Page images

diadem, and kingly spear. Occasionally he borrowed trappings from the Romans, as when, for example, Chlodovech was invested with the robes of Patrician after his Gothic War.] But the national dress was generally adhered to. The government of the realm was managed by two groups of ministers—the royal household, or palatium, and the provincial governors. The household followed the The Royal person of the king in all his movements. It Household. was mainly composed of personal companions, bound by the oath of fidelity, the comites of earlier days, who had once formed the king's war-band, but now constituted his ministers and officials. These personal adherents were called by the Franks antrustions. We have already seen that the Goths called the same class saiones, and the English gesiths. The chief of the royal household, or palatium, was the official whom later generations usually called the Major Palatit, or “Mayor of the Palace.’ He was the king's first servant, charged with the overseeing of the rest of the household officials, and ready to act at need as the king's other self in matters of war, justice, or administration. In the days of the first warlike Frankish kings the Mayor of the Palace was kept in his place by the activity of his master, and was no more than an important official. But, as the Merovings decayed in personal vigour, their mayors grew more and more important, till at last we shall see them taking the place of regent and practical substitute for the king. The old English monarchies had no officials who can be compared in importance to them, but, under the Anglo-Normans, the position of the Justiciar was much like that occupied by the Frankish Major Palaţii. After the Mayor of the Palace, the chief ministers of the royal household were the Marshall (comes stabuli), charged with the oversight of the royal stables; the Comes Palatii, who acted as legal adviser and assessor to the king; the Treasurer; and the Referendarius, or royal secretary. Though

[ocr errors]

primarily household officials, all these are occasionally found detached from the court on external business, commanding armies, or sent on embassies. z At first all the posts were given to Franks, save that of the Referendarius, to fill which it would have been hard to find an educated man of Teutonic blood. But, by the end of the sixth century, men of Gallo-Roman origin were occasionally found in occupation of them, and in the seventh century this became quite common. In 605 we find even the office of Major Palatii, the most important of them all, in the hands of the Gallo-Roman Protadius. The provincial, as distinguished from the central, government of the Frankish realm was exercised by officers who bore the names of Count and Duke (comes, dux, Graf, Herzog). The whole realm was divided into countships. In the purely Teutonic half the unit was the old tribal district, which the The counts Roman called Pagus and the Frank Gau. A and Dukes, count was appointed to each of these tribal units. In the Romano-Gallic half of the kingdom the countship was composed of the civitas, or city with its dependent district, which had survived from the times of the Western Empire, and often represented the original Celtic tribe. The count was both a military and civil official. He administered justice, led the armed levy of his district, and saw to the raising of taxes. Several countships were often united and placed under a single official of higher rank, the dux, when the counts had to follow and obey. These unions of countships were most common on the frontier, where a strong and united defence against foreign enemies would be needed, and where it would have been unsafe to leave the charge of the border to half a dozen counts, who might or might not co-operate willingly with each other. In Provence and Burgundy the dux was also known by the Roman title of Patrician. The provincial no less than the household officials of the Frankish kings were originally all of Teutonic birth. But, in the sixth century Gallo-Romans are found intrusted with both the lesser and the greater charges. We shall have to make mention of one of these native dukes, the Burgundian Eunius Mummolus, more than once, when recounting the history of the last years of the sixth century. The provincial governor, count or duke, was assisted by a deputy, or vicarius, whom he nominated to fill his place during his absence at the court or the wars, or while he Local was engaged in some specially absorbing task at Government. home. The minor administration of the countship was carried out by centenarii, or hundred-men, called also on occasion tribuni. The countship was divided into hundreds, and over each of these there presided a hundred-man, who was appointed by the count to act as a police magistrate in time of peace, and to head the men of his district in time of war. Petty law cases came before him, but at stated periods the count went round all the hundreds in his countship, and administered justice at a public assembly of the inhabitants. The count's tribunal was called the Mallus. He sat in company with a few assessors, chosen from the chief men of the district. These magnates were called Rachimburgi, or Boni Homines. They were summoned by the count, and had no authority independent of his, but by ancient custom—both Roman and Teutonic—assessors had always been called in to aid the chief judge. The system is found alike at the tribunal of the Roman provincial magistrate presiding in his conventus, and in the primitive German law courts described by Tacitus. The count, sitting in his Mallus, had full power of life and death, and authority in all cases, save where the persons concerned were so great that the case might be called before the King's High Court, and tried by the king himself and the Comes Palatinus. The Franks not unfrequently enforced the death penalty for murder, arson, brigandage, and other great crimes. But they used also the system of weregeld, like our own AngloSaxon forefathers. With the consent of the family of the

victim, almost every murder could be condoned on the payment of sums varying from 30 gold solidi for a slave to 18oo for a freeman of high rank. In cases when the proof of a crime was difficult on the evidence produced, the Franks often made use of oaths and compurgations. The accused for himself, or a body of his supporters in his behalf, made a solemn oath that he was innocent, and this sufficed to acquit him if no further evidence was produced. Judicial combats were also not unfrequent. They appear among the Burgundians, however, before they were taken up by the Franks. Nor was the custom unknown of submitting criminals whose conviction was difficult to the ordeal: that by boiling water, where the accused plunged his hand into a caldron, was the one most frequently used.

It will be noticed that there was no trace of popular government in this Frankish administration. The king chose the count and the count the hundred-man. The king was not controlled or checked by any popular assembly of the nation, nor the count or hundred-man by any meeting of the people of his district. The king promulgated edicts and laws on his own responsibility, and similarly the count administered his countship without any thought of rendering account to any one save the king. Such assemblies as took place were summoned to hear the decisions of king or count, not to debate upon them, or recommend their modification. The ancient German freedom had disappeared, to give place to an autocracy as well defined as that of the vanished Roman empire.

Besides dukes and counts, the king kept other officials in the provinces. These were the domestici, who were charged with the control of the royal domain-land throughout the kingdom. They were the king's private bailiffs for his own possessions, acting much as the ‘Procurators of the Fiscus’ had once acted for the Roman emperors in the ancient provinces. There were other domestici in the palace, whose offices were also financial, and who must apparently have served as underlings to the high treasurer.


The revenue of the Meroving Weems chiefly to have fallen under four heads. The first was the profits of the royal domain, worked by the domestici. The second was the produce of custom dues, levied both on the land and the sea-frontier of the empire. The third was the produce of fines and compositions in the law courts, of which one-third always went to the king. But the fourth, and most important, was the regular annual tribute of the countships. Each district was assessed in the king's books for a defined sum, and this the count had to raise and send in, on his own responsibility. It seems that at first only the Gallo-Roman districts were charged with tribute. Theudebert, the grandson of Chlodovech, we are told, first subjected the native Frankish districts to the impost, a grievance so deeply felt that, when he died, the Austrasians rose, and slew Parthenius, the minister who had suggested to the king this method of increasing his revenue.

From this short sketch of the constitution of the Frankish realm it will be seen that its organisation lay half-way between the almost purely Teutonic forms of the government of early England and the almost purely Roman methods employed by Theodoric the Great in Italy. This is what might have been expected. The Frankish kingdom was by no means a primitive Teutonic state, but it was far more so than the Ostrogothic realm in Italy.



« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »