Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Meandering Adventures of Cognatic Inheritance

There are numerous ways in which titles can be passed, but primogeniture, where the eldest child inherits all of the titles, is one of the most well-recognised inheritance systems in the West. But this system has a problem: which child is considered the oldest? Is it the first-born, male or female (absolute primogeniture)? Is it the eldest male (agnatic primogeniture)? Or is it the eldest male, or the eldest female if there is no male (cognatic primogeniture)? In different countries, there are different rules, and these are but three of them.

For the sake of this discussion, let us just focus on one: cognatic primogeniture. Cognatic succession can be anathema to a dynasty. If a dynasty is patrilineal, then cognatic succession can allow a title—or all the tiles—to separate from that patrilineal line. Thus, cognatic titles can appear over generations as wayward travellers, traversing several dynasties in only a few generations. Such problems rarely impact agnatic succession systems, or seniority, or elective monarchies because all of those systems favour men more absolutely. But cognatic succession systems, even if they favour elder male children over female children, inevitably will revert the succession to a female line (a cognate).

There are numerous polities throughout Western European history that have allowed women to succeed, and sometimes those titles pass through numerous female holders. Generally—although not always—a female title holder will share her titles with her husband so long as she is alive, at which point the titles pass to her eldest child or to her nearest relative. Thus, just because a system allows female transmission of titles does not mean she gains exclusive use of those titles. Some women certainly insist upon exclusive regnal prerogatives, but not all of them. In other words, men still often become counts or kings when their wives hold the rights. Legally, this practice is called suo uxoris (by right of wife) and suo uxoris titles rarely outlast the woman from whom the titles derive.

There are a number of important cases of monarchies which were ruled, and indeed dictated, by the precepts of cognatic succession. Some of the most famous—England, Denmark, Russia, and Spain—rarely actually operated off of cognatic succession or, when they did, they often skipped women in favour of eldest sons. But a few polities, specifically many in France, experienced multiple female rulers throughout their existences.

The Lost Kingdom of Spain
Perhaps the most notorious European kingdom to experience the potential upheavals of cognatic succession was the Pyrenean kingdom of Navarre. Established in the mid-ninth century as one of two crusader states that began the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, Navarre's dalliance with cognatic succession did not begin until the Jiménez line of kings went extinct in 1234. Because of its Basque origins, Navarre had accepted the tenets of cognatic succession even if it never used such laws. The crown passed to a French lord, Thibaut IV, count of Champagne, whose mother had been the sister of the last Jiménez king, Sancho VII. For the next 80 years, the Champagnois ruled Navarre.

The kings and queens of Navarre, 1150 – 1643
Jeanne I, queen of Navarre and countess
of Champagne and Brie
In 1274, the last Champengois ruler, Jeanne I, married the future Philippe IV of France, thereby unifying Navarre with the French crown for the next 54 years. Philippe adopted the title of king at the time of his marriage, and their son Louis became the next king of Navarre in 1305 when Jeanne died. His brothers, Philippe and Charles, and then his daughter, Jeanne II, all held the royal title during their lifetime. But with Jeanne, the title once again was held alongside her husband, Philippe III. When she died in 1349, her son, Charles II, and then grandson, Charles III, followed her on the throne.

Yet another upheaval came in 1425 when Charles III's daughter, Zuria I, succeeded him. Her husband, Juan II (future king of Aragón) seized the royal title more decisively than was usual and when she died in 1441, he kept the royal title against her will, depriving his son and eldest daughter their due rights. Their younger daughter, Leonor, succeeded briefly in 1479 only after he had died. Her grandson, François Phoebus, reigned for four years after her death, and then her daughter, Catherine, became the next queen, ruling alongside her husband, Jean III d'Albret. During their reign, most of the kingdom was conquered by Aragón, leaving only a small portion on the northern side of the Pyrenees for them to rule.

Jeanne III d'Albret, queen of Navarre and
countess of Foix
Catherine died in 1517 leaving the crown to her son, Henri II. He, in turn, left yet another daughter, Jeanne III, as his heir. Jeanne took the throne in 1555 alongside her husband, Antoine de Vendôme, who ruled briefly until 1562. When Jeanne died in 1572, their son, Henri III, succeeded and began the ultimate end of Navarrese independence. Shortly after succeeding, he became the heir to the French throne through their laws of strict agnatic primogeniture. He became king of France as Henri IV in 1589, unifying for a second time the French and Navarrese crowns. But this time, it became permanent. His son, Louis XIII of France, permanently ended Navarre's independence in 1620, permanently unifying the kingdom to France. Thus, when the titular Louis XVII died in a French revolutionary prison in 1795, the claim to Navarre did not pass to his sister, but rather to his uncle, Louis XVIII, and subsequent French kings. France and Navarre, united twice, became bound together permanently due to cognatic succession.

