Source Translation: A Flemish Genealogy

HERE BEGINS THE GENEALOGY OF THE MOST NOBLE EMPERORS AND KINGS OF THE FRANKS, DICTATED BY KING CHARLES, WHO RESTORED COMPIÈGNE AFTER TWO FIRES.

The most noble Ansbert begat Arnold from Blitchildis, daughter of Chlothar, king of the Franks; and Feriolus and Moderic and Tarsicia.

Arnold begat Arnulf. Arnulf begat Flodulf, Walchisus, and Anschisus.

Walchisus begat the confessor of the lord Wandregisl.

Duke Anschisus begat the elder Pippin.

The elder Pippin, the duke, begat the elder Charles.

The elder Charles, the duke, begat Pippin, Carloman, Grifo, and Bernard from the queen; Remigius and Jerome from a concubine.

King Pippin begat Charles and Carloman and Gisla from Queen Bertrada.

Emperor Charles begat Charles, Louis and Pippin, Rotrude and Bertha from Queen Hildegard; Drogo and Hugh and Rothaida from a concubine.

Emperor Louis begat Lothar, Pippin and Louis, Rotrude and Hildegard from Queen Ermengard; Charles and Gisla from Empress Judith.

Emperor Lothar begat Louis, Lothar and Charles from Queen Ermengard.

King Louis begat Carloman, Louis and Charles from Queen Emma.

King Carloman begat King Arnulf.

King Arnulf begat Louis from Queen Uota; Zwentibald, though, from a concubine.

Emperor Charles begat from Queen Ermentrude four sons and the same number of daughters, that is: Louis, Charles, Carloman and Lothar; and + Judith* and Hildegard, Ermentrude and Gisla.

([in the margin:] You will find more on Judith on the next page.)

King Louis begat Louis and Carloman and Hildegard from Ansgard, called queen; and Charles (posthumously) and Ermentrude from Queen Adelaide.

King Charles begat from Queen Frederuna Ermentrude, Frederuna, Adelaide, Gisla, Rotrude and Hildegard; and from a concubine, Arnulf, Drogo, Roric, and Alpaidis. Then, after Queen Frederuna died, he joined himself in marriage to another, a queen named Eadgifu, from whom he begat a son named Louis of handsome appearance. And later, from Queen Gerberga, Lothar, Charles, Louis and Matilda.

HERE BEGINS THE HOLY BLOODLINE OF THE MOST GLORIOUS COUNT LORD ARNULF AND HIS SON BALDWIN, MAY THE LORD DEIGN TO PROTECT THEM IN THIS WORLD.

Baldwin, mightiest of counts, joined the beautiful and very prudent Judith to himself in the union of matrimony.

From her, he begat a son, placing on him his own name, that is, Baldwin.

This Baldwin, having taken a wife from the noblest stock of the kings beyond the sea, got from her two sons of good character, of whom he named one Arnulf and his brother Adelolf. This last was, with God’s permission, rescued from the burden of this world, and is known to be buried in the monastery of the holy confessor of Christ Bertin. If he had lived in this world for a longer time, his valour would have been the greatest joy to his people.

Lord Arnulf, now, most venerable of counts and greatly beloved to lord Jesus Christ, excels in prudence, is strong in counsel, shining with all goodness, a most perfect restorer of churches of God, a most pious consoler of widows, orphans, and wards, a most clement dispenser of help in necessity to all who seek it from him.

What more? If someone were to have a hundred mouths and tongues, they could never speak of the gifts of his kindnesses. Indeed, because we can in no way say enough about his thousand goodnesses, let us speak a little of many.

For there is a monastery in the palace of Compiègne, named in honour of the holy mother of God Mary, which he honoured with many donations, that is, in gold and silver and cloths. He often distributed lavish wealth in coins to the clerics serving the Lord therein. We know for certain that the bier of the holy witnesses of Christ Cornelius and Cyprian was decorated by him in the purest silver, weighing ten pounds. He bestowed that noblest of signs, which is called by another name a bell, to the same holy place. Nor is this to be wondered at, because the said place was in fact founded by his great-grandfather Emperor Charles, who was called ‘the Bald’, with workmanship marvellous in every way.

Now, the aforesaid venerable count Arnulf took a wife named Adele, daughter of lord count Heribert and niece of two kings of the Franks, to wit, Odo and Robert. From her, by God’s protection, he begat a son of handsome appearance named Baldwin, beautiful in his face, beloved to God and dear in every way to his followers, noblest of counts, after the example of his father a lover of churches of God, humble, mild, pious, modest, kind, sober, and in addition moreover replete with all goodness.

He, reaching the appropriate age, by God’s concession and his father’s will, took a wife whose nobility was worthy of his own, named Matilda, daughter of a most noble prince named Hermann. From them, by the grace of supernal largess, may his distinguished father and mother see sons of sons (if it pleases God), to the third and fourth generation, and may bodily health and complete safety and absolution from every crime be conceded to him, now and here and in world without end. Amen.

May this be done by the mercy of Almighty God the Father from heaven, amen. May this be done by the concession of His son lord Jesus Christ our Lord, amen. May this be done by the bestowal of the supernal grace of the paraclete Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son, amen, amen, amen.

The priest called by the name Witger desires this, that the said count should be healthy for a long time. Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen.

Let whoever reads this venerable genealogy of lord Arnulf, the most renowned prince of this world, and his son the most noble Baldwin, prostrate themselves for them in prayer, and sing and cry with a pure heart:

A PRAY FOR LORD ARNULF AND HIS SON BALDWIN.

May God Almighty, a strong lord, pious and clement, king of kings and lord of the lordly, save lord Arnulf, most glorious of counts, and his son, beloved to God, named Baldwin. May He rule, guard, protect and defend, preserve and support, exalt and comfort, safeguard and strengthen them all the days of their lives in this present world. After a long life in this world, with the intervening mertis of all the saints, may they deserve to go to the glory of paradise, by the gift of Him by Whom they were created. Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen.

Having recently received the offprints of my article on the Flemish succession crisis of 965, I thought that whilst I ponder what exactly to do with about fifty paper copies of the thing, I could share with you an important bit of evidence for late tenth-century Flanders, the Genealogia Arnulfi Comitis. This genealogy was written around 960 by a priest named Witger who was probably but not certainly associated with the Flemish abbey of Saint-Bertin.

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Where I have actually been, although the town of Saint-Omer is not what you’d call a tourist hotspot… (photo by author)

It’s a unique document for its period – other noble families in the West Frankish kingdom did not write their genealogies this way – or indeed at all, the big explosion in genealogical literature is in the eleventh century – and they didn’t go out their way to link themselves to the Carolingians the way Witger does here. In fact, the first half of this is an early tenth-century genealogy dictated by Charles the Simple back in the day, which Witger is using to give the tie more credence.

Arnulf was not, after all, particularly closely related to the ruling Carolingian king, Lothar; and his father, Baldwin the Bald (yes, I know), had not been particularly interested in pursuing his Carolingian roots specifically. Sure, Arnulf was (we know from one source) named after the Carolingians’ great ancestor Arnulf of Metz; but his brother was named after their grandfather King Æthelwulf of Wessex, and it seems to be kingship in general rather than dynasty in particular motivating their choice.

This all changed in the 960s. Arnulf had gobbled up a lot of land very quickly over the course of his decades-long reign, and made a lot of enemies on his southern border. His son Baldwin being quite belligerent, he needed a southern ally and fast; and wouldn’t you know it, there was the new king, Lothar, to whom he was distantly related. This genealogy’s oddness comes about because it is the product of a very serious charm offensive to woo the young ruler into supporting Arnulf. Note how the genealogy describes Arnulf’s political actions (i.e. endowing the church at Compiègne – which was the real emotional heart of the descendants of Charles the Bald) as motivated by family concerns – this is the flipside of trying to persuade Lothar that their kinship ties matter.

Did it work? Well, sort of. If you want to know more, you’re going to have to read the article…

One thought on “Source Translation: A Flemish Genealogy

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