Charter a Week 27, Part 2: Courting the Crowd in Poitou

This one is being written in a bit of a hurry – I was down in London for the last two weekends on research trips and, somehow, although I have a full buffer of regular blog posts, Charter A Week has fallen behind; and I also have marking to do… So, let’s get straight into it:

CC no. 1.81 (14th May 903, Poitiers) = ARTEM no. 1580 = Plus anciens documents de Cluny no. 3

It was decreed by the custom of the fathers of old and the law of all Roman citizens in the orb of the world that worldly princes, preserving legal precepts, should destroy the false and seek the right with judicial power.

Whence it should be known to the whole world that, while the venerable count lord Ebalus was residing with his entourage in the city of Poitiers, on the day before the ides of May [14th May], the advocate of the monastery of Notre-Dame et Saint-Junien de Nouaillé, Waldo by name, was present there, calling before the lord count and his princes for a right judgement concerning Hildebert of Limoges, who by the flame of greed and worldly malice had very unjustly taken the wood of Notre-Dame which is commonly called Bouresse away from the aforesaid monastery.

The lord count and all his magnates, hearing this, questioned him as to why he had done this. Responding, he said that he had a better right to the property.

Then the Poitevins arose, and for love of Saint Mary and Saint Junian (albeit at the count’s command) declared that he should not separate from them until he had judged rightly thither. Everyone bore witness that for two or three hundred years, that monastery had been vested with this property, and that a certain Leodegar had just possession of it until now by gift of all the brothers of that place.

Then Hildebert, bound by princely judgement and legal examination, after an inquest had been carried out by his followers who were there, recognised that he had not acted well, and legally restored what he had unjustly stolen.

Accordingly, both Abbot Warin and the monks of the place and Waldo the advocate found it necessary that they should receive this notice from him, and it is clear that this was done, and it was enacted in the presence of these people.

Sign of Count Ebalus. Sign of Viscount Maingaud [of Poitiers]. Sign of Frotgar. Sign of Aimeric. Sign of Bego the pupil. Sign of Hucbert. Sign of Erland. Sign of Adrald. Sign of Savaric. Sign of Arbald. Sign of Viscount Atto [of Melle]. Sign of Amalric. Sign of Reinfard the vicar. Sign of Rainer the scribe.

Given in the month of May, in the 6th year of the reign of King Charles [the Simple].

Emmo, having been asked to do so, wrote and subscribed this.

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Image taken from ARTEM as given in the link above.

This is Ebalus Manzer (‘the Bastard’), count of Poitiers, of whom we have yet to see much. He is seen here overseeing a typical court, the nature of which has sometimes been idealised and shouldn’t be. Note above all, it’s a comital stitch-up – what is presented as a kind of mass rally of support is actually jussu comitis, at the count’s order. This is also a kind of interplay of formal and informal aspects which the legalistic terminology and formal diction shouldn’t blind us to.

Also, it’s interesting that it’s Viscount Hildebert of Limoges who’s on trial here. Limoges wouldn’t really be part of the Poitevin mouvance until rather later in the century – links are there, as on this occasion, but they’re a bit tenuous. That Ebalus apparently has the power to compel him in this regard is interesting. Again, the ‘Poitevins’ must play a role here – it’s phrased as though it’s a formal declaration of piety, but I wonder in light of what they’re actually saying (‘you ain’t gonna leave before we let you’) I wonder if Ebalus has orchestrated Hildebert’s subjection to a mob in order to force his hand…

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