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8 - The Personnel of Comital Administration in Greater Anjou, 1129–1151

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2014

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Summary

‘Our enemies are prévôts (prepositi), town officials (villici), and the other ministers (ministri) of our lord count.’ This complaint, voiced by an unwitting charcoal-burner during a conversation with the incognito Count Geoffrey V of Anjou, forms the centerpiece of a key anecdote in John of Marmoutier's Historia Gaufredi, in which the count learns of the abuses and extortions committed by his body of administrators against inhabitants of Loches.

While debate continues over the nature and extent of so-called bad or evil customs (malae consuetudines) and what they can reveal about an apparent breakdown in public authority and order from the ninth century to the twelfth, the evidence of contemporary charters to a certain extent bears out John's consternation. Loches provides just one example amongst many of the count having to discipline his own officers, for in 1136 Geoffrey's prévôt there had indeed been levying unjust customs from the monks of Marmoutier, John's own abbey.

Thomas Bisson has recently drawn attention to the propensity of Angevin comital officials in the twelfth century to exact such customs. In particular, local prévôts could exploit their positions of authority with impunity, not least because, Bisson suggests, their offices were in practice hereditary; together they formed a body of largely unaccountable men who used extortion and violence to carry out their duties and who, once in office, ‘would not easily give it up’.

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The Haskins Society Journal 23
2011. Studies in Medieval History
, pp. 125 - 154
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2014

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