The History of the Gevaudan

After the death of Guillaume 1er le Pieux, duke of Aquitaine, three families fought over the power in Aquitaine: the counts of Auvergne, the counts of Toulouse and the counts of Poitiers.
In a number of cities in southwest France, the viscounts, who were ordinary civil servants appointed by the duke, took advantage of this dispute to acquire a relative independence, then the heredity of their responsibilities and finally the title of count.

The county of Gevaudan, that appears around 960, disappears around 1030, is replaced by several viscounties. At the end of the 11th Century, the viscount of Millau, Gilbert, unites several counties and becomes entitled count of Gevaudan. By marriage, the count of Gevaudan is inserted in the house of Barcelone that subsequently acquires the king of Aragon. Saint-Louis, king of France, is worried to see the Aragon so much to the north and negotiates the purchase of the Gevaudan in 1258 with the king Jacques 1st to get it together with the royal domain.

The Gevaudan that was reconquered after a difficult battle with the Arabs by the is quickly torn apart between a distant and theoretical Franque authority and the principality of Aquitaine, itself indifferent to this poor, agricultural and difficult to get to region.

Until the one hundred-years war, the actual authority was held by a few large feudal seigneuries (“the eight baronies”) that were powerful and organized enough to neglect narrow allegiances. The Church alone can be considered as an “opposing force” that will, progressively, develop as an intermediary of the royal authority (paréage acte, 1306). This royal authority may be considered as definitely established at the end of the 15th century.

Therefore during more than 500 years, the “eight baronies of the Gevaudan” will lead the country according to the liege link, supported by a dense network of fortresses and castles, the symbols of protection and dependency, reassuring or terrifying according to the periods, the locations and the personality of the fief holder.

One must quote among others Saint Julien du Tournel, Saint Julien d’Arpaon, the castle of Portes (in the Gard but property of the Chateauneuf de Randon).
Aside from a small but quite dense haughty seigneury, the feudal influence is classic and relatively homogenous. The lord receives a fief from the king and allocates it to other seigneuries of less importance. Themselves secure the loyalty of warriors and peasants by distributing tenures that allow families to subsist in return for services or taxation that ensure the maintenance of the castle and its defensive system along with the economy of its territory.