Charter A Week 67: The Tide Turns in Provence

If you cast your mind back several years, you may remember me complaining about the incredibly inconsistent nature of mid-tenth century Provençal dating clauses. I had done some research and worked out that if you correlated the date and the day of the week in a selection of charters from the area, you could get dates for the beginning of Conrad the Pacific’s reign which stretched over a spectrum of about seven years. What I then did not talk about in any detail was how Conrad did, in fact, take over Louis the Blind’s former kingdom. After all, when we were following Louis IV on his whirlwind tourof Aquitaine last we, we noted that his first stop was in Vienne, where he met the local count, Charles Constantine, and received his submission. This makes sense: ever since Ralph of Burgundy had taken over northern Provence, it had stayed under West Frankish rule.

What had changed by the early 940s, however, was the geopolitical situation. After the death of the Transjurane king Rudolf II in 937, Otto the Great was able to swoop in and kidnap Rudolf’s son and heir, the young Conrad the Pacific. (At the ripe old age of 24 in 937, Otto was already an elder statesman of European politics compared to Louis IV (17) and Conrad himself (12, perhaps?).) What this meant was that when Otto and Louis ended up on opposite sides, Otto had a convenient pawn to move into northern Provence to nibble away at Louis’ powerbase there. Thus, in 943, one of the first things Conrad did after being sent back south was to go to the Rhône valley, where the young monarch issued several documents, one of which was this:

D Burg no. 29 (27th June 943)

In the name of God Eternal.

Conrad, by will of God Almighty most serene king.

Let it be known to all of Our followers, that servants of God, monks from the monastery of Cluny, lodged a complaint in Our presence, in the district of Viennois, about Our kinsman Charles [Constantine]; the same Charles unjustly contested their goods, which Ingelbert had given to the same place through a charter of donation. He, though, when he saw and heard that he did not hold this rightly, presently gave up every quarrel and immediately corroborated the charters which Ingelbert had made, and confirmed them again in the king’s hand. And then the lord king commanded this judgement be written, through which let the said charters endure inviolable for all time; and We commanded the names of Our followers be inserted below and it be sealed with Our seal.

Sign of lord Conrad, the most pious king.

Bishop Aimo [of Geneva] was present. Archbishop Guy [of Lyon] was present. Archbishop Sobbo [of Vienne] was present. Bishop Bero [of Lausanne] was present. Bishop Odalbert [of Valence] was present. Hugh [the Black], count and margrave, was present. Odalric, count of the palace, was present. Henry, son of Louis [of Thurgau], was present. Count Anselm was present. Count Odalric, Anselm’s brother, was present. Count Azo was present. Count Leotald [of Mâcon] was present. Humbert [of Salins, Leotald’s brother], was present; and all the dominical vassals, greater and lesser, were present.

I, Henry the notary, wrote this judgement, given on the 5th kalends of July [27th June], in the 6th year of the reign of the most pious king lord Conrad. 

Since the end of 941, Louis’ position had already started to crumble. A bad sign was when Viscount Ratburn of Vienne, perhaps seeing an opportunity to undermine Charles Constantine, issued a charter in November 942 dated by Conrad’s rule. Conrad himself had arrived by Spring 943, issuing a set of diplomas which – notably – prominently feature Hugh the Black. Hugh had of course been cut off from Louis’ courtby Otto the Great, but he also had strong ties to Transjurane Burgundy which allowed him to pursue Königsnahe elsewhere – which is precisely what he seems to be doing in the witness list of this diploma.

In fact, the witnesses to this act are balanced neatly between Transjurane figures like the bishops of Geneva and Lausanne and Conrad’s cousin Henry on one hand; Transjurane allies in the Trans-Ararian Fluidity Zone like Hugh the Black and Leotald of Mâcon on another; and on a mutant third hand more strictly Provençal figures like the archbishops of Lyon and Vienne, whose closest ties at this point were probably to Hugh of Arles. What brought these men together was the opportunities provided by the shifting balance of power, expressed in immediately terms by the opportunity (or the requirement) to gang up on Louis IV’s most prominent supporter in the region.

Charles Constantine was of course present at this judgement, but it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen someone arrive at court to find the deck stacked against them. This diploma can reasonably be seen as an attack on Charles. Note, for instance, that he’s not given any title, even the comital one. With a coalition banded against him, Charles was humiliated and forced to accept Conrad’s authority. The following year, in fact, Charles appears in a charter alongside a similar list of people, with his comital title restored, apparently reconciled, however begrudgingly, with the Transjurane regime. It was a very, very bad sign for Louis IV’s authority in Provence.

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