On Coming Back to England – Twenty Months in Review

Hey guys. Sorry it’s a bit austere in here – I leave Tübingen tomorrow, and I had to send all my stuff back the UK yesterday, so there’s not much other than me and the laptop left. (And actually once I’ve posted this I need to send my router back to my Internet provider so the laptop won’t be terribly useful at that point…)

               Is it fair to say I don’t really want to leave? I guess so. Living here has a few downsides, like the fact that I don’t really have hobbies anymore – I’ve been meaning to learn to dance for a couple of years, but there aren’t any English-language classes I can find and based on the last time I tried, I need as few handicaps as possible to even fail successfully. On the other hand, I like the town, I like the work, my colleagues are great, and after a relatively lonely year in Brussels I have something of a social life. Plus, of course, there’s never been a better time not to be working in UK academia…

               Still, despite the air of melancholy, you can’t say the last two years haven’t been good ones, career-wise. When I was awarded a Fondation Wiener-Anspach fellowship two years ago almost precisely, I was about three months away from finishing my thesis, earning a bit of side money through freelance invigilating, and generally being at a bit of a loose end. Since then, I’ve had two jobs, won a prize and got the proxime for two others, got another two articles in print, and am about to start on a three-year contract which should hopefully be a little more stable. So that’s very pleasing, and I’m a lot happier about the short-term future than I was two years ago, or even at the start of 2017.

               More importantly, here in Tübingen I think that I made a enough progress on my research to be able to start hacking away at the thickets standing between me and the book after I arrive in Leeds. More on that over the course of the years to come, but it does mean that I should probably clear the decks with my other publications. Which brings us to the actual point of the post: what’s coming, what needs work, and what’s sitting around in my ‘drafts’ folder waiting for something to happen with it?

               Coming soon

               OK, these are the ones where the revisions are all done, I’ve seen the proofs, and (albeit painfully slowly in one case) all that’s left to do is wait. There are two of these. The first is my ‘Flemish Succession Crisis’ article, where I finally try and resolve the Arnulf problem once and for all (and also shed some incidental light on royal power in the 960s in the process) – I got an e-mail from the editors yesterday asking for my postal address for the offprints, so hopefully I’ll be able to put up a Name In Print III fairly soon. The second is ‘Voice of Dissent’, on the Historia Francorum Senonensis, which is both a really, really close read and comes with an English translation of the text, so keep an eye out for that if early eleventh-century historiography is your jam.

               Probably Coming Soon

               Whilst these ones have been submitted and I’ve heard positive things back from their respective editors, they don’t yet have a date attached to them, and may require one or more rounds of revisions. Still, based on what I’ve seen thus far, those revisions shouldn’t be “re-write the whole thing” level… Another two in this category, ‘Kingship and Consent’, what I (sort-of) won that prize for; and ‘Nixi rex’, a written-up version of the paper I gave at that conference in Ghent I started blogging about and then stopped a couple of years or so ago. This one is about the regalian trend in talking about disputed episcopal elections c. 900 – what it is and what it means.

               In Progress

               This is the lowest level I still put on my CV – it means they’ve been submitted somewhere, but I don’t know how much work is left to do with them. Another two here – ‘Social and Political Selection’, about a disputed episcopal election in the 1010s and my attempt to analyse why the loser lost; and ‘Girly Man’, about which you have heard plenty. Nothing to do here but wait.

               In Beta

               These three are completely written, but they haven’t really been trialled yet. Before I submit them to a journal, I want to run them by people on the conference circuit. The first, ‘Martinian Advocacy’, in addition to being the first actual article I’ve written which began life as a blog post, is probably the closest to being submitted. I’m presenting it at the Ecclesiastical History Society, and then it needs a bit more historiographical grounding – there’s a point about Carolingian reform which it could speak to more loudly than it does. Then it’ll need test-running again, but I reckon if I keep a weather eye out for speaking opportunities it could be submitted somewhere by year-end 2018… The second, ‘Lehnwesen’, is part of someone else’s bigger project and I don’t know how much I can say about it so I’ll leave it there. At minimum, though, I need to read a couple of extra bibliography items and do another draft. The third and last, ‘Archchancellors’, is about an odd aspect of royal diplomas under Louis IV, to wit that he goes through archchancellors like Trump goes through press secretaries. This was sent in as a competition entry (where it received some of the most incompetent feedback I’ve ever had, all the more noticeable because Reader 1 was really helpful – and when I say incompetent, I mean “Reader 2 could not manage coherent paragraph organisation”) and one of the points was that I was avoiding the debate about the Carolingian chancery too hard. That was largely deliberate; but it does mean I need to run a version of it past real diplomatists at some point, and therefore this one’ll take a while longer.

               Hanging Around

               Seven in this category, these being the ones that I found when I went to look through my ‘Drafts’ folder. One of these, ‘Earliest Cluny’, actually will graduate higher fairly shortly – it’s a nice little case study of how noble power in the regions actually worked, and all it needs is a bit of polishing and some expanded analysis. Equally, ‘Princely Churches’, which has also appeared here in the past, was actually submitted to a journal, which rejected it (on fairly spurious grounds – most journals, those reports would have been ‘revise and resubmit’). Problem is, it has now turned into a co-authored piece and both me and my co-author are now busy enough and doing-other-things enough that it’s slid well down our respective to-do lists. Basically: should do something here, probably won’t any time soon. The third in this more promising category is ‘Moot Point’, on Neustrian assemblies. I really want to do something with this – it’s the kind of study I was complaining recently we just don’t have – but I spent years worrying over methodological difficulties and now I’m satisfied that there’s a real response to those, I can’t remember the evidence and when I went to look it up it looked shakier than I remembered. Presumably that’ll go away if I really submerge myself in these charters again, but that’ll take a while.

               The next two, ‘Dudo’s Time’ and ‘Provençal Pact’, just need time, the former more than the latter. The first started as a simple enough observation – broadly, the Historia Normannorum’s plot (one thing after another) is overruled by its metaplot (in heavenly time, everything has always already happened). It’s another close-reading paper, and that’s done; the problem is that a) finding the English vocabulary to talk about fiddling around with time is hard; and b) trying to find literature on it led me into literary criticism and thence to Lacan, which is enough to demoralise anyone. Again, it’s so far down the priority list it’ll take a while. More likely is the Provence paper. Once I finally decided that Liutprand of Cremona had no idea about Hugh of Arles’ relations with Transjurane Burgundy, and was stuck on a delayed train, I started sketching out an overview of Provençal politics after the death of Louis the Blind. This could go fairly quickly into the ‘In Beta’ category if I give it a week, but finding a week for something this out of the wheelhouse is tricky.

               Finally, two articles, ‘Soteriological Superiority’ and ‘West Frankish Reichskirche’, which have shown up on here before, but which I will not do anything with. The former will end up in the book; the latter is just too skinny to do anything much with at all.

               Need Writing

               In addition to all this, there are a few things which I want to write at some point and need to get on with. The first, ‘Stephen of Clermont’, is going to be based on the many, many posts about him on this here blog – I promised my funding body a ‘flagship’ article and he’s going to be it. There’s also ‘Church of Sens’ – the Historia Francorum article mentioned above began as one gigantic piece including lots and lots of historical and political context about the archbishops of Sens, and it was a bit of a Siamese twin. The reviewers recommended ditching it from the ‘Voice of Dissent’ bit, so now I think it should be an article on its own, but it does need redoing with coins and perhaps manuscripts.

               Finally, there are two other books which I’d like to do something with. One is a Translated Source Volume, which at this point may be Adhemar of Chabannes. I did start dealing with Folcuin of Lobbes, but then discovered that, commentary-wise, I had nothing much to say about him, so Adhemar might be a juicier proposition, as well as a useful one.

