Two sorts of men were requi­red to do mili­tary ser­vice : the leu­des, vas­sals or sub-vas­sals, who were obli­ged to as a func­tion of their fiefs ; and the free men, Franks, Romans, and Gauls, who ser­ved under the count, and were led by him and his offi­cers.

They cal­led free men those who on the one hand had no bene­fi­ces or fiefs, and who on the other hand were not sub­jec­ted to vil­lei­nage ; the lands they pos­ses­sed were what were cal­led allo­dial lands.

The counts assem­bled the free men and led them into war1 ; they had under them offi­cers whom they cal­led vicars2 ; and as all free men were divi­ded into cen­tenæ, who for­med what was cal­led a borough, the counts also had under them offi­cers cal­led cen­te­na­rii, who led the free men of the borough3 or their cen­tenæ to war.

This divi­sion by hun­dreds is sub­se­quent to the Franks’ set­tle­ment in the Gauls. It was done by Clotaire and Childebert with an eye to obli­ging every dis­trict to ans­wer for the rob­be­ries com­mit­ted there : we see this in the decrees of those prin­ces.4 A simi­lar policy is still obser­ved today in England.

As the counts led the free men into war, the leu­des also led into war their vas­sals and sub-vas­sals ; and the bishops, abbés, or their pro­tec­tors5 led theirs as well.6

The bishops were rather conflic­ted : they were not them­sel­ves quite in agree­ment7 on their situa­tion ; they asked Charlemagne not to oblige them any lon­ger to go to war, and when they obtai­ned that, they com­plai­ned that they were being made to lose the public’s consi­de­ra­tion, and the prince was obli­ged to jus­tify his inten­tions. However that may be, at times when they no lon­ger went to war, I do not see their vas­sals being led to war by the counts ; we see on the contrary the kings or bishops choo­sing one of the fidè­les to lead them.8

In a capi­tu­lary of Louis the Debonaire,9 the king dis­tin­gui­shes three sorts of vas­sals : the king’s, the bishops’, and the count’s. The vas­sals of a leude10 or lord were led into war by the count only when some res­pon­si­bi­lity in the king’s hou­se­hold pre­ven­ted those leu­des from lea­ding them in per­son.

But who was lea­ding the leu­des to war ? We can­not doubt that it was the king, who was always at the head of the fidè­les. That is why, in the capi­tu­la­ries, we always see an oppo­si­tion bet­ween the king’s vas­sals and those of the bishops.11 Our cou­ra­geous, proud, and magna­ni­mous kings were not in the army to ride at the head of this eccle­sias­ti­cal mili­tia ; those were not the men they would choose to conquer or die with them.

But these leu­des took with them their vas­sals and sub-vas­sals, and that appears clearly in the capi­tu­lary where Charlemagne orders that every free man who has four manors, either in his hol­dings, or in someone’s bene­fice, should go against the enemy, or fol­low his lord.12 Clearly what Charlemagne means is that the man who had but one estate of his own was to par­ti­ci­pate in the count’s mili­tia, and he who held a lord’s bene­fice accom­pa­nied him.

Yet the abbé Dubos pre­tends that when it is spo­ken in the capi­tu­la­ries of the men who depen­ded on a par­ti­cu­lar lord, that means only serfs, and bases him­self on the law of the Visigoths and the prac­tice of that peo­ple.13 It would be bet­ter to base one­self on the capi­tu­la­ries them­sel­ves ; the one which I have just cited for­mally sta­tes the oppo­site. The treaty bet­ween Charles the Bald and his bro­thers like­wise speaks of the free men who can choose a lord or the king ; and this pro­vi­sion is consis­tent with many others.

We can the­re­fore say that there were three sorts of mili­tias : that of the leu­des or fidè­les of the king, who them­sel­ves had other fidè­les under them ; that of the bishops or other eccle­sias­tics and their vas­sals ; and finally that of the count, at the head of the free men.

I am not saying that the vas­sals could not be subor­di­nate to the count, as those who have a par­ti­cu­lar com­mand are subor­di­nate to him who has a more gene­ral com­mand.

We even see that the count and the king’s envoys could make them pay the ban, which is to say a fine, when they had not ful­filled the enga­ge­ments of their fief.

Similarly, if the king’s vas­sals14 com­mit­ted plun­ders, they were sub­jec­ted to cor­rec­tion by the count, unless they pre­fer­red to sub­mit to cor­rec­tion by the king.

See the capitulary of Charlemagne of the year 812, art. 3–4, Baluze ed., vol. I, p. 491, and Edict of Pistres of the year 864, art. 26, vol. II, p. 186.

Et habeat unusquisque comes vicarios et centenarios secum, book II of the capitularies, art. 28.

They were called compagenses.

Issued around 595, art. 1. See capitularies, Baluze ed., p. 20 ; these statutes were no doubt made in concert.


Capitulary of Charlemagne, year 812, art. 1 and 5, Baluze ed., vol. 1, p. 490.

See capitulary of the year 803 given in Worms, Baluze ed., p. 408 and 410.

Capitulary of Worms, year 803, Baluze ed., p. 409, and the council of the year 845 under Charles the Bald in Verno Palatio, Baluze ed., vol. II, p. 17, art. 8.

Capitulare quintum anni 819, art. 27, Baluze ed., p. 618.

De Vassis Dominicis qui adhuc intra casam serviunt, and tamen Beneficia habere noscuntur, statutum est ut quicumque ex eis cum Domno Imperatore domi remanserint, Vassallos suos casatos secum non retineant ; sed cum Comite, cujus pagenses sunt, ire permittant. Capitulary II of the year 812, art. 7, Baluze ed., vol. I, p. 494.

Capitulary 1 of the year 812, art. 5. De hominibus nostris, et episcoporum et abbatum qui vel beneficia vel talia propria habent, etc., Baluze ed., vol. I, p. 490.

Of the year 812, ch. i, Baluze ed., p. 490. Ut omnis homo liber qui quatuor mansos vestitos de proprio suo, sive de alicujus beneficio habet, ipse se præparet, et ipse in hostem pergat, sive cum seniore suo.

Vol. III, book VI, ch. iv, p. 299, Établissement de la monarchie française.

Capitulary of the year 882, art. 11, apud Vernis palatium, Baluze ed., vol. II, p. 289.