Name in Print VI

As a nice cap to my frantic end-September deadline drive (ends this evening, hurrah!), today I found this in my office pigeonhole:

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Yaaay!

This, as you can see, is the new volume of The Mediaeval Journal, and I am in it. You may remember that a while back, I came runner-up in their essay competition, and now the article has seen the light of day as ‘Kingship and Consent in the Reign of Charles the Simple: The Case of Sint-Servaas (919)’, The Mediaeval Journal 7.2 (2019), pp. 1-22. I’m proud of this one – anyone who’s met me (or indeed read this blog) will know that I am an unashamed Charles the Simple fanboy, and whereas my last article about him unavoidably focussed on his failures, this one aims to put down one particular historiographical myth, that of Charles’ absolutism. In wider terms, it’s about the shades of royal ideology and the use of charters to convey ideology, so if any of this strikes your fancy, please do have a look!

It is unfortunately not freely available online, but if you can’t get hold of the journal I have a PDF I’d be happy to send you – if you don’t have my contact details, you can find them under the ‘About’ page on the right-hand side of the blog.

The gritty details: My word, do you know it’s been five years since this thing first saw the light of day?! That was as a conference paper back in 2014, which then became my IMC paper in 2015. It then got written up for the Mediaeval Journal Essay Prize when I moved to Brussels in 2016, the results of which you know already. This came with a cash prize (and I’d already been asked if I wanted to publish a previous entry with them which was only short-listed) so I waited to hear about publication, given they’d already given me some money for it*. I then waited some more, until several months later I asked if they wanted to publish it, to which the answer was thankfully ‘yes’. Reviewer reports wanted a few minor revisions, which I submitted by year-end 2017. Then it was another waiting game, in large part because the previous issue of the journal was taken up with a special issue, but final proofs were off by year-end 2018 and now, nine months later, it’s out!

*For non-academics, this is unusual and only because this was a prize – we don’t get paid for articles.

I Aten’t Dead

Hey all. I know, I know, it’s been a while. I have to be honest, it’s likely to be a little longer until normal service is resumed, although normal service will be resumed at some point. Still, I thought I should explain to you where I’ve been and what’s coming up on the agenda.

As a peek behind the scenes, I write these blog posts on one big word document, which is something like 200,000 words long at this point. The last words I wrote on it, however, were back in May, when I was sitting in Dublin airport waiting to go to the Kalamazoo Medieval Congress. In the past, a few people have expressed surprise at the blog’s rate of posting; what it turns out is that when things start ramping up, this is the first and easiest thing to cut. So what ramped up? A few things. It’s been an unpleasant year personally, in ways which aren’t blog-appropriate – I’m fine, thank you, but it did slow me down somewhat. More concretely, I got given a bit more teaching than I was expecting, and preparation and delivery for that took up a lot of time. Next year I’m teaching the same course again, so hopefully having all the groundwork prepared will save a lot of time… Then, I ended up presenting at a lot of conferences thanks partly to invitations and partly because doing that helped me write my thesis so I also hoped it would help me write my book. Spoilers, that didn’t happen, but several of them were useful, as you might tell from the below. Most excitingly for you, however, I’ve been doing a lot of writing, and I’d like to spend the rest of this post telling you about it. This has some similarities to the post I did when I came back to the UK from Germany (and never has that decision seemed less prescient than recently), and uses some similar categories, so let’s get started with:

Released and forthcoming

Lots of activity here. Since I wrote that old post, both ‘Flemish Succession’ and ‘Voice of Dissent’ came about, both of which I duly mentioned to you. I have also now seen proof versions for ‘Kingship and Consent’ in The Mediaeval Journal, as well as Nisi Rex in The Medieval Low Countries, so hopefully both will be on their way to you shortly. I have also, quite recently, sent off corrections to ‘Lehnwesen’, and the editors tell me they hope to have the volume out by the end of the year – it’ll be in German, and the translation is quite distressing, insofar as it’s a visible improvement over my English prose… Ah well, the road to getting better stretches ever onwards. Otherwise, there should be a couple of book reviews coming out soon as well.

