Charter a Week 7: Neustria and Burgundy

I’ve briefly mentioned Hugh the Abbot before, but we’ve never had cause to talk about him properly, and we should probably remedy that. So, Hugh the Abbot. By origin, he’s very closely tied to the Carolingians. He was the cousin of Lothar II through his mother, of Charles the Bald through his father, and through his father as well the nephew of Louis the German. As such, he spent the 850s and 860s bouncing between the three kingdoms, at one point being granted the archbishopric of Cologne by Lothar II (albeit unsuccessfully). When that gambit failed, Hugh went back to Charles the Bald, and did so with remarkable good timing.

In 866, Robert the Strong was killed at the Battle of Brissarthe. He wasn’t the only Frankish magnate to be killed by Vikings, but his death left a very important vacancy. The western parts of the West Frankish kingdom – the region around the Loire valley known as Neustria – were something of a disaster area for Charles the Bald. He was crushingly defeated there a number of times, and there was always something to worry about – if it wasn’t Frankish rebellion, it was Viking raids; if it wasn’t Viking raids, it was Breton attacks; and usually it was several of these in combination. The Bretons were perhaps the most dangerous: Charles had to make significant territorial concessions. To give you some idea of the significance of this, Rennes is still part of modern Brittany (and Nantes only isn’t due to local rivalries): these areas have never been recovered. The solution Charles hit on was to put Robert the Strong in undisputed charge of the Neustrian March, loaded up with so many resources and so much status that he could not be seriously opposed. Robert, though, was killed only a year after taking up the role, and Charles handed it off to Hugh.

Hugh did a fantastic job. We spoke a couple of weeks ago about how Viking attacks could be warded off by being more dangerous than elsewhere, and, after a bad patch in the 850s and 860s, Hugh’s tenure on the March saw a couple of decades of respite. This was bad for the Anglo-Saxons, where the Great Army of the late 860s and 870s probably had rather more reinforcements than would otherwise have been the case, but good for the Franks. This was not a purely military thing, moreover: Hugh the Abbot led a trend toward ‘governmentalising’ Neustria, making its government more formal and its society more rigid. But that’s a post for well down the line – today, let’s talk high politics.

You see, from the late 870s onwards, and especially under Carloman, Hugh the Abbot became the magnate in the West Frankish kingdom. He wasn’t quite utterly predominant, but he was clearly front of the pack. And this had its benefits:

DD LLC no. 66 (23rd January 883, Compiègne) = ARTEM no. 757 = DK 5.xxxvi

In the name of Lord God Eternal and our saviour Jesus Christ. Carloman, by grace of God king.

If We lend the ears of Our Piety to the petitions of servants of God and pay heed to their advantage, We are confident that God Almighty will make repayment on the matter.

Concerning which matter, We wish it to be known to the industry of all the people of the holy Church of God and Us, both present and future, that after the death of the venerable abbot Sadrebert, the requests of the monks came before Our Clemency through the intercession of Hugh [the Abbot], most venerable of abbots. They humbly asked, displaying on hand the precepts of Our grandfather and father, to wit, the august Charles [the Bald] and Our pious father and most pious of kings Louis [the Stammerer] of divine memory, in which is contained how Our grandfather and father enriched from their goods of their property a little monastery founded in honour of the Holy Saviour in the district of Atuyer, which was once named Alfa, for their everlasting reward, and place Abbot Rotfred from Montiéramey which is called the New Cell, an active man, in charge therein during his lifetime.

Therefore, the monks of the aforesaid place appealed to Our Royal Highness that we might receive the same little monastery, in memory of Our grandfather and father or Our grandmother and mother, under Our immunity; and confirmed by a precept of Our authority whatever had been bestowed there by Our aforesaid grandfather and father. And because they had lately lost Abbot Sadrebert, a man worthy before God, they humbly asked that We might establish a man named Rotfred as abbot in his place, whom they witnessed was commendable in his life and habits.

Freely acquiescing to their prayers, because they were just and reasonable, We established and confirmed the precepts of Our grandfather and father; and We placed the abbot whom they requested, that is, Rotfred, in charge of that place and congregation; and We subjected the monastery of Alfa there with all its appendages, and as well the goods which were bestowed there through the largess of Our grandfather and father, as is contained in their precepts. That is, on the condition and in such a way that the aforesaid Abbot Rotfred, the same monastery and its monks and their dependents with everything legally beholden to it should perpetually endure under Our mundeburdum and tutelage, corroborated by the authority of this testament of Our Royal Dignity, such that no-one should presume to send a monk from another place into their monastery, not create any officeholder within their congregation except from those who were raised there from infancy in accordance with the Rule, and let them have permission to elect an abbot from within themselves, not from amongst outsiders, in accordance with the institution of Saint Benedict.

We also establish that neither count nor other judicial power should presume to receive or exact any timber-fees or harbour dues or vehicle-fees or mooring-fees or billeting or hospitality or other service or render from them in any places – that is, counties, cities, or markets – in Our realm to which they or their dependents travel for their needs, except in those places in which We have conceded through Our precept that they should be gotten. Rather, let them more freely and devotedly exhort for all time the clemency of God Almighty for Us and Our glorious fathers the august Charles [the Bald] and King Louis [the Stammerer] and Our glorious grandmother Queen Ermentrude and Our mother Ansgard and Our dearest brother Louis [III] and the state of Our realm, and endure perpetually under Our tutelage, as We have established.

But that this largess of Our authority might in God’s name obtain greater vigour of firmness, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be undersigned with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Carloman, most glorious of kings.

Norbert the notary subscribed.

Given on the 10th kalends of February [23rd January], in the fifth year of the reign of Carloman, most glorious of kings, in the first indiction.

Enacted at the public palace of Compiègne.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

Pray for Honoratus and Leotheric, who ambasciated this, and for their dead brother Helmuin.

cw 7 883
Carloman’s diploma, from the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above. For those of you wondering why I translated this one and not the Orléans diploma mentioned below, the fact that this one’s in the original was a significant contributing factor!

