Charter a Week 21: Breton Quasi-Kingship

So I can’t remember if I said I was going to do this l – don’t think so – but some years, there aren’t interesting charters specifically for that year, or there are interesting but undated charters I don’t have anywhere specific to put. Today, we’re dealing with both: 897 was a quiet year in the West Frankish civil war, and I think it’s time we turned our attention westwards. After all, there are kings in Gaul who aren’t Franks.

Well – sort of…

Cartulaire Noir de Saint-Maurice d’Angers no. 12 (26th November c. 900, Plessé)

In the name of our lord God Almighty on high. I, Alan, by grace of God pious and pacific king of Brittany.

If We lend the ears of Our Highness to the just and reasonable petitions of Our followers and bring them to effect, We repeat works of royal highness and because of this We render them more ready in services of Our friendship and loyalty.

Therefore, let the skill of all the Bretons faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, present and future, know for certain that the venerable Raino, humble bishop of the church of Angers, a friend beloved of Us, coming before Our Highness, requested that We might bestow by Our munificence a certain abbey, named Saint-Serge, in the district of Anjou near the city of Angers, to be firmly held and securely possessed by him during his lifetime and by his successors soldiering for the blessed Mauritius through a precept of Our authority, and in bestowing confirm it.

We proffered assent to his reasonable petition for his very worthy services, and We commanded this precept of Our Magnitude to be made and given to him, for the remedy of the soul of Charles [the Bald] and Pacswethen [of Vannes] and my soul and my sons, through which We concede and confirm the aforesaid abbey in its entirety, that is, with fields, vineyards, woods, meadows, pastures, and also estates justly and legally pertaining there, to be held by him and all his successors for all of their lifetimes, such that if anyone after this day, whether I or any of my successors, which I little believe, might presume to generate a calumny against him, let them incur the wrath of God Almighty and all the saints, and let them be damned by anathema maranatha for ever and ever.

But that this precept of Our largess might endure firm and undisturbed, We commanded it be signed by Our signet and We decreed it be strengthened by my sons and followers.

Sign of Alan, most glorious of kings.

Given on the sixth kalends of December [26th November], in the …th indiction, in the reign of Alan in Brittany.

Enacted at the castle of Plessé.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

[Column 1] S. Oreguen, his wife. S. Bishop Bili [of Vannes]. S. Bishop Fulcher [of Nantes]. S. Guerech, Alan’s son. S. Pacswethen, his brother.

[Column 2] S. Budic. S. Conwalon. S. Camraladen. S. Turimcader. S. Blenlivet. S. Laurence. S. Herluin. S. Trumnal. S. Curbreth. S. Riwallon. S. Salomon.

So this is interesting. I have in fact written about this in print, so if you want to find my publishable thoughts, I’d say go there (or, given how difficult it can be to find easily-accessible copies of Viking and Medieval Scandinavia, e-mail me for a PDF). The abbreviated version, though, is as follows.

There’s by this point a long-standing tradition of several decades within Brittany of having their rulers imitating Carolingian royal self-presentation, but not completely. Hence, Alan the Great here, ‘pious and pacific king of Brittany’, has issued something which could almost be a Carolingian royal diploma, except for the very uncharacteristic presence of a witness list. What this adds up to, I argue, is a status of basically-official quasi-royalty, of the Breton rulers being ‘kind of’ kings.

At the turn of the tenth century, after all, the Bretons have spend decades doing alright for themselves. When they’re in a state of civil war – and often they are – things are bad, but under one ruler, things damp down for long enough to do some real damage to West Frankish interests. Alan’s predecessor(-ish) Salomon managed to grab Nantes and Rennes, as well as what is now western Normandy; and Anjou is similarly a Breton sphere of influence.

A view of modern Angers (source)

This is all going to change with the advent of Viking attacks, but for the moment this charter is a remarkable display of self-confidence of a Breton rulership increasingly presenting itself in language taken from Carolingian kingship.


Charter a Week 20: Peace, Saint-Denis, and Who’s King, Again?

A two-for-one special today, folks, as once again we pick apart the tangled relationship between Charles the Simple and Zwentibald of Lotharingia. Let’s start with the recipient of both these diplomas: the priory of Salonnes, in Lotharingia. Salonnes was a priory of Saint-Denis, originally given to that abbey by Abbot Fulrad in the time of Charlemagne centuries earlier. One particular winter’s day, a group of Sandionysian monks, accompanied by the magnates Reginar Longneck and Odoacer of Bliesgau, petitioned Zwentibald to restore to the Parisian abbey the cell of Salonnes, which had apparently been lost to Saint-Denis in the mid-ninth century.

What’s going on here? Ultimately, this is all part of the fallout from the failed seige of Laon we mentioned last week. Having originally agreed to help Charles the Simple, Zwentibald managed to alienate Charles’ camp, who sent peace envoys to Odo. Zwentibald himself made a truce with Bishop Dido of Laon and withdrew back to Lotharingia. And then he issued this diploma:

DD Zw no. 7 (22nd January 896, Schweighausen) = ARTEM no. 3041 = LBA no. 8310

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Zwentibald, by the procuration of divine clemency king.

It is therefore meet for Us, who enjoy royal power, to above all place the fear of God before all mortal business, and to love and build up the places which Our ancestors built in honour of God before other worldly things, because, as We believe, for this reason God, for love of Whom We do this, be more pleased with Us, as well as his saints, whose service We worthily venerate.

Wherefore let it come to the notice of the whole Church trusting in God that the congregation of the blessed martyr Dionysius and his companions sent one of their brothers to make a claim for the goods which are sited in Our realm, which Our ancestors and religious men had given to the aforesaid martyrs for their salvation to be used for the lighting and for the advantage of the brothers and to take care of the poor and for the honour of that place.

