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 Salic Law (Lex Salica)

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PostSubject: Salic Law (Lex Salica)   Salic Law (Lex Salica) EmptyTue Oct 28, 2008 3:04 pm

Salic Law

Salic Law (Lex Salica) is a body of laws codified at the time of King Clovis (476-96). The laws are primarily concerned with monetary compensation wergeld and with civil matters pertaining to landownership by men.

There is a specific Clause 6, Title 9, which is concerned with the rules of inheritance which specifies that in:
concerning salic lands (Terra Salica) no portion or inheritance is for a woman but all the land belongs to members of the male sex who are brothers

A stipend was added under King Chilperic (c.575) that expanded further the rules of inheritance:
if a man had neighbors but after his death sons and daughters remained, as long as there were sons they should have the land just as the Salic Law provides. And if the sons are already dead then a daughter may receive the land just as the sons would have done had they lived.

Under Charlemange Salic Law underwent further reform. It was still in use throughout the 9th Century before being gradually incorporated into local laws. By the 14th century, the laws were no longer in use.

It was in France that Salic Law came to the fore when it was used to forbid females and those descended from the female line, from succeeding to the French throne The French interpretation of Salic Law does not actually come down from the original law as prescribed by Clovis.

In 1316 the male Capetian line of French Kings died out when King Louis X left only a 6yo daughter, Jeanne, as his heir. His pregnant widow gave birth to a son, who died shortly after. A Regent in the form of Louis' brother Philip had been appointed in the interim, and was regent for both France (inheritance from father) and Navarre (inheritance from mother). Following the death of the baby, Philip proclaimed himself King, being Louis' closest heir, and was duly crowned King of France as Philip V (9/1/1317).

Now, Philip was readily accepted as King of France for a number of reasons, the least being that as a grown man who could successfully govern and defend the kingdom far better than a 6yo child. The second, more important, reason was that there were doubts concerning the legitimacy of the child Jeanne. Louis X had been married firstly to Margaret de Bourgogne, who had become embroiled in a scandalous affair also involving her sisters-in-law (c.1311 - 1314).

When Philip V himself died (1322) his heirs were his four daughters, and so the French throne passed to his brother Charles IV. When Charles IV died, he also left only a daughter as his heir and a pregnant widow (1328).As previous, a regent was appointed – Philip de Valois, who was a cousin of the late King. When Charles' widow gave birth to another daughter, Philip was proclaimed King of France as Philip VI (29/5/1328).

Therefore, in France, the rights of the daughters of Kings Louis X, Philip V and Charles IV were passed over. In addition, the rights to Isabella of France, sister to all three Kings was also passed over. Isabella was the wife of King Edward II of and the mother of King Edward III of England – Edward was required to pay homage to the French King for lands held in France.

And so, under Philip V of France the original form of Salic Law was ignored when Philip created a precedent which ignored the rights of female succession and favoured the rights of male succession Salic Law as formulated by Clovis and Charlemange did not exclude females from the succession, but accepted the rights of females to succeed in the absence of a direct male heir.

In Navarre, the rules of succession took a different turn. The Kingdom was not at ease being incorporated with the French monarchy and wanted their own independent ruler. As such, Jeanne, the daughter of Louis X was acknowledged as Queen of Navarre (1328).Strangely enough, the French monarchy actually endorsed Jeanne's succession to the Navarrese throne (1328). Jeanne was married to Philip d'Evreux, and her son Charles would later attempt to assert his rights, albeit unsuccessfully, to the French throne.

Curiously, Salic Law, as used by the French monarchy, was not applied in any other case – French fiefs passed by the rules of primogeniture through the male line, and then through the female line in the absence of a male heir. Even in Brittany, a female, Constance, succeeded her father to the duchy in the 12th Century. And, after a short war of succession (1341), the duchy of Brittany would eventually be inherited by a female Anne, who succeeded her father as duchess upon his death.

The next time that the French monarchy instituted Salic Law was when the Spanish pressed their claims to the French throne through the marriage of Elizabeth de Valois to King Philip II of Spain. And thus by the late 16th Century, Salic Law was considered to be part of the general laws of the French Kingdom and was not questioned. It was through the acceptance of Salic Law being the norm that the heirs of Jeanne of Navarre would ultimately inherit the French throne by way of Henry IV.

There have been other occasions when the use of Salic Law was responsible for creating Wars of Succession in other Kingdoms. The most notable occurred in Spain when the rights of the female to succeed over those of her nearest male relative were brought into question. In the Wars of the Austrian Succession, Charles VI of Austria used Salic Law to ensure his succession over that of his nieces. However, Charles then attempted to ensure the succession of his own daughter, Maria-Theresa of Austria.

Salic Law was also used, to a degree, in England – most notably in the wars between Matilda and Stephen for the English throne upon the death of King Henry I. Matilda, though she herself did not directly succeed, ensured the succession of her son, Henry II, following the deaths of Stephen and his sons. Later, following the death of King William IV of the United Kingdom and Hanover, the two thrones were separated. In Britain, William's niece Victoria succeeded as monarch, but in Hanover, which recognized Salic Law, William's brother Ernst succeeded.

"Laws of the Salian Franks" by Katharine Fisher Drew (University of Philadelphia Press, 1991).

"For my part, I adhere to the maxim of antiquity: The throne is a glorious sepulchre."
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