Why is Donkey Kong like tenth-century Flanders?

Birthday post! OK, it’s not actually my birthday (I ain’t putting that on the internet), but it is proximate thereto, which is one reason I haven’t been posting recently. Posts will resume after I’ve moved house and gone to the EHS Conference in two weeks, but recently I discovered something fun which is almost entirely devoid of scholarly content, but tickled me so I’m putting it up here anyway.

I have on occasion hinted at something which I like to call the ‘Arnulf Problem’, but I don’t think I’ve ever explained what it is. Basically, in late tenth-century Flanders, Count Arnulf the Great was having family troubles. One of his nephews rebelled, and so he had him executed, earning the hostility of the executed man’s brother, who was also called Arnulf. These two things, that he was a nephew of Arnulf the Great and that he was also called Arnulf, are the only things we have to identify this man. This is a problem, because ‘Arnulf’ is an incredibly common name. Hence, there are about six potential candidates for our Arnulf – and thus, the Arnulf Problem: not knowing who someone is because everyone has the same damn name.

(Ninth-century historians have a different version of this known as the Three Bernards Problem, although these Bernards at least have better nicknames – Bernard Hairypaws, anyone?)

 

Donkey_kong
Segue! (source)

Now, as I say, I recently discovered that medieval history is not the only field where this is true. It turns out fans of the venerable Donkey Kong franchise have to deal with a similar problem. The first appearance of Donkey Kong was in 1981, in the arcade game Donkey Kong, which also featured the first appearance of Mario – then named Jumpman – as an animal-abusing builder’s carpenter. However, in more recent games we have learned that the current Donkey Kong is in fact the second holder of that title, the first being the ape now known as DK’s grandfather Cranky Kong (not to be confused with either Swanky Kong or Lanky Kong…). It is, though, not quite clear when the current Donkey Kong took over from Cranky Kong. It certainly happened by Donkey Kong Island, but although the wiki claims that the Donkey Kong in Donkey Kong 3 is Cranky Kong, in fact there’s no real way of knowing. Essentially, it’s the Arnulf Problem all over again.

In fact, there’s a specific equivalent. At some point in the 960s, a series of English bishops wrote to Count Arnulf of Flanders about various matters. Problem is, because Arnulf I (the Great) was succeeded by Arnulf II, we don’t know which Arnulf they were writing to. It’s even a grandfather-grandson transition (although, unlike the current Donkey Kong, we know exactly what happened to Arnulf II’s father)!

So there you have it – if you’re a gamer, then tenth-century historians face your problems. And if you’re a tenth-century historian, then… let’s see if we can get a Mario Kart tournament going at the next IMC?

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Prologues and the 936 Diploma for Autun

Grgh. You find me, dear reader, in the midst of trying to write my paper for the big medieval congress in Leeds whilst at the same time not getting enough sleep, and so I’m going to spend this post hearkening back to something relaxing. You see, sometimes in the midst of doing more relevant research I take a little time to go and look at the prologues, or arengae, of royal diplomas – the little introductory spiel which gives the backstory and the motives behind the act the diploma commemorates (and from which the word ‘harangue’ is derived). It’s early days yet, but I have found one particularly interesting thing.

Do you remember that 936 diploma in favour of Autun we discussed earlier on here? Well, I found where its prologue came from, and it’s actually from an act in favour not of any institution in Autun, but a diploma for Saint-Germain d’Auxerre. That diploma, issued by Charles the Bald in 864, was a quite significant confirmation of the abbey’s goods, and was followed by a solemn charter from the episcopal synod which was taking place at the same time.

