_The Lord's First Night_ Revisited

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Paul J. Gans

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One of the most persistent myths about the Middle Ages is
that there was, at least in some places, a right that
entitled a lord to sleep with the bride of a vassal on
her wedding night. This myth has had many lives. It
provided a useful characterization of the excesses of
the old regime (used as such in _Braveheart_, for example)
for those politically opposed to anything smacking of
"feudalism". And it provided a prurient point of
interest for those needing to believe that the Middle
Ages was a time when men where men and women did what
they were told.

Though no compelling evidence has ever been produced for the
existence of the practice of "the lord's first night", it
has nonetheless even crept into a number of older textbooks
dealing with the Middle Ages.

Finally, Alain Boureau has written a book entitled _The
Lord's First Night_, subtitled "The Myth of the Droit
de Cuissage". Boureau is directeur d'etudes at the Ecole
des hautes etudes en sciences sociales in Paris. He has
also written, among other books, _La Papesse Jeanne_, a
study of yet another persistent myth about the Middle Ages.

Boureau's book is not so much about the sources of the myth,
though he does trace those, as it is about the political and
literary uses to which the myth has been used. Boureau sees
the myth as a peculiarly French invention, and though he
ranges over evidence in Germany, Italy, Spain and England,
his discussion of the political and literary uses of the myth
are (mainly) limited to France. Boureau does have one short
appendix dealing with Spain, for, as he says (p. 237)
"Nonetheless, what I propose here is a brief and perhaps
imprudent excursion into the Iberian Peninsula, partly
because Catalonia in the fifteeth century offers the *only
European instance of a troubling juridicial text*,...
(Emphasis added.) He then goes on to dispose of that
particular instance.

Nevertheless, Boureau makes it quite clear that, in the
context of western Europe in the Middle Ages, that no
such right existed.

Thus what Boureau's book is, is a history of the myth.
The demolishing of the myth takes up rather little space
since there is no real evidence for it. What there is
evidence for are a number of customs and taxes pertaining
to both marriage itself and the marriage of vassals. Some
of the customs, he points out, are still around, such as
the "chivaree" and the teasing of newlyweds. The tax aspect
is perhaps more important, as later believers in the myth
have pointed to the taxes as "evidence" that what was once
a physical act had been replaced by a monetary payment
to the lord in lieu of the act. Boureau disposes of this
too in fairly short order.

Of interest here is Boureau's assertion that the "Middle
Ages" as a distinct entity was invented in France as a
political tool. To quote (p 68):

"This explains the extraordinary vitality of history in
France during the decade from 1820 to 1830. Even before
scholars had available the new documentation that was to
flood the scene after 1830, the ideological and
epistemological framework of the new history was in place.

"The Middle Ages crystallized the political historian's new
expectations. The concept 'Middle Ages' still lacked the
strict periodization and the feeling of remoteness that
triumphed in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Still, it put down tenuous but tenacious roots of an
identity within the "total" history developing out of
the desire to explain the destiny of a people and a
nation whose revolutionary and imperial experience
had endowed them with an indelible image going beyond
political uses."

Boureau goes on to say in discussing the political movements
in the middle of the 19th century (p 72):

"The Middle Ages evoked by the party of order was an age
of faith and cathedrals, a time when a severe but just
church stepped forward as the great pacifier. The vital
center of the Middle Ages shifted from the twelfth century,
the century of liberties, to the thirteenth, "the century
of St. Louis." The Movement developed a contrary image of
a Middle Ages of obscurantism and fanaticism. This is what
is meant by the "invention of the Middle Ages" in the
nineteenth century: When contrasted with a dechristianized
present, medieval times seemed a radically other, foreign
epoch, whether its strangeness provided a positive or negative
model. The Restoration [in France] had seen the Middle
Ages as the beginning of something that ended with the
defeat of the revolution of 1848. The terms used in
France to designate and evaluate the age (_moyennageux_
[1885], _medieval_ [1874] and to refer to those who
made it a specific historical discipline (_medeiviste_
[1867]) all date from the later nineteenth century.
The notion of transition that had been contained in
the term _Middle Ages_ when it was forming (_medias
aetas_, sixteenth century; _medium aevum_, early
seventeenth century) dissipated before a firm
substantive: Henceforth "the Middle Ages" (_le Moyen
Age_) existed as an essence."

The book itself is fascinating, but it will not be an easy
read for those not well-versed with the details of French
politics of the 18th and 19th centuries. Nevertheless,
I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is interested
in seeing how myths begin and how they are transformed
over time.

Someone recently (it may have been Bernard Bachrach)
noted that folks in general have no use for history.
What they do want is to create a usable history that
allows them patriotic feelings and a context in which
to handle their likes and dislikes. Boureau has shown
here precisely how the "right of first night" became a
political football in the hands of those who needed to
prove something awful about the Middle Ages.