It must be said that being simply a venerabilissimus abbas is not the most exalted Hugh appears in charters from around this time. About eight months later, in a diploma for the cathedral at Orléans, Hugh got to be the inclitus ac venerabilis Hugo abbas, tutor noster ac regni nostri maximus defensor, which is Latin for ‘like a boss’. So it’s clear that Hugh was a very dominant figure on the political scene – you don’t get to be the king’s ‘famous and venerable guardian and the greatest defender of his realm’ without being powerful indeed.

So why didn’t I translate that diploma? Because this one illustrates a theme which is going to be important for the next century plus. When Hugh first made his appearance in West Frankish affairs, he was made abbot of the monastery of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre, right in the heart of Burgundy. He was chased out in the 860s, but, as this charter shows, kept his interest in Burgundian affairs. Of course, part of his presence in this diploma is simply that he is the go-to man at court, but it’s also that he’s got history with this region as well. We’ll see at other points people connected with both Tours and Paris with Burgundian interests, but this shows quite nicely the dispersed interests of men at the highest ranks of Frankish society.

The word ‘Reichsaristokratie’ (‘imperial aristocracy’) is hovering uncomfortably around this group. The idea here is that the Carolingian super-elite was composed of people whose lands were not simply provincial, but spread around a number of places within the Carolingian empire. This distinguished them from their forebears and from the ‘territorial princes’ who came afterwards, who were basically-provincial, and made them more invested in the continuation of Carolingian government. I say ‘uncomfortably’ because the idea that there was something special about the highest levels of the Carolingian aristocracy having widely-dispersed interests does not seem right to me. Before he was ever king, Hugh Capet (Hugh the Abbot’s successor in Neustria and possible namesake) had interests in the Loire valley, the Seine valley, Burgundy, and Lotharingia. This change therefore looks to me to be a change in historiographical emphasis above all… But as it happens this is a theme we’ll pick up in the main blog post in a fortnight’s time.

On the flip side of Hugh’s power, and by extension of Carloman’s, you don’t get that powerful in the faction-ridden world of the 880s without making some powerful enemies as well, and next week, we’ll be looking at some of them.

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Charter a Week 6: Carolingian Cooperations

Those of you who’ve been following the last couple of weeks may have noticed something of a paradox. Vikings were attracted by a succession crisis, yet I’ve also been talking about Carolingian cooperation to a remarkable degree in the early 880s. What gives? Well, the latter was responsive – in the face of a series of disasters, the Carolingians built (or rebuilt, you could argue) family consensus. What did that look like? Something like this.

In summer 882, whilst making one final crack at the siege of Boso of Provence’s Vienne, Carloman II issued a diploma in favour of Canon Otbert of Langres, issued at the request of Bishop Geilo (another one of those big-cheese palatine magnates from Charles the Bald’s late court):

DD LLC no. 62 (8th August 882, Vienne) = ARTEM no. 137 = DK 5.xxv

In the name of lord God Eternal and our saviour Jesus Christ. Carloman, by grace of God king.

If We freely proffer assent to the petitions of Our followers, far from doubt We both bind them more tightly in Our fidelity and are satisfied to follow the custom of Our predecessors.

Wherefore let the industry of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, present and future, know that the venerable man Geilo, bishop of the see of Langres, approaching Our Mildness, made it known that a certain cleric named Otbert had by a resolution(*) of goodwill consigned his very beneficial goods to Saint-Mammès and received a certain part of the goods of the same just from the same Bishop Geilo through a tenancy agreement, that is, on the terms that as long as Otbert and his nephew Gozelm live they should hold and possess both the things they have given and what was conceded by the bishop through a tenancy agreement, and claim their renders for their uses, except solely that they should unhesitatingly pay two solidi to the aforesaid church in vestiture, as is specified in their document.  And thus he asked that Our authority might also confirm the aforesaid tenancy agreement, which the said bishop had entered into with the aforesaid Otbert, with the consent of the clergy committed to him, and corroborated with his hands.

Therefore, assenting to his petition, We commanded a precept of Our authority be writing about this, in which We confirm and corroborate the aforesaid documents, that is, on the understanding that after the aforesaid Otbert and his nephew Gozelm die, the clerics of the same see should claim for their uses both the goods conceded to them by the venerable Bishop Geilo in the tenancy agreement and those which the said Otbert and his nephew Gozelm confirmed through a charter of donation to the church of Saint-Mammès, without any diminution or loss and without any alteration.

But that this precept of Our authority established concerning this tenancy agreement might always in God’s name obtain everlasting vigour and be able to endure into the far future, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We command it be undersigned with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Carloman, most glorious of kings.

Norbert the notary subscribed at the command of King Carloman, after the death of his master Wulfard [of Flavigny].

Given on the 6th ides of August [8th August], in the fourth year of the reign of Carloman, most glorious of kings, in the 15th indiction.

Enacted at Vienne.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

(*) Reading propositio for praeposito here, because the latter doesn’t make sense to me.

CW 6 882
Carloman’s diploma, from the Diplomata Karolinorum volume linked above.

A few months later, the same man Otbert received a diploma from Carloman’s cousin Charles the Fat, this time at the request of Margrave Guy of Spoleto:

DD CtF no. 61 (4th November 882, Worms) = ARTEM no. 138

In the name of our lord Jesus Christ, God eternal. Charles, by ordination of divine providence emperor.

Truly, if We freely assent to the petitions of Our followers, We are confident that this pertains to the state of Our realm, because We render them more ready in Our service.

For that reason, We wish it to be known to all the faithful of the holy Church of God both present and future that Count Guy brought to Our Highness’ mind a certain tenancy agreement made between himself and a certain canon named Otbert concerning, verily, the goods of the monastery of Notre-Dame de Favernay, which seemed useful in every way to both sides. Verily, Our aforesaid follower sought that by We might content to consider the aforesaid matter worthy and strengthen it by Our precept.

