Some Issues in Aquitanian History pt 5: Making Peace

Back in March, we covered the endemic conflict which started up in Auvergne in the late 950s; now, it’s time to see how it ended. The main players, if you remember, were King Lothar, Bishop Stephen II of Clermont, and Count William Towhead of Poitou. When we left off, Stephen, his carefully-cultivated closeness to the king under severe pressure thanks to William’s belligerence, was off to Rome. But life in Aquitaine went on without him. In 960, the knights of Nevers cathedral were attacked, seemingly unsuccessfully, by a guy named Airard. Airard is not, at this time, such a common name; and it is striking that the only man with that name I know of in the 950s and 960s is a follower of William Towhead – it looks awfully like William’s side making an unsuccessful attack on Nevers.

Important men, however, were gearing up to make peace, and there’s a Provence connection here. The archbishop of Lyon, at the time, was a man named Amblard, who actually came from Auvergne – much of what we know about him comes from his donation of the little abbey of Ris, north-east of Clermont, to Cluny.

And here it is, looking very rural-French. (source)

We know from other evidence that bishops in the West Frankish royal circle are getting together with Amblard of Lyon throughout this period – they sent round letters condemning a man named Isuard for stealing Church property, but this can’t have been the only thing they were talking about. We also know that in 960, Lothar confirmed some land just west of Charlieu, on the border between Burgundy and Aquitaine, to the monastery of Savigny, one of the most important in Amblard’s diocese; and we also know that in 960, Amblard made a deal with Bishop Ebalus of Limoges, William Towhead’s brother and a major prop of his regime, regarding some property claimed by the church of Lyon in the Limousin.

This last one is really quite important – Amblard is the only figure we know of with connections both to the Poitevins, and to the Auvergne, and to the West Frankish king. If he wasn’t trying to mediate a settlement in the Auvergne, I’ll eat my hat.

The problem is that, if the attack of Nevers is anything to go by, William wasn’t buying into the need to make a deal. Lothar had to apply a stick: he granted the pagus of Poitou to his cousin, Hugh the Great’s son Hugh Capet. Hugh the Great had, in 955, tried to capture Poitiers himself, although nothing had come of it. Nothing was to come of this grant either, and I think it is much more readily explicable as Lothar trying to use Hugh to intimidate William Towhead than as a serious grant of title.

If it was, it worked. In 961, Lothar met the Aquitanians , probably in Pouilly where his father Louis IV had met them in 954. The following year, Lothar granted a diploma to William Towhead, who very shortly thereafter retired into a monastery where he quickly died. At the same time, Stephen of Clermont issued his second charter, which we’ve talked about before. As I said then, Stephen is clearly renewing his local authority by re-emphasising his closeness to the king; but at the same time, it looks like William was given an honourable avenue into retirement, meaning that Stephen should be able to reclaim his hegemony in Auvergne. The bishop is back, baby!

Of course, it wasn’t that easy; and after this date, neither is researching this topic. I’m plugging on with it, but this is where my actual narrative stops for the moment. So you may be waiting a little while for the next of these…

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