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.

Was Emma of Bohemia the same person as Queen Emma II?

See, Sam: this is how you beat Betteridge’s Law!

We’ve had only had cause to mention King Lothar’s wife Queen Emma II a very small number of times before on this blog. Compared to her mother-in-law Queen Gerberga she lies in shadow, suffering from the absence of sources for West Frankish royalty in the third quarter of the tenth century. A quick primer, then: Emma was the daughter of King Lothar II of Italy (and thus a granddaughter of Hugh of Arles) and Queen Adelaide, daughter of King Rudolf II of Transjurane Burgundy and, later, Empress as wife of Otto the Great. After Adelaide’s remarriage, Emma was brought to the Ottonian court, and in 966 she was married off to Lothar in order to weave the West Frankish king in more tightly as a subordinate member of the Liudolfing family network. When Lothar died, Emma played an important – if not yet fully understood – role in the short reign of her son Louis V. When he in turn died, she was captured by an old enemy, her brother-in-law Charles of Lorraine, and placed in captivity. The last we know of her is a letter in her name written to – probably but not certainly – Bishop Bruno of Langres begging him for money and help. Thereafter, she disappears from the historical record.

Or does she? For several decades now, the theory has been circulating that, in fact, Emma moved east and started a new life as the second wife of the Bohemian duke Boleslaw II, perhaps bound together by a shared ordinal number. This in turn received some push-back, notably from the senior and well-respected German scholar Eduard Hlawitschka. A recently published book on Ottonian queenship, dealing in passing with this question, cites Hlawitschka’s article and notes that its conclusions are generally accepted. This seems to be true in English-, German- and (perhaps to a slightly lesser extent) French-language scholarship; by contrast, in Czech-language work – as far as I can tell, anyway – Hlawitschka’s revision has been mostly rejected and the identification of the two women is accepted as likely, if not proven.

The fundamental lynchpin of the case for the two women being the same comes from numismatics. We have a couple of hundred coins minted at Mělník inscribed with Emma’s name and – crucially, the title of queen, Emma regina. Emma II, as West Frankish queen, also had coins minted in her name – deniers from the Fécamp hoard have been found with Lothar’s name, Lotharius rex, on one side and Emma regina on the other. This is significant, because as a general rule only anointed queens were called regina, and Emma is the only anointed queen of that name we know of who could be a plausible fit for the Emma regina of the coins.

The coins in question (source)

I say that this is the ‘fundamental lynchpin’ of the case – in fact, it’s pretty much the sum and fine. Other positive evidence adduced in favour of the connection is pretty weak: one scholar claimed that the so-called Emma Psalter of Emma II and the Wolfenbüttel manuscript of the life of St Wenceslaus of Emma of Bohemia, both of which contain portraits of their respective Emma, could be deduced from ‘the principle of composition’ as coming from the same workshop. This claim goes beyond vague and into absurd: the Emma Psalter is only known from a not-tremendously-faithful Early Modern copy and making subtle art historical deductions from it is a patently silly idea.

By contrast, the evidence against the case is entirely circumstantial, although it nonetheless has strength. Let’s look at Hlawitschka’s case. There are basically five pillars to it:

  1. Emma’s titulature is strange: she appears in the Wolfenbüttel manuscript as ‘princess’ (principessa).
  2. Surely if Emma had married Boleslaw II Adelaide’s politics towards Bohemia would have been more positive in the early 990s, rather than relatively indifferent as they in fact were?
  3. Necrological sources argue against the identification:
    1. Emma’s date of death appears in the necrology of the Parisian abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés but how would they have known it if Emma had moved to Bohemia?
    1. Emma’s date of death appears in the Merseburg necrology, but in a layer which comes from 999 at the latest. Given Emma of Bohemia is known to have died in the first decade of the eleventh century, they cannot be the same person.
  4. Boleslaw II had three sons, Boleslaw III, Jaromir and Odalrich. Of these three, one at least was old enough to be taking part in military activity in 995, and all were adults by 1002; this precludes them having been born after 989, the earliest possible date for a marriage to Emma II.
  5. A number of contemporary sources do not identify Boleslaw II’s wife with Emma II. Notably:
    1. Thietmar of Merseburg mentions her in passing without noting that she was a daughter of Empress Adelaide.
    1. Odilo of Cluny has Adelaide make a speech when she thinks Otto III is threatened in Rome to the effect that she will have no living relatives if he is killed; he also only mentions Emma’s family by Lothar.
Emma of Bohemia’s portrait on the fronticepiece of the Life of St Wencelaus (source)

I’ve started with the weakest first: titulature in this period is usually not systematic, and unless (as with the case of the dukes of Aquitaine, for example) you can make a specific case that it is then a certain degree of vagueness could easily accommodate someone whose position was as unusual as Emma II’s would have been – a queen married to and then widowed from a duke – dipping downwards in some cases. As for Adelaide’s Ostpolitik, Emma II’s letters in Gerbert’s collection don’t indicate that Adelaide was any kind of reliable ally for Emma. We have several begging letters from daughter to mother after her capture, but no evidence these achieved anything. The argument about the necrology of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is also unimpressive: if Emma had married into Bohemian nobility then presumably Saint-Germain-des-Prés would have found out about it because, like, somebody told them. It does sound a bit like Hlawitschka thinks that communication between Paris and Bohemia was completely impossible in the tenth century, but from his own argument Emma’s death date was known to Ottonian elites anyway!

This brings us to the Merseburg necrology, which requires a bit more discussion. The argument that the layer Emma’s death date is in comes from Gerd Althoff. His argument, very roughly, is that the Ottonian dead in the Merseburg necrology include Adelaide’s relatives but exclude Ottonians who are not Adelaide’s relatives, so a connection to her is plausible and must have been before her own death. This argument is possible, but not completely convincing: the necrology includes other Ottonians who died after Adelaide, notably Otto III himself; and it doesn’t include some of Adelaide’s relatives, such as her son-in-law Lothar or grandson Louis V, whom Odilo of Cluny does include specially. So there’s wiggle room here.

Next stop, the age of Boleslaw’s children. It seems pretty certain that Boleslaw III couldn’t have been born after 989. However, Thietmar only explicitly identifies Emma as the mother of Jaromir and Odalrich. Boleslaw II did have a first wife, who could have been the mother of Boleslaw III. Moreover, Jaromir isn’t said to have been an adult in 1002, simply a target of Boleslaw III’s wrath. In fact, he doesn’t show up doing anything directly until 1004, when he accompanies an army to Prague. If he was aged 13/14 (thus born c. 990), this would be nothing more than Emma II’s husband Lothar had done at the same age! (As for his brother, he doesn’t emerge as a political actor until well down the line.) This does mean that Emma II, whose age we know relatively well, would have had two children in her early forties; not the most likely, but Emma II’s daughter-in-law Adelaide-Blanche was still having children at the same age so it is possible.

This leaves the arguments from silence. Of these, Adelaide’s speech about having no living relatives if Otto III is killed is the weakest: this is the rhetoric of pathos, not a cool genealogical statement (missing out, as it does, Adelaide’s living nephews and grandchildren). The fact that Odilo doesn’t mention Emma having any second marriage is more convincing, but this could be made to cut both ways: the abbot of Cluny mentions that Louis V is dead, but not that Emma is. If his main interest was the West Frankish kings rather than Emma’s family, then he could easily have ignored what was going on in Bohemia. Equally, if Thietmar had digressed from his main point – about conflicts over the Bohemian throne – to provide the name of Emma’s mother, that would be slightly strange. As an analogy, when dealing with King Lothar he doesn’t he was Adelaide’s son-in-law or Otto II’s cousin, even when dealing with Lothar and Otto in the same room.

What does this leave us with? We have one bit of relatively unambiguous positive evidence that Emma of Bohemia was Emma II. On the other hand, we have a number of arguments against, some of which can be easily dismissed, but some of which are more persuasive. All of them can be argued away, but enough of them have enough force that there’s a fair amount of reasonable doubt about the identification. As such, the answer to our title question is certainly not ‘no’ – but it couldn’t be stated much more strongly than ‘maybe’.  

(Big thanks to Theo Riches for sending me a copy of Hlawitschka’s article!)