               The other is The Last Carolingians, a narrative history of the West Frankish kingdom c. 875-1030. This one presents me with a problem – it’s an exciting story, and I’d like to do it with a commercial publisher for a non-specialist audience. However, my views on the narrative itself are sufficiently new, and in some cases controversial, that the book would also need to actually argue for my reconstruction rather than just recount the consensus view. I test-wrote a chapter on the succession of Louis IV, though, and doing it that way makes it very technical. Thus, although it’s a bit B.S.-Bachrach-ish to just cite yourself over and over again, I might postpone this and shunt the argumentation into a series of articles – in which case, ‘Burgundian Succession 936’ needs to go on the to-do list to begin with…

               Cripes, that’s twenty things. Admittedly of those a little less than half are basically done, in one stage or another, and another two are explicitly never going to be dealt with; but I have just set myself a good five or six things to get into print in the next year or so. I arrive in Leeds on the 1st May – sounds like I’d better prepare myself to get on with it…

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Source Translation: A Mass Against Barbarian Persecution

…look, I just finished running a conference. My exhaustion is currently winning a battle against my  ongoing adrenaline-rush on-edge activity. I translated this a couple months ago with the idea it might be useful at some point; I have nothing much to say about it, but have fun:

A Mass Against the Threat of Barbarian Persecution

O God eternal and almighty, Thou Who spared Nineveh for three days of repentance and rescued the three boys unharmed from the fiery furnace,  and as well freed Daniel from the lions’ den, preserve us and through Thine ineffable mercy save us from the terrible madness of the encroaching barbarians, in order that we who have been thus freed, with the gratitude owed for such an act and in the service due to thee,  may continue in constant devotion. Per.

Alternatively. Grant us, we beseech thee O God Almighty, through the merits and intercession of the blessed N., that we who are rightfully afflicted due to our iniquity might be swiftly rescued from barbarian savagery by the gift of Thy goodness through Thine only-begotten son. Per.

Prayer over the offerings. We beseech thee, O Lord, look favourably on these present sacraments and kindly accept this which is offered to thee in great faith, on account of our suffering, so that we might speedily earn liberation from the current Northman disaster and thereafter by Thy mercy continue to obey Thy commands with the greatest devotion. Per.

After mass. O God eternal and almighty, we beseech Thee through Thine only-begotten son, give us the help of Thy salvation, that we, having been gained security from the barbarian cruelty which now threatens us, may deserve to serve Thee freely and unconditionally hereafter. Per eundem.

Ad complendum. We beseech Thee, O Lord, help Us Thy servants, appressed by the miseries of so many disasters, and be pleased to guard us with the right hand of Thy majesty, and after the cruel barbarian terror has been removed, kindly and speedily grant us the joy of comfort everlasting. Per.

Geoffrey Koziol’s Peace of God

I’ve now had the time to read Geoff Koziol’s new book on the Peace of God (called, with agreeable straightforwardness, The Peace of God) a couple of times, and spend a week thinking it over. I only got hold of it about a fortnight or so ago so this isn’t my final, definitive opinion or anything; but I reckon I can put together a coherent-enough first impression.

It’s a bit of a disappointing book. That’s a bit of an unfair opinion, because it’s not like it’s bad or anything, but the last two books Koziol wrote were game-changers, even if you don’t agree with them, so simply putting out a book that’s perfectly fine is a bit deflating. It must also be said that the book is literally lightweight as well – here’s a photo of all three of Geoff’s books to show you what I mean.

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It’s the one on the right. You can’t tell from this photo, but it’s also less tall than the others as well.

Anyway, it’s divided into three chapters, ‘Before the Peace of God’, ‘The Peace of God’, and ‘Institutionalising the Peace and Truce’. The first covers previous ideas of peace in Late Antiquity and the Carolingian empire and the Aquitanian context in which the Peace emerged. The second looks at what the Peace of God said, how it changed region by region, how the Peace of God worked, and how it was enforced. The third (which might in fact be a game changer if you work on twelfth-century law, I dunno) largely looks at late eleventh and twelfth-century institutionalisation of the Peace, and I’m basically going to ignore it in what follows because I don’t have much to say about it.

