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Cartulary of Saint Trond:
The Inheritance Laws of Liège and Brusthem, 1175

While primogeniture was becoming the rule in England, Flanders retained the old system of division of the property of a dead man. Relief, protection of the interests of the widow, mortgages, and other matters pertaining to inheritance were all determined by this law which formed part of a grant of liberty by Gerard, Count of Loos, to the citizens of Brusthem. This grant was modeled on a charter previously granted to the city of Liège.

C.III. If any one after the death of his ancestor should seek his legacy from the lord of that inheritance, he who seeks the inheritance shall give to the lord as much tax as the desired land yields in money as land tax. If the heir seeks his legacy within a year and a day, the lord shall have nothing outstanding against that property. But if the heir does not claim within the specified time, the lord shall inquire about the heir from the reeve of the land. If he should come and, in seeking his heritage, pay what is required of him according to the highest tax which is paid in money as land tax, when he takes up his legacy he shall go free. But if the heir should neglect to come to seek his heritage, the lord ought to wait for another year and a day. And then if he does not come before this time the reeve will consider the lord able to do as he pleases with the land.

C.IX. Concerning pledges of possessions and inheritances this shall be the law: that none may lawfully take possession of house and hereditament except the reeve and judges witness the transaction. And, on the contrary, no one may contest, except on the testimony of the same reeve and judges, any such pledge or at any time have money under the name of a pledge on any one's property.

C.XII. The wife, after her husband's death, shall have lawful possession of everything, home and other possessions, even though she has not been put in possession by her husband, and even though she has no heir by him. Even if an heir be left her by her dead husband, she may give or sell to whomsoever she pleases the inheritance which her husband has left as though he had no heir. But when he has an heir, no man may seek to marry her to obtain it, nor may she give away or diminish the inheritance of a son or daughter, but she shall remain content with the usufruct during her lifetime. Even if the widow remain unmarried, it shall not be lawful for her to sell or take unlawful possession of the children's inheritance, unless she can show clear necessity by reason of poverty, or because the heir or heirs refuse to supply her with the necessities of life. And be it known that what the wife cannot do is likewise illicit for the husband. If parents, both living, should give some of their property or possessions to their sons or daughters by marriage, they may arbitrarily give one more and another less, as they wish. This may not be done if one or the other, father or mother, be dead. But let the whole inheritance be divided among all the heirs. And as the wife, on the death of her husband, gains lawful possession of all his goods and property, so too with regard to the possessions of the wife, the same law should prevail. If any one shall have a possession or inheritance, he may lawfully pass over all his relatives and mortgage it to strangers. But if he should wish to sell it, he ought first to offer it in the presence of witnesses to his relative, and if the relative does not buy it when it is offered, the vender may not afterwards justly reclaim it. And he who shall sell an inheritance shall give to the purchaser a surety who shall take care of the transferred inheritance for a year and a day. The buyer shall then hold that possession in peace. From the time of the giving of this pledge the vender ought to be free, and the other ought to hold his property in perpetual peace. If, however, after one relative has inherited the property, a closer relative shall reclaim it from the buyer within the year, the first relative must repay the full price paid him for the property and get back his relative's inheritance. And if the buyer gets back the full price which he paid for the inheritance, then the vender shall be free from the pledge he has given.


C. Piot, ed., Cartulaire de l'Abbaye de Saint-Trond, (Brussels: Academie Royale de Belgique, 1870), pp. 124-127; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 341-343.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, October 1998


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