In Progress

Again, plenty of activity – as mentioned above, my docket has been very full. First, articles, in rough order of completeness. A fully-written up version of my work on advocates got submitted to Early Medieval Europe in January, and initial reviews were basically positive but wanted some structural changes. Here, I hope to have these finished by week’s end, and I’ll keep you posted what happens next. Then, more excitingly, the now-legendary Norman sex paper was given at the Battle Conference this very year, and needs to be submitted to Anglo-Norman Studies by the end of September. Because this was originally a competition entry, though, the text currently exists in complete form – reading it out loud multiple times means that there are some bits of polishing I want to do, but this is a couple of hours’ work away from being done-done.

Then, there are no fewer than five articles in the process of being written. First, ‘Flemish Reform’: having presented at the Ecclesiastical History Society conference for several years, I decided this would be the year I’d try and get into Studies in Church History. This one is actually pretty much done bar some footnotes, and is with beta readers as I type. Second, a conference I went to in Luxembourg yeeeears ago got in touch recently to say that they were preparing the proceedings and could we please send texts by end of September. It’s a prestigious conference and a prestigious serious, so I’m thrilled to be involved with it; but unfortunately when I was invited I wasn’t sure that I would still be employed by the time it ran, and so the paper I delivered was a chapter of my thesis – and, naturally, it’s the chapter than has been made most obsolete by my subsequent research… Still, there’s a point in there, and I’ve been meaning to write about the Neustrian succession for a while, so I am in the midst of retrofitting it into something useful. Third, a worked-up version of my post about the Kriegsfahne of Queen Gerberga is mostly-done – because it doesn’t have a deadline, finishing the draft has got pushed further back, but it’s not very long so once the deadlines are dispatched it’ll be done directly. I’d like to submit it to an art history journal, but don’t know which one – suggestions in the comments!

Then there are two more a little further back on the road. ‘Church of Sens’ just needs a week or two of dedicated effort, because it’s so nearly done, but that’s been the case since last winter. ‘Earliest Cluny’ is even closer. The problem with that is that for the longest time it was, honestly, a case study in search of a point; but I gave a paper at the M6 Symposium in Liverpool which was sufficiently short that it could only be point. That was really useful, and all I need to do now is edit the top-and-tail to bring out the argument more, and then it’ll be ready for beta-reading.

Mysteries

This section has got a lot smaller since the version of this post I wrote back in May. The only entry here is ‘Social and Political Selection’, about which everything I know comes from offhand mentions on the Power Of The Bishop conference Twitter feed – that one’ll be done when it’s done. We haven’t got the peer review back yet, and given that a friend of mine was waiting four or five years for the last volume, I’m not expecting anything soon.

Parked

Of the papers I was talking about last year, ‘Archchancellors’, ‘Princely Churches’, ‘Moot Point’, and ‘Dudo’s Time’ are waiting for me to have the time and energy to deal with them. Frankly, they’ll probably not get done until the book is. Also, ‘Princely Churches’ at least is probably dead (or it’ll end up even bigger, which means it’ll end up probably as one of those little Palgrave-Pivot type volumes). Finally, and sadly, ‘Provençal Pact’ is off the docket for the moment – I presented a version of it at the IMC this year as part of the Louis The Blind Fun-Time Variety Hour, and as I wrote it up I realised that the answer I now had to the antiquarian question I initially asked was raising all kinds of much harder and more conceptual questions to which I had no good answer…

On the docket

What’s further ahead? Another four things, two with deadlines attached. I’ve been approached to write some undergrad-friendly pieces, one on the origins of Aquitaine for The History Compass and one on regionalism and late-Carolingian rule for a Routledge Companion to French history. Both of these have April deadlines but hopefully I can get ‘em done around the New Year. I got asked about Aquitaine at Kalamazoo this year, after giving ‘Stephen of Clermont’ as a paper. Given that ol’ Steve is actually on my probation list, he definitely needs writing up, and again that needs to be done before next spring. Finally, I was invited to talk at a really good conference in Poitiers back in June and gave a paper on ‘Failed Counts’ – the response was sufficiently good (and the argument sufficiently solid) that I’ve put it in to be written up. It needs a few more presentations, and a bit of East Frankish stuff would come in handy, so it won’t be done for a while, but it is on the list.