Therefore, We assented and strengthened it with Our precept, that Otbert himself and one of his heirs should quietly possess the said goods in their lifetime, abiding strictly by the condition which is specified in the text of the tenancy agreement.

And that this precept might endure firm and stable, We commanded it be sealed with Our signet and We confirmed it with Our own hand.

Sign of Charles, most serene of emperors.

Waldo witnessed on behalf of Archchaplain Liutward [of Vercelli].

Given on the day before the nones of November [4th November], in the year of the Incarnation of our lord Jesus Christ 882, in the 15th indiction, in the 3rd year of the aforesaid king’s empire.

Enacted at Worms.

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Charles’ diploma, from the ARTEM page linked above.

There’s more going on here than at first meets the eye. The first thing is that Otbert here is no simple canon, but someone who appears to be one of those second-tier fixers you don’t see much of. He was an archdeacon at Langres, and eventually prior; and possibly also prior of Flavigny and maybe even bishop of Troyes (although the chronology for the last two is confusing and it might be a different Otbert). He also shows up a surprising number of times in royal diplomas, and it looks rather as though he was successive bishops’ go-to man for dealing with royal courts. What did he get out of it? Status, but as in this particular instance, land as well. These diplomas are rewarding Otbert, but they’re also signalling rather more.

First, Carloman’s diploma has at least two things going on. First, note that the petitioner is Bishop Geilo of Langres. Geilo, like Adalgar of Autun, was one of Boso of Provence’s initial supporters – it was in fact Boso who made him bishop of Langres! That Geilo is acknowledging Carloman so publicly as king, just as Carloman is about to break off the siege of Vienne to go north, is a sign – the campaign has worked. Boso has lost all his friends. Everyone knows who the real king here is.

Ah – yes. Forgot to say. Carloman is about to break off the siege of Vienne and go north. This diploma was issued on the 8th August 882, but on the 6th August 882 Carloman’s brother Louis III had died at Saint-Denis after a brief illness. Carloman can’t possibly have heard about the actual death at this point, but the magnates of Louis’ kingdom must have been in constant communication with the king, making preparations for Louis’ death. This diploma, then, is part of that preparation.

By November, when Charles the Fat issues his diploma, Carloman II is sole king of the West Frankish kingdom. Charles, though, has himself benefited from the death of his own brother. At the beginning of the year, Louis the Younger died, and Charles became sole king in the East Frankish kingdom and Italy. This raised a number of questions, the most important of which was the status of Lotharingia. Louis the Younger and the West Frankish brothers had made a deal about who got which bits, and this had held firm after Louis the Younger’s death, but would it hold steady after Louis III’s?

Charles’ diploma is therefore walking a very narrow tightrope. At the assembly in Worms where it was issued, Hugh the Abbot (whom we will meet in more detail next week) was present to try and negotiate the return of parts of Lotharingia to Carloman, something which Charles refused. Thus, confirming a property at Favernay, right in the march-lands between southern Lotharingia and West Frankish Burgundy, is making a statement that Lotharingia will remain Charles’. However, confirming this property for a cleric of Langres is I think a gesture of goodwill: acknowledging that he and Carloman will continue to co-operate by favouring the same person Carloman had favoured back in August. The intercession of Guy of Spoleto is also important: Guy had a lot of Burgundian connections, particularly with Geilo of Langres (Geilo, in fact, would invite Guy to become king in the West Frankish kingdom in 888). So we have co-operation – but not that much co-operation.

Charter a Week 5: They Come From the Land of the Ice and Snow

How important were the Vikings? Viking raids are very flashy and get a lot of press, but were they that much of a danger to late Carolingian rulers? The difference between the British Isles and Gaul is noticeable: whereas most of the former was actively conquered by Vikings in the latter part of the ninth century, only the North Sea littoral of Gaul was ever subject to Scandinavian rule (whatever that meant in practice…).

The thing is, Viking attacks got a lot of press at the time, and the Carolingian response was traditionally derided. In part, this is because one of our major sources, the Annals of Saint-Vaast, are just miserable as all get-out. An old colleague of mine once compiled the ‘Saint-Vaast Table of Pessimism’, categorising all of the different ways the annals say ‘They tried X and it didn’t work’. Thing is, this is so consistent and so clearly this one source’s particular bias that it shouldn’t be taken as Gospel – we know that Frankish responses to Viking attacks were often fairly successful, both in terms of winning battles and in terms of changing the strategic picture.

The problem at the start of the 880s, though, was that the West Saxons were currently more successful. Dealing with Viking raids has a lot of similarities to the old saw about running away from a bear – you don’t need to be fast, just faster than the slowest person in the group. The same is true with Vikings: you don’t have to construct impregnable fortifications, just make it more inconvenient to raid you than your cross-Channel neighbour. Thus, when in the late 870s Alfred the Great defeated the Great Army at Eddington and signed an agreement known as the Alfred-Guthrum Treaty, Wessex suddenly seemed like a rather poorer opportunity than the Frankish kingdoms. Remember how they were in the middle of a succession dispute in 879? Vikings love that. It means the Frankish kings are too distracted to respond… A veritable Norman storm fell on the northern shores of Gaul, particularly Flanders; and although the Carolingians had a number of military successes against them, there were too many different Viking bands to have real success.

So, we need to balance the sources written by pessimistic churchmen – monasteries being famously rich and in theory undefended – with the recognition that Vikings might have provoked genuine trauma.  And then there’s sources like the one which follows:

DD LLC no. 55 (5th June 881, Pouilly-sur-Loire)

In the name of God Eternal and our saviour Jesus Christ, Carloman, by grace of God king.

Whatever We strain eagerly to do for the advantage and need of servants of God, We are, far from doubt, confident that it will benefit Us in more easily obtaining eternal blessing and more happily passing through the present life.

