Wow, the last post got a real reaction.
This is a little surprising to me, because it was dealing with an extremely difficult, abstruse and technical question. Hopefully it’s comprehensible; or if it isn’t, that’s because I don’t have a full grasp on what’s going on yet. In either case, there’s more to say on the subject, because I need to get this sorted out. Despite an agonizing wait over the weekend to get hold of some key articles on the issues raised last time, I’ve had a few days to familiarise myself with the sources and historiography around the kingship of Lower Burgundy (where I discovered that, happily, there is actually a debate around this), and the conclusion I’ve come to is that it’s really hard, you guys. I actually received two responses on the issue, for which I am grateful: both were thoughtful, considered, and diametrically opposed to one another about whether the Radulfus from Burgundia mentioned in Liutprand of Cremona’s Antapodosis 3.48 is King Rudolf II of Upper Burgundy or King Ralph of West Francia. So you’re getting another blog post going into more detail about the evidence and its problems.
First, Liutprand. There are four main arguments in favour of Rudolf II of Upper Burgundy being Liutprand’s Radulfus. 1) that Liutprand’s relative chronology seems to place the deal between Radulfus and Hugh in 933; 2) that every other time Radulfus and Burgundia appear in the text, it is Rudolf and Upper Burgundy which is meant; 3) that Rudolf has much more reason to be involved in Italian politics than Ralph has; and 4) that Liutprand was actually a page-boy in Hugh of Arles’ court at the time, so it would be odd for him to get it wrong.
Points 1) and 2) are not, to my eyes, very convincing. Liutprand’s chronology here is vague in the extreme. He doesn’t actually give any concrete dates, simply saying ‘around this time’. Given that what we’re talking about largely concerns events in Gaul, where Liutprand can get very fuzzy, I’m open to the idea that he’s filling in a lot of his own blanks. If what he actually knows is that at some point around 930 Hugh made a deal about some land in Gaul with a Radulfus from Burgundia, he might well assume it’s Rudolf and Transjurane Burgundy not Ralph and ducal Burgundy simply because he knows that the former had much more to do with Italy than the latter.
Point 3) is much more of a problem. One can argue around it in two ways: first, that although Rudolf II was in fact very heavily involved in Italian affairs and Ralph not, the Italians did sometimes look to seemingly-random West Frankish aristocrats to intervene in their affairs – in the mid-1020s, apparently quite serious plans were made to offer the Italian crown to Duke William V of Aquitaine. Second, that Liutprand doesn’t actually know the context of the deal, and is making assumptions, albeit plausible ones, about what happened: why did Hugh offer his land to Radulfus? Because he must have been in trouble, as he was in 933, and because some Italian nobles had offered Radulfus the crown, again, because that kept happening. Still, no matter which way you slice it, Rudolf is a better fit for the Italian context than Ralph.
Point 4) could go either way. Yes, Liutprand was there in the early 930s – but he was pre-pubescent or barely a teenager, and he was actually writing his book about thirty years later. This is significant because his story doesn’t match up very well with that of Flodoard of Rheims. The reason the deal between Hugh and Rudolf II is placed in 933 is because of the way Liutprand’s relative chronology, describing Hugh being kicked out of Rome, syncs with Flodoard’s absolute chronology, for it is he who describes it as being in 933. This is actually a problem, because we have a good idea about Flodoard’s information here – in 933, two messengers from Rheims came back to that city with a bit of archiepiscopal bling for the local prelate, and they gave Flodoard what appears to have been a decent bit of information on Italian affairs. In general, Flodoard is interested in what’s going on in Italy, and in the early-to-mid 930s, he has a decent amount of information on it, including a trip he himself made to Rome sometime around 936. It is therefore a bit odd that he doesn’t mention a deal made in the 930s, given that it would presumably have impacted the land his church held in the area around Lyon. As I said, it could go either way when dealing with an argument from silence: it could be that Flodoard was too far away to have the relevant information, despite being interested and contemporary; or it could be that Liutprand was too chronologically distant and confused, despite being a member of Hugh’s court.
Moving from our narrative sources, we need to look at the Lower Burgundian context. Here, it seems to me that the identification Radulfus=Rudolf has been finding increasingly little favour amongst researchers. The reason for this is simple: there’s lots of evidence that Ralph of West Francia was doing lots of exciting things in Lower Burgundy around 930, and very little for Rudolf.
However, that brief description underplays just how confusing the evidence is. I should therefore say that most of what we’re dealing with is charter dating clauses. These are important, because charters are mostly dated by the reigning king, and therefore they give us a glimpse of who people thought was in charge. And we are dealing here with three main types of dating clause. First, charters dated by the reign of King Ralph, from Vienne and from Lyon (we have hardly any evidence at all from further south, although Fournial suggested that charters from the Vivarais and environs dated by Ralph’s successor Louis hinted that Louis had inherited his position from Ralph). Second, a couple of charters for the monastery of Savigny near Lyon dated by Rudolf II’s reign. Third, and most importantly, there are a lot of charters from all over Lower Burgundy which continue to be dated by the reign of the late Louis the Blind, right up through the early 930s.
What is clear from this is that the situation was itself conflicted. Evidently, there were a lot of people, some of them very important people, who did not think that there was a legitimate king after Louis the Blind’s death. Thus, our tiny hints about what Ralph was doing in 928-930 (maybe issuing a diploma for Uzès, possibly trying to assert himself further south, probably minting coins in his name in Lyon, and definitely making concerted efforts to bring Vienne under his sway, even though for reasons which are utterly opaque it keeps falling away) suggest that although he was the biggest player in Lower Burgundy at this time, he wasn’t the only one. However, the evidence also suggests that his biggest opposition was small-scale and localised, rather than his fellow-monarchs: other than a couple of hints for the Lyonnais, Rudolf II doesn’t appear to have played much role in the area, and I actually think that a charter from 929 suggests that the West Frankish and Upper Burgundian kings had come to some kind of accommodation. What we have, then, says that if Rudolf fits Italy better than Ralph, Ralph fits Italy better than Rudolf.
To summarise what we’ve got so far, both arguments have important problems. (I haven’t even mentioned the diplomas issued by Hugh of Arles, which raise severe issues no matter what you think is happening.) If the traditional identification of Radulfus=Rudolf is wrong, and the event described by Liutprand can be identified with the deal between Hugh of Arles and Ralph in 928, then it solves a number of issues, chiefly that of why there is so little evidence for Rudolf II in Provence, and the problem of reconciling Flodoard and Liutprand. On the other hand, if the traditional identification is right, it fits much more clearly with Liutprand’s text, as well as providing a reason for the hints that we do have of Rudolf’s involvement in Burgundy in the 930s. Personally, I tend to lean towards Hofmeister, Brühl, and the French historians who think it is more likely that Radulfus is Ralph of West Francia. The issues this creates with Liutprand are extremely serious, but I don’t think they’re insurmountable; and on the other hand, the Radulfus=Ralph identification does fit better with the Lower Burgundian circumstantial evidence and deals with the problem of Flodoard’s silence. With that said, in the absence of a smoking gun one way or another, the issue remains to be decided.