The Itinerant French County
The case of cognatic succession can get just as extreme, if not more so, when impacting a county. The tiny county of Boulogne on the French side of the English Channel is one such case. Originally granted to Baudouin II of Flanders as a fief, it passed through a series of men until the line came to an end with Mathilde I in 1125. Mathilde was married to none other than Stephen of Blois, the future king of England. Stephen never became count of Blois, but he did assert his wife's titles from 1125 until 1151, when Mathilde died. At this point, the title passed to two of his sons in succession before falling to his eldest surviving daughter, Marie I. Like Mathilde, Marie ruled alongside her husband Mathieu of Alsace, but their marriage was not amicable. In 1170, they divorced, but Mathieu continued to claim the comital title until his death in 1173 (she lived until 1182). While this practice was unusual, it was not unheard of and paralleled the usurpation of Juan II of Aragón, above.

The rulers of Boulogne and later rulers of Auvergne, 1087 – 1653
Mathieu and Marie had a daughter, Ida, who became one of the most highly desirable heiresses in northern France. She married four times and each of her four husbands took her titles as his own. Her final marriage to Renaud, count of Aumâle, was forced upon her by the king against her wishes. Her husband proved a recalcitrant vassal, too, and fought against Philippe II Auguste of France until he was ultimately imprisoned. Ida's daughter by Renaud, Mathilde II, succeeded her in 1216 and was almost immediately betrothed to Philippe Hurepel, Philippe's son of questionable legitimacy. Suddenly, the Capetian family had taken hold of Boulogne through cognatic marriage.

Jeanne II, duchess of Berry and countess of Boulogne
Philippe Hurepel, though, did not live more than a decade and in 1235, Mathilde married the future king of Portugal, Afonso [III]. But both marriages proved childless and the succession passed to her nearest senior heir, who happened to be another woman: Adelaide, wife of Guillaume III of Auvergne. For the next four generations, Boulogne and Auvergne would be linked together via a succession of male rulers. However, both titles were transmittable via cognatic primogeniture and eventually fell to Jeanne I, who married in 1338 Philippe, son of the duke of Burgundy. She later married, after his death, King Jean II of France, once again binding the fate of Boulogne to that of the Capetians. But the county escaped outright annexation through sheer dynastic bad luck when her son, Philippe, died young in 1461. Her titles then passed to her paternal uncle, Jean II. Jean's granddaughter, Jeanne II, almost dragged the dynasty into the Capetian fold for a third time since she was married to Jean, duke of Berry, an uncle of King Charles VI. Indeed, the county was elevated to a duchy at this time (although the duchy was, oddly, separate from the county). But their childlessness allowed the titles to be transmitted to yet another female relative, Marie II, whose husband had already died by the time she succeeded to Boulogne and Auvergne.

Catherine de' Medici, queen of France
and countess of Auvergne
For the first time in Boulogne's history, there was a female regnant countess not beholden to her husband's whims or the demand that she be married again after being widowed. Marie lived until 1437, at which point her male progeny succeeded her, members of the House of La Tour. The county of Boulogne was annexed to the royal domain in 1501 after the last male of the line died, but the county of Auvergne passed to his daughter, Anne, whose husband was so preoccupied with Scottish affairs that she, too, had virtually full control over her ancestral county. When she died in 1524, the Auvergne title passed to her niece, Catherine de' Medici, who became queen of France through her marriage with Henri II and served as regent for her three sons, who reigned in succession, the last of the Valois kings of France. Auvergne became an embattled title from this point forward. The title was claimed by her son-in-law, Charles III, duke of Lorraine, until 1608, when it was seized by Catherine's daughter Marguerite, who had been married to Henri IV of France until they divorced in 1599. When Louis XIII of France became king in 1610, his government seized the Auvergne title claiming next-of-kin, although there were others who had a better claim. Concurrently in 1589, the Auvergne lands (but not titles) went to Charles, the illegitimate son of King Charles IX, who claimed them invariably until his death in 1650, after which his son, Louis-Emanuel claimed them for a few more years. At his death, the lands were seized by Louis XIII. The long history of cognatic descent in Boulogne and Auvergne saw it pass through numerous major and minor noble houses before it ultimately was appended to the many claims of the House of Bourbon, just as Navarre had been annexed slightly earlier.

Cognatic succession, therefore, can work in opposition to the generally clean successions provided by male-dominated modes. While from a gender standpoint it should make no difference whether a title passes to a son or a daughter, the geo-political situation in Western Europe until recently meant that most titles were held and descended through male lines to stop rogue cognatic titles such as Navarre and Boulogne-Auvergne from causing trouble. Their capacity to briefly attach themselves to others' titles meant that polities allowing cognatic succession such as these proved difficult to permanently attach to any one dynasty for more than a few generations.

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