International Medieval Society, Paris
Société Internationale des Médiévistes, Paris

Symposium 2005 Abstracts

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Symposium Program

"The Households of the Counts of Armagnac in the Late Middle Ages"
Timur Pollack-Lagushenko, Wright State University

Little is known about the households of southern French aristocrats for the period between the Albigensian crusade and the union of the houses of Albret and Bourbon in the sixteenth century. This paper uses fiscal sources to reconstruct life in the household of Bernard VII, count of Armagnac (reigned 1391-1418), who played an important political and military role in the later phases of the Hundred Years’ War. On a daily basis, the count’s household brought together one to two hundred residents and visitors, and over the course of a year as many as five hundred individuals spent some time at the count’s table. The available evidence suggests that this represented substantial growth relative to the southern courts frequented by the troubadours during the twelfth century. On the eve of the fifteenth century, the counts of Armagnac assumed unprecedented roles as both regional power-brokers and as actors in aristocratic intrigues dividing the royal family. A prosopographical analysis shows that men who dined with Bernard VII at the end of the fourteenth century, whether or not he was their lord, went on to serve in his military household during the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War (1410-1435). The household served to broaden the count’s contacts beyond the circle of his direct vassals.

This paper also considers the cultural and political roles of women within the households of the Armagnac family. Like other southern aristocrats, the counts of Armagnac looked increasingly to the Francophone north for their wives and the partners for their children. Women like Bonne de Berry seemed to have assisted, or perhaps even promoted, two types of transformations. First, breaking with an important southern tradition, the count’s wife avoided direct and independent involvement in comital government, even though the outbreak of the civil war required that many important decisions be made in Bernard VII’s absence. Second, Bonne seems to have preferred to confine her activities to the familial, cultural and religious spheres. As governance and counsel became more clearly a masculine activity, women focused their energies on the intimate side of familial life and on the cultural networks that governed the life of the court.