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34 Discussed, with sources cited, in Kaeuper, War, Justice, and Public Order, 231“60.
35 As in Philip IV™s great reform ordinance, 1302: Ordonnances, I, 354“6.
36 Evidence provided in Kaeuper, War, Justice, and Public Order, 184“268.
37 Price, tr., Wagon-Train, laisses 11, 17; McMillan, ed., Charroi de N®mes.
38 Ferrante, ed., tr., Guillaume d™Orange, laisse lxv; Wienbeck et al., eds, Aliscans.
Chevalerie and Royaut© 103
In Raoul de Cambrai the erring King Louis is cursed as the cause of trouble and
told by a baron he is ˜not worth a button™.39
Yet such statements represent the growlings of particular dissatisfaction
more than any sober attempts at a theory of governance. In fact, learned stud-
ies have argued that many of the chansons de geste must be linked to the waxing
of royal power which these texts support.40 Some romances show the same
ideological inclination, a good example being Chr©tien™s Erec, with its self-
conscious associations with Angevin kingship in its famous coronation
scene.41 Kings are accepted; these works simply projected characteristics essen-
tial to an ideal and emphasized them by vividly illustrating the problems
caused by their absence. The problem of governance, in short, was not located
in the very fact of kingship, but was blamed, instead. on bad or inept men try-
ing to ¬ll the role.42
Of course, a true king was in no small degree welcomed in this literature
because he possessed one of the chief chivalric qualities: prowess. A good king
was a good knight and could cleave helmets and thrust lances with the best.
The Perlesvaus presents a classic scene of Arthur and Gawain riding side by side
into the action of a great tournament:
Their horses were now decked in their trappings, and the king and Sir Gawain
mounted, fully armed, and charged into the tournament with such fury that they
smashed right through the biggest companies, felling horses and knights and whatever
they met. Then the king caught sight of Nabigan who was riding forward in all of his
¬nery; the king struck him such a furious blow that he sent him crashing from his horse
and broke his collar-bone.43

Riding side by side into actual war is, of course, better still. In the Mort Artu,
as Arthur and his knights ¬ght their tragic battle against the forces of Lancelot,
Arthur proves his worth as a knight in the best manner:
That day King Arthur bore arms, and did it so well that there was no man of his age in
the world who could have equalled him; indeed the story af¬rms that on his side there
was no knight, old or young, who bore arms as well as he did. Through the example of

Kay, ed., tr. Raoul de Cambrai, laisses CCXXV, CCXXIV.

General discussions in Boutet and Strubel, Litt©rature, politique et soci©t©, 39“67; Boutet, ˜La

politique et l™histoire™; and ˜Chansons de geste™. The theme in particular works: Hunt, ˜L™inspira-
tion id©ologique™; Combarieu, ˜La violence™; Flori, ˜S©mantique et id©ologie™.
Tops¬eld, Chr©tien de Troyes, 52; Schmolke-Hasselmann, ˜Henry II Plantagenêt™. Cf.

Holzermayr, ˜Le “mythe” d™Arthur™; Boutet, ˜Carrefours id©ologique™.
Peters discusses the complexities and tensions associated with the rex inutilis theme in The

Shadow King; for tensions in the portrayal of King Arthur (and Charlemagne), see Elspeth
Kennedy, ˜King Arthur™.
Bryant, tr., Perlesvaus, 189; Nitze and Jenkins, eds, Perlesvaus, II, 294.
The Link with Royaut©
his ¬ne chivalry all his men fought so well that the men from the castle would have been
conquered if it had not been for Lancelot.44

