Good Guy Hugh the Great

Well, I’m in Leeds now. It’s not so much that everything’s sorted – much remains to be done – but I have an office and I’m sitting in it and so blog can be written. Onwards! Last week I put up a charter translation, which pointed towards this blog post. I mentioned when I was leaving Germany that it made sense to put all the arguments I had about the political narrative of tenth-century West Frankish history in separate articles so that, someday, I could write a book for a general audience without getting bogged down. Fairly high up my to-do list, then (largely because big chunks of it were already written and even partly footnoted) is a short piece on our old friend, the succession to Ralph of Burgundy.

The basic point of this, which I will rehearse in brief here, is not to make any big splash with new information, but to reinterpret what we already know. “So, like most of medieval history then?”, I hear you say. Good point well made, reader; but in this case we’ve ‘known’ something for rather longer than usual and it has remained unchallenged – as far as I know, at all. But on really trying to set down the state of affairs, I think that the consensus is all wrong and a bag of chips.


That consensus in a nutshell. I presume if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you already know the events, but if not, briefly: in January 936, King Ralph of the West Frankish kingdom, whose core support base was Burgundy, died. As king, he was succeeded by Louis IV, an exile who had lived his entire life in England; as duke of Burgundy, by his brother Hugh the Black. After Louis was crowned, he and Hugh the Great, the so-called ‘duke of the Franks’ and the magnate who had organised Louis’ crowning, attacked Burgundy, seizing the north of it from Hugh the Black. This was an unscrupulous attack carried out at Hugh the Great’s instigation and for his profit, snatching northern Burgundy from the rightful heir, Hugh the Black; and the only reason it could be done was because Louis was a helpless pawn completely under the power of Hugh the Great, whose only interest lay in exploiting the king’s presence to increase his own power, leaving Louis helpless and dependent.

Now, in recent works this is presented a bit less moralistically than it was in the early twentieth century, but it’s still more-or-less the same argument. However, it hinges on the idea that a) Hugh the Black was the ‘rightful heir’ to a ‘duchy of Burgundy’ and b) Hugh the Great was shortsightedly self-serving. I’ve argued against the first point here (Hugh the Black was an outsider to much of his brother’s core regions, and there’s no reason to think that men who had been operating in Ralph’s royal court would not look to the next royal court – rather than a not-so-local potentate – as his successor); but the second is also important.

Historians have long appreciated that kings and nobles were not always and inherently antagonistic such that the kings had to keep unruly and unscrupulous aristocrats down before they tore polities apart in pursuit of their own profit. This appreciation can sometimes seem to stop at around 870. But let’s look at Hugh the Great’s actions. We have a new king. He’s young, and unlike his almost-as-young East Frankish counterpart Otto the Great, he’s inexperienced. He has no West Frankish allies, and a lot of the old royal lands and palaces in the north-east are contested (thanks, Heribert of Vermandois!). But, there are these other guys to the south, in Burgundy, who were in with the last king, and who have no particular love for his brother’s attempts to impose himself on them by force…

Seen in this light, Hugh the Great’s campaign against Hugh the Black looks like a good-faith attempt to set Louis up as successor to Ralph’s power in the region of Burgundy. Certainly, not a disinterested one – Hugh the Great was made lay abbot of Saint-Germain-d’Auxerre – but this was just allowing Hugh an office which had for most of the late ninth century been attached to his particular bloc of lands and offices. (Hugh’s Neustria was actually much more formal than Ralph’s Burgundy, and maybe I should do a post about that…) But Ralph of Burgundy had not been a negligible figure, and asserting Louis as his heir in Burgundy made sense as a way of ensuring that Louis would also be a figure to reckon with.

Why did Hugh want Louis to be a figure to reckon with? Because useless kings were… erm, useless. If, as Hugh could reasonably expect, he would be the most important figure in Louis’ regime, then he needed the king to be rich and powerful, or else he couldn’t reward Hugh or judge in his favour in any meaningful way. He’d just be a useless appendage of Hugh’s own power. Moreover, in the 930s this wasn’t just hypothetical. Less than ten years before, Heribert of Vermandois had tried that sort of puppet arrangement with Louis’ imprisoned father, Charles the Simple, who – absent any particular power of his own – could add nothing to Heribert’s own resources except an alliance with the Normans, who were so suspicious of Heribert’s treatment of the king that they ended up demanding enough in the way of hostages to be rather counter-productive.