We, hearing their claim, because of the intervention of Our followers Odoacer [of Bliesgau] and Reginar [Long-Neck], restore to them a certain little abbey sited in the district of Saulnois, named Salonnes, for the abovesaid uses with all its appendages. Concerning this little abbey, they asked Us to concede two estates specially for the lighting and the care of the poor, that is, Suisse and Baronville, with all their appendages. We consented to this for the salvation of Our soul and Our ancestors, and We decreed it be done, and also We conceded all the demesne of the tithes of that little abbey, as is done throughout the abbey of Saint-Denis, for the use of the paupers and the poor pensioners who serve Saint Privatus each day and offer offerings daily, at their request, for common advantage; and let no-one ever come as a dominator who might dare to infringe this.

If anyone should begin to violently infringe this alms, first let them incur the wrath of God and His saints, to whose places We decreed this concession be made and – that I might shortly conclude – let them remain bound by the chains of anathema now and forever unless they come to their senses, and let the present edict endure firm and stable. And that it might be more credible to everyone who sees it, in God’s name, We confirmed it with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of lord Zwentibald, most glorious of kings.

Waldger the notary witnessed on behalf of Archbishop and High Chancellor Ratbod.

Given on the 11th kalends of February (22nd January), in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 896, in the 14th indiction, in the first year of the reign of lord Zwentibald.

Enacted at Schweighausen.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

zwent 896
Zwentibald’s diploma, from the Marburg Lichtbildarchiv älterer Originalurkunden linked above.

This diploma represents a sign of peace between Odo and Zwentibald. The petitioners, Reginar and Odoacer, are Zwentibald’s “western specialists”, particularly involved with West Frankish affairs, and their role in petitioning for the diploma probably is a symbol that the relevant parts of Zwentibald’s court are behind the deal. Odo and Zwentibald never seem to have been what you’d call ‘friendly’, but Zwentibald’s active engagement outside his own kingdom was over.

896 was a rather more turbulent year for Charles. His supporters tried hard to make peace with Odo, but their efforts were thwarted by Baldwin the Bald, count of Flanders, who disrupted the assemblies at which Odo was trying to make peace. One by one, Charles’ supporters abandoned him and went over to Odo, probably to get protection from Baldwin. Charles’ supporters had spent the winter of 895/896 ravaging Baldwin’s land, and Baldwin was out for revenge – later (we’re not quite sure when), he had one of them, Heribert I of Vermandois, murdered. Given that, as we are told at several points, Odo had taken all of Charles’ supporters lands and fortresses, going back over, in the absence of a peace treaty, was probably a necessity.

This left Charles in a pickle. As more and more of his men defected, his cause began to look weaker and weaker, and so more and more of his men defected. Eventually, even Archbishop Fulk of Rheims left Charles’ side, and Charles withdrew to Lotharingia. There he issued this diploma:

DD CtS no. 7 (25th July 896, Gondreville) = ARTEM no. 204 = DK 7.xx

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by God’s mercy king.

Certainly, if We lend the ears of Our Piety to the petitions of Our followers of Our Highness and especially those soldiering for God, We do not doubt that whatever We bestow on that which is given over to divine worship (*) will benefit Us in every way, and through this We believe God on High will establish and ennoble the garland of Our realm.

Wherefore, We wish it to be known to all of those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, to wit, present and future, that, for the increase of Our reward and for the remedy of Our soul and Our relatives, and through the appeal of Our venerable and dearest mother Adelaide on behalf of the brothers of the monastery of Salonnes, for veneration and love of the most holy martyrs resting therein, that is, the nourishing Privatus, Frodoald and Iddo, and Dionysius, most blessed of martyrs, Our lord and patron, to whom as well the same place is subject, because the same brothers are seen to be afflicted with the poverty of want, and their prebends are known to have been completely destroyed and taken away, it pleased Us and seemed just to honour the same holy place and the brothers strenuously serving God therein through a precept of Our authority concerning the goods of the abbey, so that they might hold them more freely and firmly, and so that they might more fully delight in exhorting the Lord for the peace and stability of the realm.

These goods, then, are in the district of Chaumontois, to wit, the estate of Loromontzey with a church in honour of Saint Martin on the river Loro, with the small estates nearby, as follows: Vicherey, Morelmaison, Maconcourt and Gironcourt-sur-Vraine; and in the district of Charmois, in the place which is called Montenoy, 1 manse with a vineyard beholden to it, and in Pompey 1 vineyard of 10 pecks, and next to the aforesaid monastery, in the estate named Courcelles [since destroyed], 2 manses with a vineyard of 40 pecks, [{interpolated:} and in Ancy-sur-Moselle, 12 manses with a vineyard of 100 pecks, and in Bey-sur-Seille, 7 manses, 1 church].

We commanded this precept of Our Highness concerning these to be made and given to the same brothers, through which We order and command and in God and because of God witness that no king, no abbot or anyone endowed with any dignity should dare to steal, alienate or by any trick purloin the aforesaid goods from the aforesaid holy place or the brothers assiduously serving God there. Rather, let the same brothers without any contradiction have, hold and possess the same goods with everything pertaining to them, with bondsmen of both sexes dwelling therein or justly and legally pertaining to the same, with lands cultivated and uncultivated, meadows, woods, vineyards, pastures, waters and watercourses, roads out and in, and with all legitimate borders as prebends or for their necessary uses, and let them have free and very firm power in everything, by canonical authority, to do whatever henceforth they might elect to do.

And that this largess of Our authority might endure stable and undisturbed through times to come, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Robert the notary, at the request of King Charles, wrote and subscribed this.

Given in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 896, in the 15th indiction, and in the 4th year of the reign of King Charles, on the 8th kalends of August [25th July].

[Adelaide and Rothildis [daughter of Charles the Bald] appealed for this.]

Enacted at Gondreville. Happily in the name of God, amen.

(*) There’s no way around the fact that the opening lines of this diploma don’t actually make grammatical sense, so I’ve done the best I can.

cts 896
Charles’ diploma, from the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above.

