I have just been picking the brains of Paul Fouracre on this question, via the means of his 1995 paper in Davies & himself’s Property and Power. It’s a very odd piece, trying to step a very precise line between giving a specialist answer and general conclusions, but a couple of bits definitely stand out for insight: firstly pointing out that, although when a king concedes an immunity he is certainly giving away fiscal, or public as some might say, rights even if no-one can agree how much. But who’s going to enforce this privatisation of power when the new owner has trouble exercising it? The king, of course, so you’ve got public defence of a private power holding public rights and private and public and private and public and please, let’s use some different words now. The problem is still the same though, why do people get these concessions when the king can’t enforce them? What’s that connection to the royal power of yesteryear worth to my Catalan monks, eh?
The other much more important point though is one wisely made, that though immunities have long been placed at the root of the weakening of royal authority in favour of local lords, really, there are no known immunities to laymen (except actually there are, but Paul as do so many people has a footnote saying Catalonia is too weird to count—O RLY!) and no lordships of that kind that we know of built on an earlier concession of immunity. Except in Italy. Oh, and in Germany. But really only France counts for the feudal transformation scholarship, as Tim Reuter mordantly observed the same year.
Actually, that’s the third thing, I love how the Bucknell group were so cheerful about disagreeing with each other. Chris Wickham gets cited three or four times in this paper and almost every time Paul is dismissing his view as ridiculous. I’m sure Chris will have done the same in reverse in his paper later in the volume, because of course they were all at the discussions out of which the book came… Seeing Patrick Wormald arguing with Jinty Nelson at the IHR had the same thing going on; both very sharp and both completely enjoying it, because they’d been practising these arguments for years. Such a pity that he and Tim are gone, I enjoyed what little I caught of them a great deal.
Paul Fouracre, “Eternal Light and Earthly Needs: practical aspects of the development of Frankish immunities” in Wendy Davies & Paul Fouracre (edd.), Property and Power in Early Medieval Europe (Cambridge 1995), pp. 53-81.