The idea of a ‘charter’ is a flexible one. My favourite example of this is a document from the church of Saint-Maturin de Larchant, which is half saint’s life and half property register and probably wouldn’t be counted as a ‘charter’ except for the fact that it’s a parchment single-sheet. Another case in point is this week’s document, from the archives of Fleury’s priory Perrecy, located about half-way between Autun and Mâcon. Perrecy has had a lot of interest from historians because it preserves some really interesting ninth-century documents, including what seem to be the traces of a lay archive; but it also has the following oddity, which has the remnants of a charter in it at one point, but is really more of a short sacred history:
Fleury no. 51 (late 950s)
In the time of Hugh the Great, and Lambert [of Chalon], count of the Allobroges, Letald the knight, uncle of Teduin of Sancerre, seeking Burgundy, committed himself to the aforesaid Lambert and to Bernard, that is, his relative. Having received their grace, they bestowed many goods upon him, from which he acquired certain others by his labour. Therefore, in their times, the men of Auvergne left their borders and entered Burgundy, and plundered the fields, and took everything, and thus went home. When they had already completed three return journeys, the report reached the Allobroges and disturbed some of the powerful among them, and incited Lambert and Bernard (by God’s gift always victor in battle), to battle.
They came together, and took counsel with their gathered potentates as to what should be done in circumstances of such peril, and whom they should send to oppose such evil. Their unanimous opinion settled on Bernard and entreated he be made their leader. Lambert, joyfully assenting to their petitions, exhorted Bernard in these words: ‘As you see, most faithful follower of mine, great necessity urges us to stand against our enemies; but it befits us to first establish someone experienced who can lead our forces with distinction. For this reason, because your nobility in such matters has, by God’s gift, been often proven, we ask you to be the general of our forces and to help out with such a necessity’. Bernard said, ‘I give thanks to God, Who has led me back safe from such perils as often as has pleased Him; but up until now I have been greatly worn down by this, and my inner voice is currently not telling me to seek them out, having not been enriched by such labours.’ Lambert responded to this: ‘I know for sure that you have deserved much more than your nobility possesses, and for this reason you will not feel sorry for having worked in vain if you do not put off coming to help with such a necessity.’ Bernard spoke and responded: ‘I am not conniving to seek any advantage for what Your Highness asks – particularly since I know not what the Highest Majesty has decreed in this conflict – but if God’s usual clemency should make me victorious and unharmed, let your soul deliberate what it might worthily and in the very best way bestow’. Lambert promised this quite happily. Together they sought Perrecy, and approached Richard (who presided over the same place at that time), to defend themselves by grace of prayer. Having offered from his estates one manse in Curdin with a serf and meadows, vineyards, lands cultivated and uncultivated; and another with another serf in Gentiliaca Villa, in the place called Renosus, with meadows, vineyards, lands cultivated and uncultivated, and enjoyment of the wood, Bernard brought with him relics of the saints he had already used in some battles.
Fortified (under God’s clemency) by such a defence, therefore, he met the enemies in the district of the Bourbonnais, and battle was joined over the estate of Chalmoux, and he slew them with such slaughter that the rivers were blocked up, losing no more than 15 of his own men, including the aforesaid Letald, Guy, and Arnald. Therefore, to fulfil his vow, having gained the victory, he returned home rejoicing with the aforesaid, bringing Letald to Perrecy. For the remedy of their souls, the aforesaid Lambert and Bernard both bestowed on the same place in perpetuity as a gift whatever they possessed from them or had bought from others from their estates: that is, one manse with an enclosure in the estate which is called Vicille Vigne, another in the place which is called Montceau (which the aforesaid Letald bought from Constable and from his heirs), with one field between La Creuse and La Goutte, which descends from Hill Bridge; another manse in the place called La Vaux, and half of Hill Bridge, and half of Taxeneriarus; and whatever Guy and Arnald acquired in L’Hessard, that is, one curtilage at Dear Place, one field with vineyards, lands cultivated and uncultivated, and woods, and whatever is there with renders and customs from everything, under such an injunction that whosoever might try to infringe or reclaim any of these which have been named should receive damnation with Judas the Betrayer, Annais and Caiphas, with the Devil and his angels in the eternal fire; and should pay 10 pounds of gold to them on whom he inflicted the quarrel, with the fisc confiscating, and his claim should be entirely frustrated.