Those of you with eagle eyes will have noted one thing I haven’t talked about yet, and that is the book. Well, it got hit hard by the piling-on of stuff in Spring – I was supposed to have sample chapters to the press by the end of May, and that definitely didn’t happen. Thankfully, I was able to speak to my contact at the press in person at Kalamazoo, and they were very understanding. So, what’s happening is this: all the chapters they want currently exist in draft form. (One of the reasons I’ve been getting on with other articles is in fact because they’re all in the beta-reading stage and I can’t do much until they get back to me.) I’ve set myself a hard deadline of end of August for submission, which is just time enough to give them a bit of a polish. Otherwise, the proposed title is Kingdom and Principality in Tenth-Century France; and I’m very pleased with most of what I’ve written so far. As usual, I’ll keep you posted…

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Meanwhile, I will get back to beavering away!

So what does this mean for the blog? Short version, I’ll get back to it when my deadlines have passed. I’d like to build up a bit of a backlog before I start releasing posts into the wild again, so that’ll add a couple of weeks to the ETA, but basically we’re talking, say, late October. So I will see you all then, enjoy your summers, and don’t forget to submit your papers to the strand on Non-Royal Rulership I’m putting together for IMC 2020!

Charter A Week 38: Paganism and Response in Normandy

Huh, I guess we’re getting to Normandy earlier than I’d anticipated. Anyway, we saw a few weeks ago that one of the criticisms levelled at the early Normans was that they were disloyal to their new Christian faith. This wasn’t just polemic (although it was definitely also polemic). Archbishop Guy of Rheims – probably the only bishop left in post in early tenth-century Normandy – was also having problems. He apparently wrote a panicked letter to his neighbour Archbishop Heriveus of Rheims, who in turn wrote to Pope John X, who, in his turn, wrote back:

PU no. 38 (914) = JL no. 3553

Bishop John, servant of the servants of God, to Our most reverend confrere Heriveus, archbishop of Rheims.

Very freely receiving the honey-sweet letters of Your Fraternity and Your Reverend Sanctity and very diligently considering them, We became both very sad and fiercely joyful. To explain: We grieved over such calamities and such pressures and difficulties as have befallen your region (as the statement of your letters made plain), not only from pagans, but also from Christians. We rejoiced, though, over the race of the Northmen, which has been converted, by the inspiration of divine clemency, to the faith. Once it delighted to prowl in search of human blood, but now, by your exhortations, with the Lord’s co-operation, it rejoices that it is redeemed and to have drunk of the divine blood of Christ. For this, We give tremendous and profuse thanks to Him from whom all which is good comes forth, submissively entreating that He might confirm them in the firmness of true faith and cause them to know the glory of the eternal Trinity and lead them in to the unspeakable joy of His visage.

Now, concerning what should be done about those things which Your Fraternity has made known to Us – that is, what should be done with those who are baptised and re-baptised, and live like pagans after baptism, killing Christians, butchering priests and sacrificing to idols and eating to the sacrifices after the pagan custom – those who are not novices in the faith should be tried by the full force of canonical judgement.

As for those who are unwrought in the faith, We commit them entirely to the scales of your judgement to be tried. You have this people near your borders, and you are better placed than anyone to diligently attend to and recognize both their habits and acts and way of life. This, though, should be done gently. Your Industry knows full well what the sacred canons judge decree for them. But it should not come to pass that the unaccustomed burdens which they carry should seem, God forbid, unbearable to them. They will fall back to the former man of their old life, whom they had improved, owing to the plots of the Ancient Enemy. If some, however, are found amongst them who prefer to soften themselves in accordance with the canonical statutes and expiate such sins as they have committed by worthy laments, do not hesitate to judge these people canonically; being in this way being vigilant towards them in everything, so that when you come before the tribunal of the Eternal Judge with the manifold fruit of souls, you may deserve to gain eternal joy with the blessed Remigius.

On another note, We received the gift which Your Sanctity deigned to send to Us, with that love and affection with which you sent it. May Divine Majesty grant you and all who are subject to you such a life in this world as, by the intercession of the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, might loose the chains of all your sins and lead you to the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven without any offence.

We bid Your Sanctity farewell, and to intercede for Us with pious supplications before the most pious of Lords.

