Charter a Week 42: The Defence of the Realm

When I’ve spoken before about the foundation of Normandy, I’ve referred to the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, made in 911. The problem is that this date, whilst traditional, is less secure than it looks. The only person who actually puts a date on the agreement made between Charles the Simple and Rollo is Dudo of Saint-Quentin, whose chronology is dreadful. For instance, he puts Rollo’s arrival in the West Frankish kingdom in 876, a date cherry-picked from his written sources with no internal logic behind it. 911, in Dudo’s work, was clearly picked because that was the date of the battle of Chartres, and whilst we know from other sources that an agreement was reached soon after that, it could have been up to several years later. (One historian, in fact, has argued that the foundation of Normandy happened several decades before, in the 880s; but her arguments have not generally found any traction because they’re very reliant on internal chronological indicators within Dudo’s writings which aren’t themselves trustworthy.)

What that means is that the earliest reference we have to the existence of Rollonid Rouen is in fact this:

DD CtS no. 92 (14th March 918, Compiègne) = ARTEM no. 2049 = DK 6.xxi

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by gracious favour of divine clemency king of the Franks.

Because God Almighty, Who is King of Kings, by His gift worthily placed Our Clemency over both His realm and His people, it therefore behoves Us not only to preside over, but truly rather to profit holy churches, and especially the downfallen, in whom the bodies of the saints lie beaten by pagan savagery, lacking until now due veneration.

Wherefore let the skill of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, as well present as future, ascertain that the venerable margrave Robert [of Neustria], the counsel of Our realm and a helper to Us, and also abbot of the monastery of the holy martyr Vincent and the outstanding pontiff of Paris Germanus, approaching Our Sublimity with Count Heribert [II of Vermandois] and the extraordinary Bishop Abbo [of Soissons], advised that both for the veneration of holy remains, to wit, of Archbishop Audoënus and as well of the blessed confessors Leutfred and his brother Agofred, and also moreover for Our salvation and that of the whole realm, the abbey which is named Croix-Saint-Ouen should be conceded to the monks of the aforesaid confessor Germanus, so that from now and in future, the limbs of the aforesaid saints, which have for a long time gone without the divine office, might be reverently received by the same abbey-dwellers and be honoured, having been set beside the blessed limbs of Germanus.

Assenting to their worthy petitions, to wit, those of Our followers, We donated and subjected that abbey, whose head is in the district of Madrie, on the river Auture, to Saint-Germain and its monks, to constantly [serve] their mensa, except the part of that abbey which We granted to the Seine Norse, that is, to Rollo and his comrades, for the defence of the realm.

Therefore, We decreed the goods of the aforesaid abbey, with all estates, lands cultivated and uncultivated, vineyards, meadows, woods, waters and watercourses, mills, with bondsmen and cottars, and with all other dependencies therein, except the Northmen’s portion, be given and subdued and confirmed for the food, clothing, and also other uses of the congregation of Saint-Germain, so that each year, on the 4th ides of February[10th February], they might markthe anniversary of Our most beloved spouse Frederuna with vigils and offerings of masses, and celebrate the day of Our unction, the 5th kalends of February[28th January], the feast of Saint Agnes, with a great feast; and after Our death, let this be changed and the help of prayers and feasts be on the day of Our passing.

And We commanded this Our royal precept be made concerning the authority of this cession, through which We decree and command that none of the faithful of the holy Church of God, present and future, or the abbot of that abbey, should try to cause a disturbance or resistance or inflict prejudice or violence concerning the abovewritten goods. Rather, the same congregation should be permitted to securely and perpetually possess and enjoy the same goods in their entirety, inviolably, without any calumny or contradiction, without any subtraction or diminution.

Therefore, that this precept of Our authority might firmly obtain the vigour of continuation and be truly believed through the course of years to come, confirming it below with Our own hand, We commanded it be signed by Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

 

Gozlin the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Archbishop and High Chancellor Heriveus [of Rheims].

 

Given on the 2nd ides of March (14th March), in the 6th indiction, in the 26th year of the reign of the glorious king Charles, the 21st of his restoration of unity to the kingdom, and the 6th of his acquisition of a larger inheritance.

 

Enacted at the palace of Compiègne.

Happily in the name of God, amen. 

Charles’ act, which survives in the original, from the Diplomata Karolinorum (source).

The abbey of Croix-Saint-Ouen, in the village now called Croix-Saint-Leufroy, is somewhat to the north-east of Évreux, which is an interesting place for a dividing line to be drawn by itself. We know from Flodoard’s account that Rouen was always the home-base of the Seine Norse, but the boundaries of their power are somewhat vague. To the north-east, the river Bresle seems to have been generally acknowledged as a border. To the south-east, the river Epte was the border in place by the turn of the millennium, although there are hints in our sources that the original border was rather further north, at the river Andelle. To the west of the Seine, though, things get a lot murkier. Évreux itself, for instance, seems by the 930s to have been under the control of a band of Northmen with only a loose affiliation to Rouen. (Further west, as we saw in previous weeks, Bayeux was under the control of Botho, who despite Dudo’s efforts to make a Viking chieftain was probably a Frankish count.)

Given the liminal position of Évreux, it is notable that taking possession of Croix-Saint-Ouen implants the Robertian abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés right in the middle of this zone of loose control. One thing I’ve always wondered about is what the phrase ‘for the defence of the realm’, pro tutela regni, is actually supposed to attach to. It’s normally taken as referring to the grant of lands to Rollo; but If the part about Rollo is an extended sub-clause, it could refer to the grant of lands to Saint-Germain. If the former, Charles is commenting on his ‘poachers to gamekeepers’ strategy of setting Rollo to defend against other Vikings; if the latter, it’s a comment on how the king doesn’t trust his new Northman subordinate.

You see who he does trust, though; or, at least, who he wants to make damn sure everyone else knows he trusts? Robert of Neustria. The dramatic set of epithets Robert is given in this diploma is about as high as he ever gets. At this point, his influence stretches from Nantes to Flanders, and he’s easily the most powerful man in the realm besides Charles himself. Some measure of his power here can be seen in the other count making the request alongside him: Heribert II of Vermandois, his son-in-law. Older historians will tell you that Heribert was in charge of the Vexin, but there’s little enough evidence for that. His presence here seems instead to be due to his role as a Robertian protégé being shown onto the royal stage for the first time. In fact, he’s very well-placed to take advantage of both Charles and Robert, as the latter’s in-law and the son of the former’s most prominent lay support back at the start of his reign.

As we leave 918 behind us, take a deep breath. This is going to be the last peaceful year for a very, very long time…

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