HERITABILITY – the juristic understanding that an office holder is replaced by someone whose right is defined by lineal descent from a previous office holder. The applicability of heritability does not necessarily mean that there is one lawful claimant whose right is qualitatively better than any other’s, although it does mean that in most cases the rights will be compared to determine, if possible, whose claim is best. In filling offices, the monarch senses an obligation to observe heritability, and in this manner unnecessary hostility is avoided. The criteria for comparison of claims vary too widely for strife to be avoided consistently, but in lending legality they drive the succession process towards eventual peaceful solutions.

CUSTOMARY LAW – the principle whereby all legal issues are decided by the community based on precedent or consultation. The Germanic codes of customary law are the most detailed sources we possess regarding the nature of customary law, but they are limited to best known cases. Lesser known cases could not be written down with precision, and many cases would essentially be unknown, in that they depended on consultation in public assembly as to the appropriate solution.

CONSTITUTION – the fundamental principles of government. In a traditional society the constitution will include the specific means by which customary law is determined, the general organization of political forces, and the financial resources of government. These were the three areas of competence for the Carolingian counts, the chief representatives of royal power in Charlemagne’s empire. In modern history ‘constitution’ is often understood to mean a written document incorporating the basic rights and duties of the community. Such a ‘constitution’ is simply the defining document of the underlying constitution or body politic, and there is invariably further written constitutional law beyond this ‘constitution’. Earlier written ‘constitutions’, beginning in the later middle ages, were limited expressions of partial definitions, and in the earlier middle ages essentially there were no written constitutions, except for certain aspects of canon law and royal capitularies. The early medieval constitution, therefore, is a theoretical framework evolved by modern historians and is as such a process still in motion.


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