Again, the right of furis comprehensio appears to indicate 
judicial rights, of however summary a character. The 
clearest evidence is given by a charter of 904 in which 
Edward concedes to the Taunton men of the Bishop of 
Winchester the same rights as are enjoyed by those who 
dwell on the lands of the fisc, and to the bishop judgment 
in secular matters as it is exercised in matters pertaining 
to the king.* 

It is only with the grants of Edward the Confessor 
and the statements of Domesday,^ that certainty as to the 
customs of the English immunity can be reached. Here 
it is found covering whole hundreds, as in Prancia several 
centenae might be included under an immunity. From 

^ B. 395. Parafriihis = paraveredis in Francia. Found as palefridis 
in B. 413 ; parvaredis, B. 544. 

^ D.B.andB.215,292. Note especially B. 357. " Etsi malus homo 
in aperta scelere tribus vicibus deprehensus sit, ad vicum regis 

' B. 551, quoted above. 

• B. 612. " Et omnia saeoularium rerum iudicia ad usus praesulum 
exerceantur eodem modo quo regalium negotiorum discutiuntui 

« See, for instance, K. 1342. Dd. I. 172b, 1. 
I 2 


these lands the sheriff is excluded, and they owe no suit 
at hundred or shire ; but as in Francia criminal causes 
were reserved for the count's tribunal, so the kings of 
England reserve to themselves six or eight " pleas of the 
crown." ^ It is difficult to believe that these extensive 
rights are of mushroom growth ; Maitland's theory seems 
the only reasonable explanation of the state of the country 
in the eleventh century. 

Maitland refers to the lord of an immunity certain 
passages in the laws which mention the landrica ^ or 
land hlaford. These aU belong to .^thelstan's reign or 
later. The land hlaford of VI. As. 1 * appears to be 
the owner of bookland to which full judicial privileges 
have not been conceded,* but later passages give the 
land hlaford a semi-official position. He takes half 
the fine for non-payment of tithe, whether the offender 
be a king's man or a thegn's.^ He shares with the 
hundred the goods of a thief after the ceapgild has been 
paid,* and he shares with the hundred if a beast from 
a distance has been brought in without notice given, 
keeping it as his own in some cases.'' He takes wedd 
from the tikS)ysig, jointly with the wapentake,* and from 
a thief jointly with the king's gerefa,^ and receives 
payments from men who avoid the ordeal,^" who own 
cattle not in borh,^^ or who maintain heathendoms.^* 
If he fail to do his duty the fine falls to the king.^' 

These laws assume, as Maitland says,^* that wherever 

1 P. and M. II. 453. Vinogradofi, Eng. Soc. in the Eleventh Cent. 
p. 112. 

- Dr. Liebermaim also ; he translates as a rule by Immunitlitsherr. 

' Dr. liebermann translates " obere Grund-herr." 

* The fact that all bookland was not immune is illustrated by I. 
Atr. 1, 14. The gerefa collects the king's wite from the bookland; 
nothing goes out as wite from the immunity. 

» II. Eg. 3, 1. « III. Eg. 7, 1. ' IV. Eg. 8. 11. 

« III. Atr. 3, 2. « III. Atr. 7. '» III. Atr. 4, 1, 

» Northu. 49 (1028-1060). " Northu. 64. " Northu. 59. 

" D. B. and B. p. 286. Cf. Vinogradofi, Growth of the Manor, p. 216. 


an offence is committed there will be a landrica to receive 
payments. This would indicate a considerable extension 
of the immunity, but as there were certainly lords of 
half-hundred and hundred immunities, and much book- 
land was under immunity, it is not an impossible explana- 
tion. But for the fact that the landrica is in one instance^ 
coupled with the king's gerefa, the word might be ex- 
plained as a paraphrase for the royal official; as it is, 
these passages must be taken as the public recognition 
of extensive private financial and judicial rights * in 
territorial lords, whether holding land by book or not, 
and thus they may be said to offer a parallel to the 
passages in the capitularies which define the legal position 
of the immunity. 

The landrica does not make his appearance till well 
on in the tenth century, and the great extension of the 
immunity in England probably belongs to the period 
when the royal power is weakening and the great 
ealdormanries are being built up. We have seen, how- 
ever, that the earhest examples of grants of sake and 
soke — a they may so be called — belong to the eighth 
century. If foreign influence, therefore, is responsible 
for their existence, it is Merovingian, not CaroHngian, 
and it comes to Wessex by way of Mercia rather than 
directly from Francia. Yet the fact that Egbert, who 
spent at least three years overseas, is the first of West 
Saxon kings to make grants of this nature, suggests 
that he may have been influenced by what he had 
gathered there of the place of the immunity in the 
Frankish poUtical system. 

Beside the territorial jurisdiction of the thegn holding 
bookland and the land hlaford, the grants of sake and 

1 III. Atr. 7. „ , ■ X, , J f *v. 

» There does not appear to be any parallel in England for the 
immunist legislation of the Capitula Remedii; for the customs of 
Oswaldslaw do not deal with criminal law. 


soke created a personal jurisdiction which cuts across 
the territorial immunities, " keeping some people out 
of them, and joiaing other people to them in spite of 
their place of abode " ; ^ the soke over persons which added 
so much to the difficulties of the compilers of Domesday 
Book.^ From Domesday Book it appears that the right 
of soke or jurisdiction over men apart from their lands, 
may be possessed by the king, by magnates or by com- 
munities, and may be divided between two lords,^ whilst 
there are cases of men whose soke goes about with them, 
so that they can seek justice wherever they please. We 
have seen that the Frankish immunity was conceded to 
a person, not to a territory,* and have noted instances 
of benefices held from one lord by the vassal of another 
lord,^ but this last irregularity seems to be dying out, 
and there is nothing in Francia parallel to the entangle- 
ments of personal and territorial relationships of 
Domesday England. 

To come to matters of detail; in both countries the 
grant is made by the king as a rule. There are examples, 
however, in England if not in Francia, of grants made by 
great men, and in many cases it is clear that they are 
regranting privileges which they have gained from the 
crown. In some instances the consent of the king is 
referred to in the body of the charter. There is no sign 
that these grants needed to be confirmed after the death 
of the grantor; old charters are brought forward as 
sufficient proof. As Brurmer ^ has indicated in his history 
of the charter, the position of the English book is unique 
in its intrinsic value. There are a few instances where 
grants are confirmed by later kings, but in such cases 

* Vinogradoff, Growth of the Manor, p. 215. 

" Ibid., Eng. Soc. in the Eleventh Cent. p. 126. 
' Ibid., p. 125. 

* Kroell, p. 95. See above, p. 101. * See above, p. 74. 
' ]3runner, RecJitsgeschichk der Urjcunde, 18S0. 


the confirmation is frequently no more than an endorse- 
ment of the old book. 

The holders of the immunity are as a rule ecclesiastical, 
but there are instances of grants being made in favour 
of thegns or ealdormen/ as in the case of Frankish 
laymen in the MeroAringian period. 

The similarity and the difference in the terms of the 
grant in the two countries has been already indicated; 
the like nature of the services from which the immunist 
is exempt, the possible exemption from shire and hundred 
as from mallobergiis ; the reservation of the payment 
for crimes committed outside the land ; and, on the other 
hand, the absence in England of the formula forbidding 
the royal officials to enter the immunity. We may note 
in this connection the cases, which, according to Cnut,^ 
are reserved for royal judgment, unless the king will 
grant them to any man. Maitland * sees in this clause 
an attempt on the part of a strong king to regain rights 
that his predecessor had been surrendering over readily. 
The inclusion of fyrdwite among these pleas that might 
be granted out is of interest, for whilst Domesday gives 
instances of delegated powers of this nature, there is 
only one early charter extant, which expressly concedes 
freedom from the Trinoda Necessitas.* Compared with 
the later Carolingians the West Saxon kings seem to 
have held more firmly to their right of enforcing military 
service, though it is difficult to institute a fair comparison 
when in all probabihty many charters have been lost on 
both sides. 

1 B. 202, 438, 455, 657. ^ II. Cn. 12. 

3 D. B. and B. p. 282. 

* Crawford charters, p. 6. Athelstan to Crediton. 930. " Ut ilia 
earn sine expeditione, profectione arcis pontis oonstructione omnique 
regalium vel seoularium tributorum exactione, liberaliter . . . 
habeat." Cf. B. 240. " Ut neo pontem nee arcem facere debeant." 
Kemble, however, marks these words as later interpolations. They 
do not occur in the oldest MSS. of this charter. 


There is no worldly sanction attached to the keeping of 
these charters comparable with the fine of 600 soUdi 
that guards the Frankish immunity. An anathema is 
a sufficient defence. Nor, on the other hand, does the 
gerefa of the lord of an EngUsh immunity appear to 
occupy a position of such pubUc importance as does the 
Frankish advocate. It is possibly to the gerefa on some 
such immunity that the tract Be Sceadwisan Gerefan ^ 
refers, but this is a private treatise, and no state enact- 
ment. It is, again, possibly the gerefa of an immunity 
who is allowed to take an oath for his lord ^ as to the 
character of the lord's men. These are, however, late 
passages, and even with their assistance we cannot 
find an office either so definite or so important as that of 
the Frankish advocate. 

On the whole, then, we incline to think that whilst 
the EngHsh immunity may very possibly have owed 
something to the Frankish immunity at the outset, 
the Church here also being a ready means of connection, 
the later developments of the institution in this country 
were independent of foreign influence. 