And thus, let the skill of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, both present and future, know that the venerable man and religious abbot Ralph of the monastery of the blessed Florentius, along with the monks soldiering for God therein, coming before Our Sublimity – lamentable to hear –exposed to Our Mildness by his lamentable intimation the misfortune of the aforesaid monastery and other woes of that region cruelly and frequently inflicted for Our sins by those cruellest enemies of God the Northmen, such that the same province, once very beautiful to see, appears reduced to the appearance of a wilderness. Wherefore, there was no dwelling-place at all in the same place, as with other former inhabitants of that countryside, but much worse for the monks of the said monastery overseen by the care of that religious man the same abbot. Therefore, the same venerable abbot Ralph suppliantly prayed that We might deign to concede to him, as a refuge for his monks and to receive the most hallowed body of the blessed Florentius, a cell by the river Loire, sited in the district of Berry, which is called Saint-Gondon, as We are known to have done for his predecessor the late abbot Dido, in which cell the grace of Saint Gundulf is reverently honoured, so that, rejoicing that they have slipped through the hands of the aforesaid enemies of God, they might finally deserve to find a rest therein from such persecution, with Christ propitious, and be able to enjoy a respite in praise of divine mercy.

But We, proffering beneficent assent to the beseechments of the same Abbot Ralph and the prayers of his monks, commanded this precept of Our Highness to be made, through which We concede and bestow the said cell of Saint-Gondon, with dependents of both sexes and the total of all other things to be held by the said venerable abbot Ralph and his successors: that is, so that, in the name of God and for the washing-away of Our sins, that monastery with everything pertaining to it might be lead in accordance with order of the institution of the Rule by the same reverend Abbot Ralph and his successors, and be disposed of in accordance with the Rule without the disturbance of any contradiction, for the advantage and need of the servants of God serving and attending upon the Lord therein in Our and future times in accordance with the norm of the sacred institution of Saint Benedict.

And We concede to the aforesaid monastery four ships in every waterway which flows through Our realm, and permission to sail them without any impediment, that no officers should take river-fees or toll, nor should the aforesaid abbey pay any kind of price for them.

Finally, We wish and decree and command through this precept of Our authority that no public judge or anyone with judicial power should dare to enter into the churches or places or fields or other possessions of the said monastery, which it justly and reasonably possesses in modern times within the domain of Our realm or which hereafter divine piety might wish to bestow upon the said monastery, to hear cases or exact peace-money or tribute or make a halt or claim hospitality or take securities or distrain the men of the same monastery both free and servile dwelling on its land, nor require any renders in Our and future times. Rather, let the said abbot and his successors be permitted to possess the goods of the aforesaid monastery in quiet order under the defence of Our immunity.

In fact, it pleased Our Highness to decree by royal authority that We should establish a privilege for the aforesaid place through a precept of Our authority that if anyone is seen to infringe anything from the aforesaid at any time, they should be compelled to pay an immunity of six hundred solidi to the rulers of the same place. And whatever hereafter Our fisc can hope for, We concede entirely to the aforesaid monastery for eternal repayment, so that it might accomplish an increase in the alms for the poor and stipends for the monks serving God therein for all time. And when, by divine summons, the aforesaid abbot and the others following him depart from the light of this world, let the monks serving God therein through Our permission and consent, in accordance with the order and rule of the blessed Benedict, always have permission to elect an abbot from amongst themselves, so that it might delight these servants of God who serve God therein to constantly exhort the Lord for Our grandfather, father, for Us and the stock of Our bloodline and to conserve the stability of Our whole realm. Let them have an advocate whom they rightly elect, and for Our repayment We remit all torts to him.

But that this authority of Our munificence might be held more firmly and be more diligently conserved in future times, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with Our signet.

Sign of Carloman, most glorious of kings.

Norbert the notary witnessed on behalf of Wulfard [of Flavigny].

Given on the nones of June [5th June], in the third year of the reign of Carloman, most glorious of kings, in the 13th indiction.

Enacted at the township of Pouilly-sur-Loire, happily, amen.

The venerable abbot Hugh [the Abbot] ambasciated.

exhibition_in_viking_ship_museum2c_oslo_01
Were the Vikings trying to Karve up the Carolingian Empire? (wahey!) (source)

First of all, again, there have been questions about the authenticity of this diploma. The modern editor, Bautier, reckons it’s legit, and I agree with him, but it is still within the realms of possibility that this is a later fake. In any case, in terms of its text, the first half is largely a copy of an 866 diploma of Charles the Bald. What that means is that all of the Viking depredations it’s describing had happened twenty years previously. This is a major problem – it doesn’t take very long for Viking raids to become a canard, a fossilised excuse to explain monastic behaviours. This community, which had formerly been located at Saint-Florent-le-Vieil, had now been relocated upriver from Orléans, a region which was passed over by the Viking attacks of the years around 880.

This isn’t to say that the old site of the abbey was peaceful by now. In addition to a Frankish succession crisis, the late 870s also saw the beginning of a civil war in Brittany, and although we don’t know about any Viking raids there during those years, we do know that Vikings were active on the lower Loire during that period and it would surprise me if they weren’t ratcheting up their raids in Brittany and the region west of Angers. Thing is, this wouldn’t necessarily have any impact on the new community in Berry!

In fact, the main object of the diploma appears to be to exempt the abbey’s shipping from river tolls. What we have, then, is a diploma where the rhetorical spectre of the pagan menace overlies a much more mundane goal. This is actually a fairly nice illustration of what I, at least, think is happening with the Vikings: their shadow is much larger than their presence, but that shadow can be quite important in and of itself. It might have been that what the monks of Saint-Gondon wanted was relief more from toll-collectors than Danes, but anti-Viking activity provided a useful cover for royal action. (The parallels between Viking attacks and terrorism in the modern world are there to be found, and I wouldn’t be the first one to notice that by a long shot…)

(I did also do a search for ‘vikings + terrorists’ and… oy. Don’t go down that snake-hole…)

Charter a Week 4: The Provençal Anticlimax

Over the past few weeks, we’ve spent a lot of time with Boso of Provence, former brother-in-law of Charles the Bald, biggest cheese in the West Frankish world, and the first man since the eighth century who wasn’t a descendant of Charles Martel to declare himself king. We’ve seen him accumulate power and status, marry into the Carolingian family, inch his way towards royal status, build up a surprisingly-large base of support, and theorise his right to be king at length and in detail.