Hugh the Great, then, emerges not as a grasping aristocrat exploiting a helpless king, but as a man who, for his own benefit certainly but that makes it no less illustrative of how politics worked, tried to turn an exile king into a political force to be reckoned with.


Name in Print III


Ahem. Sorry about the vehemence there, but as you can see below the gritty details were peculiarly gritty with this one… Anyway, as advertised a little while ago, I now have the final proofs available of my new article, ‘The young king and the old count: Around the Flemish succession crisis of 965’, which has appeared in the latest issue of the Revue Belge de philologie et d’histoire, vol. 95/2 (2017).

I’ve given the full reference because, unfortunately, there’s not yet any hyperlink, nor is it yet open access. However, because an awful lot of continental journals have a more enlightened approach to this sort of thing than the UK does, it will automatically be on Persee after a two-year cool-off period, and I will update when it does. For the moment, I have a PDF and I’m told some physical offprints are on their way to my post-box soon, if that’s more your jam.

So what’s it about, I hear you ask? Well, it has basically three points. The first is working as a case study of the practice -> ideas -> practice cycle which I think is so important to earlier medieval politics. Here, Count Arnulf of Flanders faces a succession crisis, starts pushing his (fairly distant) kinship ties to the Carolingian king Lothar as part of a charm offensive, only for Lothar to turn these claims back against Flanders after Arnulf’s death. The second, relatedly, is to analyse the following succession crisis to argue that a) it was in fact a crisis – Lothar is behaving badly – and b) even when you’ve prepared for the succession as well as you can, a canny operator with a good claim can snatch an awful lot from under your heirs. The third and last is to finally settle the question which Arnulf Flodoard is talking about when he refers to a nepos of Arnulf of Flanders ‘who has the same name’ rebelling against the count. This is more of a problem than it sounds because Arnulf actually has about six potential nepoti all called Arnulf – although I argue that it’s very likely that the one everyone else thinks it is, Arnulf of Boulogne, wasn’t actually related to him at all.

The gritty details: This one took a looooong time. D’you know some version of this first saw the light of day in 2014? It was my Kalamazoo paper in the second year of my doctoral study… Anyway, I wrote that up for the Mediaeval Journal competition in 2015, a year where actually no-one won. I then assumed they wouldn’t want it and sent it off to the RBPH, only to discover rather later it had been short-listed and TMJ were interested in publishing it – by then, of course, it was with someone else so I had to regretfully decline (which they were very good about) and the competition feedback was in fact very, very useful. I then didn’t hear from the RPBH until I was – quite by chance – in Brussels, at the start of 2017, when the reviewers wanted some fairly hefty re-writes (it was at this point the ideas which became this blog post were cut, and someday I’d like to argue them further; but they weren’t really completely relevant, I guess), meaning that I did at least get an excuse to go to Ghent; to read a Dutch doctoral thesis on the charters of Blandijnberg, but still. Once the re-writes were in, I was actually told fairly quickly – late spring 2017? – that they were OK, but then it just sat in a queue waiting until – finally – it saw the light of day now, in Spring 2018.

Source Translation: Hang On, What’s the Bishop of Autun Doing Here?

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Louis, by grace of God king of the Franks. If We proffer the necessary assent to the just and rational petitions of servants of God and chiefly of reverend pontiffs which they relate to Our ears concerning the necessity of the churches of God committed to them, We press on with works of royal highness and through this We do not doubt that We will more easily secure divine propitiation.

And thus, be it known to all of the fideles of the holy Church of God and Us, to wit, present and future, that Our well-beloved, dearest and extraordinary Hugh, outstanding duke of the Franks, and Bernard, count of Beauvais, bringing themselves before Our Sublimity, prayed full humbly that We might concede to Rotmund, the memorable bishop of the church of Autun beloved by Us, a precept of Our authority concerning all the things of his holy mother church, which is dedicated in honour of the nourishing mother of God Mary and the martyr of Christ Nazarius; that is, that, because by the occurrence of some carelessness (by accident, as usually happens), the goods and testaments of the same church’s charters were burned and destroyed, the necessity, or diminution, of their goods might by this precept of Our authority be relieved and made new, as if all the instruments of the same goods or charters were at hand. They also humbly asked that at the same time an authority of Our immunity might be written down in the same precept.

Hearing, I say, their just and reasonable prayers, We commanded this precept of Our Highness, which is called a pancarte, to be made and given to the said bishop, through which We establish, sanction and decree that the said church of the holy martyr Nazarius should obtain everywhere, both in the public mallus and also before Our presence and the sight of all Our fideles, a vigour as much and as great as if all their instruments were at hand, that is, concerning the monasteries subject to the same church and concerning the villas newly stolen from it, which Our predecessors, that is, Ralph and others, restored; that is, Tortoria and Sully and Laizy, which St Siagrius bestowed on the same church, Savigny-le-Vieux, Commissey, Cussy-en-Morvan, Luzy, Tillenay, and the little abbey of Saint-Pancrace, and the woods of Montes with everything legally pertaining to them, and with the other villas and churches concerning which it is now seen to hold just and reasonable and legal vestiture.

Giving orders about all of these, We command that they be held honoured and supported by a privilege of immunity, along with their mother, that is, the church of Autun; as other bishoprics and houses of God are known to be held by the largess and concession of Our predecessors as kings and emperors and Ourself; and might endure in the oft-said holy mother church of Autun through future times by the perpetual stability of assignment, donation and restitution in royal mundeburdum and the defence of immunity, both those which are now contained by the same (as We said) in legitimate vestiture; and as well those which anyone might assign thereto hereafter.

And that this munificence of Our authority might through times to come obtain fuller vigour in the name of God, We confirmed it below with Our hand and We decreed it be sealed with the impression of Our seal.

Sign of the most glorious king Louis.

Odilo the notary witnessed on behalf of Ansegis, bishop and archchancellor.

Enacted at Auxerre, on the 8th kalends of August [26th July], in the year 936, in the 9th indiction, in the first year of the reign of the most glorious king lord Louis.

So, I’m back in the UK. I’m also about to head out to go to a conference, so there’s not that much time to write something for the blog. But, I can give you a preview of next week. I mentioned last time that one of the things on my deck I need to clear off it is a short bit on Louis IV’s Burgundian campaign of 936. We’ve spoken about this before, and when we did I brought up exactly this charter. To recap: after the death of King Ralph in 936, his regional hegemony in Burgundy fell apart a bit, and there was a short but sharp war between his brother Hugh the Black on one hand and Louis IV and Hugh the Great, Louis’ main supporter, on the other. This diploma was issued when it was clear that Louis and Hugh the Great had won.

The mere fact it’s being issued for Autun is interesting. Last time I said that Bishop Rotmund was actually there in Auxerre for the issuance of this diploma, which was actually wrong – the church of Autun might be receiving the precept, but it’s clear that the bishop isn’t actually there. Autun is one of the places where Hugh the Black is strong – his first (surviving) charter as ruler of Burgundy was issued for an Autunois institution – and so now I would read this diploma as a way of enticing Rotmund to clearly support the ‘royalist’ party. After all, it’s no mean concession. Koziol reads this diploma as a ‘canard of an excuse’ for Hugh the Great and Louis to have a big mutual back-slapping party; but actually what it represents is basically a carte blanche for the church of Autun to win any legal disputes where it doesn’t have any evidence – what it basically says is that if the bishop of Autun is called to the court or before the king about their claims to property, it should be treated as though they have appropriate written title even if they don’t unless the claim is flagrantly wrongful.