Charter A Week 61: Gosh, This Seems Very Polite

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.

Charles the Simple in Lotharingia after 911

One of the chief planks in my case that Charles the Simple was pretty good after all, actually, is that alone of the West Frankish kings he was able to put together a winning coalition to take and rule Lotharingia. He not only managed to defeat his rival, the East Frankish king Conrad I, in battle; he also managed to unite the Lotharingian nobles behind him and rule the kingdom peacefully for almost a decade – not a small thing in the very fractious world of late ninth century Lotharingia. Even more, not only was he able to take most of the kingdom in one fell swoop, he was also able to expand his control over time.

Active hostilities between Charles and Conrad appear to have mostly ended by 912. At that time, Charles had gained all of Lotharingia other than Alsace and Frisia (and Trier, but that’s a different story; and in any case Archbishop Ratbod would come over by 913). In the following years, he would manage to gain both. Conrad was in Strasbourg in March 913, but his hold over the city would not persist much longer. Shortly after Conrad left, his ally Bishop Otbert was murdered, and replaced by Charles’ nephew Gozwin. Admittedly, Gozwin didn’t last very long; he died in early November of the same year. Gozwin’s successor is more of a mystery. His name was Richwin and his background was Lotharingian, but how did he become bishop? In 916, Conrad and his bishops held a council at Hohenaltheim at which they accused him of usurping the bishopric. Intriguingly, one of our major sources for the history of Strasbourg, a series of commemorative poems written by the mid-tenth century Bishop Erchembald, says that he was bishop for fifteen years. Given we know he died in 933, this puts the start of his reign in 918 – not before 916. It’s a reasonable supposition that Conrad’s complaint was that Richwin was Charles’ appointee, and that Hohenaltheim was an attempt to retake this liminal region. Evidently in 918, some kind of deal was made. Perhaps Strasbourg became a kind of condominium, the same way that Cologne may have done as well. Notably, in 922 a synod gathered at Koblenz at the command of Charles and Conrad’s successor Henry the Fowler. None of the bishops present were from Lotharingia proper or the West Frankish kingdom – but both Hermann of Cologne and Richwin of Strasbourg were there, and this may signal a kind of joint rule.

Similarly, we can see the Frisian elites supporting Conrad up until 914, but not afterwards. In 916, we see Count Dirk I of Holland and Count Waltger, also a Frisian, at Charles’ court. When Bishop Ratbod of Utrecht died in 917, he was replaced by Baldric, who was friendlier towards Charles and appeared as one of his followers in 920. Charles’ gains in Frisia are thus more straightforward to demonstrate than the situation in Alsace. Even more, Charles’ activity in Frisia gives us a small glimpse of Charles at work. In 912, Conrad had founded an abbey at Weilburg (where his father was buried) in honour of St Walpurgis; in 914, he granted an immunity to the bishopric of Utrecht at Count Waltger’s request there. Charles, though, was also competing for Walpurgis’ patronage. In June 916, he founded a chapel at Attigny for her relics – which it’s implied he stole from the East Frankish kingdom. This is significant, because around this time Waltger and his wife Alberada founded a church at Tiel in Walpurgis’ honour. Alberada was the widow of Charles’ closest Lotharingian supporter, Reginar Long-Neck, and it was probably from Charles that Waltger acquired the relics he used to endow the church. (We know that Charles was handing out such relics elsewhere at this time too, but that’s a story for another post.) Between them, the marriage and the acceptance of the gift of relics signals the success of Charles’ policy towards the Lotharingian margins. Waltger accepted the gifts and the alliance, and brought himself under Charles’ rule.

Unfortunately, the only thing I could find left of it was this rather mundane plaque… (source)

What this shows is that Charles’ takeover of Lotharingia was not a fluke. Conrad wasn’t useless and he wasn’t powerless; and as generations of Carolingians before him and Ottonians afterwards would learn to their cost the Lotharingian aristocracy wasn’t either. Nonetheless, Charles was simply able to outcompete Conrad and attract the Lotharingians. The problem with Charles is the way his deposition becomes the story of his reign. If we abandon such a teleological approach, a different Charles emerges. This Charles is a canny ruler able to deploy various different forms of patronage to draw local and regional elites into his regime, and one who could do so better than his regional rivals. This Charles is the one who ruled as king for twenty uncontested years, the one whom the defeat at Soissons buried, and the one we need to resurrect if we want to understand the political changes of the tenth century.

Charter A Week 60: Two Responses to the Accession of Louis IV

This is, I promise, the last time I’ll mention the issues of finding charters to translate for the last years of Ralph of Burgundy, but it’s really noticeable how much the accession of Louis IV changes the evidential picture. This is actually the fifth post I’ve written over the years covering the events of 936, and it’s a twofer. That’s right, I couldn’t decide between two charters and so I’ve done both. What links them is that both are responding to Louis’ accession in different ways. The salient point here is that, as we’ve covered before, once Louis was crowned his main backer Hugh the Great took him into Burgundy to try and claim as much of it as possible. You see, Ralph’s brother Hugh the Black, whose powerbase was really more in Transjurane Burgundy, was also trying to do the same thing. We’ve seen before some of the tactics Louis and Hugh the Great tried to use to outbid Hugh the Black for regional support, but we’ve never looked at it from the other side. This brings us to our first charter – one of the most elaborate surviving in Hugh the Black’s name – issued just after the successful conclusion of Louis’ campaign.

ASSA no. 7 (1st September 936, Autun).

In the name of Lord God Eternal and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Hugh, humble count and margrave.

We wish to make it known to the faithful of the holy Church of God, present and future, but chiefly those before whose presence it should happen that this charter of this Our largess should come, that, when We approached the parts of Autunois for a certain necessary reason and entered the hall of the outstanding martyr St Symphorian to pray, and were awaiting the coming of Our followers there for a little while, there came into the presence of Our view Count Gilbert [of Chalon], Count Alberic [of Mâcon] and his son Leotald, and Our follower Adso, intimating to Our Sublimity that the abbot and prior of that place, Teudo, and the whole multitude of canons dwelling under him were suppliantly asking for some gift for Our commemoration in future; and that the place now seemed to be like it was brought to nothing due to the poverty, need, and want of the canons serving there.

We, then, wishing to obey their advice, for love of God and St Symphorian, and in alms for Our father Richard [the Justiciar] and Adelaide, and as well for the remedy of Our soul, restore and give certain manses of land to the stipends of the brothers serving the church of Saint-Symphorien: to wit, in the county of Beaune, twelve manses of land of fruitful vines in the estate which is called Nolay; and in the same district, in another place, eight-and-a-half manses in the estate of Créancey pertaining to the estate of Panthier which a certain matron named Drosia once gave to Saint-Symphorien.

Moreover, Our said followers beseeched that We might concede to them a charter concerning this gift of Our largess to be held in posterity. And thus We commanded a testament of this Our assent to be made, a decree of which We decreed, and in decreeing We urge that the aforesaid manses of land, with everything pertaining to them, visited and unvisited, should endure perpetually assigned and eternally deputed to the uses of the brothers and canons of Saint-Symphorien, and that they should unceasingly exhort the Lord and St Symphorian for Our life and safety; and, when the time comes and the end of Our life, let them, moved by mercy and led by piety, not neglect to commemorate the day of Our death, sustained by the aforesaid goods.

May peace and blessings, long life and joy, honour, praise and glory without any end come to those who conserve this Our decree; but to those who destroy it, may their part be anathema maranatha, be written with Judas, the betrayer of the Lord, and may they be thought of with Dathan and Abiron whom the Earth swallowed alive, subject to an endless curse.

And that this charter of Our largess might in the name of God grasp fuller firmness, We confirmed it with a touch and We asked it be confirmed by Our followers written herein.

Enacted at Autun, happily in the Lord, amen.

Sign of Count Hugh. Sign of Count Gilbert. Sign of Count Alberic. Sign of Adso. Sign of Humfrid. Sign of Viscount Robert [of Dijon]. Sign of Humbert. Sign of Witlenc. Sign of Manfred. Sign of Hugh. Sign of Leotald.

Given on the first day of the month of September, in the …th indiction, in the first year of the reign of King Louis.

