remained in the
bands during their lifetimes, though wives’ po- tential claims meant their participation was required if dowry or marriage-gift lands and rights were alienated. But death took its toll of brothers and husbands, and the throw of reproductive dice meant that some couples would produce only daughters. When men died, their widows took control of dowries and marriage gifts and, often enough, of their husbands’ entire honors. If the men were not married, it was sometimes their mothers who succeeded. Here is one example, particularly instructive because of the person in- volved. When Berenger of Puisserguier died in
do justice, collect tolls , command castles, give oaths of fidelity and receive them, and in every way act as a [lady] lord. Indeed, the very language of oaths of fidelity and the boilerplate formulas that scribes employed when they drew up con- veyances assumed that women would play such political roles. Both Latin and Occitan had gram- matically gendered but semantically neutral words for “a person”: “persona” and “om” or “hom” (from Latin “homo”). Yet in order to be sive the person who swore the oath of fidelity promised:
if a man or a woman
he left his entire honor to his mother. After her death, his two castles, Puisserguier and rensac, his right to “protect” merchants on the
take this castle by force I will make no agreement nor associate with them nor come to their aid with- out the consent of [you, the
and Narbonne, and his
other properties and rights were to be divided be- tween his two brothers. If they were to die with- out legitimate heirs, he ordered, one sister was to have Puisserguier and the other Berenger of Puisserguier was the only person we know of to challenge Ermengard of Narbonne’s justice -unsuccessfully- because she was
Similarly, the guarantee clause in conveyances regularly reads, “if any man or woman or any per-
son seeks to break this agreement”
therefore should not be surprised to discover
(si quis autem fmina aut ulLzpe7son~2). Rix-
joining a posse of village lords in at-
a tacking some mills on the Orb River when she
He doubtless picked up the idea from someone trained in the newly revived Roman Law, but whatever else the experience may have taught him, it did not get in the way of his pur- suing a traditional family strategy of leaving pos- sessions, including castles and rights of justice, to women when he dictated his will.
claimed a share in those mills and their tenants as her own, nor to watch the wife of Bernard of Nis- san taking revenge on her husband’s enemy when the two men were fighting over a castle they jointly
In this society, women were expected to have a
role and a voice.
consequences might this
Under the appropriate circumstances, it was fully expected that women would control
social fact have for our interpretation of
24. J. Rouquene, ed.,
Grrmkzire de P&&s (Live Noir)
contains the famous sentences: “Therefore sit in judgment and examine
That story is told in a series of letters to and from King Louis VII:
Recueildes historims 0.2s Gauks mattets
et France, one with the diligent zeal of Him
who created you a woman when He could have created you a man and of his great goodness gave the rule of the province of into a woman’s hands. On no account may anyone by our authority refuse to be subject to your jurisdiction because you
Ermengard HGL ~01s. 5
in Music Scholarship ([Berkeley: U
I), Ruth A.
are a woman.” One may wonder what 26. Numerous oaths are printed in
thought of this language.
and 8, as well as in
In her introduction to
has emphasized an important
feature of the “discourses of the West: the everyday terms we use for human subjectivity make universal claims but are nonethe- less situated as male within cultural practice.” The evidence of Occitan oaths suggests that this observation does not entirely per-
tain to Medieval Occitania.
147; HGL 5~790.
Women in Troubadour Song