Charter A Week 83/1: Revisiting the Aquitanian Peace of the 950s

The year 959 provides us with another charter bonanza: two documents this week, and another on a different topic next week. It’s all go here! This time, despite have more documents, we’re going to have shorter commentary, largely because – once again – I’ve covered much of the context here in previous blog posts. A few weeks ago we saw William Towhead, count of Poitiers, trying to assert himself in eastern Aquitaine. This went on from 955 onwards, and by the late 950s he was having some success: Stephen II of Clermont took a (diplomatically timed) pilgrimage to Rome, and William was able to project power as far west as Nevers, where he met King Lothar and other nobles of the realm at Marzy in 958.

This success prompted him to experiment with his pretentions, and so, at around this time, we find the following charter:

Saint-Maixent, no. 20 (late 950s) 

William, by grace of divine piety count of the Poitevins and the Limogeauds and the Auvgernats, and in addition count of the palace of Aquitaine. 

We wish to make it known to all the faithful of the holy Church of God, to wit, present and future, that Our certain follower and abbot of Saint-Maixent, Gerbert by name, acceding to Our Highness, beseeched Us that We might concede something from Our benefice from the abbey of Saint-Maixent to a certain monk named Badin, that is, one church founded in honour of Saint-Pierre with everything beholden to it, and the estates of Mérillé and Pompérain, and as well as much as pertain to them; in another place, in the estate of Pamprou, a church founded in honour of Saint-Maixent, and three mills in the same estate; in another place, the estate of Riberolles, and one mill; in a fourth place, in the estate of Saugé, two quarters; in a fifth place on the river Sèvre, near the monastery, one mill.

We deign to concede these aforesaid goods with everything, both within and without, lying the the aforesaid estates under a written rent, because it pleased Us entirely to do this, not denying his petition. On the condition, that is, that each year, without delay to whom the law presents [sic], and if he is late or negligent owing to any difficulty, let him render a double census, such that he does not lose these aforesaid goods. After the death of the aforesaid monk, let the monks who serve the body of the the blessed Maxentius hold and possess these aforesaid goods perpetually, disturbed by nobody.

Saint-Maixent as it is today. Safe to say it hasnt’ weathered the storms of history as well as its counterparts in Poitiers… (source)

The big draw here is the titulature. We’ve seen at length that the Poitevins did not previously have any kind of suzerainty over Auvergne, and the Limousin was also generally (although not universally) out of their orbit. This title, then, makes it clear that William is trying to expand his authority, although not in the direction of a ducal title (yet). The phrase ‘count of the palace’ is interesting: we haven’t seen this charter, but comes palatii was a title claimed by William the Pious back at the end of the ninth century, and indeed one he claimed (counterintuitively) against the new king Charles the Simple. William’s title here, then, might be a posture; but it’s a strategically directed posture. Perhaps it was in the context of negotiations with King Lothar at Marzy?

Certainly, by the 950s people were trying to end the sporadic fighting in Aquitaine. I have discussed this before, so I won’t go into too much depth here. Suffice to say that the new archbishop of Lyon, Amblard, was of Auvergnat origins, and we can see him very active in the region. He set up a new Cluniac prior at Ris, which involved Auvergnat delegations going to Lyon; he also took part in the excommunication of a minor Provençal noble named Isuard next to Archbishop Artald of Rheims. It is unlikely Isuard’s case was the main reason for these bishops to be talking to one another, and a logical conclusion was that peace terms were being hashed out. And then there’s this:

SEL, no. 179 (959, Lyon)

Amblard, by propitiation of divine clemency archbishop of the holy metropolis of Lyon.

We decreed it be made known to all of the sons and daughters of both orders of the holy mother church over which, with God propitious, We preside, to wit, both present and future, that Ebalus, a certain brother to Us in Christ and fellow-bishop and rightly venerable to everyone, bishop of the holy see of Limoges, by the advice of his canons, had asked Our Reverence for certain land of Our diocese lying in his bishopric and county, which is known to have once been taken away for the benefit of Our predecessors, whether through the power of princes or also through fraud and violence on the part of certain dwellers in the same county of Limoges, and also through the negligence of Our predecessors; and which was granted by a certain matron named Deda and her son named… to the canons of Saint-Etienne, over whom, by God’s oversight, the aforesaid bishop presides with episcopal authority, to be possessed by perpetual right, inasmuch as it was in recompense for a certain sin and full culpable crime of hers, with her bishop Turpio [of Limoges] compelling it forcefully, or rather with sacred laws most firmly exacting it, by the aforesaid persons, to wit, Deda and her son, to be possessed in perpetuity by both him and his successors. Finally, the aforesaid bishop was seen to request of Our Paternity that from now – lest it be reduced under the power of worldly persons – his cannons be permitted to possess which they were seen to possess for a long time without exaction of rent and without any sort of reclamation from any of Our people through a donation someone made to them, under an annual rent, by a donation from Us and Our people. At the suggestion of the illustrious man and Our counsellor, Our lord Geilin [of Valence], and equally with the consent of all Our followers both clerics and laymen, including the leading men of Our congregation, that is, lord prior N and lord dean N and lord cantor N, including Our archdeacons N and N, We decreed that his petitions, which seemed reasonable, be done. 

This land is held in the county of Limoges in the vicariate of Neuvic, that is, in the estate which is called Ayayd, 4 manses with serfs and all their adjacencies; and on the river Vienne, in the place which is called Trois-Portes, 1 manse; and in the estate which is called Mouliéras, 1 manse; and in the estate which is called Samaru, 2 manses; and in the estate of Golas, 1 manse. All this abovenamed, with all its adjacencies and servile bondsmen of both sexes, We donate to the aforesaid Bishop Ebalus and his canons of the congregation of Saint-Etienne, through the instruments of these letters – on the condition that through the course of times to come, they should hold and possess it with all its improvements, build and construct upon it, and most freely do whatever they wish for their advantage; and each year pay 2 shillings to the part of Us and Our canons.

And that this charter might be held more firmly, We confirmed it together with Our canons, and We gave it to honourable laymen to be strengthened. 

Given at Lyon, in the abbey of Saint-Etienne, in the 7th year of the reign of King Lothar, in the 13th indiction.

I, Amblard, and the whole company of Saint-Etienne, confirm this charter by such a covenant: if, God willing, you can do this you ask, through this confirmation or improved service you may take it away from Our uses; or accept a precarial grant on the matter hereafter (as is the custom of Our church), in your name and those of whichever two you wish. 

This charter has suffered a bit in transmission, and it’s not entirely coherent, but nowhere near enough not to get a sense of what’s happening. First of all, we have direct communication between Amblard and William Towhead’s brother, Bishop Ebalus of Limoges. This by itself is the missing link putting Amblard at the centre of multilateral peace negotiations. Interestingly, we also have Geilin of Valence. We haven’t met Geilin before, and indeed he only shows up in a handful of charter references, but all of them are interesting. Geilin’s homebase, as I said, seems to have been in Valence, but we see him particularly active in the West Frankish kingdom too, in Velay. Despite his general connection to the court of the Transjurane ruler Conrad the Pacific, he was not constrained by one kingdom, and – besides questions of how he increased his personal hegemony – he was a kind of ‘West Frankish expert’ in the Rhône valley. His presence here, then, reinforces the idea that we are, almost for the final time, seeing the Trans-Ararian Fluidity Zone in action to try and stop the violence in central and eastern Aquitaine.   


Charter A Week 80: Border Warfare in Auvergne

The idea of a ‘charter’ is a flexible one. My favourite example of this is a document from the church of Saint-Maturin de Larchant, which is half saint’s life and half property register and probably wouldn’t be counted as a ‘charter’ except for the fact that it’s a parchment single-sheet. Another case in point is this week’s document, from the archives of Fleury’s priory Perrecy, located about half-way between Autun and Mâcon. Perrecy has had a lot of interest from historians because it preserves some really interesting ninth-century documents, including what seem to be the traces of a lay archive; but it also has the following oddity, which has the remnants of a charter in it at one point, but is really more of a short sacred history:

Fleury no. 51 (late 950s)

In the time of Hugh the Great, and Lambert [of Chalon], count of the Allobroges, Letald the knight, uncle of Teduin of Sancerre, seeking Burgundy, committed himself to the aforesaid Lambert and to Bernard, that is, his relative. Having received their grace, they bestowed many goods upon him, from which he acquired certain others by his labour. Therefore, in their times, the men of Auvergne left their borders and entered Burgundy, and plundered the fields, and took everything, and thus went home. When they had already completed three return journeys, the report reached the Allobroges and disturbed some of the powerful among them, and incited Lambert and Bernard (by God’s gift always victor in battle), to battle.  

They came together, and took counsel with their gathered potentates as to what should be done in circumstances of such peril, and whom they should send to oppose such evil. Their unanimous opinion settled on Bernard and entreated he be made their leader. Lambert, joyfully assenting to their petitions, exhorted Bernard in these words: ‘As you see, most faithful follower of mine, great necessity urges us to stand against our enemies; but it befits us to first establish someone experienced who can lead our forces with distinction. For this reason, because your nobility in such matters has, by God’s gift, been often proven, we ask you to be the general of our forces and to help out with such a necessity’. Bernard said, ‘I give thanks to God, Who has led me back safe from such perils as often as has pleased Him; but up until now I have been greatly worn down by this, and my inner voice is currently not telling me to seek them out, having not been enriched by such labours.’ Lambert responded to this: ‘I know for sure that you have deserved much more than your nobility possesses, and for this reason you will not feel sorry for having worked in vain if you do not put off coming to help with such a necessity.’ Bernard spoke and responded: ‘I am not conniving to seek any advantage for what Your Highness asks – particularly since I know not what the Highest Majesty has decreed in this conflict – but if God’s usual clemency should make me victorious and unharmed, let your soul deliberate what it might worthily and in the very best way bestow’. Lambert promised this quite happily. Together they sought Perrecy, and approached Richard (who presided over the same place at that time), to defend themselves by grace of prayer. Having offered from his estates one manse in Curdin with a serf and meadows, vineyards, lands cultivated and uncultivated; and another with another serf in Gentiliaca Villa, in the place called Renosus, with meadows, vineyards, lands cultivated and uncultivated, and enjoyment of the wood, Bernard brought with him relics of the saints he had already used in some battles. 