That the scribe used this in 936 shows us a few things. First, it emphasises that there wasn’t a representative from Autun there – presumably they would have brought their own diplomas as a model. Second, though, it illustrates the importance attached to the diploma. They could have used any text, but they chose one from a particularly elaborate and significant ninth-century document. This in turn pushes in favour of Louis IV and Hugh the Great actively trying to get Bishop Rotmund of Autun on side rather than just assuming he would be, which strengthens my point that Hugh is actively trying to promote Louis’ regime in Burgundy rather than making some token gestures. Fourth and finally, as I said in the previous post, it evidently worked because the church of Autun kept the diploma – but its prologue represents the irruption of another institution’s diplomatic tradition into that of Autun, and by closely studying that tradition we can glean more precious hints about the way diplomas were produced and the contexts in which people produced them.

Not the Peace of God

Since last week, I’ve spent much of my time thinking about the Council of Charroux in 989, trying to work out what on Earth they thought they were doing, because seriously you guys it’s –

OK, hang on. Let’s back up. I’ve blogged a couple of times here about the Peace of God, for one thing, and I don’t think I’ve explained what it is, or at least what it’s supposed to be. So, the Peace of God is a term modern historians apply to a series of Church councils held from the latter part of the tenth century onwards, intending to regulate violence within society, especially against the Church and the poor. These councils can be distinguished by 1) a vocabulary of ‘peace’ (pax), 2) legislative activity, 3) the swearing of oaths to enforce the peace, 4) some participation by the people (populus) and 5) the presence of saints’ relics. Basically every aspect of these councils is subject to serious debate: how much of a novelty were they? How important was popular participation? Who were the new rules aimed at? How far did lay rulers take the initiative in calling Peace councils? And so on.

The first council which modern historians call a Peace council was held at the abbey of Charroux, south of Poitiers, in 989. Thomas Head has analysed the context here, basically unconvincingly. He argues that the Council was held to promote good behaviour towards churches, and specifically to do so in the aftermath of a feud between the viscounts of Limoges and the lords of La Marche which had been prolonged and dangerous. He can only argue this, however, with some chronological slight-of-hand, because as far as we can tell the ‘feud’ in question took place over a couple of years in the mid-970s and was resolved a decade before the Council of Charroux.

So this raises the question, what did the bishops who assembled at Charroux and issued three canons against various nefarious persons think they were doing? Because it certainly wasn’t ‘holding a Peace of God council’. As I said, that is a term of art used by modern historians, and they couldn’t possibly have been thinking in those terms. It looks like it could have been a provincial council (i.e. an archbishop and his suffragans getting together), but that’s by itself weird. As far as I have been able to find, the last provincial council held in Second Aquitaine had been seven hundred years earlier, which is certainly a delay, but makes me fairly confident that holding a council was itself a novelty.

Let’s abandon, then, if only temporarily, the ‘Peace of God’ label and think about a ‘Pre-Millennial Aquitanian Conciliar Movement’. In eastern Aquitaine, that is, the Auvergne and its area, there is one of these, associated above all with Bishop Guy of Le Puy, who I think was possibly following in Stephen II of Clermont’s footsteps. Thing is, these are eastern and head more eastwards: Guy gets involved with Burgundian and Provençal bishops, but not with Gascon or Poitevin ones. There’s no overlap between any of the councils Guy is involved with and the bishops who were at Charroux. The language used at Charroux might also be different (although I need to look at that further).

But, as we’ve seen, Charroux is the first in the west. Does the political context help? Yeah, a little. The thing to note here is that there has been a fairly major shift in personnel in the preceding two years: a new viscount of Limoges, a new count of Angoulême, and a new archbishop of Bordeaux. Bishop Gilbert of Poitiers has been around for a while, but it’s only in the past few years he’s been showing up at the side of William Fierabras, duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitou. The time is ripe for the expansion of Poitevin influence over the neighbouring regions. And in fact this is more-or-less what happens: whereas before 989 the counts of Poitiers are fairly strictly confined to Poitou minus some very sporadic influence over the city of Limoges, afterwards their power is visibly wider-spread. This is probably deliberate – Head, in the article above, notes that Charroux was at the start of a programme of episcopal bolstering of William’s monastic reform programme over the next year or so. For that and other reasons, I think we could actually give William some initiative in calling the council, rather than just taking advantage of it.

