The Invention of Power: An Uninteresting Blog Post

This may surprise some of you reading, given that it’s my main tool for publicising the blog, but I don’t go on Twitter very much anymore. This is not a decision I particularly regret. (I’ve eaten some tasty bread made of the wheat from that site, but my God there’s been a lot of chaff.) Nonetheless, I do still go back occasionally. Recently, I noticed a group of medievalists dunking on one particular book, and it annoyed me. This tetchy response wasn’t anything to do with them – I’m perpetually cranky at the moment owing to trying to get everything finished at home and also organise an international move whilst planning as much travel between the UK and Germany to spend time with my wife as possible –  but still, I did think to myself, ‘It’s not fair to make fun of a book you haven’t actually read, so I’m going to get hold of a copy and read it really sympathetically and review it for the blog and say positive upbeat things about it.’

The book was The Invention of Power: Popes, Kings and the Birth of the West by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita; and reader, the Twitter medievalists mocking it were absolutely right. This book is dreadful.

This book took up valuable time I could have spent reading about the history of Walt Disney World

Unfortunately, the precise way in which it’s bad is so basic and uninteresting that it’s almost too obvious to mention: Garbage In, Garbage Out. I could leave it there, and I’m tempted to, but I suffered through all nine chapters and by God I’m going to get some blog content out of it.

So let’s start at the beginning. What’s the book’s argument? The book argues that the exceptionalism – by which the author means both the higher relative economic performance and freer, happier societies – of Western Europe and its ‘settler colonies’ can be traced back to a series of concordats made between the pope and the various rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, England and France in the twelfth century. In accordance with the terms of these concordats, a uniform procedure for appointing bishops was put in place, whereby the Church nominated a bishop, who was then accepted or rejected by the king; in the meantime, the king would pocket the temporal revenue of the diocese. This created a series of incentives for both the popes and temporal rulers. Kings wanted secular appointees, whilst popes wanted religious appointees. If the king turns down a Church nominee, he gets more money and/or the potential for a more loyal secularly inclined bishop, but has to pay the political costs of an angry pope. Therefore, the richer a diocese, the more incentive for the kings to be pickier: in a rich bishopric, the potential gains for the kings by not accepting a papal nominee outweigh the potential risks of papal anger. By contrast, in a poor bishopric, the inverse is true, and the Church has more leverage. This creates the incentive for kings to promote economic development to create lots of rich dioceses, whilst the Church would like to retard economic development to create lots of poor dioceses. To promote economic growth, kings needed to incentivize their subjects to increase productivity. This requires making concessions to these subjects to share in the benefits of increased productivity, concessions such as parliaments and other forms of accountable governments. Thus, in areas of Europe covered by the twelfth-century concordats, we would expect to see greater economic development and more accountable institutions than in other parts of the world. This combination of economic development and accountable institutions led to the exceptional Europe and Europe Outremer of the modern world.

…Look, I’m not going to attempt to touch on all of this. As more medievalists get hold of this book, I imagine an interested reader could take to Twitter and see more and more different approaches to analysing its failure as scholarship. For the rest of this post, I’m going to consider the failure of the book as a work of the historian’s craft. Now, it’s worth noting that the author does say:

I am not a historian, let alone a medievalist or a specialist on the Concordat of Worms. Undoubtedly, readers will find here and there a wrong date or an error in some other detail of the story… [but] the big story being told here is what matters, and the big story does not depend on anecdotes or on any individual fact. Rather, it depends primarily on quantitative evidence, which I have supplemented with anecdotes to illustrate rather than evaluate the argument.

The problem is that this book’s problems don’t come from any individual error of fact, but from a complete failure of approach towards the subject. This is ‘Garbage In’: the approach the author takes to historiography, sources, and analysis inherently preclude this book from reaching any useful conclusions.

Let’s start with the historiographical garbage: Bueno de Mesquita is working with a very old-fashioned view of the medieval past. The bibliography is almost aggressively antiquated, and secondary works are deployed with very little understanding of the sources they’re based on. In a section which struck particularly close to home for me, his account of the pre-eleventh century papacy is based on Mann’s The Lives of the Popes vol. 4: The Popes in the Days of Feudal Anarchy (1910) and a Wikipedia article. (As an aside, there’s an unnerving amount of Wikipedia in this book for what is supposed to be the product of a veteran scholar – in footnote 9 for Chapter 4, for instance, we learn that his information about episcopal careers throughout the whole period he covers comes entirely from the website.) Historical thinking on this matter has changed since World War One as we have developed better understandings of our sources – notably, in this case, that the fundamental basis for a highly negative view of the tenth-century papacy comes from polemical works trying to justify the Ottonian invasion of the 960s. Sometimes, to be sure, a distance from the orthodoxies of mainstream historical scholarship can prove advantageous; but that does require knowing what they are. This is simply repeating the orthodoxies of over a century ago. 

As this suggests, the book’s handling of evidence is also very poor. The author points towards quantitative evidence to support his conclusions – in a word, data – seemingly without realising that this data is based on sources. This is not even a case of failing to perform basic source criticism. Rather, the author systematically does not engage with medieval primary sources. This is true even at the most crucial moments for his arguments. For instance, to show that his game theory logic works, Bueno de Mesquite has to demonstrate a significant correlation after the concordats between secularly inclined bishops and rich dioceses. His data for whether bishops were secularly or religiously inclined comes – as noted above – from reading Wikipedia summaries, rather than from any kind of engagement with the sources for these bishops’ careers or elections. What this means is that he has 2,709 data points where he has no idea what the evidential basis is for that data. Regula magistri is not usually considered an acceptable kind of evidence, let alone regula anyone-can-edit-orum. Similarly, he determines whether or not dioceses were rich or poor by correlating whether or not dioceses were on trade routes and modern estimates of their potential to produce high-calorie crops. Notably missing from any of this is any discussion of medieval evidence. In fact, this particular methodology is both theoretically and empirically nonsense: first, because it assumes the bishop holds a proportionate amount of the wealth produced within the borders of his diocese; second, because it ignores property held by bishoprics outside the borders of the diocese; third and most importantly – again – because it’s untested against the actual economic histories of these bishoprics. In short, the author’s claims rely neither on primary accounts of bishops’ careers, nor on even vaguely contemporary economic data. In addition to not dealing with medieval historians (modern professionals) whilst writing this medieval history book, he has also not dealt with medieval historians (contemporary authors). What is required to prove any of these claims is a systematic, source-based analysis of episcopal elections and medieval economic history. What we have is Wikipedia. 

Probably the worst failure to think about evidence comes when he talks about art – trying to prove the changing relationship of ‘secularism’ and ‘religion’, he scoured four popular art history textbooks for images from the period in question, decided if they had a ‘religious’ or ‘secular’ subject matter, and has the gall to put the results in graphs as though it shows anything about the Middle Ages! It does produce the amusing image of Charlemagne’s court as a hotbed of ‘secularism’ – because art history textbooks have a lot of pictures of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious. I also can’t prove this (because – just as in the case of secular/religious bishops and rich/poor dioceses – I can’t find a list of which data points count as what either in the book or on his website), but I did find one of the art history textbooks he used online, and based on the datapoints for the graph in question, I think he’s counting this portrait of Otto III as secular art, which is pretty funny because, y’know, it’s an illustration from a gospel book. So this book doesn’t engage with the evidence from which it is claiming to draw data and as such can only produce inherently flawed conclusions.

This brings us, finally, to the analytical garbage. Because the author does not engage with the sources for the medieval world, and because the secondary works he reads are badly out of date, his assumptions about the period are fundamentally flawed. The distinction between ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ bishops is probably the biggest pile of nonsense here. The definitions Bueno de Mesquite gives of ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ bishops is as follows:

Bishops are classified as religious (i.e., aligned with the pope and church) if their job prior to becoming bishop for the first time was a religious post, such as abbot, monk, hermit, deacon, archdeacon, or priest. Bishops are classified as secular if their prior post was as an agent of the secular authorities, such as court ambassador, chancellor, tutor to a monarch or his children, and the like, or if their biographical information indicates that they were specifically linked to or were suggested as a candidate by the secular ruler over the diocese to which they were appointed.

The whole analysis here rests on the idea that a clerical career = a pro-papal stance = an anti-royal stance (and, the inverse: secular career = pro-royal = anti-papal). This chain of assumptions might look plausible if all you’re reading is The Papacy in the Days of Feudal Anarchy, but it doesn’t stand up to any kind of familiarity with the evidence. Notably, Bueno de Mesquite rarely discusses particular examples. We get a lot of abstract hypothesising (‘a king would be motivated to do such-and-such’…) without any systematic, source-based analysis of what specific people actually did. This has the useful effect of meaning that his assumptions don’t have to be tested against contemporary sources – who needs that when you have models? And this is true again and again – bad assumption after bad assumption, leading to faulty question after faulty question, all supported with worthless ‘data’ but clothed in the trappings of science to lend it an air of false authority. 

Why does this matter? Everyone who reads this book will have their own criticisms (I haven’t come close to covering all the issues – I leave the problems with the framing of the initial question, for instance, for others to deal with) and their own reason it matters, but for me it’s to do with the intellectual value of expertise. This isn’t the same thing as ‘being an historian for a living’. Good history is like good woodwork: you don’t have to be a professional to do it, but you do have to have a grasp of the tools, materials, and techniques. The problem with this book is not that it’s wrong. It’s that it’s so obviously, basically wrong, but presented by a senior academic with such a pretence of authority that its fundamentally flawed approach to the Middle Ages runs a serious risk of being influential, making it concomitantly harder to not be wrong in the future. Good history requires craftsmanship; this has no craftsmanship, and has the potential to devalue craftsmanship as a key attribute of historians.

I don’t like being this negative. This book does have good bits. There’s a really interesting discussion of ruling coalitions in Chapter 2 – turns out the senior political scientist is very good at explaining political science theories. However, if you want that, read a political science book. The Invention of Power has two grains of wheat in a warehouse of chaff. Even worse, the ways in which it’s bad are obvious and boring and mean it can’t possibly be recommended, even to point and laugh at*.

*Except the ‘art historical’ analyses. Those are so amazingly ill-thought out that it genuinely is quite funny.

Where There’s A Will There’s A Way 2: Roger the Old

This week’s will is from c. 1002. We’ve discussed the career of Roger the Old before on this blog, but it was really darn long. Roger’s career started in the 950s and this will is from about ten years before his death – sixty-odd years! What that means is that whereas the will of Raymond III looks like what wills looked like at the start of his career, by the time of his death they looked very different: 

HGL V.162/cxxxviii

I, Count Roger, make this brief dividing my possessions between my sons Raymond and Bernard. 

  1. To my son Raymond, I give the city of Carcassonne, except the abbeys which I give to my son Peter [Roger, later bishop of Girona], as determined between his mother Adelaide and you, Raymond. 
  2. And I give to my same son Raymond the castle of Rennes-le-Château with its county, my part thereof, excepting my part of the abbeys which I give to my son Peter and excepting that allod which I acquired in that county of Razès, which I give to Lord God and to his saints for the remedy of my soul.
  3. And I give to Raymond the arrangement concerning the county of Razès which I have with my brother Count Odo and with his son Arnald. And if Odo and his son Arnald die, let the arrangement concerning the county go to you, Raymond. 
  4. And let the other arrangement which I have with my brother Odo and his son Arnald, concerning Quercorb and the Quercorbès, go to Raymond.
  5. And let the other arrangement which I have with my brother Odo, concerning the castle of Quielle and concerning the Coliès similarly go to my son Raymond. 
  6. And let the castle which they call Saissac with its castellany and with its vicariates which pertain to that castle and with the allods which Arnald my father held there in that castle go to Raymond, except the abbeys which I give to my son Peter. 
  7. And let the allods in the county of Toulouse which were Bernard the Red’s, which Viscount Raymond [of Toulouse] holds from me, Roger, and from you, Raymond, go to you my son Raymond. 
  8. And let the castle which they call Cintegabelle with the allods which pertain to that castle go to my son Raymond.
  9. And let half of Volvestre and a third part of the county of Comminges go to you, my son Raymond. 
  10. And let my part of the castle of Minerve, which Viscount Rainard [of Béziers] gave to me on his deathbed, with the land which pertains to the castle and the allods which I have in the Narbonnais go to my son Raymond; excepting those allods which I give to God Almighty and the saints for the remedy of my soul. 
  11. And let the abbey of Caunes and the abbey of Bernassonne go to my son Raymond. 
  12. And let the vicariate of Sabartès, after [Roger’s wife] Adelaide’s death go to my son Bernard, if he does not employ any force regarding it; and if he does employ any force and wants to make amends regarding it, let the arrangement concerning Sabartès and concerning Castelpenent which I have with my brother Odo and his son Arnald after their deaths go to my son Bernard. 
  13. I give the county of Couserans with the bishopric, and with half of Volvestre, and with the castle of Foix with the land of Foix to my wife Adelaide and my son Bernard together. 
  14. And I give Dalmazanès and Podanaguès and Agarnaguès and half of the whole wood of Boulbonne, which is between the river of l’Hers and the river of Ariège to my son Bernard, with the allods which I have there, except the abbeys and the churches which I give to my son Peter, and except those allods which I give to Lord God and his saints for the remedy of my soul, and except the allods of Escosse and Bézac, which I give to my wife Adelaide, your mother.*

 Thus let this writing as it was written above have firmness, if I, Roger, do not undo it; if I do not change it as my thinking advances. 