Fortified (under God’s clemency) by such a defence, therefore, he met the enemies in the district of the Bourbonnais, and battle was joined over the estate of Chalmoux, and he slew them with such slaughter that the rivers were blocked up, losing no more than 15 of his own men, including the aforesaid Letald, Guy, and Arnald. Therefore, to fulfil his vow, having gained the victory, he returned home rejoicing with the aforesaid, bringing Letald to Perrecy. For the remedy of their souls, the aforesaid Lambert and Bernard both bestowed on the same place in perpetuity as a gift whatever they possessed from them or had bought from others from their estates: that is, one manse with an enclosure in the estate which is called Vicille Vigne, another in the place which is called Montceau (which the aforesaid Letald bought from Constable and from his heirs), with one field between La Creuse and La Goutte, which descends from Hill Bridge; another manse in the place called La Vaux, and half of Hill Bridge, and half of Taxeneriarus; and whatever Guy and Arnald acquired in L’Hessard, that is, one curtilage at Dear Place, one field with vineyards, lands cultivated and uncultivated, and woods, and whatever is there with renders and customs from everything, under such an injunction that whosoever might try to infringe or reclaim any of these which have been named should receive damnation with Judas the Betrayer, Annais and Caiphas, with the Devil and his angels in the eternal fire; and should pay 10 pounds of gold to them on whom he inflicted the quarrel, with the fisc confiscating, and his claim should be entirely frustrated. 

That this donation might endure firm and stable, relying on this guarantee, after witnesses have subscribed, we undersigned it. 

Lambert (☧), Bernard, Leotald (☧), Giso, David, Hilderic, Antus, Rainer, Deodatus, Budo.

The church of Perrecy as it exists today (source)

This is another document where the date it all happens is unclear, not least because it evidently takes place over the course of several years. The reference to Hugh the Great, who died in 956, puts our terminus ante quem in the mid-950s; but Lambert of Chalon (for it is he) only became count in around 959. With that said, Lambert, the son of Viscount Robert of Dijon, was still a prominent figure in southern Burgundian politics before Lothar handed Chalon over to him, and so c. 955-960 is a good time-frame for these events.

And these are pretty interesting events: fighting between royal allies (Lambert and co.) and Auvergnat raiders in the marches of the Auvergne and Mâconnais. This all fits into what we were discussing last time: the attempts by William Towhead of Poitiers to assert himself in eastern Aquitaine. The year 955 had largely frustrated him: he had been defeated outside Poitiers (although an attack on the city itself had been thwarted) and the archbishopric of Bourges had gone to Richard I, brother of Hugh the Great’s key ally Theobald the Trickster. By the years around 958, though, he was doing better, probably capturing Nevers. It is in this context that we can probably see the Auvergnat raids this charter refers to.

We have noted in prior posts that the Auvergnat elite in the latter 950s was divided, with one portion favouring William Towhead and one portion favouring Stephen of Clermont. In 956/957, Stephen had the upper hand (as we have seen in other charters on this blog) but William remained a contender and the raids of 958 and earlier years into Burgundy may have a surprising amount in common with viking raids. One of the standard explanations for viking raids is that they were expeditions to gain booty and political capital in order to pursue political objectives at home; and this may well be what’s happening here. (Not for nothing did Timothy Reuter say that ‘for most of Europe the Franks were the vikings’.)

However, raids into this area would have been particularly problematic for Lambert, whose powerbase seems to have been in precisely this border region, around the Charolais and Paray-le-Monial. I don’t think we have to see an actual civil war here. Lambert of Chalon and Abbot Richard of Fleury between them are a constellation of royal allies. But although (as we’ll cover later) Lothar certainly had a vested interest in keeping William down, this reads more like a primarily local affair, dictated by local interests and at best secondarily reaching towards a wider frame.

As such, the shafts of light this act shines on relations within an aristocratic entourage are quite interesting. Letald appears as a roving warrior, seeking employment based on family ties with an up-and-coming pair of leaders. (I have to confess I have no idea who Bernard is outside of this charter; he’s clearly important, but also subordinate to Lambert.) Lambert and Bernard evidently have a duty of care towards him even after his death. Lambert also apparently has a duty towards Bernard, but although Bernard acknowledges Lambert as his boss, he’s also apparently in a position to basically blackmail him for more stuff in situations of urgency. In fact, the transactional nature of the relationship reminds me of nothing so much as the Conventum of Hugh the Chiliarch; and like that text makes me wonder whether the relationship in question is purely transactional. Ultimately, I think not: the negotiations around Bernard’s appointment come in the context of an assembly of whoever the scribe is subsuming under the Classicising term ‘Allobroges’ (for my money, it probably would be something like ‘Southern Burgundians’), under Lambert’s leadership. What I think is happening is that this kind of (leader-based?) group membership is the stage setting in which this kind of negotiation can take place, and that the combination of intercutting regional and sub-regional groups and negotiable relations of fidelity within them are pretty basic for noble power at this time. (I also think this represents a bit of a change from the late ninth century, but that’s a story for another moment!)

Charter A Week 79: A New Aquitaine?

Last time we were in Aquitaine, Bishop Stephen II of Clermont was getting his local authority reinforced through a renewed connection to royalty. Yet there was a cloud on the horizons: the presence of William Towhead, count of Poitiers, on the Loire with him. William’s position in the first half of the 950s was difficult, not least because when Louis IV died Hugh the Great was able to exploit the new king, Lothar, to attack him. Nonetheless, William fought Hugh off, and even pushed eastwards to try and suborn an old royal ally:

CC no. 1.825 (June 955/shortly thereafter, Huillaux/Ennezat)

Since, in the laborious pilgrimage of this world, whilst it is yet allowed and whilst the time is right and the days of salvation are seen to be at hand, provision ought to be made with every fibre of one’s being that if we can do anything good we should put aside all delay and not hesitate to carry it out, making our debtors those whom we know truly to consult for the safety of the body in the present and whom we little doubt will be judges of our souls in future. Because after death we can do nothing good, we deem it worthwhile to give satisfaction to the Hidden Judge before we are led to that subtle and incomprehensible Judgement. We should not cease to wipe what we have negligently committed clean with the hand of penitence however we can in this brief life.  

Therefore I, Stephen, an unworthy sinner, and my wife named Ermengard, considering the enormity of our sins, and – which is more salubrious – delighting to hear the sweetest voice of our lord Jesus Christ, which says ‘Give alms and behold, everything will be clean unto you’, and also that which holy Scripture admonishes us, saying ‘the riches of a man are the redemption of his soul’, donate because of this exhortation and admonition something from the goods of our property to God and His holy apostles Peter and Paul at the place of Cluny, which the humble abbot lord Aimard is seen to preside over. The place is sited in the district of Mâconnais, and is consecrated in veneration of the blessed mother of God Mary, ever-virgin, and of the same apostles. These goods are sited in the county of Auvergne, in the bishopric of Autun: that is, the indominical curtilage which is called Huillaux with a chapel which is built in honour of the blessed mother of God Mary, where St Leotald rests in body. 

We make this donation on this condition: whilst we live, I, Stephen and my wife Ermengard, we should hold and possess it, and the rulers of the abovenamed place should hold the chapel in vestiture with everything which is seen to pertain to that chapel. After both of our deaths, we donate and wish to be donated in perpetuity to Lord God, as we have often already said, as much as is beholden or seen to be beholden to that curtilage or to that chapel which is built therein in its entirety, for the remedy of our souls, and for the remedy of the souls of our parents, and in addition for the salvation of the living and the rest of the dead, with serfs and freedmen, fields, meadows, vineyards, woods, waters and watercourses, mills, houses, buildings, with everything thereon, mobile and immobile goods, incomes and renders, cultivated and uncultivated lands, sought and to be sought, beholden or pertaining to that inheritance, as is ruled and possessed by us at the present time, so that the rulers of the said monastery and those serving God therein might, without interruption by anyone, firmly and solidly hold it always in perpetuity. 

If anyone, which we do not believe will come to pass, we ourselves (God forbid!) or anyone at all joined to us by kinship, a son or a daughter, a nephew, or anyone else at all, might against divine right become an invader or contradictor of this donation spontaneously made by Us, and endeavours to transfer the good named to God and entrusted to His saints into their uses, in the first place let them incur the wrath of God Almighty, Whose goods they have presumed to by rash daring, let them be bound by the chains of a terrible anathema, and unless they come to their senses, let them be subject to every curse, and let this donation endure firm. 

S. Stephen and his wife Ermengard. Heldin. Rainald. Robert. Caro. Warner. 

Enacted publicly at Huillaux. 

Boso wrote and gave this in the month of June, in the year of the Lord’s incarnation 952 [sic], in the 3rd indiction, in the 1st year of the reign of King Lothar, who commanded a precept be made about the same donation and signed it with his seal. 

