I’ll Bite Your Kneecaps Off! Boso of Provence and Keeping Going after Massive Political Damage

Way back in the day when I first started doing Charter A Week, I did a fair few posts on Boso of Provence. That was a while ago now, so for those who are just joining us, Boso of Provence was the erstwhile brother-in-law of the West Frankish king Charles the Bald. He married the daughter of the king of Italy, and enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top in the last few years of Charles’ reign, a prominence he more-or-less managed to keep up in the reign of Louis the Stammerer. After Louis died in 879, however, Boso ignored his two teenage sons and had himself declared king at the fortress of Mantaille by a congress of Burgundian and Provençal bishops. However, in 880 a combined force of Carolingian rulers led an army south to deal with him, taking Mâcon and besieging Vienne. Most of Boso’s key supporters abandoned him; and this is where we left him: late in 880, a neutered force, his support lopped off, destined to be a hedge-king skulking about the mountains of the French Prealps for the rest of his life. This is, I would venture to say, basically the standard story about Boso. However, since I wrote those posts, I’ve come across a few things and I’ve started to wonder whether Boso was less a spent force and more the Carolingian political equivalent of MRSA.

Boso’s kingdom. c. 883 (source)

You see, after the success of the 880 campaign, the Carolingian rulers leading the army started to drift apart. Charles the Fat wanted to get to Italy to succeed his late brother Karlmann of Bavaria, and Louis III was panicked by reports that his northern army had met a serious defeat at the hands of a Viking force in Flanders. The end result was that they buggered off to do their own thing, leaving Carloman II to handle the anti-Boso action. And, with his support not entirely eradicated, he seems to have been able to slowly grow stronger and resist the Carolingian armies.(*) For one thing, it took another two years to take Boso’s fortified capital of Vienne itself. An attack in 881 appears to have done nothing, certainly not in terms of Boso’s support. Indeed, Regino of Prüm (writing a bit later) takes care to note that none of Boso’s supporters ever betrayed him to the Carolingians despite significant material inducement to do so. Archbishop Otrand of Vienne, one of his most important supporters, had gone so far as to imprison the bishop of Geneva. At the same time, Bishop Adalbert of Maurienne attacked and imprisoned Bishop Berner of Grenoble. These two bishops had been at each other’s throats for years, but it is possible that one or the other of them was a supporter of Boso, giving Adalbert his excuse for invasion.

With that said, Vienne was taken in 882, and the devastation was massive – a charter a few years later was dated by the ‘destruction of Vienne’. This left Boso reliant on the support of the mountainous provinces of eastern Provence, and that wasn’t a great base for launching any serious attacks on his opponents. Still, there are signs Boso had a resurgence towards the end of his life. In 887, Count Odilo of Die issued a charter dated by Boso’s reign as king. We also have signs that he was being sought ought by Provençal churchmen: around this time he issued a lost diploma for the church of Valence, and we also have evidence of grants to the churches of Vienne and Lyon (although it is possible that these might have been death-bed grants, it still implies there was enough of a tie there for these churches to accept some ideologically pointed gifts, such as crowns). If we’re feeling generous, there might even be some evidence from silence – despite his importance in the politics of the 870s and early 880s, Bishop Adalgar of Autun is conspicuously absent from the sources for the reign of Charles the Fat, which could possibly hint at his renewed support for Boso.