One last note. The paperback (English) edition [University
of Chicago Press, 1998. ISBN 0-226-06743-2] is graced with
a blurb by R. Howard Bloch, Augustus R. Street Professor at
Yale University. Bloch, one of the most celebrated medievalists
of our time, was recently lured to Yale by inducements,
including salary, that made headlines in the _Chronicle of
Higher Education_ (the weekly newspaper of the goings on
in academia. Bloch was an ideal choice as blurb writer, as
his field in medieval studies encompasses many of the areas
that Boureau writes about. To give an idea about Bloch,
I did a quick search in the library databases provided by
NYU and found the following:

Books by R. Howard Bloch in the NYU databases:

1. Etymologies and genealogies : a literary anthropology
of the French Middle Ages. Bloch, R. Howard Chicago :
University of Chicago Press, 1983.

2. Etymologies and genealogies : a literary anthropology
of the French Middle Ages. Bloch, R. Howard (Paperback
ed.) Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1986, c1983.

3. God's plagiarist : being an account of the fabulous
industry and irregular commerce of the abbe Migne.
Bloch, R. Howard Chicago : University of Chicago Press,
1994.

4. Medieval French literature and law. Bloch, R. Howard
Berkeley : University of California Press, c1977.

5. Medieval misogyny and the invention of Western romantic
love. Bloch, R. Howard Chicago : University of Chicago
Press, 1991.

6. Moses in the promised land. Bloch, R. Howard (1st ed.)
Salt Lake City : Peregrine Smith Books, 1988.

7. The scandal of the fabliaux. Bloch, R. Howard Chicago :
University of Chicago Press, 1986.

8. Future libraries. Berkeley, CA : University of California
Press, c1993.

9. Future libraries. Berkeley : University of California
Press, c1995.

10. Medievalism and the modernist temper. edited by R. Howard
Bloch and Stephen G. Nichols. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1996.

11. Misogyny, misandry, and misanthropy. Berkeley : University
of California Press, c1989.

12. A New history of French literature. Cambridge, Mass. :
Harvard University Press, 1989.

13. A new history of French literature. (1st Harvard
University Press pbk. ed.) Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard
University Press, 1994.

14. Le plagiaire de Dieu : la fabuleuse industrie de l'abbe
Migne. Bloch, R. Howard.

15. De la litterature francaise. Bloch, R. Howard.

16. Etymologie et genealogie : une anthropologie litteraire
du Moyen Age francais. Bloch, R. Howard.

17. The fabliaux, fetishism, and Freud's Jewish jokes


One should note two rather amazing things. The first is
Bloch's output in the last decade. The other is the number
of his books that exist in French editions. This is rather
unusual for an American author and is an indication of
French opinion of his work. In addition, some will remember
his recent (1994) book on the Abbe Migne which was something
of a popular success.

----- Paul J. Gans [ga...@panix.com]

D. Spencer Hines

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Oct 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/4/98
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Vide infra pro risibus.

There he goes again.

ERP on the Warpath --- Swinging Wildly With Academic Haymakers.

D. Spencer Hines

Lux et Veritas
--

D. Spencer Hines --- Sol Remedium Optimum Est. Peccatoris Justificatio
Absque Paenitentia, Legem Destruit Moralem.

Paul J. Gans wrote in message <6v8oaa$8...@panix2.panix.com>...


>
>One of the most persistent myths about the Middle Ages is
>that there was, at least in some places, a right that
>entitled a lord to sleep with the bride of a vassal on
>her wedding night.

The period of concern is not just Medieval but "Primitive" or "Traditional"
Societies as well. Further, one needs to have a Global View on this issue,
not a narrow, pinched "Western European" [excluding Iberia and Italia] or
"Bermuda Triangle" truncated rump. Pre-Christian European Societies, in
particular, deserve a closer look.

>This myth has had many lives. It
>provided a useful characterization of the excesses of
>the old regime (used as such in _Braveheart_, for example)
>for those politically opposed to anything smacking of
>"feudalism".

Horsefeathers. No educated person considers Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" as a
tutorial for any kind of serious History. Only an ignorant fool would think
so. But, it was a damned good film and story and deserved the Academy Award
for Best Picture. The defenestration of the "Piers Gaveston" character was
a high point in the film.

>And it provided a prurient point of
>interest for those needing to believe that the Middle

>Ages was a time when men where [sic] men and women did what
>they were told.

No serious scholar would have such simplistic and reductionist views about
the Middle Ages --- except perhaps for a very naive Marxist-Leninist
Historian --- or a New Left look-a-like. Norman Cantor does an excellent
job of exposing these frauds and charlatans. ERP may well be in that "New
Left" camp ---- which is now the "Old Discredited Left" of course.

ERP doesn't seem to much like Norman Cantor. He constantly damns him with
faint praise, whenever given a chance to do so. Norman Cantor has very
little respect for New Left historians manque.

>
>Though no compelling evidence has ever been produced for the
>existence of the practice of "the lord's first night", it
>has nonetheless even crept into a number of older textbooks
>dealing with the Middle Ages.

The writer of the sentence above has obviously not done his homework among
the Anthropologists and the Psychologists. He needs to open up his mind to
something beyond his narrow little view --- on this important issue.

