16. The Creation of the French Realm

16.3 The Imperial Law

In Byzantium, the Justinian Law was promulgated in 534 and was applied until the fall of Constantinople on May 29, 1453. This Imperial Law was extremely severe for religious deviants (monophysites, Arians, etc.) and sexual irregularities, influenced by an offended Church ferociously opposed to the sins of the pagan civilization. One should here mention that the empress Theodora, who reigned from 527 to 548, had been an actress who very realistically performed live on stage the role of Leda engaged in carnal union with a swan supposed to be Jupiter. The Law proclaimed the preeminence of the Emperor: ecclesiastic as well as civil laws emanated from the throne. The Germanic tribes in Italy, Gaul, Great Britain, Spain, ignored the edicts of Justinian and promulgated their own Laws. The Imperial Law allowed mutilations and admitted torture, which was firmly condemned by Augustine in his book “The city of God”. Gregory the Great (540-604) stipulated that torture brings no proof. It was definitely condemned in 866 and this condemnation was restated in the 12th century by the decree of Gratian. The Imperial Law disappeared completely in the High Middle-Ages, replaced by the Canon Law elaborated by the Roman Church. The Canon Law was largely built on the Germanic Laws. In marriage, consent was required, as in Imperial Law, but also consumption, procreation and permanency of the union, deemed necessary for the education of the children. The Imperial Law was attentive to the individual, which greatly facilitated the management of the citizens of the Empire by ignoring their ethnic specificity, whereas the Canon Law lent a sustained attention to the needs of the various social groups composing the tribe, according to Celtic and Germanic customs. The leaders of the tribe were elected, either by the people or else by peers. The Germanic Empire followed this rule: the dignitaries of the Empire elected Charles V, as the dignitaries of the Church elected Benedict XVI in 2006, and Pope John Paul II before him.

The Germanic Empire founded in 919 by the Saxons followed the Canon Law and was civil and humane. The emperors managed the Empire with the help of women and priests. They had no Capital City and no standing army. In 1041, with the introduction of God’s Truce under the impulse of the Abbot of Cluny, combats and fights were prohibited during 300 days of the year and churches were made safe refuges. The Saxon rule brought wealth and richness to their realm, which was jeopardized by the Frankish emperors who succeeded them. The accession to the imperial purple of the Frank Henry III (1039-1056) rekindled the problem of the dominance of the Emperor over the Church. Pope Innocent III, perturbed by the disastrous martial inclinations of the French Crown as well as by the will of the Frankish Germanic emperors to control the Church, proclaimed in 1213 the preponderance of the Papacy over the secular princes and claimed himself the successor not only of Peter but of Christ himself. This pretension amplified the intensity of the fight between Papacy and Empire for the control of the souls. It eventually led to the erosion of the power of bishops and cardinals and to monolithic thought, of which Luther and Calvin freed themselves.

To favor his control over the Church, the Emperor founded a laic University in Bologna, whose duty it was to teach the Imperial Law. In 1158, the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa assigned to it the definition of the imperial rights against the pope. In 1220, Frederic II gave to the University of Naples, which he founded on his own authority, the care of formation of the legists of the Empire. The emperors made of the Imperial Law the common law of their states, Luther publicly burned the Canon Law in favor of the Imperial one and this law was fully adopted in Germany after the Reformation, where it still forms the backbone of the law. The Imperial Law reintroduced torture in the European realm, vigorously applied in France by Philippe the Fair, in the papal domains by the French pope Clement V and, at his instigation, in England to get possession of the richness of the Templars. Henry VIII separated the English Church from Rome, favored the Imperial Law and applied torture to his opponents. Bloody Mary continued this practice.

Torture has been in use in France up to our days. Torture was practiced on a large scale by the French army during the Algerian war (1954-1962). The French soldiers customarily gang-raped Algerian women four or five times in a row in what was called a “tournante”, in front of their children, husbands and parents, bringing forever shame on them and their families. The 2.5 million French soldiers, of whom 25,000 died, killed 1.5 million Algerians and abandoned in Algeria 140.000 Harkis, i.e. Algerian soldiers who fought for the French army. The victorious Algerians barbequed the Harkis or else had them drink several liters of methanol before setting them on fire from within. The contemporary French army made of torture a scientific specialty that it taught very willfully to the American army busy in Iraq. This abject behavior did not meet in France the strong disapproval it met in the USA when torture practices were discovered within the US army (Abu Grahib): the French general Ausseresses who admitted to this practice was prosecuted and lost his legion d’honneur for having divulged it, and that was it.

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