19.01.10 Jordan/Phillips, eds. The Capetian Century

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John H. Arnold

The Medieval Review 19.01.10

Jordan, William Chester and Jenna Rebecca Phillips, eds. The Capetian Century, 1214 to 1314. Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, 22. Turnhout: Brepols, 2017. pp. xvi, 359. ISBN: 978-2-503-56718-1 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
John H Arnold
University of Cambridge

This collection of thirteen essays, plus introduction, arose from a conference at Princeton commemorating the Battle of Bouvines (1214) and the death of Philip IV (1314)--a "Capetian" century in that symbolic sense, though at points some of the contributions implicitly suggest a "Capetian" century also in terms of a particular development of "the state" under Louis IX and Philip IV. The contributors do not, by any means, adopt a uniform viewpoint on such issues; but the Introduction invites us to discern, as a shimmering frame for the overall endeavour, the foundational work of Joseph Strayer on the "medieval origins of the modern state." [1] That said, this is also a Capetian century of symbolic practices, theological ideas and troubled nobles, beyond the central focus on the monarchy.

The book is divided into four "parts," though in truth one could probably find alternative thematic links between various chapters than to those which the part-titles advertise. Part I comprises pieces by William J. Courtenay on the university of Paris, Anne Lester on Cîteaux, Sean Field on confessors, inquisitors and enquêteurs, and Cecilia Gaposchkin on the moralized bibles produced for the Capetian court. Courtenay provides a useful brief overview of the foundation of the university and the flow of royal patronage across the subsequent reigns, and argues that it was only in Philip IV's reign that he began to use the institution as "a tool of royal policy" (14)--though one wonders if in fact one might revisit that question slightly with regard to the first few decades of the thirteenth century. [2] Anne Lester demonstrates the variety of ways in which the Capetians turned to the Cistercian order, not least for prayer, commemoration and burial, particularly in the first half of the thirteenth century. One of the particular delights of her contribution is discussion of (and photographs illustrating) the personal objects passed by Louis IX to various Cistercian abbeys, objects which became relics of sorts after his death and his canonization. Sean Field's chapter does important work in bringing complexity to the more well-known connections between Louis and the mendicant orders, focussing on the Dominicans. He does so via an admirably careful tracking of various particular individuals, piecing carefully together the sometimes-overlapping roles of personal confessors, inquisitors into heretical depravity, and (more briefly) royal enquêteurs. [3] The chapter concludes by returning to the issue of the prosecution of the Templars and of Marguerite Porete, where Professor Field has already done much important work. Finally in this section, Cecilia Gaposchkin provides a fascinating and wonderfully well-illustrated discussion (five colour plates, more black-and-white images) of how one might read the theme of "kingship" in the early moralized bibles created for the Capetian court, which one might describe as a "visual mirror for princes" (72, citing other scholarship to that effect), and where the association of the king with the sword that defends Christian truth is the most important image. Among various other insights, Gaposchkin argues that in some of the bibles, the early date of production explains why it is "heretics" who are more prevalently presented as threats which kingship must confront, rather than the "Saracens" one might associate with the crusading Louis IX.

Part II provides essays by Xavier Hélary on the military service demanded of the nobility, a brief chapter by Hagar Barak on "the managerial revolution" under the Capetians, and another very well-illustrated piece by Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak on royal seals. Hélary's chapter is notable in providing a very useful discussion not only of the means by which the French crown called knights into service--here providing a further element in our understanding of the use of royal officials and finance--but also attempting to explore what motivated those who fought to go on campaign (over and above the context of crusading), in which he remains admirably alert to a variety of possible factors, and to change over time. Hagar Barak pursues the notion of a "managerial revolution" under Louis in particular, in part via a very longstanding problem in corporate governance, namely the "separation of ownership from control" in the expanding kingdom. In just six pages of text, the contribution can do little more than frame the issue, but the wider points at stake will be worth further exploration. Bedos-Rezak's chapter is a much meatier affair, taking as a major theme the thought of William of Auvergne (bishop of Paris and major theologian) on the nature of the "seal." For William, Bedos-Rezak writes, "there cannot be a human community without a visible sign of that community," for if they lacked such a thing "how would the members of a community recognize themselves as such and their own, how would they in fact form and constitute a community?" (162). The chapter pursues William's thought, the modern theoretical understanding of "signs," and the actual physical objects of seals with characteristically great élan, and presents an analysis which has potential reverberation well beyond the scope of this particular collection.

