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styled by Marculfus, "diuturna et impia consuetudo." As we cannot discover that any two etymologists agree on the derivation of the word Salic, we shall leave it, and the obscurity of the law, to the ingenuity of verbal critics, by merely observing, that the most probable opinion derives it from the ancient Franks, who were called Sali, Salici, and Salingi, from the Sala, a river of Germany. Charlemagne subsequently adopted and reformed the Salic law; and the perpetual succession of the males to the crown of France, excluding the female right, is now the only remarkable part of it remaining in the continental code.* Mr. Hallam, in the first volume of his History of the Middle Ages, has treated the subject with great learning and perspicuity. John Selden, in his historical tract, Jani Anglorum Facies Altera," has a long and gallant chapter on the subject, (c. xii.)-"Women admitted to publick debates-a large commendation of the sex; together with a vindication of their fitness to govern against the Salick law, made out by several examples of most nations." Whitelocke, in his valuable Notes on the King's Writ, vol. i. c. 51, p. 473, discusses the subject with elaborate erudition, and strongly in favour of the ladies: his references to various foreign authors who have treated on the Salic law, will assist the curious reader in investigating all that has been written on a question formerly momentous in cases of disputed succession.

To proceed, chronologically :-the British women enjoyed considerable dignities in the ancient religion of the country. Druidesses assisted in the offices, and shared in the honours and emoluments of the priesthood. When Suetonius invaded the island of Anglesea, his soldiers were struck with terror at the strange appearance of a great number of these consecrated females, who ran up and down among the ranks of the British army, like enraged furies, with dishevelled hair, and flaming torches, imprecating the wrath of heaven on the invaders of their country. The Druidesses of Gaul and Britain are said to have been divided into three ranks or classes. Those of the first class had vowed perpetual virginity, and lived together in sisterhoods, very much sequestered from the world. They

It seems, however, notwithstanding, extremely difficult to exclude the fair sex even in France. Their queens have been regents during the minority of some of their kings. Blanch had the tuition of Lewis; Isabel governed under Charles VI.; Katherine de Medicis in the minority of her son. Their female noblesse have, also, held peerages, exercising the judicial privileges. "Les femmes sont capables de tenir pairies, ont opinion en jugemens, et y doivent adjourneès et appelleès comme les autres pairs, pour ce que elles prennent dignitez ayans exercise de justice.' Du Haillan, lib. viii. f. 232.

were great pretenders to divination, prophecy, and miracles; were highly reverenced and esteemed by the people, who consulted them on all important occasions as infallible oracles, and gave them the honorable appellation of Senæ, i. e. venerable women. Mela gives a curious description of one of these Druidical nunneries. It was situated in an island in the British Sea, and contained nine of these venerable vestals, who pretended that they could raise storms and tempests by their incantations; could cure the most incurable diseases; could transform themselves into all kinds of animals; and foresee future events. But it seems, like all profane prophetesses, that they chose to make some advantage of so rare and valuable a gift for, it is added, they disclosed the things which they had discovered to none but those who came into their island on set purpose to consult their oracles; and none of these, we take for granted, came without offerings, besides what they expended in the island. The second class consisted of certain female devotees, who were, indeed, married, but spent the greater part of their time-the holy-days-in the company of the Druids, and in the offices of religion; conversing occasionally with their husbands, whose superstition appears to have lulled their jealousy asleep in the reflected honour (and, perhaps, profit) of possessing such pious wives. The third class of Druidesses was the lowest, and consisted of such as performed the most servile offices about the temples, the sacrifices, and the persons of the Druids.-Tacit. Annal. 1. 14.-Mela, lib. 3. c. 2.-Gruttes, p. 62.-Relig. de Gaul. lib. 1. c. 27.- Henry's History, vol. i.

