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 70/2: Restoration

Last time, things were going badly for Louis IV. He was being kept in prison by Hugh the Great, whilst the duke of the Franks decided what to do with him. It’s probable that Hugh wasn’t trying to depose the king, although not certain; but what seems likely is that Hugh was trying to work out just how tightly he could put the screws on. And so, by July 1st, two weeks after Hugh’s charter for Chartres, Louis was released. The price? The price was Laon, which had been held by Louis’ wife Queen Gerberga. Laon was the most powerful and important fortress of the north-east, and by holding both it and Rheims, Hugh could make a reasonable claim to have won the war which he, his late brother-in-law Heribert II of Vermandois, and various kings had been fighting since the late 920s about control in the region.

In return, Louis got to be king again, having his status and honour fully restored to him. This was marked by a ceremony at Chevregny, just south of Laon. No fewer than three diplomas to Cluny were issued on this occasion, but all three are textually similar so – in an experiment with the format – I’ve translated them all side-by-side, so that you can see where they are similar and different.

D L4 no. 27

D L4 no. 28

D L4 no. 29

In the name of Lord God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Louis,

by ordination of divine providence,

by propitiation of divine clemency,

king. (no. 29: king of the Franks).

If We indeed proffer assent to the prayers of servants of God

and

and as well

their advantage, We far from doubt conserve (no. 27: exercise) royal dignity (no. 28: in all things) and We decree (no. 27: wish) that it should endure in future with the firmest (no. 29 and inviolable) right (no. 28: inviolably).

Therefore, let the industry of all the followers of the holy Church of God and Us, to wit, present and future, know that

 

most illustrious

most celebrated

princes of Our realm, that is, Hugh [the Great], duke of the Franks, and another Hugh [the Black], (no. 27: to wit,) duke of the Burgundians, and Count Leotald [of Mâcon], approached

 

the excellence of

Our Royal Serenity, deprecating that We might concede through a royal precept to the monastery of Cluny, consecrated in honour of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul,

certain goods, that is, a church dedicated in honour of St Jon sited in the suburbs of Mâcon, with all the goods pertaining to the same church, and also the estate of Vésines and Ozan, and the woods and estate of Senozan,

 

 

a certain little estate, from the rule of the viscount of Lyon. This estate is sited in the same district of Lyon, on the river Saône, which We donate with all the goods pertaining to it, to wit, vineyards and fields,

a certain monastery consecrated in honour of St Stephen, which is named Charlieu, and the cell of Rigny pertaining to it, dedicated in veneration of St Martin; also a church pertaining to the rule of the blessed Martin of Tours, sited in the suburbs of Mâcon. We concede these places named above, sited in the district of Mâconnais, with all the goods pertaining to it, that is, churches, estates, bondsmen of both sexes, vineyards, fields, meadows, woods, waters and watercourses, in their entirety.

with lands, meadows, woods, (no. 28: waters and) great water(no. 28:course)s and little streams, parks, ditches and the port

of the abovesaid Ozan, and other ports

 

With (no. 27: pastures,) incomes and renders, (no. 28: with pastures) and all adjacencies, and all fisheries (no. 28: and fishers, and all male and female serfs and colonis with their children and their whole kin-group,) sought and to be sought after,

and with Arnulf and his wife and their sons and daughters and all the male and female serfs and children beholden to the aforesaid goods, and their allods within and without, wherever they are, except a third part of Osan which pertains to Saint-Vincent [of Mâcon], and also Sigebert of Davayé with his wife, sons and daughters, with all their allods and goods, and everything which he holds in the said county.

I cede and transfer wholly and entirely

(nos 27, 29: We did this freely both) for love of (no. 28: God) (no. 29: the divine) and of the (no. 28: His) blessed apostles (nos 27, 29: and for Ourself, and also) for the state (no. 28: and stability) of Our realm, and at the same time the salvation of Our princes and all the (no. 27: Christian) faithful (nos 28, 29: of Christ) (no. 28: to wit, the living and the dead.) (nos 27, 29: and We freely assented to their pious and devoted petition.)

Commanding, therefore, We order that hereafter the aforesaid witnesses of Christ (no. 28: judges of the age, that is) the blessed Peter and Paul, and their abbot (no. 28: the abbots and rulers of their aforesaid abbey) and (no. 28: also) the monks serving the same apostles of Christ should hold and possess (no. 29: the aforesaid goods) with the firmest right through

 

this Our authority,

this authority of Our sublimity,

and whatever they wish to do or judge concerning it, they may enjoy (no. 28: use) free judgement in everything to do (no. 28: and ordain) whatever they choose.

And that this

Our authority

authority of Our Highness

authority of Our Sublimity

might be held more firmly and conserved better through future (no. 28: coming) times, We commanded it be sealed below with Our signet.

Sign of King Louis.

Chancellor Roric witnessed on behalf of [Bishop] Achard [of Langres].

Enacted at the estate of Chevregny, on the 1st July, in the 11th year of the reign of King Louis, when he also recovered Francia.

So everything’s hunky dory now, right? Not quite. You’ll note these acts all have the same intercessors: not just Hugh the Great, but Hugh the Black and Leotald of Mâcon. Hugh the Great – finally – got to be re-acknowledged, for the first time since 936, as dux Francorum in a royal diploma, but this had to be balanced out. Hugh the Black is called dux Burgundionum, a title he had not previously claimed in any of his own acts or any royal diplomas, and which he would not claim in the future. It seems that he, too, agreed with Raymond Pons’ analysis of the problem posed by Hugh the Great: ‘duke of the Burgundians’ meant that he remained Hugh the Black’s equal and not his superior. Equally, the presence of Leotald of Mâcon is interesting. Cluny was of course in the Mâconnais, but there’s more to it than that. Leotald’s presence reminded Hugh the Great that the Burgundians mattered, that they were watching and – bluntly – that they outnumbered them.