The diploma survived, so evidently Bishop Rotmund took the bribe. And why would he not? One point of the diploma is how Louis is perfectly properly Ralph of Burgundy’s heir, and Rotmund had been a quite important supporter of the late king. Why wouldn’t he support the new king now? But, of course, that’s the same point I made last time. There’s more to this story – but that’ll wait for next week.

On Coming Back to England – Twenty Months in Review

Hey guys. Sorry it’s a bit austere in here – I leave Tübingen tomorrow, and I had to send all my stuff back the UK yesterday, so there’s not much other than me and the laptop left. (And actually once I’ve posted this I need to send my router back to my Internet provider so the laptop won’t be terribly useful at that point…)

Is it fair to say I don’t really want to leave? I guess so. Living here has a few downsides, like the fact that I don’t really have hobbies anymore – I’ve been meaning to learn to dance for a couple of years, but there aren’t any English-language classes I can find and based on the last time I tried, I need as few handicaps as possible to even fail successfully. On the other hand, I like the town, I like the work, my colleagues are great, and after a relatively lonely year in Brussels I have something of a social life. Plus, of course, there’s never been a better time not to be working in UK academia…

Still, despite the air of melancholy, you can’t say the last two years haven’t been good ones, career-wise. When I was awarded a Fondation Wiener-Anspach fellowship two years ago almost precisely, I was about three months away from finishing my thesis, earning a bit of side money through freelance invigilating, and generally being at a bit of a loose end. Since then, I’ve had two jobs, won a prize and got the proxime for two others, got another two articles in print, and am about to start on a three-year contract which should hopefully be a little more stable. So that’s very pleasing, and I’m a lot happier about the short-term future than I was two years ago, or even at the start of 2017.

More importantly, here in Tübingen I think that I made a enough progress on my research to be able to start hacking away at the thickets standing between me and the book after I arrive in Leeds. More on that over the course of the years to come, but it does mean that I should probably clear the decks with my other publications. Which brings us to the actual point of the post: what’s coming, what needs work, and what’s sitting around in my ‘drafts’ folder waiting for something to happen with it?

Coming soon

OK, these are the ones where the revisions are all done, I’ve seen the proofs, and (albeit painfully slowly in one case) all that’s left to do is wait. There are two of these. The first is my ‘Flemish Succession Crisis’ article, where I finally try and resolve the Arnulf problem once and for all (and also shed some incidental light on royal power in the 960s in the process) – I got an e-mail from the editors yesterday asking for my postal address for the offprints, so hopefully I’ll be able to put up a Name In Print III fairly soon. The second is ‘Voice of Dissent’, on the Historia Francorum Senonensis, which is both a really, really close read and comes with an English translation of the text, so keep an eye out for that if early eleventh-century historiography is your jam.

Probably Coming Soon

Whilst these ones have been submitted and I’ve heard positive things back from their respective editors, they don’t yet have a date attached to them, and may require one or more rounds of revisions. Still, based on what I’ve seen thus far, those revisions shouldn’t be “re-write the whole thing” level… Another two in this category, ‘Kingship and Consent’, what I (sort-of) won that prize for; and ‘Nixi rex’, a written-up version of the paper I gave at that conference in Ghent I started blogging about and then stopped a couple of years or so ago. This one is about the regalian trend in talking about disputed episcopal elections c. 900 – what it is and what it means.

In Progress

This is the lowest level I still put on my CV – it means they’ve been submitted somewhere, but I don’t know how much work is left to do with them. Another two here – ‘Social and Political Selection’, about a disputed episcopal election in the 1010s and my attempt to analyse why the loser lost; and ‘Girly Man’, about which you have heard plenty. Nothing to do here but wait.