And then it all came crashing down. There’s a case to be made that Boso was too successful. 879 and 880 had not been good years for Louis III and Carloman II, or their East Frankish cousins Louis the Younger and Charles the Fat. In winter 879, there had been Viking attacks, which the West Frankish brothers had defeated; then the bastard son of Lothar II, Hugh, tried to launch his own coup to become king; at the start of 880, Louis the Younger made one more go at supporting that faction of Western magnates which had turned to him the previous year after the death of Louis the Stammerer before making a treaty and turning back to defeat more Viking attacks on his own kingdom; and then in addition to all that was Boso, probably the most successful challenge to the status quo and therefore the biggest target.

And so it came to pass that 880 saw an almost-unprecedented display of Carolingian unity, as the four Carolingian kings sent their armies to Vienne to take Boso down. They first of all took Mâcon, which was being held by Bernard of Gothia on Boso’s behalf, and gave it to Bernard Plantevelue, father of William the Pious. Carolingian unity was a worry for magnates who had supported Boso on a couple of grounds, both of which this nicely illustrates: a unified front meant that Boso probably couldn’t hold for that long against them, and it also meant that they would have more success confiscating offices and lands. The transfer of Mâcon was a major statement that the rebels could lose a lot.

They then proceeded to Vienne itself and besieged it, as Boso fled to the hills. This was probably a sensible strategic decision, but not one designed to reassure his followers. The Carolingians had to lift the siege of Vienne because Charles the Fat had things to do in Italy, but we can see that winter that several of Boso’s closest supporters had abandoned him.

DD LLC no. 49 (30th November 880, Nérondes) = ARTEM no. 4796 = DK 5.xxxiii

In the name of Lord God Eternal and our saviour Jesus Christ. Carloman, by grace of God king.

If We impart by Our authority aid to places given over to divine worship, We believe that because of this We will better acquire the emolument of a heavenly country and more comfortably pass through the present life.

Wherefore, let the concordant entirety of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us know that We, at the appeal of Richard [the Justiciar], count of Autun, for love of God and the recompense of eternal prizes, eternally restore and consign to Saint-Nazaire and to the present bishop Adalgar and his successors the estate of Teigny, which was once stolen from the bishopric and associated with the county by Our crooked ancestors, although with the nones and tithes going to the said church, which estate is actually sited in the county of Avalois.

Therefore, We establish and decree, with God as both witness and judge, that this authority of Our largess should never be violated by any of Our successors as king; but, like the other goods of the same bishopric, it should endure eternally in regard to this estate. And let this same estate have an immunity like the other goods of the same church and endure and remain subject to the other privileges of the same church.

But that this authority of Our confirmation might in the name of God obtain fuller vigour of firmness, We commanded it be signed below with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Carloman, most glorious of kings.

Norbert the notary subscribed.

Given the day before the kalends of December [30th November], in the second year of the reign of Carloman, most glorious of kings, in the 13th indiction.

Acted at the estate of Nérondes.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

Count Theodoric [of Vermandois] ambasciated.

CW 4 880
The surviving original, from the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above.

The key piece of information you need to understand this diploma is that Richard the Justiciar was Boso’s brother. He had subscribed the Montiéramey charter of 879, but had now apparently decided that the combined might of the Frankish kings was not worth fighting against. This opinion was also evidently shared by Bishop Adalgar of Autun.

This latter is interesting in light of Boso’s diploma last week. The route taken by the Carolingian armies, coming from Troyes, would have taken them right through that part of northern Burgundy which was one of Adalgar’s centres of power, and perhaps where he had been expected to defend it. Adalgar might have had a chance against a factionalised and divided Carolingian family, but against their unified might, well – if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em…

It is therefore striking that this is the first surviving diploma issued by Carloman. It probably actually was one of his first (although probably not the first) – there hadn’t been that much opportunity in the previous year. That it is for Richard and Adalgar looks rather strategic, therefore – “be like Bernard of Gothia and lose your honores, or be like Adalgar and Richard and keep them!” It didn’t matter how close they had been – changing sides promptly got them back in the kings’ good graces.

Vienne itself turned out to be a tough nut to crack, and Carloman was still besieging it in 882. In the end, it was Richard himself who took it – an ultimate proof of commitment to the new regime – but Boso’s serious claims to kingship had been dead for years before that, crushed under the steamroller of Carolingian family togetherness. Boso himself was never captured, and died a fugitive, an outlaw king, in the hills of the Viennois in 887. His family would have better luck – we will be hearing again from Richard; and Boso did manage to have one son, who would go on to have a very strange career indeed…

Charter a Week 3, part 2: Adalgar of Autun

So, Boso is now king. But one man was missing from the Convention of Mantaille, one key figure: Bishop Adalgar of Autun. Like Boso, Adalgar had been one of Charles the Bald’s most important courtiers, and as bishop of Autun and abbot of Flavigny, he was very rich and powerful. He was also one of Boso’s most important supporters, and the first royal diploma issued in Boso’s name was for Adalgar and his church.

DD Provence no. 17 (8th November 879, Lyon)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Boso, by grace of God king.

If We take heed in giving help to the pious petitions of servants of God, We in no way doubt that God will be more propitious to Us because of it in the world present and to come.

Wherefore, let it be known to the concord of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us that Adalgar, venerable bishop of Autun, coming before the mildness of Our Sublimity, made an appeal that We might confirm by a writing of Our authority the authorities and precepts of the kings, that is, Our predecessors, for the vigour of greater firmness; and strengthen them in accordance with what is customary.

