Appeals to the King in the Period of the Principality of Aquitaine.


By Simon Harris


The problems of appealing legal cases in Aquitaine has received a considerable amount of attention from historians. During the reigns of Edward I and II, the kings struggled to prevent their authority being deliberately undermined by appeals out of their jurisdiction. After the assumption of the crown of France by Edward III, the problem changed. The situation was more dramatically transformed by the treaty of Brétigny which granted an enlarged duchy of Aquitaine to Edward III and his successors in full sovereignty, a grant that permitted Edward III to create an appanage – the principality of Aquitaine - for Edward of Woodstock, his eldest son and heir (better known to us by his sobriquet of the Black Prince). This short presentation will consider the background to the problem of appealing process, and will examine the treatment of appeals to the king in the time of the principality of Aquitaine.

During the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, their lordship was placed within the strictures of the treaty of Paris of 1259. By this treaty the kings of England had recognised their feudal dependence of the kings of France, and as a consequence of this the king of France, through the arena of the parlement of Paris, became the last stage of the appealing process. This meant that in judicial affairs the authority of the king of England as duke of Aquitaine could be overruled by an appeal to the king of France as overlord. At the time of the making of the treaty of Paris, the relationship between the kings of France and England was good, and this appeals situation could be managed in a way acceptable to both kings. However, as the relationship between subsequent kings deteriorated in the late thirteenth century, and the early fourteenth century, and the kings of France from Philip IV onwards became more assertive in their authority, the appeals process became an active means of challenging and undermining the power and jurisdiction of the king/dukes. Appeals to the parlement of Paris became numerous, and because the appeals process suspended all legal action against the appellant, and placed them under French royal protection, the legal system in Aquitaine could be paralyzed, and French royal officials often entered the duchy of Aquitaine to carry out French royal orders concerning the appeal. Both Edward I and II attempted to limit the appeals both by heavy handed intimidation against potential appellants, and by administrative devices, but none of these could prevent numerous appeals still being directed to Paris.

The problem for the king/dukes was effectively brought to an end in 1340 when Edward III assumed the title of king of France. Once Edward held both the title of king of England and of France, in addition to the title of duke of Aquitaine, Edward became the last stage of appeal for appellants from within his jurisdiction, effectively excluding the parlement of Paris. However, it is curious to note that appeals originating from  the duchy of Aquitaine were received by Edward III as king of France, and not by his other titles of king of England, or duke of Aquitaine.

The situation was further modified by the treaty of Brétigny/Calais in 1359-60. By this treaty Edward III renounced his claim to the crown of France in return for a grant of an enlarged duchy of Aquitaine, held in full sovereignty. Of course this did not change the situation that had existed since 1340, with Edward III and his successors, remaining as the last stage of appeal, but it did mean that with the enlarged duchy, that substantial areas that had not been under the rule of the king/dukes since the earlier thirteenth century and the final days of the Angevin Empire, or had never been under such rule, now had to direct their appeals initially to Bordeaux, and then to London, and not to Paris.

Secure in the rule of the enlarged duchy in full sovereignty, Edward III took the opportunity to create a semi-independent appanage for Edward of Woodstock. The principality of Aquitaine gave the newly created prince a great deal of independence from his father, as well as a great new title to augment those already held by the prince – prince of Wales, duke of Cornwall and earl of Chester. But it also threatened to recreate the judicial problems of appeal from the position that had existed before 1340 by allowing appeals from the prince’s jurisdiction to that of his father.

So how was this situation managed? It should be said that Edward III made it very clear at the time of the grant of the principality that he retained his full rights of overlordship, including those concerning judicial appeals. The grant of the principality to the prince on 19 July 1362 was made giving him power over his principality including ‘high, middle and low justice’, and this was to be held:

‘just as the king holds them now, has held them or the king’s ancestors held them at any time (C 61/75, Entry 54)’


However, a further entry had to be made on the same date to clarify an oversight in the grant, a grant that was already a reissue of a previous version that had made the astonishing omission of the cities of Bordeaux and Bayonne. The entry was made to clarify the position of judicial authority:


C 61/75, Entry 50.

19 July 1362. The palace of Westminster.

[marginated] For Edward, prince of Aquitaine and Wales.

Announcement that the king has reserved for himself the direct lordship, sovereignty and resort (la directe, toute la soveranité et ressort) of the principality of Aquitaine and Gascony, although he has given to his elder son Edward of Woodstock, prince of Wales, the title of prince of Aquitaine for his lifetime by his letters patent that follow. …


The position was further confirmed by yet another document on the same day when it was stated that Edward III declared that:

‘… the direct lordship, all the sovereignty and resort should remain forever to the king, exercising the same as the king sees fit, the king not wishing to give up and transfer the same to his son, by the said title of the principality …’


The prince confirmed the situation by promising:


‘… his father full obedience, without making any contradiction or impediment on anything touching direct appeal to his father’s sovereignty;’


So what provision then did Edward III make for the hearing of appeals during the time of his son’s lordship in Aquitaine? At the most basic levels appeals came directly to Edward III in England. However, Edward does not seem initially to have had a fixed plan, for on 26 November 1362, he sent orders to the various seneschals of the divisions of the newly enlarged Aquitaine to summon the ecclesiastical and lay lords of his jurisdiction, as well as mayors, consuls and communes of their jurisdiction, to suggest central places where appeals to the king’s court of sovereignty, should be held (C 61/75, Entry 121).

Ultimately Edward III seems to have been content to delegate the hearing of appeals to others, usually individuals in Aquitaine, who would presumably have greater knowledge of, or at least the opportunity to examine the case more closely. In an entry of 26 February 1365, the case of Arnold Savage, a former lieutenant of the seneschal of Aquitaine, the prince of Aquitaine’s seneschal, the lord of Pommiers and Esteve de Caseton, lord of Gourdon, were ordered to examine another appeal by Jenkin Mouton which was attempting to overturn a judgment against Mouton, who had been captured by Savage and who had subsequently escaped, and who had killed a kinsman of Savage during his recapture. (C 61/78, Entry 27).

That the process of appeal first to the prince of Aquitaine and then to the king of England was causing an intolerable delay in the doing of justice, can be found in an entry whereby the king delegated further power to his son to streamline the appeal process. However, the king still reserved the right of further appeal. (C 61/78, Entry 33)

The king began to make a clearer delegation of authority on 8 June 1366.  In an appeal brought by Ramon II de Montaut, lord of Mussidan, against Ramfré de Montpezat, lord of Montpezat, the king delegated the appeal to the archbishop of Aquitaine, the abbot of la Sauve-Majeure, and Arnaut Desclaus, canon of Bordeaux. (C 61/79, Entry 59)

On other occasions Edward III sent the hearing of appeals back to his son, with an enjoinder to the prince to do justice ‘so that no further complaints are made to the king for default of justice’, such as the complaint made by Jeanne Maingot, lady of Surgères on 24 October 1366. (C 61/79, Entry 106).

During the remainder of the principality, Edward III continued to delegate his appeals jurisdiction to leading clerical and lay figures in Aquitaine. The retention of these powers seems to have been an awkward intrusion into his son’s jurisdiction. Whether this arrangement could have been continued in the long-term is impossible to know. However, the problem of the appeals process was ultimately resolved by the collapse of the principality of Aquitaine, and with the resignation of the prince in October 1372.

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