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This image, which is a Swedish tapestry from the c12th, may or may not have much to do with what c10th vikings believed; but as I upload this I’m in a rush and it’s a pretty picture. (source

The conversion of the Northmen to Christianity was a long-term project, and from the mid-910s we have not only John’s letter to Heriveus but also Heriveus’ letter to Archbishop Guy of Rouen, giving him advice and excerpts from the canons about various disciplinary issues. Lying behind much of this is Gregory the Great, and especially his letter to St Augustine of Canterbury giving similar advice about newly-converted pagans; and both Heriveus and John advise a tread-lightly approach.

One thing which I don’t think scholars have previously picked up on: I don’t think this letter is entirely about converts. At the beginning of the letter, John refers to disturbances in northern Neustria wreaked by Christians as well as pagans, and although there is something of a trope about this, we know it happened. If you remember Bernard of Gothia, one of the three Bernards, his brother Imino was accused of plundering the area around Évreux in a Viking-like fashion by Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims.

In this light, I don’t think John is simply drawing a distinction between more- and less-experienced converts to Christianity. It seems to me that he’s giving Guy and Heriveus carte blanche to deal with ‘those who are not novices in the faith’ – which could mean long-time converts but could also mean those who were born to it – as they would with anyone who raided or despoiled Church property. It is even possible that there was some ‘conversion’ the other way, from Christianity to paganism; or, at the very least, that northern Neustrian Christians didn’t object to eating meat which had been sacrificed to pagan gods, and that this was also a problem for the two archbishops. (In the ninth century, Pippin II of Aquitaine had been accused of living like a Northman and it is clear that this was a major problem in the Frankish world.)

In short, this letter does not only testify to the canny, long-term conversion strategies of those in charge of winning the Neustrian Norse for Christianity. It also testifies to the problems besetting the future Normandy at this point – even if the king could dispose of property there, there were evidently major disruptions.

Charles the Bald: Overdrive

I noticed something weird lately, and it’s made me think that Charles the Bald came very close to utterly ruining the late-Carolingian political system. But let’s start at the beginning. One of the things which is supposed to be a big black mark on the record of tenth-century kings is their limited reach. This doesn’t sit right with me on either end, and I’ve written here before about you can see the tenth-century Carolingians in all kinds of places traditional historiography says you shouldn’t find them. But it’s also the case that there are big swathes of ninth- and even eighth-century Gaul which don’t have much to do with royal power. Martin Gravel uses the phrase ‘non-communicating elites’, and I haven’t got far enough through his book to find out how badly I’m misusing his words (suspicion: badly), but I like talking about these people in those terms. Whereas the movers and shakers of the Loire valley, say, or the bishops of southern Burgundy will have plenty of contact with the court, the bishops of what will become Rouen or the leading men of Quercy don’t seem ever to have had much contact with the Carolingian rulers, not in the ninth century and not in the tenth.

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Here, indeed, is a contemporary picture of some of those Neustrian movers-and-shakers: this is Charles the Bald receiving a delegation of Neustrian monks in the 840s (source).

Given that the amount of documentation for the later tenth and eleventh century in these regions increases dramatically, what I think we then see is something of an optical illusion. The combination of ‘more stuff’ and ‘no kings’ makes historians think that the ‘no kings’ is a new development, whereas it’s more likely that if we had more stuff from earlier, we’d see kings as very distant figures then as well. (The original charters of the cathedral of Rodez, where we do have more stuff from earlier, seem to bear this out.)

A good way to look at this are the witness lists of Church councils. These are good because they essentially eliminate preservation bias as a factor – their preservation is so widely-distributed that if we see patterns in who does and does not attend, it’s unlikely to be because the archbishops of Trier (or whoever) were left out deliberately by dozens of scribes over dozens of institutions. And as it happens if we look at the witness lists of big, realm-wide Church councils under the Carolingians, we do see some consistent absences, a major one being the bishops of Cahors, who don’t show up at any Church councils that I’ve been able to find, not under Charles the Bald, not under Louis the Pious, and not under Charlemagne. This seems pretty good evidence that these bishops were never more than tenuously associated with Carolingian governance.