3. The Lands of the Fisc : a Comparison of De Villis 
and Be Sceadwisan Gerefan. 

Whilst it has been denied by some writers ' that the 
royal estates in Francia possessed, ipso facto, immune 
rights, the sources appear unequivocally to connect the 
demesne vUls with the immunities of other men. Run- 
aways must be dehvered up from the lands of the fisc ; * 
bad coins are to be rejected there as in the other immuni- 
ties ; ^ services must be performed from them as from 

'■ Liebermaim, p. 453 ; see below. 

» I. Atr. 1, 2 ; II. Cn. 30, 1. 

» Beauchet, p. 454. 857. II. 292, 4. 

° 864. II. 314, 8. "[Et in omnibus civitatibus et vicis et villia tain 
nostris indominicatis quam et in his, quae de immunitate sunt . . . 
denarii . , , non nisi meri et bene pensantes aooipiantur," 


other immunities ; i and their rights are to be respected 

Everything appears to bear witness to the antiquity 
of this immunity ; ' indeed, there is little doubt that the 
privileges of royal lands set the pattern for other privileged 
lands ; * and that the origin of the immunity is to be 
sought in an extension of the rights of the fisc to the 
property of private persons. 

The royal vills are sometimes granted out as benefices.^ 
It does not appear that the privilege is attached to the 
land, for in such instances the immunity is matter for 
a separate grant.® In England also the kings make 
grants from their own lands, but it is not clear whether, 
in the earUer period, the privilege requires a grant or 
if it attaches to the land itself. 

In both countries the royal privilege appears to set 
the standard for grants to other men — " the king himself 
is the first of all immunists." '' Thus the Council of 
Mainz declares that the immunities of the Church ought 
to be " sub defensione regis sicut propriae sunt heredi- 
tates " ; ® and Edward the Elder,* as we have seen, 
grants to Taunton privileges such as the king's men have 
and judgments such as are held for the king's business ; 
whilst a later charter ^^ makes land " swa freols on callan 
fingan call swa 'Saes cinges agen innland." 

It is thus worth considering the administration of the 
royal vills as set forth in De Villis,^^ and their relation to 
the national system. Into the economic side of the 

^ 820. 294, 3. " Qui pontes faciunt, aut de immvmitatibus aut de 

2 864. II. 313, 5. 

» Waitz, IV. p. 289. Brunner, B. G. II. p. 287. 

* Brunner, B. 0. II. p. 299. 

" Ann. Bert. 858. " Distribuens comitatus, monasteria, villas 
regias atque proprietates." 

• Brunner, B. O. II. p. 292. ' D. B. and B. p. 276. 

» 847. II. 178, 6. » B. 612. '» K. 82L " 800 ? 83-91. 


capitulary, as of the whole question of seignorial rights, 
it is, of course, impossible to enter. The poUtical signi- 
ficance of the capitulary is, however, considerable. 

It represents a determination on the part of the central 
government to hold fast to the fiscal rights of the crown. 
The king was largely dependent on the vills for mainten- 
ance ; ^ they furnished probably the greater part of his 
income. Thus the note of the capitulary is struck in the 
first clause : " Volumus ut villae nostrae, quas ad opus 
nostrum serviendi institutas habemus, sub integritate 
partibus nostris deserviant et non aMis hominibus." 
The ad opus nostrum of the Capitulare Aquisgranense * 
runs through this capitulary also like a refrain. It is 
in all probability based on an examination into the lands 
of the fisc, of the results of which one example is given 
in Boretius ; * and thus may be viewed as a distinctly 
poHtical measure. 

On the other hand, it is not cast in the formal mould 
of a capitulary. It is not only lacking in any logical 
arrangement, being among the most incoherent as among 
the longest of the capitularies ; but it has no superscription 
or date, and no reference to the king or emperor. 
But for palaeographical evidence, its date would be even 
more doubtful than it is now. It has hardly the character 
of a public document. Dr. Gareis * suggests that in it M^e 
have a reflection of the aims and pohcy of Ansegis, 
servant and missus of Charles from 807 on, rather than 
of Charles himself, on whom Gibbon poured his scorn 
for concerning himself over " the care of his poultry 
and even the sale of his eggs." 

^ 832. II. 64, 6. " Ut inquirant missi nostri villas et cortes, unde 
regis expensa ministrari solita sit . . . et quae in transitu domni 
imperatoris serviri debent, vel missis transeuntibus neoessaria 

2 801-813. 171, 5, 6, 8. » 810 ? 250-256. 

* Oermanistische Abhamdlungen zum LXX Oeburtstag Konrad v. 
Maurers, Gotfmgen (1893), p. 236, 


Informal as De Villis is, however, it has more of a 
pubUc character than the small treatise Be Sceadwisan 
Gerefan,^ its nearest parallel in Enghsh. The gerefa of 
this document occupies a position similar to that of the 
iiidex or major of De Villis. Directions are given for the 
management of a great estate on the best hnes. Dr. 
Liebermann dates the document at about 1025, and 
points out that it not only follows on in the same manu- 
script with the Rectitudines Singularum Personarum, but 
that it is complementary to it, being written with the 
same object and scope and in a similar style. He con- 
siders that the lord of the gerefa is probably not the 
king, nor an ecclesiastic, but some great thegn holding 
bookland from the king. 

The similarity between the two documents consists 
in the fact that they are both directions to the manager 
of an economic unit with a view to the profit of his lord, 
the owner of the estate in question. The differences 
are, however, numerous, and are readily perceived. 

Gerefa is mainly if not solely concerned with private 
property. Though it is highly probable that the greater 
part of the regulations it contains apply equally to royal 
and to private estates, there is nothing to indicate that 
the king is the lord for whose interests the gerefa is to 
care. On the other hand, as we have seen, De Villis 
deals solely with the property of the fisc. 

The legislative character of De Villis again, though it 
is far less formal than many of the capitularies, sets it on 
a different footing from Gerefa, where the optative is 
preferred to the imperative, and the personal note of the 
writer is apparent.^ "It is difficult to say everything 
which he must remember who holds the office. ... I 
have set forth according as I could ; let him who can do 
better declare it." ^ 
1 Liebermann, pp. 453 ff. ^ Gerefa, 4. "I teach." ' md.,lS,19. 


The villa is evidently far more complicated than the 
tun. A hierarchy of possibly four ranks is traceable : 
the index, the major, the magister and the iuniores.^ 
There is no sign of any official below the gerefa, unless 
his hyrmen have such a position.^ There are also 
apparently more social grades in De Villis? 

The powers of the ivdex are considerably more extensive 
than those of the gerefa. It is possible, indeed, that only 
the larger villae have a index, and that the major is nor- 
mally the chief official, for certain passages appear to 
indicate that the index may have more than one viU 
under his control.* The index has control of the agri- 
cultural and industrial * work of the vill. In this, 
apparently, the gerefa is his equal; there are no signs of 
the interference of any other. In his case, however, the 
limitation of old custom is added.* The ivdex is also 
guided by command or custom,' but within the vill 
appears to be omnipotent. His rights are not merely 
administrative ; he receives censa on behalf of the king ; * 
pays tithe from the vill, and keeps and renders full 
account to the king.' 

His judicial powers are also defined. He is commanded 
to hold audientiae frequently,^" he receives freda for the 
king,^^ and he is commanded to keep peace and order.^^ 
The ordinary officials of the country have no footing in 
the vill. If a slave has to seek justice without,^* he is 
supported by his magister. Theft and homicide are 

1 De VUlis, 10, 26, 29, 59, 60. ^ Gerefa, 6, 7. 

' Franci, 4. Fiscalini, 50. Servi, ingenui, 52. Servientes, 39. Centeni 
(unfree), 62. Rect. Sing. Pers. mentions the gebur, the cotsetla, the 
ceorl and the theow ; and also cowherds, etc., who may be compared 
with the falconarii, etc., of De Villis. 

* De Villis, 5, 17, 24. » Gerefa, 16; De Villis, 45. 

« Gerefa, 1. ' De Villis, 7. 

8 lUd., 62. 9 lUd., 6, 36, 55, 62. 

"> Ihid., 56. " lUA., 4, 62. 

i'' Hid., 53, " /6»ti.,*29, 


punishable within the vill,^ whilst, as we have seen, 
this is not certain in the case of all immunities. Appeal 
appears to he directly to the king, to whom magiater, 
iuniores and servi, are all assured access.* 

There is no certain evidence that the gerefa has any 
judicial power. The statement that he is to know lord's 
landright and folkright, as the wise men established it 
of old, and that he is to rule every one through lord's 
craft and folkright,^ may imply that his knowledge will 
be used in deciding disputes and keeping peace and order. 
On the other hand, it reads somewhat like a command 
to keep by the old local traditions of agriculture, as time 
has estabUshed them. It seems impossible to state with 
certainty, as we can in the case of De Villis, that an 
organized judicial tribunal is set up. It is probable 
that summary justice at least would need to be within 
the powers of an official whose duties were so extensive ; 
it is also possible that the holder of the land in question 
might have a freolsboc from the king. 

While the count is not mentioned throughout De Villis, 
it appears that the queen and the king exercise control 
by means of special missi,* and that the butler and senes- 
chal have some power in the vill.^ The king's huntsmen 
and foresters * also may hold councils in the vill, by 
command of the king, probably dealing with the care of 
the forest land of the neighbourhood. With the gerefa 
there is no reference to outside control. 