In Beta

These three are completely written, but they haven’t really been trialled yet. Before I submit them to a journal, I want to run them by people on the conference circuit. The first, ‘Martinian Advocacy’, in addition to being the first actual article I’ve written which began life as a blog post, is probably the closest to being submitted. I’m presenting it at the Ecclesiastical History Society, and then it needs a bit more historiographical grounding – there’s a point about Carolingian reform which it could speak to more loudly than it does. Then it’ll need test-running again, but I reckon if I keep a weather eye out for speaking opportunities it could be submitted somewhere by year-end 2018… The second, ‘Lehnwesen’, is part of someone else’s bigger project and I don’t know how much I can say about it so I’ll leave it there. At minimum, though, I need to read a couple of extra bibliography items and do another draft. The third and last, ‘Archchancellors’, is about an odd aspect of royal diplomas under Louis IV, to wit that he goes through archchancellors like Trump goes through press secretaries. This was sent in as a competition entry (where it received some of the most incompetent feedback I’ve ever had, all the more noticeable because Reader 1 was really helpful – and when I say incompetent, I mean “Reader 2 could not manage coherent paragraph organisation”) and one of the points was that I was avoiding the debate about the Carolingian chancery too hard. That was largely deliberate; but it does mean I need to run a version of it past real diplomatists at some point, and therefore this one’ll take a while longer.

Hanging Around

Seven in this category, these being the ones that I found when I went to look through my ‘Drafts’ folder. One of these, ‘Earliest Cluny’, actually will graduate higher fairly shortly – it’s a nice little case study of how noble power in the regions actually worked, and all it needs is a bit of polishing and some expanded analysis. Equally, ‘Princely Churches’, which has also appeared here in the past, was actually submitted to a journal, which rejected it (on fairly spurious grounds – most journals, those reports would have been ‘revise and resubmit’). Problem is, it has now turned into a co-authored piece and both me and my co-author are now busy enough and doing-other-things enough that it’s slid well down our respective to-do lists. Basically: should do something here, probably won’t any time soon. The third in this more promising category is ‘Moot Point’, on Neustrian assemblies. I really want to do something with this – it’s the kind of study I was complaining recently we just don’t have – but I spent years worrying over methodological difficulties and now I’m satisfied that there’s a real response to those, I can’t remember the evidence and when I went to look it up it looked shakier than I remembered. Presumably that’ll go away if I really submerge myself in these charters again, but that’ll take a while.

The next two, ‘Dudo’s Time’ and ‘Provençal Pact’, just need time, the former more than the latter. The first started as a simple enough observation – broadly, the Historia Normannorum’s plot (one thing after another) is overruled by its metaplot (in heavenly time, everything has always already happened). It’s another close-reading paper, and that’s done; the problem is that a) finding the English vocabulary to talk about fiddling around with time is hard; and b) trying to find literature on it led me into literary criticism and thence to Lacan, which is enough to demoralise anyone. Again, it’s so far down the priority list it’ll take a while. More likely is the Provence paper. Once I finally decided that Liutprand of Cremona had no idea about Hugh of Arles’ relations with Transjurane Burgundy, and was stuck on a delayed train, I started sketching out an overview of Provençal politics after the death of Louis the Blind. This could go fairly quickly into the ‘In Beta’ category if I give it a week, but finding a week for something this out of the wheelhouse is tricky.

Finally, two articles, ‘Soteriological Superiority’ and ‘West Frankish Reichskirche’, which have shown up on here before, but which I will not do anything with. The former will end up in the book; the latter is just too skinny to do anything much with at all.

Need Writing

In addition to all this, there are a few things which I want to write at some point and need to get on with. The first, ‘Stephen of Clermont’, is going to be based on the many, many posts about him on this here blog – I promised my funding body a ‘flagship’ article and he’s going to be it. There’s also ‘Church of Sens’ – the Historia Francorum article mentioned above began as one gigantic piece including lots and lots of historical and political context about the archbishops of Sens, and it was a bit of a Siamese twin. The reviewers recommended ditching it from the ‘Voice of Dissent’ bit, so now I think it should be an article on its own, but it does need redoing with coins and perhaps manuscripts.

Finally, there are two other books which I’d like to do something with. One is a Translated Source Volume, which at this point may be Adhemar of Chabannes. I did start dealing with Folcuin of Lobbes, but then discovered that, commentary-wise, I had nothing much to say about him, so Adhemar might be a juicier proposition, as well as a useful one.