The content of the diplomas is also carefully balanced in this regard. The first deals with property in Mâcon itself.  The second, however, deals with land pertaining to the viscounts of Lyon, in the kingdom of Conrad the Pacific, where Hugh the Black was count.  This, though, was counterbalanced by the gift of a church in Mâcon under the rule of the abbey of Saint-Martin of Tours, over which Hugh the Great ruled. That is, we have three different acts speaking to the interests of the three different magnates, rather than having Hugh the Great clearly dictating terms. For all that Hugh the Great might have had his title recognised, after almost a decade of hard fighting, he had not been able to overawe the kingdom’s other leading magnates, and these tense acts were the result.

This makes Louis’ ‘recovering Francia’ somewhat ironic. Hugh’s stripping him of key fortresses meant that the Chevregny acts didn’t convince everyone. For all Flodoard says that he had the royal name and power restored, East Frankish sources were more cynical: Adalbert of Magdeburg said that Louis was ‘expelled from the kingdom’. The reason that Adalbert knew this was that Queen Gerberga spent a big chunk of 946 in her brother Otto the Great’s kingdom trying to call for his help. Next week, we’ll see how that went.

Charter A Week 64: Hugh the Black, Briefly

Last week, we took a break from high politics for 939. This was not an unimportant year to pass over. That year, a huge rebellion amongst the magnates of Lotharingia asked Louis IV to become their king. He did – although, sadly, no diplomas survive from his abortive reign there – but not for very long. At the Second Battle of Andernach, the two main East Frankish rebels, Eberhard and Gislebert of Lotharingia, were killed and the whole thing collapsed. Louis was forced back on the man who, after he had torn himself away from Hugh the Great, had become his most important supporter: his predecessor’s brother, Hugh the Black.

D L4, no. 12 (14th February 940, Gurziaicus) = ARTEM no. 799 = D. Kar 8.v

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Louis, by grace of God king.

If We lend Our ears to the fitting petitions of Our followers, We maintain the customs of Our predecessors as king and We render them rather more familiar to Our Highness.

Wherefore let it be known to all Our followers, both present and future, that the famous Count Hugh approached Our presence and beseeched that We might give certain abbeys, sited in the district of Porthois, to one of Our followers, named Adelard, and his wife Adele and their heirs. One of these monasteries is called Faverney, named in honour of St Mary; the other is called Enfonvelle, and it is named in honour of the holy martyr Leodegar.

And thus, most freely favouring the prayers of the aforesaid glorious Count Hugh, We concede to the same Adelard and his wife Adele the aforesaid abbeys in their entirety, that is, Faverney in its entirety, with its appendages, that is, with churches, estates, bondsmen of both sexes, fields, meadows, woods, waters and watercourses, mills, incomes and renders, visited and unvisited; and Saint-Léger similarly wholly and entirely with everything pertaining to it; only on the condition that by this precept of Our Highness which We commanded to be made and given to the same couple, as long as Adelard and his said wife and their heirs live, they might hold and possess the abovewritten abbeys, and after their deaths (whenever they are), let the same abbeys revert without diminution or deterioration to that state they are known to have been in until now.

And that this Our statute might endure more firmly, We commanded this precept be made concerning it and be signed with Our signet.

Sign of the lord and most glorious king Louis.

Odilo the notary witnessed on behalf of Heiric [of Langres], bishop and high chancellor.

Given on the 16th kalends of March [14th February], in the 3rd year of the reign of the most glorious King Louis, in the 13th indiction.

Enacted at the estate of Gurziaicus on the river Marne.

The diploma in the original (source above)

If Louis 936 Christmas diploma shows the regime Hugh the Great forced upon him, this act shows him using patronage to develop his support in Burgundy. Hugh the Black is, obviously, the main event; but Hugh’s old rival Bishop Heiric of Langres shows up as archchancellor. Hugh the Black evidently knows how to relate to Louis better than Hugh the Great did: there are no extravagant titles here, but rather a simple ‘famous count’. Nonetheless, Hugh the Black clearly did have demands: Adelard and Adele get two plum monasteries for their own uses.

Notably, this is not the first time we’ve met Notre-Dame de Faverney. Last time, it was the focus of an exchange of property between its holder, Guy of Spoleto, later king of Italy and would-be king of the West Frankish kingdom, and Archdeacon Otbert of Langres. I find it interesting that Louis, in the diploma, is kind of shifty about Faverney’s current state. Given Guy’s withdrawal to Italy after the turn of the tenth century, I see two main possibilities as to what happened to it. First, it’s possible that Hugh the Black took it over as the predominant regional magnates and felt he either needed or wanted Louis’ consent to justify the transfer of monastic property to two laypeople. Second, and I think this is more likely, I suspect Otbert of Langres kept Faverney. In this scenario, Louis’ involvement becomes more crucial, as he is in effect using the legitimacy provided by his royal position and his ties to Bishop Heiric to justify using something which is – sort of – Langres’ property to reward Hugh’s followers.

Whatever the reality, Hugh the Black was not going to hang around in Louis’ following too much longer, although in his defence, that’s not really his fault. Louis’ presence in Burgundy was in part because his support of the Lotharingian rebels had provoked a rebellion of his own in the north, a rebellion which his angry rival, the East Frankish king Otto the Great, was supporting. Shortly after this diploma was issued, Otto headed south and – in essence – absolutely merked Hugh. There was fighting around Troyes, and Otto forced Hugh to give him hostages and an oath not to harm the northern rebels. Hugh’s humiliation was capped when he was made to give Otto his own golden brooch (later donated to the abbey of Corvey). With Hugh’s absence, Louis lost his most powerful support. What would he do next?

Charter A Week 62: How to Improve the Rental Market (with Very, Very Powerful Friends)

Some time ago, I was asked to contribute a chapter to a volume on land leasing practices in the early Middle Ages, and as part of that I went through the evidence from Burgundy. This week’s charter is something which had somehow escaped me the previous times I had looked through the Autun cartulary, but is nonetheless extremely cool:

Autun Eglise no. 31 (9th January 938, Autun)

In the name of Lord God eternal and our saviour Jesus Christ.