The officials of the vill are paid by benefices within 
the vill ' or without. Dr. Seeliger * suggests that the 
benefice on the vill is no more than a mansus relieved 
from the duty incumbent on the generality. Throughout 
the capitulary the officials are urged not to neglect the 

1 De Villis, 4. Cf. 53. » Ibid., 29, 57. ' Gerefa, 1, 7. 

* De Villis, 16, 5. « lUd., 47. • Ibid., 47. 

' Ibid., 10, 50. » Hist. VieHelj. (1907) p. 342. 


royal interests for the sake of their own, or to turn to 
their own use privileges and rights which belong of right 
only to the king. There is no unequivocal sign of the 
manner in which the gerefa is paid, but the reference 
to his own land suggests that he also is paid in this 
manner. " So shall a good official keep his lord's lands, 
let him do what he will with his own." ^ 

The contrast between the aims and contents of the 
two documents is thus clear. De Villis is intended as 
a check on the growth of local independence, and an 
assertion of royal rights. Gerefa has no political aims; 
it is little more than an agricultural treatise. It is most 
improbable that it owes anything to the older document. 
Yet in spite of its non-political character it gives a picture 
of a large estate that may apply to royal, ecclesiastical 
or private lands. The value of the comparison depends 
mainly on the relation in each country between royal 
estates and those of other men. It appears probable, from 
De Villis, that the royal lands were especially privileged, 
whilst the reference quoted above, added to later develop- 
ments, suggests that similar special privileges attached 
to the royal demesne in England. There is no trace of 
such special privilege in Gerefa. It seems, then, that 
little is to be gained from the comparison of these two 
documents, which in various details bear a close re- 
semblance to each other, beyond the general similarity 
of organization on great estates in Francia and England. 

We are thus forced either to draw deductions from the 
status of later Ancient Demesne, or else to class the lands 
of the fisc as differing little from other immunities. 
Domesday represents many of the royal viUs as free from 
geld, and it seems highly probable that at a much earlier 

1 Gerefa, 5. Cf. De Villis, 63. " Omnia quioquid homo in dome 
sua vel in villis suis habere debet, iudices nostri in villis nostris habere 


date they " already stood outside the national system 
of taxation, justice and police," ^ that the ealdorman of 
the shire and the shiremoot had no jurisdiction over them, 
and that they were administered by reeves yet more 
personally dependent on the king than was the shire reeve. 
The king's booking of land to himself, of which we have 
several records, is further evidence in favour of this 
suggestion. The land so booked would be placed under 
a special royal immunity. If we accept it, the analogy 
between Frankish and Enghsh royal demesne is very 
close, though at the same time there is no evidence 
whatever to suggest any other basis for the resemblance 
than the common ownership of an original royal or 
princely tradition, 

1 D. B. and B. p. 277. 




1. The Carolingian Army. 

In the Carolingian military system no less than in the 
civil administration of the kingdom, the king is the 
centre and moving spirit. The old conception of a 
national right of military service, if it ever existed, has 
died out; the service is now felt to be a duty, exacted 
by the king and his servants from unwilling subjects. 

(o) The Summons. 

This altered conception is reflected in the inconsistent 
nature of the summons issued by the king. Men are 
summoned to a general assembly which is also a national 
military review; theoretically they are themselves the 
choosers of peace and war ; but they are commanded to 
come hene praeparati — victualled, that is, for a three- 
months' campaign, and with clothing for six months.^ 
Though the annals give evidence of debates on the ques- 
tion of peace and war, these discussions are plainly 
confined to the magnates ; the rank and file have no voice 
in the matter. The campaigns have been in all probability 
settled in the autumn council,* and are only formally 
discussed in the Mayfield. 

The summons might, however, be issued after the 
general assembly. In one instance the counts, bishops 
and abbots returning home from it are ordered to dis- 
seminate the information in their own districts,* though 

1 804/11. 168. 2 Hincmar, De Ord. Pal. c. 30. » 805/8. 141. 



in this case the command is only to be in a general state 
of preparation for the actual summons when it shall 
come " per missos aut per epistola." It is, it seems, the 
missi dominici who are mainly responsible for spreading 
the newsji but the letter to Fulrad " is evidence that the 
summons may be sent direct to a leader himself.' 

This letter is probably a typical instance of the form 
of a summons, naming the place and date of the placitum 
exercitale. Some such summons is described in the Annals 
for 829, when a false alarm causes Lewis to call out all 
his forces at very short notice against the Danes.* 

(6) The Obligation to Serve. 

The question as to who should respond to this summons 
has been much discussed by Waitz and Roth.^ The 
majority of later opinions is in favour of Roth's view; 
that obligation to serve was originally based on personal 
freedom and not on land ownership. Underlying the whole 
series of capitularies and deducible from the charters 
and privileges, is the principle of a traditional universal 
duty, not as stereotj^ed as the English Trinoda Necessitas 
yet clearly of similar character.* These duties, to which 
we have had occasion to refer before, are those of watch 
and ward, of scara — ^probably a kind of police service — 
of bridge-building, fortification of cities and service in 
the host ' or on ships.® The duty of fortification — ^the 

1 808. 137-8. " 804/11. 168. Cf. Bouquet, VI. 395. Ep. xiv. 

3 This is due to the fact that Fuh-ad was an immunist, and was 
therefore in immediate relation to the king, without the intervention 
of the count. Kroell, p. 182. 

* A. L. M. 829. ^ Waitz, Vol. IV; Roth, B.W. and P.V. 

* Note the striking consciousness of this evinced in the Edict of 
Pistres. 864. II. 322, 27. "Juxta antiquam et aliarum gentium 
consuetudinem ; "• and cf. Miihlbaoher, D. K. p. 132. 

' 787 ? 197, 7; 800. 84, 16; 815.261, 1; 801/13. 171, 9; 864. II. 322, 
27 ; 850. II. 87, 8. Prom 811. 166, 2 it appears that the heriban might 
be exacted for neglect of any of these duties — perhaps illegally. 

* 802. 100, 13a refers to the preparation of ships on the sea coast. 
811. 167, 11 commands the seniores to be ready to go in their ships if 
the king make a sea expedition. Note the Annals for 791, 806, 817. 



English burhbot — ^is rarely referred to in the capitularies. 
In the Italian Capitulary of 866, the missi are instructed 
to look to the keeping of wacta and also to the castella, 
so that the people may take refuge in them.^ A capi- 
tulary of 820 refers to Pippia's castella in Italy,^ whilst 
the Capitulary of Quierzy refers to the castella then 
building at Compi^gne and along the Seine and the 
Loire. ^ The Annals of 806 and 809 also mention the 
building of forts. These castella are the direct results 
of invasions ; Charles's Saxon wars had been characterized 
by the erection of forts such as Sigiburg and Eresburg, 
but the use of them for home defence seems new. In 
this connection an entry of the Annales Bertiniani for 
869 is of interest, recalling, as it does, the forts of Henry 
the Fowler and the burhs of Edward the Elder. " De 
centum mansis unum haistaldum mitti praecepit . . . 
quatenus ipsi haistaldi casteUum quod ibidem . . . fieri 
precepit excolerent et custodirent." 

Of these general duties, however, the host duty is 
pre-eminent and has developed a dual character. To the 
defence of the country against invasion all men must 
come out,* free or unfree, without any excuse, though 
even this duty tends to be speciahzed and one capitulary 
exempts the very poorest from its performance.^ This 
duty probably merges in that of watch and ward on the 
marches * and on the seacoast.' To this duty, as to 
those of bridge-building and fortification, the count can 
summon men on his own authority, without orders from 

1 866, II. 95, 3. 2 820. 296, 2. 

s 877, II. 361, 27. « 847, II. 71, 5. 

^ 866, II. 95, 1. "Qui vero non plus quam decern solidos habet 
de mobilibuB, nil ei requiratur." 

« 811. 166, 2 ; 815. 261, 1 ; 864, II. 322, 27. " Ad defensionem patriae 
omnes sine uUa exousatione veniant." 

' 821. 301, 5. Note Einh. Ep. 23. He represents that his men 
who have performed coastguard duty ought of right to be exempt from 
the host. 


above ; and the penalty for disobedience is not the heriban 
but death.^ The emphasis on this duty is most marked 
in the later capitularies, as the danger of invasion becomes 
more imminent. 

The duty of lantweri is, however, clearly distinguished 
in the capitularies from that of expeditio or exercitus. 
It is in connection with exterior warfare that the many 
military capitularies of the Carolingian period are issued. 
The new problems arising from the extension of the 
Carolingian Empire call for new expedients ; economy of 
strength is demanded as well as efficiency. Boretius ^ 
has, however, pointed out the danger of insisting on the 
novelty of that feature of Charles the Great's legislation 
which connects the obligation of service with the owner- 
ship of land. Similar restrictions had been operating in 
the Lombard kingdom ^ for some fifty years, and Charles 
can hardly be looked upon as a wholesale innovator in 
this respect. The originally universal nature of the duty 
is attested by the capitulary of 802, in which obedience 
to the ostile hannwm is included under the duties covered 
by the oath of fealty which all free men over twelve years 
of age must take.* The expression omnes, which is very 
frequently found in the military capitularies,^ is not to be 
insisted on, as it may merely mean all who have certain 
qualifications. It is clear, however, that all the regula- 
tions of Charles and his successors are in the nature of 
exemptions and indulgences from a service incumbent 
on aU free men. 

In considering these regulations it is necessary to 
remember Boretius 's warning of their fleeting nature. It 

^ 822/3. 319, 18. If, however, the report of an invasion should 
prove false, those who have failed to obey the summons pay the ordinary 
legal penalty. 