We yielded to his petitions as freely as We beheld it would more fully benefit Us.

Therefore, We establish, confirm, and by confirming decree that every precept which was made for the said church by Our ancestors, that is, kings and emperors, should endure unbroken for all time, both those concerning both the abbey of Flavigny and the estate of Bligny-sur-Ouche and also concerning the villa of Lucenay-le-Duc, and as well concerning the estate of Tillenay, as well as also concerning all the things of the same church. Let the precepts and authorities be strengthened by Our rule, and let them endure undisturbed.

We eternally delegate and, in delegating, concede to the said church and its bishop Adalgar the hill which is called Semur, with the church which is thereon and two mills, and We transfer it by royal custom from Our right into the right and dominion of Saint-Nazaire.

But that this confirmation of Our authority might obtain greater vigour, confirming it below with Our own hands, We commanded it be sealed below with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Boso, most glorious of kings.

Elibert the chancellor witnessed on behalf of Archbishop Aurelian [of Lyon].

Given on the 6th ides of November [8th November], in the 12th indiction, in the 1st year of the reign of lord Boso, most glorious of kings.

Enacted at the city of Lyon.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

So there’s a few things happening here. The first thing to note is that the late ninth-century diplomas of the church of Autun are all fairly suspect, not least because of Adalgar, who composed a lot (like, a lot) of forged royal diplomas for his church. I think this one is fairly solid, not least because at least one of the properties – that of Semur, which we’ll talk about later – doesn’t show up again in later royal diplomas. It’s quite possible that Adalgar had a hand in creating this diploma, but that would be fair enough – he was very shortly to become Boso’s archchancellor, and the two men were sufficiently close that there wouldn’t be much point in faking it when the genuine article could be acquired easy enough.

Anyway, this diploma was issued only a little while after Boso’s coronation, which took place in Lyon. Adalgar, who had apparently been an early and enthusiastic supporter of Boso, was rewarded for his loyalty by a visible display of his importance to the new king. Boso, equally, was able to confirm the acts of his predecessor Louis the Stammerer – a number of these estates, notably Bligny, had been confirmed within the previous few months.

Circuit cyclo entre Brenne et Ozerain le 27 mai 2015
Semur-en-Auxois’ castle today. (source)

But then there’s Semur, which is probably Semur-en-Auxois (although there is a minority opinion which makes it Semur-en-Brionnais). Semur, whose name means ‘old walls’, has a marvellous defensive position, on top of a granite bluff and surrounded on three sides by a river, and there was a late Carolingian castle there. (I have been trying to find archaeological studies of Semur to see how precisely we can date Semur’s early fortifications, so far without luck.) Between Semur, Flavigny, and Lucenay-le-Duc, this diploma places Adalgar right at the heart of the Auxois, on the northern border of Boso’s sphere of influence. It may well be that this diploma, in addition to rewarding Adalgar, is entrusting him with the defence of this northern region against the inevitable Carolingian counterattack. Next week, we’ll have a look at exactly how that went.

Source Translation: Electing an Anti-King at the Convention of Mantaille

So this is another thing I’ll be doing over the next (does mental calculations) three years of Charter A Week. (Three years. Yikes! Too late to back out now…) Sometimes, there are documents I’d like to show you, but which aren’t charters. In that case, I’ll turn them into regular Source Translation posts, as in this case here.

After all, on Monday we saw Boso of Provence slowly inching his way towards kingship. He knew it was coming, his charter scribe knew it was coming, and most of the aristocracy of south-east Gaul knew it was coming, but how to effect it? Well, happily, we have a description of the synod where Boso was chosen as king, and it goes as follows:

MGH Capit. II.284 (15th October 879, Mantaille)

1) The Synod’s Delegation to the King-Designate Boso.

The holy synod gathered in the name of our Lord at Mantaille in the territory of Viennois, along with the leading men, by the inspiration of the Highest Majesty’s divinity, approached Your Prudence, O most shining of princes, seeking to learn by your certain response whether you wish to show yourself to everyone in that princely rule to which we, through divine mercy, choose you to be raised.

That is: if you will truly strive for the honour and love of God Almighty in the catholic faith, and exalt His Church as far as you can and conserve the privileges of each church with their bishops and priests; if you wish to concede and conserve for everyone, like the good princes who preceded you and whose type you have known by records written and oral, law, justice and right; remaining humble (which is the foundation of the virtues), with patience and a serene heart, most humbly; to judge the undisciplined, but stable and certain in everything justly promised; through the grace of God well-prepared and fitted-out, suitable in delightful sobriety; if you will be accessible to all who suggest right things and intercede for others; striving rather to profit than to preside; following in the footsteps of holy princes; trampling down wrath, savagery, hardness, avarice, greed, indignation and pride; appearing as a just patrician to your people, greater and lesser; preferring truth in word and deed; freely hearing beneficial counsel; avoiding and persecuting the signs of the vices; loving the virtues; providing defence and mundeburdum to each; so that neither the same holy synod and the leading men currently making this judgement with it might be cursed or detracted in good faith because of you in future, nor might your sacred princely rule, which we believe will profit us, be justly disparaged.

Rather, let the peace and truth of the saints come through divine grace to those who support you, whether they are in charge or a subject, the priests and the leading men committed to them, since you shall have preserved for them and have observed evangelical and apostolic authority with just human law, so that God is blessed through everything and in everything. Priestly and lay fidelity also prays that Your Prudence should act that each ‘may possess their vessel in your house in sanctification and honour’ [1 Thessalonians 4:4].

2) The response of King-Elect Boso to the Synod.

Boso, a humble slave of Christ, to the most holy synod and all Our faithful leading men. First, I give thanks in word and in feeling for your sincerest devotion, because I know for certain that I am clasped to your bosoms, although unworthy, solely by your benevolence, through the unchangeable grace of God; and equally, that your charity’s fervour chooses me to be promoted to that office so that My Smallness might be able to fight for my mother, which is the Church of the Living God, for an immortal repayment.