We also have a little bit of evidence for Charles the Fat’s response to this. Regino says that he allowed the Viking fleet which besieged Paris in 885-886 into Burgundy to punish a revolt against him there. This can’t be true of the bits of Burgundy the fleet actually went to – Sens, Auxerre, and Langres all show up as loyal to Charles in summer 886 – but it could indicate Charles knew about rumblings from Boso’s old heartlands in southern Burgundy and northern Provence. A more problematic, but potentially more interesting, source is a diploma of Charles the Fat for the church of Nevers, dating to 885. It claims to have been petitioned for by William the Pious, son of Aquitaine’s most important magnate Bernard Plantevelue. In the diploma, Charles recalls ‘the unbroken loyalty of [William’s] father Bernard… [who] with tremendous courage, inner strength, and unending loyalty set himself against… the tyrant Boso and his followers’, in the course of which battle he died. Now, as this diploma currently stands it is a forgery of c. 950-1100 (not least because we know Bernard Plantevelue was still alive in summer 886!). However, it’s a weird thing for a forger in the decades around the millennium to toy with – William and Bernard’s family had long died out by then, and their memory was kept, if anywhere, at Cluny (in the Mâconnais) or in Auvergne, not at Nevers. However, they had ruled Nevers back in the day, and maybe there was some information the forger had access to – otherwise, it’s a very odd thing to put in there, as it doesn’t serve the church’s interests and it doesn’t add formal authenticity to the document. If Bernard Plantevelue did die against Boso in autumn 886, then, it could be a sign that Charles was taking his old rival more seriously than historians have yet realised.

Boso never got the chance to do more, because he died in early 887. And there’s a lot of maybes in the above. Nonetheless, I think most of them are plausible maybes. Even then, even accepting most of them all they add up to is a slower decline in the early 880s and a bit of a recovery in the late 880s. Still, that’s more than he’s been allowed thus far. It also makes his career more explicable: rather than an enormous rise and catastrophic fall, it lets Boso’s kingship evolve more naturally, and more accurately reflects the Carolingians’ ultimate failure to crush him completely once they were in a dominant position.

(*) PSA: if your doctor proscribes you a course of antibiotics, be sure to finish it even if you’re feeling better before the end!

Source Translation: The Election of Louis the Blind

MGH Capit. II, no. 281 (August 890)

In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 890, in the 8th indiction, the religious and full venerable Archbishop Bernoin of the holy see of Vienne visited the apostolic see to consult with the apostolic lord (under whose purview lies the care of and duty towards all churches) about certain needs of his church and the general needs of the whole realm. By his worthy report, he related the disturbance in this realm: how, after the death of the most glorious emperor Charles [the Fat] it had been for a long time without a king and prince, and was badly afflicted everywhere not only by its own inhabitants, who were checked by no rod of dominion; but also by pagans, for on one side the Northmen pressed in, devastating nearly everything; and on the other, the Saracens plundered Provence, returning the land to wilderness. After he had heard these reasons, and others of the same kind, the reverend apostolic lord Stephen [V], moved to tears, advised by his most holy exhortation, both in words and in writings directed generally to all the cisalpine Gauls, both archbishops and other venerable bishops, that everyone should unanimously and concordantly give their consent to Louis, grandson of the late Louis [II], most glorious of emperors, and establish him as king over the people of God.

When, therefore, we had diligently discovered that the assent of our holy, catholic and apostolic mother Church favoured this election, we – to wit, lord Aurelian, archbishop of the see of Lyon, and also lord Rostagnus, archbishop of the town of Arles, and the venerable Arnald, archbishop of Embrun, and lord Bernoin, archbishop of Vienne, himself, by whose report we reverently accepted the will of the apostolic lord; with many others of our fellow bishops – all gathered together in the city of Valence, we investigated, discussed and inquired in accordance with God’s will whether we should worthily and reasonably establish him as king over us in accordance with the admonishments of the apostolic lord, whose writings we had to hand.

And so, everyone agreed about him that no-one would make a better king than he, who came from an imperial bloodline and who had already grown into a lad of good character. Although his age seemed insufficient to curb the barbarians’ savagery, it could nonetheless be crushed by the counsel and strength, by God’s assistance, of the noble princes of this realm, whose number is not small. Supported above all by the assistance of Richard [the Justiciar], the most famous of dukes and an extraordinary prince, and moreover of lady Ermengard, the most glorious of queens, whose deeply profound and razor-sharp prudence was given to her by God, to which was joined the worthy exhortation of the aforesaid bishops and the counsel of the whole realm’s magnates, the realm’s advantage will be managed very worthily, in a God-fearing way.

