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Société d'histoire du droit et des institutions des pays de l'Ouest de la France

Exchequer and Parlement under Philip the Fair

J. R. Strayer

Texte intégral

  • 1 Ord., I. p. 577, articles 16, 17, 19.
  • 2 Ibid., articles 18. « Cum cause ducatus Normanie secundum patrie consuetudine debeant terminari, q (...)

1One of the grievances of the Normans in the troubled year that saw the death of Philip the Fair and the accession of Louis X was the failure of royal officials to respect the customs of the duchy. Several provisions of the Charte aux Normands deal with specific cases of violation of Norman custom1, but article 18 is an attemps to settle the whole problem. Since, it says, all Norman lawsuits should be settled according to the custom of the duchy, no case on which the Exchequer has given a final ruling shall be sent to the Parlement of Paris, nor shall anyone be summoned to the Parlement to plead in a case arising in the duchy2. This article was not rigidly enforced, as we shall see, but the first problem is to decide not whether it was enforced but whether it was necessary. Had the Parlement in fact been encroaching on the jurisdiction of Norman courts during the reign of Philip the Fair?

  • 3 For example Enguerran de Marigny and Guillaume d’Harcourt-were Masters in 1305 and 1306 (Comptes R (...)
  • 4 Histoire littéraire, t. XXXIII, p. 169, a group of Norman notables advise the Exchequer on a delic (...)

2The problem, of course, is complicated by the fact that the Masters of the Exchequer were simply a committee of the Parlement. It is true that there were usually some Normans among the Masters3, and that they could ask the advies of Norman notables and lawyers4. Nevertheless, there was no difference in training or in basic ideas of jurisprudence between the men who went to Rouen and those who remained in Paris. It was quite natural for the Masters to seek, formally or informally, the advice of their colleagues on difficult questions.

3The Masters were also servants of the King and it was as much their duty to protect royal rights as it was to do justice. They were probably rather more sensitive about royal rights than the King himself, and if they were in a position where they might have to surrender or limit those rights, they preferred to have the support of the full Parlement. The personality of the ruler had little to do with this attitude; it was just as evident under Saint Louis as it was under Philip the Fair.

  • 5 Recueil des Actes de Philippe Auguste, éd. Ch. Samaran, t. III, no 1200, July (?), 1211.
  • 6 Perrot, Arresta Communia, no 34 and fn. Perrot observes : « Il est curieux de remarquer combien no (...)
  • 7 Olim, I, p. 677, Guillaume Bertrand asks that a suit between himself and his brother be sent to th (...)

4Finally, the Normans themselves were not always as eager to be judged by Norman courts as they declared in their protests of 1314-1315. It is not surprising that the bishops and abbots, many of whom were non-Normans, had no strong attachment to Norman procedure. They were under the special protection of the King, which could be exercised more efficaciously at Paris than at Rouen, and some of them, such as the abbot of Fécamp, had a specific right to be judged only in the Parlement5. But some Norman laymen seem to have been equally anxious to go to Paris. A notable example was Guillaume Crespin who bought case after case in the Parlement even though they were of a sort that normally would have been heard by the Exchequer6. Perhaps, in these early years, the Parlement reached its decisions more quickly than the Exchequer7, since it sat at periods when the Exchequer did not, and decisions of the Parlement had the virtue of being definitive. Both these qualities would make the Parlement attractive to men with important cases.

  • 8 Perrot, Arresta Communia, no 137. Army aid, of course, was an exclusively royal prerogative.
  • 9 Olim, III, p. 11 (men of Harfleur cannot divert a stream); p. 31, collectors of regalia owe certai (...)
  • 10 Olim, II, p. 260 (1287).

5This brings up a perplexing question: could one appeal from the Exchequer to the Parlement? Theoretically, such an appeal should have been impossible, since the Masters were also judges in Parlement. In the practice, formal appeals were avoided, but the Parlement often intervened in, or completed the work of the Exchequer. The Exchequer would hear the beginning of a case and then send it to the Parlement for final judgement. An early example is the argument over army aid between a lord and a vassal in 1278. After the case had been discussed in the Exchequer it was sent to the Parlement «de mandato gentium nostrorum in dieto Scacario existencium...8» Or the Exchequer could make an inquest and send it to the Parlement for judgement: there were two such cases in 12999. Another method of reviewing a case without an actual appeal was to have it «recorded» in the Parlement10. This act would sustain the judgement of the Exchequer.

  • 11 Olim, II, p. 101.

