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The Salic Law, French Queenship and the Defence of Women in the Late Middle Ages

Taylor, C. (2006) The Salic Law, French Queenship and the Defence of Women in the Late Middle Ages. French Historical Studies, 29 (4). pp. 543-564. ISSN 0016-1071

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The Lex Salica (Salic Law) was a legal code written around the time of Clovis (476–96) for the Salian Franks. After being revised and expanded under the Merovingian and Carolingian kings, it was slowly forgotten until the middle of the fourteenth century, when it was rediscovered by Richard Lescot and the monks of Saint-Denis. The Salic Law enjoyed a second lease on life from the beginning of the fifteenth century, when it was officially adopted by the French Crown as the postfactum justification for the exclusion of women from the royal succession. The pivotal moment probably occurred around 1413 when Jean de Montreuil added a marginal note to A toute la chevalerie, a polemical treatise supporting the Valois monarchy against the English. Defending the exclusion of women from the royal succession, the royal notaire et secrétaire cited a clause from the chapter ‘‘De allodio,’’ which dictated that men should receive ancestors’ heritage (their landed property, the ‘‘terra salica’’) and women just personal property. To make this statement apply to the French kingdom, Montreuil inserted the words in regno into an inaccurate transcription of the clause. Thereafter a series of writers employed by the Valois monarchy, all connected with the French royal chancellery, used the Salic Law to defend the exclusion of women from the French royal succession. The boldest statement was provided in 1464 by Pour ce que plusieurs, a work key to the dissemination of the myth of the Salic Law thanks to its being printed eleven times in Paris, Rouen, and Caen between 1488 and 1558, most commonly under the title La Loy Salique, première loy des François.

Item Type: Article
Institution: The University of York
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Depositing User: York RAE Import
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2009 09:26
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2009 09:26
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/00161071-2006-012
Status: Published
Publisher: Duke University Press
Identification Number: 10.1215/00161071-2006-012
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/6139

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