Part III provides two chapters--one by Peggy Brown, the other by Julien Théry-Astruc--which focus particularly on Philip IV and Guillaume de Nogaret, and a rather different contribution by Elisabeth Lalou on Robert Fawtier's view of Philip. Brown's chapter--after an engaging historiographical sketch--focuses on the documents produced by Nogaret, and puts him in contrast with another important official, Enguerran de Marigny (a key figure in Philip's final years). Their attitudes, practices and eventual fortunes are explored with a fine eye for detail and nuance; and even if, as she says in the conclusion, "the real essences" of these men "always will be beyond our grasp," she nonetheless allows us to feel why one might still persist in "what Marc Bloch called the pursuit of human flesh--living, not imagined, human beings...in all their infinite complexity" (210). Théry-Astruc's chapter is a tour-de-force examination of the prosecution of Bernard Saisset, bishop of Pamiers, masterminded by Guillaume de Nogaret. In it he simultaneously reconstructs the sequence of local and international political events leading to the prosecution, elucidates the extraordinary appropriation of biblical language and sacrality that de Nogaret deployed on behalf of Philip IV, and demonstrates how the trial importantly fits into the wider and more famous dispute between Philip and Boniface VIII, and thence to the trial of the Templars. (Among other things, he also demonstrates that the establishment of inquisition into heresy in Pamiers in the late thirteenth century--from whence, a few decades later, we have the famous trials from which Le Roy Ladurie wrote Montaillou--was clearly part of a wider demonstration of papal authority.) Elisabeth Lalou's chapter is informed in part by her long labours on the material gathered by Fawtier on Philip--what Fawtier dubbed the Corpus philippicum--which Fawtier entrusted to her in 1980. As she explains, she and Xavier Hélary have digitized part of this, and the material itself is now housed in the Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes in Paris (262 n.2).

Part IV focuses on crusading matters. Jochen Burgtorf provides a study of the Montaigu family, reconstructing a family network for the thirteenth century (in the face of earlier historiographical suspicion over their actual existence) and their place within the nobility of the crusader states. Paul Crawford examines Renaud of Châtillon, formerly presented by Steven Runciman as a lowly"'upstart" who, in 1153, had managed to marry the widowed Princess Constance of Antioch. Crawford presents a reappraisal of sorts, and more interestingly demonstrates the sustained and ongoing familial interconnections that were occurring within the crusader states themselves. (That some of this was in the 1200s presumably justifies the inclusion in this "Capetian century" of work otherwise clearly focussed on the twelfth century). Finally, Helen Nicholson's important chapter "What Became of the Templars after the Trial of 1307-1314?" provides some suggestive and some specific answers for different parts of Europe and different specific individuals, demonstrating in particular that whilst those within France were very likely to end up enduring prison, those outside the kingdom generally avoided such a fate.

There is no conclusion to the volume. William Chester Jordan, in the introduction, notes that the "triumphant narrative" of Capetian success invites more comparative analysis with other dynasties (focussing particularly on the sacral element in kingship, though one can also imagine other aspects where comparison would be fruitful, for example bureaucratic machineries, means of revenue production, approaches to civic power, and relations with the Church as an institution). In truth, the chapters here do not in fact find much space for such a comparative project. As with most conference proceedings, some contributions sit more obviously in the midst of the stated theme than others; and one can think of areas where we would also want to reflect further on "Capetian" relations and developments (Franciscans? Towns? The Low Countries? Finance?). But there are some real riches contained herein, and collectively the chapters do provide something like a summative moment--particularly of North American study--from whence further such explorations could be mounted.



1. Joseph R. Strayer, On the Medieval Origins of the Modern State (1970); Jordan was a student of Strayer's at Princeton in the 1970s.

2. See various works by Jessalynn Bird, for example "Paris Masters and the Justification for the Albigensian Crusade," Crusades 6 (2007): 117-155.

3. On the enquêtes see now the important work of Marie Dejoux, Les enquêtes de Saint Louis: Gouverner et sauver son âme (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2014).

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