THE CUSTOMS CHARTER
From the 12th Century onwards, throughout France, Customs Charters, or Franchises began to appear. By the 13th Century they had become commonplace and an integral part of the bastides phenomenon. They were also associated with other types of mediaeval village (castelnaux – villages under the protection of a chatelain, sauvetés - villages under the protection of the church), they listed the rules that would exist between landlords and communities. Drawn up in 1276, Valence’s Customs Charter has unfortunately not made its way to us down the centuries.
To populate the newly-created bastide, the Customs Charter provided a list of the privileges peasant families would enjoy by becoming inhabitants or »poblans » of the town: lower taxes, justice free of charge, equality in the attribution of land and the judicial quasi-equality that benefited the new bourgeoisie made these new bastides seem attractive places of liberty and equality. But not all of them had the same aims. The founders didn’t seek to question feudal laws, nor to create lawlessness ; it was simply a case of making local adjustments that would improve economic returns and land taxes on under-exploited farmland.
If the inhabitants appeared to be free, in reality they were subject to a liberal economic regime. If they appeared equal, it was only an equality of luck at the time of their moving in. Bastides had to refuse to accept privileged or wealthy social classes who would be incompatible with the new system. Thus, strict rules were applied to populating the bastides with serfs, members of the nobility or religious orders.
Certain lesser nobles chose to give up their title, sell their land to the bastide and become part of the wealthy bourgeoisie. While men and women had different rights, it’s noteworthy that women who were widowed and therefore at the head of a family, possessed full legal capacities : they made contracts, bought, sold, tested, administrated businesses and voted to elect town councils.
THE BASTIDE’S SECRET
Be watchful, the adventure begins at the next panel ! Have paper and pencil to hand or a telephone where you can note the word given to you by each character and collect all the words to form the final sentence. Oh ! Géraud Count of Armagnac in person ! Géraud, the co-creator of the bastide we know as Valence has something he wants to say to you... Make haste ! To Panel N° 3 !