The three adjoining French counties of Nevers, Auxerre, and Tonnerre were always held by members of the same family, usually brothers, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In the late twelfth and thirteenth century, however, a lack of male heirs meant that for five generations the counties were headed by a succession of countesses. In the 1270s, three sister countesses went to law, as the oldest claimed that all three counties ought to be hers alone, as they had all been held by one woman at a time for close to a century. The younger two sisters claimed, on the other hand, that the three should be divided among siblings, as had happened with their male ancestors and distant uncles. This article explores the background of the sisters’ lawsuit, clarifying the family connections between this little-studied group of relatives. It seeks to demonstrate the real power aristocratic women could and did exercise and explores some of the complexities of fief holding, inheritance, and primogeniture. There were no generally-recognized rules for aristocrats to follow—rather, these practices had to be addressed and negotiated anew each generation.
Bouchard, Constance B.
"Three Countries, One Lineage, and Eight Heiresses: Nevers, Auxerre, and Tonnerre, Eleventh to Thirteenth Centuries,"
Medieval Prosopography: Vol. 31
, Article 3.
Available at: http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/medpros/vol31/iss1/3