6Although these devices took care of many difficult cases, there were some occasions when something very like an appeal took place. An early example came in 1280 when a knight tried to regain tithes in his fief that had been sold to the bishop of Coutances. He first used the procedure of retrait boursier; when this failed, he sought a writ de feode et elemosina. The case was «agitato» in the assize and in the Exchequer, and then «de scacario ad istam curiam reportato». No decision of the Exchequer is mentioned, and there are no words in the arret of the Parlement suggesting that there had been an appeal. The Parlement simply heard arguments and declared that the writ should not run. It did, however, allow the knight to decrease service from the fief in proportion to the value of the tithes11. In short, the Exchequer had passed on a difficult problem to the Parlement and the Parlement acted as if it had original jurisdiction.

  • 12 Olim, II, p. 402. The case went to the Parlement « ex querimonia dicti presentati nostri», not as (...)

7A clearer case came in 1296. The assize of Caen had adjudged an advowson to the king as against the abbey of Cerisy and the king had presented Laurent Heroud, his procurator in Normandy. Cerisy protested, and the king ordered the Exchequer to rehear the case. The Exchequer reversed the assize. Then, the procurator who had been presented to the living by the king complained and the case was sent to the Parlement, which affirmed the decision of the Exchequer12. But even in this case the procedure is not that of a normal appeal.

  • 13 The other possible appeals are Olim, II, p. 380-a judgement of the Exchequer on an advowson confir (...)

8One of the plaintiffs was the king’s procurator, who was in a position to ask special favors. Formal words of appeal were not used at any stage of the proceedings. And none of the other cases that resemble appeals13 are any more satisfactory. In none of them do we find the clear and precise words of appeal that are so common in cases coming from the Midi, or even from the court of the prévôt of Paris. And even if all the cases that moved from the Exchequer to the Parlement of Paris could be considered informal appeals, they were not very numerous. Moreover, Norman litigants do not seem to have had a right to ask for the transfer from one court to the other. That decision was made by the king or by Masters of the Exchequer.

  • 14 Ord. XI, p. 354.
  • 15 Olim, II, pp. 494495, interpretation of a privilege of the dean and chapter of Rouen. «Ipsi (the M (...)
  • 16 Olim, II, p. 403, in 1296 land held of the bishop of Chartres was in dispute. The Exchequer gave s (...)
  • 17 a L. Delisle, Essai de restitution d’un volume des Olim, in E. Boutaric, Actes du Parlement de Par (...)
  • 18 Olim, II, p. 663, «Ordenance faite par le roy:
    Premierement, que les causes des Normanz qui sont ce (...)

9Some attempts were made to clarify relations between the Norman courts and the Parlement. Philip III tried to limit the number of litigants coming to Paris and forbade baillis to send cases to the Parlement without the consent of the Masters14. During the reign of Philip the Fair, the Masters developed a rule that cases involving interpretation of royal privileges should be sent from the Exchequer to the Parlement when the privilege was claimed15. It also seems that the Parlement was trying to work out a rule that it had jurisdiction when there might be a conflict between Norman custom and that of another region16. In 1296 the Parlement seems to have ruled that there was no appeal from the Exchequer, but that there could be «retractation» and confirmation of a judgement of the Exchequer17a. This is more or less what happened in the case of Laurent Heroud. Finally, about two years after the Charte aux Normands was granted, the king issued an ordinance that affirmed what had been actual pratice during the reign of Philip the Fair18. It stated:

  1. Cases of Normans begun in the Parlement should be finished in the Parlement.
  2. If both parties wish to plead in the Parlement, they may do so.
  3. Cases sent to the Parlement by the Exchequer for advice will be discussed in Parlement, but the sentence will be given in the Exchequer.

10This ordinance is not quite a flat contradiction of the Charte aux Normands: after all, if both parties agreed to plead in the Parlement no one was being forced to go to Paris, and until the Exchequer had made a final decision, it was entitled to ask advice from anyone, including the Parlement. But the ordinance certainly went against the spirit of the Charte aux Normands, by encouraging rather than discouraging recourse to the Parlement. Nevertheless, the ordinance caused no protests, probably because it was not abused. Norman cases discussed or settled in the Parlement were still not very numerous in the decade after 1317; they ran at about the level of the early part of the reign of Philip the Fair. Appeals from the Exchequer to the Parlement simply did not exist. Neither the Charte nor the ordinance had made any great difference in the relationship between the Exchequer and the Parlement.

