Friday, November 13, 2015

On the coronation and anointing of French monarchs

Titled women of the French nobility (duchesses and countesses) could inherit land and titles from their fathers if they had no surviving male issue to succeed them, but from antiquity the throne and crown of France adhered to Salic Law, which permitted succession to the throne only through the male line and excluded all females. A central theological and ceremonial reason for why the French monarchy did not permit female succession was the highly sacramental nature of the coronation rites, in which the king exercised a quasi-sacerdotal role and held certain sacred instruments which, it was believed, women could not touch. While queens of France were customarily crowned and anointed at their husband’s accession, this was often done in a separate ceremony. While French kings were most often crowned at the Reims Cathedral. French queens were crowned most often at the St Denis Basilica.

Thus, due to the strict enforcement of Salic Law, France has never had a female monarch. Reflecting their crucial importance in dynastic marriages, however, several queens of France were the daughters of previous French kings or reigning provincial dukes whose fathers, lacking any surviving male issue, married them to the men who ultimately succeeded to the French throne as king. Numerous French queen mothers also governed as regents on behalf of their underage sons until they reached their majority.

Three examples of French queens who were themselves the daughters of French kings or powerful dukes were 1) Queen Anne de Bretagne (1477-1514), consort to King Charles VIII from 1491-98 and then after Charles’ death consort to King Louis XII from 1499 to her own death, reigned as Duchess of Brittany in her own right from 1488; Anne’s daughter Queen Claude (1499-1524), consort to Francois I (1515-24) and daughter of King Louis XII, reigned as Duchess of Brittany in her own right after her mother’s death in 1514; and Queen Marguerite (1553-1615), consort to France’s first Bourbon King Henri III de Navarre/ IV de France (1572-1599), sister to French kings Francois II, Charles IX, and Henri III, who was the daughter of King Henri II and (from 1559-89) the powerful Queen Mother and regent Catherine de Medicis.

Read the rest here.


John (Ad Orientem) said...

Comment from Dr. Tighe who apparently had some difficulty with the combox...

"but from antiquity the throne and crown of France adhered to Salic Law, which permitted succession to the throne only through the male line and excluded all females"

Hardly "from antiquity;" rather, from 1316, when Louis X of France died and his brother Philip (later Philip V) became regent. Louis left a pregnant second wife; he also left a daughter, Joan (1312-1349) by his first wife, who had been convicted of adultery, and the daughter's paternity was a matter of some doubt. Five months later Louis X's widow gave birth to a son, who was proclaimed king as "John I," but died five days afterwards. Philip seized the throne and had himself quickly crowned, and an Estates General meeting declared that women could not inherit the French Crown, basing its statement on an old law of the Salian Franks which had nothing to do with the royal succession, but rather with the inheritance of property (not that a female monarch was even conceivable under the Merovingian and Carolingian kings; it was only the advent of "feudalism" and, with it, the concept of monarchical succession as a kind of "feudal" inheritance that made it possible).

That the "Salian Law" was used as a kind of ex post facto rationalization of Philip V's seizure of the throne is demonstrated by the fact that Philip's grandfather, St. Louis (Louis IX, d. 1270) envisaged his being succeeded by one of his daughters should he die without any sons of his own. Joan, by the way, was eventually allowed to inherit the throne of Navarre (as Joan II), which had had previous female monarchs, and which had been united dynastically with France due to the marriage of Joan I of Navarre (d. 1305) to Philip IV of France (d. 1314) and who were the parents of Louis X (d. 1316(, Philip V (d. 1322) and Charles IV (d. 1328).

William Tighe said...

"Philip's grandfather, St. Louis" should have been "Philip's great-grandfather."