But I am conscious of my condition and fragile created state, and, judging myself utterly unequal to business of this kind, I had refused unless I should observe that through the will of God one heart and one soul had been given to you in one consensus. And thus, knowing for certain that you are inspired by God, I am not reluctant to obey both the priests and Our friends and followers, nor am I rash in obeying your commands.

I very freely undertake to be what you have required in terms of the sort of man I should show myself to be in joining, through God’s mercy, in the future regime, and also the norm you have extended and instructed with sacred dogma. I embrace the catholic faith, in which I was raised, which I hold with the purest of hearts, which I proclaim with the truest of tongues, for which I am prepared to lay out again and again if it so pleases our lord God. I will take care to restore and conserve the privileges of churches, with the assistance of our lord Jesus Christ, through your common counsel. I will take care to give and conserve for everyone, as you have admonished, law, justice and right mundeburdum, with God’s help. In this, following in the footsteps of the good princes who came before, let me strive to consult both the sacred orders and you, Our followers, in conserving equity.

Regarding my behaviour, although I know that I am a sinner before all, I truly assert that this is my will: that I should yield to good people in everything and to bad ones in nothing. But if, because I am human, this slips my mind in dealing with anyone, I will take care to make good in accordance with your counsel.  In this respect, I reverently pray that you should honour yourselves in me by suggesting to me in a manner befitting the time and place what you find more just and reasonable, because I in turn, if any of you do me wrong, will make myself available and reasonably expect you to make amends.

I will follow gospel and apostolic authority and just human law, so that as He leads and accompanies God might be blessed through everything and in everything. As you have admonished me, because God lives in the saints, I will show care for Our household; I will very studiously take care that everything proceeds properly.

Therefore, my lords, sacrosanct pontiffs, bishops of the Church of our God on high, and all you Our followers, chief men and underlings, I, confident of God’s grace and help through the support of His saints because I favour your commands, pray and entreat you that through Him and with Him you should assist my necessity and humility in helping with such labour through pious interventions with Him; and also that you should strive to support me as far as you can with human supports and aids. But if this displeases anyone and they have something else in mind, I ask that he declare it openly, and not deceive himself or us in any way. At the same time, I pray through the charity with which you burn that, favouring the common advantage, you should exhort our lord God with three days of solemn prayer with the people committed to you, so that He might not permit you or me to err and deceive His people, but that He might mercifully reveal His will about this.

3) The Election of King Boso.

When, in the name of the Lord and saviour of the world, holy fathers had gathered to celebrate a convent at Mantaille in the territory of Viennois, to deal with much Church business and to enter the conclave of holy solicitude, many things were brought forth and gathered in their consideration. Priestly affection, poured from old into the hearts of the fathers, clearly dictated to the conclave that it should have a care for the role [of king] by means of which an appropriate regime was usually provided for the people both in the Old Testament and in the New. And because both those holy fathers (whom divine grace has conceded be called ‘bishops’) and  the princes and the whole mass of the people had for a while been missing the protection provided by the same role, nor had they been supported or helped by the assistance of any compassionate person, particularly since after the king was taken by that death which is common to all things, no-one had opened their bowels to them (*)  through the largess of charity. Many were compelled to worry, because the holy mother Church was seen to be being completely destroyed not only in inner matters through the Invisible Enemy, but also in visible affairs through visible enemies, even from those whom it had birthed in Christ.

And so, as they turned their minds’ sharpness every which way, and at the same time considered with the more noble persons the promotion of suitable person to deal with this need; but not finding anyone who wished to respond to their inquiry, insofar as everyone despised to take up such a labour for the honour of God and His saints, everyone was inflamed to exhort God, prince of all princes, from the depths of their heart owing to these difficulties, so that He, Who has the sole care of mortal man and Whose disposition turns the course of all the ages, might both give right counsel and disclose a clear sign of help.

Finally, He to Whom every heart is open and every mind speaks, considering the wearied souls of the people great and small, caused a certain consolation to shine forth, and in a particular way presented some support. Truly, through divine visitation all these wise men with one accord sought one and the same thing. They had one man in mind, previously a necessary defender and helper under the princely rule of lord Charles [the Bald], whose son after him, the son of the same emperor, the lord king Louis, knowing his manifest prudence, chose to magnify. He also so stood out to everyone not only in the Gauls but also in Italy that the apostolic lord John [VIII] of Rome embraced him like his own son and proclaimed the integrity of the same in many proclamations, and, returning to his own see, delegated it to his tutelage.  Therefore, by God’s will, through the support of the saints, due to the pressing need and that desirable advantageousness and most prudent and provident wisdom which they discovered in him, with one heart and one wish and one consensus, with Christ leading the way, they sought and unanimously elected for this royal business the most shining of princes lord Boso.

And, in consideration of the size of the work, he refused and rejected the offer, but those who were of God and His Church opposed this, and eventually he obediently bowed the neck and promised to do it. The king-elect was established by God, prayers were poured out, and the grace of our lord Jesus Christ which preceded this wish remains fully effective in the certain completion of it.

And that this election might be made known more certainly to people present and future, the subscription of all the bishops shows it in a clearer light.

Enacted publicly at Mantaille, in the year of the Lord’s incarnation 879, in the 12th indiction, on the ides of October [15th October].