There are – for me at least – three big takeaway arguments from the first two chapters. First, the Peace of God genuinely was something new and different to the way the Carolingians talked about peace and violence. Second, it worked by regulating the lordships which proliferated alongside castles in a way which worked because it relied on the self-interest of lords. Third, although it was a consistent approach, it was very adaptable and needs to be approached in each region in that region’s own context.

Many of these points are very well made. Point one, for instance, is largely a response to Elisabeth Magnou-Nortier’s argument that the way the Church talked about its enemies didn’t change much from Late Antiquity onwards, and it’s able to express convincingly the point that, yes, there was actually something which had changed between 500 and 1100. Equally, Point 2 seems reasonable, at least in part.

However, there’s a lot in here which is dealt with oddly, where his actual argument doesn’t match his admirable statements about approach, or which are arguably wrong.

The context is a big one. Yes, every iteration of the Peace of God needs to be looked at from its specific context – it’s a great point; but a lot of the time he either doesn’t do this, or does and doesn’t get it quite right. In the latter case, his description of Aquitaine immediately before the Peace of God emerged, in the second half of the tenth century, relies heavily on the work of Christian Lauranson-Rosaz, and so reproduces much that Lauranson-Rosaz got wrong as well as some of his peculiar biases. In particular, Bishop Stephen II of Clermont doesn’t count as regional supremo because he’s just a bishop and not a ‘real’ lay ruler. The opposite view is quite findable out there in print – Anne-Hélène Brunterc’h published an article about this thirteen years ago, for instance. So what we have is a Peace of God emerging in a fragmented political vacuum which may in fact be illusory. In the former case, Koziol deals with lordship in chapter 2 as basically undifferentiated; but (as you can read in the last blog post, actually) even ‘a southern Aquitanian region with lots of castles’ has lots of different ways of being locally in charge depending on whether you’re in the Limousin or Quercy. Some more contextualisation of what ‘lordship’ meant would have put words into practice; and, sure, it would have meant a bigger book, but this book may be too small for its topic anyway.

Equally, Koziol is, quite simply, wrong when he talks about how there were very few aristocratic assemblies in tenth-century Gaul, and the Auvergne was unusual for the number it had. What is true is that aristocratic assemblies in tenth-century France – or immediately thereafter, actually – have never been studied. (As such, anyway; there’s a literature about local courts, especially in the Mâconnais, but not on political assemblies, with maybe one honourable exception) They are, though, there to find, even if no-one’s done it systematically yet – my own familiarity with the evidence from, in particular, Neustria and Poitou, suggests that princely assemblies existed and persisted during the tenth century. An examination of the Peace of God in the context of assembly politics in tenth-century regions, then, needs to actually be done rather than assumed.

Third and finally, I’ve noticed before that Koziol has an overt anti-Carolingian bias and here it’s on full display. A major part of what is called his second point above is that, unlike Carolingian capitularies (‘fervent, ideological, and utterly unpragmatic’ (p. 131)), the Peace of God was good legislation, because it’s ‘crisp, clear, to the point, and eminently practical’ (p. 65); and I don’t know what documents he’s reading, because it’s clearly not the same ones I am. In fact, immediately after saying this, he quotes the Peace of Narbonne (1054):

Let no Christian harm any other Christian or presume to mistreat him or despoil him of property.

Practical, huh? ‘Don’t be nasty’ is about as practical as the diatribes of Archbishop Hincmar which Koziol rails against. Equally, on the other side, Koziol uses the 884 Capitulary of Ver as an example of ‘unpragmatic’ Carolingian legislation. Here’s the second heading of that capitulary, just as an example:

We therefore decree that everyone who lives in Our palace or visits it from any place should live in peace. If anyone breaks the peace and commits robbery let them by Our royal authority and the command of Our representative be brought to a hearing in the palace, and, in accordance with what is contained in the capitularies of Our ancestors, by a legal judgement be punished with a threefold fine and the royal ban.