Finally, supported and encouraged by such confidence, as we believe through God’s will, we elected the aforesaid Louis, son of the most excellent of kings Boso and decreed he be anointed as king, judging worthy for the role him to whom Charles [the Fat], the most all-surpassing of emperors, had already conceded the royal dignity; and of whose realm Arnulf [of Carinthia], who became his successor, was proven to be a protector and supporter in everything, through his sceptre and through his wisest legates, that is, Bishop Riculf [of Soissons](*) and Count Berthold [from Alemannia]. Supported by such and so great a permission of authority, everyone came into the same city, and by common consent we decreed that this royal record should be made and, preferring that it remain valid and fruitfully thriving for all time, we strengthened it with our own hands and we each subscribed.

(*) It’s also been proposed that this is Bishop Theodulf of Chur. Riculf of Soissons seems like a better bet, though – Fulk of Rheims was closely tied to Arnulf of Carinthia’s court, to the extent of being a papal legate to sort out various problems in the East Frankish church, and it’s quite possible that one of his suffragans would be sent on an errand, particularly in light of the Rheims archdiocese’s previous support of Louis.

Here’s a cool thing. You remember we’ve talked before about how you don’t have to be count of anywhere, and there are cases of people who weren’t bishops of anywhere? Well, here we have a case where we have a king who is not king of anywhere, or at least not of anyone. You see right at the end there, where they note that Charles the Fat had already – key word, already­ – conceded the royal dignity to Louis? That means Louis was king, just one with no subjects. On Monday, of course, Louis wasn’t being called king at all, but as this document acknowledges he kind of was.

The ambiguity doesn’t end here. The picture of kingship in the first paragraph is fairly typical: kings are supposed to repress the wicked and defend against the pagan. It all sounds like the king-making liturgies we spent a good chunk of last year looking at. But then paragraph three says that he’s too young to do any of this – it’s actually Richard the Justiciar who’s doing most of the fighting. One imagines the scribe wincing as he writes this: because Louis’ claim to kingship isn’t straightforwardly hereditary, and he’s manifestly inappropriate to perform any of the functions of kingship, his erstwhile backers have had to keep a lot of the framework of the Carolingian discourse about kingship even as it groans under the strain of a situation it’s not really set up to handle.

Or do we? There’s an article by Ross Samson called ‘Carolingian Palaces and the Poverty of Ideology’ which every now and then I read and worry about. Basically, Samson argues that despite the efforts of contemporary (meaning early-to-mid ‘90s) archaeologists to argue that Carolingian palace architecture was an expression of ideology, in fact there wasn’t anything coherent about their architectural elements at all: they were a thrown-together mess of historical and cultural references meant to go ‘hey, isn’t the king impressive?’ rather than anything more sophisticated.

fig_6
Specifically, he’s talking about the palace complex at Ingelheim, taken here from fig. 6 in Webster, ‘Charlemagne’.

This is usually cited as ‘for another perspective see…’, which means he’s probably wrong in his wider point (one thing which has happened since the article was published in 1994 is that it has become very clear that huge chunks of the Carolingian elite were highly-educated and thoughtful, even if not terribly profound, which makes his claim at the end that ‘gosh, Aachen is big’ is a better representation of one of Charlemagne’s count’s thought processes than ‘reformatio et correctio’ very old-fashioned), but despite this, he’s put his finger on something which bothers us in the time between turning off the light and going to sleep.

That being: what if these people don’t care about consistency? Doesn’t this description look as though the bishops of Provence are trying to legitimise a fait accompli by throwing everything which makes a good king (The pope’s backing! Election! Character! Approval from a more legitimate king! Heredity! Justice and warfare!) at it despite the fact that some of these ideas don’t work with each other and some don’t work well with the eight-year-old they’ve now made their ruler.