>
>Finally, Alain Boureau has written a book entitled _The
>Lord's First Night_, subtitled "The Myth of the Droit
>de Cuissage". Boureau is directeur d'etudes at the Ecole
>des hautes etudes en sciences sociales in Paris. He has
>also written, among other books, _La Papesse Jeanne_, a
>study of yet another persistent myth about the Middle Ages.

The writer should tell us more about this "Ecole des hautes etudes en
sciences sociales." What are Alain Boureau's credentials as a MEDIEVAL
HISTORIAN?

>
>Boureau's book is not so much about the sources of the myth,
>though he does trace those, as it is about the political and
>literary uses to which the myth has been used.

The book is a work of comparative literary analysis and pop-sociology, not
History. Boureau obviously has a political ax to grind. So, yes it is true
that "Boureau's book is not so much about the sources of the myth" --- that
is one of its great deficits as a serious work of History.

>Boureau sees
>the myth as a peculiarly French invention, and though he
>ranges over evidence in Germany, Italy, Spain and England,

"Ranges over" is inaccurate. He only treats the evidence in those regions
episodically and tangentially as it plays an impotant role in the debate
over the issue in France. There is no scholarly effort by Boureau seriously
to investigate those areas. Further, the book has fewer than 300 pages ---
including the index, end notes and bibliography. It is a book about
Medieval France and subsequent political and gender issues, as the author
clearly states. To make it out as more than that is duplicitous, a lie and
an illusion.

>his discussion of the political and literary uses of the myth
>are (mainly) limited to France. Boureau does have one short
>appendix dealing with Spain, for, as he says (p. 237)
>"Nonetheless, what I propose here is a brief and perhaps
>imprudent excursion into the Iberian Peninsula, partly
>because Catalonia in the fifteeth century offers the *only
>European instance of a troubling juridicial text*,...
>(Emphasis added.) He then goes on to dispose of that
>particular instance.

He does nothing of the sort. Gentle readers should decide for themselves if
Boureau has indeed "disposed" of the work of Carlos Barros, the repected
Spanish [Galician] Historian. Of course, real scholars, unlike Gans, the
ERP, who is a charlatan, a poseur and a fraud --- will want to read Carlos
Barros as well as Alain Boureau before coming to any conclusions on that
matter, won't they?

ERP prefers to just listen to one side of the phone call and then make up
his mind immediately. Serious scholars are more fair-minded and
circumspect.

But then, ERP cannot read Spanish can he? So, he just ignores Carlos
Barros --- as somehow not relevant here --- outside the "Bermuda Triangle"
of his own cramped mental fabrication.

>Nevertheless, Boureau makes it quite clear that, in the
>context of western Europe in the Middle Ages, that no
>such right existed.

Again, he does no such thing. Gans is fond of reading one book and then
touting and bugling it to the masses.

Real Scholars read more than one book before coming to final conclusions.

Alain Boureau simply takes the position that:

"THUS THE DROIT DE CUSSAGE NEVER EXISTED IN MEDIEVAL FRANCE." p. 225

[N.B. Emphasis mine.]

We've not even defined *droit de cuissage* here. There are many other
formulations of the alleged *rights* of a lord at various times and places
over sexual matters that are of concern to these vital issues.

>Thus what Boureau's book is, is a history of the myth.
>The demolishing of the myth takes up rather little space
>since there is no real evidence for it.

Again, Medieval France is not the known world. Serious investigators will
cast their nets wider, as to geography, time and place. Gans acts as if the
map should read "Here Be Dragons" if one moves beyond the borders of
"Western Europe" as he has narrowly defined it.

>What there is
>evidence for are a number of customs and taxes pertaining
>to both marriage itself and the marriage of vassals. Some
>of the customs, he points out, are still around, such as
>the "chivaree" and the teasing of newlyweds. The tax aspect
>is perhaps more important, as later believers in the myth
>have pointed to the taxes as "evidence" that what was once
>a physical act had been replaced by a monetary payment
>to the lord in lieu of the act. Boureau disposes of this
>too in fairly short order.

Again, not true. The ERP [East River Pontificator for the newcomers] is
mightily concerned about "disposing" of arguments, but he makes no attempt
to "develop" scholarly counter-arguments of his own.

Like a medieval academic groupie, he simply latches on to the latest
whiz-bang book of some ostensible admired role model --- takes it to his
heart --- and begins to proselytize his nascent views to the masses.

The actual operative lesson here is:

"Cave ab homine unius libri." Beware the man of one book.

Yes, those passages capture the free-wheeling literary fabric of the book.
A few short months ago, ERP was telling us rhapsodically that the "Middle
Ages" were invented by *British* Historians. But then he had other heroes
at that point in time. Now it is Boureau and the *French* Historians.

>
>The book itself is fascinating, but it will not be an easy
>read for those not well-versed with the details of French
>politics of the 18th and 19th centuries. Nevertheless,
>I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is interested
>in seeing how myths begin and how they are transformed
>over time.

It is a very EASY read for anyone but a historical dullard. It is an
entertaining literary excursion, but not especially well-written or edited.
Perhaps the translation is a problem. Has anyone read the French edition?