How’s that for fervent, otherworldly lawmaking? It’s longer, sure, but it’s just as enforceable as any Peace of God clause. Koziol is right that Peace of God legislation tends to forego some of the sermonising found in Carolingian legislation, but only by focussing narrowly on the texts: on the day, as it were, given these things were issued at large assemblies with lots of major clerics present, there would have been all the preaching you could eat. (Equally, we know from manuscripts that Carolingian capitularies were used as guidebooks for legal practice – some manuscript comparison would have been useful, because I don’t think Peace of God legislation tends to get written down much at all, which suggests Koziol is comparing apples and oranges here…) So I think Koziol’s dislike of the Carolingians has led him into an unsupportable binary distinction between Carolingian and Peace of God legislation which in turn means that his ideas about how different the Peace of God was from the Carolingian peace start to look a lot shakier.

Now, I’ve spent 1200 words – gosh, really? This was supposed to be short… – criticising it, but like I said, it’s not bad. I suspect it’ll go down as a footnote in the Koziol oeuvre, but it offers useful precepts for people looking the Peace of God in the future, even if it puts them into practice imperfectly. Personally, I think the call to contextual analysis is key. No staggering new insight on the Peace of God is going to emerge unless we have a much better idea than we currently do about political formations, assembly practices, and local, regional, and regnal communities both in Aquitaine and elsewhere before the Peace of God emerged.

 

Briefly, Some More on Aquitanian Castles

Not that I’ve had any great breakthrough or anything, but I think I’ve moved on somewhat on one of the issues around the Miracles of Saint Foy which we were talking about last time. My thanks to Jonathan Jarrett, who in the comments recommended an article of Pierre Bonnassie’s on castles in the Miracles, which I have quickly got hold of a copy of and read. (Relatedly, if M. Fray from Twitter is reading this, the Aurillac and Figeac miracles have been put fairly high on the list, thanks a lot! – but I haven’t got round to them yet for reasons which will become clear below…) And based on the Bonnassie article, I have had a thought.

               First, a little bit of comparison. Since I got back from a short visit to Hesse at the start of this week (mostly looking at late- and post-Carolingian churches, so how far it counts as a ‘holiday’ is up for debate), I’ve been spending most of my time reading Adhemar of Chabannes’ Chronicon, which in terms of geographical coverage overlaps very slightly with the area Bernard of Angers was writing about but which mostly concerns the area immediately to the north; and which, like the Miracles, spends a lot of time talking about castles, but with one noticeable difference. As Bonnassie points out (which I had already noticed), basically none of the fighting in the Miracles takes place in castles themselves – there are ambushes and ravaging aplenty, but not many sieges or assaults. By contrast, warfare in Adhemar is all about attacking castles. I have the Chronicon beside me right now, and opening the book literally at random, I found a description of an assault on a castle (III.48, an attack on the castle of Merle). What this means is that Adhemar is describing a situation in which rulers can mobilise enough resources to risk attacking a castle in a way which the nobles in the Miracles can’t.

               What this means, I would argue, is that at the very least a proliferation of castles was not a cause of an extreme fragmentation of power in the area Bernard of Angers is talking about, in Quercy and the Rouergue – because Poitou, the Limousin, and the Angoumois also saw a proliferation of castles but still had people who could mobilise on a larger scale than the people Bernard is writing about. This suggests to me, although it certainly does not prove, that my initial hunch was right and that Bonnassie’s argument is wrong: the issue is less that power actually was extremely fragmented, and more that Bernard was interested in a very small-scale, local society. It’s true (as Bonnassie says) that a lot of the castles in Bernard’s region are very difficult to attack, but on the other hand it’s not like Merle (for example) is set at the bottom of a gentle river valley either… So I would speculate that had Bernard been writing about the mighty deeds of great men like Adhemar was, rather than about the miracles that the saint of a B-list abbey performed amongst the local community, their accounts would look more similar.