The other is The Last Carolingians, a narrative history of the West Frankish kingdom c. 875-1030. This one presents me with a problem – it’s an exciting story, and I’d like to do it with a commercial publisher for a non-specialist audience. However, my views on the narrative itself are sufficiently new, and in some cases controversial, that the book would also need to actually argue for my reconstruction rather than just recount the consensus view. I test-wrote a chapter on the succession of Louis IV, though, and doing it that way makes it very technical. Thus, although it’s a bit B.S.-Bachrach-ish to just cite yourself over and over again, I might postpone this and shunt the argumentation into a series of articles – in which case, ‘Burgundian Succession 936’ needs to go on the to-do list to begin with…

Cripes, that’s twenty things. Admittedly of those a little less than half are basically done, in one stage or another, and another two are explicitly never going to be dealt with; but I have just set myself a good five or six things to get into print in the next year or so. I arrive in Leeds on the 1st May – sounds like I’d better prepare myself to get on with it…

Source Translation: A Mass Against Barbarian Persecution

…look, I just finished running a conference. My exhaustion is currently winning a battle against my  ongoing adrenaline-rush on-edge activity. I translated this a couple months ago with the idea it might be useful at some point; I have nothing much to say about it, but have fun:

[edit: this mass was composed at Saint-Martin of Tours, probably in the mid-ninth century.]

A Mass Against the Threat of Barbarian Persecution

O God eternal and almighty, Thou Who spared Nineveh for three days of repentance and rescued the three boys unharmed from the fiery furnace,  and as well freed Daniel from the lions’ den, preserve us and through Thine ineffable mercy save us from the terrible madness of the encroaching barbarians, in order that we who have been thus freed, with the gratitude owed for such an act and in the service due to thee,  may continue in constant devotion. Per.

Alternatively. Grant us, we beseech thee O God Almighty, through the merits and intercession of the blessed N., that we who are rightfully afflicted due to our iniquity might be swiftly rescued from barbarian savagery by the gift of Thy goodness through Thine only-begotten son. Per.

Prayer over the offerings. We beseech thee, O Lord, look favourably on these present sacraments and kindly accept this which is offered to thee in great faith, on account of our suffering, so that we might speedily earn liberation from the current Northman disaster and thereafter by Thy mercy continue to obey Thy commands with the greatest devotion. Per.

After mass. O God eternal and almighty, we beseech Thee through Thine only-begotten son, give us the help of Thy salvation, that we, having been gained security from the barbarian cruelty which now threatens us, may deserve to serve Thee freely and unconditionally hereafter. Per eundem.

Ad complendum. We beseech Thee, O Lord, help Us Thy servants, appressed by the miseries of so many disasters, and be pleased to guard us with the right hand of Thy majesty, and after the cruel barbarian terror has been removed, kindly and speedily grant us the joy of comfort everlasting. Per.

Geoffrey Koziol’s Peace of God

I’ve now had the time to read Geoff Koziol’s new book on the Peace of God (called, with agreeable straightforwardness, The Peace of God) a couple of times, and spend a week thinking it over. I only got hold of it about a fortnight or so ago so this isn’t my final, definitive opinion or anything; but I reckon I can put together a coherent-enough first impression.

It’s a bit of a disappointing book. That’s a bit of an unfair opinion, because it’s not like it’s bad or anything, but the last two books Koziol wrote were game-changers, even if you don’t agree with them, so simply putting out a book that’s perfectly fine is a bit deflating. It must also be said that the book is literally lightweight as well – here’s a photo of all three of Geoff’s books to show you what I mean.

It’s the one on the right. You can’t tell from this photo, but it’s also less tall than the others as well.

Anyway, it’s divided into three chapters, ‘Before the Peace of God’, ‘The Peace of God’, and ‘Institutionalising the Peace and Truce’. The first covers previous ideas of peace in Late Antiquity and the Carolingian empire and the Aquitanian context in which the Peace emerged. The second looks at what the Peace of God said, how it changed region by region, how the Peace of God worked, and how it was enforced. The third (which might in fact be a game changer if you work on twelfth-century law, I dunno) largely looks at late eleventh and twelfth-century institutionalisation of the Peace, and I’m basically going to ignore it in what follows because I don’t have much to say about it.

There are – for me at least – three big takeaway arguments from the first two chapters. First, the Peace of God genuinely was something new and different to the way the Carolingians talked about peace and violence. Second, it worked by regulating the lordships which proliferated alongside castles in a way which worked because it relied on the self-interest of lords. Third, although it was a consistent approach, it was very adaptable and needs to be approached in each region in that region’s own context.

Many of these points are very well made. Point one, for instance, is largely a response to Elisabeth Magnou-Nortier’s argument that the way the Church talked about its enemies didn’t change much from Late Antiquity onwards, and it’s able to express convincingly the point that, yes, there was actually something which had changed between 500 and 1100. Equally, Point 2 seems reasonable, at least in part.

However, there’s a lot in here which is dealt with oddly, where his actual argument doesn’t match his admirable statements about approach, or which are arguably wrong.

The context is a big one. Yes, every iteration of the Peace of God needs to be looked at from its specific context – it’s a great point; but a lot of the time he either doesn’t do this, or does and doesn’t get it quite right. In the latter case, his description of Aquitaine immediately before the Peace of God emerged, in the second half of the tenth century, relies heavily on the work of Christian Lauranson-Rosaz, and so reproduces much that Lauranson-Rosaz got wrong as well as some of his peculiar biases. In particular, Bishop Stephen II of Clermont doesn’t count as regional supremo because he’s just a bishop and not a ‘real’ lay ruler. The opposite view is quite findable out there in print – Anne-Hélène Brunterc’h published an article about this thirteen years ago, for instance. So what we have is a Peace of God emerging in a fragmented political vacuum which may in fact be illusory. In the former case, Koziol deals with lordship in chapter 2 as basically undifferentiated; but (as you can read in the last blog post, actually) even ‘a southern Aquitanian region with lots of castles’ has lots of different ways of being locally in charge depending on whether you’re in the Limousin or Quercy. Some more contextualisation of what ‘lordship’ meant would have put words into practice; and, sure, it would have meant a bigger book, but this book may be too small for its topic anyway.

Equally, Koziol is, quite simply, wrong when he talks about how there were very few aristocratic assemblies in tenth-century Gaul, and the Auvergne was unusual for the number it had. What is true is that aristocratic assemblies in tenth-century France – or immediately thereafter, actually – have never been studied. (As such, anyway; there’s a literature about local courts, especially in the Mâconnais, but not on political assemblies, with maybe one honourable exception) They are, though, there to find, even if no-one’s done it systematically yet – my own familiarity with the evidence from, in particular, Neustria and Poitou, suggests that princely assemblies existed and persisted during the tenth century. An examination of the Peace of God in the context of assembly politics in tenth-century regions, then, needs to actually be done rather than assumed.

Third and finally, I’ve noticed before that Koziol has an overt anti-Carolingian bias and here it’s on full display. A major part of what is called his second point above is that, unlike Carolingian capitularies (‘fervent, ideological, and utterly unpragmatic’ (p. 131)), the Peace of God was good legislation, because it’s ‘crisp, clear, to the point, and eminently practical’ (p. 65); and I don’t know what documents he’s reading, because it’s clearly not the same ones I am. In fact, immediately after saying this, he quotes the Peace of Narbonne (1054):

Let no Christian harm any other Christian or presume to mistreat him or despoil him of property.

Practical, huh? ‘Don’t be nasty’ is about as practical as the diatribes of Archbishop Hincmar which Koziol rails against. Equally, on the other side, Koziol uses the 884 Capitulary of Ver as an example of ‘unpragmatic’ Carolingian legislation. Here’s the second heading of that capitulary, just as an example:

We therefore decree that everyone who lives in Our palace or visits it from any place should live in peace. If anyone breaks the peace and commits robbery let them by Our royal authority and the command of Our representative be brought to a hearing in the palace, and, in accordance with what is contained in the capitularies of Our ancestors, by a legal judgement be punished with a threefold fine and the royal ban.