At lord Stephen’s command, this charter was read in the court at Ennezat before the lord count William [Towhead], in the presence of lord Stephen [II], bishop of the Auvergne, on the day when the lords of the Auvergne gathered with the aforenamed count and commended themselves to him; and he had the male and female serfs who were not there to be written by name. These are their names: Bladald, who is vicar of that power, with his wife, named Ermentrude, and their sons and daughters, and another named Godin with his wife and their sons and daughters, and as well all the other serfs who are seen to pertain to the same power.

This charter was confirmed and corroborated in the same assembly, at the prayer of lord Stephen, who asked it to be made. S. lord Stephen, bishop of Auvergne, Count William, Viscount Robert [of Clermont], Abbot Robert [of Mozac], Girbern, Theotard, Stephen, Viscount Dalmatius [of Brioude], Heldin, William, Deodatus. 

The church at Ennezat as it exists today (source)

This document’s dating is all out of whack, which is an issue. We also have at least two different events being described here, and probably three: the giving of Stephen’s gift at Huillaux, Lothar’s confirmation of it, and the assembly at Ennezat. Ennezat definitely followed Huillaux, so the question becomes twofold: 1) when was Lothar’s diploma relatively; and 2) when did these events take place in absolute terms?

The second question is easiest to answer. The Ennezat assembly is almost certainly summer 955, and most historians will give you that date. In fact, they’ll normally tell you June 955; but the charter’s June dating probably attaches more properly to the Huillaux donation than to the Ennezat assembly. In any case, though, the latter probably followed shortly after the former. The main question then is when Lothar’s diploma was issued. Here, we have to confess that given that the charter as it currently survives is evidently a melange, it could really have been at any point in his reign. However, we do have to consider when, exactly, Lothar would have been interested in confirming Stephen and Ermengard’s donation. (I am here assuming that the diploma was specifically in regard to this donation rather than merely mentioning it as part of a general confirmation.) What I want to have happened is a first donation, perhaps in 952, which was then confirmed at Lothar’s coronation (we can surmise relatively easily that Stephen and Ermengard’s patron Stephen of Clermont was there). Realistically, though, there’s no particular reason to assume that the original donation was prior to the charter being written in 955, and – as we’ll see in upcoming weeks – the early 960s would provide a better point for that diploma to be issued.

This leaves us with the events of 955 themselves. If so, then this charter gains an interesting frisson. Much of the context for this act has been covered before on this blog long ago, but in fact there’s some crucial chronological nuance which means that picture needs a little revising. To summarise, William Towhead had been an ally of Louis IV, but ties had loosened after the late 940s. Then, when Louis died in 954, Hugh the Great took partial control of his young son Lothar’s regime, and was – according to Flodoard – ‘given’ Aquitaine by the king. This was a final attempt by Hugh to regain his position as uncontested second man in the kingdom, and I think it prompted something much like what Raymond Pons of Toulouse had done almost twenty years earlier. Unlike Raymond, William did not claim to be ‘duke of the Aquitanians’ – yet – but he did move into Auvergne, a place none of his ancestors had held any interest. We’ve seen before that William’s infringing on Stephen of Clermont’s territory was not without friction, and it also prompted Hugh to respond with the military attack on Poitiers we discussed in passing last time – according to Richer, William marched to Poitiers directly from Auvergne. William’s rejection of the authority of Hugh and Lothar basically failed. He kept Poitiers, but his authority in Auvergne became yet more precarious. However, William may have been down, but he was not out. The struggle for Aquitaine was just beginning.

The Road to Roncesvalles

Writing negative reviews is not a fun activity. The emotions that it generates (anger, frustration, tiredness) are rarely expiated by the catharsis of writing, and they tend to linger, poisoning my mood for days to come. There are lessons to be gleaned from understanding how scholarship goes wrong, and value to alerting those less familiar with the material that they should handle a work with care. Nonetheless, the intense feeling that comes from engaging with wasted potential is not an altogether healthy one. Which is why I’m tempted to say that Xabier Irujo’s Charlemagne’s Defeat in the Pyrenees. The Battle of Rencesvals (Amsterdam, 2021) is a bad book, and leave it at that. Anyone who wants to know more can consult the review I wrote for Francia, in which I say almost everything I have to say about it.

(The observant among you will have noticed that no one was forcing me to mention the book at all in this blog and yet here we apparently are, so clearly I must have something still to say on the matter. To you I say, shut up and stop being so very clever.)

My time spent reading the book was not a total write-off, and I want to discuss something I found in Charlemagne’s Defeat that I did find interesting and thought could be usefully considered further. In chapter two of his book, Xabier Irujo discusses the route taken by Charlemagne and his armies in 778 during the ill-fated invasion of the Iberian Peninsula (pp. 48-52). In classic Carolingian fashion, the Frankish king divided his forces in two. One army, consisting of the men from Austrasia, Burgundy, Bavaria, Provence and Italy, took the eastern route. They marched through Septimania by the Mediterranean coast, reaching Barcelona, held by Charlemagne’s ally Sulayman al-ʿArabi, who had put this whole business in motion by inviting the Frankish king in. The army then turned west and headed to Zaragoza, where they met the other army.

It is with the journey of the other army that we are concerned today. It was personally led by Charlemagne, and presumably consisted of troops from Neustria and Aquitaine. It started at the royal villa of Cassiogilio/Cassinaghilo (spellings differ), where the king had spent the winter, and crossed into the Iberian Peninsula through the high mountain pass at Roncesvalles in the western Pyrenees that was shortly to become legendary. From there the route seems straightforward. Charlemagne occupied Pamplona before marching south to Zaragoza. The question is, what route did the army take before it reached Roncesvalles?

Xabier Irujo offers an intriguing suggestion, that we use the better-known routes taken by pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela as our guide (p. 51). The development of the great Way of St James was a later phenomenon. St James seems to have been associated with Spain by at least the seventh century and his relics were discovered at Compostela by Bishop Theodemir of Iria (818-842). His cult was promoted by King Alfonso III of Asturias (r. 866-910) and Bishop Sisnando of Iria (880-920). Local pilgrims appear to have travelled to the shrine at Compostela from at least the ninth century, with travellers from France appearing in the tenth. Al-Mansur paid the site the ultimate compliment of sacking it in 997. Despite this, it wasn’t until the eleventh century that the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela exploded in popularity. Any guides consulted on the matter will postdate the Roncesvalles campaign by centuries.

I still think this is a really useful idea. Pilgrimage trails tended to follow pre-existing routes, benefitting from the already developed infrastructure. While it’s not impossible for said routes to change, possibly due to alterations in commercial patterns or the landscape of the sacred, it really wouldn’t surprise me if the path taken by eleventh-century pilgrims to Roncesvalles was similar to that chosen by Charlemagne in the eighth century. Another excellent reason to investigate this line of thinking is that it allows us to consult the twelfth-century Codex Calistinus attributed to Aymeric Picaud, and its travellers’ guide for pilgrims to Compostela. What it lacks in solid reliability it more than makes up for in entertaining vituperation, mostly directed at the Navarrese. Speaking as a connoisseur (and occasional recipient) of verbal abuse, Aymeric’s line that Navarrese men are so girly they even have sex with their livestock in an effeminate manner is a strong take[1] and one that I’m sure made him very popular in the area.

Aymeric describes four routes, three of which run from France to Roncesvalles. Of these three, we can rule out the via Podiensis that begins in Le Puy-en-Velay, because it doesn’t pass through anywhere that might be Cassiogilio/Cassinaghilo. That leaves the via Turonensis,which starts in Paris and passes through Tours (hence the name), and the via Lemovicensis, running from Vézelay via Limoges. Both go near settlements that could conceivably be Cassiogilio. In the case of the former this is Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, just to the north of Poitiers, where the Clain river runs; for the latter, Chasseneuil-en-Berry, south of Châteauroux.

Irujo is tentatively inclined to favour the via Lemovicensis, whereas I think the via Turonensis is more likely. Part of his argument is that the annals don’t mention Charlemagne passing through Bordeaux, which lies on the via Turonensis (p. 51 n. 69). This would be more convincing if they named any place that the army travelled through between Cassiogilio and Roncesvalles. As they don’t, this silence means nothing. Given that Irujo argues that Charlemagne’s campaign was designed to break ‘Free Vasconia’, whatever that means, I’m a little surprised that he’s so keen to rule out the Frankish army spending more time in Gascon territory. (By contrast, I think Charlemagne was interested in conquering cities in Spain. You don’t need to go to Zaragoza to fight Basques.)

Now I really want to play Ticket to Ride (source)

A more promising avenue of investigation is the identity of the royal villa at Cassiogilio. It was a place of particular importance for Louis the Pious, because it was where he and his short-lived twin brother Lothar were born on the 16th April 778 while Charlemagne was on campaign. In his Life of Louis, the Astronomer mentions four royal palaces in Aquitaine, which are Doué, Angeac, Ebreuil and Cassinogilum, which means we can probably assume there was only one place of that name which acted as a Carolingian base.

There are a couple of hints that make me think that Chasseneuil near Poitiers is that royal palace. The exegete Claudius of Turin spent several years at Louis the Pious’ court in Aquitaine before it moved to Aachen in 814. In the subscription to his commentary on Genesis, written in 811, he notes that he finished this work, ‘in the palace of Casanolio, in the suburb of Poitiers, in the province of Aquitaine.’ That seems to place Louis’ court in Chasseneuil-du-Poitou. After becoming emperor, Louis made his son Pippin king of Aquitaine. A charter from 828 records Pippin making a judgment ‘in our palace and villa of Casanogilo in the country of Poitou beside the river Clain.’