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The Tours de Merle. Not the eleventh-century buildings, obviously, but you can tell from the setting that accessibility was not the builders’ chief concern… (source)

On Reading the Book of the Miracles of Saint Foy

Recently, as part of this whole Aquitanian mess, I had cause to do something I had never previously done, which is to sit down and read the whole of the Miracles of Saint Foy.* This work may not be familiar to all of you, so I’ll say ‘it’s a lengthy book of the miracles of an Aquitanian child-saint written by a learned Northern cleric’ and point you towards this very readable introduction written by someone else. Saint Foy was based at the monastery of Conques, which as it happens had been where Stephen II of Clermont had begun his career as abbot. She apparently had a thing for flashy jewellery, an unforgiving attitude to those who tried to cheat her of it, and a local reputation for being rather impish.

The book of her miracles is interesting for several reasons – not the least of which being that, to my delight, it features a Frankish nobleman making a career as a pirate, adding to my very small list of non-Scandinavian waterborne raiders (because, come on, not every pirate in medieval western Europe can have come from the Oslofjord).  But the reason I’m writing about it today is because of one specific thing: basically everyone the book’s author Bernard identifies as being significant is identified by the castle they rule.

I was planning to do a whole post on castles, and then gave up because I don’t really have anything to say. Castles get big juuuuust as my thesis research cut out – there’s a few decades of overlap depending on where you are – and although I go further in time now, I still have yet to come up with anything profound. Between this and Koziol’s book on the Peace of God – review next week, probably – I may soon be forced to confront them.

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Saint Foy herself! (Source)

So, beginning here, what is interesting to me is that, coming at it from the mid-tenth century when our boy Steve has a perfectly good regional hegemony going is just how small-scale everything is. I don’t think Bernard names one person as owning more than one castle. The big question is: does genuinely reflect a southern Auvergne/Quercy/Rouergue where power is seriously fragmented, or is it just a reflection of Bernard’s interests, which are in retelling the stories of the people who came to the abbey, who were mostly local?

Well, some of this will come through when the Auvergne series gets to the aftermath of Stephen II’s reign. One thing is that Conques was not, up to the mid-century, actually all that important of a place. It’s striking that most of the places Bernard mentions are within a day’s journey of Conques itself. Certainly, there are counts – mostly of the Rouergue – around, and once he mentions visiting the duke of Aquitaine at Poitou. The other thing is that he’s dealing largely with healing and punishment miracles, and given that none of the really big names in the region patronise Conques, this wouldn’t impinge on wider political history for that reason. On the other hand, at the very least it indicates that the dominion of the upper aristocracy did not weigh heavily on most people. In fact, what Bernard indicates is less an oppressive or randomly violent lordly regime, feudal or otherwise, than one where lower-tier warriors can pursue their grudges in peace…

*I say ‘Saint Foy’ not ‘Saint Faith’ because the author actually makes it clear that her name – Latin Fides – is not the same Fides as the word ‘faith’. Different declension, apparently.

I R Winner (Sort Of) 2

Y’know, if I’d known this was going to happen more than once I’d have chosen a less dated reference…

Anyway, there won’t be another blog post until at least the weekend – I do have one half-written, but I’ve spent the entire day chasing medieval sites around northern Hesse, and I’m exhausted. But! That means that I can announce some good news!

A couple of times on this blog, I’ve mentioned my work about viking sex. Well, as it happened, I wrote that up, submitted it to Anglo-Norman Studies’ Chibnall Prize, and this year it won the proxime! I am told it was a close decision, which is certainly better than I expected when I included the bit from Hrotswitha of Gandersheim about the dude fucking the pots and pans; but as I’ve been entering for the last six years, it’s nice to have won something, even if just runner up!

Also, apparently the response to the paper was so good that they’ve asked me, and I’ve accepted, to present it at the 2019 Battle Conference. What this means is those of you who want to hear about William Longsword’s mighty weapon somewhere it can be cited, you should be able to expect it in around 2020…

Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 4: The Succession to Hugh the Great in Auvergne, 956-959

Postponed but not forgotten! (The last in the coronation ordines series is still on at some point as well; it just turns out I have nothing much to say about Philip I…) Last time in this occasional series about the career of Bishop Stephen II of Auvergne, Count William Towhead had tried to proclaim himself as ruler of the Auvergne, and come to some kind of agreement with the bishop. This agreement didn’t hold up very long, because of the death of Hugh the Great, that inescapable figure of tenth-century history.