>
>Someone recently (it may have been Bernard Bachrach)
>noted that folks in general have no use for history.
>What they do want is to create a usable history that
>allows them patriotic feelings and a context in which
>to handle their likes and dislikes. Boureau has shown
>here precisely how the "right of first night" became a
>political football in the hands of those who needed to
>prove something awful about the Middle Ages.

That is a cynical, reductionist and elitist comment. One hopes it was not
BB who made it. Real History sells quite well. Bad, agenda-driven
historical propaganda does not do as well. The people are not dumb.

>
>
>One last note. The paperback (English) edition [University
>of Chicago Press, 1998. ISBN 0-226-06743-2] is graced with
>a blurb by R. Howard Bloch, Augustus R. Street Professor at
>Yale University.

Professor of French at Yale University ---- not Professor of History.

>Bloch, one of the most celebrated medievalists
>of our time, was recently lured to Yale by inducements,
>including salary, that made headlines in the _Chronicle of
>Higher Education_ (the weekly newspaper of the goings on
>in academia. Bloch was an ideal choice as blurb writer, as
>his field in medieval studies encompasses many of the areas
>that Boureau writes about. To give an idea about Bloch,
>I did a quick search in the library databases provided by
>NYU and found the following:

Gans has this childish, charlatanesque habit of referring to himself and
others, whom he approves of, as "medievalists" for all sorts of reasons.

Please note that he does not say "Medieval Historian." He seems to think
that anyone who can scrape up the coin to go to Kalamazoo --- is entitled to
call him or herself a "medievalist."

Number 17 gives the game away.

R. Howard Bloch, with whom Hines has no quarrel, is a scholar of FRENCH
LITERATURE, PARTICULARLY THAT OF THE MIDDLE AGES.

In no way does that make him a MEDIEVAL HISTORIAN, as he himself would no
doubt admit. He is not in the History Department at Yale.

Yet, University of Chicago Press touts the Boureau book as History, not
Literature --- which is what it actually is.

>
>
>One should note two rather amazing things. The first is
>Bloch's output in the last decade. The other is the number
>of his books that exist in French editions. This is rather
>unusual for an American author and is an indication of
>French opinion of his work. In addition, some will remember
>his recent (1994) book on the Abbe Migne which was something
>of a popular success.
>
> ----- Paul J. Gans [ga...@panix.com]

ERP, who is a chemist with paranoid dreams of delusion concerning his
exalted status as a "medievalist" --- is so deeply mired in the quicksand of
his self-manufactured deception --- that he cannot see the forest for the
trees. Since he himself is a fraud, he cannot, or will not, admit that the
University of Chicago Press has been misleading and fraudulent on the cover
and in editing the blurb.

Bloch's large "output" is not Medieval History --- as any fool can see from
perusing the titles above.

Bloch is certainly a world-class professor of French LITERATURE. Gans is,
once again, caught *in flagrante delicto* and proven to be a fraud and a
charlatan. His learning curve is a very shallow one.

Beware the man of one book.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

D. Spencer Hines

Lux et Veritas
Illegitimis Non Carborundum

D. Spencer Hines

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Oct 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/5/98
to
Vide infra.

DSH

Exitus Acta Probat
--

D. Spencer Hines --- Sol Remedium Optimum Est. Peccatoris Justificatio
Absque Paenitentia, Legem Destruit Moralem.

D. Spencer Hines wrote in message <6v8vle$s...@bgtnsc03.worldnet.att.net>...

<snip>

>Paul J. Gans wrote in message <6v8oaa$8...@panix2.panix.com>...

<snip>


>>Boureau sees
>>the myth as a peculiarly French invention, and though he
>>ranges over evidence in Germany, Italy, Spain and England,
>
>"Ranges over" is inaccurate. He only treats the evidence in those regions

>episodically and tangentially as it plays an important role in the debate


>over the issue in France. There is no scholarly effort by Boureau
seriously
>to investigate those areas. Further, the book has fewer than 300 pages ---
>including the index, end notes and bibliography. It is a book about
>Medieval France and subsequent political and gender issues, as the author
>clearly states. To make it out as more than that is duplicitous, a lie and
>an illusion.
>
>>his discussion of the political and literary uses of the myth
>>are (mainly) limited to France. Boureau does have one short
>>appendix dealing with Spain, for, as he says (p. 237)
>>"Nonetheless, what I propose here is a brief and perhaps
>>imprudent excursion into the Iberian Peninsula, partly
>>because Catalonia in the fifteeth century offers the *only
>>European instance of a troubling juridicial text*,...
>>(Emphasis added.) He then goes on to dispose of that
>>particular instance.
>
>He does nothing of the sort. Gentle readers should decide for themselves
if

>Boureau has indeed "disposed" of the work of Carlos Barros, the respected

<snip>

>>Of interest here is Boureau's assertion that the "Middle
>>Ages" as a distinct entity was invented in France as a
>>political tool. To quote (p 68):
>>
>> "This explains the extraordinary vitality of history in
>> France during the decade from 1820 to 1830.