Let my wife Adelaide hold all the abovewritten as a guardian; let what was written above have as much firmness as she wishes, on the condition that while they live they may hold and possess it; if they have children from a legitimate marriage, let them similarly hold it as guardians for them that are alive. 

 Let no-one have permission to sell or alienate these, except to another heir. 

 And if they do not have children from a legitimate marriage, let this inheritance remain with those brothers who live.

 Count Roger confirmed this writing with his hand. 

 *gramatically speaking, the ‘you’ here is plural marking her as the mother of both Raymond and Bernard (and for that matter Peter). 

So, first things first: the most superficial sign of change is that – appropriately enough in terms of last week’s post – the parts in italics were written not in Latin but in the vernacular. (This made them a bit of a challenge to translate, because I don’t usually work in Old Provençal; I’m about 75% confident in my rendering but don’t rest any world-changing hypotheses on it.) Quite why this phrase and only this phrase is in the vernacular is an interesting question; in this particular charter, I suspect it is because the verb in question, forçar, doesn’t have an obvious Latin equivalent (inferre vim?) and in the developing West Frankish ways of talking about property disputes it was a more elegant usage… 

Thinking about the little picture, what strikes me the most about this will is how clear the plan is. Roger has an evident end point for each of his sons: Raymond is the main heir, who gets the most stuff; Bernard gets confined to Foix and neighbouring regions on the southern border; Peter gets the vast majority of the Church property. (Although, Bernard gets an actual bishopric – episcopatus – although this might refer to some kind of advocacy over the bishopric’s temporal goods. There’s some historical debate about what the meaning of episcopatus in the Midi actually is, on which I am not really qualified to speak. From this charter, though, I suspect that Magnou-Nortier is more correct than Wood – this reads more like the descendant of ‘public’ patronage rights than outright property.) 

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s interesting to compare this will with Raymond III’s. Both of them give a good sense of the scale of the power of their actors, but in very different ways. In Raymond’s will, I was talking a lot about ‘spheres of influence’, with the will doing a reasonable job of reflecting the limits of his influence. However, he was still dealing mostly with estates: the will consisted mostly of individual, discrete, estates and castles. Here, what’s being divided is different. Roger’s sons are largely handed zones of control – the closest parallel, to my mind, is less with Raymond’s will and more with the Ordinatio imperii, albeit at a much lower social level. It’s interesting how little Roger distinguishes between the different types of bequest, even though there are clearly a number of different types of thing. First, Roger uses jurisdictional terms like ‘county’ and ‘vicariate’. Second, he deals with individual, concrete things like castles, allods, and abbeys. Third, he deals with vague area terms – places like Dalmazanès which are not given any kind of description. Some of these are mixed together – the Quercorbs, for instance, seem to be an area subject to control from a central castle rather than any more formal jurisdiction; by contrast Saissac and Razès mix up castles and what do look like formal jurisdictions. In this regard, the most interesting thing is that all these types of control seem to have fallen into one another in this context: whatever they mean in practice on the ground, for Roger they can all be divided up between his sons like so many apples. Some of them can, of course, be paralleled in Raymond’s will. The castles and even ‘arrangements’ (how I’ve rendered the Latin word convenientia. To be honest, it could have been left in Latin; but this is a question of translation philosophy that could well make another post. Hang on, let me add it to the schedule…) were far from absent in Raymond’s testament. As such, Roger’s will seems to me more like it’s showing the development of certain aspects found in Raymond’s will rather than being evidence of some kind of social or political revolution. However, this development of a will into a kind of ordinatio comitatus gives it the feel of a political testament which Raymond’s doesn’t have, and that’s important. 

Translating Between Vernaculars in the (Long) Tenth Century

Dudo of Saint-Quentin has an interesting story in Book III of his Historia Normannorum. William Longsword is at an (entirely fictional) peace conference with the East Frankish king Henry the Fowler, alongside one Duke Cono (supposed to be Conrad the Red?). During the course of the conference, William is mocked by the East Frankish nobles. William’s command of Old Norse allows him to understand the gist of what they’re saying – he gets angry. Later in the conference, Hermann Billung of Saxony starts talking to William in Old Norse, claiming to have learned it whilst a captive of the Vikings. These stories have always struck me as odd. Dudo is particularly concerned with who can and cannot speak Old Norse, and is especially keen that all of his dukes can, as a marker of their Norman (and not Frankish) identity. He is an anomaly, though, because other tenth-century historians are basically uninterested in the question of comprehension between vernacular languages. This slightly surprises me, because there are at over half-a-dozen vernaculars in the tenth-century West Frankish kingdom (Breton, northern and southern varieties of Romance, Old Norse, Old English, probably at least three flavours of old German dialects; also Arabic, although I doubt that one matters so much to most of the people I write about) but no-one amongst the lay or clerical elites ever seems to have trouble talking to one another. Now, perhaps I’m unusually sensitive to this, having spent several years abroad in countries where my grasp of the language wasn’t fantastic; but it is interesting that, say, Louis IV (whose first language was probably Old English) and Raymond Pons of Toulouse (Old Occitan?) don’t have to deal with any language barriers.

The obvious inference one can draw is that, at the elite level, multilingualism was so widespread as to be ubiquitous. This raises the question, how did it get that way? From the sources I know – and this is largely something I’ve picked up in passing rather than something I’ve actively researched – I can see three answers.

First, mutual comprehension. Speakers of some dialects seem simply to have been able to automatically comprehend others without having to actively learn another language. Lots of work has been done on this in the context of Old Norse and Old English, but the upshot is that the two languages would have been mutually comprehensible – a speaker of one would have been able to get by with someone speaking the other, like the Scandinavian languages today. Such mutual comprehension would expand outwards: Old English and Old Saxon are basically the same language (Flodoard, in describing the 948 Council of Ingelheim, says that the Latin was translated into ‘the Teutonic tongue’ for the convenience of Louis IV and Otto the Great – he clearly saw no difference between Louis’ English and Otto’s Saxon). This is shown neatly in Dudo’s example, where William’s Old Norse lets him understand Saxon nobles, at least to an extent. We can imagine further overlaps with version of Old Dutch and Old Frisian, if these were spoken by the counts of Flanders and/or Holland.

Less work that I know of has been done on the mutual comprehensibility of Romance dialects. There’s been quite a lot on whether Carolingian-era Romance speakers could have understood oral Latin on that basis (answer: maybe? Widukind’s description of the languages spoken by Otto the Great seems to imply that this was not true at least of people who knew Romance as a second language…). To an extent, evidence from silence implies that different Romance dialects were mutually comprehensible – someone like Bernard of Angers, author of the Book of St Foy, doesn’t complain about any language troubles between Anjou and the Rouergue, although he might well have had Latin to fall back on. Nonetheless, it seems likely that speakers of different Germanic dialects on one hand and Romance dialects on the other could understand each other within their own language groups. But what about between Romance and Germanic speakers?

This brings us to the question of language learning. There is surprisingly little evidence for this, although we know it was done. Some of the evidence comes from manuscripts. Two in particular, the ‘Kassel Glosses’ and the ‘Pariser Gespräche’, are phrasebooks from our period, the latter apparently aimed at lay aristocrats and giving translations of Latin phrases into German. These include such useful phrases as the words for ‘give me my spear’, ‘brave vassal’, and ‘a dog’s arse in your nose’.

So, when I describe the Pariser Gespräche as a ‘phrasebook’, I might be giving it rather too much credit for useability… (source)

The evidence from narrative and epistolary sources, though – which is again pretty limited – suggests that learning from instructors was skewed in a particular direction. In Dudo’s work, Richard the Fearless was sent to Bayeux to learn Old Norse from Botho (which may or may not actually be true), and Hermann Billung learned it in captivity. In the mid-ninth century, Abbot Lupus of Ferrières addressed a couple of letters to the abbot of Prüm dealing with a few of his (Lupus’) monks who he sent there to learn German (which he was very clear on the importance of learning). Lupus’ letters may well be the tip of an iceberg; but either way, what this suggests is that language learning more often happened as the outgrowth of movement of people, whether as guests, foster-children, hostages or captives, rather than at home from tutors. The main exception I can think of for this is Empress Theophanu, who seems to have been taught Latin (but not German?) before she arrived in the West.

The other option would be translation. As we saw with Flodoard, there is some evidence for this, but virtually all of it is into or out of Latin. The most prominent example I know of is found in the Historiae of Richer of Rheims, who describes an audience between Otto II, Hugh Capet, and Bishop Arnulf of Orléans at Rome in 981. Arnulf entered with Hugh ‘in order that, since the king was speaking Latiariter, the bishop, interpreting the Latinitas, could indicate to the duke whatever was said’. (This is usually interpreted to mean that Hugh couldn’t speak Latin at all; personally, I think it means that Otto was speaking in really high-flying purple language – according to Ekkehard of St Gallen, Otto was apparently fluent enough to act as a translator himself on occasion.) It is interesting that they are speaking Latin rather than either Old Saxon or Romance here. This passage has in fact been used to argue that Hugh Capet didn’t know any Germanic dialects and that Otto didn’t speak Romance, neither of which seems terribly plausible to me: what, all the times Hugh Capet met his uncle Bruno of Cologne alongside his mother Hedwig he couldn’t speak to either of them in their native tongue? Otto II just stood by grinning vacantly (despite knowing Latin) whilst Otto the Great was talking to people in Romance next to him, as he does in Ekkehard’s Casus Sancti Galli? We’ll revisit this episode in a few weeks for an entirely different reason; for now, let’s just say that whilst in terms of its historical accuracy this is another case of Richer not letting his complete lack of knowledge of events getting in the way of a good story what it indicates for our purposes is that real-time translation was an option for tenth-century people, even if evidence for translation between different vernaculars is limited.

There is one final option: counts, dukes, margraves, bishops and the like did have serious language difficulties. Let’s take another episode in Richer, his account of the Synod of Mouzon. Richer says that at this synod, Bishop Haimo of Verdun did the talking because (unlike the other East Frankish attendees) he could speak Romance. As it happens, Richer is wrong again and this time we can get a decent idea of why, because the synodal acts survive: these say simply that Haimo did speak in Romance, not that he was the only one who could. Given the high-level participation of laymen, notably Count Godfrey the Prisoner of Verdun, in the synod, the distinction being drawn by the acts is probably not between different vernaculars spoken by the different bishops, but between the Romance spoken by the laymen and the high-flying Latin that the bishops would have used between themselves on their own. Nonetheless, even though Richer is wrong his account gives an important insight into the mentalities surrounding tenth-century language use: where difficulties might arise, at elite level they could be planned for in advance.

This, then, is the inversion of the positive side of language learning. Tenth-century people could take advantage of continuums between Romance and Germanic vernaculars, they could seize opportunities (whether desirable or not) to learn languages, they could get hold of phrasebooks, or they could just get a translator. However, they could also just send in the guy who spoke Romance into the right situation. These factors together probably explain why there are no examples of vernacular misunderstanding at elite level to compare with the most famous example further down the scale, upon which I will leave you. Ekkehard of St Gallen describes how, one day, a Romance-speaker who was fraudulently pretending to be lame to get alms showed up at the monastery. He was assigned a Germanic-speaking servant to bathe him. The Romance-speaker complained that the water was too hot: cald, cald est (modern French: c’est chaud, c’est chaud)! The German-speaker thought (to give the modern German form): “es ist kalt? (It’s cold?)” OK, sure: he poured in a kettle of boiling water, causing the Romance-speaker to bound shrieking out of the bath and expose him as a fraud.