Phrased like that, some of you might be nodding and going, ‘well, duh – these are powerful people, they’re probably all about that hardcore Machiavellianism.’ But cynical Realpolitik doesn’t really fit either – again, Louis is eight. Child kings are problematic, for pretty much the reasons this document outlines – they can’t lead armies, and they can’t really do much in the way of decision-making or law enforcement. This is why Charles the Simple doesn’t seem to have gotten a crack at kingship in 884 or 888. So choosing Louis as king implies a commitment to Louis specifically which goes beyond the simple demands of political exigency – if you want a king who won’t bother you, Arnulf and Odo are far away and already crowned; if you want a king who was related to Boso but who is effective, Richard the Justiciar’s around; and so on. So we seem to be left with a situation in which a group of magnates are making a king based on a principled choice, but then justifying it with a different set of principles which don’t fit. Presumably this isn’t actually what’s happening – one just has to stand in the right place so that everything which looks out of alignment lines up. If that happens, I’ll let you know…

Charter a Week 11: Governing Burgundy with Bishops

Has it really taken this long to get to a private charter? Huh. I guess back when I was going to talk about Neustrian governmentality under 882 the overwhelming predominance of royal diplomas up to this point seemed less obvious; but that’s been moved well down the schedule; and so it’s come to pass that up to this point it’s been all kings all the time. To some extent, of course, this is a function of the nature of the surviving material. Private charter preservation (although there is a small blip in the 890s and 900s) doesn’t really ramp up until we’re dealing with material from the mid-tenth century, so to some extent it was inevitable, especially given that I prefer to be dealing with documents which are individually significant.

Today, though, we’ll be talking about, not Neustrian governance, but Burgundian. During the mid-to-late-ninth century, the West Frankish rulers lashed together their rule out of a series of regionally-customised compromises, deals, and experiments which meant that, despite the presence of a common political culture, different regions can look quite unlike one another under the hood. Burgundy is no exception here. Where in previous weeks I was able to use phrases like ‘Hugh the Abbot basically was Neustria’, I couldn’t say the same about Burgundy. Instead, the figures we’ve been meeting from that region are men like Adalgar of Autun and Geilo of Langres: super-bishops, who despite not being archbishops or provincial metropolitans, are very rich and very powerful; and I think it is they, rather than lay magnates, who are the Carolingian kings’ go-to guys for dealing with certainly southern Burgundy. Which brings us to 887 – what does this look like in practice?

MGH Conc. 5 no. 21C (18th May 887, Chalon-sur-Saône) = ARTEM no. 146

In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 887, and in the 2nd year of the imperial rule in Gaul of the most serene emperor augustus lord Charles, in the 5th indiction, on the 15th kalends of June [18th May], a sacred convent of bishops was in the name of Christ brought together at the church of the holy martyr Marcellus in the suburbs of Chalon-sur-Saône to establish the peace and tranquillity of the holy Church of God and settle Church business. Present there were the lords and most holy archbishops Aurelian [of Lyon], Bernoin [of Vienne], Theotrand [of Tarantaise], and as well the most reverend bishops Adalgar [of Autun], Geilo [of Langres], Stephen [of Chalon], Gerald [of Mâcon], Adalbald [of Belley] and Isaac [of Valence].

Then, the abovewritten Geilo, reverend bishop of the church of Langres, along with the aforesaid fathers residing in this sacrosanct convent, brought to their attention the edict of a precept from the aforesaid lord and most excellent of emperors the ever august Charles, bestowed on him, that is, concerning all of the goods of the church committed to him by God, both those which emperors and kings had presented to his aforesaid church in ancient times and restored by a precept of their authority, and also those which he had acquired in his own time through precepts from the most glorious lord emperor, so that through this aforesaid edict not only he, but all of his successors, should in the name of God be able to rightfully hold onto them without disturbance from anyone.

