So far, Charles the Simple’s sole rule has being going reasonably well; in this year, 900, things kick off a bit. There were some major shake-ups at court. Baldwin Iron-Arm of Flanders, who’d been operating as a bit of a third party for most of the civil war, tried to get back in at court. His two local enemies, Archbishop Fulk of Rheims and Count Heribert I of Vermandois, both of whom were high up in court circles, opposed this; so Baldwin had Fulk murdered. No sooner had Charles lost his adopted father-figure to terrible violence than a meeting to determine what to do about Viking raids fell apart spectacularly: Manasses of Dijon, the right-hand man of Richard the Justiciar, apparently said something terrible to Robert of Neustria and so Robert stormed out of court, not to return for another three years.
That some naughty words led to a break of this length speaks to just how fractured things had got at the court. The leading figure of Charles’ reign, Fulk of Rheims, was dead; and with him went both a source of advice (although I question how good that advice always was) and the stability of having an obvious leading figure in the realm. Robert, who had played that role under Odo, may be at fault here: it could well be that the reason that Charles backed Richard and Manasses rather than Robert was that Robert was seen to be claiming something unduly. Robert, though, had been a prime mover in getting Charles on to the throne in the first place. Both William the Pious and Richard the Justiciar had waited to see if Robert would submit to Charles, something he apparently did without hesitation. Charles therefore needed to look for new allies and broaden his appeal.
DD CtS no. 35 (31st October 900, Fleury)
In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by ordinance of divine clemency king.
If We lend the ears of Our Serenity to the just petitions of Our followers and proffer assent to them, We are seen to imitate the custom of Our predecessors, to wit, Our relatives as king, and through this We do not doubt God will be favourable to Us and We enkindle their souls with devotion to Our fidelity.
Wherefore let the skill of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, both present and future as well, know that Our sweetest mother Adelaide and Our beloved kinsman Count Hugh [I of Maine], and as well the illustrious count Ecfrid [from around Artois], approaching the excellence of Our Dignity, humbly asked that We might deign to have made for the holy canons of the monastery of Saint-Pierre in which Saint Ebrulf rests in body, which is called Ouche, in the county of Hiémois, such a precept as might benefit them and their successors in future times, that is, that the estates which antiquity allotted to their uses and the goods named below which were given to the same place by the just desire of God-fearing people might by such a precept be joined to them and their church such that it might remain inviolable in perpetuity.
Finding their petition valid, We commanded this precept of Our Highness to be made and given to the brothers, through which We order and command that from this day forth
these estates – to wit, in the county of Hiémois, the estate of Heugon, Le Pont, Neuville-sur-Touques, Merri, Mardilly, Villiers-en-Ouche, Bocquencé with Le Pont, Bailleul, the mount of Noyen-sur-Sarthe, Acquigny, Macé, Abrontinus, Le Breuil; in the county of Maine, in the vicariate of Joué-l’Abbé, the estate of Nuillé-le-Jalais, which Count Hugh and his mother Rothild gave to Saint-Evroult with all their dependencies; elsewhere, in the vicariate of Sougé-le-Ganelon, 4 quarterées at La Couture; 4 quarterées in Vallas and Gesne-le-Gandelin; in the vicariate of Beaufay, six manses in Bérus with everything beholden to them; in the estate which is called Mont, one manse with a vineyard, with 1 quarterées, which Isembard gave there; and one manse with 1 quarterées in that estate which Basoin gave there; in the estate which is called Crennes, one manse with a vineyard and outwith arable land which Ingelbald gave with all its things to the monastery of Saint-Evroult.
Let no abbot nor any power presume to grant absolutely or benefice anyone with these estates and goods. Rather, let the canons freely hold and canonically dispose of them.
And that this edict of Our precept or confirmation might obtain inviolable vigour, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be sealed by Our signet.
Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.
Herluin the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Chancellor Anskeric [of Paris].
Given on the day before the kalends of November [31st October], in the third indiction, in the 3rd year of the restoration of the kingdom’s unity, in the reign of lord Charles, most glorious of kings.
Enacted at the monastery of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire.
Happily in the name of Christ, amen.
Fleury is rather outside Charles’ usual itinerary. It’s also right in the middle of the Orléanais, a region which had been important under Odo and which historians usually assume was important under Robert as well; which it was, but probably not this early. Fleury is actually a major royal abbey situated at the border of the interests of William the Pious, Richard the Justiciar, Charles the Simple and Robert of Neustria, and Charles’ presence here must therefore be significant.
Just as significant is who he’s granting the diploma to. Hugh I of Maine is the son of Roger of Maine, whom Charles had probably backed in a dispute over possession of Le Mans in the 890s against a man named Gozlin, and Rothild, daughter of Charles the Bald and past supporter of Charles’ actions. By doing this, Charles is trying to build up his allies in northern Neustria, perhaps against Robert but perhaps in tandem with trying to win Robert back on side. By this point, the narrative sources have ended and won’t start up again until 919, so much of the next several months is going to be fairly speculative.
One final thing to note, though, is that the area around Saint-Évroult – in modern-day southern Normandy – is apparently fine. Whatever is going on with Viking raids in what is going to become Normandy, it evidently hasn’t yet got to the point where secular or ecclesiastical structures of governance and control have broken down.