We, the congregation of the famous witness of Christ Nazarius, wish it to be known to all the sons and followers, to wit of this our holy mother church of Autun, both present and future, that Enguerrand, a honourable and dear vassal of Count Gilbert [of Burgundy] very often beat at the hearts of our piety that We might deign to confirm to him a certain portion of our property pertaining to the table of the brothers in the written form of a precarial grant. These goods, to wit, are sited in the county of Beaune, in the estate of Bouilland, to wit, three cultivated manses and five uncultivated pertaining to the fisc of Bligny-sur-Ouche.

Yet because this said man could not bring this to pass by his prayers, he brought with him the aforesaid count and in addition lord Hildebod, whom we once raised from the cradle and who was recently made, by God’s ordinance, bishop of Chalon.

Overcome by their prayers, in the end we began to open to him the bosom of humanity, and thus we ordered a writing of this common decree be made to him, in which we decree and confirm that the said Enguerrand and his wife Wandalmodis might hold and possess the aforesaid goods in their lifetime, on the condition that each year on the mass of St Nazarius they should render two shillings in cash to the table of the brothers. In return for this matter, the same man gave to our part his whole allod which he acquired in the same estate from Alo, brother of the late Archpriest Odilard, through instruments of charters, restoring to us these charters and all his acquisitions and additionally adding nine charters from the side of him and his wife.

But that all this should endure undisturbed through times to come, We commanded it be strengthened worthily below by our own hands via the subscription of names.

Enacted publicly at Autun, happily in the Lord, amen.

Rotmund, [bishop] of the holy church of Autun, proffered assent and subscribed this writing. The humble archdeacon Gerard subscribed. Bishop Hildebod subscribed this decree. The humble archdeacon Theobert subscribed. The humble dean Bernard subscribed. The humble prior Radald subscribed. The humble archpriest Emile subscribed. Archpriest Idgrin subscribed. Heriveus the levite subscribed. Sign of Arlegius. The humble precentor Aidoard subscribed. The humble Odalmand subscribed. Sign of Wandric.

I, Lambert, wrote and subscribed.

Girbald, the humble minister of this work related and subscribed.

Given on the 5th ides of January [9th January], in the second year of the reign of King Louis.

So, you can see my interest in this re: land-lease practices. My main argument for that article is that precariae, leases, are fundamentally worked out on a social, rather than economic level. You can see, for instance, wildly divergent rents for roughly similar lands which are presumably based not on the land’s actual worth but on the social environment the leases are made in. Here, it’s much more direct. Be he never so honourable and dear a vassal, Enguerrand couldn’t get anything from the canons of Autun, so he brought out the big guns. For whatever reason, he was in tight with Gilbert of Burgundy, count of Chalon, whom we have met recently as a follower of Hugh the Black and the newly minted bishop of Chalon Hildebod. With them applying pressure, he was able to get the land he wanted – clearly not an economic problem, but a social one. Enguerrand the vassal couldn’t get what he wanted, but Enguerrand the socially connected guy could.

If you want more on that, then the chapter is out soon enough and you can read it (or, given it’s in German, send me an email for the English version if you’d like); but re-reading it now, something else springs to mind. We saw in 936 that Hugh the Black wasn’t necessarily on good terms with Rotmund of Autun, perhaps because Rotmund had sided with Louis IV and Hugh the Great in 936. I wonder if perhaps Rotmund and the canons are being leaned on by Gilbert and Hildebod because the situation has changed: there’s no chance that Hugh the Great, at least, is going to end up in Burgundy again in the foreseeable future, which gives his opponents carte blanche to extort his old allies for favours? By autumn 938, Hugh the Black was allied to Louis IV – one almost wonders if that was in the works in such a way that royal backing could play a part, but January of that year is probably a bit early. Nonetheless, what we have here is, at the very least, a really interesting insight into how you could leverage social ties to get favours; and perhaps, an unexpected glimpse into high politics.

Charter A Week 60: Two Responses to the Accession of Louis IV

This is, I promise, the last time I’ll mention the issues of finding charters to translate for the last years of Ralph of Burgundy, but it’s really noticeable how much the accession of Louis IV changes the evidential picture. This is actually the fifth post I’ve written over the years covering the events of 936, and it’s a twofer. That’s right, I couldn’t decide between two charters and so I’ve done both. What links them is that both are responding to Louis’ accession in different ways. The salient point here is that, as we’ve covered before, once Louis was crowned his main backer Hugh the Great took him into Burgundy to try and claim as much of it as possible. You see, Ralph’s brother Hugh the Black, whose powerbase was really more in Transjurane Burgundy, was also trying to do the same thing. We’ve seen before some of the tactics Louis and Hugh the Great tried to use to outbid Hugh the Black for regional support, but we’ve never looked at it from the other side. This brings us to our first charter – one of the most elaborate surviving in Hugh the Black’s name – issued just after the successful conclusion of Louis’ campaign.

ASSA no. 7 (1st September 936, Autun).

In the name of Lord God Eternal and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Hugh, humble count and margrave.

We wish to make it known to the faithful of the holy Church of God, present and future, but chiefly those before whose presence it should happen that this charter of this Our largess should come, that, when We approached the parts of Autunois for a certain necessary reason and entered the hall of the outstanding martyr St Symphorian to pray, and were awaiting the coming of Our followers there for a little while, there came into the presence of Our view Count Gilbert [of Chalon], Count Alberic [of Mâcon] and his son Leotald, and Our follower Adso, intimating to Our Sublimity that the abbot and prior of that place, Teudo, and the whole multitude of canons dwelling under him were suppliantly asking for some gift for Our commemoration in future; and that the place now seemed to be like it was brought to nothing due to the poverty, need, and want of the canons serving there.