In fact, here are the names of these goods: that is, the castle of Dijon, where there is a church in honour of the blessed protomartyr Stephen, and next to the same castle the monastery of the holy martyr Benignus, and in the district of Tonnerrois the monastery of Saint-Pierre de Molosmes, and the castle of Tonnerre itself, where there is a church in honour of the blessed Anianus, with all the things properly its own; as well in the same district the little abbey of Saint-Symphorien, in the place which is called Ligny-le-Châtel, and many other goods lying in the same county. Finally, within the walls of the same city of Langres is the abbey of Saint-Pierre, and nearby, in the suburbs of the same city, two little abbeys, to wit, Saint-Amateur and Saint-Ferréol, and the monastery of Saints-Geômes; moreover, in the district of Atuyer, the monastery of Saint-Pierre de Bèze. There are many other goods, little abbeys and possessions of divers other goods which this same church of Langres is seen to justly, reasonably, and rightfully hold onto.

It was also shown in the same edict that the abovementioned bishop had in his time acquired through precepts from the aforesaid lord and most serene emperor augustus estates and other goods properly his church’s in castles, moneying-rights, markets, and immunities: that is, in the district of Tonnerrois, the abbey of Moutiers-Saint-Jean; and in the district of Mémontois, the abbey of Saint-Seine; and in the district of Atuyer, estates of these names: Gray-la-Ville, Pontailler-sur-Saône, Montigny-sur-Vingeanne, and as well Rancenay; and in the district of Lassois, and in the castle of Mont-Lassois itself, the little abbey of Saint-Marcel; and in the district of Troiesin, the estate which they call L’Ormeau.

Later, the same venerable Bishop Geilo humbly appealed to the aforementioned lords and most holy fathers and bishops, with as many prayers as he could, that they might deign to corroborate the edict of this precept by a privilege of their authority, so that it might be held more firmly and certainly and lest it be able to be infringed by anyone’s thoughtless obstinacy.

The aforementioned lords and most holy fathers, lending the ears of Their Mildnesses to his most pious and praiseworthy of solicitations, confirmed the aforesaid edict established concerning all the goods of the church of Langres through this privilege of their authority in this manner, and in confirming it established by their episcopal sanction that, in the manner in which the said emperor augustus had confirmed these aforesaid goods for the church of Langres by his imperial institution, so too do we confirm them by our canonical and episcopal authority, to wit, on the terms that no prince or any judicial power hereafter, or any presumptuous person, should presume to impede, disturb or sacrilegiously invade them; rather, let them be inviolably and perpetually held in their entirety in the same state as they are currently united to and stabilised for the said church of Langres.

But if anyone, overcome by thoughtless and sacrilegious obstinacy, and blinded by unshakeable greed, presumes to infringe in any way that which We have confirmed by Our and God’s authority, let them know that they shall pay the penalty of eternal damnation and be burned in the everlasting fire with the Devil and his angels and with Judas, the betrayer of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ and tortured by a perpetual penalty with Dathan and Abiram; and in addition, let them be kept from the threshold of the holy Church of God and from the company of all the Christian faithful for as long as it takes until they repent of their criminal obstinacy and take care to assuage the wrath of God Almighty, which they feared not to incur, with worthy penitence and satisfaction and amends.

And thus, in subscribing We marked down a very clear confirmation of these enactments with Our hands below, and We requested it be similarly corroborated through Christ and in Christ with the no less worthy subscriptions of absent priests.

Geilo, humble bishop of the holy church of Langres, related, consented to, and subscribed this privilege. Aurelian, poor bishop of the holy church of Lyon, in the name of Christ, strengthened this privilege. Bernoin, humble bishop of the holy church of Vienne, subscribed. Adalgar, bishop of Autun, subscribed. Stephen, humble bishop of the holy church of Chalon-sur-Saône, subscribed. Adalbald, bishop of the church of Belley, subscribed. Gerald, bishop of the holy church of Mâcon, subscribed. Isaac, humble bishop of the church of Valence, subscribed.