No real well-founded Historian could write that gibberish. But, once again,
the translation may be at fault.

<snip>

>>Boureau goes on to say in discussing the political movements
>>in the middle of the 19th century (p 72):
>>
>> "The Middle Ages evoked by the party of order

"[T]he party of order" [N.B. Read "Fascist] is a French political term of
art that alerts the intelligent reader to the propaganda that follows.

>> was an age
>> of faith and cathedrals, a time when a severe but just
>> church stepped forward as the great pacifier. The vital
>> center of the Middle Ages shifted from the twelfth century,
>> the century of liberties, to the thirteenth, "the century
>> of St. Louis."

"The Century of...?" This is beginning to sound like a High-School
Commencement Oration.

<snip>

>Yes, those passages capture the free-wheeling literary fabric of the book.
>A few short months ago, ERP was telling us rhapsodically that the "Middle
>Ages" were invented by *British* Historians. But then he had other heroes
>at that point in time. Now it is Boureau and the *French* Historians.
>
>>
>>The book itself is fascinating, but it will not be an easy
>>read for those not well-versed with the details of French
>>politics of the 18th and 19th centuries. Nevertheless,
>>I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is interested
>>in seeing how myths begin and how they are transformed
>>over time.
>
>It is a very EASY read for anyone but a historical dullard. It is an
>entertaining literary excursion, but not especially well-written or edited.
>Perhaps the translation is a problem. Has anyone read the French edition?

Above all, it is NOT HISTORY. It is a Literary Excursion Into The Nature of
Myth ---- A Favorite Plaything of Literateurs.


<snip>

>>One last note. The paperback (English) edition [University
>>of Chicago Press, 1998. ISBN 0-226-06743-2] is graced with
>>a blurb by R. Howard Bloch, Augustus R. Street Professor at
>>Yale University.
>
>Professor of French at Yale University ---- not Professor of History.

<snip>

scl...@chass.utoronto.ca

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Oct 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/5/98
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Greetings!

> >Again, Medieval France is not the known world. Serious investigators will
> >cast their nets wider, as to geography, time and place. Gans acts as if
> the
> >map should read "Here Be Dragons" if one moves beyond the borders of
> >"Western Europe" as he has narrowly defined it.

I can't speak for any other country, but I have yet to find any evidence of
"Right of the First Night" in England, at least from the Conquest to the 14th
century. It's not mentioned in Glanville or Bracton, the twelfth and
thirteenth century (respectively) common law collections, nor in collections
of royal edicts from the 11th-14th centuries, nor in contemporary written
historical accounts (such as that of Matthew Paris), nor in any other source
I've run across.

Susan Carroll-Clark

-----------== Posted via Deja News, The Discussion Network ==----------
http://www.dejanews.com/ Search, Read, Discuss, or Start Your Own

Jgissw

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Oct 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/5/98
to

> ----- Paul J. Gans [ga...@panix.com]
>

(Snip review of Boureau.)
Thanks - convenient to have these where browsing a large library is not
possible.
Cheers
John GW

Paul J. Gans

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Oct 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/5/98
to
scl...@chass.utoronto.ca wrote:
>Greetings!

>> >Again, Medieval France is not the known world. Serious investigators will
>> >cast their nets wider, as to geography, time and place. Gans acts as if
>> the
>> >map should read "Here Be Dragons" if one moves beyond the borders of
>> >"Western Europe" as he has narrowly defined it.

>I can't speak for any other country, but I have yet to find any evidence of


>"Right of the First Night" in England, at least from the Conquest to the 14th
>century. It's not mentioned in Glanville or Bracton, the twelfth and
>thirteenth century (respectively) common law collections, nor in collections
>of royal edicts from the 11th-14th centuries, nor in contemporary written
>historical accounts (such as that of Matthew Paris), nor in any other source
>I've run across.

>Susan Carroll-Clark

I agree. Let me reinforce what you are saying.

As made clear in my original post, Boureau considers the
postulated existence of the "right" to be an essentially
French phenomenon. He does this after a fair amount of
research and thought. His work focusses on France because
*that* is where the assertions of the existance of the
"right" were made.

The discussion of the "right" in this newsgroup was originally
limited to western Europe. At the time the existance of the B
oureau book was mentioned. It was also mentioned that most
medievalists considered the French edition of his book the best
treatment of the matter available. Since I'd ordered the English
edition at Kalamazoo last May, I volunteered to post a summary of
Boureau's findings to this group. I've now done so.

It is not that there are any believers in the "right" among
medievalists today. There are not, as far as I know. It
is one of those persistant myths that seems to hover over
the Middle Ages.

Folks interested in establishing the reality of this
"right", for whatever personal interest, are welcome
to do so. The burden of proof is on them.

---- Paul J. Gans [ga...@panix.com]

D. Spencer Hines

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Oct 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/5/98
to
The Boureau book is not History. It is comparative literature, sociology
and gender politics --- an amalgam designed to entice and sell. Someone who
teaches "social studies" rather than History would probably not be astute
enough to catch the differences.

