Early Frankish and Anglo-Saxon Kingship : right and rightness of rule

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The fascination with kingship has always involved questions of right. Attitudes towards individual rule cannot be separated from social conditions. Unfortunately, traditional theories of kingship have hinged upon the existence of social conditions which find little support in the evidence. The theories applied to early Germanic kingship place a great deal of emphasis upon the sacrality of the king's person and a belief that this sacrality was inherited. This meant the recognition of direct unilineal descent from a great ancestor. The available literary, legal and historical evidence does not support this. Early forms of Germanic kingship were fairly homogeneous. The crucial factor in selection was military ability. The most successful individual was acknowledged as being a favourite of the gods. The king was considered a microcosm of his kingdom, and he was guarded carefully. Certain conditions often gave the appearance of inherited kingships. The accumulation of wealth by certain families placed them in positions of authority. Support was established through client-patron relationships which could be purchased. The ability to give gifts of arms and property figured prominently in the selection of kings. The king was only associated with the territory of his kingdom through the oaths of his supporting landholders. The kingdom was not treated as his personal property. With Christianity came the written word. The presence of communities not covered by the protection of family law challenged the universal practices of inheritance and blood-feud. The king's protect ion was expanded to incorporate the Church. The emergence of legal documents coincided with an increased interference by the king in social matters. The most prominent infringement of rights was the partitioning of the Frankish kingdom upon the death of Clovis. English and Frankish kingship took different directions from this point. The king in England remained a leader of tribal peoples, united by religion and law. The Merovingians developed a heightened form of Germanic sacrality based upon the fortune of Clovis. Associated with this was the inheritance of the territorial kingdom as defined by Roman civitas boundaries and written charters. The resistance to these artifical restrictions was only overcome by the might of the Carolingians and the recognition by the Church of German sacrality.
Bibliography: p. 144-150.
Davies, T. E. (1986). Early Frankish and Anglo-Saxon Kingship : right and rightness of rule (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from https://prism.ucalgary.ca. doi:10.11575/PRISM/13799