We, then, wishing to obey their advice, for love of God and St Symphorian, and in alms for Our father Richard [the Justiciar] and Adelaide, and as well for the remedy of Our soul, restore and give certain manses of land to the stipends of the brothers serving the church of Saint-Symphorien: to wit, in the county of Beaune, twelve manses of land of fruitful vines in the estate which is called Nolay; and in the same district, in another place, eight-and-a-half manses in the estate of Créancey pertaining to the estate of Panthier which a certain matron named Drosia once gave to Saint-Symphorien.

Moreover, Our said followers beseeched that We might concede to them a charter concerning this gift of Our largess to be held in posterity. And thus We commanded a testament of this Our assent to be made, a decree of which We decreed, and in decreeing We urge that the aforesaid manses of land, with everything pertaining to them, visited and unvisited, should endure perpetually assigned and eternally deputed to the uses of the brothers and canons of Saint-Symphorien, and that they should unceasingly exhort the Lord and St Symphorian for Our life and safety; and, when the time comes and the end of Our life, let them, moved by mercy and led by piety, not neglect to commemorate the day of Our death, sustained by the aforesaid goods.

May peace and blessings, long life and joy, honour, praise and glory without any end come to those who conserve this Our decree; but to those who destroy it, may their part be anathema maranatha, be written with Judas, the betrayer of the Lord, and may they be thought of with Dathan and Abiron whom the Earth swallowed alive, subject to an endless curse.

And that this charter of Our largess might in the name of God grasp fuller firmness, We confirmed it with a touch and We asked it be confirmed by Our followers written herein.

Enacted at Autun, happily in the Lord, amen.

Sign of Count Hugh. Sign of Count Gilbert. Sign of Count Alberic. Sign of Adso. Sign of Humfrid. Sign of Viscount Robert [of Dijon]. Sign of Humbert. Sign of Witlenc. Sign of Manfred. Sign of Hugh. Sign of Leotald.

Given on the first day of the month of September, in the …th indiction, in the first year of the reign of King Louis.

I, Boso, chaplain of Saint-Symphorien, wrote and gave this.

As you can see right at the end there, by this point Hugh has recognised Louis as king, so this is probably after the division of Burgundy into spheres of influence. Partly, in fact, the charter seems to be asserting spheres of influence. As we’ve seen before, the big bone of division was over Langres. The end result of the fighting seems to have been to split the diocese of Langres in two, leaving the south under Hugh’s direct influence. The estates he confirms here are significant, therefore: they are in the county of Beaune, but the north of it (specifically, Créancey the northernmost of the two estates, is in Auxois). This is an assertion of power: Louis might have cut him out of Langres, but Hugh can still reach pretty far north.

With that said, it’s unlikely that any division cut Hugh off from his support. What we can see here, I think, is very much his established following and I don’t think that a charter from, say, July 936 would have had a witness list that looks very different. The biggest petitioners are Alberic of Mâcon and Gilbert of Chalon. Alberic is an old hand here: in addition to being count of Mâcon, he’s also count of Besançon, another significant Transjurane player and someone who has been allied to Hugh for a good long while now. The bond between Hugh and Gilbert is a little less obvious, but nonetheless present. Gilbert was a major figure in Ralph’s Burgundy and with a power-base mostly around Chalon, another important southern figure. The final titled person here, Viscount Robert of Dijon, supports the idea that the north/south split was a de facto division as much as anything else. And, of course, on the southern front, this is all taking place in Autun – although, you’ll note, without Bishop Rotmund being present. If he had (as I’ve suggested) had his coat turned by Hugh the Great and Louis, maybe he was persona non grata that winter?

Our second charter takes us to a familiar place and a familiar response. We’ve seen before that Hugh of Arles was a bit worried about all of this. He wasn’t the only one.

Brioude no. 337 (28th August 936, Brioude)

The Commander of everything good and the Lover of human salvation, Who gave himself for our redemption, has deigned to look out for us such that we can buy eternal prizes from the transitory goods which we will leave behind after a short time when death interrupts us. Wherefore it is greatly expedient that we should endeavour to entrust if not all then part of the doomed goods which we secure by His grant to His service, so that (that is) when the others are used up in the usages of this life, we might rejoice that what we gave to Him will remain with us forever.

Therefore, let everyone, both present and future, who will take their place in the congregation of the most blessed martyr Julian at Brioude, that I, Cunebert, levite and prior of the aforesaid congregation, at the exhortation and with the consent, to wit, of lord Hector, our dean, and all the canons of our said congregation of all ages, hand over a certain possession named Chanteuges in honour of our Saviour and the holy martyrs, to wit, in the first place the said lord Julian and another Julian, nicknamed ‘of Antioch’, and Saturninus, churches of the two of whom have been built therein, for this end: that hereafter a monastic way of life might exist therein. My grandfather Claudius, himself a convert, wished to make this possession a canonical congregation, as did his wife; she managed her other part with holy nuns, and because she was overtaken by death she left the aforesaid possession to me by right of a testament, so that after her death it should remain with St Julian at the abbey of Brioude.

However, since I and our abovesaid Dean Hector and all the brothers spoke frequently of the perils of this life and as well the tremendous trail of the Final Judgement, at length we all came to this consensus: that we should hand over the aforesaid place to a stricter way of life, that is, of monks, for our common salvation; and because charity already grows cold, since iniquity overflows all around and the order of things is soon overthrown such that we are unable to change our way of life to the canonical institution, at least it should benefit us before the Lord if we sustain from our rights those who might live according to the Rule, particularly fearing this, that for the honour of our lord Julian much should be given by us in alms lest it should happen that the Judge of All should impute to us that prophecy and hold us to have eaten up the sins of the people.

Both Prince Raymond [Pons] of the Aquitanians, and our abbot and viscount Dalmatius [I of Brioude] and certainly our bishop Arnald [of Clermont] and also the excellent men of this region, to wit, Bertrand and Viscount Robert [of Clermont] and the younger Robert and Eustorgius, and certain other provincials, consented to this decree in order that they would not be seen to rejoice half-heartedly, abjuring, indeed, their successors, in the name of God and the aforesaid holy martyrs, and chiefly indeed the most holy lord Marcellinus, bishop of Embrun, whose most holy body (with many other relics of the saints) were at the present time, by God’s gift, received in that place, that each of them in his time should defend this our constitution as much as possible, and that they should never endure that it be infringed.