The political context may just give us the ‘why then’, but it doesn’t answer the ‘why a legislative council’ question. Why not a lay assembly like the rulers of Neustria and indeed the dukes of Aquitaine have been holding for the previous century or so? This aspect of Charroux is why historians like to point at Guy of Le Puy – because he’s also been legislating at councils in the immediate vicinity within the last few years. It’s not him the bishops at Charroux themselves point at, though. The acts of the council begin ‘reinforced by the synodal authorities of our predecessors…’ Our only manuscript copy of these acts – as far as I know, the only one we can ever show to have existed, because it’s what the Early Modern printed editions are based on – was scribbled in the back of a very nice mid-ninth-century codex of conciliar decrees from Angoulême around the year 1000 (Vatican Lat. Reg. 1127, which is very well-digitised).

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And this in fact is it. Usefully, it comes with its own copyright notice. 

I therefore have to wonder whether or not these are the ‘synodal authorities’ the council is referring to…* It would make sense if they were, because the manuscript is full of tenth-century additions, mostly about councils – synodal blessings, canons, etc. Evidently the canons of Angoulême were interested in keeping up-to-date with best synodal practice.

Which is doubly interesting because, as I said, as far as we know there hadn’t been any provincial synods in Aquitaine since the later days of the Roman Empire. Abbo of Fleury thought that the Frankish kings had erred in not holding proper Church councils, so the idea that councils were important was evidently in the air. I’d love to find the origin of this idea. If it had been later, we might have said that Abbo was the source – our one manuscript of his canonical collection comes from Adhemar of Chabannes – but Charroux is too early. Lots to still research here, therefore (although not in the immediate future because I need to write my paper for the Leeds International Medieval Congress) – but I’m pretty sure that the term ‘Peace of God’ won’t help me get further with it.

* Head elsewhere argues that the opening of the council is a pastiche of the forged decretals of Pseudo-Isidore, which got me very excited, before a fair chunk of time spent searching the canons came up completely empty and left me shaking my head over how this claim got past the reviewers…

 

(Oh, and for good measure a translation of the source (again, it’s short)):

Reinforced by the synodal authorities of our predecessors, in the name of the Lord and our saviour Jesus Christ, on the 1st June, I, Archbishop Gunbald of Second Aquitaine, with all the bishops of this province, convened in the hall which was once called Charroux. Both bishops and also religious clerics, and yet more as well everyone of both sexes implored the help of divine piety in order that – by consideration of divine grace – the harmful things which we know have flourished for a long time in our abodes by pestilential customs due to the long delay in the Council might be eradicated and useful ones planted. We, therefore, specially gathered in the name of God, decree this which shines openly in the following.

  • An anathema against those who violate churches.

If anyone should violate a holy church or steal anything from there by force, unless they come quickly to satisfaction, let them be anathema.

  • Anathema against those plunder the goods of the poor.

If anyone should pillage a sheep or a cow or an ox or a ram or a goat or pigs from a farmer or other poor person, unless the victim were at fault, if they neglect to make amends for everything, let them be anathema.

  • Anathema against those who strike clerics.

If anyone should attack or capture a priest or deacon or any kind of cleric at all not bearing arms (that is, a shield, a sword, a hauberk, a helmet) but simply walking or staying at home, except if after examination by his own bishop he [the priest] had fallen into any sin, if he [the attacker] does not come to satisfaction, let them be held a sacrilege and outside the threshold of the holy Church of God.

I, Archbishop Gunbald of Bordeaux, subscribed.

I, Bishop Gilbert of Poitiers, subscribed.

I, Bishop Hildegar of Limoges, subscribed.

I, Bishop Frothar of Périgueux, subscribed.

I, Bishop Abbo of Saintes, subscribed.