How’s that for fervent, otherworldly lawmaking? It’s longer, sure, but it’s just as enforceable as any Peace of God clause. Koziol is right that Peace of God legislation tends to forego some of the sermonising found in Carolingian legislation, but only by focussing narrowly on the texts: on the day, as it were, given these things were issued at large assemblies with lots of major clerics present, there would have been all the preaching you could eat. (Equally, we know from manuscripts that Carolingian capitularies were used as guidebooks for legal practice – some manuscript comparison would have been useful, because I don’t think Peace of God legislation tends to get written down much at all, which suggests Koziol is comparing apples and oranges here…) So I think Koziol’s dislike of the Carolingians has led him into an unsupportable binary distinction between Carolingian and Peace of God legislation which in turn means that his ideas about how different the Peace of God was from the Carolingian peace start to look a lot shakier.

Now, I’ve spent 1200 words – gosh, really? This was supposed to be short… – criticising it, but like I said, it’s not bad. I suspect it’ll go down as a footnote in the Koziol oeuvre, but it offers useful precepts for people looking the Peace of God in the future, even if it puts them into practice imperfectly. Personally, I think the call to contextual analysis is key. No staggering new insight on the Peace of God is going to emerge unless we have a much better idea than we currently do about political formations, assembly practices, and local, regional, and regnal communities both in Aquitaine and elsewhere before the Peace of God emerged.


Briefly, Some More on Aquitanian Castles

Not that I’ve had any great breakthrough or anything, but I think I’ve moved on somewhat on one of the issues around the Miracles of Saint Foy which we were talking about last time. My thanks to Jonathan Jarrett, who in the comments recommended an article of Pierre Bonnassie’s on castles in the Miracles, which I have quickly got hold of a copy of and read. (Relatedly, if M. Fray from Twitter is reading this, the Aurillac and Figeac miracles have been put fairly high on the list, thanks a lot! – but I haven’t got round to them yet for reasons which will become clear below…) And based on the Bonnassie article, I have had a thought.

First, a little bit of comparison. Since I got back from a short visit to Hesse at the start of this week (mostly looking at late- and post-Carolingian churches, so how far it counts as a ‘holiday’ is up for debate), I’ve been spending most of my time reading Adhemar of Chabannes’ Chronicon, which in terms of geographical coverage overlaps very slightly with the area Bernard of Angers was writing about but which mostly concerns the area immediately to the north; and which, like the Miracles, spends a lot of time talking about castles, but with one noticeable difference. As Bonnassie points out (which I had already noticed), basically none of the fighting in the Miracles takes place in castles themselves – there are ambushes and ravaging aplenty, but not many sieges or assaults. By contrast, warfare in Adhemar is all about attacking castles. I have the Chronicon beside me right now, and opening the book literally at random, I found a description of an assault on a castle (III.48, an attack on the castle of Merle). What this means is that Adhemar is describing a situation in which rulers can mobilise enough resources to risk attacking a castle in a way which the nobles in the Miracles can’t.

What this means, I would argue, is that at the very least a proliferation of castles was not a cause of an extreme fragmentation of power in the area Bernard of Angers is talking about, in Quercy and the Rouergue – because Poitou, the Limousin, and the Angoumois also saw a proliferation of castles but still had people who could mobilise on a larger scale than the people Bernard is writing about. This suggests to me, although it certainly does not prove, that my initial hunch was right and that Bonnassie’s argument is wrong: the issue is less that power actually was extremely fragmented, and more that Bernard was interested in a very small-scale, local society. It’s true (as Bonnassie says) that a lot of the castles in Bernard’s region are very difficult to attack, but on the other hand it’s not like Merle (for example) is set at the bottom of a gentle river valley either… So I would speculate that had Bernard been writing about the mighty deeds of great men like Adhemar was, rather than about the miracles that the saint of a B-list abbey performed amongst the local community, their accounts would look more similar.

The Tours de Merle. Not the eleventh-century buildings, obviously, but you can tell from the setting that accessibility was not the builders’ chief concern… (source)