Before we get into what the Mayor of the Palace was, let’s be clear about what it wasn’t: using today’s definitions, there was no mayor (the leader of a city), and there was no palace (a permanent royal residence). The Latin term is maior domus. A better reading of the term would be something like “leader of the domicile.” Let’s talk about what the position meant for those who held it, and by the end we’ll have a better understanding of the position by comparing the mayor to a modern equivalent.
As with many things in early medieval Francia, the maior domus and other court positions (known as the palatium) originated from Roman institutions. In any monarchical government power is highly personal, and in Francia that personal power was held by the Merovingian kings and their court. “The Frankish royal court consisted of a permanent establishment of household officials who were drawn from the magnates. The court revolved around the king, and it was held wherever the king was, which was usually in one of a half a dozen or so favoured places situated on royal estates.”1.Fouracre, Charles Martel, p.28. Here we can see where the idea of the ‘Palace’ part of the job title comes from. In the Frankish world there was no equivalent to Buckingham Palace, a single building solely associated with the head of state.2.Charlemagne attempted to build something like that with his palace at Aachen, but that took many decades yet. Instead, the palace, the embodiment of the state, was wherever the king and his court happened to be, or, you could say, domiciled.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Fouracre, Charles Martel, p.28.|
|2.||↑||Charlemagne attempted to build something like that with his palace at Aachen, but that took many decades yet.|