Montesquieu

I have spo­ken of those volon­teers who, among the Germans, fol­lo­wed the prin­ces in their enter­pri­ses. The same prac­tice conti­nued after the conquest. Tacitus desi­gna­tes them by the name of com­pa­nions,1 the Salic law by the name of men who owe fealty to the king,2 the for­mu­la­ries of Marculfus3 by that of antrus­tions of the king,4 our first his­to­rians by that of leu­des, of fidè­les,5 and those who came later by the name of vas­sals and lords.6

We find in the Salic and Ripuarian laws an infi­nite num­ber of pro­vi­sions for the Franks, and only a few for the antrus­tions. The pro­vi­sions for these antrus­tions are dif­fe­rent from those made for the other Franks : all kinds of rules apply to the Franks’ pos­ses­sions, and nothing is said of those of the antrus­tions, which comes from the fact that the antrus­tions’ pro­perty is regu­la­ted rather by poli­ti­cal law than by civil law, and that it was the lot of an army and not the patri­mony of a family.

The pro­perty reser­ved for the leu­des was cal­led fis­cal pro­perty, bene­fi­ces, honors, and fiefs in dif­fe­rent authors and in dif­fe­rent times.7

There is no doub­ting that fiefs at first were revo­ca­ble.8 We see in Gregory of Tours9 that eve­ry­thing Sunegisilus and Gallomanus got from the trea­sury was taken away, and they are left only with what they held as pro­perty. Gontram, rai­sing his nephew Childebert to the throne, had a secret confe­rence with him, and indi­ca­ted to him those10 to whom he should give fiefs, and those from whom he should take them. In a for­mula of Marculfus,11 the king gives in exchange not only bene­fi­ces which his trea­sury held, but also those which ano­ther had held. The law of the Lombards oppo­ses12 bene­fits to pro­perty. The his­to­rians, the for­mu­las, the codes of the dif­fe­rent bar­ba­rian peo­ples, and all the sub­sis­ting docu­ments are una­ni­mous. Finally, those who wrote the book of fiefs tell us that at first the lords could take them away at will,13 that sub­se­quently they gua­ran­teed them for a year,14 and after that gave them for life.

Comites.

Qui sunt in truste regis (tit. 44, art. 4).

Book I, formula 18.

From the word trew, which means fidèle to the Germans and the English, true.

Leudes, fidèles.

Vassalli, seniores.

Fiscalia. See 14th formula of Marculfus, book I. It is said in the Life of St. Maur : Dedit fiscum unum ; and in the Annals of Metz for the year 747 : Dedit illi comitatus and fiscos plurimos. Property destined for the maintenance of the royal family was called regalia.

See book I, tit. 1 of the Fiefs, and Cujas on that book.

Book IX, ch. xxxviii.

Quos honoraret muneribus, quos ab honore depelleret (ibid., book VII).

Vel reliquis quibuscumque beneficiis, quodcumque ille, vel Fiscus noster, in ipsis locis tenuisse noscitur (book I, formula 30).

Book III, tit. 8, §3.

Antiquissimo enim tempore, sic erat in dominorum potestate connexum, ut quando vellent, possent auferre rem in feudum a se datam : posteà vero conventum est ut per annum tantum firmitatem haberent, deinde statutum est ut usque ad vitam fidelis produceretur (Feudorum, book. I, tit. 1).

It was a sort of temporary holding which the lord renewed or did not renew the following year, as Cujas has observed.