Making a Multipolar Carolingian World Work: The Treaty of Valenciennes (Nov 853)

The Treaty of Verdun, 843 – Lothar I’s realm in orange, Louis the German’s in blue and Charles the Bald’s in brown (source)

No student of early medieval history is unfamiliar with a variation of this map showing the division of the Carolingian empire by the sons of Louis the Pious at the Treaty of Verdun in 843. There are problems with it. It is too neat, leaving out Pippin II, who would battle Charles the Bald for possession of Aquitaine for decades to come. It also overstates the finality of the division. The brothers would war against each other repeatedly to try to redraw the map. In the years that followed, the kingdoms would be re-divided and amalgamated in new ways until Charles the Fat inherited the entire lot in 884 (with mixed results). Nonetheless, Verdun did indicate something important. The efforts of Emperor Lothar I to establish overlordship over the empire had been thwarted by the alliance of his younger brothers, Louis the German and Charles the Bald. In consequence, the Carolingian world was to be a multipolar empire in a way that it hadn’t been since 771. The brothers would rule their kingdoms independently, yet their territories were still conceived of as part of a greater whole, with members of the Frankish elite operating across the empire. That is simple enough to say, but making it work in practice was much harder. To get a sense of what that looks like, I’ve translated the Treaty of Valenciennes, an agreement made between Lothar and Charles in November 853:

Lothar I and Charles the Bald, ‘Conventus Valentianas’, in MGH Capit. II, no. 206, pp. 75-6.

 Declaration of Lord Lothar:

  1. Concerning the missi sent throughout the kingdom so that the people might have peace and justice. Concerning robbers, plunderers, brigands, and other wrongdoers, and concerning every aspect of justice. 
  2. That when missatici [a missi’s areas of responsibility] overlap, the missi should come together, and if someone should flee from one kingdom to another, or from one missaticum to another, they shall capture him together.
  3. That proof (OR a notice) is to be sent wherever they flee, so that the count may distrain him either with his hereditary lands, or through whatever means he can, so that he might return there and make amends where he has done wrong.
  4. That it should be recommended to the missi that they do justice; and that if they have not, that you ought to pursue it. 
  5. That if someone is in need, everyone should be ready to help each other in whatever way you can. 

Declaration of Lord Charles:

  1. Concerning episcopal pronouncements and the honour of priests.
  2. Concerning rebuilding churches and the ninths and tenths [the rent due from holding a benefice amounting to a fifth of the produce].
  3. Concerning the observance of the capitularies of lord Charles [i.e. Charlemagne] and of lord Louis [the Pious] concerning churches.
  4. Concerning observance of the peace and avoiding greed for and oppression of the goods of the Church and the poor.
  5. That we wish to arrange with the counsel of our fideles how we can live honestly and without want in our court, as our predecessors did. And we admonish our counts and other fideles, that they themselves should order their condition and life in such a way that their neighbours and the poor are not oppressed on account of their needs.
  6. Concerning harmony and mutual assistance between the bishop and the count for the doing of justice and the execution of the divine ministry.
  7. Concerning the justice to be strived for by our bishops, missi, and counts.
  8. Concerning the abduction and marriage of nuns, kinsmen, or others’ betrothed, such that what has been done in the past may be corrected in accordance with the advice and judgment of the bishops; and that every precaution should be taken in the future. 
  9. That if out of necessity we have done anything against churches of God, or against any of our fideles, we will most freely make amends for this as soon as we can. And from now on, if any of us should wish to injure his own peer, we wish to restrict this in accordance with the custom of our ancestors.
  10. Concerning our assembly and our common assistance against the Northmen and our fraternal discussion.

The big context for this is the development of an alliance between Lothar and Charles, which was a dramatic shift in the political landscape which had previously pitted the Emperor against his younger brothers. Lothar and Charles had met at Saint-Quentin in 852, campaigned together over the winter against a viking army that had entered the Seine (commanded by Godfrid Haraldsson, Lothar’s godson, which must have been awkward), before Lothar became godfather to Charles’ daughter in January 853. These good relations were helped by Lothar’s disavowal of Pippin II, who had been captured by Charles in 852, removing the largest stumbling block to an understanding. Lothar was preparing for his succession. He intended to divide his territories between his three sons, and wanted Charles to support them. 

Some of the text is concerned with the sort of things we expect from diplomatic treaties. Charles c.10 confirms that the two brothers would continue to cooperate against the vikings. Lothar cc.2-3 are effectively a ninth-century extradition treaty, promising that royal officials would aid each other in the pursuit of wrongdoers across their jurisdictions. But the majority of the treaty reads very weirdly if we assume we’re dealing with two sovereign states. Much of Lothar’s declaration is devoted to a commitment to the enforcement of justice and establishment of order (cc.1, 4). That of Charles is even stranger, covering subjects such as the state of the church and the poor (cc.1-2, 4-5, 9), the observation of previous laws (c.3), the abduction of nuns (c.8), the adoption of a simpler lifestyle (c.5), and a promise of redress for wrongs he had previously committed (c.9).

This all becomes more understandable if we think about Charles’ position. The decade after Verdun had not been easy for him, but by 853 he had reason to think that the rolling crises might be abating (he was wrong because ninth-century Carolingians are not allowed to have nice things). With the capture of Pippin, he could hope that he had won the war for Aquitaine. Peace had been achieved with the Bretons. The death of Emir ‘Abd al-Rahman II in 852 offered the prospect of quiet on the Spanish March. For the first time in his reign, Charles had a real opportunity to articulate a domestic agenda, and he seized it with both hands. This was a busy year, involving a synod at Soissons wrapping up the lasting effects of the defrocking of Archbishop Ebbo of Rheims, and a statement on predestination at Quierzy. His meeting with Lothar at Valenciennes was followed by an assembly at Servais the same month. The capitulary issued from there covers much of the ground from the Treaty of Valenciennes but in much greater detail.

As a statement of domestic policy, Charles’ half of the treaty makes a lot of sense. Ecclesiastical matters were a major priority for him that year. The text also serves to draw a line under the unpleasantness of civil war. Charles acknowledges that wrongs had been committed, offers a form of redress and restricts future conflict among his magnates. He also makes clear that he intends to return to traditional Carolingian rulership, by emphasising the legislation of his grandfather and father, and that he intends to live in a simple manner like them. The message is that after decades of instability, peace and good governance are back on the table.

Through the Treaty of Valenciennes, Charles effectively got Lothar to endorse his agenda. This mattered to his domestic audience. Happy days are here again is a more convincing message when your most powerful neighbour has confirmed he’s going to stop directly and indirectly undermining you and might start helping you with your viking problem. But it also served as a demonstration that the brothers were committed to making the multipolar Carolingian world work, by articulating shared ideological values and beginning to develop the legal institutions for cooperation. For a Frankish elite that still thought in terms of the entire empire, this was a welcome development, and provides a hint as to how this new adaptation of the empire might work.

Assessing the success of the treaty is a little complicated. Barring a wobble in 854, the alliance between Charles and Lothar lasted until the latter’s death in 855. That this did not lead to a glorious period of peace and stability lies more with the people the treaty left out; Louis the German and the Aquitanians. Louis was unsettled by the prospect of his brothers teaming up and angered by the prospect of being unable to take advantage of Lothar’s succession. The Aquitanians were much less subdued than Charles had thought. The two combined when prominent Aquitanians invited Louis’ second son, Louis the Younger, to become their king in 854. The result was a series of invasions that would push Charles nearly towards the end of destruction. The death of Lothar and Charles’ political woes made the treaty largely irrelevant. Nonetheless, it is fascinating as a window onto how the multipolar Carolingian world would be understood by contemporaries, and as a clue as to how external and internal politics intertwined in the period.

The Counts of Boulogne Who Mostly Weren’t

Sometimes you just end up chasing ghosts. I’ve addressed the tenth-century counts of Boulogne before in print (which you could read right here and now if you so chose!) but only in passing as part of the game of ‘Which Arnulf?’, which used to be my go-to example of obnoxious prosopographical questions before it became clear to me that compared to some others it was pretty entry-level. More recently, I’ve been revisiting the question whilst dealing with Flanders and Lotharingia in the 970s, and it’s become clear to me just how murky the history is. For this week, then, I thought we’d take a step-by-step look at the tenth- and early eleventh-century history of Boulogne and ask: what do we really know?

A quick bit of early tenth-century background first. ‘County of Boulogne’ is a bit of a vague term, because it can also (but doesn’t always) cover Ternois, and more generally the western part of Flanders, as well. Around 900, Boulogne seems to have been under the control of a man named Erchengar, who seems to have been reasonably important but who also probably lost control of Boulogne to his neighbour, Count Baldwin the Bald of Flanders, who also ruled Ternois. When Baldwin died in 918, his inheritance was split between his two sons: Arnulf the Great got Flanders proper, and Adalolf got the western portions including Boulogne and Ternois. In 933, Adalolf died and Arnulf brought his brother’s inheritance under his own power.

At this point, we hit our first stumbling block. Back in the ‘40s, Jan Dhondt brought up a passage of Flodoard’s Annals under the year 962:

‘King Lothar, having spoken with Prince Arnulf, made peace between him and his nepos of the same name, whom the count held to be his enemy owing to the killing of the brother of the same, whom the same count had put to death having discovered he was disloyal.’

Nepos can mean either ‘grandson’ or ‘nephew’ (although for what it’s worth in Flodoard it seems to mean ‘nephew’ every time). Dhondt argued that this nepos ought to be a son of Adalolf, based on the emergence shortly after Arnulf the Great’s death of a Count Arnulf of Boulogne. Dhondt put this in relation to the death of Arnulf the Great’s son Baldwin III in the winter of 961/2 to argue that Arnulf’s sudden weakness gave his nephews the opportunity to try and win back their paternal inheritance. Dhondt admitted that this was ‘a supposition, pure and simple’; but his supposition has become the historical consensus.

I argued in the article cited above that Dhondt was wrong, but to recap: we have two genealogies and a narrative source from this period which mention Adalolf, and don’t give him any legitimate heirs. It could be argued that one of these genealogies (that of Witger) is pro-Arnulf propaganda, and that the author of the narrative source, Folcuin (writing precisely during these events), was deliberately passing over contemporary controversies to protect himself; you could even argue that the second genealogy (known as the De Arnulfo comite) is completely untrustworthy or itself a political production. However, once you’ve done that, all you’ve done is to defend a hypothesis for which there is no direct evidence – it is, basically, letting the argument dictate approaches to the evidence not vice versa. Moreover, some of these arguments are unconvincing – the De Arnulfo comite and especially Folcuin (who was not Arnulf’s panegyrist) have no reason not to mention sons of Adalolf, if any existed. In fact, Folcuin actually does mention Arnulf the Great’s nepos Arnulf in passing, without mentioning any connection to Adalolf. Dhondt’s arguments, before they passed into the lofty realm of consensus, were rejected by some of his own, equally distinguished, contemporaries – his friend Philip Grierson, for instance, argued against them in his Cambridge fellowship thesis.

Compared to my 2017 article – which was written in 2014 – I can actually go one further now. The charter on which Dhondt bases the existence of a Count Arnulf of Boulogne after the 960s is, as we technical diplomatic types say, ‘well dodgy’. It purports to be a 972 grant by Count Arnulf II of Flanders to the abbey of Sint-Pieters of Blandijnberg in Ghent, granting them the estate of Harnes, near Lens. In the witness list, one does indeed find the signum of ‘Arnulf, count of Boulogne’. However, in its current form this act is a mid-eleventh century forgery. It does seem to have been based on some sort of real act – Harnes shows up in a more or less unsuspicious royal act from a few years later – but its forged status is really significant for our purposes. Tenth-century charters almost never have a count’s jurisdiction in their titulature in witness lists, so the ‘count of Boulogne’ appears very suspicious. This is especially so because there are clear grounds for confusion here. A figure who in the 970s was closely associated with the Flemish court was Count Arnulf of Valenciennes. However, by the mid-eleventh century the area around Lens was a key part of the patrimony of the contemporary counts of Boulogne. We may very well be dealing with a situation where the forger saw a ‘Count Arnulf’ in the witness list and assumed it must be the count of Boulogne. In any case, this forged document is a bad foundation for a ‘Count Arnulf of Boulogne’.

This is doubly so given the evidence adduced by Vanderputten and others that the Flemish still controlled the Ternois at the very least for several years after Arnulf the Great’s death. This evidence is not entirely conclusive, but abbatial witness lists from the abbey of Saint-Bertin do suggest that the lay abbacy was held first by Arnulf II’s regent Baldwin Baldzo and then by Arnulf II himself until the early-to-mid 970s. The loss of the abbacy could – emphasis on could – mean that Arnulf II lost control of the region then – but this is a decade after 962 and doesn’t give any link to the ‘nephew of the same name’ mentioned by Flodoard.