I, Bishop Hugh of Angoulême, subscribed.

Exploring the Origins of the Peace of God

Ugh. Y’know, I spent my PhD avoiding the Peace of God movement, and then I started working later and further south, and now I’ve blogged about it, and on Tuesday I went to a really good paper about it, and then there’s all the Aquitanian stuff; and now I’ve kinda got to.

“Why so?” I hear you ask. Well, reader, there is at least a case to be made that if you trace back the intellectual genealogy of these things, you end up with long-time friend of the blog Bishop Stephen II of Clermont. But before I get there, we need to make it clear that you’ve got to be careful when talking about the Peace of God, because it’s not a term from the time, it’s a modern technical term. This might be less important when we’re dealing with the ‘second wave’ of councils around the 1020s, where the influence of one council on another is often very explicit, but in the late tenth century it’s not clear where to draw the line.

Take the 989 Council of Charroux, for instance, often claimed as one of the earliest Peace councils. Absolutely nothing about it cannot be paralleled from earlier tradition. The council claims that there has been a long delay in holding a council and that terrible things have arisen in the land because of it. The 909 Council of Trosly is a fairly direct comparison for this. (That said, one might note that Charroux claims that the council has been delayed and therefore evils have arisen whilst Trosly says that the council has been delayed because evils have arisen, which may indicate an actual strengthening of the power of the conciliar idea by 989; but really I don’t think the difference is particularly important.) Otherwise much of its rhetoric can be compared closely and in some cases verbatim with Carolingian legislation. Notably, the word ‘peace’ does not show up once.

Where it does show up is in 958, at that meeting in Clermont we’ve talked about before. The charter here says… actually, y’know what, it’s short, let’s give you the whole thing:

In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 958, in the first indiction, it happened in that year that the princes of the Auvergne rebelled against each other in turn. But, with God’s help and in the reign of Bishop Stephen of Auvergne, peace, which passeth everything, currently reigns within our borders.

Meanwhile, it happened that one of our princes, that is, Calixtus, had invaded some of the goods of another: he obtained, that is, the allod of one of the canons, named Amblard, not justly but unjustly.

For this reason, because of what he was holding unjustly, the aforesaid Calixtus and his wife Oda and their children, that is, Peter and Hugh and Stephen, came into the city of Clermont, where Stephen, bishop of that see, shines. Present there were Viscount Robert and Abbot Stephen and Abbot Robert and other lay and clerical lords and monks, and there the said Calixtus recognised that he had held that allod in Gergovie unjustly, and in the presence of that crowd he gave it up and commanded this notice of surrender be made, and he confirmed it with his own hand and had it confirmed by his children and his knights and by everyone.

Sign of Calixtus. Sign of Hugh. Sign of Stephen. Sign of Bishop Stephen. Sign of Viscount Robert. Sign of Abbot Robert. Sign of Abbot Stephen.

Done in the month of September, on Thursday, in the 4th year of the reign of King Lothar.

Theodoric subscribed.

Told you it was short. Anyway, this is the first use I can find of the combination of a meeting, the word ‘peace’, and the settlement of disputes in a context of violence to show up together in Aquitaine. These are all things that will be develop into the Peace of God, and I think it’s reasonable to see this as a fairly close ancestor, not least because the early ‘Peace of God’ is probably best seen as just one flavour of central Aquitanian discourse which happens to become unusually successful.

Question is, can we push it further back? What I’ve been looking at in the last couple of days is that reference to peace, pax omnia superat. This is a clear reference to Philippians 4:7, ‘the peace of God which passeth all understanding’ (pax Dei quae exsuperat omnem sensem, in the Vulgate – superat is a variant found in some versions of the Old Latin Bible).