* BeitrUge zur Oapitularien Kritih, 1874. 

' M. 0. H. Leges, IV. p. 196. * 802. 93, 7. 

6 792 or 786. 67, 6; 807. 185, 3; 805/8. 141, 3. 


is possible that he over-emphasizes the transitory and 
fragmentary character of the capitularies, especially of 
the military ones ; but in some instances ^ the capitularies 
themselves contain the qualifications of time or space : 
" Haec autem constituta volumus ut observentur gene- 
raUter praesenti anno." ^ GeneraUzations on the subject 
are thus attended with danger, and the alterations must 
be followed from year to year. As a chronological account 
of this legislation has been given frequently,^ it will be 
made as brief as possible here. 

The first capitulary dealing with the matter that comes 
down to us is attributed to 807.* Here the service has 
a territorial basis. One man must go to the host from 
divisions varying in size from three to five mansi, the 
proportion of service to land not being strictly observed. 
Those who have no real property form groups, the size 
of which is not specified, to send one man from each 
group. They also contribute money to the landholders 
who go to the host. All who have benefices must go. 
In 808 ^ the rule is more symmetrical and defimite. From 
every four mansi one man must go, this condition appljdng 
to beneficiary and proprietary land alike. 

Later regulations are less definite. The Capitular e 

Olonnense of 825,® which applies to the Italian kingdom, 

classifies men as mediocres and pauperiores. The latter 

owe neither service nor adiutorium ; the former are 

formed into groups of two, three, four or more who send 

a man. It is probable that this capitulary refers either 

to the capitularies already mentioned or to some lost 

capitulary.' In 829 reference is again made to these 

» 792 or 786. 67, 6 ; 807. 134. " 807. 135, 3. 

3 Boretius, 1874. Baldamus, 1879. Waitz, 1885. Prenzel, 1887. 
Muhlbacher, 1896. 
* 807. 134. Memoratorium de exercitu promovendo. 
' 808. 137. Cap. Missonim de exercitu promovendo. 
« 825. 329. Similar regulations are found 825, 325. 
' Cf. 805. 123, 6. 


groups.'^ The count has control of them, but the missus 
oversees them ; in this year he is ordered to send in a Hst 
of those who owe service, indicating the formation of the 
groups. This clause is re-enacted in 864.^ Boretius 
considers it, in view of the state of the Frankish kingdoms, 
at that date, to have been both an anachronism and a 
dead letter.' 

The ItaHan Capitulary of 866* sets a new scale — the 
wergeld. Every man who owns his wergeld in movable 
property must serve ; he who owns half his wergeld joins 
with another in the like case, and so on. 

Limitations relating to time and space are also found. 
The ban does not fall everywhere at once ; those nearest 
to the field of war have the heaviest burden. Against 
the Avars or Spain one in six Saxons goes; against the 
Bohemians one in three ; against the Sorbs all go. From 
the Frisians aU who have benefices and horses must go ; 
of the poorer sort only one in seven.^ The ordinances 
are distinctly local in their character ; that of 807 refers 
apparently only to those Uving west of the Seine.* 

After the general limitations the more special exemp- 
tions for individuals must be considered. Li 808 the 
count is allowed to leave behind four of his landholding 
men — ^two to guard his home, two to fill his ofl&ce.'' This 
regulation appears to be stUl in force in 819,* whilst in 
866 he is allowed one for each county he holds and two 
for his home.® The bishops (in Italy) are allowed two 
of their men who dwell without, and four who live 
in their household.^** The two are probably advocati, 
mentioned in another capitulary of the same year. 
Lewis II, however, in his Beneventan Capitulary refuses 
to exempt advocates. ^^ 

1 829, II. 19, 7. 2 864, II. 321, 27. ' Boretius, p. 129. 

« 866, II. 94, 1. « 807 ? 136, 3. • 807. 134. 

' 808. 137, 4. 8 819. 291, 27. » 866, II. 95, 1. 

i» 826. 326, 2. " 866, II. 96, 1. 


Vassals of royal vassals who are at the palace are 
exempt if they are with their lords/ otherwise special 
leave must be obtained from the king. In another 
passage we learn that they must go with the count if 
their lords are absent,* whilst in yet another permission 
to leave two men at home is granted to aU lords, whether 
royal vassals or not.* 

In individual cases we find that one brother of a family 
is allowed to stay at home ; one son is allowed to stay at 
home with the father, whilst the more useful ones go to 
war.* A man who is physically unable may send a poor 
substitute. The wolf -hunters — ^two in each vicaria — ^are 

The clergy were forbidden by the capitularies no less 
than by the canons to bear arms ; ^ but throughout the 
period there is abundance of evidence that they go to 
the host. The letter of summons we possess is addressed 
to an abbot, and a capitulary of 744 countenances their 
going.'' As Alcuin says, " Bellator spiritahs bellator 
cogitur esse camalis." * The Vita Sturmi and the 
Epistles of Lupus give examples of the attendance of 
bishops as well as abbots at the seat of war,' whilst the 
Italian Capitulary of 866 declares that the bishops must 
go or give proof of serious illness. 

Individual exemptions for abbots are, however, found, 
as a rule naming a substitute to perform the required 
service ; ^° and even more common is the exemption of 

1 808. 138, 9; 825. 325, 1. ',T. » 811. 167, 9. 

^ 825. 330, 6 ; 866. II. 95, 1. In Form. Pat. 3 we have an instance of 
leave granted to an old man that his son may go to the host in his 

5 801/13. 171,8. • 789. 59, 70 ; 802. 107, 18 ; 803. 120, 8, etc. 

' 744. 29, 3. " Et abbati legitimi ostem non faciant nisi tantiun 
homines eorum transmittant." 

» AIo. Ep. 2. 

» Vita Sturmi, c. 24. Lupi Epp. 24, 25, 78; quoted Waitz, IV. 
p. 593. 

*• See instances quoted Prenzel, p. 86. 


all or some of the men of a monastery from military 
service. At Farfa, for instance, " viginti homines cartulati 
qui ad ipsum monasterium pertinent hoc anno ab omni 
hostili expeditione securi et quiet! remaneant quales ab 
eodem abbati provisi fuerunt." ^ Lothar in 840 grants 
to Murbach exemption from host service for five free 
men. Again, exemption from heriban, such as is granted 
to the king's foresters and to merchants in the king's 
mund ^ is equivalent to exemption from military service. 
The counts are rebuked for infringing these privileges,* 
virhich grow more prevalent and more comprehensive 
throughout the reign of Lewis the Pious. 

Many, thus, have legitimate exemptions, but frequent 
illegal attempts are made to escape from the burden of 
service. Men take the tonsure, without renouncing the 
world ; * they surrender their property to the Church ^ 
or represent the lands they hold as belonging to a clerk ; ^ 
they sell them to lajonen ; '' they refuse to leave their 
lords if these are not summoned to the host.* They 

1 Quoted Waitz, IV. p. 591. Cf. other passages in the same note. 

■■' Form. Imp. 37. 43, 

» Bouquet, VI. 337. Lewis to Badurad of Paderbom, 824. " Cog- 
novimus . . . quidam comites memoratum praeceptum nostrum 
infringere et convellere volent, in eo . . , quod homines tam liberos 
qnam et litos, qui super terram eiusdem Monasterii consistunt, in 
hostem ire compellant et distringere judioiario modo vehnt; quod 
nolumus ut faciant .... Illud praeceptum quod . . . feoimus, ad- 
sumas, et in praesentia eorumdem comitum in quorum ministeriis res 
praedicti monasterii esse noscuntur, relegi facias. . . ." The number 
of monasteries that are exempt altogether from military service in 
817 are 18 out of 48 in the northern part of the empire, 13 in Aqui- 
taine, and 18 in Septimania. 817. 350. 

* 799/800. 230, 44. ; 805. 126, 16. Monks and priests were apparently 
still exempt, though bishops and abbots were not. 

° 825. 330, 2. This passage indicates the extent to which the ecclesi- 
astical immunity was held to involve exemption from military service. 
Kroell, p. 187. Cf. Polypticon Irmin. III. 61. " Isti homines fuerunt 
liberi et ingenui, sed quia militiam regis non valebant exeroere, tradi- 
derunt alodos suos Sancto Germano." 

« 825. 330, 4. ' 826. 331, 11 ; 825. 330. 3, 

« 811. 165, 8. 


surrender their liberty, selling themselves into slavery.^ 
Brothers leave their inheritance undivided, so that one 
may go in place of all.* The counts, vicarii, and centenarii 
are bribed to remit the penalty.* 

This penalty, the heriban, may be exacted from the 
offender himself,* from his lord,^ or from the count or 
iunior who connives at the evasion.* The lawful heriban 
is the king's ordinary ban of 60 shillings.' As a rule this 
is the amount exacted, but in 805 * there is a graduated 
scale for it according to the circumstances of the offender, 
whilst in 825 a lesser punishment is appointed for the first 
offence,' the ban being inflicted on the second, and exile or 
complete forfeiture on the third. Men were temporarily 
enslaved, though only with the emperor's consent, for 
failure to pay the heriban. i" Further, in the case of royal 
vassals and beneficiaries the benefice is forfeit,^^ and the 
missus who condones the offence loses his possessions.^* 

The heriban is exacted by the missus, who is bound to 
inquire into the cases where it is due.^* The count is 
expressly forbidden to exact the heriban,^* though he 
receives the third part of it and can exact security for 
its payment.^^ This appears somewhat to have damaged 

1 825. 331, 10; 789/814. 185, 5. " 825. 330, 6. ^ 808. 138, 6. 