But, there is one exception to this rule. The Council of Ponthion in 876, called by Charles the Bald as part of his grand imperial dreams of the last few years of his life, had a ludicrously-large number of bishops taking part, including Cahors. Now, Cahors is just one example of this, but one thing I think we can see in the last part of Charles’ reign is the presence of more and more people around the king-emperor, including many more of these ‘non-communicating’ elites. At the same time, though, Charles’ inner circle was being more and more reduced (sometimes to the relief of the later historian – it’s during this period that the number of important Bernards around Charles goes from about five to one).

Now, it doesn’t help that both Charles and his son Louis the Stammerer die fairly shortly after one another, but I’m not sure its coincidence that the years around 880 see a serious factional crisis in the West Frankish kingdom. I’m starting to think that Charles, by demanding increased participation and cutting off the flow of reward, ran his kingdom into overdrive. Earlier medieval government doesn’t do well with density, and the years from 875 to 877 see a lot of actors in very little space – the subsequent explosion may well have something to do with this…

Charter A Week 37: Princely Power at Cluny

Another week, another trial. This time, we’re back in William the Pious’ Aquitaine, where the abbey of Cluny – by now up and running as such – is having trouble with one of its estates.

CC no. 1.192 (30th October 913, Ennezat)

A notice of how and in what manner Count William, by the law’s favour, acquired a certain estate named Ainé from Anscher.

Therefore, let everyone who will hear or read this know that the aforesaid duke, within the timeframe prescribed by the law, laid a case against the same Anscher, to wit, because he held the estate of Ainé contrary to right either civil or public. Neither inflicting any force nor (although he was a prince) exercising any power, he conceded to him a time and place so that he could legally defend himself, if he could.

When the case had been discussed thoroughly for a long time, and in the end brought in an orderly manner to a conclusion, since the same Anscher could show in his defence neither a testament nor proof of inheritance, he made restoration, and during a great assembly in the estate of Ennezat, on the 4th kalends of November [29th October], with everyone looking on, he returned the same estate and restored it to its legal possessor, that is, Count William.

Then he presently endeavoured to restore it to Cluny, which had previously owned it and to which it pertained through the testament which Abbess Ava made concerning the same to Cluny, and to Abbot Berno and the monks of Cluny, and he had them receive it to be possessed in perpetuity for the honour of God and the holy apostles Peter and Paul.

Count Roger [Rather of Nevers?], Wigo, Wichard, Humfred, Bego, Franco, Bernard, Geoffrey, Herbert, Madalbert, Acbert, Ginuis, Gerlico.

Enacted publicly at Ennezat, on the 3rd kalends of November [30th October].

I, Ado, wrote this on behalf of the chancellor, in the 16th year of the reign of King Charles [the Simple].

There are three small things I want to pick out here. First, this is one of the few documents from our period which indicate that there was such a thing as separately conceived princely power. With that said, and with all due respect to Karl-Ferdinand Werner, the principalis potestas envisioned here is not evidently some kind of sub-royal legal jurisdiction. The implication seems to be that William could, if he wanted, exercise untrammelled force in his own interests and there’s not really anything anyone could do about it. This is fair enough – it is more or less what we saw Hugh of Arles doing last week – but it’s not some special jurisdictional privilege.

Second, we have (as Barbara Rosenwein has pointed out) at least four overlapping claims to this land: Anscher’s, which on this occasion goes unrecognised although he definitely had land here; William, who is the ‘legal possessor’, and Cluny, who used to own (unde dudum fuerat) it and to whom it ‘pertained’, has two different kinds of claim. How this works out in practice I don’t know, but those of you who are interested in land tenure might find it interesting. That William possesses the land suggests that, despite Cluny’s famous foundation charter completely giving up any claims from William’s family to rule the place, it was being used as a kind of land-bank. (I have work on this coming down the pipeline fairly shortly, I hope.)

Third and finally, note that Ava gave Aine to Cluny through a testament. This is particularly interesting because Cluny’s foundation charter from 910 was explicitly issued after Ava’s death and in memory of her. In fact, William the Pious probably didn’t found Cluny. There appears to have been a small church there beforehand, and it was probably this foundation of which Ava was abbot. Despite William’s foundation charter setting itself up as the Year Zero of Cluniac history, then, this act does appear to show that Cluny’s institutional prehistory did have some effect.

