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R. C. Van Cacnegem 7. Law and Power in Twelfth-Century Flanders In the twelfth century the county of Flanders was one of the most famous "territorial principalities" of the kingdom of France.1 For two centuries it had behaved as an autonomous state—Galbert of Bruges does not hesitate to call it a regnum and its count a princeps2 —but legally speaking it was held in fief from both the French and the German crowns. These two parts of the county are known respectivelyas laFlandre sous la Couronne or Kroonvlaanderen (almost 90 percent of the total Flemish territory) and la Flandre Imperiale or Rijksvlaanderen-, the Scheldt frontier went back to the famous treaty of Verdun of 843,when it separated the lands of Charles the Bald from those of Lothar I. Principalities that belonged to the kingdom of France and were held in fief from the French crown, but behaved in fact as autonomous states, were awell-knownfeature of the period—the duchy of Normandy, like Flanders, being another familiar example. There is here a contrast between legal and political reality, to which I shall return at the end of this study. In twelfth-century Flanders there was a lively concern with legal problems . This is clear from the comparative wealth of borough charters, the testimony of narrative sources, such as Galbert of Bruges, and scholarly writings such as Lambert of Saint-Omer's Liber Floridus.3 The county 1. For an authoritative survey of medieval Flandersand its institutions, see F. L. Ganshof , La Flandre, in Histoire des institutions franfaises au moyen age, I, Institutions seigneuriales, ed. Ferdinand Lot and Robert Fawtier (Paris, 1957), pp. 343-426. 2. Histoire du meurtre de Charles le Bon,comte de Flandre (1127-1128) par Galbert de Bruges, ed. Henri Pirenne (Paris,1891); Galbert of Bruges, TheMurder of Charles the Good, tr. James B. Ross (Toronto, 1988). 3. For a critical survey of eleventh- and twelfth-century Flemish borough charters, see R.C. Van Caenegem, "Coutumes et legislation en Flandre aux Xle et XIIc siecles," in Leslibertes urbaines et rurales du Xle au XlVe siecle (Brussels, 1968), pp. 245-79; a selection of texts can be found in M. Martens,"Recueil dc textes d'histoire urbainc beige des origines au milieu du Xllle siecle," mElenchusfontium historiae urbanae, ed. C. van de Kieft and J. F. Niermeijer (Leiden , 1967), i: 281-404. For the legal sections in Lambert's encyclopaedia see F. L. Ganshof, "Droit romain dans le 'Liber Floridus,'" Tijdschrift wor Recbtsqescbiedenis 29 (1961), 432-44 I5O R. C. Van Caenegem therefore provides a good case study for the theme of this colloquium, which has presented a welcome opportunity to develop my views on early Flemish law.4 I As a starting point I would like to make the general observation that legal rules are not so much invented by jurists reasoning in the abstract and deducing norms from axiomata dictated by natural justice, but are to a large extent established as the result of conflicting interests and pressure groups which at agiven moment reachapoint of equilibrium.This proposition can be illustrated with some examples from twelfth-centuryFlanders, moving from the more obvious to the more unexpected. i. The crisis of 1127-1128 was the greatest drama of the century there: the treacherous murder of the childless Count Charles the Good; the ensuing struggle between various pretenders leading to civil war; the death in 1128 of one of the principalcandidates for the succession,William Clito; and the consequent recognition of his main rival, Thierry of Alsace, who went on to rule till 1168. Although we are in the presence of a typical and violent power struggle, there is no doubt that legal principles were involved. Indeed , the immediate cause of the drama wasthe rigorous application of the law of serfdom with allits practical implications.The Erembald clan, which had risen to power and wealth in the counts' service, was of servile origin and its members had, legally speaking, always remained comital serfs. Socially and politically, however, they had outgrown their legal status, and it was when Charles the Good decided to reduce them to their true position, in reality as well as in law, and thus to demean them beyond endurance , that they felt trapped, and resorted to murder and a vain attempt and "Note sur deux textes de droit canonique dans le 'Liber Floridus,'" in Etudes d'kistoire du droit canonique dediees a Gabriel Le Bras, 2 vols. (Paris, 1965) i: 99...


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