Le traître, les marchands et les deux corps du roi: responsabilité juridique et réflexion politique autour de l’élection de Jean Ier du Portugal à la fin du XIVe siècle

Translated title of the contribution: The traitor, the merchants and the king's two bodies: legal obligations and political ideas about the election of John I, king of Portugal, in the late fourteenth century

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Abstract

This article presents a detailed analysis of two legal and political imbroglios created by the dynastic crisis of 1383-1385 in Portugal and touching on the relations between the latter and the Republic of Genoa. Both cases raised the problem of determining the extent to which a king could be constrained by the obligations that bound their predecessors: specifically, whether or not the privileges and properties granted by the previous kings of Portugal to the first admiral of the kingdom, the Genoese Manuel Pessanha, and his successors, by reason of the office of admiral, were binding on the newly installed King John I (r. 1385-1433); and whether or not the latter was legally obligated to pay damages to two Genoese merchants, Lucianus and Obertus Spinola, for the seizure of one of their ships, by order of John I’s predecessor, Ferdinand I (r. 1367-1383). These questions prompted the writing of three legal consultations, two of which by the famous Perugian jurist Baldus de Ubaldis (m. 1400) – and relatively familiar to historians of late medieval political thought – and a third one, unpublished and largely unknown, by the college of civil law professors of the University of Bologna. This article proposes a novel reading of these three consultations, based on a thorough reconstruction of the events to which they refer, pieced together from documentary materials and contemporary chronicles. This exercise allows one to capture precisely the intimate connexion between the ideas developed in the three consultations – which explore, on the whole, the theoretical foundations and the practical and juristic implications of the public action of the king, that is to say, those acts of the king that were carried out in the name of his royal dignitas, as a public person – and the socio-political circumstances of late fourteenth-century Portugal. Contrary to previous scholarship, which has reduced the ideas that Baldus develops in his two consultations to a purely theoretical, and arguably universal, essence, this article contends that they were, like the arguments laid out by the Bolognese civilians, not only deeply and directly informed by their Portuguese context – and largely unintelligible if disconnected from it – but also a likely influence on the conduct of King John I with respect to Genoa and, more broadly, to the stabilisation of the political society of the kingdom, after the upheaval caused by more than a decade of intermittent warfare culminating in a dynastic break. Put another way, rather than being perceived exclusively as juristic writings articulating a learned political analysis, the three consultations under examination here should be interpreted as so many constituent parts of a political reality that they helped to shape and to understand. This article also ventures the hypothesis that the two consultations by Baldus are evidence of a subtle evolution of his thinking on the problem of accommodating the juristic recognition of constraints on the exercice of monarchical power – namely, the obligation to honour a contract or to accede to a demand for financial compensation – and the political reality of a pure power unfettered by those constraints. In his consultations, Baldus outlines a framework for the exercise of monarchical power that places the locus of those constraints not on the person of the king but on the apparatus of government, which becomes tangible in Baldus’s reasoning by the description of the fisc as a function of government and the institutional expression of the res publica and by the formulation of the interrelationship between the latter and the public essence of royal authority.
Translated title of the contributionThe traitor, the merchants and the king's two bodies: legal obligations and political ideas about the election of John I, king of Portugal, in the late fourteenth century
Original languageFrench
Article number1
Pages (from-to)555-592
Number of pages38
JournalRevue historique
Volume699
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • 14th century
  • Portugal
  • Genoa
  • Baldus de Ubaldis
  • Consilia
  • Royal power

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