From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThe phrase more danico is a Mediaeval Latin legalistic expression which may be translated as "in the Danish manner" or "by Norse customary law". It designates a type of traditional Germanic marriage practiced in northern Europe during the Middle Ages.
The institutionThe examples that have come down to us involve powerful rulers in a union with a highborn woman of somewhat lesser rank. Rarely, it occurred to legitimize an abduction, as with Rollo and Poppa, who was taken after a battle at Bayeux; but this is not a defining characteristic. While Roman law had not distinguished between elopement and abduction (both being raptus in parentes), the distinction was significant in Germanic law. Still, according to Reynolds, the consent of the parentes was required in the more danico case. This consent could still be obtained after the fact, if an elopement was involved.
|“||It is possible, therefore, that marriage more danico was neither informal marriage nor even legitimized abduction, but simply secular marriage contracted in accordance with Germanic law, rather than ecclesiastical marriage.||”|
More danico permitted polygyny (serial or simultaneous), but is not synonymous with it. The "putting away" of a more danico wife could apparently be done at the mere wish of the husband; the rights of the wife are unclear. Often the putting away was done with the intention of marrying a still higher-ranking woman more christiano; but since there are numerous instances of the husband returning to the more danico wife, it is possible that the relationship had merely been deactivated or kept in the background. The union could also be fully dissolved, so that the wife was free to marry another man. Her consent in the matter may or may not have been required; again, the consensual aspect is unknown. (See below.)
By tradition and customary law, the children of such a relationship were in no way considered of lesser rank or disadvantaged with respect to inheritance. Many sons more danico went on to become dukes or kings by succession or conquest.
Increasingly discouraged by the Christian church, the practice gradually died out. Proponents of the Friedelehe theory claimed that the institution left a vestige in the institution of morganatic marriage, but this interpretation is now discredited.
Status of Germanic marriages in a Christian society
|“||In the middle and north of France, where there was less Roman law in the customary law, Roman law was not accepted in bulk or as authoritative in itself; but it influenced the customary law.||”|
|“||In France in the course of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries the old Germanic principle of the personality of the law, that is, of law as applicable to persons according to their race, had given way to the principle of territoriality, that is, of law as valid within a certain country.||”|
There was a perennial political tension between canon law and the traditional law. The Church deprecated this type of traditional union, employing the terms "bastardy" and "concubinage". On a purely political level, temporal rulers of more fully Christianized entities did not ignore the advantage of denigrating their enemies in moral terms with respect to their marriage customs.
The instrumentality of Christian clergy at a marriage ceremony was not specifically required by the Church until the Council of Trent on November 11, 1563.
Historical examplesThe Roman ethnographer Tacitus writing in his De origine et situ Germanorum described the customs of the Germanic tribes and praised their monogamy. However, by the Viking age they had acquired a reputation for their polygyny.
Speaking of the Swedes, Adam von Bremen said:
|“||For every man has two or three or more women at the same time, according to the extent of his power; the rich and the rulers have more than they can count.||”|
- Rollo, founder of the Norman dynasty, had taken captive at Bayeux, Pop[p]a, daughter of a count, Berengar. Dudo of Saint-Quentin relates that they had been joined in marriage ("connubium"), William of Jumieges describing that Rollo had joined himself to her by more danico. She was mother of his son William Longsword. It is related that he put Poppa aside to marry Gisela, daughter of Charles the Simple, and that when Gisela died, he returned to Poppa. However, the absence of any record of this royal princess or her marriage in Frankish sources suggests the entire supposed marriage to Gisela may be apocryphal.
- William Longsword in his turn, had a son and heir by a woman whose name is given as Sprota. William of Jumieges reparts that Longsword was bound to her by more danico ("danico more iuncta"). The chronicler Flodoard refers to her simply as Longsword's 'Breton concubine' ("concubina britanna"). William would formally marry Luitgarde of Vermandois, daughter of Heribert II, count of Vermandois. [Dudo iii, 32 (p. 70)], who following William's death remarried to Thibaut, count of Blois. Sprota, who was mother of Lonsword's heir, Richard I, Duke of Normandy, is said to have been forced to become concubine of Esperleng, the rich owner of several mills, by whom she became mother of Rodulf of Ivry, although it is unclear if this occurred at the time of William's marriage to Luitgarde, or at his death.
The Latin phraseKnown to us from the histories of William of Jumièges and Orderic Vitalis, the purport of the phrase more danico is based in both the historical context, as well as in the meaning of the words within the fabric of the Latin language and the underlying Old Norse.
Orderic Vitalis spoke Old English until the age of ten, when he was forced to adopt Norman French; he wrote in a stilted, but fluent and educated Mediaeval Latin. In the vernacular he would have spoken of the custom as danesche manere (Norman French), as would William of Jumièges, who was Norman, but also wrote in Latin.
MoreMore "by custom" is the ablative case of the Latin word for "manner", the subject form being mos. In Lewis & Short's Latin Dictionary, the semantic range of the Latin word mos is elongated along the axis of arbitrary↔required, extending from "wont" or "caprice" on the one end, to "law" or "precept" on the other end:
- I. "Manner, custom, way, usage, practice, fashion, wont, as determined not by the laws, but by men's will and pleasure, humor, self-will, caprice." O tempora o mores! "Oh what times, what fashions! (Cicero).
- II. "The will as a rule for action, custom, usage, practice, wont, habit" Leges mori serviunt. "Laws serve custom." (Plautus).
- III. In an archaic or poetic sense, and in post-Augustinian (that is, Mediaeval) Latin: "A precept, law, rule." Mos maiorum. The (unwritten) Constitution of the Roman Republic.
DanicoDuring the Viking Age, the essentially tribal entities that became the modern Scandinavian nations differed in some customs, but had a concept of themselves as a unity. For example, according to the Gray Goose Laws of the Icelandic Commonwealth recorded in 1117, Swedes, Norwegians, Icelanders and Danes spoke the same language, using dǫnsk tunga or dansk tunga ("Danish tongue") or norrønt mál ("Nordic language") to name their language, Old Norse. Here "dansk" meant "Norse". Furthermore, "more danico'' (Danish efter dansk skik) was not merely a "Norse custom", but prevalent among other Germanic peoples such as the Franks (see above).
|“||Rollo died in 927, and was succeeded by his son William "Long Sword," born of his union more danico with Poppa, daughter of count Berenger; he showed some attachment to the Scandinavian language, for he sent his son William to Bayeux to learn Norse.||”|