Problem is, I’ve been coming up mostly empty. I tried looking in various places for liturgical parallels, and didn’t really find any, although one manuscript of conciliar ordines suggests using it in an assembly for dealing with quarrels, which would be absolutely ideal except that this is only found in a marginal annotation from Mainz. Otherwise, it is also quoted in a section of the 829 Council of Paris about how the council is going to settle civil discord, which given what we now know to be that council’s normative value would also be very useful, except that I can’t find that there’s a manuscript of the council itself in Clermont. I asked some real liturgical specialists, who actually know what they’re doing (thanks, Arthur!) and was told that Philippians is used for readings in Advent, but as this is a summer or early autumn document, I’m not sure there’s direct causation there…

So I wonder if this might not be, in some sense, where the ball starts rolling for this particular strand of political language. It’s not like ‘the New Testament’ is an implausible place for a medieval cleric to be looking for ideas, after all…

What do we want? Charter pedantry! When do we want it? NOW AND ALWAYS

(with apologies to Levi for stealing his tweet for the title)

I’ve mentioned before that putting up discarded blog ideas on Twitter lead to the discovery that I have no idea what you people want. And it turned out, when I did this ages ago, that at least two of you want a really nitpicky point about a 966 diploma of King Lothar for the Mont-Saint-Michel. It got put on the back-burner for a while because for a moment it looked like it was going to be trickier than I thought it was, but actually it isn’t, it’s written up, and it’s ready to rumble.

So, what’s the story? Well, first of all, there’s a relatively long-standing debate over whether this diploma is forged, and if not how much of it is interpolated. This has wider ramifications than just shoving another royal precept in the Unecht basket: the Mont-Saint-Michel was on the frontier between Bretons and Normans.

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Seen here backgrounding a tiki restaurant (source)

Our old friend Dudo of Saint-Quentin claims that Duke Richard I of Normandy (with whom we have some prior acquaintance*) sent in a bushel of monks to reform the abbey, but it doesn’t look like this dragged the Mount undisputedly into the Norman duke’s orbit, to say the least, and Dudo being Dudo, if it were just him we’d raise eyebrows about whether or not it happened. But, we have this diploma.

As it happens, some scholars have thought that Richard I messing around that far west is so unlikely that the diploma must be a fake. The argument is that it must have been produced in the early eleventh century – when we know the Norman rulers had a presence that far west – rather than the mid-tenth – when they can’t possibly have done. There is a prima facie case to answer here. The reason for that is that the diploma as it currently exists includes reference to a papal bull of Pope John XIII which was definitely an early eleventh-century forgery. So it’s definitely been interpolated; but was it outright forged? As I said, some scholars think so. I don’t.

That reason is the prologue. The diploma’s prologue begins ‘If We confirm that which Our predecessors, illuminated by divine esteem…’ It appears to have originally comes from the abbey of Saint-Denis in the 860s, and shows up in a few diplomas of Charles the Bald making Very Serious Arrangements for organising Church estates; but the specific version of the formula that the Mont-Saint-Michel diploma is copying was issued for the cathedral at Rouen in around 872. (Incidentally, actually looking this up required an awful lot of intense diploma research before I discovered there’s an entire book which is specifically a reference work for this topic, which would have resolved the whole question in about five minutes…)

The fact that this formula was in the Rouen Cathedral archive and nowhere else goes well with another detail from the diploma. Lothar’s act doesn’t mention anyone from the Mont itself petitioning for it, but it does say that Archbishop Hugh of Rouen did. Normandy in 966 was not exactly drowning in very solemn royal diplomas (and, actually, if Hugh – originally a monk from Saint-Denis – was familiar with his old house’s archive he would have had extra associations with prologues of this type), so the most plausible scenario is that Hugh brought this formula with him when petitioning Lothar for the diploma. Point is, having that prologue in this diploma requires that it was produced for a Norman visit from Rouen to Lothar’s court in the 960s rather than cooked up out of whole cloth in the Avranchin in the 1020s.