Boureau does not even examine France before 1247 in any scholarly detail.
He does not make any attempt to treat Eastern and Southern Europe at all.

His coverage of the Iberian peninsula, Italy, Germany and Scandinavia is
spotty and marginal at best.

Those who say that *jus primae noctis* or *droit du seigneur* or *jus cunni*
[the most vulgar formulation] is a myth and has never existed have stated a
thesis. They should define their terms precisely, clearly and cogently.

These proponents, who formulate the postulated thesis, then become the
advocates for that thesis. If the *jus primae noctis* has existed anywhere,
at any time --- they would come up short and be caught with their knickers
down.

So, the advocates for the myth cannot just look at France, post 1246. They
must do a thorough global study before they can say with any well-founded
confidence that the custom --- heinous though it may be --- and certainly no
one is defending it [there are simpletons afoot in the land who would try to
make it appear that their adversaries do relish and defend the custom] ---
has never existed --- with stentorian, wooden-headed tones. One proponent
for the thesis framed supra has done just that.

Once more unto the breach. The *gravamen* or burden of truth is on those
who frame the thesis that the 'Right of the First Night' is a total
fabrication and a Myth and has never existed anywhere, at any time. Because
if it has existed anywhere at any time --- their case is severely
undermined.

Let's think like adults here --- not like children or fuzzy-headed college
professors.

In short, one cannot just look for alligators in the family bathtub on
Friday afternoon --- and not finding any there say they don't exist and
never have, anywhere.

D. Spencer Hines

Lux et Veritas
Fortem Posce Animum

D. Spencer Hines

unread,
Oct 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/5/98
to
1. It's quite interesting to note that the Principal Advocate for the
Thesis that "The Right of the First Night" has never existed anywhere and is
a total myth and fabrication, which is NOT what Alain Boureau says, retreats
in a confused and disorganized gaggle --- when pressed on the facts and
logic of his embryonic case.

2. He retreats to his own private "Western Europe" of the mind. He refuses
to define what he means by that term. Although Spain and Portugal are
certainly in "Western Europe" by anyone's definition, he excludes them from
his own private reserve "Western Europe." Perhaps because he is "not
interested in religion" and all that push and shove between the Christians
and the Moors bores him? Catholicism vs. Islam boring?

3. Eastern Europe he refuses to discuss at all. Perhaps because he sees
"Western Europe" as civilized and enlightened and "Eastern Europe" as
backward, savage and unenlightened? Southern Europe as well? What about
"Mitteleuropa" [Middle Europe] as the Germans call it? Is that off the
board and out of consideration as well?

4. Or is the explanation much simpler --- that he simply has no knowledge
of either the languages, cultures or History of those areas beyond the pale
of his own private "Western Europe" and refuses to even think about them and
resents it when others presume to do so?

D. Spencer Hines

Lux et Veritas
Illegitimis Non Carborundum

Bryan J. Maloney

unread,
Oct 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/6/98
to

The "right" of _jus prima noctis_ as a feature of feudal European society
did not exist.

Note the following: "Feudal European" does not include the Moors, for
while they may have been in Europe, they did not have a feudal society.
Likewise for the Vikings, the Varangian Guard, or what have you. It does
not include the Japanese, for while they may or may not have been feudal,
they were not settled in Europe.

--
-  "God created women equal with men"   ... "There are many women who
are better than men."--St. Kosmas Aitolos
http://www.people.cornell.edu/pages/bjm10/

Alex Milman

unread,
Oct 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/7/98
to

Paul J. Gans wrote:

> One of the most persistent myths about the Middle Ages is
> that there was, at least in some places, a right that
> entitled a lord to sleep with the bride of a vassal on
> her wedding night. This myth has had many lives. It
> provided a useful characterization of the excesses of
> the old regime (used as such in _Braveheart_, for example)

Sure. But the most famous (world-wide) case was probablymade in
"Marriage of Figaro". :-)

Paul J. Gans

unread,
Oct 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/7/98
to
Alex Milman (am...@gte.com) wrote:


>Paul J. Gans wrote:

>> One of the most persistent myths about the Middle Ages is
>> that there was, at least in some places, a right that
>> entitled a lord to sleep with the bride of a vassal on
>> her wedding night. This myth has had many lives. It
>> provided a useful characterization of the excesses of
>> the old regime (used as such in _Braveheart_, for example)

>Sure. But the most famous (world-wide) case was probablymade in


>"Marriage of Figaro". :-)

Of course. But you wouldn't want to take fiction as having
any real significance, now would you? ;-)

---- Paul J. (Orc) Gans [ga...@panix.com]


Alex Milman

unread,
Oct 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/7/98
to

Paul J. Gans wrote:

> Alex Milman (am...@gte.com) wrote:
>
> >Paul J. Gans wrote:
>

> >> One of the most persistent myths about the Middle Ages is
> >> that there was, at least in some places, a right that
> >> entitled a lord to sleep with the bride of a vassal on
> >> her wedding night. This myth has had many lives. It
> >> provided a useful characterization of the excesses of
> >> the old regime (used as such in _Braveheart_, for example)
>

> >Sure. But the most famous (world-wide) case was probablymade in
> >"Marriage of Figaro". :-)
>
> Of course. But you wouldn't want to take fiction as having
> any real significance, now would you? ;-)

No, unless by some reason I choose to assume that it has significance
:-)

Judging by the contemporary reaction, "Marriage ..." touched a lot of
sensitive issues. Question remains how real was certain right in the
opinion of the contemporary French public. After all, things happen in
Spain (with a lot of French realities, to be sure)...