« 811. 166, 1 ; 802. 101, 18, etc. " 811. 167, 9. » 808. 137. 3, etc. 

' 805. 125, 19 ; 801. 205, 2 ; 811. 166, 1 ; 818/9. 285, 18, etc.. Cf. also 
Lex Rib. 63 (Codd. A.). 

» 805. 125, 19. » 825. 329, 1. i» 811. 166, 1. ; 810. 153, 12. 

" 811. 167. 5. " 866, II. 95, 3. 

i» 808. 137, 2; 810. 153, 12; 806. 131, 5, etc. Almost all the military 
capitularies are addressed to missi. Note also Einh. Ep. 51. To a 
missus ;" Homines nostri . . . solent nobis narrare . . . de benignitate 
vestra erga nos, in eo quod homines nostros servatis et eis parcitia . . . 
tarn in heribannis quam in ahis causis . . .'' and also Ep. 42. It is 
possible that even those immunists who have the right to collect the 
heriban cannot evade the missus, since their immunity only guards 
them against the count and his subordinates. 

" 811. 166, 2; 781/810. 207, 13. 

^' 825» 330, 4. It is to the count, moreover, that the emperor 
addresses exemptions of individuals from the heriban. Form. Imp. 
43. Sen. 19. Sal. Merk. 41. 


his authority ; the people refuse to obey liim and to fulfil 
the emperor's command because they say they have to 
answer for it to the missus and not to him.^ The count 
and his underlings are also powerless to exact the con- 
jectum,^ that is, either the payment made by those who 
do not go to the host ' or else the supplies provided by 
the countryside for the contingent.* Haribannatores are 
appointed to receive the conjectum in 803.^ 

Although the count cannot exact the heriban he is 
viewed as responsible for the appearance of his pagenses.^ 
He has to form the groups of men who join to send one 
of their number to the host,'' though the missi supervise 
the groups.* The count's power in enforcing the per- 
formance of host duty is indicated by the frequent 
complaints of his abuse of that power. On the one hand 
he oppresses poor free men till they surrender their 
property and are unable to go, and the king's service 
suffers ; ' on the other hand he forces men who have 
contributed their adiutorium to go to the host,^" takes 
from men the weapons they have prepared,^^ and forces 
the same men to go to the host time after time till they 
are beggared.^* 

(c) Equipment. 

The count is responsible not only for the presence, but 
for the equipment, of the men. He is bound to see that 
they are bene praeparati.^^ We have seen that the missi 
shared this responsibility ; the centenarii and vicarii are 

1811.165,6. 2 801/14.144,2. 

=> Roth, B. W. 400 ; 807. 135, 2. " Et unicuique ex ipsis qui in hoste 
pergunt fiant conieotati solidi quinque a suprascriptis." 

• Note charter quoted by Waitz, IV. p. 622. " De omnibus redhibi- 
tionibus quae ab hominibus eoolesiae reoipiimtur exoepto hostilense, 
id est de bobus et coniecto ad oarros construendos." 

s 803. 115, 5. Cf. Exactor haribcmni, Einh. Ep. 42, and 801-814. 144. 2. 

« 802. 93, 7. ' 825. 325. 

8 829, II. 7, 7; 829, II. 19, 7; 864, II. 321, 27. 

» 802. 100, 12. " 808. 138, 6. " 808. 137, 3. " 811. 165, 3. 
" 803/13. 171, 9; 807 ? 136, 3; 786. 67, 6. 


also concerned.^ The character of this praeparatio, 
though seemingly a matter of detail, has reaUy consider- 
able constitutional importance. It is not certain that 
the obligation to come fully equipped formed a part of 
the original host duty, though this may be inferred from 
the reference to antiqua consuetudo made in 811.* How- 
ever this may be, the increasing requirements made by 
Charles the Great's capitularies were due to a number 
of causes. 

As has been frequently pointed out, the extension of 
Frankish rule involved not only a far longer frontier to 
defend, but also conflict with new enemies by contact 
with whom existing military systems could not but be 
modified. Brunner, in his study on " Der Reiterdienst 
und die Anfange des Lehnwesens " * traces the change 
m respect of the use of cavalry which took place in the 
eighth and ninth centuries to the wars of Charles Martel 
with the Saracens in Aquitaine. He shows that cavalry 
warfare was the exception in 732 and the rule in 891,* 
and traces the development throughout the period. The 
importance of his conclusions lies in the increased re- 
quirements made by the cavalry system from those 
who come to the host. Not only horses, but heavier 
armour had to be contributed by the warriors ; thus we 
find stringent regulations concerning the byrnies, which 
are not to be sold out of the country, nor stored up 
unused,^ nor lost by those to whom they are entrusted,* 
and are to be furnished by every holder of twelve mansiP 
But it is the requirement of cavalry that most directly 
influenced the development of institutions. 

1 808. 138, 7; 808. 137, 3; 811. 165, 2. It is possible that the cen- 
tenarius assembles the men of the centena and leads them to the 
military assembly of the pagus. Viollet, I. p. 299. 

" 811. 167, 8. 3 1887. Reprinted in Forschungen. 

* Forschungen, pp. 40, 51. 

» 779. 51, 20; 811. 167, 10. » 800 7 87, 42. 

' 805. 123, 6. Also the men of the count, 801/13. 171, 9. 


From the description of those who take the oath of 
fealty in 786 or 792 we infer that all vassals — all, at any 
rate, who hold, benefices — have a horse as well as Ught 
armour.^ In 807 it appears that aU Frisians except the 
very poor have horses.^ In the letter to Fulrad his men 
are referred to as caballarii,^ whilst in 828 it is enacted 
that all who come to the host must have horses.* The 
Edictum Pistense of 864, however, expressly mentions 
the pagenses who ought to follow the count on horses 
as if they had not before had such an obligation.^ In 
this same capitulary the heinous nature of the sale of 
horses or armour to invaders is emphasized : " Qui- 
cumque . . . Nortmannis . . . bruniam vel quaecumque 
arma aut cabaUum donaverit, sicut proditor patriae et 
expositor christianitatis ad perditionem gentiUtati sine 
uUa retractione . . . de vita componat." * 

Thus the distribution of Uabihty among several indi- 
viduals, and the proportioning of it to the land held by 
them is traceable largely to the increased requirements 
of miUtary equipment. On the other hand, the immense 
development of the beneficiary system under Charles 
Martel, Pippin and Charles the Great, is attributable 
to the same cause — ^the need of cavalry ; originally against 
the Saracens rather than the Northmen, who borrowed 
the use of horses from the Franks themselves.' As we 
have seen, the obligation of furnishing riders appears 

* " Deinde . . . ounctas generalitas populi . . . qui ad plaoita 
venissent et iussionem adimplere senionim et conservare pos8unt,,sive 
pagenses sive episcoporum et abbatis suamm vel oomitum homines, 
fisoilini quoque atque servi, qui honorati beneficia et ministeria tenent 
vel in bassalatico honorati sunt cum domiai sui et caballos, arma et 
scuto et lanoea, spata et senespasio habere possunt; omnes iurent." 
786 or 792. 67, 4. 

a 807 ? 136, 3. 

' 804/11. 168. Mr. Oman's emendation {Art of War, p. 82) is un- 
necessary and misleading. 

« 828, II. 5, A. 5 864, II. 321, 26. • 864, II. 321, 25. 

' Miracula S. Benedicti, M. G. H. SS. XV. p. 494. 


to have been incumbent on the benefice from the first/ 
and the natural method of strengthening the Frankish 
army was thus the granting out of lands to be held by 
such a tenure. 

Food and clothing, as has been said, were supphed by 
the men ; ^ whilst the count provides fodder, tools for 
siege or camp use,' and carts,* which are probably exacted 
by him from the countryside. Further supplies are 
furnished by the crown vassals,^ the royal vills,* and 
the monasteries.' 

(d) The Leaders. 

So far the army has been considered from the count's 
point of view, but the responsibilities of the senior are 
parallel with those of the count in the matter of equipment 
and control, whilst Fulrad's letter illustrates the inde- 
pendent position of the immunist. The senior, no less 
than the count, is bound to see that his men are present 
at the set place and time and are well equipped ; ® the 
senior, no less than the count, pays the heriban and forfeits 
his benefice ' for conniving at an evasion. He likewise 
leads his men to war, as the count leads the pagenses,^" 
and it is only in his absence that they march with the 
other men of the county." In Fulrad's summons the 
second rank of vassals is mentioned; the vassals of the 
abbot go under his command, but each with his own 
men, for the better preservation of order. The senior 
has a definite official position in the army, and it is not 

1 743. 28, 2. Cf. Hincmar's letter, 858. II. 432. " De quibus oonse- 
cratis Deo rebua . . . ideo constituerunt apostolorum succesaores, hoc 
ordinari, ut . . . augeretur per dispensationem ecolesiasticum regni 
militia." Note also the riding service of 810. 252, 8. 

2 804/11. 168; 811. 167, 8; of. 866, II. 96, 6. ^ 801/13. 171, 9, 10. 
♦ 801/13. 171, 10. » 807. 135, 3. « 800 ? 86, 30; 800 ? 89, 64. 
' 810. 250, 1 ; 810. 252, 8. » 811. 167, 9; 810. 252, 8. » 811. 167, 6. 

10 808. 137, 1 ; 811. 167, 9 ; 811. 165, 8. Tlie missus selects from the 
crown vassals in each county the one most fitted to lead the different 
troops of men under the command of their seniores. 807. 135, 3. 