This in turn means that we can say with some confidence that the Norman rulers were successfully claiming authority over Brittany in the second half of the tenth century. In general, I think in general the evidence for Norman involvement in the area which would eventually become western Normandy tends to be downplayed, not least because it looks weird by the standards of people expecting the strong and stable government of early eleventh-century upper Normandy – but it’s pretty convincing for a vaguely-conceived but nonetheless-important hegemony over a factionalised borderland.

* Back when I was first drafting this, I got @-ed into a discussion thread about the then-recent proposal to move the Bayeux Tapestry, and it turned out that people are actually reading my articles; and I know that’s the point but I still got unnerved. Does anyone else find this?

Source Translation: A Flemish Genealogy

HERE BEGINS THE GENEALOGY OF THE MOST NOBLE EMPERORS AND KINGS OF THE FRANKS, DICTATED BY KING CHARLES, WHO RESTORED COMPIÈGNE AFTER TWO FIRES.

The most noble Ansbert begat Arnold from Blitchildis, daughter of Chlothar, king of the Franks; and Feriolus and Moderic and Tarsicia.

Arnold begat Arnulf. Arnulf begat Flodulf, Walchisus, and Anschisus.

Walchisus begat the confessor of the lord Wandregisl.

Duke Anschisus begat the elder Pippin.

The elder Pippin, the duke, begat the elder Charles.

The elder Charles, the duke, begat Pippin, Carloman, Grifo, and Bernard from the queen; Remigius and Jerome from a concubine.

King Pippin begat Charles and Carloman and Gisla from Queen Bertrada.

Emperor Charles begat Charles, Louis and Pippin, Rotrude and Bertha from Queen Hildegard; Drogo and Hugh and Rothaida from a concubine.

Emperor Louis begat Lothar, Pippin and Louis, Rotrude and Hildegard from Queen Ermengard; Charles and Gisla from Empress Judith.

Emperor Lothar begat Louis, Lothar and Charles from Queen Ermengard.

King Louis begat Carloman, Louis and Charles from Queen Emma.

King Carloman begat King Arnulf.

King Arnulf begat Louis from Queen Uota; Zwentibald, though, from a concubine.

Emperor Charles begat from Queen Ermentrude four sons and the same number of daughters, that is: Louis, Charles, Carloman and Lothar; and + Judith* and Hildegard, Ermentrude and Gisla.

([in the margin:] You will find more on Judith on the next page.)

King Louis begat Louis and Carloman and Hildegard from Ansgard, called queen; and Charles (posthumously) and Ermentrude from Queen Adelaide.

King Charles begat from Queen Frederuna Ermentrude, Frederuna, Adelaide, Gisla, Rotrude and Hildegard; and from a concubine, Arnulf, Drogo, Roric, and Alpaidis. Then, after Queen Frederuna died, he joined himself in marriage to another, a queen named Eadgifu, from whom he begat a son named Louis of handsome appearance. And later, from Queen Gerberga, Lothar, Charles, Louis and Matilda.

HERE BEGINS THE HOLY BLOODLINE OF THE MOST GLORIOUS COUNT LORD ARNULF AND HIS SON BALDWIN, MAY THE LORD DEIGN TO PROTECT THEM IN THIS WORLD.

Baldwin, mightiest of counts, joined the beautiful and very prudent Judith to himself in the union of matrimony.

From her, he begat a son, placing on him his own name, that is, Baldwin.

This Baldwin, having taken a wife from the noblest stock of the kings beyond the sea, got from her two sons of good character, of whom he named one Arnulf and his brother Adelolf. This last was, with God’s permission, rescued from the burden of this world, and is known to be buried in the monastery of the holy confessor of Christ Bertin. If he had lived in this world for a longer time, his valour would have been the greatest joy to his people.

Lord Arnulf, now, most venerable of counts and greatly beloved to lord Jesus Christ, excels in prudence, is strong in counsel, shining with all goodness, a most perfect restorer of churches of God, a most pious consoler of widows, orphans, and wards, a most clement dispenser of help in necessity to all who seek it from him.

