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female succession as the same in principle. The eldest son, as heir to the whole
patrimony, must provide for his cadets (`juniores'), male and female. The eldest
daughter, as heiress, must provide for the marriage of her younger sisters, which
amounts to the same thing. The difference is that it is not the heiress herself who
disposes of her inheritance, but her husband. Implicit in this clause is an assumption
that, whatever the age of the eldest daughter, the inheritance will be `in baillium'
unless or until she is married. This was the case with Duchess Constance, and with
Isolde, daughter of John de Dol. In both cases, though, the heiress was an infant at
the death of her father, and was married as soon as she was of marriageable age. The
`age of majority' for heiresses was thus the age of marriage.60
Again, this custom is different from the neighbouring regions. In England,
Normandy and Anjou, in default of a male heir, the inheritance would be shared
equally between the deceased's daughters. The eldest daughter had priority only in
that she received the family's dwelling-house and its curtilage, and that the eldest
daughter's husband would do homage for the whole estate. The younger daughters
and their husbands would hold their portions of him, but in parage, without
rendering homage for them.61 In England, at least, parceny between heiresses was
introduced in 1130, the pre-existing customary law on female succession being less
certain, with at least the possibility of primogeniture.62
In Brittany, the customary law before 1185 seems to have followed the principle
of female primogeniture. The succession of the barony of Combour after the death
of John de Dol in 1162 is an example of this. John left two infant daughters, Isolde
and Dionysia, yet the barony passed undivided to Isolde.63 I have no examples of
female succession to knights' fees before1185 which provide any information about
the fate of younger daughters, so there is insuf®cient evidence to determine
whether primogeniture was in operation before the Assize. Two examples from
soon after 1185 indicate that primogeniture had been adopted, if it was not already
the custom. One is the succession to the lands of William Spina, a prominent
Combour tenant. William, who died around 1200, was succeeded by the elder of
his two daughters, Juliana, and her husband, William de Montborcher.64 In 1208, a
dispute was determined by William, seneschal of Rennes, between the two

Cf. Hall (ed.), Glanvill, books vii.12 (pp. 85±6) and ix.4 (p. 108).
60

Hall (ed.) Glanvill, book vii.3 (p. 106); `Coutume de Normandie', ch. ix, para. 1 (p. 9) and ch.
61

xiii (pp. 13±4); `Coutume de Touraine-Anjou', p. 17.
J.C. Holt, `Feudal society and the family in early medieval England: IV, the Heiress and the
62

Alien', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th series, 35 (1985), 1±28 at 9±11, 19±20.
In an early charter of Hasculf de Subligny, lord of Combour, all of the benefactions made by
63

John de Dol to La Vieuville are con®rmed by Hasculf, his wife Isolde and her sister, Dionysia
(BN ms fr. 22325, p. 523).
In 1198, William had two daughters, Juliana and Olive, by his ®rst wife and an infant son by his
64

second wife (BN ms latin 5476, p. 95). Presumably the son did not survive infancy. In an
undated charter, William's younger brother Geoffrey recorded that William's land was divided
between Geoffrey himself and Juliana (`terra ejus partita est inter me et primogenitam suam . . .
`) (BN ms latin 5476, pp. 120±1, ms fr. 22325, pp. 533±4). Although this case is an example of

197
The `Assize of Count Geoffrey'
daughters of Harvey de Lanceyo. The date of Harvey's death is unknown and could
have been before 1185. The younger daughter, Juliana, claimed that the eldest,
described in the seneschals' charter as Harvey's heiress, had assigned to her the right
to half of the property in question in the curia of Saint-Melaine de Rennes. The
records of the curia were searched and no record of this transaction could be found.
Juliana was then permitted to produce witnesses, but their evidence was deemed
insuf®cient and the claim was dismissed.65 This case demonstrates that the eldest
daughter was presumed to be the heiress, and if a cadet claimed a share of the
patrimony, the onus was upon her to prove the exceptional circumstances which
gave rise to her entitlement.
Since parceny was an Anglo-Norman innovation in England, it is again
signi®cant that Duke Geoffrey did not follow this precedent in enacting the Assize.
Instead of imposing Anglo-Norman law, he sanctioned the contrary Breton custom
of female primogeniture.
In the Assize, the eldest daughter's enjoyment of the whole patrimony is made
subject only to the obligation to `marry' any of her younger sisters with land from
the estate. Again, such dispositions by way of maritagium must be made with the
counsel of the lord and of the close relatives. The disappearance from seignorial acta
of Dionysia, the younger daughter of John de Dol, probably indicates that she
received a maritagium from the barony of Combour,66 ending any further claims she
might have had in the barony.
5. Si autem in terra majoris maritagium aliquod accidere contigerit quod juniori placeat illud
habebit, nec alii major conferre poterit dum minor velit habere, quod si habere noluerit et alibi
invenerit major frater ei de rebus et catallis suis dando perquirat pro posse suo cum consilio
propinquorum [et] amicorum.
This clause refers to lands added to the patrimony (the terra majoris) by marriage,
that is as dowry (maritagium). Continuing on the theme of the heir's obligation to
provide for his cadets, this clause deals with the use of lands acquired by way of
maritagium for this purpose. Firstly, it prescribes that a cadet has the right to any
such land if he or she wants it. Secondly, a subordinate clause provides that cadets
should have the right of ®rst refusal if the heir wishes to dispose of any such land.
This is perhaps intended to mitigate against division of baronies and knights fees on