Let this offering be first for our congregation, both living and dead; and then for our king and lords and our abovesaid princes, as well as for our kinsmen and intimates. After that – just all of us members of the church are held in one binding of charity, thus let it profit all of the faithful, so that we might be able to share in the good of each; then let this offering be, truly, for the soul of Duke William [the Pious] and his nephews William [the Younger] and Acfred, and for the soul of Claudius – to wit, my grandfather – and the other deceased; otherwise, let it be specially for all of those who offered defence or solace to this place and its inhabitants.

If anyone, God forbid, should contradict this Our ordination, or try to change this we have decreed to injure us and St Marcellinus and the aforesaid holy martyrs, not only let them be deprived of this reward, but also, unless they correct themselves, let them incur the crime of a reckless person and persecutor before Christ’s tribunal; and beholding their own damnation, let them be immersed in the inferno by the Devil with Judas, betrayer of the Lord.

We also communally decree that we should commit the case and execution of this matter to the venerable lord abbot Odo [of Cluny]; and because he is occupied with many other things, therefore we delegate the business of the aforesaid matter to the most reverend man lord abbot Arnulf to be carried out. Let the monks, with their abbot, lead a life entirely according to the Rule as it was handed down by the blessed Benedict. After the death of the present abbot, moreover, let them make another for themselves not in accordance with the ordination of anyone else, but in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict; and let them and all their goods be free and absolved from all dominion of any person.

Therefore we entrust to the service of God and the holy Rule, absolved in every way, the aforesaid place of Chanteuges, sited on one side on the river Allier and on the other on the river Desges, with two churches, as we said, with other woods, meadows, waters, mills, all their adjacencies, cultivated and uncultivated, currently known and to be discovered; with another wood, that is, named Bourleyre. This place is in the district of Auvergne, in the county of Brioude, in the vicariate of the same estate. We also give to that place, in another place, the estate which is called Vaunat with all its adjacencies; and in another place, one double manse, called Benac, in its entirety; in that aich, two manses, of which one is called Bonnavat, in its entirety; and in the vicariate of Nonette, in the estate which is called Collanges, and in that aich, two manses called Combrunas, and in that vicariate, in the estate which is named Sauciat, as much in these estates as we are seen to have and possess, we cede wholly there with all its adjacencies. And I, Cunebert, for the honour of God our Saviour and the most holy Marcellinus and other saints whose merits are venerated there by all, cede to that place something from the goods of my property which fell to me through acquisition and inheritance legitimately; that is, in the estate called Paredon, three manses, with all their adjacencies, and in that aich, in the estate called Rivacus, two manses with appendages, with a garden and an indominical meadow; and in another place called Vaillac, three manses in their entirety, as much in those said estates as I am seen to have and possess; and in another place which is called Cros, as much there as I acquired from Ainard, and will be able to acquire both in land and in vineyards.

I give, transfer and give over this wholly and entirely to God, as was written above, the Saviour, and Saint Marcellinus; but, because the said place was bestowed from the dominion of Saint-Julien, as the case is being enacted for spiritual reasons, thus we ordered that spiritual rent should be rendered for the sake of recognising possession (nothing to men); to wit, that they should on ordinary days pay two psalms for the living and the office for the dead in each of the Regular hours. Indeed, our congregation holds a privilege, conceded anciently, that is, from the time of King Pippin, that whatever we might communally decree concerning the goods of our church should endure entirely undisturbed and inviolable. Therefore we pray and call to witness through the Lord and in the Lord and through all His saints, that no king at all, nor any bishop, nor any viscount, nor (as was said above) any person at all might presume to disturb this our constitution, fearing the divine warning which says ‘‘Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark’, and he who consents, and let him deserve blessings who consents to good.’

Sign of Cunebert, prior and levite, who asked this constitution to be made and confirmed. Sign of Raymond, duke of the Aquitanians, whose other name, by God’s will, is Pons. Sign of Bishop Godeschalk [of le Puy]. Sign of Viscount Dalmatius. Sign of Ingelberga. Sign of Dalmatius [II of Brioude], his son. Sign of Bertrand. Sign of Stephen. Sign of Viscount Robert. Sign of Bertelaicus. Sign of Eustorgius. Sign of Bernard. Sign of Wirald. Sign of Rodrand.

The authority of this testament given on the fifth kalends of September [28th August], in the first year of the reign of lord king Louis, in the basilica of the nourishing martyr Julian, before the altar of Saint Stephen.

I’ve actually spoken about the politics behind this one before so I can be shorter here than with the above. There are two main arguments here. First, Raymond Pons of Toulouse is never otherwise seen this far north. This is probably a show of force to rally support: with Ralph dead, the settlement of affairs in Auvergne which he oversaw and which we’ve discussed in passing in a couple of previous Charter A Weeks was potentially vulnerable. This meant that Raymond’s loose suzerainty could be challenged – but it could also be reinforced. Hence his presence here alongside the great and the good, reminding them of his claims and his power. Second, the claim to be ‘duke of the Aquitanians’ is new. Such a claim must be a response to Hugh the Great’s claim to be ‘duke of the Franks’, a denial of Hugh’s authority over Raymond and a claim that his status is equal. Even more, it may well be a warning to Hugh not to try anything in Aquitaine.