What more? If someone were to have a hundred mouths and tongues, they could never speak of the gifts of his kindnesses. Indeed, because we can in no way say enough about his thousand goodnesses, let us speak a little of many.

For there is a monastery in the palace of Compiègne, named in honour of the holy mother of God Mary, which he honoured with many donations, that is, in gold and silver and cloths. He often distributed lavish wealth in coins to the clerics serving the Lord therein. We know for certain that the bier of the holy witnesses of Christ Cornelius and Cyprian was decorated by him in the purest silver, weighing ten pounds. He bestowed that noblest of signs, which is called by another name a bell, to the same holy place. Nor is this to be wondered at, because the said place was in fact founded by his great-grandfather Emperor Charles, who was called ‘the Bald’, with workmanship marvellous in every way.

Now, the aforesaid venerable count Arnulf took a wife named Adele, daughter of lord count Heribert and niece of two kings of the Franks, to wit, Odo and Robert. From her, by God’s protection, he begat a son of handsome appearance named Baldwin, beautiful in his face, beloved to God and dear in every way to his followers, noblest of counts, after the example of his father a lover of churches of God, humble, mild, pious, modest, kind, sober, and in addition moreover replete with all goodness.

He, reaching the appropriate age, by God’s concession and his father’s will, took a wife whose nobility was worthy of his own, named Matilda, daughter of a most noble prince named Hermann. From them, by the grace of supernal largess, may his distinguished father and mother see sons of sons (if it pleases God), to the third and fourth generation, and may bodily health and complete safety and absolution from every crime be conceded to him, now and here and in world without end. Amen.

May this be done by the mercy of Almighty God the Father from heaven, amen. May this be done by the concession of His son lord Jesus Christ our Lord, amen. May this be done by the bestowal of the supernal grace of the paraclete Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son, amen, amen, amen.

The priest called by the name Witger desires this, that the said count should be healthy for a long time. Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen.

Let whoever reads this venerable genealogy of lord Arnulf, the most renowned prince of this world, and his son the most noble Baldwin, prostrate themselves for them in prayer, and sing and cry with a pure heart:

A PRAY FOR LORD ARNULF AND HIS SON BALDWIN.

May God Almighty, a strong lord, pious and clement, king of kings and lord of the lordly, save lord Arnulf, most glorious of counts, and his son, beloved to God, named Baldwin. May He rule, guard, protect and defend, preserve and support, exalt and comfort, safeguard and strengthen them all the days of their lives in this present world. After a long life in this world, with the intervening mertis of all the saints, may they deserve to go to the glory of paradise, by the gift of Him by Whom they were created. Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen.

Having recently received the offprints of my article on the Flemish succession crisis of 965, I thought that whilst I ponder what exactly to do with about fifty paper copies of the thing, I could share with you an important bit of evidence for late tenth-century Flanders, the Genealogia Arnulfi Comitis. This genealogy was written around 960 by a priest named Witger who was probably but not certainly associated with the Flemish abbey of Saint-Bertin.

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Where I have actually been, although the town of Saint-Omer is not what you’d call a tourist hotspot… (photo by author)

It’s a unique document for its period – other noble families in the West Frankish kingdom did not write their genealogies this way – or indeed at all, the big explosion in genealogical literature is in the eleventh century – and they didn’t go out their way to link themselves to the Carolingians the way Witger does here. In fact, the first half of this is an early tenth-century genealogy dictated by Charles the Simple back in the day, which Witger is using to give the tie more credence.

Arnulf was not, after all, particularly closely related to the ruling Carolingian king, Lothar; and his father, Baldwin the Bald (yes, I know), had not been particularly interested in pursuing his Carolingian roots specifically. Sure, Arnulf was (we know from one source) named after the Carolingians’ great ancestor Arnulf of Metz; but his brother was named after their grandfather King Æthelwulf of Wessex, and it seems to be kingship in general rather than dynasty in particular motivating their choice.