In the Anglo-Saxon charters the queen's name is often joined in the charters, and it is not unusual to find them signed by her. Mr. Turner mentions, in his Anglo Saxon History, vol. iii. p. 180. (third edition) that she often sate in the Witenagemot even after she became queen dowager.* Whitelocke has

*We suppose that the instance here alluded to is that mentioned by Malmesbury (lib. 11. c. 8.) of a Parliament held by Edgar, in which Alfgina his mother was present. Canute, in his parliament, is said to have restored a monastery "by the council of Emma the queen, and of the bishops and barons of England." (Mat. Westm.) Malmesbury says of Queen Sexburga, (lib. 2. c. 2.)-"Spiritus ad obeunda regui munera, novos exercitus moliri, veteres tenere in officio, ipsa subjectos clementer moderari, hostibus minaciter infremere, prorsus omnia facere ut nihil præter sexum decerneres :"- "that there was not wanting in her a spirit to fill the offices of the kingdom; that she knew how to levy new armies, how to maintain old ones. She could mildly govern her subjects, and by force tame her enemies.

She could so

collected, from the monkish historians, some singular instances of the exercise of female rights in the Saxon times. In the charters of the Saxon kings, made in their parliaments, we find Abbesses often named as witnesses: in the charter of King Offa to the abbey of Croyland is subscribed," J. Ceolburgha, abbesse of Berdea, have assented." (Ingulphus, Hist. p. 854.) In the charter of King Edgar, to the same abbey, made in parliament also, among the subscriptions of the peers is, "I, Merwenne, abbesse of Rumsey, have made the signe of the holy crosse."* The same author also says, that the charter of King Etelwulphe was made" in the presence of, and with the subscriptions of, first, the archbishops, after them of the kings of Mercia and East Angles, and an infinite multitude of abbots, abbesses, dukes, &c., and other faithful people of the land." The extirpation of Druidism and the Druidesses, and the introduction of Catholicism, does not, therefore, appear to have infringed on female rights. It is not necessary, however, here to note the frequent instances when the "virtual" influence of the fair sex even governed Christendom itself: the successors of St. Peter were not always hermetically sealed against the little deity Cupid: the Pope's nephews" occasionally succeeded to the chair: the cardinal virtues" of the pontiffs were not always proof against Italian beauty; exemplo, a little volume, the "Life of Donna Olimpia Maldachini, who governed the church during the time of Innocent X. 12mo. 1667;" cum multis aliis.


We proceed to the detail of the privileges of women subsequent to the Norman conquest, and as influenced by the progressive and mixed introduction of the feudal system, under that and the succeeding dynasties, to the present gracious family, who enjoy their dignities and power, by female inheritance, through the last limitation of the crown by parliament, viz. Stat. 12 & 13 William III. c. 2., the act of settlement, limiting the crown on Sophia the youngest daughter of Elizabeth queen of Bohemia (the grand-daughter of James I.) and the heirs of her body, protestant members of the church of England.

By a retrospective survey of English history we might collect some amusing particulars, exhibiting the constant " vir

comport herself, that no difference, save that of her sex, appeared in her actions."

* We take it for granted, from the use of this substitute in lieu of the sign manual, that the Lady Abbess of Rumsey was not a Blue stocking; and that the sign of the cross was the original of the vulgar signature which we still occasionally meet with in despite of adult schools, viz. " her mark."

tual influence" of women in almost every male-administration. It has been, time immemorial, an old English adage, " when a man reigns a woman governs," and vice versa. Sometimes this influence exceeded all bounds: such was the case during the ascendancy of Alice Perrers, in the second infancy of Edward III. Daniel (p. 72.) asserts, that her assurance was so great, that she was accustomed to sit on the bench with the judges in Westminster Hall, when she happened to interest herself in a cause. We recollect, in Madox, an entry on the Exchequer rolls, of a fine for allowance of justice against her, but cannot turn to the reference. An instrument, in Rymer, entitled De nave vocata la Alice, (vol. iii. part iii. p. 47. 50th Edw. III.) records the power and attention she enjoyed. In Petyt's Theatrum Criminalium, (vol. iii. p. 188.) an interesting narrative is given of the whole proceedings in parliament against her, and also, a writ of Edward III., reciting that many women had been guilty of Maintenance in causes, and specially forbidding Alice Perrers from interfering in such matters, under pain of banishment. In the same collection of manuscripts, also, is inserted, the copy of a petition to Richard II., from Robert Pikerell, complaining that Alice Perrers had retained all the advocates in Westminster Hall, so that he could have no advice: si il ne donneroit si grande summe d'or, qu'il ne point attainder."