Possibly also relevant to this discussion is the story told by the Astronomer that Louis invited his father to visit him in Chasseneuil while the emperor was in Rouen. Charlemagne refused, but suggested that they meet in Tours instead, which they did. There isn’t much difference in the distance between the two Chasseneuils and Tours (Chasseneuil-du-Poitou to Tours is about 93 km while from Chasseneuil-en-Berry it’s about 112 km.) However, the latter route takes you through the wetlands and woodlands of La Brenne, while the former is a straight shot up the via Turonensis. Putting too much weight on this would be unwise, but I suspect that Tours makes more sense as a meeting point for someone coming from Chasseneuil-du-Poitou.

On balance then, I think that Charlemagne followed a very similar route to the via Turonensis. Why does this matter? It suggests that the palace of Chasseneuil was an integral part of the organisation of the kingdom of Aquitaine right from the beginning, acting as the meeting point for a major offensive into the Iberian Peninsula. It also points to the importance of Aquitaine for Carolingian interests in Spain. While being some distance from the region, Poitou and the Loire valley provided essential support and manpower in the projection of Frankish power south, and in connecting Septimania and the Spanish March to the wider empire. More dubiously, the route taken runs straight through Gascony, which may provide some context for the ambush at Roncesvalles, if it alerted/antagonised the Basques. I’m a little sceptical about this. I’m not sure the Basques at Roncesvalles were connected to the Gascons, and suspect that the sack of Pamplona would have done more to aggravate the people of the western Pyrenees.

But I think the big point to take away from this post would be that even bad books can contain interesting information, even if they must be handled with care. I suffered greatly while reading Charlemagne’s Defeat in the Pyrenees (as did everyone in earshot of me). But it had not occurred to me to consider later pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela to think about Charlemagne’s route to al-Andalus. For that reason, I am very grateful to Xabier Irujo for this point.

[1] ‘Men also lustfully kiss the vulva of their wives and their mules.

Charter A Week 75: New Peace, Old Tricks

In early 950, Louis IV and Hugh the Great finally agreed to an Ottonian-brokered peace deal. One of the effects of this was a de facto division of the West Frankish kingdom into spheres of Carolingian and Robertian influence. However, this peace was fragile. Part of the reason was that Louis’ and Hugh’s subordinates were not necessarily compliant: they had their own personal interests, and a peace between their masters did not always affect their behaviour. Flodoard, for instance, tells us that in 950 both one of Louis’ subordinates (Ragenold of Roucy) and one of Hugh’s (Theobald the Trickster) infringed the peace deal. Notably, whereas Louis persuaded Ragenold to step back, Hugh was unable to do the same with Theobald. Louis responded by rattling sabres, displaying public support for Hugh’s enemy Arnulf the Great of Flanders and – going back to his strategies of the 940s – seeking to strengthen his alliances in the south.

In 951, Louis set out for Aquitaine. As we’ve seen in previous weeks, there were reasons to think he’d find a good reception there. Bishop Stephen of Clermont, the big cheese of the Auvergne, had probably been appointed by Louis, and had certainly backed him over Hugh when Louis was imprisoned in 945. However, this doesn’t appear to have translated into concrete support in the key years of the late 940s, and it makes sense that Louis would have wanted to renegotiate his relationship with central Aquitaine. Moreover, a little before 951, Stephen had reorientated his strategies of legitimacy:

CC no. 1.792 (c. 950)

In the name of Lord God Eternal.

Stephen, by grace of the Holy Spirit bishop of Auvergne.

If it can be done, I want it to be known to all Christ’s followers in common how I and my father Robert and his wife Hildegard endeavoured to summon to the place which is called Sauxillanges the abbot named Aimard from the monastery of Cluny, who delegated monks therein to build up the same place in accordance with the Rule, both for the salvation of our souls and also for the remedy of Count Acfred [II of Aquitaine], who bestowed that allod on God Almighty, of whom my same father was also an almsman; and for the soul of William [the Pious], the first and greatest duke; and as well for the younger William [the Younger], and for the rest of all our relatives, and all the Christian faithful living and dead, such that they might busy themselves to offer prayers to God Almighty there. 

Therefore, we established concerning this matter that from this day forth for all time the same place should be held and disposed and ordained, with God’s help, legally and in accordance with the Rule by the aforesaid abbot and after his death by his successors and by the monks of Cluny.

If, perchance, anyone is displeased that we have so ordained the goods which were given to God Almighty (as is written in the aforesaid place’s charter), they should remember that Lord Jesus gave His Church, which He deigned to call His bride, and which He bought with his own and precious blood, to the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, commanding not merely once but also twice and three times that he should nourish this flock. And thus, because of this, we prohibit and call to witness in God and through God and through Lord Jesus that no prince, no bishop succeeding me in this episcopal office, nor any invader should presume to prey upon, devastate, or diminish the goods of this place, nor exact any service or dues from the power of this place with any trickeryor ordain anything unjustly using episcopal authority as an excuse, nor exercise dominion over anything by the power of his situation.  

Witnesses: Stephen, bishop of the Auvergne. Viscountess Hildegard. Bishop Otgar [unknown see, probably southern Aquitanian]. Viscount Robert [of Clermont]. Viscount Eustorgius. Stephen, abbot of Mozac. Abbot Robert [of Mozat]. Gilbert. William. Hector. Godo. Andrald. Albion. Desiderius. Hugh. Eliseus. Bernard. Roger. Prior Bernard. Keymaster Stephen. Archdeacon Deodatus. Stephen son of Theotard. Theotard. Eldin. Another Eldin. Gulfer. 

Stephen, like a number of central Aquitanian elites in the first part of the tenth century, kept alive the memory of the Guillelmid dukes, and Sauxillanges became a lieu de memoire par excellence, even if Acfred II wouldn’t have appreciated it. In fact, subordinating Sauxillanges to Cluny would have particularly galled him… In any case, though, this charter shows Stephen and his family, the viscounts of Clermont, putting Sauxillanges into a Cluniac orbit. My best reading of this is that it was an act of ideological reconciliation: with Ralph of Burgundy out of the way, the two halves of the Guillelmid monastic legacy could finally team up, and Stephen and his family, who – as you can see here – claimed to follow in Guillelmid footsteps, could present a past of central Aquitanian regional hegemony where troubles had been smoothed over.

In 951, Louis showed up with an army, evidently expecting trouble. However, the major magnates of Aquitaine – Charles Constantine of Vienne (on whom more next time), William Towhead of Poitiers, and Stephen II of Clermont – appeared and submitted to him. There were several meetings. Stephen’s submission took place, significantly, at Pouilly-sur-Loire, a traditional meeting place for meetings between Aquitanian magnates and West Frankish kings going back to the ninth century. The only surviving documentary evidence for this is the following charter:

D L4 no. 37 = CC no. 1.763 = ARTEM no. 1604 = D.Kar VIII.8 (3rd February 951, Pouilly-sur-Loire)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Louis, by propitiation of divine mercy king of the Franks.

If in giving work to divine worship We endeavour to raise God’s Church to the highest state of holy religion, We use royal custom and the privileges of Our predecessors.

Wherefore let the skill of all the faithful of the holy Church of God both present and future know that the venerable Bishop Stephen [II] of Auvergne, approaching Our Presence, reverently asked that We might deign to confer by a precept of Our Regality certain goods, the same goods which the late Count Acfred [II of Aquitaine] bestowed on God and His saints from the right of his property in the district of Auvergne for the remedy of his soul and that of his relatives to build up the Rule of St Benedict there, for the monastery of Cluny and its abbot, and this We did. 

Whence We commanded this decree of Our Highness to be made and given to Aimard, abbot of the aforesaid monastery, through which the same abbot and his successors might perpetually hold the aforesaid goods in their entirety just as is contained in the charter of the aforesaid Count Acfred, disturbed by no-one.

And that this emolument of Our authority might be inviolably conserved through the course of times to come, confirming it below with Our own hand, We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of lord Louis, the most glorious king.

Odilo the notary re-read and underwrote on behalf of Archbishop Artald [of Rheims].

Enacted at the estate of Pouilly-sur-Loire, on the 3rd nones of February [3rd February], in the 6th indiction, in the 15th year of the reign of the glorious King Louis. 

The original diploma (source linked above).

Whilst this diploma is significant, it is also straightforward. Despite everything which had happened over the years, despite the many shocks the realm had undergone since the foundation of Sauxillanges in 927, the fundamental dynamic of early medieval kingship had changed little. Stephen of Clermont led a regional aristocratic group, to which he gave Louis access; in return, Louis legitimised Stephen’s position at the head of that group. Way back in my original series of posts on Aquitaine, I noted how important this royal connection was to Stephen, and this was a key link in the chain, next to 945 and 962. This significance came down to the place itself: as Stephen stood in Pouilly, where Aquitanian rulers from Charles the Child to Bernard Plantevelue had met their West Frankish overlords, he must have felt the symbolic resonances empowering his rule. However, Stephen was not there alone. Probably at Pouilly with him was William Towhead, count of Poitiers. The Poitevin counts did not normally come that far east, and one wonders how many plans occurred to William along the journey…

In Memory of Dealings Past: The Treaty of St-Quentin (1 March 857)

The Carolingian world after the death of Lothar I in 855, with the kingdom of Charles the Bald in brown, Lothar II in orange, Charles of Provence in purple, Louis II in red and Louis the German in blue.