Langres - Rue du Cardinal de la Luzerne - View NNW on Cathédrale Saint-Mammès 1768
Frustratingly, although this is an original charter, there aren’t any pictures of it I can find. Instead, this is what Langres cathedral looks like now. (source)

Pretty high-powered, huh? Three different archbishops, most of the major bishops of southern Burgundy and northern Provence… it’s all happening. This actually reflects some of the fallout from the death of King Lothar II decades previously – at this point, the ecclesiastical provinces of Vienne, Lyon and Tarantaise all make a sensible political unit. In that light, this synod can only be seen as a way to run that unit.

What we can’t do is see this as a strictly ecclesiastical affair. Synods are something bishops are supposed to do in any case, but when all the most important figures in your region are bishops, a synod becomes not simply a tool of ecclesiastical governance but a tool of, well, governance-no-qualifier-needed. Most of our evidence for the synod of Saint-Marcel comes from acts like this, charters in favour of Geilo of Langres’ churches. If you look at the language, these are in fact often confirming diplomas of Charles the Fat. That is to say, in practice, they are mediating the emperor’s authority and deciding on how (and indeed if) it is going to be applied in their area.

There’s also a political context here. At this point, Geilo has fairly recently returned from the emperor’s side in Alsace. Boso of Provence, long a friendless fugitive in the hills around Vienne, has finally died; and this raises the question of what to do with his son Louis the Blind. Louis’ mother Engelberga was negotiating with Charles in February, and Charles and Louis were reconciled that summer, with Charles adopting Louis (whatever that meant). This is particularly significant in light of the attendance here: Aurelian of Lyon, Adalgar of Autun, and Theotrand of Tarantaise had been supporters of Boso in 879, and Stephen of Chalon, Gerald of Mâcon and Isaac of Valence were successors of men who had. MacLean proposes quite reasonably that Geilo’s role here is to work through the Charles-Louis deal with these men, reinforcing his status both as the most important imperial fidelis in Burgundy and as the Burgundian bishops’ point man at court. The synod, then, comes across even more as a political assembly of the regional potentates; and we will see in upcoming months how this transitions into the tenth century. But first: 888.

Charter a Week 6: Carolingian Cooperations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign of Carloman, most glorious of kings.

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

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

Enacted at Vienne.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign of Charles, most serene of emperors.

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

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

Enacted at Worms.

01381
Charles’ diploma, from the ARTEM page linked above.

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

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

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

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

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

Charter a Week 4: The Provençal Anticlimax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign of Carloman, most glorious of kings.

Norbert the notary subscribed.

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

Acted at the estate of Nérondes.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

Count Theodoric [of Vermandois] ambasciated.

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

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

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

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

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

Charter a Week 3, part 2: Adalgar of Autun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign of Boso, most glorious of kings.

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

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

Enacted at the city of Lyon.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) The Election of King Boso.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the sake of removing ambiguity, one…   

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

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

34740375072_54f2e6754d_z
The ruins of Mantaille today (source, photo by Pascal Rey)

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

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

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

Charter a Week 3, part 1: What I Am

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

DD Provence no. 16 (25th July 879)

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

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

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

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

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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

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

King_Boson_of_Provence
The clue is the crown. (source)

Charter a Week 1: ‘Our dearest duke’ (877)

It’s well-known by now that I enjoy translating sources, and that I like charters; and it’s probably becoming clear as well that I like getting narrative about the late/post-Carolingian world. So today is the first entry in a new series, which is exactly what it says on the tin: each Monday, I’ll post a new translation of a charter going right through the long tenth century, one (at least – see below) each year from 877 up to 1032. A couple of caveats before beginning:

  • So far, I’ve planned out about half of what we’re going to be seeing. During this process, I’ve found that the really juicy stuff tends to cluster noticeably – it’s not so much that one year will have two potentially-interesting charters and one three; more that one will have one and another will have five. In most cases I’ve tried to be strict, but some years I just couldn’t pick. In these cases, I’ll post one on Monday and the rest a few days later. As it happens, this first week is one of these cases, so expect another charter later this week!
  • A note on coverage: this is fundamentally a French story. Mostly, we’ll be talking about the West Frankish monarchy, but as you might expect by now we’ll be looking over the border into Provence and occasionally Transjurane Burgundy, and the East Frankish kingdom and Lotharingia will also play a part.

