Administrative advances kept pace with territorial gains. Philip Augustus systematically collected detailed information on precisely what was owed to him from the different royal fiefs. He increased the number of his own vassals, and exacted stringent guarantees—such as a promise that if a vassal did not perform his duties within a month, he would surrender his person as a prisoner until the situation was resolved.
Philip and his officials were alert to increase the royal power by purchasing new estates, by interfering as much as possible in the inheritance of fiefs upon the death of their holders, and by providing husbands of their own choosing for the great heiresses. A lady would sometimes outlast three or four husbands, inheriting from each; thus she became a more desirable prize each time and offered the king a chance to marry her off with profit to himself.
The local officials of the Crown, the previits (provosts) had regularly been rewarded by grants of land. The Crown lost income and power as well as popularity when a local provost imposed taxes on his own behalf. Early in his reign Philip Augustus appointed a new sort of official—not resident in the countryside, but tied to the court—who would travel about, enforcing the king’s will in royal lands, rendering royal justice, and collecting moneys due to the king. This official was a civil servant appointed by the king, who paid him a salary and could remove him at will. In the north, he was called a bailli (bailiff) and his territory a baillage (bailiwick). In the south, he was called a senichal and his district a senechausee.
Like any administrative system, this one had its drawbacks. A bailli or senechal far from Paris might become just as independent and unjust as the old prey& had been, without the king’s being aware of it. Louis IX had to limit the power of these officials. He made it easy for complaints against them to be brought to his personal attention, and he appointed a new kind of official to take care of the caretakers. These were the enquéteurs (investigators)—royal officials who had supervisory authority over the baillis and senechals and traveled about the country inspecting their work. This complex of new civil servants introduced in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries meant that the king could interfere with almost all local and private transactions.
The king’s household slowly differentiated itself into departments, most of which had little to do with government. The curia regis consisted not only of retainers but of clerics and others who served as advisers on day- to-day problems. When a major policy question affecting the realm was up for decision or when a major legal case needed to be tried, the king was entitled to summon his vassals (both lay and clerical) for counsel, and those he summoned were obliged to come.
When the curia regis sat in judgment on a case, it came to be known as the Parlement—a high judicial tribunal. Naturally, as the laws grew more complex, trained lawyers had to handle more and more of the judicial business. At first they explained the law to the vassals sitting in judgment, and then, as time passed, they formed a court of justice and arrived at decisions themselves in the name of the king.
By the fourteenth century this court of justice was called the Parlement de Paris. When the curia regis sat in special session on financial matters, auditing the reports of income and expenditure, it acted as a kind of government accounting department. By the fourteenth century, this was called the chamber of accounts. Naturally enough, it engaged professional fulltime employees, clerks, auditors, and the like.
Cash flowed to the Crown from the lands of the royal domain—from customs due and special tolls, from fees for government services, and from money paid by vassals in order to avoid rendering such services as entertaining the king and his court. However, the king could not levy regular direct taxes on his subjects. A special levy was imposed on those who stayed home from the Crusade that set out in 1147. In 1188 Philip Augustus collected one tenth of the movable property and one tenth of a year’s income from all who failed to join in a Crusade. These extraordinary imposts, however, aroused a storm of protest.