I admit, if I were in Charles’ shoes here, I’d be a bit worried. If all my supporters had abandoned me, and I were stuck at Gondreville, I might get to wondering about the fate of the bastard son of Lothar II, Hugh, who had tried to become king in the 880s and who had been arrested and imprisoned at Gondreville. This diploma is, it’s fair to say, issued at a low ebb. Note that there isn’t even an archchancellor here…

In relation to the last one, this diploma has caused confusion. Is it expressing alliance with Zwentibald or rivalry? Well, first of all, I don’t believe for a second Charles is living off Gondreville without at least Zwentibald’s tacit approval. More relevantly, I don’t actually think it’s primarily related to the Lotharingian king at all. Koziol has looked at this diploma as Charles’ way of connecting himself to Saint Dionysius without actually controlling Saint-Denis, and I’m sure that’s part of it; but Koziol’s analysis assumes as its base that Charles is trying to rival Odo here. Certainly the king and the anti-king are not best buds, but by this point attempts at compromise and peace-making have been ongoing for a year. What I think Charles is actually doing here, therefore, is trying to appeal to Odo. He might have no supporters, but he’s still a king, he’s still got a connection to one of the premier royal saints, and if you can negotiate with Zwentibald, why not with him? This diploma, slightly weirdly-redacted as it is, is a message to Odo saying Charles is still a legitimate king and can’t be ignored.


Source Translation: Dynasty and Rebellion

Flodoard of Rheims, Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, IV.v, pp. 380-383 (c. 894).

[Fulk] sent letters to the Transrhenian king Arnulf [of Carinthia] for the sake of King Charles [the Simple], whom he had anointed as king whilst he was still a boy, and he explained the causes for [Charles’] elevation, for he had heard that Arnulf’s mind had been turned against him because of what he had done. He noted that after the death of Emperor Charles [the Fat], Arnulf’s uncle, he had set out for Arnulf’s service, wanting to receive his dominion and governance – but the king had sent him away without any counsel or consolation. Therefore, since no hope remained for [Fulk] in [Arnulf], he was compelled to receive the dominion of [Arnulf’s] man, that is, Odo, who was unconnected to the royal family and tyrannically abused royal power, but whose dominion he had reluctantly endured until now. So, because he desired Arnulf’s dominion, he therefore set out for his service but after he could get no advice from him, he did the only thing which was left to him, which was to choose to have the only other king whom they had from the royal line and whose predecessors and brothers had been kings.

He also rendered account for why they had not done it before (for which the same king blamed him). Because, when Emperor Charles died, and Arnulf himself was unwilling to receive the rule of the realm, this Charles [the Simple] was still very little, both in body and in wisdom, and was unsuitable for governing a kingdom, and given the threat of persecution by the Northmen, it was at that time too dangerous to elect him. But since they had seen him reach an appropriate age, when he knew to proffer assent to those wholesomely giving him counsel, they received him in a manner appropriate with God’s honour, that he might take care of the realm, wanting to establish him in such a manner that he might be useful to this realm and Arnulf. Against the accusation that they had presumed to do this without Arnulf’s counsel, he asserted that they had followed the custom of the Frankish people, whose custom had always been that when the king died, they would elect another from the royal family and lineage without respect to or inquiry after the wishes of any greater or more powerful king. Having made the king by this custom, they wanted to commit him to [Arnulf’s] fidelity and counsel, so that he might use his aid and counsel in everything, and so that both the king and the whole realm might be subdued to his precepts and ordinances.

Thereafter, because he had heard it suggested to the king that he had done this against the king’s fidelity and for his own private gain, he said that the very Anskeric [bishop of Paris] who was known to have bandied this about had, before the archbishop himself had tried to do anything about this matter, come to him in the presence of Counts Heribert [I of Vermandois] and Ecfrid [of Artois] and sought both counsel and aid on what he should do about the commands of Odo, who had ordered him to do insupportable things. He asked for counsel on behalf of Gozfred’s sons concerning the evil which Odo was trying to do to them; and they asked that a chief should be established by common counsel who was such a man that they might be secure after having submitted themselves to him, intending either on Guy [of Spoleto] or on this Charles of the royal line. At the same time, those who were there considered whom they would be better advised to attend, and it seemed to them, for the sake of gaining the realm’s advantage and out of fear of contradiction on Arnulf’s part, and because the rulership of a royal race is right and proper, that they should go over to this Charles. They believed that Arnulf would be happy for his kinsman, and defend him and the realm.

But he had heard it bandied about that he had done this on behalf of Guy [of Spoleto], so that by this wile he might secretly bring him into the realm and, having dismissed the boy Charles, go over to Guy’s side. He asserted that this was a knowing falsehood bandied against him by the envy of the jealous. For the sort of man who promulgated such slanders knew that he could be accused in the same way; he, on the other hand, knew himself neither to be such a man nor to be born from such parents. The king’s predecessors had never found such trickery in his forefathers, whom they considered proven as completely loyal and useful for the realm, and for that reason they honourably elevated them. Wherefore he blushed on the king’s behalf, that he would believe this of him or brand himself with such infamy.

Finally, because he had heard that it had been said to Arnulf that this Charles was not Louis [the Stammerer’s] son, he asserted that he could not believe that there was anyone who, if they saw him and knew his relatives’ appearance, would not recognise him as coming from the royal lineage: he bore certain signs of his father Louis by which he could be known as his son. He therefore asked Arnulf’s royal majesty that he should worthily accept this truth and that no-one be able to turn his mind against his innocent king, his kinsman, but that he have examined in his presence and the presence of his followers whether matters were as he had stated, and lead affairs to their due conclusion, thinking of how his ancestors had governed the state of the realm and how the descent of royal highness had always hitherto flourished, but how at that time just that prince and his little kinsman Charles remained from the whole royal family; and he should consider what might come to pass if the end due to everyone should ask for him, since there were already some many kings unconnected to the royal family, and there would be yet more who would affect for themselves the name of kings. Who would help his son ascend to the inheritance of the realm due to him after his death, if it happened that his kinsman Charles were toppled?

