Language for acts registration at the French Royal Chancery: a fresh look at the data


The simple query of part of the protocol formula [ dei gratia francorum ] in the HIMANIS search engine return results that confirm what we already know about language used by the French Royal Chancery for recording acts.

Some warning.

  1. The complete formula ([name of the king] dei gratia Francorum rex…) is often skip and replace by “[name of the king] etc.”
  2. As the search engine is not yet lemmatized, distinction is made between “gratia” and “gracia”. To have more precise results, one can add the results of a second query [ dei gracia francorum ]
  3. Some noise might also be introduced by the vidimus copy of an act within an act.

Nevertheless, as from the first register (JJ35) the French Royal Chancery used both Latin and French and that one prevailed over the other at different periods, all major transitions are outlined by this query.

Serge Lusignan, in his 2004 book La langue des rois au Moyen Âge, point out how langage used evolved. From his observations, we can explain the major breaks-up in the following graph that we made from our query (number of query results are in red in the graph; in blue are the total number of acts for each register):

  1. JJ35-49: French is seldom used as language of registration by Philippe IV (5%)
  2. French is a little more used by Philippe IV two elder sons: JJ50-52 Louis X (19%) ; JJ53-60: Philippe V (10%).
  3. JJ53-65A: The French conquest begins slowly under his younger son, Charles IV (11% at the beginning; 26% at the end).
  4. JJ65B-79: Major break-up appears during the reign of Philippe VI. No reason is known, but in October 1330 French overthrow Latin for around 80% of act are registered in French from this date.
  5. JJ80-95: When Jean II become king (JJ80), Latin regain his place (2% of French only) until his capture. During the Regency of the Dolphin Charles (JJ84-95), French progressively take back his ground: from 32 % in 1358 it reaches 75% by the end of 1360. Back from his captivity, Latin is back again, but not with the past glory (21% French).
  6. JJ96-117: When Charles V becomes king in 1364 what today could be named a “Language policy” is put in place. From now, language is determined by the nature of the act recorded: French for remission; Latin for ennoblement, legitimation, Amortization and almost everything Church related. As Remission count for 62% of the registered act during his reign, French became predominant from now on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.