The next bit of evidence for a count of Boulogne comes from ‘988’, and a charter of Baldwin the Bearded for Blandijnberg. At the bottom of this charter one finds the signa of Count Dirk [II of Holland], Count Arnulf [probably Arnulf of Ghent, Dirk’s son], Count Artold, Count Baldwin, and another Count Arnulf. These last three have been identified as the counts of Guînes, Boulogne and Ternois respectively. However, as the scare quotes above probably suggested, this charter is another eleventh-century forgery – and in some respects blatantly anachronistic, as in the attribution of the title of ‘Queen’ to Baldwin’s mother Rozala-Susannah well before her marriage to Robert the Pious could have taken place. The identification of Artold and Arnulf ‘of Ternois’ was certainly accepted by c. 1200 – both men show up in the legendary early parts of Lambert of Ardres’ History of the Counts of Guînes – and the forged 988 charter is certainly passable evidence that there were other counts in the Flemish sphere of influence by the late tenth century, but who these men were, where they were based, and how they were related to each other or to the counts of Flanders is unknown.

Beyond this 988 charter, I know of three more-or-less unimpeachable references to counts of Boulogne/Ternois in the decades around 1000.

  1. A papal letter of perhaps c. 995 inserted into the Chronicle of Hariulf of Saint-Riquier addressed to ‘Count Arnulf, Count Baldwin and his mother’. (Zimmerman thought that this was a forgery but he was probably wrong about this.) Baldwin and his mother are pretty clearly Rozala-Susannah and Baldwin IV, so the Count Arnulf is not Arnulf II of Flanders but a count in the area between Ponthieu and Ternois.
  2. An unnamed count of Boulogne was also mentioned by Hariulf as having been killed in battle by Enguerrand, first count of Ponthieu. This can’t have been Count Eustace I of Boulogne – first attested, to my knowledge, in 1024 (although the charter he appears in is also dodgy) – so must be one of his unnamed predecessors.
  3. Finally, we have our most important source, the miracles of St Bertha of Blangy, written in the early eleventh century, which identify a Count Arnulf of Ternois in the years after 1000. This Arnulf has both a wife and children, but the miracles give no other genealogical information.

As far as I have been able to trace, everything else we claim to know about the counts of Boulogne or Ternois before the 1020s/1030s is based on either indirect evidence or very late and legendary thirteenth-century sources.

The first record I know of of Count Eustace I of Boulogne: a forged charter of Baldwin IV of Flanders nominally dating to 1024. Taken from ARTEM, no. 367 (source)

One final note before I sum up is that later genealogies of the counts of Boulogne don’t give Eustace I a father. This is mostly a reflection of their interest in the Carolingian descent of the counts via Eustace’s wife Matilda of Leuven, but I think it also relates to the fact that they don’t know anything in particular about his descent because Eustace basically comes out of nowhere – as Nieus points out, there’s little connecting the two families.

So what do we have? The existing scholarly picture is that a cadet branch of the counts of Flanders, usurped for most of the mid-tenth century, took advantage of a succession crisis to strong-arm their way back into their paternal inheritance in 962. After Arnulf (II) of Boulogne died after a reign of at least a decade, the county was partitioned between his sons, Baldwin (IV) of Boulogne and Arnulf (III) of Ternois. Arnulf died in 1019* and Baldwin in 1023, whereupon the county passed to his son or brother Eustace. What I think we can say after reviewing the evidence is that very little of this is demonstrably true. The emergence of late tenth century counts in Boulogne/Ternois has nothing to do with the events of 962, and should probably be dated to the years around 980 at the absolute earliest. The only evidence of a Count Baldwin in Flanders other than Baldwin the Bearded is the 988 charter, which is not great; and there is nothing connecting him to Boulogne specifically. Arnulf of Ternois is better attested, but was probably only one person. If there was a kinship connection between them and the counts of Flanders, and there may well not have been, they were certainly not a cadet branch. Arnulf may have been the count killed by Enguerrand of Ponthieu; if he wasn’t, we know nothing at all about background of the man who was. Finally, it is overwhelmingly probable that the later counts of Boulogne are nothing to do with these shadowy figures.

You may be wondering, do you have anything constructive to add, or is this demolition work? Well, mostly the latter today. However, there is more to say on this matter. In the next few weeks, I will follow this post up with one looking at King Lothar’s relationship with Flanders after Arnulf the Great’s death in 965. There’s also going to be as much supposition in that post as in Dhondt’s work, and I wanted to keep the directly evidenced-based stuff separate from the more hypothetical material (not to mention that this post is running long)! However, when we get there this post will be important background for royal politics in late tenth-century Flanders – so stay tuned!

Also, this is definitely a case where chasing the threads is a complicated job and I’m slightly out of my comfort zone. This post represents my current understanding, but if you know of a source which contradicts or adds to anything I’ve said, please put it in the comments!

*As far as I can follow it, the reasoning for this is such: there is a record of a siege of Saint-Omer by Robert the Pious in 1020. The assumption is that 1) Robert was pushing against Baldwin the Bearded and 2) Baldwin was taking advantage of Arnulf’s death to conquer Ternois. These seem like pretty big assumptions in the absence of other evidence.

Where There’s A Will There’s A Way 1: Raymond III of Toulouse

Remember when we went deep down the rabbit hole of tenth-century Toulouse? One of the documents I mentioned in that lengthy excursus was the will of Count Raymond III of Toulouse, son of Raymond Pons, from c. 961. This is one of a few wills available in our southern French evidence, and I quickly became fascinated by them, because there really aren’t any equivalents from the north. (The closest I can think of is that of Archbishop Bruno of Cologne.) So this post is to launch a new occasional series. As Sam can attest, the joint Google Doc where we draft these things is littered with translations and half-translations of West Frankish and Lotharingian wills, c. 800-1150 (Sam: yep – it’s a mess), and I’m going to be putting them out on the blog intermittently over the coming months. To start with, it’s Raymond himself, and this is a long one:

HGL V.111/xcvii

In the Lord’s name. The brief codicil which Count Raymond composed for the remedy of his soul, and for his father, and for his mother, and for all his followers.

