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Control of Officers: Insiders and Outsiders

‘Who, whom?’ and the question of delegated accountability is connected to the question of whether ‘insiders’ or ‘outsiders’ were the preferred choice for particular offices. Subject communities generally preferred insiders; rectores generally outsiders. This is readily comprehensible. Local elites and communities hope one of their own will sympathize with their needs. A rector at some remove from the relevant community will hope that an agent more beholden to him rather than them will be a more reliable projection of his ‘face on the territory’. Canonical inquisitions kept papal options open: the pope could decide which delegated judges to appoint, those nearer or further politically to either himself or the defamed prelate. In an English context the classic example is the counties’ demand for sheriffs who knew local laws and customs. The polarity exists, though, in other cases. Castilian nobles prefer adelandados of their status to lesser merinos more amenable to the king;[1] local men seek local bishops.[2] Likewise counts of Provence may naturally prefer non-Provenqal justiciars and kings of the Regno non-Sicilians.[3] It is equally clear why those in charge of officials at a distance would want men who were not local, since they would hope such men would be more loyal to their superiors’ needs.[4] Without discounting specific resentments against Poitevins or Savoyards, the English controversy about the influence of ‘aliens’ can be seen as part of a wider European story in which rulers sought to counterbalance longstanding regional power bases through the use of officials lacking local loyalties.

Podesta are an interesting exception proving this rule. In their ‘classic’ form they are accountable to the local communities that select them. Were the rule true about local elites preferring local officers one would suppose that podesta should be local as a matter of course. Famously, though, podesta are legislated to be outsiders for the specific reason that insiders proved too partial to one or other factional grouping. The rule, however, is simply seeking to control an excess of communities’ ‘natural’ tendency to want pliable insiders; the problem of podesta becoming assimilated into local political groupings similarly confirms the rule. In this case too the issue of dismissible officers was a practical one rather than an in-principle issue.

Mention of podesta in this context raises the related question of finite tenure. In Italy the rule might be more honoured in the breach, but again the logic of finite tenure was to minimize official entitlement. Opposite views could be justified, however. To Louis IX, Guibert of Tournai argued for the principle of infrequent changes in local (royal) officials, just as a wounded man beset by flies might not thank a passer-by for brushing them off since ‘the flies which you have shooed away were full of blood, and hardly troubling me. But those which cover me and take their place will bite all the more sharply’. Prolonged attachment to the same body means that the thirst for blood levels off, whereas frequent changes in personnel will simply mean a faster turnover of ravenous bloodsuckers.[5] The English baronial arguments to Louis in 1264 argued precisely the opposite. The reformers had made shrieval appointments annually, with neither prejudice to nor presumption against re-election, precisely so that sheriffs should not become ‘overproud in office’.[6] In practice it was more problematic, as Roger of Howden’s disparaging remarks about the counterproductive 1170 Inquest of Sheriffs showed.[7] Both perspectives are comprehensible. But the problems identified by both Guibert and the reformist barons would apply to each other’s solutions when it came to officers’ finite tenures. In practice anyway most middling officers were subject to review and removal. Bishops are something of an exception here. But even their immunity weakened over the period. Innocent III’s practice of removing heretical or otherwise unacceptable bishops signalled that principled hurdles to removing prelates were not insurmountable.[8]

  • [1] The lesser merino has less discretionary judicial and military autonomy, the adelantado more.There were five regional adelantados mayores 1258—67 before Alfonso X’s gradual sidelining of them.The 1271—3 aristocratic rebellion was partly tied up in a dispute about the relative functions andstatus of the more noble adelantados who had been displaced by lesser but more amenable (from theKing’s perspective) merinos. The Leyes de los Adelantados Mayores describing that office is possibly aprojected revision of the roles or a revision of the earlier 1258 arrangement. For all this see Leyes delos Adelantados Mayores: Regulations, Attributed to Alfonso X of Castile, Concerning the King’s Vicarin the Judiciary and in Territorial Administration, ed. Robert A. MacDonald, Hispanic Seminary ofMedieval Studies 25 (New York, 2000), 16—29; Jular Perez-Alfaro, ‘King’s Face on the Territory’,112—20, 121—4. For the Burgos 1272 complaints and Cortes see Cronica de Alfonso X, Segun el Ms.11/2777de la Biblioteca delPalacio Real (Madrid), ed. Manuel Gonzalez Jimenez (Murcia, 1998), caps.23—5, but see also 87 n. 142 (cf. MacDonald’s comments in Leyes at 25). The Burgos complaints aboutoppressive officers, ignorance or disregard of local customs, and onerous military services bear somecomparison with the baronial and knightly complaints against John and Henry III in England. Passingcomparison, Peter Linehan, Spain, 1157—1300: A Partible Inheritance (Oxford, 2008), 114—15, 187.
  • [2] 31 e.g. The Arundel Lyrics and The Poems of Hugh Primas, ed. and trans. Christopher J. McDonough,Dunbarton Oaks Medieval Library 2 (Cambridge, Mass., 2010), Hugh Primas #16 at 192 ll. 71—2(the laudable episcopal choice of Sens, in contrast to Beauvais’s).
  • [3] 32 See in Provence Raymond Berenger V’s (1209—45) use of Guillaume de Cotignac and Romeede Villeneuve as comital lieutenants, both of Catalan extraction: Thierry Pecout, ‘L’lnvention deProvence: Raymond Berenger V (1209—1245) (Paris, 2004), 241, 247—50. For Charles I of Anjou’s useof non-Provencals in Provence, see Dunbabin, Charles 1 of Anjou, 51—2. For Charles’ majority use ofFrench and Provencal justiciars in the Regno (but local fiscal specialists centrally under heavy supervision) see Dunbabin, Charles 1 of Anjou, 734, and The French in the Kingdom of Sicily, 1266—1305(Cambridge, 2011), 177-80.
  • [4] e.g. cap. 21 of the 1194 eyre wanting non-local sheriffs, Select Charters and Other Illustrations ofEnglish Constitutional History from the Earliest Times to the Reign of Edward 1, ed. W. Stubbs, rev. H. WC. Davis, 9th edn. (Oxford, 1913), 254.
  • [5] Le Traite Eruditio regum et principum de Guibert de Tournai, O.F.M., ed. A. de Poorter, LesPhilosophes belges, 9 (Louvain, 1914), 78 (§2.2.9).
  • [6] DBM#37b cap. 11 at 263.
  • [7] 36 Gesta regis Henrici secundi Benedicti abbatis [Roger of Howden], ed. William Stubbs, RS, 2 vols.(London, 1867), i. 4—5. See p. 114.
  • [8] The Gesta of Innocent specifies twenty removals before its cut-off of 1209: see PL 214, cols.clxxii—clxxv (cap. 130).
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