Charter of Kortenberg
It applied to the whole of the duchy and set up a kind of “Parliament of Kortenberg” or “council of Kortenberg”, which was also called the assembly of the “Sirs de Kortenberg”. With this charter, the Duché of the Brabant was the first State of the Netherlands and perhaps even the first of the European countries to associate the States with the political life. It is in fact one of the first democratic acts of feudal Europe.
Historical contextAlthough having many fields, the dukes of the Brabant were sifted debts, because of their many warlike forwardings and of the ostentation of their court. They had tried well to alienate some their fields and to engage their incomes, the debts remained heavy, and often unpaid. The foreign creditors, mainly English and Italian, to return in their funds, regularly put the goods (wools and cloths) of the merchants brabançons.
To cure it, the lords, abbots and patricians let us brabançons on several occasions paid the debts of their dukes. They obtained in return written acts, which protected the subjects from the duchy against the abuses from the dukes or their agents and granted to the privileged classes a participation in the ducal government.
Modern version of the text of the charterThe text of the charter , adapted to the contemporary and summarized language, this would give:
Us, Jean II, duke of the Brabant, let us be appropriate:
The council of Kortenberg, precursor of the Assemblées General states (the first state being clergy, the second the nobility and the third municipalities) gathered périodiquements with the abbey of Kortenberg or elsewhere. The seal which sealed the documents of the council represented a tree on a small hill and carried the inscription: COMMON SIGILUM: CONSILII OF CORTENBERGHE .
The first crisis took place in 1313, with the advent of Jean III of the Brabant, minor. Its advisers did not respect the terms of the charter, May, with the first request for taxes, the nobility and the middle-class obtained the application of the Charter and the setting of ducal finances under trusteeship in exchange of the payment of the debt.
As from 1332, the council was increased by two additional members, for Antwerp which obtained a second representative and the other for Nivelles.
The duke Jean III died in 1355 and the duchy threatened to be divided between his/her three daughters. The council prepared a new document, the Joyeuse Entry , which it made accept by the oldest daughter of the duke Jeanne of the Brabant and her husband Venceslas Ier of Luxembourg. This document showed the terms of the charter of Kortenberg and guaranteed the unicity of the duchy and was used as a basis for the public law branbançon until the 18th century.
- Web site: The duchy of the Brabant of 1293 to 1384
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