Another royal trait idealized in chivalric writing may seem merely unre-
markable piety. Who could be surprised to read time and again that a king
must be a good Christian? The Duke of Burgundy, in the Song of Aspremont,
begins his speech on ideal kingship along just these lines: ˜The type of man
who seeks a crown on earth, / Should look to God and in his faith be ¬rm; /
He should both honor and serve the Holy Church.™45 Is this insistence,
encountered so often, simply the re¬‚ex response of the cleric or quasi-cleric
who penned the text?
This trait is unlikely to be rooted in clericalism alone. More likely, it also
re¬‚ects age-old beliefs that the religious standing of the king signi¬cantly
determines the fate of the group or, in time, of the kingdom.46 Such beliefs
were much older than the Gregorian Reform that sought to diminish their
force; they also proved to be more durable than clerical critics expected. In
chivalric literature, kings, in company with other great laymen, often domi-
nate churchmen and church property in just the ways the Gregorians had vig-
orously denounced for a century or more. We need only recall how dominant
and even sacerdotal a role Charlemagne plays in The Song of Roland”blessing
in Jesus™s name and in his own, conversing with his companion angels, con-
vincing God to extend the daylight (in order to effect his revenge).47 As Marc
Bloch pointedly observed, ˜Clearly the Gregorian reform had not yet passed
that way.™48
Royal piety is, moreover, often linked with the basic obligation of the king
to right fundamental wrongs in human society, especially to succour widows
and orphans. Signi¬cantly, such duties were also a staple of the chivalric ethos.
In the Lancelot do Lac the Worthy Man™s blistering critique of Arthur™s king-
ship includes the charge that ˜[t]he right of widows and orphans has perished
under your dominions™. He threatens Arthur with the warning: ˜God will call
you most cruelly to account for this, for He Himself said through the mouth
of His prophet David that He is the guardian of the poor and sustains the
orphans and will destroy the ways of the sinners.™49

Cable, tr., Death of King Arthur, 144; Frappier, ed., La Mort, 115.

See ll. 7160“62 in Newth, ed., tr., Song of Aspremont, and Brandin, ed., Chanson d™Aspremont.

Bloch, Soci©t© F©odale, tr. Manyon, II, 379“83; Chaney provides an interesting case study in

Cult of Kingship.
Laisses 26, 179 in Brault, ed., tr., Chanson de Roland, For the anti-Gregorianism in the

Chanson d™Aspremont, see the opening section of Chapter 11 below.
Soci©t© F©odale, I, 96 n.

Corley, tr., Lancelot of the Lake, 238; Elspeth Kennedy, ed., Lancelot do Lac, I, 283.
Chevalerie and Royaut© 105
The idea that the king must do his utmost to give impartial justice to all,
regardless of rank, is tirelessly emphasized in chansons and romances. Arthur
states the position plainly in Chr©tien™s Erec:
I am the king . . .
I should not wish in any way
to commit disloyalty or wrong,
no more to the weak than the strong;
it is not right that any should complain of me . . .50

In fact, chivalric authors™ interest in the full social range of impartial royal just-
ice often quickly narrowed to the ranks of privileged society and to the
speci¬cs of feudal relationships.51 More than one poem in the Cycle of William
of Orange turns on that point, and it is a similar failure of the king to provide
feudal justice that animates the savage cycles of knightly feuding in Raoul de
One key policy is for the king to free himself of low-born advisers and rely
solely on the only people who count, that is, on men of ˜the right blood™,
whether they are clerics or laymen. In the Crowning of Louis, Charlemagne
advises his son Louis ˜not to take a lowborn man as your counsellor, the son of a
lord™s agent or of a bailiff. These would betray their trust in a minute for
money.™53 The Duke of Burgundy in the Song of Aspremont speaks to the choice
of both clerical and lay of¬cials and counsellors; combining self-conscious anti-
Gregorianism with chivalric rectitude, he insists that all come from ˜good family™:
You should keep by your side men of good birth;
From their good counsel you may ¬nd out and learn
The way to govern your own soul and self ¬rst: . . .
Make not a bishop of the son of your shepherd;
Take a king™s son, or duke™s or count™s, I tell you.
Or vavassor™s, though his family be penniless . . .
Archbishops seven bear of¬ce in my shires
And there™s not one, so strict I™ve scrutinized,
Whom either king or high duke has not sired . . .54

This ideal must have produced sage nods of agreement from those assembled
in a royal or baronial hall”some low-born of¬cials perhaps prudently paying
more attention to their wine goblets for a moment.

Carroll, ed., tr., Erec, ll. 1757, 1764“7. 51 Larmat, ˜L™orphelin.

