22nd January 2022
by Arnaud Picqué / Henricus.justiciarius
During the 12th century, the count’s administrative entourage is a rather inoperative “Curia” made up of “witnesses”. At the end of the 12th century (with Henri “the Blind”) but especially during the first part of the 13th century (with Ermesinde), this “Curia” transformed into an efficient and multi-level administration, whose organs, powers and levels were distinguished.
Eventually, this administrative evolution contributed to the strengthening of the count’s powers, thanks to its efficiency and the rivalry organized between bourgeoisie and nobility.
The beginning of the territorial principalities in the Lotharingian area corresponds to the moment when the counts succeeded in imposing their power on their neighbours (this began as early as the 11th century). This is the auctoritas publica.
This “auctoritas publica” derives, in practice, from the “fides publica”: power must be based on a certain degree of notoriety, which needs to be “witnessed”. Thus, the proclamation of the count’s deeds and count’s justice must be done in public, in front of a large entourage (a “witnessing entourage”) composed by increasingly more people.
Sachsenspiegel. Cod. Pal. Germ. 164 : folio.7v early 14th c.
Very early, these people concerning Luxembourg, are “ministerials” (non-noble men that are at the service of the count on a military, domanial or administrative level). They are part of what could be called a comital familia.
They had simultaneously the role of counselling the count but also defending the deed’s authenticity and the judgements rendered in their presence when needed. But this old body had shown some flaws (too little structured and composed in a too varied social way). Reforms were needed to make administration efficient but without losing the loyalty of the count entourage.
The first half of the 13th century was the scene of two important reforms: the breakdown of the old inoperative Curia and the establishment of a multi-level administration.
Willhelm von Orlens. BSB Cgm 63 : folio 20
During the first half of the 13th century, Countess Ermesinde laid the foundations for a new administrative structure (a process already started under the reign of her father, Henri the Blind), inspired by French, Champagne and Barrois models, while remaining imprinted with Rhenish and Germanic influences. This new administration is characterized by three features:
The old Curia will therefore split into several bodies with distinct powers:
To ensure greater efficiency and legitimacy of its power, the county will reorganize the administrative architecture:
Cod. Pal. germ. 389 : Folio 96r ca.1256
The first three functions have at least three common features:
Margue, M., « De l’entourage comtal à l’entourage royal : le cas des Luxembourg (xiie – première moitié du xive siècle) », in A l’ombre du pouvoir (dir. J.-L. Kupper, A. Marchandisse), Liège, Presses universitaires de Liège, 2003.