  • 19 For some examples, see J.R. Strayer, The Administration of Normandy under St. Louis, Cambridge, Ma (...)
  • 20 Olim, II, pp. 600-603, 605, 608 ; Olim, III, pp. 739, 815, 879, 920, 295.
  • 21 Olim, II, pp. 600-601.
  • 22 Olim, II, pp. 601-603.
  • 23 Olim, III, pp. 739, 879, 920.
  • 24 Olim, II, p. 608.
  • 25 Olim, II, p. 615; Olim, III, pp. 815, 920.

11In fact, one wonders whether the Normans ever had had a real grievance. Once the Exchequer was staffed with men sent from the curia in Paris, some interlocking of the two bodies was inevitable. The court records for the period are not complete, so it is impossible to count cases year by year or decade by decade. In spite of Delisle’s heroic efforts, we do not have a complete version of the missing volume of the Olim, and not all acts of the Parlement were recorded in the Olim. But for what they are worth, the statistics show no steady growth in the number of Norman cases decided or touched on by the Parlement. There were sessions of the Parlement under Saint Louis or under Philip III19 that heard more Norman cases than some sessions in the reign of Philip the Fair. There is no consistent pattern of encroachment by the Parlement on the Exchequer between 1285 and 1314. There were seldom more than 5 Norman cases in any session down to 1300. At that point there was a very sharp drop; from 1300 through 1309 the average number of Norman cases seems to be little more than one a session. The sessions of 1310, 1311, and 1312 were about normal, but there was a sharp increase in 1313-1314 to at least 17 cases20. This looks as if the article in the Charte aux Normands was a direct response to a sudden attempt to weaken the Norman courts, but an examination of the cases casts some doubt on this conclusion. Six plaintiffs claimed freedom from tolls in Caen by virtue of ancient privileges; after the first (the monastery of Savigny) won its case, the other five were allowed the benefit of the ruling21. There were separate judgments in favor of three other litigants with similar claims22. Two of the other cases also involved interpretation of royal privileges23, and another required a ruling as to whether the custom of Brittany or the custom of Normandy should apply in a marriage settlement24. These were all matters that had regularly been under the jurisdiction of the Parlement. Of the remaining cases three involved bishops25. It may have been just bad luck that so many problems of interpretation of royal privileges had piled up for the session of 1313-1314; otherwise it would have been a perfectly normal meeting as far as Normandy was concerned.

  • 26 Olim, II, pp. 600-603, 615; Olim, III, pp. 739, 815, 920.
  • 27 Olim. II, pp. 601; Olim, III, p. 879.
  • 28 Olim, III, p. 680, in 1312 a knight threatened the chapter of Evreux for trying to collect tithes (...)
  • 29 Olim, III, pp. 1153-1155.

12On the other hand the nobles, who were the leaders in the movement for the Charter, may have been perturbed by the fact that an usually large number of Norman cases were going to Paris, even if there seemed to be valid reasons for the Parlement to assume jurisdiction. The nobles were already disgruntled and prepared to believe that the central government was using every excuse to increase its power. Moreover, they could have observed that eight of the cases that went to Paris involved prelates and religious foundations (Savigny, the leper-houses of St-Lazare and St. Nicholas of Bayeux, the Orders of the Hospital and of Grandmont, and the bishops of Bayeux, Evreux and Sées26) and that six cases concerned the bourgeoisie (the mayor and men of Falaise, the mayor and burgesses of Verneuil, the mayor of Rouen, a burgess of Caen, the men of Louvigny, and the burgesses of Arques27). Now the Norman nobles were completely orthodox Catholics, but, as the records of the Exchequer show, they were also very suspicious of the Church’s attempts to increase its rights and possessions28. They also resented the privileges of the bourgeoisie; in 1316 two nobles insulted the mayor of Rouen in his own court29. It would have been easy to believe that the Parlement was making a special effort to protect the rights of the clergy and the bourgeoisie at a time when the nobles felt that their own rights were threatened. If the Exchequer had heard the cases, the decisions would probably have been the same, but there would have been less reason to feel that clergy and bourgeoisie were receiving special consideration. Of course the largest number of Norman cases in the Parlement had always been those concerning the clergy, but the concentration of such cases in 1313-1314 could have been irritating.

  • 30 Artonne, Mouvement de 1314, pp. 116-117.
  • 31 J.R. Strayer, Le bref de nouvelle dessaisine en Normandie à la fin du XIIIe siècle, R.H.D.F.E., XV (...)

13Another possible reason for Norman suspicion of the Parlement was dislike of procedure by enquête. This was the standard procedure in the Parlement, but, as Artonne pointed out30, it was a procedure that the nobles found repugnant. It is true that the Masters of the Exchequer were trying to replace the old Norman jury by the enquête31, but they had not been entirely successful in their efforts. In Parlement there was no alternative to the enquête; in Norman assizes and in the Norman Exchequer the jury could still be used in many cases.