Larmat recognizes the social constrictions on the royal concern for orphans and widows: see

ibid. Raoul de Cambrai will be discussed below, Chapter 11.
53 Hoggan, tr., ˜Crowning of Louis™ 5; Langlois, ed., Couronnement de Louis, 7.
54 See ll. 11236“8, 11214“16, 11310“12, in Newth, ed., tr., Song of Aspremont, and Brandin, ed.,

Chanson d™Aspremont. Dignit©s is the word translated as ˜shires™.
The Link with Royaut©
Yet if this ideal court is a centre of ¬ne chivalry and a useful forum, in all
instances disputes are brought to the king by a suitor™s choice, not by royal
claims to jurisdiction. Supervised arbitration is the process, not clearly sover-
eign adjudication, a picture that largely matches twelfth-century political and
legal reality. As John Baldwin has shown, slightly more than a third of the cases
coming into the royal court under Philip II between 1179 and 1223 received
imposed royal judgements; somewhat more than half were settled by simple
agreements between the parties.55 Like Charlemagne or Arthur, Philip
Augustus offered a service to those who chose to take advantage of it. Yet
Philip™s reign was, as Baldwin also argues, a turning-point in French history:
˜The French king was no longer merely reacting to his great vassals . . . He was
now able to seize the initiative to win supremacy. . . . Bene¬ting from the
resources of a rich kingdom, Philip laid the foundations of French royal power
in the Middle Ages.™56
Chivalric literature was highly reluctant to recognize such direct royal juris-
diction over major issues of justice and even more reluctant to recognize a
working royal monopoly over licit violence.57 The pages of chanson and
romance generally refuse even to register the existence of a centralizing,
bureaucratic administration with a system of courts energized by insistent and
expanding jurisdiction, with proceeds of taxation collected through adminis-
trative mechanisms looming ever larger over the local horizon. Historical
records occasionally preserve the puzzled and offended surprise which greets
royal constraint. On the way to the gallows in 1323, at the end of a remarkable
career of de¬ant private warfare, Jourdain de l™Isle Jourdain confessed that his
actions on several counts merited the death penalty; yet, the record reveals, he
added a signi¬cant coda of failed self-justi¬cation in each case: ˜but he said that
it was in war™.58

Baldwin, Philip Augustus, 37“44. ˜We can only conclude that the technique of allowing con-

tending parties to arrive at their own decisions, then to be con¬rmed by royal authority, was the
preferred method for resolving disputes in the royal courts™ (p. 43).
56 Ibid., 423.

Coming to terms with royalty was a particular theme in the chansons de geste. Kaeuper, War,

Justice, and Public Order, 315“25.
58 Statement in Langlois and Lanhers eds, Confessions et jugements, 37“9. Discussion of the case

and career in Cutler, Law of Treason, 46, 144“5; Kicklighter, ˜Nobility of English Gascony™.

A L T H O U G H a part of common patterns of medieval civilization,
England regularly shows fascinating and instructive differences from
societies across the Channel. By the ˜age of chivalry™ one of the most signi¬cant
differences is the long-term growth of royal power. Real meaning infused the
widespread idea that the king of England was responsible for order and justice
in his realm; from an early date this royalist ideal appeared regularly in docu-
ments by which of¬cials remembered and acted.

Royal Ideology and Enforcement
Statements announcing the beginning of a king™s reign provide a rich source.
At his somewhat uncertain accession to the throne in 1100, Henry I trumpeted
his intention in terms of royal peace: ˜I establish my ¬rm peace through my
entire realm and order it to be kept henceforth.™1 When Edward I acceded, on
his father™s death in 1272, his administrators unambiguously announced on his
behalf (since he was on crusade): ˜We are and will be prepared, by the author-
ity of God, to give full justice to each and every person in all cases and matters
concerning them against any others great or small.™2 Similarly, the administra-
tion of Edward III, at the time of his father™s supposed abdication in 1327,
stated on behalf of the young king:
We command and ¬rmly enjoin each and every one, on pain of disherison and loss of
life or members, not to break the peace of our said lord the king; for he is and shall be
ready to enforce right for each and every one of the said kingdom in all matters and
against all persons, both great and small. So if any one has some demand to make of
another, let him make it by means of [legal] action, without resorting to force of