  1. In the first place I donate to the abbey of Conques half of the allod of Orniac and of its churches and of all the peasants which are beholden to it; and the other half to the abbey of Figeac.
  2. Let Rainald hold the church of Cénac as long as he lives, and let Stephen hold that allod as long as he lives. After their deaths, let it go to the abbey of Saint-Sauveur de Figeac, and let Stephen and Rainald donate each year to the monks one repast in the middle of Lent. 
  3. Let the allod of Limanicus, which Grimald hold in fief, and Frodin has in fief from Raymond; and the church of Blanat go to Hugh son of Gerald as long as he lives. After his death, let it go to Saint-Pierre de Beaulieu; and let him donate to the monks each year one repast in the middle of Lent. 
  4. Let the allod of Pomayrols and the allod of Tourniac and the allod of Malavallis which I acquired from the monks of Aurillac and from its abbot go to that monastery of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Géraud.
  5. Let as much as is beholden to the allod of Vidaillac go to the church of Saint-Pierre de Marcilhac-sur-Célé.
  6. Let the allod of Les Alix and of Blanat go to Saint-Pierre de Beaulieu; and let Aimeric hold half of it as long as he lives, and let him donate to the monks each year one repast in the middle of Lent. 
  7. Of the allods which I acquired from my kinsman Count William, let a third part go to the [cathedral of] Notre-Dame de Rodez, another third part to [the abbey of] Saint-Amans [de Rodez] and the other third part to [the abbey of] Saint-Sernin [du Monastère]. 
  8. Let the church of Saint-Afrique and the allod of Pedreglagum which I acquired from Ramnulf go to [the cathedral of] Saint-Privat de Mende.
  9. Let the allod of la Rouquette, which I acquired from Pons, go to [the abbey of] Saint-Sauveur de Vabres; and let the allod which I acquired from Pons which Bernard of Nant holds in fief go to that abbey of Saint-Sauveur. 
  10. Let the allod of Canavolae and the allod of Cruzy and the allod of Pouzols and the allod of la Garrigue and the allod of Vinnac and the allod of Longalassa and the manses of Bonald and Serincus go to Abbot Pons [of Saint-Amans de Rodez] and after his death let them go to the abbey of Saint-Amans de Rodez. 
  11. Let Bishop Deusdedit [of Rodez] hold the allod and church of Solsac as long as he lives, and after his death let it go to Notre-Dame de Rodez.
  12.  And let the manses of Vabre go to Grimald; after his death, to Notre-Dame de Rodez.
  13. Let half of the abbey of Robiac-Rochessadoule go to [the cathedral of] Notre-Dame du Puy, and the other half be divided between the see of Uzès and the see of Viviers. 
  14. Let the allods which I have in Nîmes go to Bertha [of Italy] while she lives, and after her death let half go to [the cathedral of] Notre-Dame de Nîmes and the other half be divided between [the abbey of] Saint-Baudille [de Nîmes] and Saint-Gilles.
  15. Let the allod which I acquired from Senegund, which Viscount Rainald of Béziers holds in fief, go to Bertha [of Italy] while she lives, and after her death let it go to [the abbey of] Saint-Sauveur d’Aniane. 
  16. Let the allod of Plumberiae go to Bertha [of Italy] and Raymond my son while they live, and after their deaths let it go to Notre-Dame du Puy.
  17. Let the allod which I bought from Pons at the head of Au… Raymond has in fief, go to the see of Lodève, and let Bertha [of Italy] hold it while she lives.
  18. Let Bertha hold the allod of Loupian with the church and the allod of Lugis while she lives; after her death, let half go to [the cathedral of] Saint-Pierre de Maguelone, and the other half go to the see of Agde. 
  19. Let the allod of Pallas go to Raymond and Bertha while they live; after their deaths, let a third part, not including the church, go to [the abbey of] Saint-Thibéry; another third part with half the church go to the see of Béziers, and the other third part with half the church to the see of Narbonne.
  20. Let the allod of Caux go to Raymond and Bertha while they live; after their deaths let a third part go to [the abbey of] Saint-Chinian, another third part to [the abbey of] Saint-Pierre-aux-Liens de Joncels, and the other third part to [the abbey of] Sainte-Marie de Quarante.
  21. Let half of the allod of Caux which I acquired from Raymond go to Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Pons de Thomières; and the other half to Saint-Pierre de Caunes-Minervois. 
  22. Let a third part of the allod of Perpignan which I acquired from Atto go to Sant Feliu de Girona; another third part to Sant Pere de Rodes; another third part to the see of Elne. 
  23. Of the allods which belonged to Viscount Emile of Carcassonne which were in Narbonne go to [the cathedral of] Saint-Just-et-Saint-Pasteur [de Narbonne]’ and of the others which were in Carcassonne, let a third part go to [the abbey of] Sainte-Marie de La Grasse, another third part go to Saint-Jean de Montolieu, and the other third part to [the cathedral of] Saint-Nazaire de Carcassonne.
  24. Let the allod of Caux go to Saint-Jean de Montolieu.
  25. Let the allod of Villeneuve  go to [the church of] Notre-Dame de Sorèze.
  26. Let the allod of Brocellum go to Bernard son of Roger while he lives; and after his death let it go to Saint-Pierre de Caunes-Minervois. 
  27. Let the allod of Guitalens-l’Albarède with the church and with all the peasants which are beholden to it go to [the abbey of] Saint-Benoît-et-Saint-Vincent [de Castres]. 
  28. Let the allod which I have in Cavalium go to Saint-Benoît-et-Saint-Vincent, contradicted by no-one. 
  29. Let the allod of Bricius with the church go to Bishop Frothar [of Cahors] while he lives; after his death, let it go in common to Saint-Michel de Gaillac. 
  30. Let the allod of Frausseilles go to [the abbey of] Saint-Eugène; and let Berengar hold the church while he lives; after his death let it and his allod go to Saint-Eugène de Vieux.
  31. Let the church of Saint-Marcel  go to Bishop Bernard [of Albi] as an allod; let the allod of Saint-Marcel remain with [the abbey of] Saint-Salvi [d’Albi]; and after the death of Bishop Bernard let the church go to Saint-Salvi. 
  32. Let the allod of Loveziacus go to [the cathedral of] Sainte-Cécile [d’Albi]; and let Nodbert hold the church as long as he lives; after his death let it go to Sainte-Cécile. 
  33. Let the allod of Avocium go to [the church of] Sainte-Martiane d’Albi. 
  34. Let the allod of St Victor with the church go to Saint-Vincent; and let Abbot Ermengaud [of Castres] hold that allod and church as long as he lives; after his death, let it go to Saint-Vincent. 
  35. Let the allod of Vertus go to Bernard and his wife Adelaide. If one dies, let it go to the other; after both their deaths, let a third part go to Saint-Michel de Gaillac; another part to Saint-Sauveur de Conques; let the other third part go to [the abbey of] Saint-Théodard [de Montauban]. 
  36. Let the allod of la Roque-Sainte-Marguerite, which I acquired from Aimeric, go to [the church of] Saint-Léons.
  37. Let the allod of Mazières, which I acquired from Auger, go to [the abbey of] Saint-Benoît de Castres.
  38. Let the allod of Frodin with the church, and the allod of Portet-sur-Garonne  with the church, and the allod of Altidinger with the church, and the allod of Castelnau-d’Estrétefonds with the church, and the allod of Naucelle with the church, and the allod of Bonumfollum with the church go to [the abbey of] Saint-Sernin [de Toulouse]. 
  39. Let the allod of Roques and the allod of Ventenac and the allod of Rieumes, the allod of Les Bordes-sur-Arize with the church, the allod of Narveis with the chapel, the allod of Tornolis, Sanctus Simplicius, Moranorivus, Saxenis, Cabdinerium, Fredhos, these allods with their churches, go to [the cathedral of] Saint-Étienne de Toulouse and [the abbey of] Notre-Dame de la Daurade. 
  40. Let the allod of Surba go to [the abbey of] Saint-Volusien [de Foix].
  41. And let the allod of Carla-Bayle go to Roger son of Arnald; after his death, let it go to [the abbey of] Saint-Antonin de Pamiers.
  42. Let the allod of Muret and the allod of Salles-sur-Garonne go to [the abbey of] Saint-Pierre de Lézat.
  43. Let the allod of Carantvallis and the allod of Donadfrancium go to William Garcias as long as he lives; after his death, let it go to [the abbey of] Saint-Pierre de Condom and [the abbey of] Saint-Orens d’Auch.
  44. Let Bosomeus hold the allod of Saint-Martin-Belcassé [with] the church as long as he lives; after his death let it go to [the abbey of] Saint-Pierre de Moissac.
  45. Let the allod of Saint-Sauveur [de Castelsarrasin] with the church go to Saint-Pierre de Moissac; and let Jeremias the priest hold the church as long as he lives.
  46. Let the allod of Circiolis go to my nephew Hugh; after his death, let half go to Saint-Pierre de Moissac and the other half go to Arnald and his son Seguin (which they hold today); and after their death let it go to Saint-Pierre de Moissac. 
  47. Let the allod of Maimanicae, the allod of Paludis, the allod of Vallis Ardricus, the allod of Logius, the allod of Podiomedia, the allod of Lauberol; let these allods go to [the cathedral of] Saint-Étienne de Cahors, contradicted by no-one.
  48. Let Our son Hugh hold the allod of illa Guarda with the church and the allod of Losolarius while he lives; after his death, let it go to Saint-Étienne de Cahors, contradicted by no-one. 
  49. Let Aimeric hold the allod of Belpech while he lives; after his death, let it go to Saint-Étienne de Cahors.
  50. Let the allod of Sabadel and of Prandicile with the church go to Saint-Étienne, contradicted by no-one.
  51. The allod of Francou, to the one to whom he left it; after their deaths, let it go to Saint-Étienne de Cahors.
  52. Let a quarter part of the church of Saint-Cirq, and the allod which I acquired in Dieupentale go to Saint-Théodard.
  53. Let the allod of Mongius go to Saint-Théodard. Let the church go to Richer son of Isarn as an allod; after his death let it go to Saint-Théodard with another allod.
  54. Let the allod of Caucus with the church and the allod of Saint-Amans-le-Vieux with the church go to Saint-Antonin [de Pamiers].
  55. Let a third part of my other allods with I have in Agen go to Abbot Gozbert [of Moissac]; after his death, let it go to Saint-Pierre de Moissac. Let another third part be divided between Eysses and Saint-Vincent Fabricatus; let the other third part go to [the cathedral of] Saint-Caprais [d’Agen], with the exception of what Eustorgius holds; and after Eustorgius’ death let it go to Saint-Caprais. 
  56. Let the allod of Malopertusus with its vineyards, and the vineyards of Pogium Censaldum and the vineyards of Ortigeriae go to Hugh my nephew; after his death, let them go to his brother Raymond. 
  57. Let the fief which Sancho has go to that Sancho as an allod, except the vineyard of Pogiocetum Scanniosum
  58. Let the allod of illus Boschetus go to Sainte-Rufine.
  59. Let the allod of Marca go to Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Géraud de Chirac.
  60. Let the allod of Léojac and the allod of Fayssac and the allod of Canguise with their churches, and the allod of Valence go to Viscount Adhemar of Toulouse, on the condition that he confirms my almsgiving, and if he has a son from a women who ought to inherit his inheritance, that allod of Léojac should go to him. After Adhemar’s death, let the allod of Fayssac go to Saint-Antonin; and after Adhemar’s death let the allod of Canguise go to Saint-Théodard. And if Adhemar does not have a son of a woman who ought to inherit his inheritance, let the allod of Léojac go to Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Géraud de Chirac.
  61. Let the allod of Brassac got to my son Raymond and my son Hugh, on the condition that he should hold the castle and Arnald and Isarn the fief which they have from that allod, if they do not make such a forfeiture as contradicts the one thing they should not have from that fief. 
  62. Let the allod of ipsum Poietum and the allod of of Génébrières go to Raymond and Amalwin his brother; and after Adhemar’s death, let the allod of Balentii go to them; and after their deaths let it go to Saint-Nauphary. 
  63. Let the castle of Saint-Etienne-de-Tulmont with the allod of Albefeuille-Lagarde and with the church, and the allod of Gasseras with the church; and the allod of Verlhac-Tescou with the church and with all the appurtenances there go to Raymond and Hugh while they live; and if they die, let them go to Saint-Théodard.
  64. Let the castle which they call Gandalou with the allod of Sancta Maria go to Raymond my son and Hugh my son; after their deaths, let them go to Saint-Pierre de Moissac.
  65. Let the castle which they call Cas go to Bertha [of Italy] with the allod of Arduin and with the church and with the allod of Antiagus and with its churches; and after her death, let it go to Raymond her son; and if Raymond dies, let it go to Bernard and his wife Adelaide; and if a male child appears to them both, let it go to him; and if they die having not had a child, let it go to Hugh; and if Hugh dies, let the allod of Antiagus go to Saint-Étienne de Cahors; and let the allod of Arduin with half of the castle go to Saint-Pierre de Moissac. 
  66. Let the allod of Aulas with the church and with all the peasants who are beholden there go to Bernard and his wife Adelaide; and after their deaths let it go to their children; and if a child does not appear to them to them, let it go to Vabres and Aniane and [the abbey of] Nant, and let them divide it equally. 
  67. Let the part which I, Raymond, have in the castle of Gourdon and in the allod of Gourdon go to Aimeric, and to Gerald his son, and to the sons of Gerald; and let the allod of Sanctus Amerandus with all its appendages similarly go to Aimeric and to Gerald his son and to the sons of Gerald; and if they die, let it be divided between Saint-Étienne de Cahors and Saint-Pierre de Marcilhac-sur-Célé and [the abbey of] Sainte-Marie de Souillac; and if Raymond dies, let Aimeric or Gerald or the sons of Gerald, whichever live, give 500 shillings to my nephew Hugh; and if Hugh dies, to Saint-Pierre de Marcilhac-sur-Célé. 
  68. Let the castle of Caganio with its allod, and with the church of Laurgus, and with the allod which I have in Camboulan and with the allod of Nantoin with the church, and with the allod of Marcilium with the church of Saint-Simplice, excepting the new church and the manse where the church is, go to Hugh and Ermengaud his brother; and let Stephen and his son hold that church of Saint-Simplice in fief while they live. After their death, let the allod of Laurgus and the allod of Nantoin be divided between Saint-Étienne de Cahors and Notre-Dame au Cimetière
  69. Let the castle of Parisot with the allod of Terssac with the church, and the church of Asinieyras, with the allod of Fréjairolles and with the allod of Villeneuve and with the church, and with the allod of Torrerius and with that of Félines-Minervois and with the church go to Hugh and Ermengaud his brother; and let Malbert hold the castle of Parisot in fief from Hugh and from Ermengaud while he lives; and after their deaths, let these allods be divided between Figeac and Marcilhac-sur-Célé and Cahors and Saint-Antonin and Albi, and let them divide them equally, excepting the castle of Parisot and the allod of Taxairolae and the church of Asinierrae and the allod of Fréjairolles. And if Ermengaud dies without a son, let them go to these saints; and if he has a son of a woman, let them go to him; and after the death of this son of Ermengaud, let them go to these saints. 
  70. Let the castle of Aubin and the allod of Signols with the church and the allod of Brandonnet and the other Brandonnenel with its churches and the allod of Parizot with the church go to my sons which I, Raymond, have from Oduin’s daughter; and let the allod of Compolibat with the church, and the manse of Cransac, go to my daughter, whom I have from Oduin’s daughter; and if she does not have a legitimate male child, let them go to her brothers; and after their deaths, let it go to Notre-Dame de Rodez; and if she has a son of a spouse, let it go to him, and after the death of that son let it go to Notre-Dame de Rodez; and if my sons from Oduin’s daughter die without sons, let the allod of Brandonnet with the church of Notre-Dame go to [the abbey of] Sainte-Foy de Conques; and let the other Brandonnedel to Saint-Sernin; and let the allod of Parizot and the other allod of Signols and the allod of l’Albaret go to Saint-Amans, and let the abbot of Saint-Amans give in exchange to Saint-Sauveur de Vabres the worth of that allod of Signols so that he can get something closer to Vabres; and if they have a son of a woman, let it go to him; and after the death of this son let them go to these saints. 
  71. Let the allod of Lherm go to Ingelbert, and after his death let it go to Saint-Pierre de Moissac, and let Ingelbert give each year to the monks of Moissac one repast in the middle of Lent. 
  72. Let the allod of Elvas go to Jaldebert with the church, and with all the peasants who are beholden there, on the condition that if he has a son of a woman, let it go to him; and if he does not have a son of a woman, let it go to his brother Grimald; and after their deaths, let it go in common to Saint-Pierre de Marcilhac-sur-Célé. 
  73. Let the allod of Léojac which they call Sancta Affra go to Stephen; after his death, let it go to one of his sons, whichever he wishes to donate it to; and after their deaths, let it go to Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Géraud d’Aurillac. 
  74. Let the allod of Loubejac, excepting the church, go to Genesius; and illa Rocha be divided between Aimeric and Genesius; and let Genesius hold it in fidelity to Aimeric; and if Genesius has a son of a woman, let it go to him; and if he does not have a son, let it go to Gerald his brother; and after their deaths, let it go to Saint-Julien de Brioude. And let the church of Loubejac go to Walbert; after his death, let it go to Saint-Étienne de Cahors. 
  75. Let the allod of Livernon go to Raymond son of Humbert; after his death, let it go to the new church at Marcilium.
  76. Let the allod of Ginals go to Bernard son of Humbert, on the condition that Bernard and Raymond and their mother confirm my alms; and after Bernard’s death, let the allod of Ginals go to Saint-Amans de Rodez. 
  77. Let the castle of…, the castle of Servières, the castle of Saint-Laurent, the new castle at Peyrens, the castle of Graulhet, the castle of Mala-Morte on the banks of the Agout, the castle of Montdragon, the castle of Ventajou, the castle of Monestiés, go to Raymond my son; and if Raymond dies intestate, let it go to Our kinsmen. 
  78. Let the allod of Loupiac go to Bishop Deusdedit; after his death, let it go to Notre-Dame de Rodez.
  79. Let the arrangement which I had in the allod of Sanis, which Ermengaud made with me, go to Saint-Michel de Gaillac. 

Let these abovewritten alms be made over to Lord God and the abovewritten saints for the remedy of my soul, and for all my sins, and for my father and my mother and for my brothers and for all my kinsmen and for all my followers, on the condition that no cleric, and nor any layman, nor any woman, should take, nor sell, nor steal from these abovewritten saints; nor should any arrangement through which one of these saints might lose their rights endure firm and stable for all time. Amen. 

