5.3

The Knights' Hall (The Hague)

The Knights’ Hall (The Hague)

Of the three changes mentioned above, the professional chancellery was, without doubt, a distinct improvement. The appointment of trained lawyers as bailiffs, on the other hand, was not an unqualified success. It is true that punishments were now handed down more in accordance with written sources of jurisprudence, but the bailiffs lacked the traditional authority of the aristocracy. The feelings of the illiterate masses are unknown, but later, better-documented transitions of common or customary law to written law suggest that peasants preferred to be tried by a noble who was bound to judge ‘with the just mildness of a father’.

The appointment of trained professional councilors did not necessarily make for better administration. Since they were on the count’s payroll they could not speak as openly as vassals. Nowadays, advisors or councilors can get into trouble for giving their principal a piece of unwanted advice. And this was even more so in the late Middle Ages.

The increasing size of the administrative apparatus forced Count Floris V to reside in one place. Before this time, the Count of Holland had travelled from one castle to another. Now, however, he chose a fixed residence: a village in the dunes called The Hague, where a hunting lodge had existed from 1230. He added the Knights’ Hall, which is still a meeting place of the Dutch parliament. By digging a canal, the supply of food was assured, and this facilitated the growth of a town in the proper sense of the word.

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