" 808. 137, 1. 


difficult to foresee that he will supersede the count in 
the future, as the seignorial and beneficiary relationship 
comes to dominate society. 

On the march to the placitum the counts or the seniores 
are the leaders; in our records of the wars themselves 
the larger organization by nations rather than by counties 
is alone traceable.^ Frequent reference is made in the 
Annales to scarae, or troops, by which most probably 
these national contingents are intended. The scara 
francisca has the place of honour. The " missi qui super 
exercitum nostrum constituendi sunt " referred to in 
808,* seem to have some superior command. The missi 
who lead the army in Saxony in 782 ^ are a count of the 
palace, a count of the stable, and a camerarius ; * whilst 
the king's sons and grandsons,* dukes,® counts of the 
march ' and other counts,^ figure as generals in the 

The capitularies contain various detailed rules ^ of 
discipline, the most important of which is the infliction 
of the death penalty for the well-known crime of herisliz, 
or desertion.^" 

Thus by the end of the Carolingian period the Frankish 
army is well on its way to become a feudal army. The 
coimt with aU his military powers and duties is being 
superseded by the senior as a leader; the universal 
obligation is being narrowed down so that it Ues on the 
holders of benefices only and their men; and special 

^ f lach. III. p. 470. " L'armte pr6senta I'aspect d'une f6d6ration 
plac6e sous l'h6g6monie, sous ... 1* supr^matie du groupe ethnique 

2 808. 138, 8. » A. L. M. 782. * A. Q. D. E. 782. 

5 Ann. 784, 794, 796, 797, 800, 805, 806, 808, 812, 824, 827. 

« Ann. 796, 819, 827. ' lUd., 799, 822, 827. 

» A. Q. D. E. 782, 799. Seneschal, 786. 

» 804/11. 168 ; 823/6. 305, 17 ; 768. 43, 6 j 866, II. 96, 6, 8 ; 811. 166, 3. 
w 811. 166, 4. Note Tassilo's case ; also one referred toinMiihlbaoher, 
D.K. p. 251. A man has forfeited his lands because of his desertion 
of the younger Pippin ; he is now pardoned and reinstated. 


exemptions, granted right and left by royal weakness, 
are destroying the last vestiges of the old tradition of 
a national army. 

2. The West Saxon Army. 

In comparing these two systems, due allowance must 
be made for the different problems that faced the Frankish 
and EngUsh rulers. The warfare of Charles the Great 
and Lewis the Pious was mainly though not solely 
aggressive in character. Punitive expeditions in con- 
sequence of frontier troubles occupy the greater part of 
the time, and though the invasions are a menace at the 
end of Charles's reign, and a national danger by the end 
of Lewis's, they are hardly as yet a standing plague. The 
English wars of the ninth century are a struggle for 
self-preservation. Again, the highly centrahzed organiza- 
tion of Charles does not appear to have much in common 
with the methods of Alfred and Edward, whose warfare 
seems rather to resemble that of their Frankish contem- 
poraries, characterized as it is to a great extent by purely 
local effort. Yet in the ninth century we see on one 
side of the Charmel kings losing control of the national 
forces, allowing each part of the realm to face its own 
difficulties unaided, leaving the post of danger to make 
a family compact or settle a family grudge ; whilst on 
the other, the kings are found rising to greater power 
by controlling existing resources for defence and re-shaping 
them to more effective use. The true parallel to Charles 
the Bald's Francia is not the England of Edward, but 
the England of .i3Ethelred II ; and, allowing for the different 
scale of operations and in spite of different conditions, 
there are some elements common to the military systems 
of Charles the Great and of Alfred. 

It is, indeed, largely because the West Saxon kings 
take the initiative and modify the existing system for 
their own purposes that we might expect to find traces 


of exterior influence. As to the fact that some definite 
innovation or reform in military matters took place under 
Alfred, all writers seem to be agreed, but as to its precise 
nature, certainty seems unattainable. Here again the 
materials are scanty and lamentably fragmentary. The 
greater part of our information on the English army is 
derived from the contemporary accounts of the wars with 
the Northmen given in the Chronicle ; but the laws give 
some particulars, and inferences may be drawn from some 
of the Domesday entries, though with no chance of 
chronological definiteness. 

(a) The Summons. 

Thus there is no clear indication of the method pursued 
in calling together the fyrd. The Chronicle for 905 says, 
" Then King Edward went after them as speedily as he 
could gather the fyrd." In the exceptional year 898 
AKred goes against the Northmen, " with that portion of 
the men of Somerset that was nearest." From the 
account of the years 860-878 it may be gathered that 
there was no standing on ceremony in these things. It 
is most probable that the ealdormen who appear so con- 
stantly with the men of the shire called out the fyrd, each 
by his own authority when needed. This would be 
strictly in accordance with the Frankish custom of allow- 
ing the count to summon the forces of the pagus for home 
defence without royal commands. In cases where the 
whole force of the West Saxons goes out against an 
external enemy ,i we might safely hold that a more formal 
summons was issued on the part of the king.^ 

(6) Obligation to Serve. 

The question next arises, as in Francia, who were bound 
to obey the summons ? Nowhere, any more than in the 

1 Chron. 823, 827, 828, 853, 911, etc. 

^ Of. V. Atr. 28, where a heavier penalty is assigned for desertion of 
the fyrd if the king himself is there. 


Frankish records, is there to be found a general statement 
of military obligation. From Lie 51 it appears that the 
duty of attendance at the fyrd was incumbent in Lie's 
time on the gesithcund man, with or without land, and on 
the ceorl. Throughout the pre-Conquest period we find 
references to the Trinoda Necessitas in a series of charters 
running from 767 to 1066.^ All but the very earhest 
examples are West Saxon. In each case land is freed 
from every pubhc burden but the three — " arcis et pontis 
constructio et expeditio." These three duties are also 
found in juxtaposition in the Laws,^ but only in those of 
late date. In one instance scypfyrdung ^ is added to the 

Thus it would seem that in England as in Francia the 
duty of military service forms part of those prime pubhc 
duties which are incumbent on every man, at any rate in 
the earhest times of Wessex. The ceorl of Ine 51 is not 
quahfied as landowning or otherwise; it is hardly too 
much to infer from this passage the duty of every freeman. 
We have noted before that there is only one instance in 
the charters of total exemption from fyrd josrdd,^ whilst 
in Francia total or partial exemptions are far more 
common, and only two of the diplomas expressly reserve 
the duty in a formula parallel to that of the Enghsh land- 

In all passages later than Ine's laws (which, it must be 
remembered, in all probabihty operated under Alfred) 
the relation of land to service is apparent. It is the land 
on which the Trinoda Necessitas hes ; the thegn of Becti- 

1 B. 201, 357, 427, 447, 475, 476, etc.; K. 651, 729. 

' V. Atr. 26, 1 ; VI. Atr. 32, 3 ; II. Cn. 10 ; H. Cn. 65. 

' VT. Atr. 32, 3. As in Francia, naval service is included under the 
universal duty. Naval battles are recorded in the Chronicle, 833-885. 
Alfred's naval force is described as the sciphere, and in 911 Edward has 
100 ships. The importance of ships is brought out very strongly in 
iHthebed's legislation. V. Atr. 27 ; VI. Atr. 32, 3 ; Chron. 1008. 

* See above. Chapter V, p. 119. 


tudines Singularum Personarum owes service from his 
land,^ whilst, though the older interpretation of utware 
must now be abandoned,^ it appears that some special 
services were owed from the land, and riding service among 
them,3 and, as Maitland has suggested,^ this is three parts 
of the way to military service. The Northleoda laga ^ again 
represents the thegn's privileges, and, we may presume, 
the thegn's duties, as attached to five hides of land. 

Unfortunately, these references are mainly taken from 
fragmentary documents of a late or doubtful date; 
documents which record rather customs than enact- 
ments.® The evidence of Domesday is even more 
disjointed and more doubtful in date, lacking as it is 
in means for estimating the antiquity of the customs it 
records. It has been shown, however, that the five-hide 
unit runs through Domesday,' and that it is a basis for 
military service.* 

The entry for 894 in the Chronicle leads us to attribute 
considerable mUitary innovations to Alfred's reign. The 
two chief novelties recorded there are the exemption of 
half the fyrd at a time from service, and the erection and 
garrisoning of burhs. Another indication given by the 
Chronicle is the frequent mention of king's thegns at 
this period as fighting and falhng in the wars.* Again, 

1 Reot. 1. 

" Bound,, Vinogradofi, Growth of the Manor, pp. 239, 284. 

'■> Ge>inc«o, 2, 3. • D. B. and B. p. 307. » Nor«leod. 9, 10. 

« Note Ge]>mc«o, 1 ; " Hit waea hwilum on Engla lagum." 

' Round, Feudal England. 

8 Wilton either pays 20 shillings or sends one man for five hides. Dd. 
I. 64b. Exeter is rated at five hides for expedition by land or sea. Dd. 
I. 100. In Wiltshire three men held four hides ; two of them render 
five shillings and the third serves sic tainus. Dd. I. 67b. The 
Berkshire Domesday gives the classical instance of one soldier going 
from every four hides. Dd. I. 56b. Though it must be remembered, 
especially in the case of the boroughs, that the Domesday hide is a fiscal 
rather than a territorial unit, the territorial basis of such a scheme of 
assessment is unmistakable. 