I, Boso, chaplain of Saint-Symphorien, wrote and gave this.

As you can see right at the end there, by this point Hugh has recognised Louis as king, so this is probably after the division of Burgundy into spheres of influence. Partly, in fact, the charter seems to be asserting spheres of influence. As we’ve seen before, the big bone of division was over Langres. The end result of the fighting seems to have been to split the diocese of Langres in two, leaving the south under Hugh’s direct influence. The estates he confirms here are significant, therefore: they are in the county of Beaune, but the north of it (specifically, Créancey the northernmost of the two estates, is in Auxois). This is an assertion of power: Louis might have cut him out of Langres, but Hugh can still reach pretty far north.

With that said, it’s unlikely that any division cut Hugh off from his support. What we can see here, I think, is very much his established following and I don’t think that a charter from, say, July 936 would have had a witness list that looks very different. The biggest petitioners are Alberic of Mâcon and Gilbert of Chalon. Alberic is an old hand here: in addition to being count of Mâcon, he’s also count of Besançon, another significant Transjurane player and someone who has been allied to Hugh for a good long while now. The bond between Hugh and Gilbert is a little less obvious, but nonetheless present. Gilbert was a major figure in Ralph’s Burgundy and with a power-base mostly around Chalon, another important southern figure. The final titled person here, Viscount Robert of Dijon, supports the idea that the north/south split was a de facto division as much as anything else. And, of course, on the southern front, this is all taking place in Autun – although, you’ll note, without Bishop Rotmund being present. If he had (as I’ve suggested) had his coat turned by Hugh the Great and Louis, maybe he was persona non grata that winter?

Our second charter takes us to a familiar place and a familiar response. We’ve seen before that Hugh of Arles was a bit worried about all of this. He wasn’t the only one.

Brioude no. 337 (28th August 936, Brioude)

The Commander of everything good and the Lover of human salvation, Who gave himself for our redemption, has deigned to look out for us such that we can buy eternal prizes from the transitory goods which we will leave behind after a short time when death interrupts us. Wherefore it is greatly expedient that we should endeavour to entrust if not all then part of the doomed goods which we secure by His grant to His service, so that (that is) when the others are used up in the usages of this life, we might rejoice that what we gave to Him will remain with us forever.

Therefore, let everyone, both present and future, who will take their place in the congregation of the most blessed martyr Julian at Brioude, that I, Cunebert, levite and prior of the aforesaid congregation, at the exhortation and with the consent, to wit, of lord Hector, our dean, and all the canons of our said congregation of all ages, hand over a certain possession named Chanteuges in honour of our Saviour and the holy martyrs, to wit, in the first place the said lord Julian and another Julian, nicknamed ‘of Antioch’, and Saturninus, churches of the two of whom have been built therein, for this end: that hereafter a monastic way of life might exist therein. My grandfather Claudius, himself a convert, wished to make this possession a canonical congregation, as did his wife; she managed her other part with holy nuns, and because she was overtaken by death she left the aforesaid possession to me by right of a testament, so that after her death it should remain with St Julian at the abbey of Brioude.

However, since I and our abovesaid Dean Hector and all the brothers spoke frequently of the perils of this life and as well the tremendous trail of the Final Judgement, at length we all came to this consensus: that we should hand over the aforesaid place to a stricter way of life, that is, of monks, for our common salvation; and because charity already grows cold, since iniquity overflows all around and the order of things is soon overthrown such that we are unable to change our way of life to the canonical institution, at least it should benefit us before the Lord if we sustain from our rights those who might live according to the Rule, particularly fearing this, that for the honour of our lord Julian much should be given by us in alms lest it should happen that the Judge of All should impute to us that prophecy and hold us to have eaten up the sins of the people.

Both Prince Raymond [Pons] of the Aquitanians, and our abbot and viscount Dalmatius [I of Brioude] and certainly our bishop Arnald [of Clermont] and also the excellent men of this region, to wit, Bertrand and Viscount Robert [of Clermont] and the younger Robert and Eustorgius, and certain other provincials, consented to this decree in order that they would not be seen to rejoice half-heartedly, abjuring, indeed, their successors, in the name of God and the aforesaid holy martyrs, and chiefly indeed the most holy lord Marcellinus, bishop of Embrun, whose most holy body (with many other relics of the saints) were at the present time, by God’s gift, received in that place, that each of them in his time should defend this our constitution as much as possible, and that they should never endure that it be infringed.

Let this offering be first for our congregation, both living and dead; and then for our king and lords and our abovesaid princes, as well as for our kinsmen and intimates. After that – just all of us members of the church are held in one binding of charity, thus let it profit all of the faithful, so that we might be able to share in the good of each; then let this offering be, truly, for the soul of Duke William [the Pious] and his nephews William [the Younger] and Acfred, and for the soul of Claudius – to wit, my grandfather – and the other deceased; otherwise, let it be specially for all of those who offered defence or solace to this place and its inhabitants.

If anyone, God forbid, should contradict this Our ordination, or try to change this we have decreed to injure us and St Marcellinus and the aforesaid holy martyrs, not only let them be deprived of this reward, but also, unless they correct themselves, let them incur the crime of a reckless person and persecutor before Christ’s tribunal; and beholding their own damnation, let them be immersed in the inferno by the Devil with Judas, betrayer of the Lord.

We also communally decree that we should commit the case and execution of this matter to the venerable lord abbot Odo [of Cluny]; and because he is occupied with many other things, therefore we delegate the business of the aforesaid matter to the most reverend man lord abbot Arnulf to be carried out. Let the monks, with their abbot, lead a life entirely according to the Rule as it was handed down by the blessed Benedict. After the death of the present abbot, moreover, let them make another for themselves not in accordance with the ordination of anyone else, but in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict; and let them and all their goods be free and absolved from all dominion of any person.

Therefore we entrust to the service of God and the holy Rule, absolved in every way, the aforesaid place of Chanteuges, sited on one side on the river Allier and on the other on the river Desges, with two churches, as we said, with other woods, meadows, waters, mills, all their adjacencies, cultivated and uncultivated, currently known and to be discovered; with another wood, that is, named Bourleyre. This place is in the district of Auvergne, in the county of Brioude, in the vicariate of the same estate. We also give to that place, in another place, the estate which is called Vaunat with all its adjacencies; and in another place, one double manse, called Benac, in its entirety; in that aich, two manses, of which one is called Bonnavat, in its entirety; and in the vicariate of Nonette, in the estate which is called Collanges, and in that aich, two manses called Combrunas, and in that vicariate, in the estate which is named Sauciat, as much in these estates as we are seen to have and possess, we cede wholly there with all its adjacencies. And I, Cunebert, for the honour of God our Saviour and the most holy Marcellinus and other saints whose merits are venerated there by all, cede to that place something from the goods of my property which fell to me through acquisition and inheritance legitimately; that is, in the estate called Paredon, three manses, with all their adjacencies, and in that aich, in the estate called Rivacus, two manses with appendages, with a garden and an indominical meadow; and in another place called Vaillac, three manses in their entirety, as much in those said estates as I am seen to have and possess; and in another place which is called Cros, as much there as I acquired from Ainard, and will be able to acquire both in land and in vineyards.

I give, transfer and give over this wholly and entirely to God, as was written above, the Saviour, and Saint Marcellinus; but, because the said place was bestowed from the dominion of Saint-Julien, as the case is being enacted for spiritual reasons, thus we ordered that spiritual rent should be rendered for the sake of recognising possession (nothing to men); to wit, that they should on ordinary days pay two psalms for the living and the office for the dead in each of the Regular hours. Indeed, our congregation holds a privilege, conceded anciently, that is, from the time of King Pippin, that whatever we might communally decree concerning the goods of our church should endure entirely undisturbed and inviolable. Therefore we pray and call to witness through the Lord and in the Lord and through all His saints, that no king at all, nor any bishop, nor any viscount, nor (as was said above) any person at all might presume to disturb this our constitution, fearing the divine warning which says ‘‘Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark’, and he who consents, and let him deserve blessings who consents to good.’

