It did not take very long after Hugh the Great screwed Louis IV over in Burgundy for the king to decide that letting his former uncle-by-marriage monopolise him so thoroughly wasn’t going well. Early in 937, he (as Flodoard put it) ‘separated himself from Hugh’s oversight’. Hugh responded by mending fences with his brother-in-law Heribert II of Vermandois. There was clearly tension in the air. However, the march into outright warfare was much slower than it’s often portrayed. As a case in point, here’s a diploma Louis issued at the same time as the break:
D L4 no. 5 (1st February 937, Laon)
In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.
Louis, by grace of God king.
We are completely confident that whatever We strive to effect with the eagerness of good zeal for love of God and reverence of His saints will benefit Us in more easily obtaining the eternal glory of being blessed and happily passing through the present life.
Therefore, let the skill of all the followers of the holy Church of God and of Us both present and also future know that Our illustrious followers, Count Hugh and Bishop Walter of Paris and Viscount Teudo [of Paris], approaching the presence of Our Serenity, humbly asked that We might renew and confirm by a precept of Our authority the rental contracts of the church of Saint-Pierre [i.e. Saint-Merri], in which St Mederic rests in body, which Count Adalard and Abbo the vassal made, which the most glorious kings Carloman [II] and Odo corroborated in precepts. And so, it pleased Our Highness to acquiesce to their most salubrious requests, and so We commanded a precept of Our Loftiness on this matter be made and given to John and his mother Alberada and her son, named Walter, through which We order and command that both the above-named persons, that is, Alberada and her two sons John and Walter, and their successors might possess in their uses, for all time, and without any diminution, the little abbey of the aforesaid church of Saint-Pierre and the most precious confessor of Christ Mederic, where are beholden 20 little manses in the estate of Linas, similarly 20 little manses in la Grand-Vivier, 3 manses in Morvilliers, 6 manses in Ivry-sur-Seine; 4 manses where there are 20 arpents of vines on Monsivry and 20 arpents of meadow on the Seine; 2 manses in Belleville where there are 4 arpents; and similarly 20 arpents of vineyard in Morgevalle; 6 bonniers and 6 perches of land below Montmartre; 6 arpents of meadow above the estate of Nigeon; and 4 arpents of vineyard at Vémars, which pertain to the bondsmen of the same church; 12 bonniers of land around the church itself, and at the aforesaid bonniers six where there are threshing-floors; then again at Montmartre 2 arpents of land with a little field; 3 manses at L’Hay; two and a half arpents of vineyard at Thermes; and 4 arpents of meadow in the place which is called ‘Cow’s Head’; 1 manse in Drancy: all this, in the advantages of the said church. Nor should any judicial power henceforth receive toll, nor water-toll, nor fodrum or rivage nor also freight-charge.
But that this precept of Our authority might in God’s name obtain inviolable vigour in perpetuity, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our signet.
Sign of the most glorious king Louis.
Gerard the chancellor witnessed on behalf of Archbishop Artald.
Enacted at Clavate Laon, on the kalends of February [1st February], in the year of the Lord’s incarnation 936, in the 5th indiction, in the 1st year of the most glorious King Louis.
Saint-Merri as it look in the seventeenth century (source)
So, what’s going on here? Well, first of all we’ve got a bevy of Robertian allies showing up at the royal court. The identity of Count Hugh is unclear. Lauer, who edited the diploma, thought it was Hugh the Great himself. If so, that’s a pretty big downgrade in status for a man who, in the last diploma he was in, was literally called one step below the king. It could, however, be Count Hugh II of Maine, in which case this become simply a high-powered delegation from Hugh the Great rather than the man himself.
The timing and location is important here. Part of the way that Louis emancipated himself from Hugh the Great was by inviting his mother Eadgifu to come and join him at Laon. I said above that this was early in the year. What that means is that if this diploma wasn’t issued whilst Eadgifu was there – and I would argue that the sense of the timings we get from Flodoard mean that in all probability it was – she must have been on the way and the Robertians must have known about it.
This diploma, it seems to me, thus represents a kind of olive branch, a way of trying to show Hugh that even without having his yoke on Louis’ neck his interests would still be looked after. Note, for instance, the citation of Hugh’s uncle Odo as a ‘most glorious king’. Louis’ actions here show a young man trying to control how much of a breach his actions are actually going to cause.
It quite reminds me of Zwentibald in 898. As I’ve written elsewhere, in that year the Lotharingian king was forced by a combination of circumstances and his well-meaning but not entirely competent-to-decide father to abandon his chief supporter Reginar Long-Neck in favour of reconciling with a bunch of Upper Lotharingian aristocrats, including Archbishop Ratbod of Trier. We have two copies of the same diploma stripping Reginar of the abbey of Sint-Servaas in Maastricht. I’ve commented before on how the one produced by the church of Trier is vindictive and uncompromising; but that produced by the royal court is much more hesitant, perhaps hoping that a reconciliation with Reginar is still possible. Zwentibald and Louis are trying similar strategies and, I have to say, it didn’t work amazingly for either of them. Zwentibald’s fate we have spoken about on this blog before. Louis had a bit more success, but the forces propelling him and Hugh into conflict were bigger than just the two of them – we’ll hear more about this quarrel again.