» Chron. 871, 874, 897, 905, 917. 


there is Asser's reference to the service rendered by 
Alfred's satellites.^ Taking these facts in conjunction 
Mdth the later passages in Domesday and elsewhere, it 
seems a working hypothesis that Alfred availed himself 
of the territorializing tendency of the king's thegn to 
serve the needs of the country, and obliged aU who owned 
a certain number of hides to perform a special duty, 
granting to all who owned that number a special privilege. 
It has been suggested that the special duty in the king's 
hall performed by the satellites was connected with the 
duty of keeping the burhs, as the king moved about from 
place to place, having no fixed court, and Asser refers to 
the construction of new aulae ^ which have been identified 
with the burhs. 

If it could be proved that this direct proportion between 
land and service was estabUshed by a single legislative 
act, the question of conscious imitation or adaptation from 
Frankish systems would arise with some urgency. To 
quote Maitland : "It may well be doubted whether the 
five-hide rule had not been borrowed by English kings 
from their Frankish neighbours." ^ We have seen, how- 
ever, that Charles the Great was not the originator of the 
plan of proportioning service to land held. We have also 
seen that there is no great Ukelihood of the establishment 
of a fixed proportion between land and service under the 
Carolingians. The unit varied from two to five mansi in 
two years, and statistics for other years are not given. 
Professor Vinogradoff has pointed out the discrepancy 
in size between units of three mansi and five hides, 
though he offers explanations for it.* Again, other bases 

^ Asser. c. 100 : " In tribus namque cohortibus praefati regis satellites 
prudentissimi dividebantur, ita ut prima cohors in ourto regio . . . 
commoraretur, menseque finito et adveniente alia cohorte, prima domum 

* Asser o. 91. » D. B. and B. p. 161 (footnote). 

* Vinogradofi, Eng. Soc. in the Eleventh Cent. p. 34. 


of calculation are found in Francia, such as personal 
property, and the distance of the country from the field 
of war. It is contended, however, that the underlying 
principle is the same in the two countries. On the other 
hand, it must be remembered that the five -hide unit is 
found as early as the laws of Ine as a standard for the 
wergeld, and for the value of an oath.^ Alfred's con- 
jectural innovation may have been no more than the 
application of this unit to military purposes. 

We find the parallel, however, not only in the selection 
of the soldiers, but even, in one Domesday entry,^ in 
the contributions made by those who do not go ; and in 
the furnishing of armour from every eight hides in 1008 ^ 
we are reminded of the regulations of 805. Nevertheless, 
there seems on the whole no positive evidence to justify 
a theory of conscious imitation; we can go no further 
than Stubbs,* hardly as far as Maitland. 

Again, even though the relation of land to military 
service be traced back to the days of Alfred, it is impossible 
to believe that the fyrd whose movements are recorded 
in the Chronicle consisted only of king's thegns.^ Here 

1 Mr. Chadwick has pointed out the apparent existence of a six- 
hide unit for military purposes as early as 800 in Mercia. The Origin 
of the English Nation, p. 158. B. 201. 

2 Dd. I. 67b. ' Chron. 1008. 

* " A strong current of similar events will produce coincidences in 
the history of nations whose whole institutions are distinct; much more 
will like circumstances force similarly constituted nations into like 
expedients ; nay, great legislators will think together even if the wants 
that suggest the thought be of the most dissimilar character. No 
amount of analogy between two systems can by itself prove the actual 
derivation of one from the other." Stubbs, Constitutional History, 
Vol. I. (6th ed.) p. 226. Note also Vinogradoff, Eng. Sac. in the 
Eleventh Cent. p. 30 : " The same reasons which produced the Lombard 
Assize of Arms, and the graduated service of Charlemagne's armies, 
secured the transformation of the fyrd from a general force of free 
tribesmen into an array of specially selected warriors." 

* Compare the Alfredian version of Bede, where the folclic man on the 
fyrd is contrasted with the king's thegns, (Latin : rusticus, milites). 
Bede, H. E. IV. 22. 

li 2 


the Frankish law that all must appear in defence of their 
country is recalled.^ The force that meets the Northmen 
under the lead of the ealdorman consists of aU the men of 
the shire. Quite apart from any five-hide rule or official 
exemption, it is probable that a gradual process of 
specialization had been going on, and that " the forces 
of the shire " meant, in its widest sense, " an array not of 
the whole able-bodied population, but of representatives 
of aU the householders of the county." ^ On two 
occasions a distinction appears to be made. In 865 the 
people of Kent promise money for a peace. This may be 
explained as a transaction of the people without the lead 
of their ealdorman, who, as we have seen, probably called 
them out to war. In 914 the country folk about Leighton 
fight against a troop of Northmen and put them to flight. 
Here we have apparently the rising of a smaller local unit 
than the shire. 

We have already referred to the general exemption of 
894 by which half the members of the fyrd were freed 
from expeditionary service, whether for home defence or 
for gathering in the harvest. But the process of granting 
official exemptions was going on, as in Francia, though 
probably not to so great an extent. The evidence is, 
however, for the most part of a late date. In the Mercian 
charter of 767 referred to above it appears that five men 
only need be sent from the lands in question.^ The best 
examples, however, are not found till Domesday Book. 
Here the boroughs compound for their due service with 
twenty, twelve, or ten men,* and there are signs of 
" beneficial hidation." Though exemptions from fyrdfare 

1 It seems quite possible that in Wessex also a distinction is drawn 
between " expeditio " and " lantweri." Cf. J. H. Clapham in E. H. R. 
(1910), p. 293, and note the two f3^dwites of Domesday Book. 
Vinogradoff, Eng. Soc. in the Eleventh Cent. p. 111. 

- Vinogradoff, Eng. Soc, in the Eleventh Cent. pp. 26, 34. 

» B. 201. « Dd. I. 154 ; I. 230 ; I. 238. 


are hardly to be found in early charters, one of Edward 
the Confessor's records the granting of fyrdmte to Ramsey 
Abbey/ and the laws of Cnut refer to such concessions.^ 
If the power to exact the fyrdwite is surrendered, exemp- 
tion from the fyrd is practically conceded.' 

This penalty is 120 shillings and the forfeiture of land 
for the gesithcund man who owns land; 60 shillings for 
the gesithcund man without land, and 3 shillings for the 
churhsh man.* There is no legislation on the subject 
between the times of Ine and Cnut, where the same 
penalty is found. For neglect of the Trinoda Necessitas 
a man must pay 120 shillings in the Enghsh law and 
according to old custom in the Dane law. The fyrdwite 
goes to the king and to no other unless he wiU concede 
it to any man.^ 

(c) Organization. 

Our chief material for the organization of the fyrd is 
again to be found in the Chronicle. It almost always 
assembles by shires. In the years 800, 837, 845, and 905 
we find the men of the shire mentioned as a military 
detachment, whilst the word is found by itself in 894.* 
As a rule it is the ealdorman who leads, though in the 
case of a more general effort it is the king. In 823 Egbert 
sends his sons, a bishop and an ealdorman against Kent. 
In 827-828 he leads troops against the Northumbrians 
and the North Welsh, whilst in 905 Edward not only 
gathers the fyrd and leads the expedition, but he disbands 
it and leaves the men of Kent, who refuse to obey, to be 
surrounded and cut up by the Danes. 

1 K. 853. ^ 11. Cn. 12, 15. 

2 The heriban similarly i3 granted in Franoia. Charter for Priim. 
(775) i " Ut nullum heribannum . . . solvere non debeat, sed ad ipsum 
sanctum locum sit conoessum atque indultian." Muhlbaoher, D. K. 
p. 153. 

« Ine 51. • 11. Cn. 12, 15. 

« " Se cyng mid ))aere scire fe mid him fierdedon." 


We have already referred to the entry of 894, and sug- 
gested that it has bearing on a general levy under the 
king rather than a local rising for home defence. Another 
reference to this system is found under 921 : " And when 
that fierdstemn went home, then went another out and 
reduced the burh." It is possible that in executing the 
king's command the ealdorman decides whose turn it is 
to serve and whose to remain, as the count does in Frank- 
land, but there is no evidence for this. 

Burhbot is the second item of the Trinoda Necessitas, 
and there is frequent mention in the Chronicle of the 
burhs whose erection forms a conspicuous part of Alfred's 
policy. From 894 on we hear constantly of " the men 
that held the burhs." In 886 Lundenburh had been 
committed to the keeping of an ealdorman, and in 894 
the burgware of London help in the fight against the 
Northmen. Every burh east of the Parret contributes 
its assistance in pursuing the army in that year. In 896 
the men of London again capture some ships. In 910 
begins the account of the burh building of Edward and 
^thelflaed, in which some twenty-five burhs are mentioned 
by name. The shire is not so frequently mentioned now 
as the fighting unit. In 905 the men of Hereford and 
Gloucester and the nearest burhs oppose the Danes on 
the Severn; in 921 "a great body of people from the 
nearest burhs, who could then go," take Tempsford, and 
later another force from Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, every- 
where from the nearest burhs, take Colchester. These 
entries appear to indicate a substitution of the burh for 
the shire as a military^unit,^ which may be attributed to 
the altered conditions of warfare with the Danes. Offen- 
sive are replacing defensive operations; siege warfare is 
superseding pitched battles. A somewhat similar develop- 
ment is traceable on the Continent, as we have seen from 
* Compare Mr. Chadwiok's theory of the burghal system. 


the passages that deal with the erection of castella. It is 
conceivable also, that the burhs and the castella might 
rest on a similar basis of contributory land holdings. 
Similar military tactics, however, might well be suggested 
by the attacks of the same enemies. 

