Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Notes Regarding Female Succession

Succession through a female and the female line was not unheard of nor was it the exception to the rule. There are many instances of females succeeding to landownership either directly as an heiress (ie: no male heir) or following the deaths of male heirs.

In many instances, females assumed the role of regent for their children following the death of their husband, taking upon the role of their husband. There are many notable examples of this throughout medieval and contemporary history.

During the medieval period, the life of the people was more often than not dominated by warfare whether on a local or international scale. The need for strong leadership and the ability to lead an army into battle often took precedence. And whilst the right to succession through primogeniture was common, this did not necessarily mean that it was male dominated or exclusive to males and the male line.

There are instances of medieval women raising armies to personally defend their own lands. The most notable of these women are: Matilda of Canossa, Joan or Arc, Isabella of Castile, Yolande d'Anjou, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Margaret of Anjou to name but a few. Many women in power were obliged to employ a male to lead their army – however, this was not the sole domain of the female. Many Renaissance male rulers employed others to lead their armies into battle for them – Condotierres. And there was no shame in this – after all following the death of King Richard III on the battlefield of Bosworth, no other English monarch actually took to the battlefield and led his army into battle in person.

In the Crusader Kingdoms, succession could and did pass through the female line – however, there was an additional codicil to succession to landownership. In the East, landownership was linked with the provision of military service. And thus, despite succeeding in her own right, a female was obliged to take a husband in order to fulfill this obligation.

Whether we agree or not, it was the common held view that succession through primogeniture was through the senior male line. Following the extinction of all male lines, succession was through the female line. There are many instances in which daughters have been overlooked instead of their sons, sisters instead of a nephew, and so on.

It would appear, at first glance, that the application of Salic Law with regard to succession was more particular to the area of land once occupied by King Clovis' Merovingian Empire – the forerunner of both the Carolingian and Holy Roman Empire. This would include the area of land encompassing much of modern France, Germany, Austria and northern Italy. Thus the idea of Salic Law would be introduced through inter-marriage between the Royal Houses of these Kingdoms, becoming codified with national laws to become the norm.

However, as can be witnessed today, succession through the female line was never eradicated. There are many countries today that recognize the rights of females to succeed not only in their own right but also in the absence of a direct male heir. I have no doubt that it was not the intention of those praticising Salic Law to eradicate female succession, but to restrict its application to what were then considered to be the dominant monarchies of the time.

~~~ Melisende (first pub: 11/6/2006)

No comments: