Featured A French feudal denier parisis ...and a cool castle

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by +VGO.DVCKS, Aug 11, 2020.


    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Here's a fun one, if you like this sort of thing.
    Robert II, ‘le Jeune,’ Comte de Dreux 1188-1218. AR denier parisis of Dreux.

    Obv. [in two lines, partly retrograde:] HC-O [/] M[E]S (‘A COMES;’ of the Count.)
    (Apparently a combination of the genitive case in Old French, à, with the more conventional, formulaic Medieval Latin comes. Other feudal issues, at least from the 12th century, have a similar juxtaposition of linguistic elements. Reminiscent of the formula of later Anglo-Saxon -Angevin English pennies, with the royal name and title in Latin, and the moneyer's signature in Old -Middle English.)
    [From 3 o’clock:] X MI: ROBERTVS (“+ME[I?] ROBERTVS;” [of?] me, Robert).
    Rev. Cross, Alpha (‘/\’) in lower right and (inverted) upper left angles.
    +DRVCAS CASTA (Castle of Dreux).
    (Boudeau 4, Duplessy 421, Legros 113, Poey d’Avant 91, Roberts 3935.)
    This is one of a relatively few instances of French feudal coinage which imitate the royal Capetian denier parisis, a type first issued by Robert's paternal uncle, Louis VII (1137-1180). (Cf. Duplessy, Royales 143-8; Roberts 251-253 (/pp. 134-5) for the prototype; ibid., pp. 236-7 for its diffusion in the feudal series.) Of the feudal imitations, most of them share two resonant characteristics. They occur during or shortly after the reign of Philippe II, under whom the expansion of the Capetian royal demesne accelerated exponentially. ...Not only thanks to the liquidation of most of the so-called Angevin Empire, across the west of modern France. (Broadly evocative of Voltaire, regarding a vaguely comparable polity: 'neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.') Within his own, internationally undisputed borders, Philippe was cleaning up. Notably in the northeast, where most of the feudal imitations of the parisis type came from. There, a town or small county at a time, the process involved the adroit and relentless exploitation of existing feudal law.


    Left: Tomb of Robert II at the Abbey of Saint-Yved de Braine. The comital necropolis includes the tombs of Robert's sons, Robert III of Dreux and Pierre 'Mauclerc' of Brittany. (Cf. the Wikipedia article on the abbey (en francais): http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Église_abbatiale_Saint-Yved_de_Braine). Above his head are the arms of the senior branch of Dreux, checquy or and azure. (Picture from Wikimedia Commons: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Robert2Dreux.jpg.)
    Right: Tomb of Robert's son and heir, Robert III, Comte de Dreux, obit. 1233. (Scanned from a plate in Adhemar, Jean. Gazette des beaux-arts. Vol 84. Paris: Gazette des beaux-arts, 1974. Now accessible from Wikimedia Commons.)
    Within the confines of his milieu, Robert II kind of did the whole thing. He was in the Third and the first of the Albigensian crusades, going on to command a wing at the Battle of Bouvines in 1214. (...Frankly more than I care to get into at the moment. The English Wiki article is concise and, for the genre, impressively documented:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_II,_Count_of_Dreux .)
    Back to the numismatics, though, this is the kind of convergence that collectors of earlier feudal coins, especially French ones, live for. (Thank you, largely in place of the aesthetics.) In this instance, you get a coin from a conspicuously small feudal polity, issued in an individual's name, with relatively minimal or negligable immobilization. (i.e., reliably contemporaneous. The whole French series is notorious for immobilizations, continuing for centuries at a time, over the later 10th -13th centuries. The extreme cases are datable at all by engraving style, and other criteria, of increasing arcanity, pertaining to hoard evidence. --Alexander III: take a back seat!) Add to this an issuing authority who, in turn, is better known from primary sources than the lot of them, and you've hit all three bases.
    Instead of that, can we talk about castles? Especially Really Cool ones?


    Aerial view of the Chateau de Nesles-en-Dole (/Seringues-et-Nesles), Ile-de-France, built by Robert III, c. 1219-1226. The donjon and twin-towered gatehouse are in the foreground of the first picture.
    (See esp. Mesqui, Chateau Forts, 1997, pp. 265-6. Picture from the website of the French newspaper, L'Union: http://www.lunion.presse.fr/diaporama/vu-du-ciel?idx=4. Here's one web page that's okay for an outline of its construction: http://www.castles.nl/nesles-castle.)
    To (otherwise) cut to the chase, what I like so much about this castle is how the donjon, to the left of the main, twin-towered gateway (foreground), is placed so as to actively defend the primary approach (at least with archery, etc.), rather than being your stereotypical 'keep,' cowering in a far corner of the courtyard, as the final resort of the defenders. ...A principle to which even its then state-of-the-art prototype, Dourdan (built by Philippe II at the end of his reign; finished in 1222), continued to adhere. (Cf. Baldwin, The Government of Philip Augustus, 1986 /'91, pp. 300-1.)
    This single innovation marks Nesles as a primary transition point in the evolution of castle architecture over the course of the 13th century. Robert III's architects were effectively reinventing the function of the donjon /keep, anticipating Edward I's famous 'concentric' castles in Wales (built c. 1280s to 1300s) by better than a generation. ...While providing a temporary check to Edward's (and his architect, Peter of Savoy's) more avant garde feature, the abandonment of the keep altogether.
    ...More broadly, the first three decades or so of the 13th century represent a kind of crystallization in European medieval history, only more resonantly from a multidisciplinary approach. It might be most explicit in France. In reference to the 'anarchy' of the preceding millennium and a half, Petit-Dutaillis asserts that "[a]t the beginning of the thirteenth century, this anarchy seemed irremediable, for the French baron was master in his own house." (The Feudal Monarchy in France and England. Tr. E. D. Hunt. 1964. P. 289.) From the reign of Philippe II, the tide of royal hegemony finally began to turn. But meanwhile, Gothic art, starting with architecture, was on its way toward its first, fully realized apogee. And the aristocracy were still able to appropriate this, along with other salient features of what was happening culturally. From their varied, and no less substantive origins in the 12th century, things like heraldry, the ethos of courtly love, and what, more generally, would evolve into the ideals of chivalry --very much as such-- were given a key handful of decades to reach their first full coalescence.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
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  3. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    One or two points -- the denier parisis bearing the name of Robert de Dreux was (and possibly still is) a point of contention between antiquarians, numismatists and historians. For instance Boudeau adds it to Robert I, so contemporary with the large issue of the same denomination minted by Louis VII in the wake of the Second Crusade, which Robert also joined himself (and had to have access to both bullion and coinage). On the other hand, P. Spufford (Money and Its Use in Medieval Europe p. 199) assigns these to Robert II but also an immobilisee issue continued by Robert III well into the 13th century.

    But they are scarce. For instance in the Hoard of Gisors, from 11375 coins, Dreux is represented by around 100 specimens. So a prolonged minting for the type seems unlikely, at least if we compare it to other known contemporary types immobilisee like for instance the denier of La Marche, which is everywhere. Also, the type is not singularly a product of Dreux -- seigneuries close to the Capetians like Abbeville, Saint Quentin or Boulogne also struck these deniers parisii, and the Dreux issue is likely contemporary. We also know that starting with 1191, Philippe II Augustus pushed for a regularization of the coinage in the Kingdom proper and the domains of the vassals of the Crown. Thus the deniers parisii of said seigneuries have to point to this period and to Philippe's idea of unification and stability. Philippe minted his own parisii in the 1190s (ca. 1191 onwards) so these other parisii should date from that period, making this issue of Dreux a Robert II issue.

    You might also check out my post on Robert de Dreux with a parisis from the Hoard of Gisors: https://www.cointalk.com/threads/a-...-ii-de-dreux-from-the-hoard-of-gisors.342225/

    And on the very beginning of feudalism in the general area of Dreux -- namely Nogent-le-Roi: https://www.cointalk.com/threads/th...in-france-seigneurie-de-nogent-le-roi.340754/

    and Dreux-Chateau: https://www.cointalk.com/threads/th...gneurie-de-nogent-le-roi.340754/#post-3835111
    Sulla80, Alegandron, Cucumbor and 2 others like this.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Many thanks, Seth, for your comments, especially the valued qualifications. --Starting with your citation of Spufford. The first goof on the initial post that jumped out at me was my neglect to point out how the feudal deniers parisis are very proximate to the issues from various royal mints, not only chronologically, but geographically. (Northeast, more or less Picardy up to the border of Flanders.) But even better, I was racking my brain for that dim memory of the Robert denier having possibly been continued by Robert III. (Gulp, Full Disclosure Notice: I don't have a copy of Legros, and only cite him from responsible listings on the web --.cgb, inumis, etc.) At press time, I couldn't find anything. ...The Spufford citation is invaluable. Massive thanks. ...Gonna price the book online.
    ...Proceeding to your other brilliant posts. I should spend real time with your one on the Gisors Hoard, and everything else you've already posted. I had no idea even that the deposit date was as late as mid-13th c. ...Otherwise, Wow. Great minds think alike, or something. My examples of Hugues of Dreux and Roger of Nogent are both fragments; the other deniers parisis run to being a little better than yours. ...I was contemplating starting a post on Renaud de Dammartin, Comte de Boulogne, to complement this one, but I better double check what you've already said about him!
    More broadly, in the case of the feudal parises (sic), I wonder whether the motivations of the issuing authorities inhabited something of a spectrum. Some of them, notably Renaud, may have seen the imitation of the latest royal type --but in their own name (conspicuously in the issues of Boulogne)-- as an almost ironic reassertion of feudal semi-autonomy, beyond mere concession to royal convention. To pontificate, the first half of the 13th century in France has particular fascination for the machinations of various feudal princes to reassert their autonomy, now that, for the interval in question, royal ascendancy is already on what looks like an inexorable upward trajectory. (...With the benefit of eight centuries of hindsight!)
    It's no accident that this happens more or less contemporaneously to what was happening in England, with the Magna Carta war(s), and the 'Barons' War' (and its immediate aftermath) in the closing years of Henry III. It was almost a case of the French aristocracy reacting to the same kind of royal overreach that the Anglo-Normans were seeing, but in a different context, and commensurately with that much less civic-minded window dressing. ...Ironically (or not), Henry III contributed money and entire campaigns to several of the best-known baronial revolts in France, in the interests of leveraging the return of some of the Angevin Empire (...dumb construct; running with it anyway).
    ...My two cents, for what they're worth. ...And for now, to make further resort to combined cliche, that's all the fat lady wrote.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
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  5. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    I've seen so few deniers of Nogent and Dreux-Chateau outside of France, and rather few in France also that I'd like to see any, especially ones that have details of the structure that looks a lot like an early Romanesque cathedral and might be an actual structure that Roger and Hugo Bardoul knew and held as a reference.
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  6. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    This is the Countess of Vermandois, with her own denier parisis:

    Alienor de Vermandois (1182/1192-1213)
    AR19mm 0.86g denier parisis, minted at Saint Quentin, ca. 1192-1210
    X CO. VIROMENDI; ALI / ENO in field in 2 lines
    + S' QVINTINVS; cross with w stars in first and third quarters
    Boudeau 1922, Poey d'Avant #6690.
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    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Roger that! I do have pictures of these (...unless I'm wrong). Will add them to your post. ...Got an errand to run at the moment (safe-ish, coin-related); Hold me to that!
    seth77 likes this.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Congrats! I know (...a little) about how tough these are to find, and it's easy to appreciate how you prioritized the strike over the present state of the flan.
    For those in radioland: One serious problem with French 'billon' of the period, versus, for instance, the Roman kind, is that, in convergence with the thinness of the flans, the main alloy is tin, instead of copper or a preexisting alloy of bronze. This sh-t is Fragile. ...Kind of underscoring the function of the operant coins as miniature historical documents. ...In this collective case, often enough to the preclusion of more obvious aesthetic criteria. ...Except, the next most affordable alternative is vellum, even a leaf at a time, and who can manage that, except on a really good day?
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Just landed a copy of Spufford! Thanks again, seth77.
    seth77 likes this.
  10. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

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  11. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    ...Shoot, it still has to get here! ...I'm betting, though, that you could be good for Lots of suggestions for books.... I like to just go ahead and buy anything good enough, if it isn't priced like a used car. Libraries anywhere near here (including academic ones) aren't good for much.
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