(d) The Leaders. 

The leaders of the fyrd, as has been shown, are the 
ealdorman, the aethelings and the king. An ealdorman 
was in command at London, and in 906 there is mention 
of the death of a gerefa at Bath.^ The leadership of the 
men of the burhs is thus doubtful. No other mihtary 
divisions than the shire are mentioned ; the king's thegns 
are not described as having any special command. It 
is probably at a later date that the seignorial leadership 
of mUitary bodies begins. At Maldon the ealdorman 
has his own following, and there is the right feudal ring 
in the account of their relations with him. But he is 
leading other forces of the shire, and though his household 
troops owe him an especial loyalty, the question of trans- 
ferred responsibUity hardly arises. In Domesday, how- 
ever, there are some few instances of this. In Worcester- 
shire a man pays 40 shillings to his lord if he neglect the 
expeditio, but he is in the king's mercy if he have his own 
sake and soke.^ A member of vills owe to Taunton 
" profectio in exercitum cum hominibus episcopi." ' 
The analogy here evidently forms part of the larger 
paraUehsm of seignorial institutions which has already 
been discussed. 

^ The gerefa may conceivably have some military functions, though 
there is no trace of them in the records beyond this passage and the 
references to the problematic high reeves of Northumbria. When the 
sherifi at a later date acquires military functions it is as the ealdorman's 

2 Dd. 1. 172. . . 

' Dd. I. 87b. Note also the four men who owe expeditio el navigta 
to the Bishop of Worcester, Dd. I. 173 ; the service owed by Hamtone, 
Heming Cart. i. 77. 


(e) Cavalry. 

The question of the use of cavaky is of less importance 
here than in Francia. The evidence of the Chronicle is 
on the whole in favour of Mr. Beck's ^ opinion that the 
fyrd of the ninth century was a mounted force, though 
it probably fought on foot.^ The reference to the horses 
in the ealdorman j^thelwold's wiU,^ as well as the riding 
duty of the thegn and of the radmanni of the West Mid- 
lands is also in favour of this theory. On the other hand, 
it seems very difficult to determine whether the use of 
cavalry was an Alfredian innovation. If so, it is traceable 
indirectly to Frankish influence, since, as we have seen, 
the Northmen learnt the use of horses from the Franks, 
and it was to cope with the attacks of the Northmen that 
any innovations on Alfred's part were introduced. But 
it has also been suggested * that the invaders learnt the 
use of horses from the native Enghsh, who certainly 
possessed horses in large numbers. 

Beyond this it does not seem probable that the English 
system was influenced by the Carohngian system. The 
positions of the ealdorman and the count are in all hkeh- 

» E. H. R. (1906) p. 766. 

" The verb ridan is used of the fyrd as a whole in 894 and 896, and in 
894 there is a reference to the horses' eating up of the corn round the 
Danish fortifications. Ridan is used of individuals, kings, ealdoimen 
and thegns in 787, 800, 871, 878, 901. The riding of the Danish liere 
is mentioned in 870, 871, 878, 917 ; their getting of horses 866, 876, 881, 
885, 892. The usual verb of motion for the fyrd is the colourless faran. 
At Maldon the warriors dismount from their horses and fight on foot, 
but only the thegns may be meant. In 1055 the Chronicle appears to 
attribute the defeat of the English by the Welsh to their use of horses. 
Flor. Wig. " contra morem in equis pugnare iussit." Mr. Clapham, 
however, explains this as meaning that the rout was so speedy that the 
warriors had not even dismounted in order to fight before they were put 
to flight. Kghting on horseback was not known here till 1066. E. H. R. 
(1910) pp. 287 ff. 

» K. 1173 (A. D. 955?). 

* Chadwick, Originof the Englith Nation, pp. 158 ff. And note Eddius, 
Vita Wilfredi, o. xix. " Rex Ecgfrithus . . . statim equitatui exercitu 
praeparato." Hislmians of Church of York, p. 30. (Eolls Series.) 


hood traceable in each case to a military origin; their 
fionctions are naturally similar, and the assistance, if any, 
given by the gerefa or centenarius is also readily ex- 
pUcable. The shire system is perhaps more essential to 
the effectiveness of the army in England than is the pagus 
organization in Francia. Its value is revealed by the 
despairing entry of ^thelred's Chronicle no less than by 
the records of Alfred's reign. " At last there was not 
a chief man who could gather a force, but each fled as he 
might, nor even at last would any shire assist another." ^ 
The special incidence of the duty on land, as we have 
seen, is not sufficient evidence of imitation on the part 
of the English kings. The erection of burhs, the great 
strategical innovation of Edward and Alfred, is very 
evidently directly suggested by the emergency, and is 
fully explicable on that ground alone ; nevertheless, it is 
quite possible that the experience of the Frankish kings 
may have been applied by Alfred,^ since, as the Chronicle 
shows,^ he kept close touch with the efforts of his neigh- 
bours across the Channel against their common enemy. 

1 Chron. 1010. 

'' It has been suggested that the building of fortified bridges recorded 
by the Chroniole in 896 was a measure copied from Charles the Bald's 
in 862 (Ann. Bert.). 

» Chron. 880-893. 



The local institutions of the Carolingian Empire and 
the West Saxon Kingdom having been examined and 
compared step by step, the original question can be con- 
sidered as a whole. Do the sources indicate the direct 
indebtedness of one country to the other ? Did the West 
Saxon kings borrow the policy or the institutions of the 
Carolingians ? The answer has been anticipated in the 
preceding pages, but a summary of the results may be 
attempted here. 

It was shown at the outset that there is evidence, 
sufficient if fragmentary, of a close and constant com- 
munication between the two countries from the eighth to 
the tenth centuries, and that there was thus nothing to 
make such a course of imitation or adaptation impossible. 
It was noted at the same time that the Church was the 
main channel of communication, and this in itself is in 
favour of a close constitutional connection. There was a 
constant give and take of canons and penitentials, pastors 
and masters, between the two countries. To quote 
Stubbs : " It would be very rash to affirm that while the 
bishops who composed so large a part of the witenagemot 
sought foreign models for their canons, they did not seek 
foreign models for their secular laws." ^ 

Such an affirmation is not made here. A possibility, 
however, does not make a probabiUty. Positive evidence 

' Stubbs, Conslilulional History, Vol. I. p. 224 (6th ed.). 


is needed, and this is almost completely lacking. There 
are exceptions; as we have indica,ted, at least one 
institution suggests almost irresistibly a foreign origin — 
the laen. When the evidence has been considered it is 
difficult to avoid the conclusion that this particular form 
of land-grant came from Francia. But, as with the land- 
book itself, the precarium once on EngHsh soil assumes 
an individuality of its own. Introduced before the 
Carolingian period, it shows no trace of later foreign 
influence, unless, as we have pointed out, that of 
terminology in one or two instances. 

The evidence for the development of the English 
immunity from a Frankish origin is more dubious. Again 
the almost complete lack of terminological evidence is 
striking. The borrowing, if such there were, must have 
taken place at an early period, and the probabihties again 
seem against any later indebtedness of England to 

When these semi-ecclesiastical institutions have been 
considered, the positive evidence — which is, in fact, barely 
more than the use of a few technical terms, that may be 
as purely literary as Asser's paga for shire — has been 
exhausted, and there remains merely a series of close 
analogies. Close as these are, however, not one of them 
suggests a direct translation from one language to the 
other. Alfred, of all compilers the most eager to give 
honour where honour was due, makes no reference to the 
capitularies of his transmarine neighbours in his preface 
to the laws. In no document is there any direct refer- 
ence to such a relation between the institutions of the 
two countries as may be suggested by the frequent 
resemblances we have noted. 

Such resemblances would of themselves be valuable, 
though not conclusive, but for the common origin of the 
institutions of the two countries. Resemblances, and 


close resemblances, are not confined to the English and 
Frankish nations : striking analogies are to be found in 
all the Germanic codes and records. This common 
ancestry of institution is sufficient to explain much, if 
not all, of the parallels that have been noticed. 

To turn from detail to the general type, it is noticeable 
that whilst under the Carohngians Frankish law is so 
closely intertwined with Roman tradition and form as to 
be forced to stand or fall by it, Anglo-Saxon law has been 
described as "an especially pure type of Germanic 
archaism." ^ The few distinctively foreign introductions 
that have been mentioned are stamped by their Roman 
origin, in spite of the special development they take on 
EngUsh soil. Any foreign innovation might be expected 
to leave a more distinctive trace than is to be found. 
The traces of Danish influence, though without the 
unmistakable Roman tinge of Garohngian institutions, 
are immediately noticeable.^ 

This argument must be taken for what it is worth. It 
is purely negative in character, as are, in fact, the whole 
results of the investigation here attempted. To quote 
Stubbs again : " Although we may be inclined to claim 
for the institutions which came to full growth on EngUsh 
soil a native or at least a common Germanic origin, it is 
wiser and safer to allow the coincidences to speak for 
themselves." ^ Thus, in reply to the original question: 
Did the West Saxon kings borrow from the Garohngian 
emperors ? we can only reply that it is possible but hardly 

1 P. and M. I. p. 22. 

^ See Vinosradoff, Eng. Soc. in the Eleventh Cent. pp. 4 fE. 

2 Stubbs, Constitutional History, I. p. 226 (6th ed.). 

Frlntad for tba University of Lohdon Freib, Ltd., by Bichasp Glat ti Sons, Ltd., 
London and Bungay,