  • 32 John Benton, Philip the Fair and the Jours of Troyes, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History,(...)
  • 33 Artonne, Mouvement de 1314, pp. 45, 151.

14None of these suggestions fully explains the Norman desire to keep the Parlement from hearing or rehearing cases originating in the duchy. It may well be true that the leading men of Normandy were too sensitive, that there had been no conscious desire to limit the jurisdiction of the Exchequer or to attract Norman cases to Paris. But, in the long run, this exaggerated sensitivity benefitted the men who wished to preserve a certain degree of autonomy for Norman custom and Norman courts. As Benton has demonstrated32, in Champagne, where the Jours of Troyes played much the same role as the Norman Exchequer, there was no concerted effort, either in 1314 or later, to preserve judicial autonomy. Formal appeals from the courts of Champagne to the Parlement began under Philip the Fair and continued under his successors. The Jours lost much of their clientele and gradually withered away. In Normandy the Exchequer, in spite of some periods of weakness, survived and in the end was transformed into the sovereign Parlement of Rouen. Most of the peculiar characteristics of Norman custom were preserved and even strengthened during the later Middle Ages and the early modern period. It would be foolish to ascribe these results to a few paragraphs in the Charte aux Normands. But is would be equally foolish to deny the influence of the charter. It was confirmed again and again; it was copied by religious establishments; it was included in many manuscripts of the Customs of Normandy33. It was a symbol of Norman rights and as a symbol it helped those rights to survive. And one of the most important rights secured by the Charter was the continued existence of the Exchequer.

Notes

1 Ord., I. p. 577, articles 16, 17, 19.

2 Ibid., articles 18. « Cum cause ducatus Normanie secundum patrie consuetudine debeant terminari, quod ex quo in Scacario nostro Rothomagi fuerint terminate seu sententialiter diffinite, per quamcumque viam ad nos vel Parlamentum nostrum Parisiense de cetero nullatenus deferantur (the French version says « ne puissent estre apportées ni envoyées»), nec etiam super causis dicti ducatus ad Parlementum nostrum aliqui valeant adjornari.»

3 For example Enguerran de Marigny and Guillaume d’Harcourt-were Masters in 1305 and 1306 (Comptes Royaux, éd. R. Fawtier, t. I, Paris 1953, no 6475 ; F. Soudet, Ordonnances de l'Echiquier de Normandie, Rouen 1929, p. 225). Etienne de Bienfaite was a Master at some time in the 1300's (Ch. V. Langlois, Textes relatifs à l'histoire du Parlement, Paris 1888, p. 180).

4 Histoire littéraire, t. XXXIII, p. 169, a group of Norman notables advise the Exchequer on a delicate point of the Norman law of succession, 21 October, 1294. See E. Perrot, Arresta Communia Scacarii, Caen 1910, nos 45, 151, 153, for other consultations.

5 Recueil des Actes de Philippe Auguste, éd. Ch. Samaran, t. III, no 1200, July (?), 1211.

6 Perrot, Arresta Communia, no 34 and fn. Perrot observes : « Il est curieux de remarquer combien nombreuses sont les causes intéressant ce personnage de Normandie qui sont jugées au Parlement et non pas par l’Echiquier de Rouen, comme il serait plus naturel. »

7 Olim, I, p. 677, Guillaume Bertrand asks that a suit between himself and his brother be sent to the Parlement, because in Normandy «vix aut nunquam finem haberet causa hujusmodi.» The king orders the case heard in the Exchequer, but if the Masters see «quod causa ipsa ibi bene nequeat expediri, vel longum tractum habere debeat,» it is to go to the Parlement, 1267. Olim II, p. 647, a case was begun in the Exchequer but the Masters «pro pleniori ejus expeditione» sent it to the Parlement. This was in 1317; a half-century after the earlier complaint of slow procedure in the Exchequer.

8 Perrot, Arresta Communia, no 137. Army aid, of course, was an exclusively royal prerogative.

9 Olim, III, p. 11 (men of Harfleur cannot divert a stream); p. 31, collectors of regalia owe certain payments to the chapter of Sées.

10 Olim, II, p. 260 (1287).

11 Olim, II, p. 101.

12 Olim, II, p. 402. The case went to the Parlement « ex querimonia dicti presentati nostri», not as an appeal. The case came up again in 1302 (Olim, III, p. 302). H. Regnault, Les Rapports de l’Echiquier et de la Curia Regis, R.H.D.F.E., 1923, p. 641, thought that there were formal appeals to the Parlement.