He also added that it was known that amongst nearly all the peoples, the Frankish people were accustomed to have hereditary kings, offering the witness of the blessed Pope Gregory on this, and adding as well from German books the story of old king Ermenric, who sent all his offspring to die by the impious counsels of one of his counsellors; and he begged that the king should not acquiesce to wicked counsels, but should have mercy on this people and aid the failing royal race, taking care that the dignity of his line should be strengthened in his own time, and that those who became kings from unconnected families, or who desired so to become, should not prevail against those to whom royal honour was due because of their family. He stated that he had sent Aletramnus to suggest to the same Arnulf that he should command any of those who had established Charles as king he pleased to come into his service, and they would reasonably show before his sublimity that matters were as he had described.

He also solicited and prayed that the king should deal with the aforewritten material with a receptive heart, and know of [Fulk’s] devotion to and intent on his fidelity, that Charles should respect [Arnulf’s] counsel in everything he did, and remain protected by his piety, and that no-one should be able to turn the heart of the king away from helping the realm or Charles.

This isn’t the first time justifying rebellion has come up on this blog, and it isn’t the first time that dynasty has either. What’s significant about this letter is that it is more-or-less the key piece of evidence for historians who want to argue that 888 represents a ‘dynastic crisis’ as opposed to just a succession crisis. And if you read it you can see why: if you’re looking for a statement about the paramount importance of blood, it’s right hee.

It’s just a shame the letter itself is such a crock. As we talked about on Monday, Archbishop Fulk of Rheims was using Charles the Simple as figurehead for his own rebellion. This letter was written to defend himself against the charge of – as he puts it – putting his private interests ahead of that of the realm. Thing is, it’s clear from reading it that this is exactly what Fulk has done. He has to defend himself from charge after charge after charge – that he didn’t crown Charles in 888 (he didn’t), that he’s going against Arnulf in crowning him now (he is), that he’s working on behalf of Guy of Spoleto (he probably isn’t, but given that Guy is who he did crown in 888, it’s a reasonable belief), and so on. It’s also clear from the letter that he has few friends at Arnulf’s court, and that some people who he thought were originally on side have turned out not to be – Bishop Anskeric of Paris comes in for a drubbing here. Even worse, he doesn’t have real arguments against the Guy of Spoleto point, which is probably the key charge against his own rhetoric – note how what he says in response amounts to ‘I know you are, but what am I?’

Fulk’s appeals availed him nought. It’s clear that justifying his rebellion in terms of Charles’ Carolingian blood did not gain him much support, and may in fact have caused contemporaries to view his cause with a certain degree of cynicism. Equally, it didn’t persuade Arnulf. If Fulk hoped that an appeal to family would help, he was sorely mistaken. Arnulf stayed on Odo’s side throughout the 890s, fairly constantly, and Fulk himself was given the cold shoulder. I think what is happening here is that Fulk has picked out a fringe idea to legitimise himself in the hope that it’ll appeal to Arnulf’s self-interest, but that idea is in fact too fringe to be convincing.

Charter a Week 19: The Attempted Conquests of King Zwentibald

Enough hanging around in the provinces! Let’s get to where the action is really happening: the civil war, baby! We’ve had cause to mention a couple of times that, beginning in 893, there was a rebellion launched against Odo in the name of Charles the Simple. The underlying cause for this appears to be that, for whatever reason, Archbishop Fulk of Rheims did not like Odo – he had, in 888, tried to crown his relative Guy of Spoleto king instead, although that hadn’t taken – but more broadly, given that the rebels were largely confined to the north-east, the immediate catalyst seems to have been Odo’s execution of his cousin Walker, who held the castle of Laon. (There may be parallels as well to the north-east’s distrust for King Carloman II a decade earlier.)

Things did not go terribly well for the rebels. After Easter 893, Fulk and Heribert I of Vermandois, with the young Charles and an army, set out against King Odo. When they met him, the Latin of our main source, the Annales Vedastini, does not make it fully clear what happened, but it is evident that the rebels lost an important political struggle to win over Richard the Justiciar, William the Pious, and Count Adhemar of Poitiers, who were won over to Odo. Odo then won a strategic victory against Fulk that autumn, forcing him to leave the kingdom and spend the winter negotiating for peace (probably, in Fulk’s case, in bad faith).

The following year, Odo took Rheims, forcing Fulk and Charles to flee to Arnulf of Carinthia, who apparently received them warmly but did not give them any support against Odo. Charles now went to Richard the Justiciar, who looks to have been at best lukewarm about having Fulk and Charles there. By the start of 895, then, Charles and Fulk were in a bit of a spot.

All was not lost, though. Whilst this drama had been playing out in the West, Arnulf himself had been trying to make his bastard son Zwentibald king of Lotharingia. In 895, he succeeded. Zwentibald, however, appears to have felt like expanding his kingdom. Thus, although his father Arnulf was a supporter of Odo, Zwentibald provided military support for Charles. And thus, this week’s charter:

DD Zw no. 3 (14th August 895, Trosly)

In the name of the holy and inseparable Trinity. Zwentibald, by the assent of supernal clemency king.

Let all those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us know that Our beloved and faithful archbishop and chancellor Ratbod [of Trier] appealed to Us that We might concede something to a certain congregation of monks which is the congregation of the holy archangel Michael for their prebend. We, not refusing his petition, for the increase of Our reward, conceded to them a manor named Buxières-sous-les-Côtes and Heudicourt-sous-les-Côtes with everything which pertains to that benefice, that is, forty-four manses, and one manse in Refroicourt with a mill, as well as one chapel in Bannoncourt with its appendages, and it is sited in the district of Verdunois, in Ricuin [of Verdun]’s county; and in the district of Scarponnais, in Iremfred’s county, one chapel in the estate of Essey with its appendages.