Sign of Cunebert, prior and levite, who asked this constitution to be made and confirmed. Sign of Raymond, duke of the Aquitanians, whose other name, by God’s will, is Pons. Sign of Bishop Godeschalk [of le Puy]. Sign of Viscount Dalmatius. Sign of Ingelberga. Sign of Dalmatius [II of Brioude], his son. Sign of Bertrand. Sign of Stephen. Sign of Viscount Robert. Sign of Bertelaicus. Sign of Eustorgius. Sign of Bernard. Sign of Wirald. Sign of Rodrand.

The authority of this testament given on the fifth kalends of September [28th August], in the first year of the reign of lord king Louis, in the basilica of the nourishing martyr Julian, before the altar of Saint Stephen.

I’ve actually spoken about the politics behind this one before so I can be shorter here than with the above. There are two main arguments here. First, Raymond Pons of Toulouse is never otherwise seen this far north. This is probably a show of force to rally support: with Ralph dead, the settlement of affairs in Auvergne which he oversaw and which we’ve discussed in passing in a couple of previous Charter A Weeks was potentially vulnerable. This meant that Raymond’s loose suzerainty could be challenged – but it could also be reinforced. Hence his presence here alongside the great and the good, reminding them of his claims and his power. Second, the claim to be ‘duke of the Aquitanians’ is new. Such a claim must be a response to Hugh the Great’s claim to be ‘duke of the Franks’, a denial of Hugh’s authority over Raymond and a claim that his status is equal. Even more, it may well be a warning to Hugh not to try anything in Aquitaine.

Hugh didn’t try anything in Aquitaine, but he did in Burgundy. Details are scanty, but it seems he cut a separate deal with Hugh the Black, leaving Louis IV out of the loop. Why he did this is unknown, and it appears to involve a change in his intentions since summer 936 (so much for Good Guy Hugh, past me…) but it’s the first sign of some really serious tensions between Hugh the Great and Louis. Next time on Charter A Week, we’ll look for a sign of some more…

Was There A Rus’ Khaganate?

Enough of these remnants of trying to turn the quarter-of-a-million words I wrote on the history of tenth-century France into something a publisher will touch! Let’s turn to something from my actual, current research. As I said announcing it, I’m currently looking at the political cultures of a group of polities I’m lumping together under the heading of ‘Viking realms’ (although in the research proposal this took a fair bit of talking out as to exactly what I mean), with four in particular as my main case studies: Dublin, East Anglia, Frisia and the Rus’ Khaganate. On day two of the project, I discovered that the latter of these might not exist.

You may be wondering how that might be. After all, it’s got a Wikipedia page and everything. However, there are reasons to be concerned. The key piece of evidence linking all three elements of ‘Rus’’, ‘Scandinavians’ and ‘Khagan’ is also the very first piece of evidence which mentions the Rus’ at all, the 839 entry in the Annals of Saint-Bertin, which says that some people who called themselves Rus’ (Rhos) showed up in the train of some Byzantine ambassadors. Their king was called chacanus; but when Louis the Pious investigated further he found them to be Swedes (gens Sueonum) and had them detained on suspicion of being spies. The interpretation of chacanus as ‘khagan’ is by now scholarly orthodoxy, but in (much) older scholarship it was interpreted as being the personal name Hákon, and Ildar Garipzanov has recently written a defence of this position, arguing 1) that as a title ‘khagan’ is always written in our Frankish sources with a ‘g’ (caganus, chaganus, etc) and 2) the argument that the ‘H’ in ‘Hákan’ could very well be written in Latin with an initial ‘Ch’ at this time, by analogy with the Frankish rulers Chlodoicus (Louis the Pious) and Chlotarius (Lothar). So this was worrying; more worrying was a follow-up article by Donald Ostrowski building on recent Russian and Ukrainian historiography and taking a more general tilt at the idea of a Rus’ khagan and a Rus’ khaganate.

How art the mighty fallen? A remnant of the capital of the Khazar Khagagante at Itil – has the idea of a Rus’ khaganate been similarly demolished? (source)

Why does this bother me particularly? After all, even if the Rus’ ruler wasn’t called a khagan, there’s still unambiguously a Scandinavian presence in Eastern Europe which means I could achieve my research goals of comparing the Western European ‘usual suspects’ with a group not as proximate to Latin Christianity. However, whilst that is true, what is also true is that the specific title of ‘khagan’ is especially interesting and opens up a lot of conceptual room for political-cultural borrowing from the steppe world. Thankfully, my mind is more and more set at ease about the existence of a Rus’ khaganate.

Let’s start with the Annals of Saint-Bertin, because if the Rus’ king is called a ‘khagan’ there, then that’s pretty unambiguous. Here, Garipzanov’s primary claim about the uniqueness of a form with a middle ‘c’ doesn’t hold up. Towards the very end of the eighth century, for instance, a poem written to commemorate the victory of King Pippin of Italy over the Avars has a couple of references to ‘the Khagan, their king’ (Cacanus rex), as straightforward as you like, and with that middle ‘c’. Similar middle ‘c’s can be found in one of the manuscript families of the Chronicle of Regino of Prüm as well as the work of Paul the Deacon. On the other hand – and I will defer to a philologist here – I don’t think that a name like ‘Hakán’ would have an initial ‘Ch’. ‘Louis’ and ‘Lothar’ do, but they’re also starting with consonant clusters (‘Chl’) rather than a weak ‘h’. Names like ‘Hagano’ or ‘Heiric’ or ‘Helisachar can often lose the ‘h’ (‘Agano’, ‘Eiric’, etc) but I’ve never seen a ‘Chagano’ or ‘Cheiric’. It therefore seems to me pretty likely that we are, in fact, dealing with a Rus’ khagan.

Turning outwards to our other sources, we have a fairly large number of references to a khagan over the ninth and early tenth century. Ostrowski tries to minimise these, but I’m not convinced by his arguments. The best Latin source is a letter written from Louis II of Italy to the Byzantine Emperor Basil I as part of a lengthy ding-dong about titulature. This has been translated in full elsewhere, but the relevant section goes as follows:

We find that the overlord of the Avars is named the khagan (chaganum) not the *Khazars (Gazanorum) or Northmen (Nortmannorum); nor is that of the Bulgars ‘prince’, but rather ‘king and lord of the Bulgars’. We say all this, so that you might know that these things are otherwise than you have written based on what you read in Greek books.

This seems to me to be much clearer about what Basil said than has sometimes been allowed. Basil’s letter no longer survives and we have to reconstruct it from Louis’; but nonetheless Louis is fairly evidently contradicting specific assertions of Basil and one of those was that the Northmen (or a word which Louis understood that way) were ruled by a khagan. Of note is that is the Gazani were the Khazars, Louis is wrong here.

A final more-or-less contemporary source is the work of Ibn Rustah, a Persian geographer writing in the very early tenth century, who says that the Rus’ live on a big swampy island, spend their time raiding and trading, and are ruled by a khagan (Khaqan Rus, خاقان روس). This is pretty straightforward, and most of the serious opposition to the idea of a Rus’ khagan essentially handwaves it.

So it seems that a reasonably large range of contemporary authorities in the ninth century thought the Rus’ were ruled by a khagan. One important critique I’ve read in a few places protests the jump from this to reifying their political organisation into a ‘Rus’ khaganate’, but I think that with appropriate caution it’s a perfectly useable shorthand. That is, so long as we consciously avoid inferring things we can’t actually demonstrate about the khaganate’s social and political organisation simply because we’ve given it a name, we should be OK. After all, we know very little about the khaganate’s internal organisation, governing ideology, or even geographical location; but with slightly different balances the same is true for what we habitually and unprotestingly call (on about the same direct evidence, mind) the Viking kingdom of East Anglia.

