"It is the contention of this book that there was a notion of international law in the medieval period, and more specifically in the period 700 to 1200. It examines and analyses the ways and the extent to which such as system of rules was known and followed in the Middle Ages by exploring treaties as the main source of international law, and by following a known framework of evidencing it: that it was practised on a daily basis; that there was a reliance upon justification of action; that the majority of international legal rules were consistently obeyed; and finally, that it had the function to resolve disputed questions of fact and law. This monograph further considers problems such as enforcement, deterrence, authority, and jurisdiction, considering carefully how they can be observed in the medieval evidence, and challenging traditional ideas over their role and function in the history of international law. This monograph then, attempts to make a leap forward in thinking about how rulers, communities, and political entities conducted diplomacy and regulated their interactions with each other in a period before fully fledged nation states.
Few historical problems have received so much attention among those studying the modern period and so little attention among medieval scholars as that of peacemaking. In the medieval period, peace was intrinsically linked to Christianity. As peace was seen as the perfect realisation of the laws of God, peace in the medieval period also became a standard justification for war. This book develops Professor Christopher Holdsworth's ideas and to put these, and other, common themes into a wider context by examining two case studies: peacemaking involving the kings of England and their neighbours in Britain and on the continent; and that involving the kings of Denmark and their neighbours. For England, the investigation looks at the reigns of Henry II and his sons, Richard I and John, encompassing the period between 1154 and 1216. For Denmark, the focus is on the reigns of Valdemar I and his sons, Cnut VI and Valdemar II, thereby covering most of the period between 1157 and 1241. In 1177, the treaty of Winchester satisfied what both kings wanted to achieve at that particular time. At the heart of the medieval peacemaking process stood the face-to-face meeting.
In the medieval period peace was intrinsically linked to Christianity. St Augustine was the central authority on ideas of peace as expressed through his Civitas Dei, and his notion of peace strongly influenced medieval political thought and the image of the peacemaking king. The major challenge that both the Danish and English kings faced at the outset of the period was the restoration and reformation of royal authority. Diplomacy and negotiations for peace in this period frequently involved reconciliations following rebellion. Peacemaking at the highest, international, level has much in common with more localised dispute settlement. In contrast to the documentary records of dispute settlement, the historian of peacemaking has to rely heavily upon the evidence of narrative sources. The available evidence for dispute settlement as opposed to that for international diplomacy shows that disputes were most commonly over property.
At the heart of the medieval peacemaking process stood the face-to-face meeting. Conferences between rulers are frequently mentioned in the sources of the period, yet chroniclers often tell more about where these parleys took place than they do about what was decided. There are various pieces of evidence that indicate that there may have been more conferences held at or near the elm tree. The evidence of the elm tree and the ford of St Remigius clearly shows that meeting places were a statement by medieval princes that those two sites were regarded as forming part of the border at the time of meeting. Bridges are another example of specific sites of conferences that are visible in the landscape, of which there are some well-known and justifiably famous meetings that date from the later medieval period.
This chapter shows that not all relationships, and therefore not all sites, fall neatly into a polarised concept of meetings between equals or meetings between superior and inferior. Whether a ruler was a superior or an inferior is an issue dependent on one's vantage point at any one particular time. Hence, superiority and inferiority are in terms of Anglo-Welsh peacemaking not static points at the opposite ends of a scale, but rather a fluid framework guided by realpolitik. Meetings between superior and inferior, or between victor and vanquished, were not located on border sites and they were generally characterised by one-sidedness rather than exchanges. It is evident that, to modern and medieval commentators alike, the site of a conference directly influenced the succeeding chain of events and it reflected the relationship between the two rulers making peace, or, for that matter, war.
This chapter examines what medieval rulers actually did at meetings, taking into account the role of ritual. In the medieval period, the public qualities of rituals were essential 'because spectators assumed the role of witnesses and thereby made the action legally binding'. It is evident from the events of 1158 and 1201 that gifts and giving in Anglo-French diplomacy should be viewed in the wider context of largesse, rather than as specific ritual acts. If gift exchanges at meetings were seemingly rarely recorded by contemporaries, one similar ceremony does make frequent appearances on the pages of late twelfth-century chronicles, namely feasting. If it is evident that feasting commonly followed peacemaking and diplomacy, it is equally clear that banquets carried with them a number of different ceremonies and gestures.
The French historian Jacques Le Gof saw in the description of a ritual that is frequently found in peacemaking between rulers three distinct elements; homage, oath of fealty (faith) and investiture. Just as in the case of the king of Scots's homage to John of Salisbury in 1200, the oath of fealty stood at the heart of the ceremony in 1169, but the actual gestures were those of a suppliant. It is possible that the gestures described by John of Salisbury should be labelled as gestures for returning to homage and so should be separated from the more traditional act of homage. There are some examples of the varying interpretations of the use of homage in negotiations for peace, and some of these initially correspond more closely to the model of commendation proposed by Le Gof and others.
Face-to-face encounters between rulers stood at the heart of the medieval peacemaking process, yet considerable effort also went into negotiations in the lead up to, during and after such meetings. Much work has been done by historians on envoys and negotiators in the later medieval period. Most notably, Pierre Chaplais has worked on the English diplomatic personnel, and Donald E. Queller has published several studies on the nature of the ambassadorial office in Europe, fore-mostly in Venice. According to Chaplais and Queller, the diplomatic personnel of the later Middle Ages generally fell into two categories: nuncii and procuratores. Both Chaplais and Queller have noted that in letters of procuration the essential clause was that of the de rato, whereby the ruler confirmed that he would ratify everything that his envoys had negotiated and concluded.
The oath of 1190 reveals a common practice in peacemaking of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, namely that of a representative taking an oath in the name of his ruler. The oath of 1190 allows the historian to address an issue, namely the verbal connection between an oath and an agreement. The fact that the text of the 1190 oath is recorded in Latin raises the issue of whether the oath would have been sworn in Latin or in the vernacular. The oath in the medieval West was an appeal to God that included actual physical contact with a sacred object, usually a relic or a Gospel book. The oath was an essential part of guaranteeing agreements through the appeal to faith, personal honour and obligation that it invoked on behalf of the oath-taker.
Often the issue of hostages has been used by contemporary commentators and modern historians alike as a yardstick by which to measure the success or failure of individual kings. A number of historians have highlighted the important socio-cultural, symbolic and political uses of hostages in the early medieval period, but few historians have to date devoted more than a passing reference to the role of hostages in the period after 1100. In the post-1100 period, the most common use of hostages in negotiations was those given to secure the release of adversaries captured in war. Unlike a hostage, those acting as sureties were deprived of their liberty only if there was a breach of the agreement. A good example of the use of real sureties in peacemaking can be found in the Treaty of Messina concluded between Richard I of England and Philip Augustus of France in 1191.