Yet More On the Origins of the Peace of God

Recently I was talking to one of my colleagues and expressed the opinion that pretty much everything written on the Peace of God is mad, including my own stuff. I think this is the fault of the material rather than the historians, but it does mean that doing anything involving the Peace can lead you to some very strange places. I say this by way of introduction for more-or-less the region you might imagine: I’ve come up with a theory of the proto-Peace of God’s origins, and it’s not what you might expect.

I’ve written on this blog before that we can’t really think of the actions of Stephen II in Auvergne and Guy of Puy in the Velay in the mid-to-late-tenth century as being ‘the Peace of God’ – that’s far too reified. Nonetheless, I’ve argued that Stephen of Clermont in particular assembled an interlocking suite of claims linking assemblies, oaths, and a discourse surrounding the word pax, peace. Where precisely Stephen got this idea from left me stumped – but something new has turned up.

So let’s turn out attention waaaay to the east, to Lotharingia in the 950s. We’ve recently become familiar with Lotharingia under Charles the Simple, possibly one of the most stable decades of its late- and post-Carolingian history. Most of the rest of the time, Lotharingia is a basket case. Otto the Great, after he came to power in 936, had to face a series of powerful dukes. He got lucky here: the most powerful, Gislebert, drowned after losing a battle in 939; but even after that Otto’s own appointee, Conrad, teamed up with Otto’s son Liudolf in a rebellion in the early 950s. After Liudolf and Conrad had been defeated, Otto appointed his own brother, Archbishop Bruno of Cologne, as duke of Lotharingia.

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A twelfth-century Ottonian genealogical table. Bruno is in the top row on the right. (source)

Bruno’s reign went… okay. There were a few more rebellions, the most noticeable being that of Reginar III in the late 950s which is often although incorrectly adduced as the context for Gerberga’s Kriegsfahne which we’ve spoken about here before. However, for the most part Bruno was able to handle the situation in Lotharingia reasonably well. Bruno’s combination of secular and religious authority had a distinctly viceregal tint: Bruno’s biographer has Otto the Great tell the archbishop and newly-appointed archduke that ‘both priestly religion and royal power swell in thee’, and Bruno does seem to have had a direct share in royal power. It is not therefore terribly surprising to find that Bruno’s first actions when he got to Lotharingia were to summon the magnates of the region to Aachen, and tell them regie maiestati et sue ipsorum fidei pollicitationes nullas preponerent – i.e., that they should not abandon their oaths to him and his brother. If they did violate the ‘peace of the Church’, he would deal with them most severely.

Our source for this is the Vita Brunonis, written by a cleric from Cologne named Ruotger. Ruotger seems to have known Bruno, and certainly to have admired him – part of the text’s mission appears to have been to defend Bruno from the people who thought that his wielding of worldly power was distinctly dubious. He wrote shortly after Bruno’s death, apparently under the patronage of his successor Folcmar, who had also been closely connected with the dead archbishop; and Henry Mayr-Harting has characterised the text as aiming at ‘some kind of official status’.  It is therefore striking that the closest work we have to Bruno’s circles, we have assemblies, oaths, and (a theme which occurs throughout the Vita, not just in the bit I’ve quoted above) a discourse of peace.

There’s no reason historians would have picked up a link between Bruno and the Peace of God. Bruno’s activity looks like (one type of) Ottonian governance in action, and the Peace is so very far away. But the fact that this was all taking place in the late 950s is important, because if ever Stephen of Clermont were going to encounter Bruno of Cologne, it would have been at exactly this point. First, Stephen and Bruno almost certainly met at the coronation of King Lothar, very shortly after the events described above. We know Bruno was there, and it’s very probable Stephen was because he appears to have interceded for a charter which was confirmed at a placitum in 955. Second, there were also ongoing links between the western Ottonians and the Auvergne during this very period. I have never been happier for hyperlinks than in the following sentence, but we have already seen both Bruno and other major Church figures with ties to the Ottonian court such as Amblard of Lyon playing a major role in negotiating peace in the Auvergne in the latter part of the 950s.

What I think is happening here, then, is that as regional supremo in his own patch, Stephen is taking Bruno as a model to be imitated. Absent the Ottonian royal context, this is a lot weirder-looking, and the Vita Amabilis implies that Stephen was as if not more controversial than Bruno in seeking to claim worldly authority. But it does mean we can, perhaps, put the proto-Peace into what we already know about tenth-century governance rather than have it spring fully-formed out of the forehead of one brilliant bishop.