Hugh didn’t try anything in Aquitaine, but he did in Burgundy. Details are scanty, but it seems he cut a separate deal with Hugh the Black, leaving Louis IV out of the loop. Why he did this is unknown, and it appears to involve a change in his intentions since summer 936 (so much for Good Guy Hugh, past me…) but it’s the first sign of some really serious tensions between Hugh the Great and Louis. Next time on Charter A Week, we’ll look for a sign of some more…

Where There’s A Will There’s A Way 3: Bishop Hugh III of Nevers

This week’s will comes from a wildly different chronological and geographical context from the ones we’ve looked at so far. Both Roger the Old and Raymond III, for all their differences, were late tenth century counts from the Midi. Bishop Hugh III of Nevers was a late eleventh century Burgundian bishop. Descended from the vicecomital family whose main centre was at Champallement, on the Auxerrois side of the area, this will comes from his first year as bishop, 1074. Or, as he put it, his first year married to his church, a metaphor which is quite striking. It’s not uncommon, but usually I encounter it on the other side: I’ve seen lots of widowed churches, but few newlyweds. So what does this will, from a completely different background, actually look like? 

Saint-Cyr no. 75 (1st November 1074, Nevers)

In the name of Jesus Christ, the son of the living God.

Let it be known to all the sons of Holy Mother Church, both present and their posterity, that I, Hugh, solely by the free goodness of God not in return for my own merits bishop of the holy church of Nevers, although unworthy, commanded this testament of the goods which have come to me from the bishopric be instituted for God’s praise and honour; and just as any lay person joined legitimately to a wife would in accordance with the tradition of worldly law endow and honour her from his worldly goods, thus I, spiritually joined to my betrothed, with goodwill and a good heart, in accordance with the tradition of the holy canons, endow and honour her.

That is, in such a way that whenever by God’s will it should happen that I pass from this fallen world, half of my goods from the bishoprics in both bread and wine, gold and silver, and garments, and all moveable goods, should by my command and gift be distributed to the canons serving God and St Cyric day and night (as much as is left after my debts, if any there be, have first been paid). Let the other half of the goods, on the other hand, be divided in half. I command that one part of them be paid out to pilgrims and widows ill in the Maison Dieu; and that the other part be paid out to the monks serving in the monastery of Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Etienne in the suburbs of our city, in which monastery, that is, I chose the place of my burial, if death overtakes me here or in the bishopric of Auxerre. 

If anyone does anything else, or presumes to violate the fixed confirmation of this testament in any way, let God destroy him, and by divine authority and the power of Our ministry let them be held under the chains of anathema for as long as it takes for God to harshly punish him in his present life; and let the clergy and people respond ‘Let it be done, let it be done’. 

This testament was read out in the city of Nevers, in the church of Saint-Cyr, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 1074, in the twelfth indiction, on the kalends of November [1st November], on Saturday, when the same Bishop Hugh was enthroned in the pontifical see, with Bishop Geoffrey of Auxerre and Count William [of Tonnerre, Nevers and Auxerre] and many other leading men standing by and hearing, along with the clergy and people of the city.

It was read out a second time the following week in full synod.

Rainer, precentor of the church, dictated and wrote this, in the reign of Philip, king of the French. 

F06.Nevers_St.-Etienne.1066

think this is the abbey of Saint-Etienne de Nevers in question, but I’m not entirely sure… (source)

Where all the southerners we’ve looked at were dealing with land, this is entirely moveable goods. It’s more like one of the most famous Carolingian wills, that of Count Eccard of Mâcon (a future subject for this series, hopefully) than anything we’ve seen so far. It’s also remarkably non-specific – rather than an enumeration of particular items, this is a list of categories and we don’t know how much Hugh has. Presumably, insofar as this will was made roughly fifteen years before his eventual death, neither did he. 

What is therefore interesting is that he does assume that he’s going to have debts. I have a long-running theory to the effect that Early Modernity begins at some point in the thirteenth century, based on the political and economic significance of state debt from that point onwards. (The reason I developed this theory, if you’re curious, was that some years ago I was making my way through the Yale English Monarchs series in order, and they did not at that time have a volume for Henry III. What that meant was that I left King John, where money was important but debt wasn’t; and my next stop was Edward I, whose debt was significant enough to bring up constantly.) This is a noticeable difference to the Carolingian period – no-one I study has any debts we know about. In fact, at one point I was going to write a whole post outlining a radical new view of Carolingian accountancy until it turned out I was reading the Capitulare de villis wrong. I still think that most Carolingian nobles don’t have what we would think of as an income and certainly not a budget; but actual financial debt is way off the table. Hugh’s concern with it, then, reads like a sign of a developing late eleventh-century new world.

The other thing which struck me was the provision for his burial, which only specifies a location if he dies in certain places. I assume the thinking there relates to his rate of decomposition. Famously, Charles the Bald ended up being buried at Nantua, near Lyon, because he started smelling too badly for his retinue to cart him all the way to Saint-Denis. If that is the reason, that’s more consideration for the nostrils of his retinue than I’ve seen a medieval magnate display before… 

Charter A Week 46: Mothers and Sons

For several weeks now, we’ve been focussing on Charles the Simple and royal politics, but plenty of things were happening elsewhere in the realm, not least in Burgundy. In 921, Richard the Justiciar died, probably after ailing for at least half a decade (a 916 charter has his eldest son Ralph of Burgundy signing on his behalf). There are signs that Richard’s position in the last years of his life was not a secure as once it had been. Steven Robbie, whose thesis I love but who has a bad habit of overstating his case (even by my standards) in this regard, has a really cool picture of badly deteriorating relations between Richard’s family and the so-called Manassids, the family of Richard’s right-hand man Count Manasses the Old of Dijon. There is some evidence for this (such as a 918 charter where Bishop Walo of Autun condemns Manasses for seizing an estate of Autun’s church which Richard restored), but not as much as I would like. Meanwhile, the family was getting involved in conflicts outside its heartland: at some point around 920, Ralph teamed up with Robert of Neustria to snatch the city of Bourges away from William the Younger of Aquitaine.

