Those of My Blood: Creating Noble Families in Medieval Francia (The Middle Ages Series)
Constance Brittain Bouchard
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For those who ruled medieval society, the family was the crucial social unit, made up of those from whom property and authority were inherited and those to whom it passed. One's kin could be one's closest political and military allies or one's fiercest enemies. While the general term used to describe family members was consanguinei mei, "those of my blood," not all of those relations-parents, siblings, children, distant cousins, maternal relatives, paternal ancestors, and so on-counted as true family in any given time, place, or circumstance. In the early and high Middle Ages, the "family" was a very different group than it is in modern society, and the ways in which medieval men and women conceptualized and structured the family unit changed markedly over time.
Focusing on the Frankish realm between the eighth and twelfth centuries, Constance Brittain Bouchard outlines the operative definitions of "family" in this period when there existed various and flexible ways by which individuals were or were not incorporated into the family group. Even in medieval patriarchal society, women of the aristocracy, who were considered outsiders by their husbands and their husbands' siblings and elders, were never completely marginalized and paradoxically represented the very essence of "family" to their male children.
Bouchard also engages in the ongoing scholarly debate about the nobility around the year 1000, arguing that there was no clear point of transition from amorphous family units to agnatically structured kindred. Instead, she points out that great noble families always privileged the male line of descent, even if most did not establish father-son inheritance until the eleventh or twelfth century. Those of My Blood clarifies the complex meanings of medieval family structure and family consciousness and shows the many ways in which negotiations of power within the noble family can help explain early medieval politics.
up in the twelfth century, the founder of the line was a Norseman named Raoul Barbeta.63 The descendants of this tenth-century chieftain quickly established themselves as part of the castellan society of Burgundy. The origins of the wives of the ﬁrst few lords of Vignory are unknown, but in the late eleventh century Gui IV married Beatrix, sister of the Capetian duke of Burgundy, and their daughter married Count Roger of Joinville. Thus, the descendants of a Norse chieftain had become respectable
considerations alone would have made their most obvious source of marriage partners. In the intervening period, family mem- Tseng 2000.11.28 12:45 DST:103 Figure .. Marriages of the family of the counts of Vermandois in the tenth and eleventh centuries. 6216 Bouchard / THOSE OF MY BLOOD / sheet 65 of 261 Tseng 2000.11.28 12:45 DST:103 6216 Bouchard / THOSE OF MY BLOOD / sheet 66 of 261 Figure .. Marriages between the Capetians and the counts of Nevers in the eleventh and twelfth
and bore a daughter Beatrix, whom they named for Adelaide’s mother. At the same time, Hugh Capet’s son, King Robert II, named one daughter Hadwidis. The latter king’s son, Duke Robert I of Burgundy, named one daughter Hadwidis (also called Hildegard in some sources) for his sister and paternal aunt. His granddaughter Beatrix, lady of Vignory, had a daughter named Hildegard, who married the lord of Joinville;5 Hildegard and her husband named their daughter Beatrix after her own mother. In
division of the patrimony. Some families adopted almost draconian measures to keep the number of heirs to the patrimony to a minimum. The same pattern persisted into the thirteenth century. Thomas, count of Savoy at the beginning of the thirteenth century, intended ﬁve of his seven sons for the church. Even though most of these ﬁve left the church upon their father’s death, Thomas had only two grandsons in the male line, only one of whom had children of his own.44 Thus, although a single
Duby suggested, with women continuing to play an important role and primogeniture far from universal,7 it is still often assumed that there were no true lineages before the year , until noble families were ‘‘transformed’’ in the eleventh century. In the ﬁfty years or so since Duby postulated a weakening of counts’ power after the turn of the ﬁrst millennium, and the sixty years since Bloch proposed two distinct ‘‘feudal’’ ages, the debates over the extent to which the social and institutional