That this donation might endure firm and stable, relying on this guarantee, after witnesses have subscribed, we undersigned it.
Lambert (☧), Bernard, Leotald (☧), Giso, David, Hilderic, Antus, Rainer, Deodatus, Budo.
This is another document where the date it all happens is unclear, not least because it evidently takes place over the course of several years. The reference to Hugh the Great, who died in 956, puts our terminus ante quem in the mid-950s; but Lambert of Chalon (for it is he) only became count in around 959. With that said, Lambert, the son of Viscount Robert of Dijon, was still a prominent figure in southern Burgundian politics before Lothar handed Chalon over to him, and so c. 955-960 is a good time-frame for these events.
And these are pretty interesting events: fighting between royal allies (Lambert and co.) and Auvergnat raiders in the marches of the Auvergne and Mâconnais. This all fits into what we were discussing last time: the attempts by William Towhead of Poitiers to assert himself in eastern Aquitaine. The year 955 had largely frustrated him: he had been defeated outside Poitiers (although an attack on the city itself had been thwarted) and the archbishopric of Bourges had gone to Richard I, brother of Hugh the Great’s key ally Theobald the Trickster. By the years around 958, though, he was doing better, probably capturing Nevers. It is in this context that we can probably see the Auvergnat raids this charter refers to.
We have noted in prior posts that the Auvergnat elite in the latter 950s was divided, with one portion favouring William Towhead and one portion favouring Stephen of Clermont. In 956/957, Stephen had the upper hand (as we have seen in other charters on this blog) but William remained a contender and the raids of 958 and earlier years into Burgundy may have a surprising amount in common with viking raids. One of the standard explanations for viking raids is that they were expeditions to gain booty and political capital in order to pursue political objectives at home; and this may well be what’s happening here. (Not for nothing did Timothy Reuter say that ‘for most of Europe the Franks were the vikings’.)
However, raids into this area would have been particularly problematic for Lambert, whose powerbase seems to have been in precisely this border region, around the Charolais and Paray-le-Monial. I don’t think we have to see an actual civil war here. Lambert of Chalon and Abbot Richard of Fleury between them are a constellation of royal allies. But although (as we’ll cover later) Lothar certainly had a vested interest in keeping William down, this reads more like a primarily local affair, dictated by local interests and at best secondarily reaching towards a wider frame.
As such, the shafts of light this act shines on relations within an aristocratic entourage are quite interesting. Letald appears as a roving warrior, seeking employment based on family ties with an up-and-coming pair of leaders. (I have to confess I have no idea who Bernard is outside of this charter; he’s clearly important, but also subordinate to Lambert.) Lambert and Bernard evidently have a duty of care towards him even after his death. Lambert also apparently has a duty towards Bernard, but although Bernard acknowledges Lambert as his boss, he’s also apparently in a position to basically blackmail him for more stuff in situations of urgency. In fact, the transactional nature of the relationship reminds me of nothing so much as the Conventum of Hugh the Chiliarch; and like that text makes me wonder whether the relationship in question is purely transactional. Ultimately, I think not: the negotiations around Bernard’s appointment come in the context of an assembly of whoever the scribe is subsuming under the Classicising term ‘Allobroges’ (for my money, it probably would be something like ‘Southern Burgundians’), under Lambert’s leadership. What I think is happening is that this kind of (leader-based?) group membership is the stage setting in which this kind of negotiation can take place, and that the combination of intercutting regional and sub-regional groups and negotiable relations of fidelity within them are pretty basic for noble power at this time. (I also think this represents a bit of a change from the late ninth century, but that’s a story for another moment!)