So when, in 921, Richard died, Burgundy was ripe for a change. We have hints that not all was well amongst Richard’s sons, hints such as:

ARTEM 609 (c. 922)

Since worthy witness ought to be given to all just largesse, if only to protect from the fluctuations of worldly fortune, it is necessary that a largess of full devotion should be confirmed by the witness of writings such that the truth of reason is able to understand when it is brought before the gaze of the inquiring. On which account I, Adelaide, by disposition of heavenly piety formerly a countess and now by the gracious favour of the same mercy a handmaid of the Heavenly Emperor (and by a shining family of most brilliant sons enduring in the dignity of the earlier appellation), thinking of these and many other gifts of God’s benefactions granted to me, and with some of my time well-spent, desiring and believing to gain the prize of eternal repayment, decided at the advice and consent – indeed by the exhortation – of my beloved son the illustrious Count Hugh [the Black] – and moreover thinking the worthy thought that such a thing would most certainly benefit us in the gain of eternal rest – thought of the estate of Boyer, which is sited in the district of Chaunois, on the river Natouze, once legitimately given to the late martyr of Christ Vincent and to the uses of the canons by the largess of their own bishop the blessed Lupus, which was seen to be their patrimony by our forefathers, but which by the cunning of the malignant and blind cupidity is known to have been [taken] by lovers of this fallen world from ancient days, although the investiture of the nones and tithes remained.

Therefore I thought it worthy, at the counsel of my aforesaid son Hugh, that I should return the aforesaid estate of Boyer, which I obtained through a precept of royal majesty, with churches and manses, and bondsmen, and everything pertaining to it within and without, sought and to be sought, all adjacencies everywhere, to the stipends of the servants of God soldiering for God and St Vincent in the aforesaid mother church, for the remedy of the soul of my most beloved lord the duke and margrave Richard [the Justiciar], and also mine, and those of my sons, so that the intercession of the said soldier of Christ Vincent and the frequent prayers of his servants might beat at the ears of the Highest Piety in our aid, for which reason we might deserve to obtain eternal life happily by the grace of the Remunerator of All. Whence We commanded this charter of Our largess to be made. Solemnly we avert any bishop, or any person of whatever order or sex, from presuming to subtract it from the table of the same canons; but let the aforesaid brothers enjoy its stipends inviolably, with no impediment.

I also wish that from this estate, three of the better manses with their appendages and acreage and all the serfs’ renders, should constantly serve in looking after the wretched and the hospital of the same church, with their bondsmen, on the condition that in my lifetime they should hold the estate for my uses. For the moment, in vestiture, let the canons always receive the church of that jurisdiction, which is in honour of St Victor, with everything granted to it, and pay the renders in its alms.

If any prince or bishop, therefore, or any person, might presume to subtract or alienate or diminish this offering of Our devotion from the table or stipends of the aforesaid canons, for their presumption and to vindicate this charter of our restoration on the day of Judgement, we commended them to the terror and anathema of unspeakable revenge. In addition, I command and humbly pray my heirs that they might as far as they can support the aforesaid canons regard this my largess, for true life and the remedy of their souls. If the aforesaid brothers are unable to expel the wrongdoers, let my heirs receive it for their uses until they can restore it to the aforesaid congregation in line with my devotion.

And that this charter of our largess might in God’s name obtain a more secure firmness, I fully confirmed it with my own hand, and We commanded it to be strengthened under the hands of my sons and our followers, such that after my death the aforesaid brothers might and hold have this charter of our largess in its entirety.

Cathédrale de Chalon

Chalon cathedral as it looks today (source).

Hugh the Black was Ralph’s brother, and this isn’t the only charter of Adelaide immediately after Richard’s death feting him – another was issued for the church of Autun in 922, ‘at the exhortation of my beloved son the illustrious Hugh’, where Hugh signs before Ralph (and their other brother Boso) in the witness list. It is possible that what we are seeing here is a struggle for power within the family. Ralph had been pushed forward by Richard during his lifetime; but Hugh was backed by their mother, and Adelaide was making no secret of her favour for Hugh following Richard’s death. I don’t think that this was a violent struggle, but it may explain how the Bosonid family reacted to the ongoing West Frankish civil war.

Ralph of Burgundy – who was, by this point, Robert of Neustria’s son-in-law – went to negotiate with Robert, but nothing seems to have come of it, and Ralph did not lend active support to Robert’s campaign. By contrast, Hugh the Black did lead an army against Charles. He did not achieve very impressive results – he attacked a small raiding party and killed three of them – but he was nonetheless there with armed men at Robert’s side. I wonder if they might have been trying to secure their local position by Robert’s intervention. If so, Hugh gained Robert’s support in the short term, but it left him dangerously exposed if Robert’s position were to crumble. As for how that went – we will see next week…

A King in Nappies?

Whilst making revisions to an article, I’ve had to revisit a question which has been circulating, one way or another, since the nineteenth century: did Louis IV create a sub-kingdom in Burgundy for his son Charles in 953? As far as I know, this was first proposed by Auguste Bernard before being refuted by Ferdinand Lot; Lot’s view then held the field for decades until it was counterattacked by Carlrichard Brühl, and now historians are going in both directions.

So, first things first: why does this matter? Well, Brühl and Hlawitschka’s debate was over whether or not there was a ‘tenth-century principle of indivisibility’, which I find a rather abstract constitutionalist question. My interest is more direct: if Louis did try and endow Charles with a kingdom in Burgundy, this suggests that he was punching hard in the region, and it also explains why he made some really significant concessions to Hugh the Great in early 953. In fact, it suggests a paradigm shift in West Frankish politics which would have taken place in the mid-950s had matters not been scuppered by Louis’ early death.

The cases for and against are easy to lay out, not lease because the evidence consists entirely of two charters and their dating clauses:

CC 1.857: “I, Bernard, wrote and gave [this charter] on Thursday, in the month of October, in the first year of the reign of King Charles.”  

CC 1.875: “…Cluny, over which lord abbot Aimard (r. from 942, †965) presides… Rothard, levite and monk, wrote this on the 2nd March, a Thursday, at Cluny in public, in the reign of King Charles.”