Laura Blanchard

unread,
Oct 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/7/98
to
Alex Milman wrote:

[quotes himself]


> > >Sure. But the most famous (world-wide) case was probablymade in
> > >"Marriage of Figaro". :-)
> >

[quotes Paul responding]


> > Of course. But you wouldn't want to take fiction as having
> > any real significance, now would you? ;-)
>

[comments]


> No, unless by some reason I choose to assume that it has significance

According to Charles T. Wood ("Richard III and the beginning of
historical fiction," _The Historian_ and I don't have the rest of the
cite handy), many of the medievals didn't have a clear sense of the
distinction between history and literature. There's now a trend, at
least in late medieval English history, to look at literature to see
what light it sheds on the period in ways very similar to the ways
literature scholars have looked at historical context to provide
perspective.


Regards,
Laura Blanchard
lbla...@pobox.upenn.edu

Paul J. Gans

unread,
Oct 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/7/98
to

The same trend exists, in a smaller way, with the "high"
medieval period. Our problem here in discussing this is the
assumption that there is a clear distinction between "factual"
writing and "fictional" writing. There was not. Of course
the extremes are easy for *us* to see, but the dividing line
is not.

For example, is the _Song of Roland_ history? Is the
Anglo-Saxon chronicle history? What about Geoffrey
of Monmouth? He *says* he's writing history, and the
literary form he uses is the traditional historical form.
In fact, for all I know, he may have thought he was
writing history.

A mistake, often made by us here in this newsgroup, is to
assume that there were unimpeachable medieval sources.
There are none. *EVERY* source has problems, often major
problems. When the Anglo-Saxon chronicle says it rained
blood, must I believe it? And when Chretien says that
lances are made of ash, thick and well-planed and well
seasoned, shall we toss it into the same bin as the rain
of blood?

I don't know of any chronicle that tells what wood lances
were made of or how the wood was treated. But Chretien
gives us a clue.

Alex Milman

unread,
Oct 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/8/98
to

Paul J. Gans wrote:

> A mistake, often made by us here in this newsgroup, is to
> assume that there were unimpeachable medieval sources.

Would "inapropriate relationship" between heroes be a validreason for
impeachment of this source? Or should heroes
(or author) also commit a purgery?
BTW, what will be a procedure for impeachment of the
source? :-)

> There are none.

Can Congress qualify you know whom as a "medieval source"
to simplify a procedure? :-)

> *EVERY* source has problems, often major
> problems.

You start sounding exactly as some Billi's advocates.

> When the Anglo-Saxon chronicle says it rained
> blood, must I believe it?

It depends on a definition of "rained" and "blood".Anyway, everybody lies
about bloody rain (we are
not impeaching weather forecast after all)

> And when Chretien says that
> lances are made of ash, thick and well-planed and well
> seasoned, shall we toss it into the same bin as the rain
> of blood?
>

No. We will dig out which material Chretien's opponentsused for their lances
and make this information publicly
available!
Anyway, most of the polled knights did not care as long
as lance did a good job.

> I don't know of any chronicle that tells what wood lances
> were made of or how the wood was treated. But Chretien
> gives us a clue.
>
>

And he did not swear.


Gerrit Bigalski

unread,
Oct 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/9/98
to
On 7 Oct 1998 23:04:30 -0400, ga...@panix.com (Paul J. Gans) wrote:

[...]

>A mistake, often made by us here in this newsgroup, is to
>assume that there were unimpeachable medieval sources.

>There are none.

True. There are even no unimpeachable sources for today.

>*EVERY* source has problems, often major

>problems. When the Anglo-Saxon chronicle says it rained
>blood, must I believe it? And when Chretien says that


>lances are made of ash, thick and well-planed and well
>seasoned, shall we toss it into the same bin as the rain
>of blood?

Bad example: Such things as "bloodrains" do happen. It's of course no
blood, it's dust and sand, often carried through the air thousands of
kilometers by strong winds, washed out of the air by rain.

[...]

Gerrit

Paul J. Gans

unread,
Oct 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/9/98
to

> [...]

> [...]

> Gerrit

I take your point. Let's go to "dragons were seen flying in
the sky." There's at least one of those in the Anglo-Saxon
chronicle.

On the other hand, the incidence of blood rains in Europe
seems to have decreased markedly since the Middle Ages. ;-)

David C. Pugh

unread,
Oct 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/9/98
to

Paul J. Gans wrote in message <6vlee4$o...@panix2.panix.com>...

(...)