This all changed in the 960s. Arnulf had gobbled up a lot of land very quickly over the course of his decades-long reign, and made a lot of enemies on his southern border. His son Baldwin being quite belligerent, he needed a southern ally and fast; and wouldn’t you know it, there was the new king, Lothar, to whom he was distantly related. This genealogy’s oddness comes about because it is the product of a very serious charm offensive to woo the young ruler into supporting Arnulf. Note how the genealogy describes Arnulf’s political actions (i.e. endowing the church at Compiègne – which was the real emotional heart of the descendants of Charles the Bald) as motivated by family concerns – this is the flipside of trying to persuade Lothar that their kinship ties matter.

Did it work? Well, sort of. If you want to know more, you’re going to have to read the article…

Some Issues in Aquitanian History pt 5: Making Peace

Back in March, we covered the endemic conflict which started up in Auvergne in the late 950s; now, it’s time to see how it ended. The main players, if you remember, were King Lothar, Bishop Stephen II of Clermont, and Count William Towhead of Poitou. When we left off, Stephen, his carefully-cultivated closeness to the king under severe pressure thanks to William’s belligerence, was off to Rome. But life in Aquitaine went on without him. In 960, the knights of Nevers cathedral were attacked, seemingly unsuccessfully, by a guy named Airard. Airard is not, at this time, such a common name; and it is striking that the only man with that name I know of in the 950s and 960s is a follower of William Towhead – it looks awfully like William’s side making an unsuccessful attack on Nevers.

Important men, however, were gearing up to make peace, and there’s a Provence connection here. The archbishop of Lyon, at the time, was a man named Amblard, who actually came from Auvergne – much of what we know about him comes from his donation of the little abbey of Ris, north-east of Clermont, to Cluny.

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And here it is, looking very rural-French. (source)

We know from other evidence that bishops in the West Frankish royal circle are getting together with Amblard of Lyon throughout this period – they sent round letters condemning a man named Isuard for stealing Church property, but this can’t have been the only thing they were talking about. We also know that in 960, Lothar confirmed some land just west of Charlieu, on the border between Burgundy and Aquitaine, to the monastery of Savigny, one of the most important in Amblard’s diocese; and we also know that in 960, Amblard made a deal with Bishop Ebalus of Limoges, William Towhead’s brother and a major prop of his regime, regarding some property claimed by the church of Lyon in the Limousin.

This last one is really quite important – Amblard is the only figure we know of with connections both to the Poitevins, and to the Auvergne, and to the West Frankish king. If he wasn’t trying to mediate a settlement in the Auvergne, I’ll eat my hat.

The problem is that, if the attack of Nevers is anything to go by, William wasn’t buying into the need to make a deal. Lothar had to apply a stick: he granted the pagus of Poitou to his cousin, Hugh the Great’s son Hugh Capet. Hugh the Great had, in 955, tried to capture Poitiers himself, although nothing had come of it. Nothing was to come of this grant either, and I think it is much more readily explicable as Lothar trying to use Hugh to intimidate William Towhead than as a serious grant of title.

If it was, it worked. In 961, Lothar met the Aquitanians , probably in Pouilly where his father Louis IV had met them in 954. The following year, Lothar granted a diploma to William Towhead, who very shortly thereafter retired into a monastery where he quickly died. At the same time, Stephen of Clermont issued his second charter, which we’ve talked about before. As I said then, Stephen is clearly renewing his local authority by re-emphasising his closeness to the king; but at the same time, it looks like William was given an honourable avenue into retirement, meaning that Stephen should be able to reclaim his hegemony in Auvergne. The bishop is back, baby!

Of course, it wasn’t that easy; and after this date, neither is researching this topic. I’m plugging on with it, but this is where my actual narrative stops for the moment. So you may be waiting a little while for the next of these…