Monday, October 21, 2013

The Edict of Paris

Gold coin depicting Clothar II
The Edict of Paris, an outline of laws and rights in the kingdom of the Franks, has been called "the Frankish Magna Carta." It was produced by Clothar II (584-628), mentioned in this blog when he commissioned a golden throne.

The comparison to Magna Carta is not simply because it is a set of laws. Just as King John in 1215 was forced to share power with his barons, Clothar had to make concessions to the nobles who had enabled him to wrest the kingdom from his cousin, Sigebert II. Some of the 27 clauses, however, were designed to modify in the king's favor some of the statements from a recent ecclesiastical synod in Paris. For instance, the Paris synod declared that bishops be chosen by the church; Clothar's Edict declared that only bishops that he approved should be ordained.

Otherwise, the Edict establishes some commonsense responsibilities in order to ensure felicitas regni [Latin: the happiness of the realm]. Judges were to be appointed in their local regions (presumably, this prevented the king from appointing one of his close companions with no local knowledge to preside over some noble's region). Poor judges were to be dismissed by the king, or by the local bishops if the king were unavailable. Everyone had the right to bring a lawsuit. Women had the right not to be married against their will.

Not every clause was aligned with modern sensibilities, however. The not-uncommon anti-Semitism of the Middle Ages was part of the Edict: Jews in positions in the royal government had to quit or convert to Christianity.

The Edict of Paris did not become a lasting cornerstone of Frankish law. After the reign of Clothar's successor, Dagobert I, it was superseded by later documents.

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