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The Counts of Toulouse and their People

In contrast to other European states, those of the Counts of Toulouse were unusually liberal and democratic. Social mobility seems to have been much freer than elsewhere. Burgesses attended the Counts' Courts - and some of them were clearly personal friends. Similarly, some troubadours were of extremely humble birth yet they were accepted as easily as those of noble lineage.

One of the many things that scandalised the Roman clergy was that in the Count's territories it was common for noblemen to bow to Cathar Parfaits of humble birth. While such behaviour was hardly attributable to the Count, it was seen as characteristic of attitudes in his lands. The Roman Church loathed this alien way of life that treated feudal duties lightly, that rejected the importance of noble birth, that permitted social mobility, and countenanced embryonic democracy. The people of the Languedoc and Provence saw things differently. They seem to have loved their rulers to an extent unknown in other European states.

It is a measure of the affection of their subjects that the people stood by their prince even when they faced the combined might of Western Christendom. Roman Churchmen did everything they could to diminish the Counts. Raymond VI of Toulouse and Raymond VII of Toulouse were both dispossessed, stripped, flogged and humiliated. Both were excommunicated - making them spiritual outlaws. The French had expected the Counts to be rejected and ridiculed by their people, and were surprised when it did not happen. On the contrary, they never lost the affection and respect of their people. Here is a statement made in 1213 by Maître Bernard, one of the Capitouls (Consuls) of Toulouse, during a discussion about how best to defend the city against the French Crusaders. He is reporting the mood of his fellow Capitouls who together are referred to as a Chapter:

    ... the Chapter are men of honour and good administrators. I, who am one of them, say in my own name and in theirs, and in the name of all the rest of the population, from the greatest to the least, that we will risk everything, body and blood, power and strength, money and credit, minds and hearts, for the Count, my Lord, so that he may preserve Toulouse and all the rest of his territories.

In the nineteenth century the Capitouls of Toulouse commissioned a series of historical murals. One of them shows a lion representing the French Crusade leader Simon de Montfort pierced through the body by a pole surmounted by the cross of Toulouse. See above right. The symbolism is drawn from the arms of de Montfort and Toulouse. The banner reads "Montfort is dead. Long live Toulouse (Montfort est mort. Viva Tolosa). It is a striking image and suggests a strong identification with Raymond against Simon.

 
An allegorical painting of the lamb of the Languedoc killing the lion of de Montfort, by Jean-Paul Laurens (1899), on the ceiling of the salle des Illustres, Capitole, Toulouse

Arms of the modern City of ToulouseMontfort

A few years ago a Mayor of Toulouse, Dominique Baudis, wrote a novel about Raymond VI - "Raimond le Cathare". It is an affectionate, historical account of the Count of Toulouse. Baudis conveys the impression that his sentiments are not very different from those of Maître Bernard, his fellow Capitoul eight hundred years ago.  

 

 

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Cross of Toulouse.
The Counts of Toulouse and their People