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The Counts of Toulouse and their Courts

The Counts of Toulouse were kings in all but name. The distinction made in modern times between high nobles and royals was far less marked in the Middle Ages. At that time counts could easily become kings. The Counts of Barcelona became Kings of Aragon, the Counts of Anjou became Kings of England, the Counts of Portugal became Kings of Portugal, and a Count of Tripoli (a member of the St-Gilles family) was offered the kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Counts of Toulouse have been called the peers of kings. They were referred to as "sovereigns" and "princes", and addressed as "Highness". Their countesses, often daughters of Kings, were routinely addressed as "Queen". The Counts maintained chancellories and exchequers, coined money, raised taxes, dispensed justice, negotiated treaties and protected their borders.

They kept court, at St-Gilles, at Toulouse, in Provence, and indeed wherever they happened to be. Their courts were typical of royal courts in this and many other respects. They were peopled by relatives, senior nobles, senechals, constables, ambassadors, judge-chancellors, officers like Bailes and Viguiers, knights, burgesses and entertainers.

Their courts differed in two ways from other European courts. First, the Roman Church was vastly under-represented. Cardinals and bishops dominated most courts, but at the Counts' court the only churchmen were relatives and one or two personal friends. (By contrast Ramon VI always kept a Cathar Parfait with him).

Second, the troubadours played a prominent part at court. Their literacy filled a gap filled elsewhere by the clergy; their philosophy filled a gap filled elsewhere by theologians and traditional minstrels; their poetry, song and satire provided cultured entertainment to supplement more basic staple of traditional courts. (The troubadours gradually spread from Aragon and the Aquitain through Europe, though traditional philistine, courts throughout Europe continued to be entertained by fools, jugglers, buffoons and professional farters.)

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Cross of Toulouse.
The Counts of Toulouse and their Nobles