Let my almsmen donate all my mobile goods to Lord God and to saints, and to priests, and to the poor, for my soul.

Sign of Raymond who asked this brief to be written and confirmed. Sign of Jalbert. Sign of Genesius. Sign of Bernard. Sign of William. Sign of Aimeric. Sign of Gerard.

So this is a big old document. (In fact, taking it off the draft page has done a reasonable job of cleaning things up by itself…) There’s a lot of places on it. As you have probably noticed, I can’t identify them. Even more, some of the identifications I have made have come from all over the place, and others are contradictory. If you know the identification of any of these places, or have a better identification for any of them, do let me know. Even with what we’ve got, you might be wondering what this will looks like on a map. Well, this is a double whammy of experimentation. If WordPress is playing ball, hopefully below here you will be seeing a map of Raymond’s will (the red markers are beneficiary institutions; the blue markers are the estates donated):

So you can see from the blue markers that the spread of estates is pretty big, covering pretty much the whole of Gothia. Some of them – like Perpignan and Roubiac – definitely feel vestigial, and this affects the list of beneficiaries as well in ways we’ll get back to. The main cluster is around Montauban, Albi and the Rouergue. The obvious places estates are missing are around Toulouse and Nîmes, especially the latter. This has been used (going back to the prosopography for a moment) to argue that Raymond was count of Rouergue and not Toulouse. Leaving aside the question of whether or not arguing about specific comital jurisdictions is particularly worth doing – it’s not – it makes a certain degree of sense that Raymond isn’t alienating estates right in the core of his heartland.

Weightier is the fact that most of the personal connections we can identify in this will come from that more northerly kind of area: the bishops of Cahors, Albi and Rodez and abbots from Rodez and Moissac. However, we can make two points here. The first is that the lay officeholders that Raymond is concerned with come from further south, the viscounts of Narbonne, Carcassonne and – above all – Toulouse. The particular concern with Adhemar of Toulouse confirming Raymond’s donations suggests he’s close to home. The northerners, on the other hand, seem to me to be explicable if we think of the events after Raymond III’s death. At some point in the following decade, Raymond’s son Raymond the Disinherited was kicked out of Toulouse by Raymond the Usurper of Rouergue – perhaps Raymond III was trying to shore up his support through generous gift-giving. This also seems like a relatively short list of people anyway – most cathedrals here get mentioned as institutions rather than in the form of individual bishops. This might further suggest that these three bishops specifically needed to be bought off…

Turning to the institutional beneficiaries, again the spread is pretty impressive. It is admittedly somewhat overinflated by the vestigial side of things, though: the three beneficiaries on the Spanish March, who split Perpignan between them, feel a bit like Raymond is divesting himself of an appendix. We can see in Clause 70 that Raymond is entirely au fait with getting rid of inconvenient property, and this may be what is happening here.

We can also see a couple of interesting outliers: Auch, Condom (stop sniggering at the back) and Agen on one side; and Viviers and Uzès on the other. The Gascon side is pretty explicable, insofar as Raymond III’s mother was a Gascon princess. The Provençal side, though, seems to me to be a bit underplayed, if anything: Raymond’s wife Bertha was the niece of Hugh of Arles, and had absolutely vast estates across Provence. Clearly her husband didn’t control any of these… Other interesting absences include anywhere in the sphere of influence of the Counts of Périgord, to whom Raymond was related (the Count William mentioned in the will was probably one of this family) and who had pursued Church reform quite heavily in the 940s.

However, leaving these aside this seems like a really good guide to the Toulousain sphere of influence in the tenth century: nowhere much west of Moissac, south of Lagrasse, east of Nîmes or north of Brioude and Beaulieu. We’ve noted before it was a big deal when Raymond Pons showed up at Brioude to be acclaimed as duke in 936, and this puts that case visually: Brioude is right at the bleeding edge of his territories. In fact, the spots where Toulousain influence in this will overlaps with their neighbours is pretty interesting: we’ve already commented on the political significance of Brioude and Beaulieu, and in the south the importance of Lagrasse and Lézat is also worth commenting on. (In fact, when I was looking at Raymond dux Gothorum Abbot Warin of Lézat was always hanging around juuust offscreen…)

One final thing to mention is how utilitarian this act is. It may be because we’re in the pays du droit écrit here, but this act is very deliberate about chopping up Raymond’s estates – no pious preamble or lengthy meditiation of political-religious philosophy. It’s another noticeable difference from the north, and one which makes this read to me more like, say, an estate survey than a charter.

It is worth saying that this is, to date, the biggest will I’ve seen. However, small can be beautiful – in a week or two we’ll be dealing with the will of Roger the Old of Carcassonne, and we’ll see how things changed in fifty years…

Being Human in the Early Middle Ages

In the middle of the ninth century a Frankish monk named Ratramnus was given an interesting problem. Ratramnus was a member of the monastic community of Corbie, in what is now northern France, but the conundrum that he was presented with demanded that he direct his attention north, beyond the relative safety of Carolingian kings and the authority of Christian bishops, to the mostly pagan lands of Scandinavia. According to Ratramnus (and there may be some space for scepticism here, but we’ll indulge him on this point), this puzzle came to him as a letter from his friend Rimbert, future Bishop of Hamburg-Bremen, then a missionary in Scandinavia. Rimbert wrote that his contacts in the region had informed him of the presence of cynocephali, creatures with the bodies of humans and the heads of dogs, who apparently lived close by. This troubled him, for he was not sure whether these dog-heads were human or not, so he wrote to Ratramnus for advice. The decision was important, for if they were mere beasts Rimbert could leave them to it, but if they were fellow humans then it was Rimbert’s duty to try to save their souls for Christ. This was the challenge that Ratramnus had to solve.

Today, as crude moderns, we determine species by blood and sex, organising life by DNA sequence and capacity to produce fertile offspring. Linnaeus and Darwin ensured that we were obsessed by genealogy long before Foucault arrived on the scene. As DNA sequencers are only brought to the very best of parties, we approximate this by appearance, determining if someone is human by whether they look human. The definition of what it means to look human is of course often sadly narrow, and prone to unexpectedly and sharply tightening, with tragic results.

In his City of God, Augustine of Hippo (d.430) offered his readers an alternative approach. In Book 16, chapter 8, he argued that:

whoever is anywhere born a man, that is, a rational, mortal animal, no matter what unusual appearance he presents in colour, movement, sound, nor how peculiar he is in some power, part, or quality of his nature, no Christian can doubt that he springs from that one protoplast.

For Augustine, the crucial features of a human were that they were mortal (and therefore not an angel) and possessed of reason. Appearance didn’t come into it. It is striking that the Bishop of Hippo was also thinking of cynocephali when he wrote this. The dog-heads were a perfect problem to inspire such philosophising.

Ratramnus was inclined to follow the good bishop’s lead, but this raised further difficulties. As the users of modern dating apps can attest, it is very difficult to determine if someone is rational just by looking at them. He was having to play a sort of medieval version of a Turing test. His primary solution was to adopt an anthropological approach, insofar as that was possible from hundreds of miles away with no personal experience of the people being discussed, while being entirely dependent on someone else’s account. Ratramnus’ analysed Rimbert’s description of the cynocephali, looking for behaviour that suggested to him rational planning and organisation.

A number of features of cynocephali life caught Ratramnus’ attention. He wrote to Rimbert:

They follow some laws of society, to which their dwelling in villages bears witness. They cultivate fields, which [can be] inferred from their harvesting of crops. They do not reveal their private parts as animals do, but cover them with modesty in the way humans do, which is an indication of their sense of decency. As you wrote, they possess not only hides for use as coverings, but even clothes. All these things seem to bear witness in a way that there is a rational soul in [these dog-headed ones].

[translated by Dutton.]

The cynocephali hard at work, in this fifteenth-century illustration of the travels of Marco Polo: Paris Bibl. Nat. fr.2810, fol.76v

It’s worth going through Ratramnus’ thinking with some of these characteristics. For example, he argues that in order to live together in villages, the cynocephali had to have a shared set of laws. Such a legal system would imply a communal identity, making them a city (by which Ratramnus meant a political and social community rather than an urban centre) rather than a mere agglomeration of beasts, like a pack of dogs or badgers living in setts.. The existence of law also points to the existence of a moral code on which the law would be based. Laws, a civic community and morality were all evidence of reason. On the basis of observations like this, Ratramnus therefore argued that the cynocephali were indeed humans.

Naturally this account tells us nothing about the dog-headed people themselves because dog-headed people aren’t real (no matter what the Goofy-truthers will tell you). That there aren’t any Scandinavia is demonstrated by their absence from award-winning crime dramas wearing really nice knitwear. This description does however tell us an awful lot about Ratramnus, what he thought it meant to be human and what he felt was natural about the society he lived in. The assumptions he made when he reasoned about the implications of the cynocephali having villages are instructive here, that such a thing would require the existence of a formal law code, and that a sense of morality would also manifest in a legal code being just two of them. These are logical steps we might not necessarily make ourselves.

But this passage also gets at the deeper ideas Ratramnus had about being human. For Ratramnus, living in permanent settlements, participating in cereal agriculture and wearing clothes weren’t individual decisions or the contingent result of societies interacting with their environments and past patterns of behaviour over multiple centuries. Instead they were the natural outgrowth of rationality, which would be expected from a rational being, any rational being, no matter where they were or what their context was.

There is something intuitively appealing about a definition of humanity that doesn’t get stuck on ‘surface’ questions of body but rather cares about the ‘really important’ issue of our minds. There’s a reason we immodestly named ourselves Homo sapiens. We like to think that our intelligence is our most important characteristic. The fact that this allows someone in the middle ages to extend the branch of fraternity to a group of people who look nothing like him is worth noting. Similar patterns of thought would be really important for the Europeans who defended the humanity of American Indians in the Spanish Empire by reference to the cities and art of Pre-Colombian civilisation.

But Ratramnus also reveals the drawbacks of this way of thinking. One is that it ultimately devolves to what the beholder believes rational behaviour to be. Ratramnus believed that villages populated by cereal agriculturalists who wore clothes was a natural human state. But in his lifetime, large numbers of people across Eurasia very happily got on with their lives while only following some or none of these patterns of behaviour. The pastoral nomads of the steppe, who were by no means unheard of in the Carolingian world, are an obvious example. By Ratramnus’ logic, their ‘irrational’ way of life would render them not human. This wouldn’t just apply to external groups. Within the past century, we can list numerous examples of marginal groups defined by behaviour deemed unusual by the rest of society, such as homosexuals, being labelled as ‘irrational’ and suffering as a consequence.

Another, more insidious problem is the potential difficulties for people whose minds genuinely do work differently from whatever the assumed normality is. Very few of us are obviously rational in our first year of life. Many of us will develop medical conditions in our lifetime which may impair our ability to reason as we age. It seems profoundly unsatisfactory to have a definition of humanity that one can acquire and then lose. Further, this type of definition can have potentially disastrous consequences for people with conditions such as Down syndrome, which may leave them vulnerable to having their humanity stripped from them, only deepening the ableism they already face in society.

‘Ninth-century writer believed things we don’t anymore’ is hardly headline news. The point here isn’t to browbeat Ratramnus for being stupid, something he most certainly wasn’t. Instead, I’d like to close with a couple of thoughts. The first is that definitions of humanity are the products of the time in which they emerge. They are contingent upon the intellectual resources available to the people doing the defining and the place in which they decide to draw the line between natural and learned behaviour. The second is to observe that the middle ages often gets a bad rap as an age of intolerance and narrow-minded persecution. That’s a reputation that has something behind it (although I’m not convinced that its notably more so than in most periods of history before the mid to late twentieth century). But Ratramnus was not alone in his expanded definition of humanity, which allowed him to see himself in the dog-headed people. This vision of being human that depended on what a person thought rather than what they looked like, speaks to a rather more open middle ages than its image might suggest.

[Editor’s note: Sam was too modest to mention it in his post, but he has in fact written a whole article about cynocephali, rationality, and urbanism, which you can find by clicking this fine and well-crafted hyperlink.