Early medieval treaties sometimes seem scarcely worth the parchment they were written on. Despite the solemnity of the language used and the severity of the oaths sworn, they were frequently broken, and sometimes rather quickly at that (see here the Perpetual Peace of 532 between Rome and Iran, which lasted all of eight years, or the Fifty-Year Peace of 562, which managed a slightly more respectable ten years). This is notoriously the case of the treaties between the warring Carolingians of the middle of the ninth century, some of which I have been translating for this blog. But while the shelf-life of a treaty from the 850s sometimes resembled that of a mayfly, that did not mean that they were forgotten or irrelevant for subsequent negotiations. Rather, they formed part of the shared context by which future diplomacy could be interpreted. Not only could the terms of past agreements be referred to and repeated again, but treaties from years gone by were preserved and reread in order to be useful for defining the political landscape to come. That takes us to today’s translation, which is of the Treaty of St-Quentin of 857, made between Charles the Bald and Lothar II.

Karoli II et Hlotarii II conventus apud Sanctum Quintinum, in MGH Capit. II, no. 268, pp. 293-5.

The proclamation of Charles and his nephew Lothar at Saint-Quentin in March in the year of the Incarnation of our Lord 857.

Charles’ Proclamation.

1.     We want you to know about the meeting which we held. After God called our father from this world, I have always received such advice from my beloved brother Louis as it was necessary for me and I sought from him and befit him to give; and by his encouragement and intervention it came to pass, thanks be to God, there was such unanimity between me and my brother Lothar [I] of good memory, just as should have been amongst brothers. And on account of such causes for complaint as lay between us, we found with our common followers that it was necessary that an assurance be made between us in accordance with God’s will concerning our common progress and assistance, and the salvation of our sons and kingdom and of our followers, in such a manner as we knew well from Our common followers who were present; and in his lifetime he preserved this towards us, and thanks be to God, we preserved it towards him; and by God’s help, as far as we know and we can, we seek to preserve towards his sons (our nephews), and they seek to do this towards us.

2.     After his death, as you have heard, partly because of my infirmity, partly because of the coming of the pagans, and because of the other things which occurred in our kingdom, until now there has not been an opportune point for me and my most beloved nephew to talk together and demonstrate to each another our present wishes that each of us keeps towards the other in our hearts.

3.     However, a suitable point emerged, because my dearest nephew talked with my most beloved brother Louis and found in him such agreement and council as was necessary for the one and befitting for the other to show him; which is fully pleasing to me. And now, when he talked to me, he told me that in regard to the assurances which I made with his father, my brother of good memory, and my reception of him into my protection, he wanted to persevere with that reception and that he wished, with the Lord’s aid, to observe entirely the assurance which his father, my brother, made with me.

4.     And we found with our common followers, that in order to address such needful matters as you know and see happening in this kingdom, we should confirm in turn, just as we have done, that we must safeguard and aid each other in turn for the honour of the holy church of God, and the common progress and salvation of our faithful, and to secure our kingdom against whosoever is necessary for us, just as an uncle should rightly seek to save and help his nephew and a nephew his uncle.

5.     And our followers who were present and gave this advice to us told us that they were prepared to assist us, with the help of the Lord, in all things, so that we each might be able to respect this assurance. And for this reason we wish to hear your consent and wishes from you, if this seems good to you, and if henceforth you wish to offer us help in order that we can observe this with God’s help and yours.

Lothar’s Proclamation.

Just as my uncle tells you, inasmuch as God has bestowed to the knowledge and power, and I wish to preserve that assurance he made with my father, by which he received me under his protection, and which my father made with him, I wish to firmly observe, with God’s help, that which I have made with him.

A further proclamation of King Charles.

We want you to know that on account of these robberies and plundering which have increased in our kingdom, partly because the pagans have come upon us, partly because of certain incidents which have happened in our kingdom, we have summoned and assembled a synod of bishops and a number of our faithful men, so that throughout our kingdom both bishops and our missi and our counts should hold assemblies in each diocese and county, and every man who ought to attend the assembly and dwells in these counties, should attend this assembly without exception or apology. And let the bishops demonstrate to all how grievous this sin is, and what kind of penitence it requires, and what kind of damnation one will gain unless penance does occur. And Our missi shall lay out our capitularies of the law and those of our ancestors on this matter to everyone, and banish so great a suffering. And let all know that whoever presumes to carry out such acts thereafter will receive canonical and royal punishment, as both our bishops and our missi will report more fully at that time.

A further announcement of Lothar

1.     Know also that we have decided that when  any criminal comes from one of our kingdoms to another, the bishop or missus or count from whose ministry they have fled in order that they might not give just compensation  or receive an appropriate punishment, should let the missi into whose missaticum in another realm they had fled know, and they should distrain him in such a manner that he should return to where he has committed the evil either to give compensation or to face punishment.

2.     And you may know that, as God [word missing: ‘has conceded’ or similar] through his mercy and through the goodness of my uncles, and through the help of my father and my followers, I have succeeded my father in the kingdom; thus, I wish, with the help of God and the counsel of my uncles and your help to endure in all goodness and in observation of those chapters which my father agreed and confirmed with his brothers, my uncles, at Meerssen concerning the will of God and the honour of the holy church and the stability of the kingdom and the salvation of the holy church and the followers of the kingdom.

Charles’ Third Announcement

May Almighty God grant us that we can earn your fidelity and your help, which you have always demonstrated towards us, along with every baron, just as our ancestors deserved in goodness from your ancestors, and we wish to merit together from you with all kindness.

Those of you who read previous treaty translations here and here will remember that one of the motivations driving the diplomatic activity was Emperor Lothar I’s desire to secure the succession of his sons after his death. That when the long-awaited event happened on 29th September 855 it didn’t immediately cause an all-out war probably had relatively little to do with the treaties Lothar had made with Charles the Bald. As Charles observed in the Treaty of St-Quentin (Charles.1.2, Charles.2), it had been a busy few years. Pippin II disputed Charles’ rule of Aquitaine, while disease and Vikings appear to have been ubiquitous in the West Frankish kingdom. Louis the German spent much of these years battling Moravians, Sorbs and Bohemians on his eastern frontier. This limited Charles and Louis’ capacity to intervene in affairs. The nobles of Lothar I’s Frankish territories also seem to have upheld the old emperor’s succession plan. Lothar II, who inherited the territory that would be known as Lotharingia, was prevented from tonsuring his younger brother, Charles, who became King of Provence. Their older brother, Emperor Louis II, was unhappy to only be ruling Italy but had to lump it.

Ruling a small but immensely rich and politically significant kingdom sandwiched between two larger ones left Lothar II vulnerable. He began his reign aligned with Louis the German, being crowned in Frankfurt in his uncle’s presence. In February 857 Lothar travelled to Koblenz to have another meeting with Louis. But by then Lothar was probably already contemplating a change of direction, and that is what the treaty we’re interested in today represents. On 1 March Lothar agreed to an alliance with Charles the Bald at St-Quentin. Although none of the terms of the treaty are directed against Louis the German, they represent a shift of alignment, one which the East Frankish king responded to by coming to a parallel arrangement with his namesake nephew Louis II. For his part, Charles could do with all the goodwill and help he could get, particularly given recent East Frankish invasions.

In the treaty, both Charles and Lothar consciously hark back to the recent diplomatic past. Charles begins with an idealised summary of said past, referring to the treaty between him and his brothers at Meerssen in 851, presenting an image of cooperation and amity in the years that followed that bares only the vaguest resemblance to reality (Charles.1.1). While he alludes to Lothar II’s dealings with Louis, it’s as part of a necessary desire for concord (Charles.1.2) rather than out of shared interests. Lothar also mentions Meerssen (Lothar.2.2), expressing his commitment to its spirit, but he also makes repeated references to Charles’ recent agreements with Lothar’s father (Lothar.1, Lothar.2.2). The effect is to suggest that rather than switching between uncles for short term political gain, Lothar II was actually inheriting a long-standing affinity. These past relations solidified and stabilised what might otherwise be a very uncertain agreement.

The text also echoes past treaties. Lothar’s emphasis on criminals fleeing to another kingdom (Lothar.2.1) closely resembles his father’s concerns in the Treaty of Valenciennes of 853, as does Charles’ discussion of his domestic agenda. The result is to paint a general picture of inter-Carolingian harmony and good feelings over the past six years as well as a specific image of a particularly close alliance between Charles and Lothar I. One way in which this treaty is very different from that of Valenciennes is the palpable sense of crisis in Charles’ sections of the treaty. Vikings were clearly a major problem for him, one that demanded a great moral and spiritual response as well as a martial one, with much penitence and the restoration of law throughout the kingdom.

The treaty seems to have been reasonably successful. Lothar and Charles remained on good terms over the next couple of years. Lothar fended off the blandishments of Louis the German, failing to show up to a meeting with him in May 858 because of his alliance with Charles. In August 858, Lothar participated in Charles’ failed siege of a Viking army on the island of Oissel in the Seine. The relationship was not without its wobbles. Following Louis’ invasion of the West Frankish kingdom that same August, Lothar met with Louis at Attigny and they came to an agreement. Lothar was being pragmatic here. Forced to retreat to Burgundy, Charles looked utterly defeated at this point. The moment Charles recovered, Lothar renewed their alliance in February 859 and from there until the end of the war with Louis in June 860 they worked closely together. Lothar and Charles of Provence attended a synod hosted by Charles the Bald in June 859, bringing bishops and abbots from their kingdoms with them to join the deliberations.