What is particularly interesting about the Rus’ khagan, from this angle, is that whilst a row of good authorities – Bishop Prudentius of Troyes, Emperor Basil I, Ibn Rusta – line up to say there was a khagan amongst the Rus’, an equally large row of good authorities – Patriarch Photius of Constantinople, Archbishop Rimbert of Hamburg, Louis II of Italy, the Persian geographer Ibn Khordadbeh and – most intriguingly – the Arabic traveller Ibn Faḍlān – don’t mention him. Some of these omissions are explicable. Rimbert, for instance, isn’t talking about the Rus’ at all, but about the Swedes. The main reason his silence on the khagan question is interesting is the important role Birka (about which he was writing) played in the eastern trade, to the point it’s actually been proposed as the home for the 839 Rhos. Equally, Photius’ literary purposes vitiate any use he might be as a guide to Rus’ political organisation: in his homily following their attack on Constantinople in 860, he refers to the Rus’ as ‘leaderless’ (deep breath, since I don’t speak Greek: ἀστρατήγητου, astratēgētou) but he’s pretty evidently deploying Classical stereotypes of outer barbarians to emphasise how much the Constantinopolitans have angered God for Him to be sending such rude peoples to vex and harass them. Ibn Khordadbeh and Ibn Faḍlān, though, are much better informed: Ibn Khordadbeh was high-up in the ‘Abbasid caliphate and Ibn Faḍlān actually met the Rus’, and neither of them say that the ruler is a khagan. Ibn Khordadbeh mentions other peoples who have a khagan, but not the Rus’; Ibn Faḍlān calls the Rus’ ruler a king (malik).

So what do I think is going on here? Well, coming up with an answer to that question is currently my job so this is preliminary. However, my first inclination is that these are different groups of Rus’. Several historians have argued that ‘Rus’’ is not an ethnic name, but a professional one, rather like ‘Viking’. We know from western parallels that Viking groups were farraginous clusters of smaller groups, not necessarily related to other groups called the same thing by our sources. (This is one of the problems with tribute payments to Vikings: paying off one army doesn’t help you with any of the others.) What if we have here multiple different groups of Rus’, perhaps competing with one another, perhaps representing different ideological tendencies within a wider overarching framework, perhaps just in different places and unrelated to each other? This raises important questions about how different groups of Vikings assimilated, changed or resisted the traditions they found – questions which we can ask more easily with different flavours of the Latin Christian tradition in the west, but which are deepened by comparison with political behaviour in a steppe arena that is not Christian and certainly not Latin.

*I put ‘Khazars’ with an asterisk because the form as we have it here, Gazani, is not the same as the more recognisable Chazari which shows up a little bit later in the letter and doubts have been thrown on whether it’s the same people meant. I think it probably is – Christian of Stavelot has the form Gazari and the letter’s orthography (such as in the case of the name ‘Abraham’) isn’t fully consistent – but there’s room for reasonable doubt.

[Edit from some weeks after this was written: and I’ve since come across a letter of Anastasius Bibliothecarius unambiguously referring to the Khazars by both forms, so I think the same applies here – which is potentially important, because Louis is of course wrong about the title held by the Khazar ruler!]

Charter A Week 59: Intercession for the Dead

Most of the time when choosing material for Charter A Week, I’m dealing with stuff I already know. After all, I’ve been working with this material for a decade by now – I know what is and isn’t important, and I’ve already got scratch translations of basically all of it. As we limp towards the end of the reign of Ralph of Burgundy, however, the options I knew about were so uninspiring that I went a-searching elsewhere. Specifically, I had a look at the Regesta Imperii for the tenth-century papacy. And there, I found something rather curious: two letters, which once upon a time I had skimmed and dismissed in the cartulary of the Dijon abbey of Saint-Bénigne as mid-eleventh century, redated to the 930s. The reason behind the redating is simple enough: despite the first letter being in the name of ‘Abbot H.’, suggesting the eleventh-century Abbot Halinard, the second letter says that the ‘duke of the Romans’ to whom it is addressed has the same name as the abbot writing it. This is not true of Halinard, but it is true of the tenth-century Abbot Alberic, who shared his name with the lay ruler of Rome Alberic. The text itself is evidently corrupt at points – the Saint-Bénigne text is gibberish in one spot, so I actually went to the cartulary, which is digitised, to see what it said and, yep, it’s gibberish there too. An older version printed by Mabillon has different readings in places – I don’t know the source, he just says it’s ex nostris schedis, which I think means ‘from my notes’ – but these actually make sense so I have followed them where necessary to produce something comprehensible. Anyway, the point is it’s a lot easier to see how an A might become an H than to see how someone would confuse the names ‘Halinard’ and ‘Alberic’, so I’m quite happy to follow the Regesta here. This is doubly so because these letters are still pretty interesting. With that said, a lot of their interest comes from what they show about diplomacy and city planning, so I’m going to need to channel my inner Ottewill-Soulsby… 

Saint-Bénigne 325 (c. 930-935)

To the holy lord and teacher of the whole world, that is, the universal Pope John [XI], [Alberic], humble abbot of the power of Saint-Bénigne, with the entire congregation, sends the faithful service of holy prayers.

It is not hidden from the whole world that the pastor of the Roman church performs their duties on behalf of the Apostle, so that what he establishes concerning the ecclesiastical order should endure fixed and stable and inviolable forever. Therefore, it is worthy for one who resolves problems that he should have with him always a philosophy of civic virtue, to wit, good judgement, so that he to whom the power over churches has been given should not ignorantly establish because of malicious rumours what, when he knows true antiquity, he should not have any doubts about destroying.

We say this, father, to come before your presence, because it was brought to Our notice that the canons [of Saint-Étienne de Dijon] who neighbour Us, desiring to take away monastic honour, wanted to seek the highness of your authority so that, after gaining permission from you, they could transfer our cemetery into the castle for themselves. You should know, however, that those who wish to change the ancient establishment of the Fathers seek not what is God’s but what is their own. Therefore, We ask in God’s name that you do not concede this; and We will fittingly hold a memory of service.

 Saint-Benigne 326

To the most illustrious lord, chamberlain of the sacred palace, first senator and sole duke of the Romans [Alberic], an abbot holding his same name [Alberic of Saint-Bénigne], sends the service of continual fidelity.

Distance between places can never separate those whom a true connection of charity joins together. For this reason, let it be known to Your Highness that although I am far away in body, nonetheless I am always near you in mind and spirit, and not only me myself, but also my fellow brothers sedulously serving St Benignus, and indeed our lord himself as well, and we cherish your salvation in all prosperity with holy prayers; in the present world, you will have me – who is not unmindful of your good deeds – in your service in the next case as long as I live. Otherwise, because We confide many things in you, whatever should happen to Us, We confidently disclose and request that if any of Our neighbouring rivals should want to plot anything before the lord Pope against Our place, you (as well as you can) should prohibit it from being done.

We don’t ask for anything unjust; instead, We wish that the ancient law of Our place to be safe concerning the graveyard which they unjustly want to move. This was known to you, but will become better known shortly. If you take good care of it, you will cause us to remember you.

[The blessed pope Gregory says that the soul of anyone whose body is buried within the city walls will wander for all time. And in another place it is said that it is not permitted to bury the dead within the city walls, because we read and known that the Lord both suffered and was buried outside the city; similarly St Stephen and many others; and for this reason the holy fathers forbade any cemetery from being made within the walls of a city or a castle. We ought to follow Christ, indeed, in everything.]

(The bit in square brackets, for the record, was included in the Saint-Bénigne cartulary text and clearly relates to the same thing; but it’s on a separate page of the manuscript and I don’t think it was originally part of the letter as sent to Alberic in Rome.) 


The manuscript in question, BM Dijon 591, fol. 62r (source)

I was actually tempted to try and do a parody of Sam’s writing style, but as I’m doing this on the morning I’ve registered (successfully, thank the Lord) at the Tübingen Auslanderamt, which involved both an early morning appointment and little sleep the night before, I’ll spare you and me. Anyway, the fundamental reason that the abbot of Saint-Bénigne is so opposed to moving the graveyard isn’t stated here, but is likely to be, in the most direct sense, the burial fees the abbey would have received for disposing of the dead. More broadly, the home of a family’s dead could expect to have a privileged relationship with that family. We know this most obviously from royal and comital necropoli, such as Saint-Denis. Losing the dead may well have meant losing that relationship. Even worse, from the point of view of the abbey of Saint-Bénigne, was losing it to the collegiate church of Saint-Étienne. A good long while ago now, we looked at the activities of Archdeacon Rather of Langres, prior of Saint-Étienne, who had tried to defraud Saint-Bénigne of a church they owned, something which rankled years on after he did it. It’s a reasonable presumption that there as a rivalry between the two institutions which lent a particular spice to this quarrel. 