Charter a Week 53: The High Point of Bosonid Europe

Big times in the Middle Kingdom! (And I know I use ‘Middle Kingdom’ as a synonym for Lotharingia, which was the area I meant last post, but this time I mean the whole thing.) As we’ve had cause to mention before multiple times, Louis the Blind, ruler of Provence, died in June 928 and then everything went to hell in a handbasket. The twists and turns of the aftermath of Louis’ death have been covered on this blog before, but what matters for our purposes today is that there were four branches of the same extended family all competing for parts of Provence, and all of them ended up with bits of it: Ralph of Burgundy got most of the north, his maternal cousin Rudolf II of Transjurane Burgundy got most of the mountainous eastern bit, his paternal cousin Charles Constantine of Vienne got to be the biggest non-royal cheese in Louis the Blind’s capital, and their more distant relative (by blood, anyway; he was Rudolf II’s stepfather) Hugh of Arles got to be the most important guy in the south even if not the ‘actual’ king. Outright warfare was avoided, but there were tension – until this charter. 

CC 1.379/Romainmôtier 3 (14th June 929, Boyer)

It is clear to all sensibly considering it (that God’s disposition has looked out for certain rich persons such that if they use will those things which are fleetingly possessed they can earn prizes which endure forever. Divine speech, indeed, shows this to be possible, and urges it in every way, saying ‘the riches of a man are redemption of the soul for him’ [Proverbs 13:8]. I, Countess Adelaide, solicitously thinking of this, and desiring whilst it is permitted to provide for my own salvation, thought it certain – indeed, very necessary – that I should impart some small part of the things which have been bestowed on me in this world for the benefit of my soul – I, indeed, who am seen to have become so prominent in these matters – so that I could not possibly be found guilty at the last of having expended it all on the care of the flesh, but rather so that, when final destiny takes everyone, I might rejoice to have reserved something for myself. This purpose truly seems to be unachievable in any more fitting way or form than to make for myself, in accordance with the Lord’s command, friends of His poor; and that an action of this sort might be done not at any given point in time, but continuously, I should sustain from my own resources a group gathered in the monastic profession. Accordingly, it is in this faith, in this hope, that, although I, Adelaide, am unable to scorn all things, I might nonetheless receive the reward of the just as long as I take care of those who do scorn the World, whom I believe to be just.)

Therefore let it be known to all those living in the unity of faith and awaiting the mercy of Christ that [I, Adelaide, by God’s gift countess] transfer goods of my right, which fell to me through a precept of the lord king Rudolf [I of Transjurane Burgundy], that is, my sweetest and most beloved brother, specifically the monastery which is called Romainmôtier, which is sited in the district of Vaud, with the whole abbacy and with all the goods and adjacencies pertaining to the abbey, which were previously set in order there by the holy fathers. This aforesaid monastery of Romainmôtier was once built in honour of the prince of the apostles, to wit, Peter and Paul, under the monastic profession; but is now completely empty of any who live there. For love of our lord Jesus Christ and the same apostles, I, the said Adelaide, transfer it from my right and domination into the dominion and oversight of the monks in every way, that is, of the venerable and most reverend abbot Odo [of Cluny], and all of the brothers and monks of the crowd dwelling in the abbey of Cluny under his rule. This is done on the condition that the monks, as far as they can, should endeavour to reform this monastery, with Christ propitious, through the intercession of the apostles, into its prior state. Let the aforesaid abbot, then, as long as he lives, and the monks, possess the same monastery in such a way that although it might be delegated to the apostolic see just as Cluny is, they should nevertheless always act and be disposed as one congregation under one abbot in such a way that when he dies it should not be permitted to one group or the other to place an abbot over themselves without joint consent; nor might they presume (God forbid!) to substitute for him anyone except him whom the other group has, because it would be very unjust if those who happen to grow up like sons in the monastery of Romainmôtier should be at any time divided from the society of Cluny, who raised them up, like fathers, once more. Of course, in ordaining an abbot the constitution of St Benedict should always be prominent to the extent that if a smaller part of either one congregation or the other should, with wiser counsel, wish to elect a better person, the others should give them their consent in accordance with the Rule. Concerning the matter of brothers whom it is useful to send there from here, or here from there; and also concerning the transference of subsidies, which might perchance be more abundant in one place than in the other, from one placed to the other, let this be in the abbot’s power. And that a more brotherly society might endure between them, let them communally hold ordinations of divine service or almsgiving or any good works, such that what is done at Cluny for William [the Pious] of good memory, and (without doubt) others, whether living or dead, at Cluny should benefit Us and Ours; and in like manner they should share in that which has been done at the monastery of Romainmôtier for Us in accordance with God’s will.

Therefore, I make this donation in the first place for love of God and of the holy apostles; then for the soul of my sweetest brother the lord king Rudolf, that is, the bestower of these goods; then for the rest of my lord of pious memory Prince Richard [the Justiciar], and for Queen Willa [wife of Rudolf I]; then for myself and my son the lord king Ralph [of Burgundy]; and also King Rudolf [II of Transjurane Burgundy], my nephew; and for my other sons Hugh [the Black], Boso [of Vitry] and my nephew Louis [son of Rudolf I, count of Thurgau], and furthermore for our other kinsmen, and for those who are attached to our service; also for my father and mother, and lord Hugh, the distinguished abbot [Hugh the Abbot], and for our other relatives of both sexes; finally, for those who offer help and defence to the monks dwelling there, for the state of all of religion too, and for all Catholics whether living or dead.

Let the monks dwelling therein conserve the way of life which they now transfer from Cluny to shape those yet to come such that they in no way diminish this same way, in food and clothing, in abstinence, in psalmody, in silence, in hospitality, in mutual love and submissiveness, and in good obedience.

It is also pleasing to insert into this testament that from this day the same monks congregated there should be subject to the yoke neither of Us, nor Our relatives, nor the pride of royal highness, nor of any terrestrial power; nor should any worldly prince, nor any count, nor any bishop, nor the pontiff of the aforesaid see of the town of Rome (I beseech and call as my witness, through God and in God, all of His saints and the day of the Tremendous Judgement) invade the goods of these servants of God, nor steal, nor diminish, nor exchange, nor give to anyone in benefice, nor establish any prelate above them against their will. And that such an abomination might be more tightly forbidden to all temerarious and wicked persons, to drive home the same point, I add [and] implore you, O holy apostles and glorious princes of the Earth Peter and Paul, and you, O pontiff of pontiffs of the apostolic see, that through the canonical and apostolic authority which you have accepted from God, you should estrange from the fellowship of God’s holy Church and eternal life robbers and invaders and thieves of these goods, which with a joyful mind and willing heart I donate to the aforesaid servants of God; and you should be protectors and defenders of the said place of Romainmôtier and the servants of God dwelling and staying therein, and of all of these resources, for the alms and clemency and mercy of Our most pious redeemer.

If, perchance, anyone (God forbid! And which, through the mercy of God and the patronage of the apostles I do not think will come to pass), whether from my kinsmen or an outsider or of any condition or power should with any craftiness try to inflict any injury against this testament, which I have sanctioned be made for love of God Almighty and out of veneration for the princes of the apostles Peter and Paul, in the first place let them incur the wrath of God Almighty, and let God take their part from the land of the living, and delete their name from the Book of Life, and let their part be with those who said unto the Lord ‘Depart from us’ [Job 22:17], and incur everlasting damnation with Dathan and Abiron, whom the Earth swallowed into its open mouth, and took living into the inferno, and be held thrust into eternal tortures as a companion of Judas, betrayer of the Lord; and – that they should not seem unpunished to human eyes in the present world – let them endure the torments of their future damnation on their own body, sharing the fate of a double plunderer with Heliodorius and Antiochus, of whom one was battered with terrible scourges and barely escaped half alive; and the other, struck by Heaven’s will, perished in a most wretched fashion with their limbs putrescent and bubbling with worms; and be a fellow of the other sacrileges who presumed to defile the treasury of the house of the Lord; and unless they come to their senses let them have the keymaster of the whole monarchy of churches, and Saint Paul along with him, as an obstructor and contradictor of their approach to the amen-worthy paradise – whom, if they had wished, they could have had as most pious intercessors on their behalf. In accordance with worldly law, let those who inflict a calumny be compelled by judicial power to pay 100 pounds of gold, and let their conflict be frustrated and obtain no effect whatsoever; but let the firmness of this testament be buttressed with all authority and endure every inviolate and undisturbed, relying on this guarantee.

S. Countess Adelaide, king’s mother and abbess, authorising this testament and commanding it be made. S. Hildegang, an unworthy priest. S. Odalric. S. Judith, daughter of King Rudolf. S. Alberada. S. Guy, Henry. S. Hugh [the Black], famous count and brother of the august King Ralph. S. Geoffrey. S. Ralph, son of Emperor Louis. S. Stephen, Christian, Gunfred, Humbert, Boso, Bavo, Leofred, Blitgar, Ralph.

Given on the 14th June.

I, Hildebrand the priest, on behalf of the chancellor, wrote and subscribed this, in the 5th year of the reign of the most glorious King Ralph, in the 2nd indiction.

Enacted publicly in the estate of Boyer.


The abbey of Romainmôtier as it looks today (source)

A quick note on the technical diplomatic of this document – it survives in both the Romainmôtier and Cluny cartularies in slightly different forms. I have put (stuff from only Romainmôtier in brackets) and {stuff from only Cluny in hooked brackets}. Normally this merging of documents would cause a bit more methodological hand-wringing; but in this case the Cluny version is clearly just an abbreviated version of the Romainmôtier one. The only major difference, other than the Cluny charter omitting the preamble, is at one key point in the witness list. I have followed the Romainmôtier version in rendering Hugh the Black as ‘famous count and brother of the august King Ralph’. The Cluny version, though, has ‘S. Hugh, famous count and brother. S. the august King Rodulfus’. Read literally, this implies the presence of Rudolf II (probably him rather than Ralph); but it leaves the word ‘brother’ hanging awkwardly so I think it’s just a scribal error somewhere.

The underlined bits are direct quotations of Cluny’s foundation charter. (Honestly, between Adelaide, Ebbo of Déols, and others, I must have translated Cluny’s foundation charter around five times now.) It’s an interesting decision. We saw in previous weeks that this is within a few years of Ralph of Burgundy and Odo of Cluny conspiring to take Cluny, and the Mâconnais, out of the hands of Acfred of Aquitaine. Referring directly back to William the Pious’ charter is a direct way of establishing continuity with the new set of masters. It also speaks to Adelaide’s spiritual goals: Romainmôtier was to become, quite simply, Little Cluny in the Jura. Of course, the point of that is to tap into the spiritual benefits of William’s foundation (and vice-versa), so it’s not distinct from political goals… And, of course, William was also part of this extended family through marriage – his wife Ingelberga was the sister of Louis the Blind.

This charter is evidence for extended family diplomacy, such that I have previously pointed to it as the high point of ‘Bosonid Europe’ (my term for the multipolar Frankish world between c. 900 and c. 950). It’s clearly Adelaide who’s important here, working as a ‘peace-weaver’ between all these different groups. Even the location bears this out: Boyer, as we have in fact seen on a previous instalment, was one of Adelaide’s estates, granted by her to the cathedral of Chalon a few years previously. The witness list reveals a kind of summit meeting. I’d like to say ‘with Adelaide and Hugh the Black on one side and Judith on the other’ but given the number of ties of kinship and office-holding the two sides are actually very mixed-up. Hugh was a count in Rudolf’s kingdom as well as Ralph’s; Adelaide was – as this charter is itself evidence for – a major landholder in Transjurane Burgundy. Given the relatively low stakes of the division of Provence, these were useful people to negotiate a settlement, and indeed we do not see Rudolf II trying to make any push towards Vienne after this. The nominal goal of the charter, the grant of Romainmôtier to Cluny, fits the political objectives perfectly: creating a bond of brothership between a West Frankish and a Transjuranian abbey as symbolic of inter-regnal co-operation; allowing all the different members of the family to be seen to consent on a worthy public act; and indirectly further legitimating the takeover of Aquitaine. It’s the good old Trans-Ararian Fluidity Zone at work again!

Revisiting Louis V in Aquitaine II: Divide and Fail to Conquer

Last time, we looked at Richer of Rheims’ account of Louis V’s kingship in Aquitaine and I suggested that it may not be worth taking it entirely seriously as an explanation for why Louis failed. This time round, we’ll be looking at the situation in Aquitaine around 980, and I’ll be suggesting my own explanation for what went wrong. Let’s start by zooming on the woman at the centre of events: Louis’ wife Adelaide-Blanche. Louis was Adelaide’s third husband, the first two being a nobleman named Stephen of Gévaudan (although he was never count), with whom she had two sons named Pons and Bertrand; and Raymond dux Gothorum, with whom she had a son named William Taillefer. These two men take us into the two key regions of Auvergne and Toulouse.

