Charter a Week 65/2: Judicial Duels in the Loire Valley

The real scholarly commentary was on Tuesday. I just wanted to put this charter up because it’s fun. It’s also, somewhat sadly, the last of our Martinian dispute settlement records. The abbey’s surviving archive starts decreasing in content from the end of the reign of Charles the Simple, and in the mid-tenth century there’s a big hiatus. Even after it starts up again in the 960s, it’s never the same (and indeed I don’t think we’ll be encountering another charter of Saint-Martin again). So as a fond farewell:

Introduction 8 (August 941, Amboise)

A notice of how a certain priest of Saint-Martin named Tesmund, from the castle of Amboise, came on the ides of August [13th August], before the presence of lord Fulk [the Red] and of his son [… and of] Fulk [the Good], and of other noble men residing therein, making a complaint concerning… his allod which is sited in the estate of Avon, which his uncle Ansebald left to him in proper order and he legitimately held until the time when the Northmen took him and led him captive overseas, when Isembert wrongly and against the law held that allod.

Then lord Fulk and his aforesaid son interrogated him for which reason he held that allod. The same Isembert responded that he had bought that allod for his fixed price from Guy, who he held to be a late cousin of Tesmund and for that reason he held it. The aforesaid lords also said that he should show a charter or testimony as to how he had bought the aforesaid allod. Isembert responded that he had neither a charter nor testimony. They also interrogated the aforesaid Isembert if he could have such an advocate as would dare to prove on the field against an advocate of the aforesaid Tesmund that the aforesaid allod pertained more to Isembert through purchase than to the aforesaid Tesmund through inheritance from paternal and other relatives. Finally Isembert responded that he would have his advocate prepared to defend this at the established assembly. Therefore, they judged that both should formally bring their advocates to the first court, who would thus be able… one against the other, and thus they did.

But when they came to the court, the aforesaid Isembert… was able to have [nothing], who would dare defend this against the advocate of Tesmund, because… to everyone who was there that he held the aforesaid allod unjustly and against the law.

Then lord Fulk made him give a bond of 60 shillings because of this, that he formally bring his advocate to the established assembly… he was not able to have. Thereafter everyone who was there judged that Tesmund should make no other judgement that on holy relics with his own hand, because he was a priest… which he did immediately. And the aforesaid Isembert yielded thereafter and surrendered it through a rod. Then not… to the aforesaid Tesmund, that he should seek a notice concerning such a decision, which they commanded be done immediately.

This was enacted in the presence and sight of these people:

[Sign of the holy Cross of lord abbot Hugh.] Sign of lord Fulk [the Red]. Sign of his son lord Fulk [the Good]. Sign of Erard, advocate and legislator. Sign of Arduin the legislator. Sign of Eldemand the vicar. Sign of Wanilo the vicar. Sign of Bernard. Sign of Markward. Sign of Fulculf. Sign of Odalger. Sign of Rainald. Sign of Adalelm.

Given in the month of August, in the year of the Lord’s incarnation 941, or the 4th year of the reign of King Louis, son of Charles.     

Amboise today, which had an Early Modern glow-up (source)

So what’s happening here? We start with Tesmund the priest, for whom everything was apparently hunky-dory until he was captured by Northmen. The circumstances under which he was captured bear some consideration, because it’s distinctly unlucky. Amboise is probably too far upriver to be affected by the fighting in Brittany after 936; but there was a raid into Berry in 935 in which the men of the Touraine participated. Tesmund was probably captured in this campaign – the last we know about on the Loire until the Norman War of the 960s. Anyway, Tesmund is ransomed or escaped, but was a captive for long enough that his estate goes to his cousin who then sells it to Isembard. When Tesmund gets home, he wants his land back.

At this point, the count of Anjou, Fulk the Red, and his son and heir Fulk the Good show up. Fulk the Red is a very old man by now, in his mid-to-late seventies at least. He’s also quite far east of Angers. This charter lends some support to the twelfth-century Deeds of the Consuls of Anjou which say that Amboise was a very early acquisition of the family. Of note, therefore, is that Fulk is probably not holding the mallus court because he’s count of the area. This fits with an argument I’ve made before, that the Carolingian judicial charter tradition covers up a much more flexible and informal set of practices even at very high levels.

In the end, the participants settle on trial by battle. The charter emphasises the problems Isembert has finding someone to support him, to the point that he ends up having to pay a forfeit and Tesmund wins the case. I wonder about the dynamics underlying this. That Isembert can find no-one suggests a stitch up, but the fine of 60 solidi makes me wonder if Isembert wasn’t being punished for being too stubborn and resisting the judgement… In any case, Tesmund gets his land back.

The problem of what to do with captives of the vikings was not unique to Tours. The Old Frisian law-codes, first written down in the thirteenth century but possibly containing older material, have provision for what happens if a child is sold into slavery to the heathens and returns: if he can recognise his land and his close kin, he can reclaim the land without further ado. One wonders if Tesmund wished he had been a Frisian. In any case, this charter is interesting evidence for the problems of re-integrating freed captives back into their original society.

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