And all this which We concede to the aforesaid abbey used to previously pertain not in fact to the allowance for the monks, but was specifically rendered to the abbot. But We considered their poverty, which stemmed from the oppression of the gentiles, and with the consent of their abbot Stephen We concede to them the aforesaid goods with everything which is seen to pertain there, that is, bondsmen, fields cultivated and uncultivated, mobile and immobile goods, meadows, vineyards, pastures, woods, waters and watercourses, with paths and impassable land, with roads out and in, with incomes claimed and to be claimed, so that they might more freely and faithfully pour out prayers for Us before the Lord.

For this reason, We commanded this precept be written on this matter, so that the present concession might endure firm and uncorrupted. In addition We, holding the pen in Our hand, signed and confirmed this, whereby this donation might be firmer, and We commanded it be imprinted this Our seal, that it might persevere perpetually undisturbed.

Sign of lord Zwentibald, most glorious of kings.

Sign of lord Louis [the Child], most serene of kings.

I, therefore, Waldger the notary, witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Archchancellor Ratbod.

Given on the 19th kalends of September (14th August), in the year of the Lord 895, in the 13th indiction, in the first year of King Zwentibald.

Enacted in the township of Trosly-Loire, next to the city of Noyon.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

Given on the 16th kalends of September (16th August), in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 908, in the 11th indiction, in the 9th year of the reign of lord Louis.

Enacted at Frankfurt.

A modern-day statue of King Zwentibald. (source)

Now, qua diploma, this diploma isn’t all that interesting (except the confirmation of it by Zwentibald’s half-brother and successor Louis the Child, which is interesting but we’re not going to deal with it now). Its content will become relevant shortly, but not today. No, what’s interesting about it is where it’s issued: in the West Frankish kingdom. The closest analogy here is Hugh of Arles’ diplomas from Provence – Zwentibald is doing king stuff in a kingdom, but how far he’s trying to claim it as his kingdom is up for debate. (Remember, Charles the Fat became West Frankish king precisely by coming to the kingdom and doing king stuff.)

That said, Zwentibald’s aggression is much more evident than Hugh’s. Zwentibald is not helping Charles out of the goodness of his heart. Charles’ supporters had promised him part of their kingdom, and whilst Charles and Zwentibald are besieging Laon, some of Charles’ men swap sides and go to Zwentibald – including Baldwin the Bald of Flanders. (There’s even a Flemish charter dated by Zwentibald’s reign, which is a very suspicious document but I think the dating clause is right because – well, no-one likes Zwentibald, why make it up?) After that, Charles’ men are worried Zwentibald is planning to kill him. So this alliance doesn’t really work out.

What is interesting about it, though, is that it’s one of the few efforts to conquer a bit of a kingdom that I know of from this period. Most invasions are with the aim of taking the whole lot. Admittedly the old Middle Kingdom has some fuzzy borders, so Zwentibald might feel like he has more wiggle room; and some of his key supporters, including Reginar Long-Neck, are from precisely the north-west area he’s trying to expand into. Still, it’s an unusual thing, and makes me think that the Charles/Odo civil war is a lot stranger and more important than the Annales Vedastini’s terse reportage implies.

Charter a Week 18: Murder in Autun!

Y’know, I didn’t mean this to work out so well. Two weeks ago we did Neustria, last week Aquitaine, this week Burgundy – it’s all worked out quite well, not least because each document neatly encapsulates something important about all these groups: the Neustrian charter involved Saint-Martin, lay abbacy, and a somewhat queasy relationship between formal and informal structures of governance; the Aquitanian charter was about family and capillary governance; and today’s document is about bishops and murder.

Before we get to the murder, though, I’m going to make you sit through a discussion of terminology. You see, I used the word ‘groups’ above, which is a bit weak sauce, but is really about addressing a problem. If you say ‘Neustria’ or ‘Aquitaine’ or ‘Burgundy’, then you end up with an image of a territorial polity – a straightforward equation between land, people, and political group, so that all the people in the land of Neustria are Neustrians and are ruled by the Neustrian ruler. This is, though, not really how medieval politics works full stop, and certainly not what these things look like. We saw with William the Pious how network-y and variable rule was, and this is fairly generalisable. In fact, both German and French have better terms for what we’re dealing with: Machtkonstellation in German and mouvance in French. I like both because of the imagery. Machtkonstellation (lit: ‘power constellation’) suggests an actual constellation, points of light linked together rather than a uniform field, and reminds us that there’s a lot of gaps between nodes of power. Mouvance I like even better, although the imagery is a little less straightforward to explain. Have you ever been swimming, and tried to move your arm in the water? The water tends to follow your arm, but there’s resistance and little eddies and swirls breaking off and going in other directions, and it requires you to keep pushing to do things. This is what I imagine a mouvance as like: it’s not a ‘command’ structure properly speaking. The ruler moves, and most of his followers move with him, some don’t, there’s a fair bit of grumbling, and constant effort is required.

But, murder! One of these mouvances is that associated with Richard the Justiciar, known to history as the first duke of Burgundy. We’ve already encountered Richard abandoning his brother Boso and going over to King Carloman II, and in the meantime he’s been slowly becoming more important. By the late 880s, he was well-placed to take advantage of the civil war between Odo and Charles the Simple, and take advantage he did. We’ve seen that the major figures in late Carolingian Burgundy were its bishops, and Richard acted not least to subdue them: he imprisoned Archbishop Walter of Sens, he blinded Bishop Theobald of Langres, and as for our old acquaintance Adalgar of Autun – well….

Flavigny no. 25 (1st May 894, Chalon-sur-Saône)

In the year 894, in the 12th indiction, there was birthed like a miscarriage an infamous rumour in the monastery and public castle of Flavigny, inspired by jealousy and springing up from evil men, concerning a certain levite and monk of that place, Girfred, who performed the office of prelate: that he had murdered the most pious father and reverend bishop lord Adalgar, bishop of Autun, with a deadly poison. The extremely unjust accusation of this crime, equally horrifying to God and men, beat at the ears not only of that church but also literally the whole of Gaul, and was fully recorded in an infamous list of charges.