It is impossible, within the limits of this article, to enter at any length on the feudal principle of inheritance and titular rank some particulars respecting them have baffled the penetration of our most industrious antiquarians, and their origin and precise construction are subjects of diversified and contradictory opinion. The consequences of the Norman inroad are, however, notorious in the forfeiture of most of the landed property throughout England; and the subdivision of it among William's foreign chiefs, and the few surviving English who submitted to his dominion. The lands were thenceforth held in chief under the crown, in capite, subject to certain annual serices; of fines in aid of the royal revenues, of civil administration in their respective local districts, and of military service in event of civil or foreign war,

On the failure of the male line, the rights and privileges of the females in the succession to, and enjoyinent of all the feudal privileges were recognised and respected by the crown. The king, however, was invested with a despotic power over their disposal in marriage, both when single and widowed; being interested, of course, for the due performance of the duties attached to their property and titles.

At the coronation of King Henry IV. Thomas Dymocke officiated as champion, in right of his mother Margaret. The office of a justice of the forest was anciently executed by a wo

man. Margaret, countess of Richmond, mother to King Henry VII., was a justice of the peace. Lady Bartlet was commissioned a justice of the peace by Queen Mary in Gloucester. And one Rowse, in Suffolk, did usually sit upon the bench, at assizes and sessions, among the justices, gladio cincta. (Harl. MS. No.980. 166.) Many interesting particulars of their manorial rights and succession are collected in Blount's Fragmenta Antiquitatis by Beckwith, and of the petit serjanties performed in the king's household, by finding him, and the queen, clothes and provisions; by keeping and taking care of their laundresses, female servants, &c. Occasionally, grand serjeanties were performed by them at the coronation of the kings and queens of England and Scotland, in respect of baronies, lands, manors, and tenements. Ela, countess Warwick, held the manor of Hoke Norton, Oxfordshire, of the king, in capite, by the serjeanty of carving before the king, on Christmas-day, and to have the knife with which she carved. (Pla. Coron. 13 Edward I. Rot. 30.) Lady Lora de Saundford held, in dower, the manor of Hornmede, Hertfordshire, by being chamberlain to the queen. (Pla. 7th Edward I. rot. 39.) The prioress of St. Leonard of Stratford, held fifty acres of land in Brambelegh, Middlesex, by the service of finding, for the king, a man to hold the towel at the coronation. (22 Edw. I.) Emma de Hamton, held of the king in the town of Niwenton, forty shillings of land, by the service of cutting out the linen clothes of the king and queen. (Testa de Nevil, p. 107.) Lady Hawis de London held the manor of Esegarston, of the king, in capite, by serjeanty, as part of Kidwelly, to conduct the vanguard of the king's army as often as he should go into Wales with one, and, in returning, to bring up the rear-guard. (1 Edward I. Harl. MS. No. 2087. p. 23.) This martial duty illustrates the third part of Henry VI., act. iii. sc. 3, where Queen Margaret bids Warwick tell Edward VI. :

"My mourning weeds are laid aside, And I am ready to put armour on."

On these occasions the female nobility clad themselves in coats of mail. Queens themselves have appeared in armour at the head of their armies; and the suit which Elizabeth is said to have worn, when she rode through the lines at Tilbury, may be still seen in the Tower. Dr. Meyrick must, however, be consulted on this point.

We have before stated, that the king had a despotic veto over the matrimonial rights and feelings of the English female noblesse, to the great discomfiture of the widows and old maids who speculated in match-making. The releasing them from his inquisitorial and obnoxious prerogative constituted a con

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