Heather J. Tanner

title.none: Bouchard, Those of My Blood (Heather J. Tanner)

identifier.other: baj9928.0404.010 04.04.10

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Heather J. Tanner, The Ohio State University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Bouchard, Constance Brittain. Those of My Blood: Constructing Noble Families in Medieval Francia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. Pp. v, 256. 55.00. ISBN: 0-812-23590-8.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.04.10

Bouchard, Constance Brittain. Those of My Blood: Constructing Noble Families in Medieval Francia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. Pp. v, 256. 55.00. ISBN: 0-812-23590-8.

Reviewed by:

Heather J. Tanner
The Ohio State University

In Those of My Blood Constance Bouchard tackles five major themes: the definition of "family", the position of women in noble families, the flexibility in constructing who was considered family, the impact of family strategies on early medieval politics, and the "transformation" of the nobility around the year 1000. Bouchard builds upon her previous work by re-examining the sources and responding to recent historiography on these topics. As a result, the book works well; it doesn't read as a collection of related but disconnected articles but as a continuous narrative tied together by the five themes. Bouchard first establishes that the medieval definition of family was operational (e.g. fought together, made donations together, were buried together), however, the basic criteria was blood relationship. She then posits that naming patterns and inheritance are the clearest indicators of who an individual perceived as his consanguinei. She then develops four main and inter-related theses. She argues that there was no clear turning point circa 1000 from cognatic to agnatic kindreds, rather nobles families "always emphasized" patrilineal descent. Thus, agnatic kinship was more important in the eighth to tenth centuries than is commonly thought and less important in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. As a result, women were never completely marginalized, especially if the maternal family was socially and politically more powerful than the paternal kin. The goal of transmitting property, including counties, from father to son strongly influenced the politics of the later Carolingian period, pitting brother against brother, and nobles against kings who sought to prevent the assignment of countships from becoming hereditary. The failure of most the "old" noble families to establish routine filial inheritance until the later eleventh century provided opportunities for men of the vicomtal level to move into the nobility. These "new" nobles legitimized their positions through marriage to daughters of the "old" nobility, and the pattern continued with castellans and then knights in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The mechanism that facilitated the entry of these new men was the nobles' concern not to make consanguineous marriages. Thus, the medieval nobility always contained old and new members.

Bouchard's discussion of the medieval definition of family, the difference between genealogy and construction of family, and the historiographical summary of the old and new nobility are clear, cogent, and reveal important methodological issues. Her most persuasive argument is over the old versus new nobility. She also makes a strong case for a more patrilineal sense of family in the eighth through tenth century; however, I have some reservations about some of the strands of her argument. First, Bouchard asserts that the "real indication of their 'family consciousness'" is in the nobles' hopes for passing on power and property rather than the strategies for acquiring or maintaining power. (97) However, she never defends this criteria. If the definition of family is operational, the use of kin to acquire property and power suggests that there was a broader sense of family than the strictly patrilineal. Bouchard also doesn't examine the influence of conflicting or complementary territorial concerns in shaping which blood relatives one called upon when opportunities or threats arose. I also was curious by the lack of discussion of whether brothers, sisters, and brothers-in-law worked together to defend or expand their power and status.

Second, the choice of daughters' names from paternal relatives in the ninth and tenth century, while on one level works well to support her thesis of a strong sense of patrilineage, can also be read in a more multivalent manner. Bouchard argues that no woman's name can be seen as being "attached to a certain family" since to her children she's a member of their patrilineage. However, choosing a mother's name for a daughter and granddaughter could also be seen as affirming the importance of the bloodlines of the mother's family as well as the role of women in creating alliances between families. Thus, the migration of women's names among noble families substantiates a more cognatic sense of family. In addition, there do seem to be some exceptions to the general pattern of naming daughters after paternal kin. The Ottonian royal family adopted the name of Liudolf's wife Otta not Liudolf; every generation had an Otto or an Otta; the name Liudolf doesn't appear until four generations after the founder. In the Flemish comital family in the tenth century, despite the elevation in paternal status that royal blood gave them, named their children after their wives' kin. Baldwin II of Flanders (d. 918), son of Baldwin I and Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald and, and his wife Elstrude/Aelfthryth, daughter of Alfred the Great and Ealhswith, gave two of their children Anglo-Saxon names: Adalulf (Athelwulf) and Ealswid, and the other two Arnulf and Ermentrude are not known to be associated with either family. Arnulf I of Flanders (d. 965) and his wife Adela of Vermandois named their daughters names Liutgard and Hildegard (Adela's sister was named Letgard; Hildegard came from her Adela's mother's family). Arnulf's son Hecbert (d. 953) was named either for his first wife's family or was a variation of Herbert (Adela's father's name). In addition, while the Carolingian royal family does follow the pattern Bouchard posits in the ninth and tenth centuries, there are daughters of the eighth century who may have been named after maternal kin: Charles Martel's and Rotrudis' daughter Hiltrudis, Charlemagne's and Fastrada's daughter Theodrada and Charlemagne's and Hildegard's daughter Rotildis. We have no evidence to show who these couples were naming their daughter after.

Third, Bouchard's refutation of the Duby thesis of two models of marriage, noble and ecclesiastical, while intriguing, is ultimately unpersuasive. Although she provides examples of three noble families (Burgundy, Nevers, and Vermandois) and one royal (Capetian) who avoided consanguineous marriages, four is a small sample of comital families of the ninth through eleventh centuries in order to build an argument. Bouchard buttresses these examples with the thesis that the injunction of 948 from the Synod of Ingelheim, urging all Christians to draw up ancestor lists in order to avoid consanguineous marriages, prompted to nobles to draw up genealogies. However, her two examples are drawn from the twelfth century. The only tenth-century genealogy in Francia is that of Arnulf I of Flanders (written between 951 and 959); the next comital genealogies do not appear before the mid eleventh century for the counts of Flanders, Vendome, Anjou and Boulogne. The paucity of surviving genealogies in the 150 years after the Synod of Ingelheim does not support Bouchard's thesis that the nobles "were acutely sensitive to the question of incest". (43) Bouchard also excludes affines in her discussion of consanguineous marriages; however, both William the Conqueror and Eustace II of Boulogne were excommunicated in 1049 for marrying women who were too closely related by affinity (Matilda's paternal grandfather had married William's paternal aunt and Eustace's maternal uncle was married to his wife Ida's paternal aunt). So the Church, if not the nobility, considered affines relatives. She also doesn't address the issue of other motivations in the choice of marriage partners among the nobility and royal families, particularly the political strategy of using marriages to form alliances and acquire property.

While I have reservations about some of the secondary theses, the evidence and argument that the noble families of the eighth through tenth centuries were more nuclear and patrilineal than is thought by those who follow Duby's chronology is convincing overall, as is her contention that twelfth-century family structures were more cognatic. As stated earlier, her thesis that the nobility of France was always made up of old and new members, with no radical transformation in the year 1000, is persuasive. While not new, her arguments that women played a continuously significant role in families and that nobles constructed their sense of family in flexible and various ways are well argued. Bouchard's carefully constructed genealogies, based solely on primary sources, are extremely useful and the bibliography is excellent avenue into the topic. Bouchard has provided both a wonderful introduction to those new to the subject as well as a welcome contribution to the debate on the nature of the medieval nobility. Those of My Blood is a most enjoyable and thought-provoking read.