The Treaty of St-Quentin was signed out of necessity. There was no sentimentality behind it and in 860 the relationship between Charles and Lothar broke down for good. Nonetheless, the memory of past agreements, particularly those between Lothar’s father and Charles, provided a context in which the treaty could be understood and presented to the assembled great and good of the Carolingian world. In doing so it demonstrates to us the way in which treaties were preserved, reread and reused in new contexts in the early medieval world.

On the Origins of Viscounts

Recently Months ago, friend of the blog Jonathan Jarrett posted some reflections on Carolingian viscounts over on A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe. At the time, I was visiting my wife in Georgia, but it’s a topic on which I have a lot of thoughts, so I wrote up some ideas offline during a car ride between Vardzia and Tbilisi. Since then, it has sat in a drafts folder waiting to be posted. Today, I decided to clear out said drafts folder and revisited it. Turns out, it’s pages long, which is too long for a comment – but, as it happens, I have this place I can put short-form written content and so you guys now get the dubious benefits of being able to read it, so enjoy…

Jonathan’s musings were prompted by having read an edited volume by Hélène Débax on Vicomtes et vicomtés, viscounts and viscounties. Débax and her fellow authors, who were mostly but not entirely focussed on southern France, basically saw viscounts as the product of comital weakness, ‘taking over unattended jurisdictions’ and acting as their own little lords of the manor. Jonathan, by contrast, was used to a Catalan historiography which sees viscounts as ultimately comital delegates, i.e. public officials there to represent the counts in places the counts cannot be. Jonathan doesn’t like this argument in a Catalan context because viscounts don’t emerge at a time when there’s any special reason for counts to need delegates and because when we seem them in charter evidence from the Spanish March, they don’t often behave like counts except maybe in presiding over courts. For Jonathan, the vicecomital title puts its holder in relation with a count and thus with public power. Its emergence is thus best seen as a way of getting ‘powerful independents’ to engage with comital power by offering them certain kinds of authority which only public officials could wield in return for their own acknowledgement of their subordinate status. He then emphasises the sheer amount of variety we see in a Catalan context, but concludes that “if there’s a pattern there, it seems to me that it is the one of powerful independents accepting a space in a hierarchy which they could work to advantage that explains most cases”.

This might work for Catalonia, but I think in the rest of the West Frankish kingdom, the delegation theory holds up better – albeit perhaps amended with some ideas of this sort. Comital weakness, by contrast, I think we can dismiss. Even if I wasn’t inherently opposed to the idea of ‘strength’ and ‘weakness’ as analytical terms, most viscounts north of the Dordogne show up at a time when authority in their regions is getting more intensive and (less demonstrably but still there) having its connections to a royal centre strengthened.

We have to distinguish here between viscounts and vice-counts. ‘Viscounts’, in this context, are more institutionalised figures, whose status isn’t contextual and/or temporary. To give you an example, royal legislation from the reign of Charles the Bald sets up a meeting between the king and vicecomites from Paris and Sens in the immediate future. Here, I think we are dealing with ‘duly appointed comital deputies’ nominated for this specific task rather than permanent officials – like advocates at St Gallen vs advocates at Saint-Martin – because otherwise viscounts don’t show up in our sources for these areas until much later.

By contrast, the first significant institutional viscounts I know of from the West Frankish kingdom north of the Dordogne, which are also the ones I know best, are on the Neustrian March. Men such as Viscount Atto I of Tours begin to emerge in the 870s, and this looks like genuine change rather than just the revelation of things that have been there all along, not least because normative formulae change at the same time as specific vicecomital individuals appear. Even more, this does look like delegation. Men such as Atto, and then later Fulk the Red and Theobald the Elder in Angers and Tours respectively, appear when the supra-local authority of the Neustrian marchiones makes actual on-the-spot rule logistically impractical, and our evidence suggests that these viscounts are in fact holding things together for the March’s rulers. Now, this is admittedly mostly holding courts in the charters we have – but that’s also most of what the charter evidence reveals the marchiones doing as well!

Similar patterns can be seen in Aquitaine. This is straightforward, I think, in Poitou and its environs. Greater Poitou is doing much the same thing in political-cultural terms as Neustria, and its viscounts are pretty well controlled by the counts for the tenth century and beyond; pace Delhoume and Remy, the first viscounts of Limoges don’t seem to be associated with the counts of Toulouse, but with Ebalus Manzer of Poitiers, who is also able to assert his jurisdiction over them pretty effectively. In Auvergne and its environs, viscounts show up at the very end of the ninth century, and (as Lauranson-Rosaz says in the Débax volume) appear to be appointments of William the Pious at exactly the time when his personal hegemony stretches over a massive chunk of central Aquitaine. The role of specifically royal authority here might be questioned, but it is I think relevant that William’s subordinates are called ‘viscounts’ rather than anything else, tying them into Late Carolingian regional hierarchies. William himself was trying to capitalise on his Königsnahe at basically the same time, and these phenomena might be connected.

Notably, in generally weird Burgundy, viscounts are mostly absent, and the earliest example I can think of is Ragenard of Auxerre, who is based precisely in one of the key centres of Richard the Justiciar’s power. Based on our analogies above, I’d say Richard’s wobbly personal hegemony, which did not have the benefit of royal approbation for much of its existence, didn’t – perhaps couldn’t – use the language of legitimate Carolingian hierarchy. Equally, viscounts tend to be absent in the north-east, which is much more politically fragmented, and it looks to me rather like comital jurisdictions there are sufficiently small not to need deputies.

Could we consider this in political culture terms? Yes, certainly, but not primarily I think as a means of getting ‘powerful independents’ to participate in the system. Insofar as we can see viscounts in these regions, they tend to be nobodies. Fulk the Red of Angers, for example, has been the focus of a long-running debate about whether or not he was a novus homo because of his family’s onomastic connections to the important Widonid family; but what tends to go overlooked is that whether or not he had famous relatives he himself started his career not as a big Neustrian cheese but as a very minor member of the retinue of the count of Paris. His Tourangeau counterpart Theobald the Elder seems to have been a complete no-name. What I think vice-comital office offers is a means of legitimising counter-weights to the powerful independents. There was no way that, say, Fulk the Red could face off against a genuine powerful independent in Neustria like the Rorgonid Gauzfred, whose family had been there since dot and whose authority in the area doesn’t seem to have depended at all on his intermittent possession of a comital title, without the might of Carolingian royal authority behind him. I’ve spoken before about the calcification of Neustrian hierarchies, and the delegated authority of the vice-comital office is a part of that.

Now, can these guys pull out of comital orbits? Yes, certainly, but it only really works when areas of jurisdiction become simultaneously areas of conflict over spheres of influence – like the way that the viscounts of Thouars become much more independent than the other Poitevin viscounts because they end up caught between Poitiers and the counts of Angers.

The walls of Thouars (source)

A final point I’d like to consider here is that, despite the centuries-long history that the vicecomital office would go on to have in France, their genesis looks like a very specifically Carolingian phenomenon. In most of the regions we’ve been considering, viscounts have a straight line of descent from a Carolingian inheritance. Even in the Limousin, ‘the land of viscounts’, the proliferation of viscounts is fundamentally owed to the prominence (and fecundity) of the viscounts initially appointed by Ebalus Manzer. When the counts of Flanders’ domain got big enough in the tenth century that they started appointing their own delegates, these men were castellans, not viscounts. The vicecomital moment had passed, and new ways of conceptualising comital subordinates were on the rise.

Charter A Week 69: That Stephen of Clermont Charter in Full

Sometimes in Charter A Week, there’s a document which I think is so important that it has to be translated, but precisely because it’s so important, I’ve already discussed it at length. Such a one is this week’s act, and so this week’s post will be concomitantly shorter than usual. Without further ado, here’s the text:

Grand Cartulaire de Brioude no. 434 (7th October 945, Saint-Germain-Lembron)

In the name of the holy and individual Trinity.

Stephen, by assent of divine mercy, extraordinary bishop of the church of Clermont, most worthy in life and customs.

I wish to make it known to all those administering the cares of the holy Church of God, that is, present and future, and all the famous of the Earth, that, I, Bishop Stephen, most humble servant of the servants of God, considering the disaster of human fragility, in order that the pious and merciful Lord might deign to loosen something of the frightfulness of my crimes, both for me and for my lord King Louis and his wife and their offspring, and for the souls of my father Robert and his wife Aldegard and my mother Adalgard who is dead and my uncles, to wit, Eustorgius, Matfred and Guy, and my cousin Stephen, and my brothers Eustorgius and Robert, and my uncle Armand and his son Amblard and Eustorgius son of Eustorgius, and also Abbot Robert [of Mozat] and his brothers, and all Our kinsmen and faithful men, and all Our friends and enemies, I render to my Creator, the Lord, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and I bestow upon the blessed Julian of the church of Brioude, who did not decline to endure a death sentence for Christ, the place and estate which is named Saint-Germain-Lembron, with manses, fields, meadows, vineyards, woodlands, and three churches, of which one is dedicated in honour of Saint Germanus, the other in honour of Saint John the Baptist, and the third in honour of Saint Clement, martyr of Christ, with male and female slaves who live now and might be born or beogtten therein later, with mills and all the tithes pertaining to the same churches, and as much as, by gift of God, I have there in the present day, or which in posterity, I, Bishop Stephen, and Abbot Robert, might be able to justly acquire, I render to the Lord, Creator of All, in its entirety, so that it might be under the domination and power of the blessed Julian and his canons, and I give and transfer them from my power into their domination, so that they might have, hold and possess them such that it might be seen to be subject from the present day under the tutelage of the blessed Julian just like the monastery which is called Chanteuges, which is constructed in honour of the blessed Marcellinus and the blessed Julian and the blessed Saturninus; thus let the estate of Saint-Germain-Lembron, with churches and all its appendages, after my death, be in the tutelage and domination of the church of the blessed Julian.

