Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 2: The Impact of Louis IV, 936-945

Last time, Raymond Pons of Toulouse had just declared himself to be duke of Aquitaine, and you may well have been wondering, ‘What has this got to do with Bishop Stephen II of Clermont?’ Well, today we find that out.

You may remember that Raymond’s claim to the ducal title had occurred in the context of the dislocation brought on by the death of King Ralph of Burgundy in 936. The problem is that the next five years or so of Aquitanian political history are very murky indeed. The situation is not helped by the fact that a lot of the documentary evidence we rely on for the Toulouse side of things looks very dodgy. The good news, is that this means the period of just under a decade between 936 and Stephen’s emergence in 945 can be zipped through rather more quickly than the previous ten years.

The first thing to say is that, once again, evidence of conflict between Toulouse and Poitiers is non-existent, and evidence of the counts of Poitiers playing any role in Auvergnat politics ditto. There are three main actors in the Auvergne of the late 930s and early 940s: the local nobility, the count of Toulouse, and the king.

Of these, the local nobility are basically the same as the following of Duke Acfred. They stick together as a community, and it is these people who you can see around Raymond in 936. Raymond himself plays the very classic role for a major aristocrat of working with the king when Louis IV starts to display an interest in Aquitaine in around 940. (There’s theoretically a diploma issued for one of Raymond’s abbeys in 939, but the whole of the dating clause is spectacularly forged, and I don’t think we can take it seriously. I’d be more likely to put it in either 941 or 944, absent other evidence.) And the king is evidently a significant figure during the early 940s: he shows up in Vienne in winter 941, where the Aquitanians submit to him and he issues a diploma for the abbey of Chanteuges, the same foundation where Raymond had appeared to claim the title of ‘duke of Aquitaine’ in 936. Aquitanians then proceed to give him military assistance, so this doesn’t look purely formal.

Louis’ visit in 941/42 appears to have been fairly significant long-term. After going from Vienne to Poitiers, he issued several diplomas with Ebalus, the count of Poitiers’ brother, as intercessor. If we take seriously Adhemar of Chabannes’ claim that Louis played a role in acquiring for Ebalus the bishopric of Limoges, it is probably now that he made any agreement to the effect that Ebalus could legitimately succeed to the bishopric after the death of its current inhabitant. Louis went back to Aquitaine in 944 to negotiate with Raymond and other Aquitanians.

Unlike in 941/2, this visit was not obviously occasioned by any challenge to the king’s position in the north, which was at this time fairly stable. The most likely reason for Louis’ visit, therefore, is to deal with purely Aquitanian affairs. What were these? Well, one of them probably was ensuring the installation of Ebalus as bishop of Limoges. It is also possible that dealing with the succession to the bishopric of Clermont was on the agenda, for it was around this time that Stephen II became bishop. Finally, 944 is the last sure reference we have to Raymond Pons of Toulouse being alive, and I think it is likely that he died shortly afterwards (although some scholars think he lived until 950 or even 960).* In any case, what I think we have here is another shift in power.

Certainly, Raymond doesn’t appear to have troubled the Auvergne again. Liutprand of Cremona refers to a ‘Raymond of Aquitaine’ appearing in Italian politics at this time; personally, I think this was Raymond Pons’ son shifting his political sphere of action; but for our purposes, what matters is that Toulousain influence cannot be shown in the Auvergne. This is significant, because (as was hinted last week) Viscount and lay abbot Dalmatius of Brioude looks to have been linked to him; and with Stephen’s emergence, a different set of local nobles, the family of the viscounts of Clermont, appear to have replaced Dalmatius as the key figures within Aquitaine. As I said previously, Stephen was the son of Viscount Robert of Clermont, who figures prominently in his early charters. Robert and Dalmatius don’t appear to have been unfriendly or poorly-disposed to one another – they show up at many of the same gatherings – so I think this is not the product of conflict, but rather a simple transfer of power due to Stephen’s appointment.

It’s at this moment that the charter discussed when Stephen first appeared on this blog was issued, in 945. We don’t necessarily have to imagine Louis coming down in 944 and settling things with a wave of his royal hand, but I think that his kingship was a key element in whatever happened in the mid-940s. Stephen’s act is an ‘accession act’, firmly staking his claim as the predominant local figure in the Auvergne, displaying the core members of his faction, and doing so based on and legitimated by his connection to King Louis.

*Some, in fact, think he died earlier and the Raymond who shows up in 944 is a different guy. The reason for this is that the 944 guy is just ‘Raymond’ and Raymond Pons always shows up in his charters as ‘Raymond Pons’ or ‘Pons’. Problem is, the evidence from 944 isn’t one of his own charters, it’s Flodoard, who always refers to him as just ‘Raymond’ and there’s no reason to think it’s a different person.

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