Charter A Week 36: Justice is Blind

Whilst Charles the Simple was winning over the Lotharingians, things were going less well for his southern relative Louis the Blind. In 905, Louis’ attempt to become king of Italy had gone horribly wrong and he had indeed been blinded. He then retreated back to Provence. This is a very interesting and unusual period of rule. Being blinded, in the Byzantine world, typically disqualified you for the throne; and traditionally had done in the Frankish one. Yet Louis just keeps on truckin’. Although he never again left Vienne, people continued to come to him, and here’s an example of this:

DD Provence no. 52 (912, Vienne)

While lord Louis, most glorious of august emperors, was residing at Vienne, in the palace of the blessed apostle Andrew, the venerable man Remigiar, bishop of the holy church of Valence, coming before him into the presence of his magnates, lodging a complaint concerning Villeneuve, which his predecessors as king and emperor had conceded to God and the outstanding confessor and pontiff Saint Apollinaris from the tame of Charlemagne, including, most recently, his father, Boso, the most glorious of kings, and his mother, the most glorious Ermengard, along with our said lord the most glorious of emperors, who had presented it to Saint Apollinaris, the extraordinary confessor of Christ, through a royal precept. The famous duke and margrave Hugh [of Arles] held the said Villeneuve wrongfully, and had alienated it from God and Saint Apollinaris.

The aforesaid duke and margrave, hearing the outcry of this pontiff, was struck by piety, and through the command of our lord the emperor and through the counsel of the bishops and through the judgment of the counts, the nobles, and his other followers, restored this land to God and Saint Apollinaris through his wadium, promising that he would never in future be negligent concerning it.

Hearing this, the lord emperor restored that land to the aforesaid bishop through a stick which he held in his hand, ordering that his deeds and the precepts of his predecessors as king and emperor should in God’s name endure for all time.

But that it might be believed by everyone and that the aforesaid estate might never be harassed by anyone, that most glorious of emperors commanded this document to be made and confirmed it with his own hand and commanded that it be strengthened by his followers and ordered it be signed with his signet.

Sign of Louis, most serene of august emperors. Alexander, humble bishop of the holy church of Vienne, confirmed this document. S. Isaac, humble bishop of the holy church of Grenoble. S. Theodulf, consecrated bishop of the holy church of Embrun, confirmed this. S. Hugh, famous duke and margrave. S. Count Boso [of Arles]. S. Count Adelelm, S. Boso his son. S. Gozelm.

Theudo the notary composed this document at the command of Archbishop Alexander of Vienne, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 912, in the 15th indiction, in the 11th year of the reign of our lord Emperor Louis.

Enacted at Vienne.

Happily in the name of God.

cathédrale Saint-Apollinaire
The apse of Valence Cathedral in modern times (source)

My strong suspicion is that this is a Scheinprozess, a fake trial designed to show Remigiar of Valence’s title to the land in a court situation. Hugh of Arles (for it is he) was the most important man in the kingdom, and I don’t think he could have been forced to hand over the land if he didn’t want to. That he is presented as doing it out of his own piety is important here. Although Remigiar makes his complaint to the king, it’s Hugh who hears it – unlike previous cases we’ve seen, there’s no attempt to make a defence, simply an acknowledgement of the duke’s own piety. We know from other sources, notably the Vita Apollonaris, that Remigiar and Hugh were collaborators during this period, so it’s likely that the two men were colluding to confirm the land in the church’s possession.

In fact, the Miracula Apollonaris’ formula for Hugh’s role at this time, ‘ruling the commonwealth under Emperor Louis’ is itself remarkable. This charter shows the remarkable degree of consensus Louis’ regime had built up – we have the most significant figures of the realm here, from north and south, and even – in the person of Theodulf of Embrun – from the mountainous regions to the east. Most – we’ll talk about some exceptions in future, but most – of the great magnates of Louis’ kingdom seem to have been quite happy with his regime. (This is, incidentally, a useful refutation of the idea that Carolingian government had to be itinerant to be effective.) No-one cared that the emperor had no clothes – well, no eyes – because royal rule was going along perfectly well anyway.