I, Bishop Stephen, although unworthy, desire, if the Lord gives me the space of life, to construct a little monastery in the aforesaid place, and, by disposition of divine grace, I desire to establish there in the aforesaid little place, in honour of the Eternal King and the twelve apostles, twelve monks, so that they monks might, for all the days of their life, serve God, fear the Lord, love the Lord, and to observe the precept of the blessed Benedict and their abbot according to their men and possibility, for that they might constantly exhort the Lord for me and the statue of the holy Church of God day and night.

Thus, I, the aforesaid Stephen, wish to hold the aforesaid things for the days of my life, under my power and tutelage, and each year, in census, at the time of the vine harvest, I should have ten pecks gathered into the cellar of the blessed Julian, until such time as, by disposition of God, I might establish twelve monks in the aforesaid place; after twelve monks have been established there, let them pay no census, except, on appropriate days, let them say a prayer after Matins, and rise from the earth, and let each, prostrate, sing two psalms, of which the first should be Beati omnes qui timent Dominum, for the salvation of the living, and the other Lauda anima mea Dominum for the rest of the dead, at Primes, at Terce, at Sext, at Nones, and similarly at Vespers, let both them and their successors do this.

After my death, I wish to add that no king nor count nor bishop nor abbot nor father nor brother nor uncle nor any kinsman might presume to arise with rash daring against this page and against those monks who, by disposition of God, have come into that place, or presume to go, act or disturb it with any calumny, unless they come to their senses and to emendation, let them incur the wrath of God Almighty and the offence of the saints, and be immersed in the deepest inferno with Dathan and Abiron, Ananias and Saphira, and with Judas, betrayer of the Lord, and in addition let they who presumed to do it be compelled to pay twenty pounds of the purest gold, and not vindicate what they seek. And it pleased me that, after my death, it should remain in the hand and domination of Abbot Robert, son of Gozbert, so that for the days of his life, for the love of God and the remedy of my soul and all the Christian faithful, he might rule, build and govern the aforesaid place, so that in future he might merit to hear that desirable voice which the Lord says to His faithful: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will make thee ruler over many things, enter thou into the joy of thy lord’.

But that this charter might be firm and true through time to come, I, Bishop Stephen, of my own free will, asked it be written and confirmed, and I asked it be confirmed by the hands of noble men. If it should happen, which I little believe, that any son of Belial should arise who might with rash daring wish to twist this render to God Almighty and donation to the blessed martyr Julian from the power of God and the tutelage of the blessed Julian into their uses, and they are such a strong person that no-one is able to resist them, let all their presumption be frustrated in a vacuum, and in addition let these things revert to my relatives through their succession.

Sign of Bishop Stephen. Sign of Robert, father of the lord bishop, who conceded this and confirmed it with his own hand. Sign of Aldegard. Sign of Eustorgius, uncle of the lord bishop. Sign of Robert. Sign of Eustorgius. Sign of Desiderius. Sign of Armand.

This cession given on the seventh of October, at the estate of Saint-Germain-Lembron, in the 10th year the reign of King Louis, ruling France and Aquitaine.

As I say, I’ve discussed this in detail elsewhere, so I’ll quickly summarise and then if you like you can read the fuller treatments. In 944, Louis IV had gone to Aquitaine again, a visit probably occasioned by the impending demise of Raymond Pons of Toulouse. During that visit, he settled several questions, and that probably included appointing Stephen as bishop of Clermont. This charter is what Koziol calls an ‘accession act’, staking Stephen and his faction’s claim to be the most important group in the old Guillelmid sphere of influence.

As such, it’s quite important that Louis IV heads up the list of people for whom the canons of Brioude are to pray. Stephen’s authority as a regional potentate was closely tied to royal authority, and we can see that in this charter. This is significant, because as we’ve had cause to note before, the West Frankish kings are not usually supposed by historians to have much impact on Aquitanian politics at all. This charter, then, acts as a useful counter to the standard narrative, and gives us a look into the political and ideological world of a bishop and regional magnate.

Source Translation: Louis IV in the Midi

Once again, I ummed and erred about which charter to give you for Charter A Week 942, and once again I ended up translating more than I needed. But, given there’s no point letting a perfectly good charter going to waste, and because it also feeds back to things I’ve spoken about before, I thought it would be useful to put this one up on our semi-regular Translation Tuesday. So, a quick reminder of context and then we’ll get on with the show. At the end of 941, Louis IV, forced out of the north-east and Burgundy by a coalition under the overlordship of Otto the Great, began a great tour of the south and west of his kingdom, building up a group of allies to fight back. Last time, we focussed on Poitou, but that wasn’t the only place he ended up going:

D L4 no. 17 – 5th December 941

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Louis, by assent of divine grace, king of the Franks.

If We confer anything to places of the saints surrendered to divine worship for love of God and His saints, or corroborate by Our royal authority that which has been devotedly bestowed by the faithful, We are confident for certain that it will be repaid to Us by the Highest Repayer of all goods.

Wherefore let the industry of all of the faithful of the holy Church of God, both present and also future, know that the monks of the outstanding confessor St Marcellinus of the abbey of Chanteuges, humbly approaching Our the presence of Our Dignity, strenuously asked that We might deign to confirm for them by a precept of Our Regality certain goods, which the late Prior Cunebert and the other brothers of Saint-Julien [de Brioude], for their common salvation, through the consent of Raymond [Pons], prince of the Aquitanians, and of the other magnates of that country, both bishops and laymen, bestowed on the aforesaid monastery, as is sanctioned in their testament.

Proffering Our assent to their petitions, out of love of Christ and His saint, the aforesaid Marcellinus, and owing to the request of Our followers, that is, of Bishop Heiric of Langres and Bishop Godeschalk of Le Puy and of the illustrious Count Roger [II of Laon], We commanded this royal decree be made, in which We through confirming decree and through decreeing confirm that the monks of the aforesaid place of Chanteuges should perpetually possess the said goods in their entirety, with both bondsmen and everything rightly and legally pertaining to it, and that whatever in future might be conceded to them should be corroborated by the same authority.

Finally, We order that no powerful person should inflict on them any prejudice at all, nor unjustly require any renders; rather, let them and all their goods be free and absolved from all dominion of any person. Let them institute an abbot for themselves not through anyone’s command but in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict for all time.

And that this grace of Our authority might be observed inviolably through the succeeding course of times to come by everyone, confirming it with Our hand We order it be confirmed by the image of Our signet.

Sign of the most glorious king Louis.

Odilo the chancellor witnessed on behalf of Heiric, bishop and high chancellor.

Given on the nones of December [5th December], in the 15th indiction, in the 6th year of the reign of the most glorious King Louis.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

Raymond Pons’ role in this diploma is significant. You may remember from 936 that the foundation of Chanteuges was a moment when Raymond made a special display of his power over the elites of Auvergne, a display closely connected with Hugh the Great’s assumption of the title dux Francorum. Now, Louis confirms the original charter. The importance of this is that Raymond Pons and the Auvergnats didn’t have to seek out Louis – Raymond Pons in particular was much geographically closer to Hugh of Arles in Italy. However, in an Auvergnat context in 941, it was considered important to have royal endorsement. The key was that Louis was finally out from under Hugh’s thumb, and could therefore bestow patronage on his rivals. Raymond was ideally placed to take advantage of that, and in this diploma that’s exactly what we see him doing.

If that’s what Raymond was hoping to do, though, then the title he is given in this diploma specifically suggests what Louis IV’s circles were doing. Louis was not an ignorant man. He was well aware of how Raymond had responded to his accession, and to the claims of Hugh the Great. By now acknowledging Raymond’s role as ‘prince of the Aquitanians’, in a diploma to the same institution as the charter of 936, he was participating in this ongoing conversation, endorsing Raymond’s analysis of the problem, and agreeing with its solution.

Raymond’s sphere of influence had never been that closely connected to West Frankish kingship in the ninth century under Charles the Bald, and it’s unsurprising that the rest of Louis IV’s reign saw the king reproduce his predecessors’ much closer ties to königsnah Poitou. However, Raymond and Louis’ joint intervention at this critical moment undoubtedly did much to strengthen Louis’ hand, and gave the young king the in he needed to worm his way into the Midi. A few years later, in 944, as Raymond was probably dying, Louis came back and (as we have talked about in previous posts) rearranged matters in Aquitaine once more. This diploma, then, acts as a pointer towards a West Frankish kingship that has much more geographical reach than is usually allowed – and a southern nobility more concerned with it.

Charter A Week 66: Coalitions and Königsnahe in Poitiers

Last time we saw Louis IV, he had been pounded flat by Otto the Great and a group of West Frankish allies, and it’s safe to say his position had not massively improved in the meantime. In mid-to-late 941, he had been caught in a surprise attack by Hugh the Great and Heribert of Vermandois, suffering an embarrassing defeat and losing key supporters, notably Archbishop Artald of Rheims, who threw in the towel and surrendered to the two magnates. This was a worrying position to be in – but Louis was not out yet. Owing to the importance of Flodoard’s Annals, historians tend to focus on the kingdom’s north-east, but there was a lot more kingdom than that, and in late 941 Louis set out to strengthen his position in the rest of it. He began by approaching Vienne, where he met Count Charles Constantine. From there, he set out into Aquitaine, where Flodoard loses sight of him, beyond saying that he received the submission of the Aquitanians. However, the charter record gives us a sense of both what Louis was doing and how it was received. By the turn of the year 941/942, Louis was in Poitiers. Poitou was a part of Aquitaine which had enjoyed close ties to the West Frankish monarchy since the reign of Charles the Bald, and Louis set out to capitalise on that. And to demonstrate what’s happening, we have no fewer than three acts! 

