Montesquieu
 

XXXI.16 Conflation of royalty and mayoralty. Second dynasty

The order of sub­ject mat­ter has led me to dis­turb the tem­po­ral order, with the result that I have dis­cus­sed Charlemagne before dea­ling with that famous era of the trans­la­tion of the crown to the Carlovingians that took place under king Pépin : a thing which, unlike ordi­nary events, is per­haps more noti­ced today than it was at the very time it hap­pe­ned.

The kings were without autho­rity, but they had a name : the title of king was here­di­tary, and that of mayor elec­tive. Although the mayors in the most recent times had put on the throne whi­che­ver Merovingian they pre­fer­red, they had not cho­sen a king in any ano­ther family, and the ancient law that gave the crown to a cer­tain family was not era­sed from the heart of the Franks. The per­son of the king was almost unk­nown in the monar­chy, but royalty was not. Pépin, son of Charles Martel, thought it was time to conflate the two tit­les, a confla­tion that would always leave some uncer­tainty whe­ther the new royalty was here­di­tary or not : and that was enough for the man who com­bi­ned royalty with great might. And so the mayor’s autho­rity was com­bi­ned with royal autho­rity. In the admix­ture of these two autho­ri­ties, a sort of conci­lia­tion came about : the mayor had been elec­tive and the king here­di­tary ; the crown at the begin­ning of the second dynasty was elec­tive, because the peo­ple chose ; it was here­di­tary because they always chose in the same family.1

Father le Cointe, des­pite the tes­ti­mony of all the records,2 denies that the pope autho­ri­zed this great change3 ; one of his rea­sons is that he would have been com­mit­ting an injus­tice. Now is it not extra­or­di­nary to see an his­to­rian judge what men have done by what they ought to have done ? With this man­ner of rea­so­ning, there would be no more his­tory.

Be that as it may, it is cer­tain that from the moment of Duke Pépin’s vic­tory, his was the rei­gning family, and that of the Merovingians no lon­ger was. When his grand­son Pépin was crow­ned king, it was just one more cere­mony and one less phan­tom : all he acqui­red the­reby was the royal orna­ments, and nothing in the nation was chan­ged.

I have said this to fix the moment of the revo­lu­tion, so that the mis­take will not be made of seeing as a revo­lu­tion what was only a conse­quence of the revo­lu­tion.

When Hugh Capet was crow­ned king at the begin­ning of the third dynasty, there was a grea­ter change, because the state went from anar­chy to some kind of govern­ment ; but when Pépin took the crown, they went from one govern­ment to the same govern­ment.

When Pépin was crow­ned king, he only chan­ged his name ; but when Hugh Capet was crow­ned king the thing itself chan­ged, because a great fief joi­ned with the crown put an end to anar­chy.

When Pépin was crow­ned king, the title of king was joi­ned to the highest office ; when Hugh Capet was crow­ned, the title of king was joi­ned with the grea­test fief.

See testament of Charlemagne and the division that Louis the Debonaire made with his children in the assembly of the states held in Quierzy, recorded by Goldaste : Quem populus eligere velit, ut patri suo succedat in regni hæreditate.

The anonymous one for the year 752, and Chronicon Centulense, for the year 754.

Fabella quæ post Pippini mortem excogitata est, æquitati ac sanctitati Zachariæ Papæ plurimum adversatur….. (Annales ecclésiastiques des Français, vol. II. p. 319).