Stubbs, Select Charters, 119. Stubbs, Select Charters, 439.
1 2

Stephenson and Marcham, English Constitutional History, 205.
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Such sentiments echo throughout the Dialogue of the Exchequer, by Richard
FitzNigel, the ¬rst administrative treatise written in Western European history
(c. 1179). Although the work is mainly concerned with the technical operation
of the royal exchequer, comments on the king™s role in keeping the peace sur-
face frequently. Of Henry II, the author says: ˜from the beginning of his rule
he gave his whole mind to crushing by all possible means those who rebelled
against peace and were “froward” ™.4 Rebelling against the king appears to this
of¬cial as rebellion against peace itself. Of the Assize of Clarendon, FitzNigel
says: ˜nobody must venture to oppose the king™s ordinance, made as it is in the
interest of peace™.5 He is sure royal power is suf¬cient to see that offenders will
be punished and quotes approvingly a rhetorical question ¬rst asked by Ovid
and picked up by more than one medieval writer: ˜Have you forgotten that
kings™ arms are long?™6
Preambles to statutes offer the carrot as well as the stick. Henry III
announced in the Statute of Marlborough (1267) his intention to ˜provide for
the better estate of his realm of England, and for the more speedy administra-
tion of justice, as belongs to the of¬ce of a king™. Henry™s son, Edward I, like-
wise announced in his Statute of Gloucester (1278) a fuller administration of
justice ˜as the good of the kingly of¬ce demands™. The ¬rst Statute of
Westminster (1285) worried over ˜the peace less kept and the laws less used, and
the offenders less punished than they ought to be, so that the people feared the
less to offend™. The king announced in the opening clause that the peace of the
Church and of the land will henceforth be guarded and that common right will
be done to all, rich and poor.7
When royal authority had been challenged, as in the mid-century baronial
wars of the reign of Henry III, the language recording a recovery of the royal
powers can become especially forceful and speci¬c. The Dictum of Kenilworth
(1266) declared in its ¬rst clause:
the most noble prince Henry, illustrious king of England shall have, fully receive and
freely exercise his dominion, authority and royal power without impediment or con-
tradiction of any one, whereby, contrary to the approved rights and laws and long
established customs of the kingdom, the regal dignity might be offended; and that to
the same lord king and to his lawful mandates and precepts full obedience and humble
attention shall be given by all and singular the men of the same kingdom, both greater
and lesser. And all and singular shall through writs seek justice in the court of the lord

Johnson, ed., tr., Dialogus de Scaccario, 75. The text contains many passing references on the

royal duty of preserving the peace; e.g., p. 63.
5 Ibid., 101. See also p. 102 where the king is again identi¬ed with the interests of peace.
6 Ibid., 84. As we saw in Chapter 1, Suger also used this image.
7 Statutes of the Realm, I, 19, 45, 26.
English Kingship, Chivalry, and Literature 109
king and shall be answerable for justice, as was accustomed to be done up to the time
of the recent disorders.

Clause 38 of this document is even more explicit about private quarrels. The
royal government asserts: ˜no one will take private revenge on account of the
disorders, nor will he procure or consent or tolerate that private revenge
should be taken. And if any one takes private revenge, let him be punished by
the court of the lord king.™8
The most revealing piece of evidence comes, however, from a simple phrase
which began to appear during the ¬rst quarter of the thirteenth century in
writs of trespass and in informal legal complaints asking the crown to provide
justice. One prospective plaintiff after another stated that some wrongdoer
had come ˜by force and arms and against the lord king™s peace (vi et armis et
contra pacem domini regis)™. Such litigants knew that these magic words would
bring their cases into the royal courts.9 The message had ¬ltered through: the
king would maintain his peace throughout the realm; his governance would
supervise the use of arms within the realm.
Of course it was not really true; the king™s government could not do all that
it claimed. The phrase came sometimes to be used as a key to open courtroom
doors for cases that involved mere gentle fraud or illegal apple-picking, with
no edged weapons glinting in the sunlight.10 The point remains, however, that
royal claims became quite clearly recognized, even if only partially enforced.
Royaut© within the realm of England meant sovereignty and a working mono-
poly of the means of violence associated with war.
That the English crown was serious about sovereignty of this sort appears
in its efforts to control tournaments, to require licences for building castles,
and to outlaw any insular version of the continental practice of ˜private™ war.
For a time it succeeded in making England seem to the high-spirited and
chivalrous a dreary place without a good tournament circuit, as the oft-quoted
passages from the biography of William Marshal state explicitly.11 But the
maintenance of so hard a royal line was only temporary; by the fourteenth cen-
tury English kings were joining in and leading the sport rather than continu-
ing to prohibit so powerful a practice.12 Nevertheless, the English crown had
at least taken steps to regulate this simulacrum of war.13
The royal insistence on licences ˜to crenelate™”that is, to fortify”had more
long-range success. A staggering number of illicit or ˜adulterine™ castles were
pulled down, especially in the reign of Henry II; the policy of formal licences,
Ibid., I, 12“17. Harding, ˜Plaints and Bills™. Ibid.
8 9 10