female primogeniture as between William's daughters, it must be said that the division of the
estate between the deceased's brother and his eldest child was contrary to the Assize.
`Cart. St-Melaine', folios 178v-179r.
65

According to La Comtesse de la Motte-Rouge (Les Dinan et les juveigneurs, Nantes, 1892)
66

Dionysia married Ralph `vicecomes', a younger son of Oliver II de Dinan (p. 18), or Ralph's
son William (p. 190). This genealogy (designed to demonstrate that the lords of Coetquen were
È
a branch of the Dinan family) is incorrect. In fact, the wife of William son of Ralph, and mother
of Oliver, the ®rst known lord of Coetquen (apparently by marriage to Hawise `de Coetquen')
È È
was named Dionysia (BN ms latin 5476, p. 96; BN ms fr. 22325, p. 521; Preuves, col. 845). She
may have been the younger daughter of John II de Dol, but there is no positive evidence.
William son of Ralph was not a Dinan, but the lord of Lanvallay and almost certainly the
nephew of Henry II's seneschal of Rennes, William de Lanvallay (1166±1171/2). One could
speculate that the prestige and in¯uence of the family was so enhanced by William's
appointment that his brother, Ralph de Lanvallay, was able to betroth his son to a daughter of
John II de Dol.

198
Appendix 1
the basis that lands given to a cadet were more likely to revert to the patrimony
than lands disposed of to a stranger.
The third part of this clause moves away from the disposition of maritagium-lands
and focuses on provision for cadets. If the cadet does not want all or any of the
maritagium-land pertaining to the patrimony, but chooses land elsewhere, the heir is
obliged to acquire this alternative estate out of his own movable assets, his goods
and chattels (de rebus et catallis suis). Implicitly, the heir may not sell or exchange any
portion of the patrimonial lands for this purpose. Under this provision, the heir's
obligation is not absolute; he has only to acquire the alternative estate to the best of
his ability, and with the counsel of family and friends.
Although grammatically this clause applies to cadets both male and female, it
seems logically to apply to provision for females, whether the sisters of a male heir,
or the younger sisters of an heiress.67 This is suggested by its context, immediately
following the only clause which expressly deals with daughters (In ®liabus . . .).
Thus the effect of clause 5 is that land originally acquired by way of dowry is
charged with furnishing the dowries of sisters and daughters in preference to
alienating portions of the patrimony for this purpose. This corresponds with
evidence of the use of certain parcels of baronial land to furnish dowries over
successive generations. An example is the manor of Long Bennington, Lincs.,
Á
which was acquired by the barony of Fougeres when Olive, daughter of Stephen of
Á Á
Penthievre, lord of Richmond, married Henry de Fougeres around 1140. Their
Á
son, Ralph de Fougeres, exploited to the full Long Bennington's status as a valuable
estate which could still be regarded apart from the patrimony. Having made
substantial grants from Long Bennington to Savigny in the 1170s, Ralph may have
included it in the dowry of the wife of his son William. After William's death in
1187, Ralph somehow managed to include Long Bennington in the dowries of
both his daughter Margaret (married Waleran, son of Robert, count of Meulan, in
Á
1189) and his granddaughter, Clementia de Fougeres (married Alan de Dinan
before 1196). Since this last marriage produced no issue, Clementia retained her
maritagium and when she was remarried in 1199, Long Bennington passed to her
husband, Ranulf, earl of Chester.68
6. Si major juniori terram dederit de qua eum recipiat in hominem, et sine herede obierit,
alicui de propinquis suis cui voluerit eam dabit, ita quod ad principalem dominum non redeat.
Si autem non reciperit eum in hominem ad majorem fratrem hereditas revertetur.
Whereas clause 2 dealt with dispositions by fathers to their younger sons, this clause
regulates dispositions by heirs to their younger brothers, and is less restrictive, in
envisaging that a grant of land made to a younger brother may become hereditary.
On this subject, the Assize is consistent with the custom of neighbouring
regions, in asserting the principle that a lord may not be the heir of his tenant.69 It
differs, though, as to who should be the heir of a younger brother who dies
without issue having rendered homage for his land to his elder brother. In England,
the legal heir was the deceased's next younger brother, and the `Coutume de

‚ ‚
Brejon de Lavergnee, `Version francaise inedite', note 10.
Ë
67

N. Vincent, `Twyford under the Bretons 1066±1250', Nottingham Medieval Studies 41 (1997),
68

80±99 at 83±6 and 92; AN L968, nos. 215±27 (Savigny charters).
Hall (ed.), Glanvill, book vii.1 (pp. 72±3).
69


199
The `Assize of Count Geoffrey'
Normandie' probably intended the same result.70 The Assize, however, seems to
make this a matter for the judgment of the eldest brother, who may give the land to
whomsoever he wishes among his `propinqui'.71 Thus, although this clause
expressly provides that the land must not revert to the lord (the eldest brother) as
heir, he is given the right to decide who will hold it of him next.