Let’s crack on!

DD CtB no. 419 (6th January 877, Quierzy) = ARTEM no. 788 = DK 5.xix

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by mercy of the same Almighty God emperor augustus.

If We lend Our Serenity’s ears to the just and reasonable requests of servants of God, and bring them into effect, We both follow the custom of the emperors, to wit, Our ancestors; and We in no way doubt that through this will the prize of an eternal blessing follow.

Let the industry, therefore, of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, both present and future, know that Boso [of Provence], Our dearest duke and representative in Italy and the chief minister of Our sacred palace, coming before Our Excellence, made known to Our Serenity the appeals of certain monks, that is, from the monastery of the holy martyr Benignus: to wit, that they had appealed to Our Highness that We might for Our soul’s reward and on account of the appeal of the same Boso, who is very worthy of Our affection, restore to the aforesaid holy martyr Benignus and the brothers serving therein goods which had been alienated from their said monastery for a long time.

Therefore, Our Serenity’s clemency complied with the prayers of Our said dearest man and succouring the needs of the aforementioned brothers, We restore to them through this Our precept the goods which are described below, that is, in the district of Oscheret, the estate which is called Longvic with churches and everything justly and reasonably pertaining to it; and in the district of Portois, the estate of Saint-Marcel with churches and everything pertaining to it.

Accordingly, We commanded this precept of Our Imperial Highness be made and given to the aforesaid brothers, through which let them hold and possess eternally all the said goods with everything pertaining to them, and let them turn them back to their own uses without contradiction from any person.

And that this might be inviolably conserved for all time and obtain in the name of God a fuller vigour of firmness, We confirmed it below with Our hand and We commanded it be sealed with Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of august emperors.

Odoacer the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Gozlin [of Paris].

Count Boso ambasciated.

Given on the 8th ides of January (6th January), in the 10th indiction, in the 37th year of the reign of the lord emperor Charles in Francia, and the 7th in succession to Lothar [II], and in second of his rule as emperor.

Enacted at the imperial palace of Quierzy.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

CW 1.1 877
The surviving original, from the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above.

We begin in the last year of the reign of Charles the Bald, not that anyone knew that at the time. Charles, who was 53 when this diploma was issued, had recently become emperor in Italy, and as we’ll see later this week was clearly aiming further. No-one expected him to die within the year, so this diploma was issued not as a deathbed grant from a fading ruler but as a statement from a man who hadn’t stopped pushing for greater power yet. There are a lot of diplomas from early 877 as Charles prepared to head once more to Italy.

By this point, the pattern of Charles’ late reign is clear, because these diplomas in general feature the small clique of supermagnates on whom Charles’ power was based (and who based their own power on Charles’) – men such as Hugh the Abbot (who we will encounter later in this series), Bernard Plantevelue, father of William the Pious, and above all, as here, Boso of Provence.

At the exact point this diploma was issued, Boso was riding remarkably high even for him. His sister Richildis was married to Charles and had recently given birth to a son (in the event short-lived) to whom Boso stood godfather. This diploma, for the abbey of Saint-Bénigne in Dijon, is a testament to his status. Look at Boso’s titulature: not every Tom, Dick or Megingoz gets to be carissimus noster dux et missus Italiae sacrique palatii nostri archiminister! Boso was a high-status, powerful aristocrat – but his position was fragile, and the prospect of the succession of Charles’ son Louis the Stammerer was not an appealing one. To paraphrase Stuart Airlie: when you’re that high up, where can you go but down?