Meyer, ed., Histoire, II, ll. 1533“48. Cf. Barber and Barker, Tournaments, 19“26.

Kaeuper, War, Justice, and Public Order, 199“211, and the sources cited there.

Keen, Nobles, Knights, 83“99. Cf. Kaeuper, War, Justice, and Public Order, 199“211.
The Link with Royaut©
a recognition of the royal right to regulate, had become viable by the time of
Henry III.14
The policy against war within the realm”that is, open warlike violence or
even carrying offensive arms and riding with unfurled banners in full and joy-
ous expectation of combat”met with greater success still, except, of course,
for those times when an over-governed England erupted in civil war. With
that exception, however, the concept of the king™s peace had real content and
showed (within limitations inherent in medieval government) a genuine effort
to translate royal ideals into fact.15
Did English knights cooperate? Chivalric ideas, whatever quali¬cations
about royal control they embodied, did little to prevent English knighthood
from serving the crown regularly and loyally. If their military service is obvi-
ous, they also gave essential and unpaid help in law and administration; they
sat on juries and inquests, on commissions of oyer and terminer, on commis-
sions of roads and dikes, or of array; they acted as tax assessors and collectors.
Some served as sheriffs, some as justices. Many of them eventually went to
Westminster to sit in Parliament as Knights of the Shire. This range of services
has been fully investigated in many historical studies.
Other facets of English knightly life, however, have been less often treated
and have sometimes been denied. Although English knighthood could not
claim a legal right of war within the realm, as in France, lords and knights
turned to formally illegal acts of violence, on any scale they could manage,
when the law did not serve or when the sense of urgency was simply too great.
The results for public order could look rather like those we have noted for
In late thirteenth-century England three particular witnesses”King
Edward I, the chronicler Pierre Langtoft, and the anonymous author of a
broadside poem”commented from their quite different vantage points that
the violence troubling the country seemed like the outbreak of war. Edward I
added, signi¬cantly, that this illicit warlike violence ˜¬‚outed the lordship of the
Legal records show us that the knightly violence so prevalent in chivalric lit-
erature was (in somewhat more prosaic form, but without loss of essential
enthusiasm) practised in everyday life, with serious consequences for public
order. Only very slowly, only with mixed success, could the crown declare
such action illegal; only more slowly still could the crown take effective action
actually to restrict knightly violence within the realm.

Kaeuper, War, Justice, and Public Order, 211“25.

Ibid., 225“67. Waugh provides a good case study in ˜Pro¬ts of Violence™.

Sources and discussion in Kaeuper, ˜Law and Order™.
English Kingship, Chivalry, and Literature 111
Of course, a search of records surviving from royal courts uncovers case
after case of some villager or townsman attacking another with varying degrees
of success and consequence; the margins of the parchment rolls are dotted
with the letter ˜s™ combined with a ligature, indicating that the accused was
hanged (suspendatur) after conviction. These unfortunates were assuredly of
sub-knightly status. In fact there can be no suggestion that court records on
either side of the Channel mainly document crown action against the knightly.
We need feel no surprise. The dockets of courts in most societies are surely
not ¬lled with cases against those occupying the highest ranks in that society,
charging them with some form of behaviour that they stoutly maintain is licit.
Rather, we should take note that such cases appear at all in medieval royal
records. The crown gradually sought to de¬ne the warlike violence of the priv-
ileged as illicit and to take steps against it. Chivalric literature records the obvi-
ous sensitivities to such control.17

The Evidence of Literature
The particularities of medieval civilization in England produced not only a
unique royaut© and chevalerie, they generated a literature written in three lan-
guages: Latin, Anglo-Norman French, and Middle English. This literary evi-

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