Interestingly, the proof texts which I have put in square brackets are a remarkable call-back to Classical ideas of burial in the city. Famously, during Classical Antiquity, dead bodies could not be buried within the city walls. As Late Antiquity shifted into the Earlier Middle Ages, though, this became a more and more common practice. Here, though, the practice is called back to, although it is justified with reference to a Christian not a Roman past. In particular, it is the need to follow Christian exemplars, most obviously Jesus himself, which is cited. 

It is, as I noted above, not certain whether or not either Pope John XI or Alberic of Rome actually saw these texts. Instead, Alberic of Saint-Bénigne takes a much more straightforward approach. To the pope, he simply offers a quid pro quo, trading on the idea that as monks Saint-Bénigne’s prayers are worth more than Saint-Étienne’s. However, he’s also trying to hedge his bets, hence the letter to John’s half-brother Alberic, a serious figure to be reckoned with in mid-tenth century Rome. This is, unfortunately, the only evidence we have of communication between Rome and Dijon at this time, so we don’t know if the abbot actually did have prior knowledge of the patrician. Nonetheless, this is a really interesting example of how intercession was sought by would-be clients. 

Recently in Tübingen, Sam gave a roundtable discussing the so-called New Diplomatic History, an approach to diplomatic history which aimed to restore individuality, agency, and political culture to what was often perceived as a history of abstractions. He was very gung-ho about the prospects for it, but I was more sceptical. Especially coming from a tenth-century background, where we’re accustomed to talk about everything in terms of negotiation and intercession, it seems to me that this approach runs the risk of dissolving the history of Earlier Medieval diplomacy into being simply a history of political culture. During the round table, one of the questions I asked Sam was whether or not such a dissolution was a bad thing. After musing, and bearing these letters in mind, I now think it does run that risk, but that that’s not a bad thing, at least not for our period. In a world where social and political organisation is simply managed and reproduced differently, I would not care to discuss whether or not what Abbot Alberic is doing is or is not diplomacy – he certainly thinks he’s part of the same structure as John, if not as the patrician Alberic. What strikes me as a more useful approach in an earlier medieval context is how perceptions of different kinds of difference (of status, geography, language, etc) impacted on practices of negotiation, and Abbot Alberic’s problems are a good way into that. 

Carolingian Normandies

This post was planned anyway, but by sheer coincidence it happens that I’ve recently finished Neil Price’s The Children of Ash and Elm. It’s a good book on the Viking Age and I do recommend it; but it’s not at its best when dealing with the Viking presence in the Frankish world. As a case in point, Price is firmly wedded to the idea that Normandy was created in toto by three grants, in 911, 924 and 933. This is a common picture, at least outside the cutting edge of the scholarly literature. I imagine our old friend Dudo of Saint-Quentin would be very pleased with it, because the idea of an ancient Normandy which burst onto the scene fully formed in the early tenth century was one of his main agendas in writing the Historia Normannorum. However, the idea of ‘Normandy’ is one of those big ones that casts a shadow backwards over what came before it. In this blog post, we’ll look at tenth-century northern Neustria and I will try and argue, first, that the area which would become Normandy spent most of the century as a farraginous and fluctuating group of local polities and factions; and second, and more controversially, that the history of these polities is one in which the Scandinavian heritage of some regional elites played a minimal role for a long time. When Normandy emerged as a ‘Northman’ polity, the role of its Scandinavian past was not straightforward.  

This one goes long, and a map is probably useful. This one is from Mark Hagger, Norman Rule in Normandy 911-1144, Woodbridge: Boydell, 2017, p. xix.

The first place to consider is Rouen itself. We know from Flodoard (who was a more-or-less contemporary witness) that the original grant to Rollo constituted Rouen and the maritime districts associated with it. On its southern end, references from Charles the Simple’s 918 diploma as well as the location of the putative agreement at Saint-Clair-sur-Epte suggest that the grant stopped a relatively short distance south down the Seine and included some portion of the Epte valley – in total, a relatively small parallelogram of land. Already, then, the importance of the 911 grant starts to look relatively small (and the later grants of 924 and 933 were on paper only, have been recognised as purely nominal for a long time, and can be safely dismissed without further discussion).

Moreover, as time goes on, it’s less and less clear to me that Rouen had been under Rollo’s control prior to 911. The problem is that anything we think we know about Rollo prior to 911 comes from Dudo’s work and there’s no real reason to trust it because his depiction of Rollo’s career is precisely aimed at legitimising his family’s control of a Normandy centred at Rouen which means that placing him firmly in control there prior to 911 is rhetorically necessary whether or not it’s true. Notably, thinking of the Battle of Chartres, we know that the Frankish forces who were sent out to fight Rollo were based at Paris. If you’re going from Paris to fight someone based on the Upper Seine, Chartres is not an obvious place to find them; but it is if they’re based on the Loire…

What there was at Rouen instead appears to have been a fully functioning Carolingian regime. The key evidence for this is a diploma of 905 granting the fiscal estate at Pîtres to his notary, Ernust. (Of note is that the commentary I wrote for the Charter A Week post linked is not quite what I’m about to say here.) This reveals two things: first, that Charles was firmly in control of the royal estates in the area; and two, that he felt no qualms about granting them, not to a count or other lay magnate or even to a bishop in order to co-ordinate regional defence, but rather to a chancery clerk. Pîtres and the associated fortification at Pont de-l’Arche had been a sophisticated part of anti-Viking defence under Charles the Bald, so its use here to reward a relatively minor ecclesiastical noble suggests that, as of 905, the Upper Seine was not feeling pressed by attacks from the North. Similarly, Rouen’s ecclesiastical infrastructure seems to have held up pretty well. The archbishops of Rouen were able to offer safe havens to the bishops of Coutances (definitely) and Bayeux (maybe), and they played an important role in Church councils throughout the late ninth and early tenth century. We know, too, that demand for liturgical manuscripts was ongoing into the early tenth century, when the bishop of Sées composed a new benedictional for use at Rouen. 

Rollo, mostly, and his son William Longsword, entirely, behave like normal Frankish magnates. Rollo’s involvement in the civil war surrounding the deposition of Charles the Simple has been used as evidence for the failure of Rollonid Rouen as a Carolingian bastion – but it was a Frankish civil war and the Norse came in on behalf of the Carolingian king. Sure, they turned to fighting for their own advantage shortly afterwards, but this isn’t a failure of Viking policy any more than the precisely identical and contemporary behaviour of Duke Gislebert of Lotharingia. William, even more than his father, was a normal count. From just after the end of his reign we have the first written evidence from inside the Norman court: a Latin poem commissioned by William’s sister for his son which presents him as ‘Count of Rouen’. This picture has been clouded by Flodoard’s consistent reference to William as princeps Normannorum – ‘Viking chief’ – but Flodoard’s titulature here stems from anti-Norman prejudice and doesn’t reflect anything we know about the internal structure of William’s regime.

Where the picture changes a little is after William’s murder in 943. William’s son Richard was a small boy, and Rouen was fought over by a number of factions. First out of the gate, notably, was a faction of pagan Vikings under two rulers named Turmod and Sigtryggr, the latter straight off the boat from York. These men controlled the young Richard, whom they forced to participate in pagan rites. However, they were turfed out easily by Louis IV, suggesting their base of support was shallow. Louis then gave Rouen to his and William’s old ally Count Herluin of Ponthieu. However, despite some strong PR moves – Herluin killed William’s murderer on the battlefield and sent his mutilated appendages to Rouen – the city faced a new problem immediately afterwards, as warrior bands forced out of York by the city’s conquest by the English king in 944 moved on northern Neustria. Louis and Herluin marched into the area around Rouen and purged the city of those who did not want to obey royal authority.