The aforesaid levite and monk, though, was utterly horrified at being accused of such an outrage, since the number and magnitude of the benefices that he had gained from that sweetest of fathers was fully and abundantly clear to everyone. Concerning this matter, he first sought out the counsel of his successor the glorious bishop lord Walo [of Autun], and confirmed in his presence with God Who is judge of all and sees the hearts of men as witness that he was innocent from such an abominable sin not less in intention than in deed.

Eventually, the bishop, so greatly and so very lofty, learned as well in matters divine and human, supported by the counsel of the sons of the Church, did not want a sheep entrusted to him to perish. Rather, he piously and mercifully employed a poultice of exhortation and the medicine of divine eloquence, so that, if the Devil’s blandishments had by any chance instilled anything similar in his heart, he might at the least by the Holy Spirit’s suggestion and the infusion of its word be healthfully cured and purified in accordance with what the Church has instituted. The said levite and monk, though, completely ignorant of such a shameful act, proposed that he receive the judgement of the Holy Spirit, and unhesitatingly advised in every way that he would be judged by any test in accordance with ecclesiastical custom.

Wherefore the aforesaid bishop, hesitant to decide so great and so unheard-of a crime by his own judgement, decided it should be discussed and determined at a holy provincial synod in the presence of the well-known Archbishop Aurelian [of Lyon] and his other fellow bishops. He, insofar as he was free from other burdens, did not at all delay doing this.

Hence, with God propitious, on the prearranged day of the kalends of May [1st May], there gathered at the town of Chalon-sur-Saône, in the church of the blessed precursor of Christ John which is in sight of the same town, sacred pontiffs: Aurelian [of Lyon], first of all Gaul, with his most illustrious fellow bishops Walo of Autun, Ardrad of Chalon-sur-Saône and Gerald of Mâcon, as well as messengers from the notable Bishop Theobald of Langres. There, canonically promulgating the institutes of the holy fathers in accordance with the rules and diligently dealing with Church business, they laboured to examine with precise inquiries and many questions the said monk placed before them and oft-marked with infamy. The same monk, learned in every judgement, both ecclesiastical custom and the experience of human law, could discover neither anyone making open accusations about this infamous act nor anyone who would proclaim anything certain about it. Commanding this to be cried out three times under the witness of the Holy Spirit, and discovering nothing at all with the appearance of truth about it, they enacted by common counsel that, because they had found neither proof of guilt nor a confession despite the fact that the trial had been publicised and news of it had been disseminated everywhere, he should be made completely free from any suspicion in a more local synod which Bishop Walo, worthy of all reverence, should celebrate for the sons of the Church. By the ordeal of the body and blood of Christ, which alone is proven more true and believed to be more terrible, or rather more life-giving, he should be purified publicly of the outrage he was said to have committed. To wit, in this way: he should be solemnly told in advance that if he is guilty in any way of such a crime, he should not come and accept the host, and if he should rashly presume to do so, by the censure of the Holy Spirit and the authority of the Prince of the Apostles, he would be denied the life-giving price of our redemption and, with Judas, who betrayed the Lord, he would be irrecoverably doomed and damned to eternal suffering. But if he truly knew himself to be innocent of everything, trusting in the mercy of God, he should not despair of most beneficially gaining the gift of such a prize for the remedy of his salvation. This was completely satisfactory to everyone.

From there¸ the most pious pastor Walo, moved by mercy, brought together a holy synod of his own church at the abbey and public castle of Flavigny, and, in accordance with what was established by the aforesaid bishops, having led solemn masses, he brought everyone who was present together in the foremost church of Saint-Pierre and warned the aforesaid man that he must decide for himself whether to accept the host or refuse it as his conscience dictated. He did not hesitate, and most faithfully invoking as his judge and witness God and that which will secure the price of redemption, in view of everyone, he fulfilled in every way the vow laid out above. Therefore, after he was given such a gift, lest he should be further hurt by such wounds from the jealous, he asked that this writing should be related by the aforesaid lord Walo and his colleagues (who are written below), and corroborated by their hands.

Walo, humble bishop of the holy church of Autun, related and subscribed this.

Ardrad, humble bishop of the church of Chalon, subscribed. Gerald, ruler and humble bishop of the holy church of Mâcon subscribed.

You’ve been seeing a lot of pretty original documents, but this is more often what we have to work with: the cartulary of Flavigny has been lost for centuries, so this is one of the Early Modern copies which preserve it (specifically, grace of the BNF, MS Baluze 40 fol. 47r).

Despite the text’s claims, historians have been fairly sure that Girfred was in fact guilty of Adalgar’s murder. This began very early, in fact – a short history of the abbey known as the Series Abbatum Flaviniacensium makes reference to Girfred’s guilt. So why was Adalgar in the way? As we’ve seen, Richard was already count of Autun, and that was one thing, but Adalgar of Autun was much more important – it’s quite possible Richard was the local second fiddle. This might not have mattered whilst Adalgar was supporting King Odo and Richard had close ties to Louis the Blind, but Richard can’t be seen in Provence after the very early 890s, and it looks like he was taking advantage of the disruption caused by the civil war between Odo and Charles the Simple to retrench himself in Burgundy.

This comes through clearly in Adalgar’s replacement. Bishop Walo there is actually Richard’s nephew, and he’s basically a tame prelate. This is one reason why historians have been fairly confident that Girfred was the murderer: when accused, he immediately fled to the one person who benefitted most directly, the new bishop, who had been ordained by an archbishop of Lyon so new that he technically wasn’t allowed to do it. (The charter actually covers this up by substituting the name of Archbishop Aurelian – the long-lived former archbishop – for Archbishop Argrim, who actually carried out the consecration.) Given how important bishops were in Burgundy, Richard needed to get them in line to have a shot at regional dominance.