In summary, the Assize con®rms the Breton custom of primogeniture, including its
distinctive details, such as female primogeniture in default of male heirs and
wardship by paternal uncle. It is certainly not the imposition of a foreign principle
of succession from elsewhere in the Angevin empire. The particular purpose of the
Assize is to clarify the problematical aspect of the operation of primogeniture,
provision for male and female cadets without fragmentation of estates. The Assize is
concerned to avoid the division of estates which might occur if apanages became
hereditary, but does not completely ban the practice, permitting heirs to grant
apanages to their younger brothers, which may become hereditary in the cadet
branch in certain circumstances.

the `assize of count geoffrey': text
This edition of the Assize is derived from the following texts:
Ã
Chateaubriant (Cb) BN ms latin 6003, fol. 92v-93r.
Ã
Chateaugiron (Cg) BN ms fr. 22325, p. 341, with reference to TAC, pp. 323±5.
Dinan (D) Preuves, cols. 705±7.

Leon (L) Girard and Joly (eds.), Of®ces de France, I, Paris 1638, p. 585 .
Porhoet (P) BN ms fr. 22325, p. 74.
È
Rohan (R) AN ms JJ8, no. 297.
‚‚

Vitre (V) Bourdot de Richebourg, Coutumier General, IV, Paris, 1724, p.
289.
Anonymous (A) BM Additional mss 8876, fol. 157.

1 Notum sit omnibus tam presentibus quam futuris quod, cum in Britannia super
terris inter fratres dividendis detrimentum terre plurimum soleat evenire, ego
Gaufridus
Henrici regis ®lius dux Britannie et comes Richemundie, utilitati terre providere
desiderans,
petitioni episcoporum et baronum omnium Britannie satisfaciens, communi assensu
eorum
5 assisiam feci tempore meo et successorum meorum permansuram et concessi
quod in baroniis et feodis militum ulterius non ®erent divisiones sed major natu
integre
obtineret dominatum, et junioribus suis majores providerent et invenirent
honori®ce necessaria juxta posse suum.

Hall (ed.), Glanvill book vii.1 (p. 73), `Coutume de Normandie', ch xxxiv (pp. 28±9)
70

(`prochiens paranz ou cosins').
This interpretation is based on treating `major' as the subject of the whole sentence, except for
71

the clause `et sine herede obierit', in which the `junior' must be the subject.

200
Appendix 1
Ea vero quae tunc juniores possidebant in terris sive denariis tenerent quamdiu
viverent,
heredes quidem terras tenentium possiderent illas imperpetuum.
Heredes vero denarios et non terras habentium post patres non haberent.
10
Item si terra majorum devenerit in baillium, frater major post eum bailliam habebit,
quod si fratrem non habuerit ille de amicis bailliam habeat cui decedens
cum assensu domini sui eam voluerit commendare.
In ®liabus vero qui majorem habuerit terram habeat et juniores maritabit de terra ipsa
ad consilium domini et propinquorum generis. Si autem in terra majoris
15
maritagium aliquod accidere contigerit quod juniori placeat illud habebit,
nec alii major conferre poterit dum minor velit habere, quod si habere
noluerit et alibi invenerit major frater ei de rebus et catallis suis dando
perquirat pro posse suo cum consilio propinquorum amicorum.
Item si major juniori terram dederit de qua eum recipiat in hominem et sine herede
20
obierit,
alicui de propinquis suis cui voluerit eam dabit ita quod ad principalem
dominum non redeat. Si autem non reciperit eum in hominem ad majorem fratrem
hereditas revertetur.
Hanc assisiam ego Gaufridus dux Britannie et Constancia uxor mea et omnes barones
Britannie
juravimus tenere decrevimus etiam necessarium ut et majores natu
et juniores eam jurarent tenendam et si juniores noluissent jurare amplius nec in terris
25
nec in
denariis partem essent habituri. Hanc assisiam sive institutionem nominatam
[name of baron] et ejus heredibus per totam terram suam
concessimus permansuram. Ut igitur hoc ratum maneret et stabile attestatione sigilli
mei et
Constantie uxoris mee volumus roborari.
Testibus; Herberto Redonensis, Petro Macloviensis, Guethenoc Venetensis episcopis

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