This was not the end of the faction fighting, but without going too deep into the weeds, by the later part of the 940s the winner who had emerged was none other than the legendary Ralph Torta, whose closest ties were to the Robertians. (As noted in the previous post, Ralph may or may not have had biologically Scandinavian origins but his son was bishop of Paris and he was an entirely typical mid-level West Frankish aristocrat in every respect which matters.) We know little of Ralph’s activities as ruler in Rouen, but there is a striking contract between his behaviour regarding Jumièges, where he tore down the abbey buildings to use for wall repair; and the Rouen monastery of Saint-Ouen, where he donated an estate just outside the city. One rather wonders whether this was a deliberate attack on a Rollonid pet project as a way of erasing the family’s local footprint. In any case, the fact that Rouen ended up under the control of a mid-level Carolingian aristocrat who was, nominally, a royal appointee for about a decade is significant. 

We already, then, have a picture of a region mostly under normal West Frankish style regional elites for half a century, something which in no way prevented it from having violent, nasty succession crises which the presence of Viking elites embroidered but didn’t fundamentally alter. However, Rollonid Rouen was not the only power in the region, nor the only place to suffer turbulence. Around the year 900, for instance, the counts of Maine were figures to be reckoned with across northern Neustria – a diploma we’ve discussed before shows Count Hugh I patronising the abbey of Saint-Évroult in the Évrecin using lands in the Hiémois, to the south of Bayeux. By the 930s, though, the picture had changed. Dudo of Saint-Quentin keeps the story of a rebellion against William Longsword by a Scandinavian leader named Riulf (a story which does find purchase in other sources). Riulf, who was a pagan, wanted land up to the river Risle – but he appears to have been based in Évreux. This would have been less than a decade after an extensive series of border conflicts between the Seine Norse and the counts supporting the new regime of King Ralph of Burgundy. It is therefore possible that Riulf’s group was a new arrival; it is certainly evident that they wanted out. By the time of the wars after William Longsword’s murder in 943, Évreux was divided between different Viking factions – Flodoard, at least, presents them as religiously motivated pagan and Christian groups – but a significant local elite remained as well. In the end, the Christian Norse and/or local elite (and by that time it may not have been possible to draw a clear on-the-ground difference) handed the city over to Robertian control, embodied in the person of Theobald the Trickster, who held the city until the 960s. 

Further west, around Bayeux and the Cotentin, the picture is sketchier. In a previous post on this blog I looked at Dudo of Saint-Quentin’s picture of the earliest Norman court. One figure in particular stood out to me then and stands out to me now, and that’s Botho of Bayeux. Dudo’s work, like all hagiography, is most interesting at its stumbles: his purpose is so clear and his dedication to it so single-minded that when something doesn’t quite fit, it sticks out more and so it is with Botho, the purportedly Norman aristocrat with a Frankish name and a Frankish title which didn’t exist in later Normandy. In short, I think the Botho of Dudo’s book is an incomplete fossil of a Frankish count at Bayeux. (Remarkably, Flodoard also thinks the people of the Bessin aren’t Norse at this time.) It was probably not until 944 that the picture changed. In that year, a pagan Norse chieftain named Harald (likely another refugee from York) took over Bayeux. He played an adroit hand manipulating the succession crisis after William Longsword’s murder. It is likely that it was to Harald that the pagan Vikings purged from Rouen by Louis IV went. In the immediate aftermath of that affair, Harald organised a meeting with Louis and captured him, eventually handing him over to Hugh the Great. Hugh had been in charge of the initial attempt to get Harald out of Bayeux, and it would not be surprising if Harald’s price for the king was being allowed to stay there. Notably, Harald is remembered in Dudo’s work positively but as a pagan, which suggests that he may have justified his rule by using some kind of specifically ‘Northman’ (i.e. non-Carolingian) discourse, something which would make sense if he had been substantially reinforced by men whom Louis had purged from Rouen. In any case, he didn’t get too long – in 954, Hugh attacked and defeated him. After that, we don’t know precisely what happened. We do, though, have a pretty clear idea that Bayeux and the Bessin, and that whole centre-west region, were not under Norman control until the last decades of the tenth century at the earliest.

But thus far we have largely focussed on comital authority. In fact, northern Neustria was something of a frontier zone in the ninth century, and a fair bit of the continuity we can see in the region comes from people it would be more or less fair to call ‘local elites’ – not Scandinavian (at least not in any political-cultural sense; some, although in all probability a tiny minority, may have originated there but that doesn’t matter for our purposes), but not members of a Carolingian administrative hierarchy. The most obvious point of continuity here is what would become Normandy’s southern frontier, the Perche-to-Domfront area, which were forested lands of light control under local lords anyway and remained so consistently. More interesting are our hints about Coutances. The Cotentin peninsula had been granted to the Breton king Salomon in the late ninth century, and its control during this time seems to have been contested. William Longsword claimed to be overlord in the region. Direct evidence for his control comes from the memory of some land grants he made in the area, all of which are around the coast and none of which suggest a massive landed base there. Dudo has another one of those splinters in his text describing the ‘men of Coutances’ as a kind of praetorian guard for William, although it wouldn’t be sound to speculate too intensively based on that. After 943, whilst the southern belt saw relatively little change, Viking settlement in the Cotentin peninsula established a number of small-scale lordships which may not have been under powerful control from anyone. These lordships, moreover, are the places where the most obvious signs of ‘Northman’ practice – notably paganism – took root.

When Richard the Fearless ran Ralph Torta out of town in the mid-to-late 950s, he faced the prospect not of reclaiming an early tenth-century inheritance, but of expanding into a fractious collection of local and regional polities which had wildly different current statuses and political histories. Those histories all had Vikings in them, whether as enemies or settlers or biological ancestors; but only in the furthest west, and even then only after 943 could any of them be really termed ‘Viking polities’. This is a key part of the context in which Normandy as we know it was created, as I’ve written about before. The ideology of Norman-hood which Richard developed was flexible to the point of incoherence – it let anyone willing to play the game of being distinctive and of obeying the duke into the clubhouse, no matter what kind of Northman they were. With this complex history behind him, could Richard have succeeded with anything else?

Where There’s A Will There’s A Way 3: Bishop Hugh III of Nevers

This week’s will comes from a wildly different chronological and geographical context from the ones we’ve looked at so far. Both Roger the Old and Raymond III, for all their differences, were late tenth century counts from the Midi. Bishop Hugh III of Nevers was a late eleventh century Burgundian bishop. Descended from the vicecomital family whose main centre was at Champallement, on the Auxerrois side of the area, this will comes from his first year as bishop, 1074. Or, as he put it, his first year married to his church, a metaphor which is quite striking. It’s not uncommon, but usually I encounter it on the other side: I’ve seen lots of widowed churches, but few newlyweds. So what does this will, from a completely different background, actually look like? 

Saint-Cyr no. 75 (1st November 1074, Nevers)

In the name of Jesus Christ, the son of the living God.

Let it be known to all the sons of Holy Mother Church, both present and their posterity, that I, Hugh, solely by the free goodness of God not in return for my own merits bishop of the holy church of Nevers, although unworthy, commanded this testament of the goods which have come to me from the bishopric be instituted for God’s praise and honour; and just as any lay person joined legitimately to a wife would in accordance with the tradition of worldly law endow and honour her from his worldly goods, thus I, spiritually joined to my betrothed, with goodwill and a good heart, in accordance with the tradition of the holy canons, endow and honour her.

That is, in such a way that whenever by God’s will it should happen that I pass from this fallen world, half of my goods from the bishoprics in both bread and wine, gold and silver, and garments, and all moveable goods, should by my command and gift be distributed to the canons serving God and St Cyric day and night (as much as is left after my debts, if any there be, have first been paid). Let the other half of the goods, on the other hand, be divided in half. I command that one part of them be paid out to pilgrims and widows ill in the Maison Dieu; and that the other part be paid out to the monks serving in the monastery of Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Etienne in the suburbs of our city, in which monastery, that is, I chose the place of my burial, if death overtakes me here or in the bishopric of Auxerre. 

If anyone does anything else, or presumes to violate the fixed confirmation of this testament in any way, let God destroy him, and by divine authority and the power of Our ministry let them be held under the chains of anathema for as long as it takes for God to harshly punish him in his present life; and let the clergy and people respond ‘Let it be done, let it be done’. 