We have discussed this before in relation to Neustria, but it had repercussions in Aquitaine as well, although they’re quite obscure. What appears to have happened is that Stephen (and perhaps William Towhead, if his authority was anything other than nominal) lost control over some of Auvergnat nobles. It’s hard to say when this process began – in 956 and 957, our extant sources are focussed on Burgundy – but it came to a head in 958. That year, according to one charter, ‘the princes of the Auvergne rebelled against each other in turn’. Around the same time, there was an Auvergnat attack on southern Burgundy defeated at Chalmoux by Count Lambert of Chalon.* Neither of these documents give the Auvergnats a leader, so I don’t think we’re dealing with anything as grandiose as a civil war. Rather, it looks a lot more like the eruption of a couple of years of endemic banditry. If I had to point to a cause, I’d ascribe it to the shift in leadership the region was undergoing: Stephen’s lord, King Louis IV, had recently died, as had his metropolitan, Archbishop Launo of Bourges, and Hugh the Great, who I am increasingly inclined to see as a peacemaker. Moreover, William Towhead’s – I think the word is fair – usurpation of authority in Auvergne, which may or may not have done him any good, looks likely to have weakened Stephen’s position. The violence of the time around 958, then, appears to be the result of local nobles looking to take advantage of the suddenly-shaky Stephanic regime to settle feuds and grab the upper hand in local disputes.

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One thing Stephen did that I’m not going to talk about was to commission a statue of the Virgin in Majesty, which now only survives as this drawing. Image taken from M. Goulet & D. Iogna-Prat, ‘Vierge en Majeste’, in Marie. Le culte de la Vierge, ed. D. Iogna-Prat et. al., p. 405.

Stephen claimed to have restored peace in the region by September 958, although frankly I think this is dubious. Not the least reason for this is that on top of the localised violence, it seems clear that there was ongoing fighting between King Lothar, Hugh the Great’s sons (who were Lothar’s cousins), and William Towhead, with the first two joining forces against the latter whilst at the same time also quarrelling amongst themselves. Thus, in November 958, at Martinmas (possibly in response to the Auvergnat invasion of southern Burgundy?) Lothar and his cousins went to Marzy, a western suburb of Nevers on the river Loire, for a placitum against William Towhead. This is a slightly obscure phrase, and I’m not sure whether it means that there was a hostile meeting or something outright violent. Remember, Nevers was right where the old Guillelmid and Burgundian spheres of influence clashed, and it had passed back and forth between the two several times.

In 959, Nevers castle was captured and a new bishop, Natrand, formerly from the region of Sens, was imposed. This is far from certain, but I think that this is Lothar capturing the fortifications from William. Perhaps in response, but in any case a dramatic assertion of his authority over the region, William is attested for the first time entitled as count not simply of Poitou, but of ‘all Aquitaine’. At the same time, Stephen of Clermont put his affairs in order for a trip to Rome. This is an odd time to make a pilgrimage, you might think; but actually it does make a certain degree of sense. First, Stephen’s position depends on his links to royalty, links which are now jeopardised by William Towhead’s role in the Auvergne. So going to Rome gets him out of the way and means he can avoid any blame for that. Second, going to Rome gives Stephen ties with the papacy to brandish back home to further shore up his legitimacy (and in fact a few years later on we can see this happening).

               As the 960s dawned, then, Stephen’s position did not look all that good. But peace (which, as his 958 charter said, rules all) was just on the horizon, and as this post is getting long enough, I’ll deal with that next time.

*Fair warning, this story is coming out of a lot of hypothesising and a strange melange of sources. If you’re interested how I got here, let me know; but this has taken me so long that I’m just going to tell the story.