When do these date from? The second is pretty clear: it must be between 942 and 965; based on the years where the 2nd March was a Thursday, 954 makes good sense. The first one needs a bit more context: it is a charter from one Engelard to his betrothed Neuthild, the contents of which were repeated, evidently at a later date, in another charter dated to “1st November, a Friday, in anno septanta of King Conrad [the Pacific of Transjurane Burgundy]”. Anno septanta, taken literally, should mean ‘in the seventieth year’, which is palpably ridiculous. If it means ‘in the seventh year’, then we’re dealing with some time in the late 940s (although we can’t be more exact than that); if ‘the seventeenth year’ then sometime in the mid-950s. (For what it’s worth, the 1st November was a Friday in 950 and then not again until 961; both Bernard and Brühl proposed emending it to a date that better suited their argument but there’s no reason to make this emendation.)

CC 1.875 in the original, with the dating clause underlined. Modified from source.

Of these two charters, the second is by far the most important, because 1) it still survives in the original, so we can probably rule out copyist error (which we can’t necessarily with the second, not least because it’s so loosely drafted anyway) and 2) because it can be fairly securely dated. So, we have a fairly unambiguous bit of evidence that a scribe in the Mâconnais in spring 954 thought that there was a ‘King Charles’ in the vicinity. For Brühl, this is enough to have Louis’ son Charles made into a full-fledged king over a Burgundian sub-kingdom.

So, what are the problems with this view? There are two main issues: one, the absence of evidence; and two, the inherent implausibility of the scenario. Let’s start with the second one, because it’s the weaker of the two (improbable things happen often), but it is still worth noting. Louis’ son Charles (the future Charles of Lotharingia) was born in summer 953, meaning that if he was a king, he was a king as an actual infant. Some sub-kings were constituted at very, very young ages, admittedly – Louis the Pious was all of three years old – but a literal baby seems a bit much.

The absence of evidence is a bit more substantial, enough to constitute evidence of absence. We have a substantial chronicler (Flodoard) and a couple of others (the Annals of Sainte-Colombe, the Annals of Fleury, the Annals of Nevers) who cover Burgundian affairs, and none of them give any kind of king-making ceremony the slightest bit of attention. Even more crucially, we have a whole load of other charters from 953 and 954, all of which are still dated by Louis’ reign – including, crucially, the notice of a court held by Count Leotald of Mâcon in October 953. We know from both Flodoard and diploma evidence that Leotald was one of Louis’ most consistent allies in southern Burgundy. Given, therefore, that he would have been both one of the people whom Louis most needed to bring on board to support any kind of subkingship and one of the most likely to support the king, the lack of any reference to Charles is significant.

So, then, we have one unambiguous bit of clearly contemporary evidence, but it’s tinny in the face of a deafening silence. Ultimately, I’m with Lot, not Brühl: it might still be possible that baby Charles got his brief kingdom, but Occam’s Razor says that Rothard is the outlier, not everyone else. Charles’ brief kingdom would have to wait several decades to fail… but that’s another story.

Charter a Week 25: Richard the Justiciar’s Time in the Limelight

After Robert of Neustria’s departure from court in summer 900, he stayed away for several years. Charles, whose favouring of Richard the Justiciar had probably instigated the conflict in the first place, continued to favour Richard. Although he continued to build up wider alliances, it was unquestionably Richard who held the dominant place at court:

DD CtS no. 38 (22nd April 901, Troyes)

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

If We freely give a hearing to the petitions of servants of God, We copy works of royal excellence and through this We do not doubt that We will gain possession of the prize of eternal life.

Therefore, let the industry of all the faithful of the holy Church of God, to wit, present and future, know that Our follower, the venerable, the most noble of counts, and as well abbot of the monastery of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre, Richard [the Justiciar], approaching the clemency of Our Highness, sought from Our Munificence that We might concede certain goods from the same abbacy to the monks of the same most holy place for use in the stipends of the monks; to wit, twenty little manses sited in the district of Auxerrois, in the estate which is called Irancy, which Walcaud and Leotard used to hold in benefice.

Lending the ears of Our Sublimity to his right salutary requests, which are beneficial for Our soul, We conceded the aforementioned goods to the same sacrosanct place, and We commanded this precept of Our Magnitude be made and given to them concerning it, through which We confirm that the same goods should eternally serve their uses, and, disturbed by no-one, no abbot, nor any officer or judicial power, We decree in entrusting them to them that they be perennially possessed, on the authoritative terms that they should possess the freest judgement in anything whatever they should decree be done with the same things for their needs, and that the aforesaid monks, faithfully and worthily thinking upon this largess, should not desist from beating the pious ears of God Almighty with continuous prayers for Our safety and the state of Our whole realm and the salvation of Our beloved and faithful Richard.

And that this largess might be held more firmly through many times to come and be more diligently be conserved in perpetuity by all God’s faithful, confirming it below with Our own hand, We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our signet.

Given on the 10th kalends of May (22nd April), in the 3rd indiction, in the 9th year of the reign of and 3rd year of the restoration of unity to the kingdom by Charles, most serene of kings.

Enacted and confirmed at the city of Troyes.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

1280px-auxerre_-_abbaye_saint-germain_-_2
The abbey of Saint-Germain-d’Auxerre as it appears today (source)

This is one of the five royal diplomas Richard petitioned for between summer 900 and spring 903 (out of a total of 11 surviving acta). It was issued at Troyes, well outside of Charles’ usual travel range. The 22nd April in 901 was just after Easter – the implication seems to be that Charles went to visit Richard in Burgundy for Eastertide, an idea perhaps reinforced by a diploma purporting to have been issued in Autun in March 901. As it currently stands, it is an obvious forgery; but if real information is underlying that dating clause, it could support this suggestion.

In any case, this diploma shows how high Richard’s star was at court in the early 900s. His description as venerabilis et nobilissimus comes, set et fidelis noster necnon et abbas monasterii Sancti Germanii is a very high-flown bit of titulature, and his inclusion in the prayer clause is very unusual in Charles’ diplomas. This is a remarkable bit of favour.

Richard’s time in the spotlight would come to an end relatively shortly. Next week, however, we’ll be taking a quick peek outside the West Frankish kingdom.

Charter a Week 18: Murder in Autun!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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