February 2007 note to ThinkWell list:
For whatever reasons I think about things, I've been thinking about the mysterious medieval concept known as "franchise." I wanted to share a definition spoken just spontaneously aloud by Lord Dermod of Killarney, one of Artan's squires, the other day:

"Using your clout for a good thing."

Franchise is using your clout for a good thing.

Thank you, Dermod, for that! Very clean and clear.


Following a group discussion 3/19/07, Marie de Blois had a burst of enthusiasm and found lots of Latin and French clues. (Here's a backup in case that journal link doesn't work someday.)

NOTES AND QUOTES, Oxford English Dictionary:
Here are quotes from the Oxford Dictionary. I modernized the spellings. There was an older 8th century one but I couldn't understand it enough to write it down or think about it so I left it out.

1386 gains franchise and all gentilesse

1450 And therefore remember us of your great pity and franchise

1485 Tell Reynawde...that he take no heed to my trespass and evil deed, but to his franchise.

1658 It might be remedied by an action of generosity and franchise

The definition "nobility of mind; liberality, generosity, magnanimity" covers both thought and action.

Master Louis-Philippe Mitouard, from a discussion on franchise in 1998:
I was curious to see what the definition was in French:
I know the html is all screwy THANK YOU, Marie, for repairing it! —AElflaed

"franchise n. f.

I. 1. DR Anc. Immunité, privilège, exemption accordés autrefois á certaines personnes, á certaines collectivités. Franchises d'une ville.

-- Mod. Franchises universitaires. || Mod. Exemption légale ou réglementaire de taxes, d'impositions. Franchise douanière, postale. Admission en franchise: franchise, lors de l'entrée dans un pays, pour des marchandises contenues dans les bagages personnels, sous certaines conditions. 2. Somme laissée á la charge d'un assuré en cas de dommages.

II. Qualité d'une personne qui parle ou agit ouvertement, sincèrement."

The first and last are most interesting:

The first translates as :

I. 1. (Anciently) "Immunity, privilege, exemption accorded to certain people or groups. Town franchises."

The last:

II. Quality of a person who talks or acts openly, sincerely.

I find it Interesting that in both French and English, probably because of their common Norman heritage, the legal idea is one of exemption, or allowance from the rules. This seems to connote the idea of exemption from obligation so one can see how this might have come to suggest the idea of noblesse oblige — that one has the privilege to do whatever one chooses (i.e. not due to some feudal or societal obligation) so one who chooses to act well is remembered.

If this is true I would think is only a virtue in someone who could choose, in this case I believe because of their high station, to act other than well.


"La franchise ne consiste pas à dire tout ce que l'on pense mais à penser tout ce que l'on dit." H. de Livry
(Is "franchise" just about truth and openness? Maybe the word is lost in English but not in French?
But the early examples from the Oxford English Dictionary seem to indicate a potential action or judgment.)
Marie de Blois found something:
"Interestingly, one of the definitions of frank has a subsection "liberal, bounteous, generous, lavish, esp. in dealing with money". Hey, check out this example for this section!

"1484 Caxton Chivalry 92 Chyualrye and Fraunchyse accorden to gyder .. the knyght must be free and franke."

Cathyn Fitzgerald on Franchise * Marie de Blois's notes and ideas
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