This testament was read out in the city of Nevers, in the church of Saint-Cyr, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 1074, in the twelfth indiction, on the kalends of November [1st November], on Saturday, when the same Bishop Hugh was enthroned in the pontifical see, with Bishop Geoffrey of Auxerre and Count William [of Tonnerre, Nevers and Auxerre] and many other leading men standing by and hearing, along with the clergy and people of the city.

It was read out a second time the following week in full synod.

Rainer, precentor of the church, dictated and wrote this, in the reign of Philip, king of the French. 


think this is the abbey of Saint-Etienne de Nevers in question, but I’m not entirely sure… (source)

Where all the southerners we’ve looked at were dealing with land, this is entirely moveable goods. It’s more like one of the most famous Carolingian wills, that of Count Eccard of Mâcon (a future subject for this series, hopefully) than anything we’ve seen so far. It’s also remarkably non-specific – rather than an enumeration of particular items, this is a list of categories and we don’t know how much Hugh has. Presumably, insofar as this will was made roughly fifteen years before his eventual death, neither did he. 

What is therefore interesting is that he does assume that he’s going to have debts. I have a long-running theory to the effect that Early Modernity begins at some point in the thirteenth century, based on the political and economic significance of state debt from that point onwards. (The reason I developed this theory, if you’re curious, was that some years ago I was making my way through the Yale English Monarchs series in order, and they did not at that time have a volume for Henry III. What that meant was that I left King John, where money was important but debt wasn’t; and my next stop was Edward I, whose debt was significant enough to bring up constantly.) This is a noticeable difference to the Carolingian period – no-one I study has any debts we know about. In fact, at one point I was going to write a whole post outlining a radical new view of Carolingian accountancy until it turned out I was reading the Capitulare de villis wrong. I still think that most Carolingian nobles don’t have what we would think of as an income and certainly not a budget; but actual financial debt is way off the table. Hugh’s concern with it, then, reads like a sign of a developing late eleventh-century new world.

The other thing which struck me was the provision for his burial, which only specifies a location if he dies in certain places. I assume the thinking there relates to his rate of decomposition. Famously, Charles the Bald ended up being buried at Nantua, near Lyon, because he started smelling too badly for his retinue to cart him all the way to Saint-Denis. If that is the reason, that’s more consideration for the nostrils of his retinue than I’ve seen a medieval magnate display before… 

Charter A Week 58: A Triple Alliance in Provence and Italy

934 and 935 continue to be pains to pick charters for, so once again I’m playing a little fast and loose with the format. In this case, like last week, the dating elements in the document we’re going to look at are discordant: the AD year is 934, but the indiction gives 933. Schiaparelli, who edited the act, plumped for 933; the Regesta Imperii isn’t so sure, and that’s good enough for me to put it here.

So, somewhat unusually, we’re in Italy. We’ve spoken before about the multipolar Europe of the 930s, and this act is an interesting insight into that.

D HL no. 34 (8th March 933/934, Pavia)

In the name of Lord God Eternal.

Hugh and Lothar, by God’s grace kings. 

If we grant worldly benefits on places venerable and dedicated to God, we do not doubt we will gain eternal prizes from the Lord.

Consequently, let the entirety of all the followers of the holy Church of God and ourselves, to wit, present and future, know that we, for love of God Almighty and of the holy virgin Mary and of the blessed apostles, to wit, Peter and Paul, and for love of the other apostles, and for the remedy of our souls and those of Our father and mother, to wit, Theobald and Bertha, and our other relatives, concede to the holy and venerable monastery of Cluny, where Odo is at present now seen to be abbot, two curtilages from the right of our property lying in the county of Lyon, of which one is called Savigneux and the other Ambérieux-en-Dombes, in their entirety (besides Leotard the baker and five other servants pertaining there, who now serve us, whom we reserve for our power); that is, with chapels, houses, lands, vineyards, fields, meadows, pastures, woods, salt-pans, feeding grounds, waters and watercourses, hills, valleys, mountains, plains, male and female serfs of both sexes (besides those six servants whom we reserved for our power above), labouring men and women, and with everything they can say or name justly and legally pertaining to these two curtilages in their entirety (these six servants put to one side), so that from the present day, in their entirety (these six servants, as we said, put to one side), they might be in the right and dominion of the same abbey and of the abbot who is there now and of his successors, for the common advantage of the brothers serving God there at the time, rightly, quietly, and without any contradiction. 

If anyone might with reckless daring endeavour to infringe or violate our donation, let them know themselves to be damned by God Almighty like a sacrilege; in secular terms, as well, let them know themselves to be liable for a fine of one hundred pounds of pure gold, half to our treasury and half to the abbot of the aforesaid abbey and his successors and the brothers who are there at the time.

And that this might be more truly believed and diligently observed by all, we strengthened it with our own hands and commanded it be marked below with our signet.

Sign of the most serene kings Hugh and Lothar.

Chancellor Peter witnessed on behalf of Abbot and Archchancellor Gerland.

Given on the 8th ides of March [8th March], in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 934, in the 8th year of the reign of the most pious lord king Hugh and the 3rd of lord king Lothar, in the 6th indiction

Enacted in Pavia.

Happily in God’s name, amen.

By itself, this might not look like very much. It’s a royal grant of property with added extra memorialisation, to Cluny no less – and royal diplomas for Cluny, from across Europe, are ten a penny. However, what’s interesting about it is the way that it takes us into the middle of alliances spanning most of western Europe: Hugh of Arles, for this short period, was the man in the centre of almost everything, and right behind him was Odo of Cluny. Hugh and Odo may have known each other (so thinks Isabelle Rosé) from Odo’s upbringing at the court of William the Pious, and they seem to have remained on good terms. However, this was particularly expressed in the early 930s. Besides this diploma, in 929, Hugh arranged his own betrothal with the important Roman noblewoman Marozia, who in 931 imposed her son as Pope John XI. Shortly afterwards, he granted Odo a papal privilege. He also intervened in 932 to confirm the new archbishop of Rheims, Artald, who (as we will have much cause to hear about in subsequent weeks) had recently been imposed on that church by Ralph of Burgundy.

In 933, too, Ralph of Burgundy was active in northern Provence. In 931, Count Charles Constantine of Vienne had promised his loyalty to Ralph; in 933, he actually handed it over. Hugh of Arles may well have had a hand in this. In 929, he had played an important role in ending the rebellion of Count Heribert II of Vermandois, the jailer of Charles the Simple, who had released his captive from prison and set him up against Ralph. Part of the deal was that Hugh agreed to grant Heribert the ‘province of Vienne’ (whatever that meant) on behalf of Heribert’s son Odo. West of the Rhône, the role of Odo of Cluny in West Frankish politics is something we’ve covered a lot recently; but to summarise, Ralph’s takeover of the duchy of Aquitaine was thoroughly aided along by the fact that he had the support of Odo, along with the networks of alliances surrounding his abbeys.

We have here a three-pointed alliance. Hugh can help both Ralph and Odo on the Italian side, as in the cases of Artald and Odo’s papal privileges (notably, both papal interventions came before the breakdown in relations between Hugh and the Romans later in 932). Odo can help Ralph in Aquitaine. His use for Hugh is a bit more obscure to me, but my guess is that, amongst other things, his connections with the Transjurane court and thus with Hugh’s rival for the kingship of Italy Rudolf II may be the operative factor. Ralph, meanwhile, can help Odo against his monastic rival Guy of Gigny; and he can ensure that the situation in northern Provence remains relatively stable. In fact, I would say that ensuring regional stability in the face of the deaths of both William the Younger and Louis the Blind (at least, once they’ve all helped themselves after the initial instability) is probably the most obvious binding force between these three men.

This diploma hints at that more than it says any of it. It is nonetheless significant that the estates in question are right next to Anse, where Ralph issued a diploma for Cluny in summer 932; and are also in William the Younger’s former county of Lyon. These gifts have presumably, therefore, been selected to implant Odo more firmly in Lyon and to emphasise the ongoing role of Hugh and Ralph together in ensuring a stable division of power in Provence. Much of the diplomatic activity of this period is hidden from us, and so there’s a lot of inference in this picture. Nonetheless, our box of hints builds up to a pretty convincing picture of a multipolar Frankish world in the 930s, all centred on the Trans-Ararian region.