>I take your point. Let's go to "dragons were seen flying in
>the sky." There's at least one of those in the Anglo-Saxon
>chronicle.
>

Sure about that? Lots of comets, eclipses and other heavenly portents,
reported in a sober fashion and with reservations - "However, we do not
write of it more plainly because we did not see it ourselves" - not to
mention blood welling from the earth, floods, fires, earthquakes and taxes.
I can't find any dragons.

Ekkehard of Aura has a couple of knights fighting in the sky - a new twist
for our mobility thread? It's Geoffrey of Monmouth that has the dragons - to
quote Mandy Rice-Davies, "Well, he would, wouldn't he?"

David

Gerrit Bigalski

unread,
Oct 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/10/98
to
On 9 Oct 1998 12:42:44 -0400, ga...@panix.com (Paul J. Gans) wrote:

>Gerrit Bigalski (big...@uni-muenster.de) wrote:

[...]

>> Bad example: Such things as "bloodrains" do happen. It's of course no
>>blood, it's dust and sand, often carried through the air thousands of
>>kilometers by strong winds, washed out of the air by rain.

[...]

>I take your point.

Away from me? Stealing? The way of the ... <whack>
Sorry. ;-)

[...]

>On the other hand, the incidence of blood rains in Europe
>seems to have decreased markedly since the Middle Ages. ;-)

Not really; the heyday of bloodrains, swords and crosses in the sky,
monsters born by humans and animals and weirder things seems to have
been the 16th and 17th century. On the other hand, maybe it had
something to do with the popularity of broadsheets then ... ;-)

Industrialization lead to regular strange weather phenomena, the
reason of which however was easily spotted. E. g., up to a few decades
ago in the heavy industrialized Ruhr area, laundry on the clothesline
became grey to black within a few hours just hanging there, and rain
was often black even here in Münster, about 30 km north of any
industry worth mentioning. With that, rain being a bit reddish or
leaving reddish stains was not very remarkable.

"Bloodrains" still happen, but are no more refered to as such. They
sometimes cause disasters especially in southern Germany by suddenly
making the roads slippery.

Gerrit

Warren B. Hapke

unread,
Oct 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/11/98
to
Organization: Prairienet
Distribution:

David C. Pugh (davi...@online.no) wrote:
:
: Paul J. Gans wrote in message <6vlee4$o...@panix2.panix.com>...
: >I take your point. Let's go to "dragons were seen flying in


: >the sky." There's at least one of those in the Anglo-Saxon
: >chronicle.
: >
: Sure about that? Lots of comets, eclipses and other heavenly portents,
: reported in a sober fashion and with reservations - "However, we do not
: write of it more plainly because we did not see it ourselves" - not to
: mention blood welling from the earth, floods, fires, earthquakes and taxes.
: I can't find any dragons.

Look at the entries for the year 793. In the Laud Ms. (ms. E), it reads
"ond waeron geseowne fyrene dracan on tham lyfte fleogende" (And fiery
dragons were seen flying in the air). The entry in the Parker Ms. (ms. A)
is virtually identical. You can find the OE texts in Plummer & Earle,
Two of the Saxon Chronicles, Parallel (Oxford, 1892), v1, pp. 50-1.
The dragons are listed as one of several portents of ill-fortune for
that year.

Warren B. Hapke
wbh...@prairienet.org


Tony Jebson

unread,
Oct 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/11/98
to
Warren B. Hapke wrote:
[snip]

> Look at the entries for the year 793. In the Laud Ms. (ms. E), it
> reads "ond waeron geseowne fyrene dracan on tham lyfte fleogende"
> (And fiery dragons were seen flying in the air). The entry in the
> Parker Ms. (ms. A) is virtually identical.

I made the same mistake when I looked at Plummer as well: the
version on the left page is from F not A...

The annal for 793 is not in ABC but is a "northern" annal only
found in DEF.

As you said, this portent is one of several that year, just
before the destruction of the church at Lindisfarne later
that year by 'heathenra manna'. I wonder if they were meant
to be taken literally or were a concious imitation of biblical
portents.

> You can find the OE texts in Plummer & Earle, Two of the Saxon
> Chronicles, Parallel (Oxford, 1892), v1, pp. 50-1.

Hmm.. I guess you have a slightly different edition: it's on
p54-5 in my 1972 reprint.

--- Tony Jebson

David C. Pugh

unread,
Oct 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/12/98
to

Warren B. Hapke wrote in message <2t9U1.170$5F.33@firefly>...

>Look at the entries for the year 793. In the Laud Ms. (ms. E), it reads
>"ond waeron geseowne fyrene dracan on tham lyfte fleogende" (And fiery
>dragons were seen flying in the air). The entry in the Parker Ms. (ms. A)

>is virtually identical. You can find the OE texts in Plummer & Earle,


>Two of the Saxon Chronicles, Parallel (Oxford, 1892), v1, pp. 50-1.

>The dragons are listed as one of several portents of ill-fortune for
>that year.

Silly me. What happened, Warren, is that I word-searched my home-made
data-base of source material, forgetting that the ASC starts a good deal
before it does. At least I can say that the ASC doesn't mention dragons
after 1071, for what that's worth.......

David

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