Montesquieu
 

XXXI.17 Something particular about the election of kings of the second dynasty

We see in the for­mula1 of Pépin’s conse­cra­tion that Charles and Carloman were also annoin­ted and bles­sed, and that the French lords com­mit­ted them­sel­ves under pain of sus­pen­sion and excom­mu­ni­ca­tion never to elect anyone of any other lineage.2

It appears from the tes­ta­ments of Charlemagne and Louis the Debonaire that the Franks chose among the king’s chil­dren, which rela­tes very well to the clause above ; and when the empire pas­sed into ano­ther house than that of Charlemagne, the faculty of elec­tion, which was limi­ted and condi­tio­nal, became pure and sim­ple, and the old cons­ti­tu­tion was being left behind.

Pépin, aware he was approa­ching his end, convo­ked the eccle­sias­ti­cal and lay lords in Saint-Denis, and divi­ded his realm bet­ween his two sons Charles and Carloman.3 We do not have the acts of this assem­bly, but we find what took place there in the author of the old his­to­ri­cal com­pen­dium publi­shed by Canisius,4 and in that of the Annals of Metz, as Mr. Baluze has obser­ved5 ; and I see in them two more or less contra­dic­tory things : that he made the divi­sion with the consent of the gran­dees, and then that he did it by pater­nal right. This pro­ves what I have said, that the peo­ple’s right in this dynasty was to elect in the family ; it was pro­perly spea­king more a right to exclude than a right to elect.

This sort of right of elec­tion is confir­med by the records of the second dynasty. Such is this capi­tu­lary of the divi­sion of the empire that Charlemagne is making among his three chil­dren, where, after defi­ning their por­tions, he says that “If one of the three bro­thers has a son, such as the peo­ple wish to elect to suc­ceed to the king­dom of his father, his uncles shall give their consent.”6

This same pro­vi­sion is found in the divi­sion which Louis the Debonaire made among his three chil­dren, Pépin, Louis, and Charles, in 837 in the assem­bly of Aix-la-Chapelle7 ; and also in ano­ther divi­sion by the same empe­ror made twenty years ear­lier bet­ween Lothaire, Pépin, and Louis.8 We can also see the oath made by Louis the Stammerer in Compiègne when he was crow­ned there : “I, Louis, appoin­ted king by the mercy of God and the elec­tion of the peo­ple, do pro­mise….”9 What I am saying is confir­med by the acts of the coun­cil of Valence held in the year 890 for the elec­tion of Louis son of Boson to the king­dom of Arles.10 There they elect Louis, and give as the prin­ci­pal rea­sons for his elec­tion that he was of the impe­rial family,11 that Charles the Fat had confer­red on him the dignity of king, and that the empe­ror Arnold had inves­ted him with the scep­ter and the minis­try of his ambas­sa­dors. The king­dom of Arles, like the other dis­mem­be­red or depen­dent king­doms of Charlemagne’s empire, was elec­tive and here­di­tary.

Vol. V of Historiens de France par les Pères bénédictins, p. 9.

Ut nunquam de alterius lumbis regem in ævo præsumant eligere, sed ex ipsorum (ibid., p. 10).

In the year 768.

Vol. II, Lectionis antiquæ.

Edition of the capitularies, vol. I, p. 188.

In capitulary I of the year 806, Baluze ed., p. 439, art. 5.

In [Melchior] Goldaste, Constitiones imperiales, vol. II, p. 19.

Baluze ed., p. 574, art. 14. Si vero aliquis illorum decedens, legitimos filios reliquerit, non inter eos potestas ipsa dividatur, sed potius populus pariter conveniens, unum ex eis quem Dominus voluerit, eligat ; et hunc senior frater in loco fratris et filii suscipiat.

Capitulary in the year 877, Baluze ed., p. 272.

In Conciles du P. Labbe, vol. IX, col. 424, and in Dumont, Corps diplomatique, vol. I, art. 36.

By the women.