In the spring of 1202, between 25 March and 14 April, Hugh of Candavène, Count of St-Pol, oversaw four separate, yet parallel, grants of franchise to four towns within his domains. In 1194, Hugh had become a direct vassal of the king of France, who endowed him with several fiefs in the territories between St-Pol and the royal domain in recognition of his faithful service (propter servicium). In the region of the Somme, where Hugh's new fiefs clustered, grants of franchise were not uncommon. From the beginning of the twelfth century semi-independent communes came to play an increasingly prominent, if often controversial, role in public debate and political life. As Charles Petit-Dutaillis, Robert Fossier, Susan Reynolds, Chris Wickham and others have shown, communes – that is, independent urban communities governed by a small group of échevins or prud'hommes and enjoying specific defined and delineated freedoms, customs, usages and regulations – developed differently at different moments in northern and southern Europe. Notoriously, during the twelfth century, as was the case in Laon, Beauvais, and Reims, grants of urban franchises could be revoked as often as they were confirmed, making the creation of a commune or an enfranchised ville potentially controversial. The grants contained the kernel of possible critique and dissent; the commune could be a site of resistance to, as much as respect for, local lordship.
By 1202, Hugh had been a vowed crusader for two years. As a seasoned crusader who had taken part in the Third Crusade and returned to the west in 1192, he emerged as one of the leaders of the Fourth Crusade. That spring he began the process of making a final tournée of his domains as he departed for the east. In the last days of March, Hugh and his wife, Countess Yolande, enfranchised the burghers of St-Pol-sur-Ternoise and their heirs and granted them a commune to exist in perpetuity (in perpetuum) according to the laws and customs of the commune of St-Quentin, which Hugh had established a decade earlier. Thus, St-Pol was given rights of self-governance in exchange for modest annual payments in kind and in recognition of his grant and his lordship.