Doing this by violence, though, is unusual. Of Richard’s immediate contemporaries, Robert of Neustria was mostly appointed to his honores and William the Pious largely inherited his. Both men had to fight at one point or another – Robert of Neustria, as we breezed over two weeks ago, was involved in an unsuccessful fight to become count of Poitiers; and William the Pious (on the other side) successfully fought to prevent a candidate of King Odo named Hugh from becoming count of Bourges in his stead. But straightforwardly launching multiple coups de main and having them succeed is out of the ordinary for this period, and I’m still not clear how Richard gets away with it. The civil war is a key element – Odo is a busy man, and Richard is able to play him and Charles the Simple off against each other for recognition – but there are missing elements here. Still, Richard the Justiciar’s emergence is quite important precisely because it is violent and to a degree unprecedented. Whereas William and Robert are very much late-Carolingian potentates, Richard has aspects of something else…

Charter a Week 17: Brothers and Sisters

Do you know what we haven’t really dealt with? (In this series, anyway…) Aquitaine. It came up in passing when dealing with its submission to King Odo, but that was five years ago now and a lot has changed. For one thing, none of the major figures who submitted to Odo in 889 are still around. Frothar of Bourges died. Ramnulf of Poitiers and Ebalus of Saint-Denis died, the latter in rebellion against Odo. (There’s a whole story about what happened to Poitiers which we can’t deal with, but basically Odo tried to make his brother Robert count of Poitiers and it looks like he rather mismanaged the whole affair, leading to a revolt in Aquitaine which led to a further revolt which will actually be relevant this week.)

So who’s in charge instead? We mentioned Bernard Plantevelue as being one of Charles the Bald’s palatine magnates, but he looks to have died in around 886 and to have been replaced with his son, William the Pious. William’s base of power is rather further east than the word ‘Aquitaine’ might make you think. Do you remember how Bernard took over Mâcon during Boso’s rebellion? The Mâconnais is one of the centres of William’s power. So too is Lyon. The centre of gravity in William’s reign is rather further north and east than it is for Stephen of Clermont, largely because these all get sheared off in the 920s – again, we’ll get to it. The point is that William’s powerbase is big and it’s diverse. His wider interests actually go even further north and east than Mâcon – let me show you.   

CC no. 1.53 (9th November 893) = ARTEM no. 1579 = Plus anciens documents de Cluny no. 2

We are taught by divine and churchly documents that one should before everything do good work in observing a double love: that is, of God and one’s neighbour, so that we who have been pure-heartedly fortified in both might both not be without present assistance and also rejoice in eternal help, because without these it is impossible either to please God or to lead a present life of praiseworthy honour.

I, Ava, a humble servant of Christ, recalling this in divine contemplation, and considering that the nearness of kinship is worth of affection, donate to you, William [the Pious] my brother and glorious count, my certain estate named Cluny, sited in the district of Mâconnais on the river Grosne, in its entirety, with its appurtenances and what is legitimately beholden to it, although only after the course of my present life is complete. After my death, I give and transfer this estate, with everything which pertains to it both in churches and in chapels, bondsmen of both sexes (except 20 bondsmen), manses, portions of arable land, arboreta, fields cultivated and uncultivated, vineyards, meadows, mills, waters and watercourses, roads out and in, from my power into your dominion with perpetual right, so that you may have the firmest power in everything to do whatever you want to do with it, whether donation or sale or exchange.

I give and donate this estate to Your Brotherhood on this condition, indeed: that in return for the same estate you should bestow on me a certain allod of your rightful property, which is called Einville-au-Jard, which is sited in the county of Chaumont, for use in my present life; and after my death it should return to you and your kinsmen.

Moreover, if I outlive you and God lengthens my days beyond yours and gives, by divine mercy, the fertility of sons and daughters from a legitimate marriage, let them, after my death, receive the estate of Cluny which I donate to you after my death in perpetual right in the place of an heir, and let them have, hold and possess it as an inheritance, contradicted by nobody.

If anyone, moreover (which I do not believe will happen), either I myself or any of my biological or legal heirs or any person opposed to it, might try to come against or generate any calumny of controversy against this charter of donate made of my own free will, let them be unable to vindicate their claim, but rather let them pay you and your heirs and the associated fisc 50 pounds of gold; and thus let this present donation endure true, free and firm for all time, with this corroboration attached.

Enacted publicly at the estate of Cluny.

Sign of Abbess Ava, who asked this donation be made and confirmed. Sign of Viscount Raculf [of Mâcon].

[First column] Sign of Amalung. Sign of Warulf. Sign of Grimald. Sign of Ramnald. Sign of Fulcrad.

[Second column] Sign of Sigebald. Sign of Achard. Sign of Waning. Sign of Grimo. Sign of Stephen.

[Third column] Sign of Guntard. Sign of Gladirus. Sign of Otbert. Sign of Tullo. Sign of Aloin. Sign of Ungrim.

[Fourth column] Sign of Isengar. Sign of Ernerius. Sign of Heribert. Sign of Amalbert. Sign of Giso. Sign of Eilbert.

Sigebert, having been asked to, subscribed.

I, Ratbod, an unworthy levite, wrote and subscribed this, given in the month of November, on the day of the kalends, the 5th ides of November [9th November], in the first year when two kings contended over the realm, that is, Odo and Charles [the Simple].

Image from ARTEM as linked above

Surprise Cluny! Yes, this charter is the proximate beginning of the history of everyone’s favourite hegemonic medieval abbey. We’ve covered before on this blog the ‘capillary government’ of William the Pious’ Aquitaine, and here we can see another aspect of it. If Gerald of Aurillac was William’s man in Quercy, Ava was his woman in the northern Mâconnais. Thanks to the even-at-this-point-fairly-dense archives of Cluny, we can see Ava with a fairly dense cluster of properties between Cluny and the river Saône, and plenty of ties to local nobles. In particular, an entry in the Liber Memorialis of Remiremont seems to show her with Viscount Raculf; the sons of Warulf of Brancion, Cluny’s second-biggest patron after William the Pious himself in its early years, donated a fair chunk of property for her soul specifically; and so on – these can (from experience) be worked out into a 5000-word paper. We can see some of this in the witness list, where we have a group of local notables, including Raculf, Warulf, and the man whose name I have rendered as ‘Sigebald’, but who appears in Latin as Sievoldus and who might well be Sievertus, the advocate of Mâcon cathedral (orthography can be very inconsistent; but the ‘Sige’=’Sie’ elision is quite uncommon).

