Charter A Week 62: How to Improve the Rental Market (with Very, Very Powerful Friends)

Some time ago, I was asked to contribute a chapter to a volume on land leasing practices in the early Middle Ages, and as part of that I went through the evidence from Burgundy. This week’s charter is something which had somehow escaped me the previous times I had looked through the Autun cartulary, but is nonetheless extremely cool:

Autun Eglise no. 31 (9th January 938, Autun)

In the name of Lord God eternal and our saviour Jesus Christ.

We, the congregation of the famous witness of Christ Nazarius, wish it to be known to all the sons and followers, to wit of this our holy mother church of Autun, both present and future, that Enguerrand, a honourable and dear vassal of Count Gilbert [of Burgundy] very often beat at the hearts of our piety that We might deign to confirm to him a certain portion of our property pertaining to the table of the brothers in the written form of a precarial grant. These goods, to wit, are sited in the county of Beaune, in the estate of Bouilland, to wit, three cultivated manses and five uncultivated pertaining to the fisc of Bligny-sur-Ouche.

Yet because this said man could not bring this to pass by his prayers, he brought with him the aforesaid count and in addition lord Hildebod, whom we once raised from the cradle and who was recently made, by God’s ordinance, bishop of Chalon.

Overcome by their prayers, in the end we began to open to him the bosom of humanity, and thus we ordered a writing of this common decree be made to him, in which we decree and confirm that the said Enguerrand and his wife Wandalmodis might hold and possess the aforesaid goods in their lifetime, on the condition that each year on the mass of St Nazarius they should render two shillings in cash to the table of the brothers. In return for this matter, the same man gave to our part his whole allod which he acquired in the same estate from Alo, brother of the late Archpriest Odilard, through instruments of charters, restoring to us these charters and all his acquisitions and additionally adding nine charters from the side of him and his wife.

But that all this should endure undisturbed through times to come, We commanded it be strengthened worthily below by our own hands via the subscription of names.

Enacted publicly at Autun, happily in the Lord, amen.

Rotmund, [bishop] of the holy church of Autun, proffered assent and subscribed this writing. The humble archdeacon Gerard subscribed. Bishop Hildebod subscribed this decree. The humble archdeacon Theobert subscribed. The humble dean Bernard subscribed. The humble prior Radald subscribed. The humble archpriest Emile subscribed. Archpriest Idgrin subscribed. Heriveus the levite subscribed. Sign of Arlegius. The humble precentor Aidoard subscribed. The humble Odalmand subscribed. Sign of Wandric.

I, Lambert, wrote and subscribed.

Girbald, the humble minister of this work related and subscribed.

Given on the 5th ides of January [9th January], in the second year of the reign of King Louis.

So, you can see my interest in this re: land-lease practices. My main argument for that article is that precariae, leases, are fundamentally worked out on a social, rather than economic level. You can see, for instance, wildly divergent rents for roughly similar lands which are presumably based not on the land’s actual worth but on the social environment the leases are made in. Here, it’s much more direct. Be he never so honourable and dear a vassal, Enguerrand couldn’t get anything from the canons of Autun, so he brought out the big guns. For whatever reason, he was in tight with Gilbert of Burgundy, count of Chalon, whom we have met recently as a follower of Hugh the Black and the newly minted bishop of Chalon Hildebod. With them applying pressure, he was able to get the land he wanted – clearly not an economic problem, but a social one. Enguerrand the vassal couldn’t get what he wanted, but Enguerrand the socially connected guy could.

If you want more on that, then the chapter is out soon enough and you can read it (or, given it’s in German, send me an email for the English version if you’d like); but re-reading it now, something else springs to mind. We saw in 936 that Hugh the Black wasn’t necessarily on good terms with Rotmund of Autun, perhaps because Rotmund had sided with Louis IV and Hugh the Great in 936. I wonder if perhaps Rotmund and the canons are being leaned on by Gilbert and Hildebod because the situation has changed: there’s no chance that Hugh the Great, at least, is going to end up in Burgundy again in the foreseeable future, which gives his opponents carte blanche to extort his old allies for favours? By autumn 938, Hugh the Black was allied to Louis IV – one almost wonders if that was in the works in such a way that royal backing could play a part, but January of that year is probably a bit early. Nonetheless, what we have here is, at the very least, a really interesting insight into how you could leverage social ties to get favours; and perhaps, an unexpected glimpse into high politics.

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