Charter a Week 1: ‘Our dearest duke’ (877)

It’s well-known by now that I enjoy translating sources, and that I like charters; and it’s probably becoming clear as well that I like getting narrative about the late/post-Carolingian world. So today is the first entry in a new series, which is exactly what it says on the tin: each Monday, I’ll post a new translation of a charter going right through the long tenth century, one (at least – see below) each year from 877 up to 1032. A couple of caveats before beginning:

  • So far, I’ve planned out about half of what we’re going to be seeing. During this process, I’ve found that the really juicy stuff tends to cluster noticeably – it’s not so much that one year will have two potentially-interesting charters and one three; more that one will have one and another will have five. In most cases I’ve tried to be strict, but some years I just couldn’t pick. In these cases, I’ll post one on Monday and the rest a few days later. As it happens, this first week is one of these cases, so expect another charter later this week!
  • A note on coverage: this is fundamentally a French story. Mostly, we’ll be talking about the West Frankish monarchy, but as you might expect by now we’ll be looking over the border into Provence and occasionally Transjurane Burgundy, and the East Frankish kingdom and Lotharingia will also play a part.

Let’s crack on!

DD CtB no. 419 (6th January 877, Quierzy) = ARTEM no. 788 = DK 5.xix

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by mercy of the same Almighty God emperor augustus.

If We lend Our Serenity’s ears to the just and reasonable requests of servants of God, and bring them into effect, We both follow the custom of the emperors, to wit, Our ancestors; and We in no way doubt that through this will the prize of an eternal blessing follow.

Let the industry, therefore, of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, both present and future, know that Boso [of Provence], Our dearest duke and representative in Italy and the chief minister of Our sacred palace, coming before Our Excellence, made known to Our Serenity the appeals of certain monks, that is, from the monastery of the holy martyr Benignus: to wit, that they had appealed to Our Highness that We might for Our soul’s reward and on account of the appeal of the same Boso, who is very worthy of Our affection, restore to the aforesaid holy martyr Benignus and the brothers serving therein goods which had been alienated from their said monastery for a long time.

Therefore, Our Serenity’s clemency complied with the prayers of Our said dearest man and succouring the needs of the aforementioned brothers, We restore to them through this Our precept the goods which are described below, that is, in the district of Oscheret, the estate which is called Longvic with churches and everything justly and reasonably pertaining to it; and in the district of Portois, the estate of Saint-Marcel with churches and everything pertaining to it.

Accordingly, We commanded this precept of Our Imperial Highness be made and given to the aforesaid brothers, through which let them hold and possess eternally all the said goods with everything pertaining to them, and let them turn them back to their own uses without contradiction from any person.

And that this might be inviolably conserved for all time and obtain in the name of God a fuller vigour of firmness, We confirmed it below with Our hand and We commanded it be sealed with Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of august emperors.

Odoacer the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Gozlin [of Paris].

Count Boso ambasciated.

Given on the 8th ides of January (6th January), in the 10th indiction, in the 37th year of the reign of the lord emperor Charles in Francia, and the 7th in succession to Lothar [II], and in second of his rule as emperor.

Enacted at the imperial palace of Quierzy.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

CW 1.1 877
The surviving original, from the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above.

We begin in the last year of the reign of Charles the Bald, not that anyone knew that at the time. Charles, who was 53 when this diploma was issued, had recently become emperor in Italy, and as we’ll see later this week was clearly aiming further. No-one expected him to die within the year, so this diploma was issued not as a deathbed grant from a fading ruler but as a statement from a man who hadn’t stopped pushing for greater power yet. There are a lot of diplomas from early 877 as Charles prepared to head once more to Italy.

By this point, the pattern of Charles’ late reign is clear, because these diplomas in general feature the small clique of supermagnates on whom Charles’ power was based (and who based their own power on Charles’) – men such as Hugh the Abbot (who we will encounter later in this series), Bernard Plantevelue, father of William the Pious, and above all, as here, Boso of Provence.

At the exact point this diploma was issued, Boso was riding remarkably high even for him. His sister Richildis was married to Charles and had recently given birth to a son (in the event short-lived) to whom Boso stood godfather. This diploma, for the abbey of Saint-Bénigne in Dijon, is a testament to his status. Look at Boso’s titulature: not every Tom, Dick or Megingoz gets to be carissimus noster dux et missus Italiae sacrique palatii nostri archiminister! Boso was a high-status, powerful aristocrat – but his position was fragile, and the prospect of the succession of Charles’ son Louis the Stammerer was not an appealing one. To paraphrase Stuart Airlie: when you’re that high up, where can you go but down?

5 thoughts on “Charter a Week 1: ‘Our dearest duke’ (877)

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