William doesn’t actually appear without Ava during her lifetime, so it makes sense to see these people as here because of the siblings as a pair, rather than just as William’s followers. In this sense, Ava is another version of Gerald of Aurillac – a middlewoman between William and the locality. She pulls the locals into William’s orbit, and is herself pulled into William’s orbit by bonds of kinship and – as in this instance – property.

Interesting is that William gives Ava an estate in Lotharingia. William was another actor in that Transararian Fluidity Zone, as we’ll see a bit down the line; but his interests in Lotharingia are largely a blank book, as are what Ava did with it.

A final note is that dating clause: in 893, Archbishop Fulk of Rheims finally got sick enough of Odo to anoint the young Charles the Simple as king and lead a rebellion. This was not thrillingly successful, but a lot of the southern magnates, including William and Richard the Justiciar, hedged their bets at least at the beginning, and this dating clause expresses that in the most direct way possible: both Odo and Charles are acknowledged, as is their fight, without any side being taken.

Charter a Week 16: Smoke-Filled Rooms in Neustria

For once we’re not going to be looking at high politics, but something a little more domestic. We have actually met today’s charter before, back when I did that list of my top 10 charters. Given that you don’t need much context in advance here, we may as well kick straight off.

DD RR no. 37 (13th June 892, Tours)

A notice of how Prior Erfred, with Adalmar, advocate of Saint-Martin, came into the city of Le Mans on Monday, the eighth kalends of May [24th April], before Count Berengar, and lodged a complaint that his vassal, Patrick by name, was wrongfully retaining the goods of the brothers which Guy had once held due to his advocacy.

Then Count Berengar responded that he was not only his vassal, although he held something from his benefice, but rather a vassal of his friend Robert, because he held more from him in benefice. But he immediately restored that which pertained to him, for love of Saint Martin, saying ‘If he wants to enjoy my benefice, he won’t retain any of the land of Saint-Martin anymore.’ And thus they left.

Still, he was unwilling to give up these goods, but rather began to issue threats. Then Erfred and Adalmar went to Tours, on the ides of June [13th June], into the presence of lord Robert, count and abbot, and they said to him that the canons of Saint-Martin wanted to lodge a complaint before King Odo – who was then present in the city of Tours – concerning his vassal Patrick, who unjustly held the brothers’ goods.

He said, ‘There won’t be a need for you to lodge a complaint before the king, because I’m their abbot and I should do justice regarding others much more than I should consent to injustice done by others. But now, Adalmar, tell me, by the oath you have sworn to me, how many shields you saw he could provide for my service.’

‘Not more,’ he replied, ‘than three.’

‘What, I’m supposed to steal their goods from Saint Martin and the brothers and lose my soul [see Matthew 16:26] for three shields? Who,’ he said, ‘has a wadium?’

Then Erfred took out a dagger from the scabbard which he had with him and gave it to him. He extended the dagger to Adalmar the advocate and said to him, ‘You should take this, because you’re their advocate. And if it is necessary, you will fight for them.’ And thus was the complaint resolved.

Enacted in the presence of the noble men who confirmed below.

Sign of the holy cross of lord abbot Robert, who confirmed this notice with his own hand and commanded his followers to confirm it. Sign of Viscount Atto [of Tours]. […]

I, Maimbert, having been asked to do so, wrote and subscribed, in the city of Tours, on the ides of June, in the 4th year of the reign of lord king Odo.

So, first off, it’s a strange little document. Roman Deutinger for one has argued that it’s not authentic– none of his reasons stand up (to give the least technical one, why would a twelfth-century forger not mention the name of the land in question?), but you can see why he’s puzzled. This looks a lot more like a little bit of a saint’s life than the documents we’ve been seeing so far.

 That’s really more of a problem on our end, though. A ‘charter’ is a kind of historiographical label of convenience. Most ‘charters’ resemble one another perfectly well, but there are several which start pushing into other forms of texts. One of my favourites to illustrate this is something which by every formal external characteristic is a charter, but which is in its text a combination saint’s life/property inventory. So it’s entirely plausible for scribes to be writing these little vignettes.

What does the vignette show? Partly, it shows the growth of Neustrian governance – note the presence and role of Adalmar the advocate, which we’ve discussed before. Adalmar’s role as an enforcer for the brothers is relatively new; we’ll be talking more about this when we reach 908, but here let’s just note that this charter relies on an office which may not have existed in 877 when this series started.

But it also shows the many recourses available for people seeking to resolve disputes. It’s clear that the participants here can slide between formal and informal methods of dispute settlements, and that this had different weights. There’s no particular reason that formal methods were better or more just. The implication Robert gives when the brothers threaten to go to Odo is that they’re rather more embarrassing. This is how studies of dispute settlement have argued that conflict resolution in large chunks of the middle ages happened – the participants switching between different venues to get a favourable result – and it’s nice to see it in action here.

The final thing is a question of scale. Patrick has to provide men for Robert’s military forces, but it’s clear that three men is not considered a major addition certainly to Robert’s armies and perhaps to Patrick’s. This suggests a certain minimum size of aristocratic military forces in the tenth century, although it would be easier to say more if we knew anything else about Patrick. He never shows up again in Saint-Martin’s charter record and my suspicion – given the role of Count Berengar, who was probably based in Rennes, that he’s a point man near the Breton border. This has implications for his social status and certainly for his military preparedness; it’s just a shame we can’t go into any detail about it.