13 The other possible appeals are Olim, II, p. 380-a judgement of the Exchequer on an advowson confirmed and any letters to the contrary are annulled (1295); Olim, II, p. 403 (discussed in note 16); Olim, III, p. 12, a fief-farm made to the abbey of St. Lô by order of the Exchequer and confirmed by the king was challenged and 40 l.t. more a year was offered. The Parlement looked at the letters of grant and at an arrêt of the Exchequer and confirmed the farm, January, 1300. Since perpetual farms had to be confirmed by the king, this would be a case of interpretation of a royal privilege (see note 15 and Olim, II, p. 605 where a fief-farm is challenged in the Parlement without ever having been considered by the Exchequer).

14 Ord. XI, p. 354.

15 Olim, II, pp. 494495, interpretation of a privilege of the dean and chapter of Rouen. «Ipsi (the Masters) propter declarationem dictorum privilegiorum habendam, partes predictas ad parlamentum presens remiserunt» (1308-1309). Pages 601-602, privileges of Savigny, « Magistri vero dictum scacarium tenentes ad declarandum dictum privilegium nolentes procedere dictas partes remiserunt ad presens parlamentum» (1313).

16 Olim, II, p. 403, in 1296 land held of the bishop of Chartres was in dispute. The Exchequer gave seisin to one claimant. But Parlement ruled that since the acts that clouded the title « locum non habent in patria ilia» (i.e.-Normandy) the land should stay In the king's hand and suit should be brought «ubi debebit». Olim, II, p. 608, determination of a case hinged on whether the custom of Brittany or the custom of Normandy should prevail. The Parlement ruled for Norman custom (1314). Obviously it would have been improper for the exchequer to make such a decision. Cf. Olim II, p. 611, a case in 1311, involving acts of English officials in Guernsey.

17 a L. Delisle, Essai de restitution d’un volume des Olim, in E. Boutaric, Actes du Parlement de Paris, Paris, 1863, t. I, p. 451, no 894 : «Par l’arrest de Guillaume Crespin appert que de l’eschiquier de Normendye n’y avoit appel, et que il y eut toutesfoys par arrest du Parlement retractation d’un jugement d’icelluy et après «ex eisdem actis» au plus près confirmation du jugé.» I could not find the case in the Olim, but see note 6.

18 Olim, II, p. 663, «Ordenance faite par le roy:
Premierement, que les causes des Normanz qui sont ceanz commanciees demorront ceanz.
Item, que des choses de quoy les parties seront de assentement de plaidoier ceanz, qui ne sont commanciees, les causes demorront ceanz.
Item, que les causes de l’eschiequier, lesquelles de l’eschiequier sont ceanz mises pour conseillier, seront ceanz conseilliees et la sentence ou arrest en sera rendu à l’eschiequier ».

19 For some examples, see J.R. Strayer, The Administration of Normandy under St. Louis, Cambridge, Mass., 1932, pp. 14-16.

20 Olim, II, pp. 600-603, 605, 608 ; Olim, III, pp. 739, 815, 879, 920, 295.

21 Olim, II, pp. 600-601.

22 Olim, II, pp. 601-603.

23 Olim, III, pp. 739, 879, 920.

24 Olim, II, p. 608.

25 Olim, II, p. 615; Olim, III, pp. 815, 920.

26 Olim, II, pp. 600-603, 615; Olim, III, pp. 739, 815, 920.

27 Olim. II, pp. 601; Olim, III, p. 879.

28 Olim, III, p. 680, in 1312 a knight threatened the chapter of Evreux for trying to collect tithes in his land, and invaded the cloister.

29 Olim, III, pp. 1153-1155.

30 Artonne, Mouvement de 1314, pp. 116-117.

31 J.R. Strayer, Le bref de nouvelle dessaisine en Normandie à la fin du XIIIe siècle, R.H.D.F.E., XVI (1937) pp. 479488 (a slightly modified English version appeared in J. R. Strayer, Medieval Statecraft, Princeton 1971, pp. 3-12) ; R. Besnier, La dégénérescence des caractères normands des preuves dans la procédure civile, R.H.D.F.E., XXXVVI (1959), pp. 52-58.

32 John Benton, Philip the Fair and the Jours of Troyes, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, VI (1969), pp. 281-344. See especially pp. 293-296, 300-302.

33 Artonne, Mouvement de 1314, pp. 45, 151.

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Professeur à l’Université de Princeton

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