Down to the tenth century a large part of the British Isles, the Netherlands, Germany, Northern and Western France, and Lombardy was covered with marshes. Moorlands and heaths likewise occupied a large and unproductive area, and vast forests of oak, fir, and pine were to be found in every country. It is estimated that one third of England was covered with forest, and legend and folklore are full of tales of the Ardennes, the Black Forest, and the Charcoal Burners' Forest. In these areas men expected to get an easy living, as their ancestors before the invasions had similarly exploited the woods and streams of eastern Europe. They took timber for building, and logs for fuel; pitch, resin, and wild fruits they obtained with slight effort, while hunting and the raising of hogs gave them an abundant supply of meat.
Naturally there was little idea of forestry in the modern sense of the term, but laws protecting the forests from fire and wanton destruction were soon formulated and put into effect. In general, however, the chase was the primary consideration in forestry legislation. Originally all free men had had the right to hunt, but this right had gradually been hemmed about with restrictions until finally only kings and nobles were permitted to take game. Courts for the protection of royal and noble rights administered harsh laws and inflicted severe punishments upon offenders. This was the condition that prevailed in every country of Western Europe throughout the Middle Ages.
The Ripuarian Law was first drawn up about A.D. 511 by Theoderic I, son of Clovis and king of Metz. It may be regarded as an expression