D L4 no. 18 = ARTEM no. 1106 = D.Kar VIII.6 (5th January 942, Poitiers)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Louis, by propitiation of divine clemency king of the Franks.

If We rightly ordain and deal with holy places surrendered to divine worship on account of love of God and reverence for the saints resting within, We little doubt God will be propitious towards Us on account of it in the present world and that to come.

Wherefore let the skillful industry of all the followers of the holy Church of God both present and also future know that, approaching the presence of Our Serenity, the count and margrave William [III Towhead of Poitiers] and his brother Ebalus [later bishop of Limoges] and Count Roger [II of Laon] humbly asked that We might deign to confer upon the brothers of the most excellent confessor of Christ Hilary a precept of Our authority concerning the estates and churches assigned to their divers usages by Our predecessors, and concerning their prebends and houses; and this We did.

Whence We ordered this decree of Our Highness to be made and given to the said brothers, through which We command and sanction by royal authority that the aforesaid canons should with everlasting right possess all this: the aforesaid estates with their churches, that is, Champagné-Saint-Hilaire, Rouillé, Pouant, Luzay, Frontenay, Benassay, Mazeuil, Cuhon, Gourgé, Vouzailles, Vieracus, Saint-Laurent, in the county of Quercy, a church in honour of Saint Hilary; and Cainontus in the district of Toulousain, and in the district of Carcassès the place of Saint Mamet and the field of Olivetus; and in the county of Poitou, Allemagne, Moussay, Neuville, with allods, that is Crispiacus, Eterne, Remcionacum, Clavinnus, Belloria; let their prebends too always be under their power. We also concede the houses with the land within the walls recently built around the monastery, and establishing without and within the walls of the city in the same way to the same brothers, that each might have licence to do as he wishes with his own goods, except alienate them to an outsider; and let no count or other official of the commonwealth dare to become an invader of these goods and of the land placed mutually within the walls from a quarteron in the estate of Pouant without the will of the canons.

If anyone might presume to violate the muniment of this royal authority, in the first place let them incur the wrath of God Almighty and of Saint Hilary and of all the saints, and have perdition with Dathan and Abiron, whom the Earth swallowed alive, and know themselves to be perpetually damned, immersed in the inferno with Judas the betrayer, consumed all over by flames and worms, under the chains of anathema.

Whence, so that this testament of royal dignity persevere through the course of times to come, and be more firmly believed and attentively observed by all, confirming it under Our own hand, We commanded it be corroborated by the image of Our ring.

Sign of lord Louis, the glorious king.

Odilo the chancellor witnessed on behalf of Bishop Heiric [of Langres].

Enacted at the city of Poitiers, on the nones of January, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 942, in the 15th indiction, in the 6th year of the reign of the most glorious king of the Franks Louis.

In the name of God, amen. 

The original of this diploma, from D.Kar linked above.

D L4 no. 19 (7th January 942, Poitiers)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Louis, by God’s grace king of the Franks.

If We rightly deal with places surrendered to divine worship on account of love of God and his saints, and reform them for the better, We are certainly confident to be repaid for this by the Repayer on High.

Wherefore, let the skill and prudent industry of all the followers of the holy Church of God both present and future know that, approaching the presence of Our Dignity, the illustrious Count Roger [II] of Laon and Ebalus [later bishop of Limoges], humbly asked Our Clemency that We might deign to confer a certain abbey in honour of St John the Baptist, in the place which is called Angély, which is now completely devoid of its original honour, on a certain servant of God named Martin through a precept of Our Regality in order to improve it; and this We did.

Whence We commanded this decree of Our Highness to be made and given to the said Martin, through which he might hold the aforesaid abbey in its entirety as long as he lives, and gather, with God’s help, monks there in accordance with the Rule; and let the monks after his death for all time elect an abbot for themselves in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict; and let no count or any other powerful person inflict any damage on the aforenamed abbey of Saint-Jean. Rather, in accordance with the custom of other places soldiering under the Rule of the said nourishing Benedict, let it remain immune under Our defence and that of Our successors.

And that this emolument of Our authority might persevere inviolably through the course of times to come, confirming it beneath Our own hand We commanded it be corroborated with the image of Our signet.

Sign of lord Louis, the most glorious king.

Odilo the notary witnessed on behalf of Bishop Heiric.

Enacted at the city of Poitiers, on the 7th ides of January, in the 10th indiction, in the 6th year of the reign of Louis king of the Franks.

Happily in the name of God, amen. 

Let’s start with the obvious. The first document has three petitioners, and the first two are brothers, the sons of Ebalus Manzer, Count William Towhead, and Ebalus, abbot of Saint-Maixent. Ebalus also shows up in the second document. Both of them are receiving a big dose of Königsnahe. William, you’ll note, gets the prestigious title of marchio (‘margrave’), something neither he nor his father had at any other time. Ebalus doesn’t get anything quite that formal, but he was given a more concrete reward for his support. As we’ve discussed before, it was likely at this time that Ebalus was assured of his succession to the bishopric of Limoges, which he would then assume a few years later. This alliance had real and ongoing effects. After Louis’ return to the north, he mustered his armies at Rouen, and William Towhead showed up with troops. The royal army then marched to the Oise, where they were able to compel Hugh and Heribert to negotiate. 

The role of Abbot Martin here is also significant. Martin had been a very big name in Aquitanian monasticism for about a decade. He was abbot of institutions in Limoges, Angoulême and Poitiers, as well as of Jumièges in Normandy. That is, he was extremely well-connected, better so even than William Towhead, and drawing him into the coalition that was being assembled was an important was of stretching that coalition’s boundaries. Indeed, after leaving Poitou Louis actually went to Rouen, where he confirmed his alliance with William Longsword, count of Rouen.

This is all well and good, though – but what makes this set of actions really something special is that we also have a charter from William Towhead issued during Louis’ stay.

Saint-Hilaire no. 20 = ARTEM no. 1107 (January 942)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

William, by God’s grace count of the palace of the Poitevins.

We wish it to be known to all of the faithful of the holy Church of God, to wit, present and future, that one of Our followers, named Viscount Savaric [of Thouars], and his vassal Elias, approaching Our Mildness, beseeched Us that We might deign to concede to a certain man named Hosdren and his wife Aldesind something from their benefice, which is sited in the district of Poitou in the lower district of Thouars, in the vicariate of Thénezay, in the estate which is called Vaulorin* and in the place which is named Ad Illo Maso, amongst the goods of Saint-Remi, which is in the brothers’ wasteland, that is, more or less 8 uncultivated quarterons with no heir, along with meadows and arable land along the stream of the Vandelogne, cultivated and uncultivated, visited and unvisited, and as much as is beholden or seen to be beholden to these quarterons, through this writing of Our authority under an rent from a rental agreement; and this is please Us in every way to do.

We, then, considering their petition just did not deny it, but freely granted to him what he asked, that is, on the condition that each year on the feast of St Hilary which falls on the kalends of November [1st November], the aforesaid Hosdren and his wife Aldesind should without any delay act to render a rent of 3 shillings to the ruler who is seen to hold the same benefice under their rule, and after their deaths… their… have, hold and possess it, and if they appear tardy or negligent with this rent for any difficulty, let them render the rent twofold, and let them in no way lose the aforesaid goods.

But that this rental agreement might in God’s name obtain firmness, I confirmed it below with my own hands and after Us We decreed that venerable men should corroborate it below.

+ Count William. Sign of Viscount Savaric. Sign of Viscount Fulk. Sign of Lambert the auditor. Sign of Acfred. Sign of Ebbo. Sign of Rorgo. Sign of Gozlin. Sign of Boso. Sign of Rainald. Sign of another Boso. Sign of Adalelm. Sign of Abiathar. Sign of Aimeric. Sign of Elias. Sign of Rocco. Sign of Dilibal. Sign of Odo. Sign of Thietmar. Sign of Geoffrey. 

Given in the month of January, in the 6th year of the reign of King Louis.

Warner wrote and subscribed.

The original of William’s charter, taken from ARTEM linked above.

 *ID mine based on looking at the map; to be taken with a large pinch of salt. 

The really key part of this charter is William’s title. Comes palatii is new, a title never held by Ebalus Manzer or by William before now. That William issued his own charter with this title whilst Louis was present and in a position to be seen to personally endorse it shows that the count of Poitiers was actively taking advantage of the king’s being there to take to the stage himself and display his Königsnahe and bolster his legitimacy. That is, we know that Louis was not shouting into a void: William was in fact integrating his new-found role as the king’s close ally into his own strategies of legitimacy.

One final note. It’s interesting that the recipient of this charter is named Hosdren. Hosdren is a Breton name. It’s not wise to rest too much about this, but at the very least it’s interesting to note in this regard two things. First, that the Breton duke Alan Barbetorte was also part of this alliance, and also showed up with troops alongside the two Williams. Second, that Alan and William were also negotiating concerning the disposition of some districts south of the Loire, the Mauges and its neighbours, at about this time. It might be that Hosdren played a minor role here, or that his reward was part of these negotiations; it might well be that Louis was arbitrating these negotiations to give them the stamp of royal approval. This is speculative, certainly, but it’s not wise to underestimate the authority of kingship…