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Noble Violence and Civic Justice: Rural Lords Under Trial in the Italian City-Communes, 1276-1322

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>16/01/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Medieval History
Issue number1
Number of pages22
Pages (from-to)47-68
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date16/01/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article analyses three criminal suits brought against nobles from rural districts of two Italian city-communes who were accused of homicide, robbery, and assault – and focuses on their courtroom defences. By the late 1200s, chivalric values and lifestyle were at odds with the political culture promoted by civic governments, while rural lords had lost most of their ancient privileges and independence to the cities. Nonetheless, in courtrooms, nobles often presented themselves as proud members of the chivalric warrior elite. The defendants may have sought to exploit the publicity of criminal trials to negotiate power and prerogatives with civic governments. Their chivalric ‘self-portraits' were adapted to the expectations of civic audiences, and were combined with legalistic arguments and appeals to municipal laws. More generally, this article investigates the reception of judicial institutions and examines the effects of the encounter between different value-systems and ‘languages’ in pre-modern polities.