Charter A Week 34: Saint-Julien de Brioude, and Who’s King, Again?

Here’s a fun one! Last time we saw William the Pious it was seventeen years ago, and there was nothing particularly surprising about the diplomatic. Now, however, things have changed, and so…

Cartulaire de Brioude no. 51 (12th May 910)

In the name of God on High. William, by grace of God duke and margrave of the Aquitanians.

If We lend the ears of Our Serenity to the just petitions of loyal men, We tender the commerce of Our largess and beneficence.

And thus, We wish to make it known to all those administering the care of the holy Church of God, both present and future, and as well Our successors, and all Our followers, that Our faithful priest, named Erlebald, came and humbly sought that We might exchange with him certain lands from the domain of Saint-Julien de Brioude pertaining to Erlebald’s own benefice.

We did not refuse this, having consulted Our followers, that is, Heraclius and Stephen and Prior Eldefred and Dean Nectard and the other canons of the same place.

And thus, We gave the aforesaid Erlebald in right of property one field next to the township of Brioude from the goods of Saint-Julien formerly pertaining to his benefice, which are bordered on the upper and lower sides by land of Saint-Julien, on the other two sides by streets. Within these borders, We exchanged the said field in right of property, that he might have, hold and possess it and in everything do whatever he wishes.

In recompense for this give, We received from Erlebald’s own allod for the part of Saint-Julien four fields in that area. One of these is bordered on two sides by comital land, on the third side by the land of Saint-Jean, and on the fourth by public streets. Another field is bordered on three sides by land of Saint-Julien,  and on the fourth by public streets. The third field is bordered on two sides by public streets, on the third by comital land, and on the fourth by land of Saint-Julien. The fourth field is bounded on three sides by comital land, and on the fourth by a public street.

Within these aforesaid brothers, We received these fields from Erlebald’s allod for the part of Saint-Julien, that the ruler of Saint-Julien might from this day forth hold them and do in everything whatever he wishes, as Erlebald may do with that which We exchanged with him.

So that this exchange, which now seems very useful and pleasing to both sides, might endure for all time firm and stable, I confirmed it below with my own hand and I wanted it to be signed by the hands of other men.

I, Erlebald, recalled this charter made by me. Witnessing were Heraclius, Stephen, Robert, Abbo.

Enacted on the fourth ides of May [12th May], in the twelfth year of the reign of King Charles [the Simple], prince of the Franks and Aquitanians.

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A twelfth-century fresco from Saint-Julien. (source)

This is a royal diploma. Well, it’s not quite, but it’s pretty close. (In fact, it’s got some close intertexual links to a diploma of Odo for Clermont Cathedral.) It’s a fairly direct parallel to the acts of King Alan the Great of Brittany, really – quasi-royal, in a fairly exact sense.

This is a fairly exalted status claim for an aristocrat to be making. What’s going on? Well, partly Aquitaine does have more experience than much of the rest of the kingdom of quasi-royal rulers. For a big chunk of the ninth century, Aquitaine was ruled by sub-kings, kings who weren’t “proper” kings, or kings in the fullest sense of the word. William must be pulling on that tradition here.

On the other hand, it’s also much more pointed. Evidence is, as you can probably imagine by now, slim; but it looks like Charles the Simple is making a major effort at this time to push his influence in Berry. A charter of 912 refers to the abbot of Saint-Sulpice in Bourges as having been appointed by royal largess, and in the foundation charter for the abbey of Cluny (which was issued in the same year as this one for Brioude), William explicitly excluded the king from interfering with the abbey. It looks as though Charles was pushing his way into northern Aquitaine successfully enough that William was bringing out the big ideological guns to remind his followers that he, not Charles, was the person you had to go to in the region…

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