Auvergne we’ve largely covered already in other posts, but to summarize: Bishop Stephen II of Clermont, the most important man in the area for decades by now, is getting very old and probably dying. Other important figures – notably Amblard of Lyon and Stephen of Gévaudan himself – have died. There are a number of people who want to re-carve the pie, including Bishop Stephen’s nephew Viscount Guy of Clermont and Adelaide’s sons Pons and Bertrand. Toulouse is a little more complicated, although the most complicated thing is the genealogy, which we’ve already got out of the way. This does means that I get to reveal to you that this particular extended digression actually has a point! The upshot is as follows: sometime in the early 970s, Count Raymond son of Ermengaud seems to have usurped Toulouse from Raymond ‘the Disinherited’ (to use Sébastien Fray’s useful nickname), the grandson of Raymond Pons. (Perhaps he owed his good fortune to the backing of dowager countess Garsindis, Raymond Pons’ widow, with whom he appears in a charter for Saint-Michel de Gaillac and who in turn richly endowed his son Hugh in her will; possibly she preferred her brother-in-law and nephew to her stepson.) He in turn was succeeded in the mid-970s by his own son Hugh (II), but Hugh disappears from the scene relatively shortly afterwards. Hugh’s successor wasn’t a son or brother of his, nor a scion of Raymond Pons’ family, but a cousin of both Hugh (II) and Raymond ‘the Disinherited’, also called Raymond. This Raymond appears to have had pretentions: Richer calls him ‘duke of the Goths’ – not a technical term, because as previously established Richer doesn’t have much in-depth knowledge of Aquitaine in this period – but a marker of someone whom Richer thinks is really important in the area. Moreover, what we can see of Raymond’s activity suggests very widespread ambitions indeed: on one hand, his marriage to Adelaide-Blanche, giving him a potential ‘in’ to the area around Mende, Vieille-Brioude, and even Le Puy; on the other hand, we are fairly confident he is the (unnamed) count of Toulouse who launched an attack on Count Roger the Old of Carcassonne around 980. My best guess is that having usurped Toulouse the young conqueror was trying to vindicate his position through military glory. His death shortly afterwards, along with the situation in the Auvergne, led to a power vacuum.

It was this power vacuum that Lothar was trying to exploit. Louis’ marriage to Adelaide put him right in the middle of these networks, with Pons and Bertrand as his stepsons, their uncle Bishop Guy of Le Puy – an old ally of Lothar’s – backing him, and Toulouse up for grabs. Lothar also tried other means to win allies – it’s far from certain, but there’s a decent chance that contrary to what I have previously implied, Guy of Clermont received his comital title from Lothar at this time.

So, the year is 982. (At the moment, the impression I get is that the scholarly consensus is that Louis’ reign lasted from 980-982, and I don’t think that’s right. The basic belief here is that the diplomas of Lothar dating to 982, which are unquestionably in Auvergne, are from the king’s second trip south, to pick up Louis rather than to drop him off. However, there are two pieces of evidence which point in favour of the later date. The less convincing is that Adhemar of Chabannes’ Commemoratio of the abbots of Saint-Martial in Limoges has Lothar arriving in Limoges in 983/4. The more convincing is that a charter for the abbey of Fleury is dated to 982, which it specifies is Louis V’s first year as king. This cannot mean the year of his coronation – the abbot of Fleury was at Louis’ coronation in 979 – and it’s unlikely that Fleury, an abbey whose abbot was appointed by Lothar, would have got his regnal years wrong (they don’t habitually in other charters), so the logical follow-on is that it refers to Louis’ first year as king in Aquitaine.) Louis is packed off to Aquitaine. Two years later, he’s back again. What went wrong?

Fundamentally, I think the problem was one of mismatched expectations. Lothar clearly expected Adelaide-Blanche’s connections within the region to be used to cement Louis’ control. However, sources show that Adelaide’s position was nowhere near as strong as the northerners thought. For one thing, she was in open conflict with the abbey of Brioude, which resulted in her and her sons’ excommunication, a serious blow to their legitimacy. Even once Adelaide backed down in the quarrel, the canons of Brioude refused to acknowledge Louis as king. Even more, Pons and Bertrand don’t seem to have wanted to play ball. Around this time, they captured Prior Wigo of Le Puy, a favourite of Bishop Guy, and imprisoned him in Mende. This particular conflict seems to have been one where Guy of Auvergne was on the other side. Guy was an ally of other cathedral dignitaries from Le Puy, and eventually lost his life in an attack on Mende. Given the importance of these people to any regime in Auvergne, Guy of Puy and Guy of Auvergne versus Pons and Bertrand was a cleavage right down the middle of Louis’ regime.

At the same time, Adelaide’s position in Toulouse was evidently shaky. Her son William Taillefer was young at the time, and either Raymond the Disinherited or his son appears to have taken the opportunity to force their way back into power there. Around 983, an unnamed count of Toulouse (but definitely not William) forced Abbot Bernard of Solignac into the abbey of Beaulieu by force of arms. Indisputably, by the early eleventh century, Raymond the Disinherited’s family was firmly in place as counts of Rouergue, a position they are likely to have consolidated by precisely such actions as the conquest of Beaulieu. In Gothia like in Auvergne, Adelaide’s family connections were not building-blocks, they were highways directly into conflict.

There was also one particular rivalry without these regions. Recall that Raymond dux Gothorum had been defeated c. 980 by Roger the Old of Carcassonne. Roger’s family was relatively new-come to its comital rank, and after that rank had been attained around the mid-tenth century Roger seems to have spent about twenty years chilling. However, when things kicked off in the region in the late 970s, Roger made his own bid for regional hegemony. Seemingly convinced that St Hilary fought in person by his side, he defeated his northern and southern neighbour and by the early 980s assumed the titles of ‘duke’ and ‘margrave’. It is a little dangerous arguing from this, but in a charter of 984 he switched from dating by Lothar’s reign to AD dating. This could indeed be a coincidence, but it could also signal a rejection of royal authority. If Louis’ aim was to step into the shoes of Raymond dux Gothorum, he was stepping directly into the role of Roger’s rival, and there was no reason for the count of Carcassonne to accept him.

Carcassonne today (source)

What we have, therefore, is not the situation Richer describes, where Louis’ fecklessness led him inexorably to personal and political ruin; but the result of an array of difficult challenges, most notably pre-existing cleavages in what was supposed to be his support base. Lots of people wanted him there, but they wanted him to come in and support them against their foes. He entered the game positioned as a player rather than as an umpire. His key power, that of being the fons et origio of legitimate authority, was pre-broken – his allies couldn’t help him because they were caught up in local quarrels and he couldn’t help them because he was already parti pris

Career (and Other) News III and Name in Print VII-X

Something a little different on the blog this week, a little more personal. I have been known to get a little personal here on occasion, and so arguably this is just following in an established tradition, but there’s not going to be any juicy post-Carolingian content this week. Normal blog service will be resumed on the 30th, when we go back to Louis V’s Aquitaine, and then we’re kicking the New Year off with a bang. You can expect dog-headed men, non-existent counts of Boulogne, possibly migratory queens, and a whole load of suspicious brothers.

Today, however, is about news. The first, and most important, piece of news is that I got married last Thursday. It was a small civil ceremony, and because ours is an interfaith and international marriage, it’s ceremony number one of three spread out over more than a year; but it was the one which, legally, counts. (And yes, I did briefly get in trouble for blogging on the wedding day until I clarified that both the posts and the tweets are posted and scheduled well in advance…) Thankfully, the plan was always to keep it small and with the rise of Omicron* that turned out to have been good foresight. With restricted numbers, we all had a lovely time. Me and my wife and our dogs are very happy together…

…or, at least, we will be for the next month. You may remember that since last Spring I have been not-quite-unemployed grace of a Visiting Fellowship at Leeds and database work for the Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles. Whilst the latter has been quite interesting – by this point I certainly have a much better idea of the coinage of King Cnut – it wasn’t, and wasn’t intended to be, a long-term thing. So the good news is that I have a new job! From February 2022 until the end of that year, I will be a fellow at Eberhard Karls Universität, Tübingen, working in their Center for Advanced Studies’ project ‘Migration and Mobility in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages’. This has the delightful result of reuniting me with my old mentor from my Humboldt fellowship, Steffen Patzold, as well as all my other friends from Tübingen. This is genuinely wonderful, as my six months at Tübingen back in 2017/18 were some of the happiest and most productive of my life. I will also get a chance to expand my scope, because I’m moving on from tenth-century France. The title of my project is ‘Constructing Legitimacy amongst Mobile Elites in Northman-Ruled Polities in the Long Ninth Century’, and I’ll be looking at political cultures in Viking realms from Ireland to Russia. This doesn’t mean that this blog will stop looking at the tenth century. However, it is my sketchpad, and so what that means is that you can also expect even more rambling about Vikings as I try and get thoughts in order.

I’m also not going to be the only one of your faithful bloggers out there. Recently, I had the chance to catch up in person with the other half of the Historians’ Sketchpad team for the first time in about two years. Besides taking the dogs to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where we talked about Hugh the Great’s lions and bumped around potential translated text projects, we could congratulate each other about the new jobs, because Sam is also going to Tübingen next year! His project will be called ‘Mobility and the Making of Carolingian Diplomacy’.

The team together at Kirkstall Abbey. I had genuinely forgotten how tall Sam is; when he walked in the door I asked him where his dream-catching trumpet was…

Obviously, all this assumes an awful lot about how things develop with Omicron over the next several weeks. As I write this, people from the UK are not currently allowed into Germany without a ‘compelling reason’, which does not include business travel; and there is also a work-from-home order in place. I am keeping in touch with the German side as things evolve; and thankfully, I have got enough resources to hand to be able to start the research here when the time comes if that proves necessary. We’ll see – whilst I am very grateful to be employed, and the move is temporary in any case, I’m less happy about having to move away from my wife. For a whole bunch of reasons, the structural precarity of early career academia is muted for me compared to most of my colleagues, but it’s still not fun or pleasant. Appropriately enough to bring this full circle, one of the University and College Union’s current representatives for casually employed workers is Ben Pope, one of the friends I made at Tübingen (only three-and-a-half years ago, but three jobs ago for both of us). This is probably preaching to the choir for anyone reading this blog, but UCU is fighting against precarity as part of its current strike action, and it deserves your wholehearted support.

Anyway, it’s the Christmas season, so let’s not leave it on that depressing note. It’s been over two years since I last updated this blog with news of my work’s fortunes in print. Why don’t I put the newest stuff here so you can access all the late- and post-Carolingian history that this post didn’t contain? I won’t do the full breakdown the way I did in the past, so here are the four articles of mine which have come out since September 2019:

‘“Nullus alicui clerico episcopatum conferre debeat nisi rex”: Royal authority and disputed episcopal elections during the late Carolingian period’, The Medieval Low Countries 6, pp. 55-73.

Political culture and ducal authority in Aquitaine, c. 900-1040’, The History Compass 18, pp. 1-10. (which is open access, so you can read it right now by clicking the link!)

‘”A girly man like you can’t rule us real men any longer“: Sex, violence and masculinity in Dudo of Saint-Quentin’s Historia Normannorum’, Anglo-Norman Studies 42, pp. 101-117.

And finally:

Governance, locality and legal culture: The advocates of Saint-Martin of Tours’, Early Medieval Europe 29, pp. 201-224. (also open access!)

Some of these you might be familiar with, if you’re a long-term reader. Sexuality in Dudo of Saint-Quentin, for example, is a topic we’ve broached a few times on this blog (and one which, naturally, gets me no few clicks to this day from search topics like ‘Norse sex’). However, it’s a really neat little bit of close reading which also links up with wider issues of the Scandinavian influences on Normandy. If you’d like to read it, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. Something much easier to access is my work on advocates at Saint-Martin, which I am particularly proud of for a few reasons. The first is that it’s the first article I’ve ever published which began life entirely on this here blog, which by itself validates it as a research tool. The second is that it encompasses much more than what the title might suggest. I have the bad habit of drafting articles which amount to a case study in search of an argument, and this one almost fell into that pit; but in fact it came round to saying something quite important. The third is that thanks to Charter A Week, you can actually read my translations of some of the charters I discuss in the article right here. It’s a cross-media branding exercise, entirely by accident! (The same, for what it’s worth, is true of the letter of Charles the Simple which my Medieval Low Countries article discusses.)

And with that, I’ll leave you be. Whatever may or may not happen this Christmas, whether we can see family and/or friends or not, I hope you all manage to find some happiness over the holiday season. Merry Christmas to one and all!

*which sounds like the next Avengers movie, doesn’t it?