For the sake of removing ambiguity, one…   

Otrand, poor archbishop of Vienne. Aurelian, archbishop of Lyon. Theotrand, archbishop of Tarentaise. Robert, poor bishop of Aix-en-Provence. Archdeacon… on behalf of Adalgar, bishop of Autun. Ratbert, bishop of Valence. Berner, bishop of Grenoble. Elias, bishop of the church of Vaison-la-Romaine. Henry, humble bishop of the church of Dié. Adalbert, bishop of Maurienne. Biraco, bishop of the church of Gap. Eustorgius, bishop of Toulon. Girbald, bishop of the church of Chalon-sur-Saône. The base bishop Baldemar [of an unknown see, if any]. Jerome, bishop of Lausanne. Richard, bishop of Apt. Guntard, bishop of Mâcon. Rostagnus, archbishop of Arles. Theodoric, archbishop of the church of Besançon. Aetherius, bishop of Viviers. Leodoin, bishop of Marseille. Germard, bishop of Orange. Ratfred, bishop of Avignon. Walafrid, bishop of the church of Uzès. Edold, humble bishop of the church of Riez. Chorbishop Leoboin. The humble abbot Geilo [of Langres, at this point abbot of Tournus].

(*) This is a long-standing metaphor referring to the ‘bowels of compassion’ as found in e.g. 1 John 3:17, ‘whoso… seeth his brother have need and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?’. A less precise translation would be ‘no-one had displayed any compassion to them’, but given how long the search and how painful some of the search results were that I had to do in order to find this out, I’m leaving it in there so that you all can share my pain.

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The ruins of Mantaille today (source, photo by Pascal Rey)

The first thing to note here is that Mantaille itself was a secure, fortified location. Evidently whoever decided to hold the assembly here was concerned about being interrupted. And well might they have been! West Francia already had, after all, not one but three potential kings, all of whom had by this point been crowned. (Louis the Younger was already crowned and Louis III and Carloman II had been crowned in September.) Boso was pretty much any way you sliced it a usurper. Interestingly, the document doesn’t acknowledge that, clearly putting forth the story that there was no king. I reckon that’s because that was the key issue which could sink Boso. It wasn’t necessarily that he wasn’t Carolingian, it was that there were already a number of viable kings and Boso was late to the party.

Certainly, no mention is made of Ermengard. This is a striking difference with the Montiéramey charter we looked at on Monday. The lack of any mention of bloodline is also a contrast to what Regino of Prüm describes in his Chronicon, where it is said that Boso saw the sons of Louis the Stammerer as inferior by birth. Kingship here is a function of Boso’s superlative character, which it the only thing capable of properly protecting the Church. This is not an unknown discourse in Carolingian politics – when we looked at the 829 council of Paris, their description of good kingship was in terms of a character appropriate to its duties, and Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, no less, also made the claim in his tract on the divorce of King Lothar II that hereditary right was secondary to good character and that there were many ways of making a king. However, what’s really important here is that the entire argument is based on it. It’s kind of the opposite in many ways of the letter of Archbishop Fulk of Rheims we talked about the first time hereditary succession came up on this blog. Both of them put all their eggs in one basket, Fulk in the ‘hereditary right’ basket and Boso and company in the ‘good character’ one. Notably, Boso’s extremism worked better than Fulk’s. Fulk was never able to get much support for his cause; Boso and his backers managed to pose a serious threat to their royal neighbours, and it took multiple kings working in unusually close harmony to take them down. That’s a strong hint that Boso’s arguments were more convincing…

Admittedly, this document is really going all-out in describing Boso here. Compared to the promissio of Louis the Stammerer which we’ve translated on this blog, he’s being asked to do a heck of a lot more – not just preserve for each church their rights, but be a perfect example of wisely-guided and divinely-inspired rulership. One wonders whether, had Boso managed to maintain his position, his followers would not have been disappointed by the sequel…

Charter a Week 3, part 1: What I Am

Charles the Bald’s son Louis the Stammerer did not reign for a very long time. When he died, he left behind two young sons and a pregnant wife. Almost immediately, the kingdom got caught up in vicious factional intrigue between a number of people, noticeably Hugh the Abbot and Gozlin of Paris, both of whom we’ve met before on this blog; but the other West Frankish supermagnates as well as King Louis the Younger in the east got involved. The specifics are complex, but I summarise as follows: Louis the Stammerer had left the whole kingdom to his son Louis III, which in practice meant Bernard Plantevelue, Hugh the Abbot, and Boso. Gozlin, left out the loop, looked to Louis the Younger to be king instead. Both factions competed for Louis’ favour; eventually the impasse was solved by crowning both of Louis the Stammerer’s sons, Louis III and Carloman II, kings; and splitting the West Frankish kingdom in half. The competition, however, threatened to unseat Boso – and so this happened.

DD Provence no. 16 (25th July 879)

I, Boso, by grace of God that what I am, and my beloved wife the imperial offspring Ermengard, for love of God, give to the monastery of Montiéramey, etc., our goods which the lord emperor the most serene augustus Charles [the Bald] gave to us through a precept, which are in the district of Lassois: a demesne in the estate which is called Lanty with everything beholden to it, etc.

I, in the name of God, Boso, subscribed this charter of donation and ask that it be confirmed. The imperial offspring Ermengard consented. Sign of Count Richard [the Justiciar]. Sign of Count Theobald [of the Jura]. Sign of Count Bernard [of Gothia].

I, Archchancellor Stephen, at the command of the famous and illustrious man lord Boso and his wife lady Ermengard, wrote and subscribed this charter.

Given on the 8th kalends of August [25th July], in the year of the Incarnation of our lord Jesus Christ 879, in the 1st year after the death of the most glorious king Louis [the Stammerer].

Happily in the name of God, amen.

Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims wrote that Ermengard, who was the daughter of Louis II, emperor of Italy (would it kill one of them to not be called Louis?), nagged Boso to become king – she was the daughter of an emperor and felt that her birth entitled her to a higher-status husband. This doesn’t have to be dynastic, but certainly an emperor’s daughter was a high-status position and Boso, as in this charter, was clearly trying to have that position rub off on himself.

Otherwise, this charter is a masterpiece of hedging one’s bets. It’s a shame that it’s basically abbreviated notes on an original, because you can see that Boso already has an archchancellor, but isn’t yet ready to call himself king, using instead the famous phrase id quod sum, which could mean anything, but to those in know… well, the writing was on the wall.

King_Boson_of_Provence
The clue is the crown. (source)