Charter A Week 80: Border Warfare in Auvergne

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

Fleury no. 51 (late 950s)

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

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

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

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

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

The church of Perrecy as it exists today (source)

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

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

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

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

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


Charter A Week 74: Sobbo and Charlieu

More on Burgundy! We did some of this last week, I know. However, the Cluniac archives are such a rich source that it’s hard not to succumb to the temptation to highlight some of the gems they contain. Moreover, the historiographical emphasis on the north-east as both a hub for royal power and, more generally, the cockpit of the West Frankish kingdom is so prevailing; and the historical importance of Burgundy so significant, that it’s really important to emphasise and re-emphasise the point. Burgundian support was key to West Frankish rulers from Charles the Bald onwards, and despite how fragmentary our evidence is, it’s clear that it remained so into the tenth century. As a case in point, this charter:

CC no. 1.730 (c. 950) 

Unless it is defeated either by love of an eternal homeland or frightened off by the terror of future judgement, the insatiable greed of this world is – far from doubt – in no way able to extinguish misery; it happens for this reason that people do not fear to transfer not only the goods of the poor, but also churchly goods, into their own uses. I, Sobbo the sinner, confess myself to have done this. But returning now to my right mind, and considering the most exacting judgment of divine reproach, I wish and desire that both the sublimity of princes and the priestly dignity and also the generality of everyone should know that until now I unjustly kept hold of the abbey of Charlieu, and I render myself culpable thereby. The same place was the inheritance of the late Robert, bishop of Valence, who build a monastery there, and took care to solemnly dedicate it in honour of the blessed martyrs Stephen, Felix, Fortunatus and Achilles, and delegated brothers to live there in accordance with the Rule. Once his praiseworthy vow had been put into effect, he did not neglect to give it over to the holy Roman church, to that it might endure under the perpetual tutelage of the same.

Later, lord Odo [of Cluny], whose memory is fittingly celebrated with praise, through King Hugh [of Arles], by the ordination of apostolic authority, obtained through a privilege that the aforesaid place be bestowed on the monastery of Cluny; the most glorious King Louis [IV] as well deigned to confirm it by a precept of his regality.

Therefore, overcome by such authorities, breaking asunder the bridle of greed, I restored and surrendered the aforesaid abbey in its entirety to lord Aimard, venerable abbot of the abbey of Cluny, for the remedy of my soul, and cast myself out from there forever. To destroy all calumnies, I prayed the testament of this notice of restoration be made, through which let the said abbot and his successors perpetually possess the aforesaid place, hold it as their own, and ordain it legally and in accordance with the Rule.

If any of my heirs, or anyone else, might presume to calumniate this testament, let them be subject to every curse unless they quickly come to their senses.

Sobbo. Maimbod, bishop of the holy church of Mâcon. Guy, bishop of Soissons. Gibuin, bishop of Autun [recte Châlons]. Anskeric, son of Sobbo. Roland. Bernard. Guy. Walo. Prior Humbert. Aimoin. Abbot Robert. Ragenold [of Roucy], count of Rheims. Hugh. Odalric. Theodoric. Ingobrand. Richer. Aimo. Stephen. Aldin. Bernard. Otard.

In the reign of King Louis.

Charlieu today (source)

A small thing to start with: there was a protracted (and frankly interminable) debate amongst older scholarship as to whether Ragenold of Roucy was count of Roucy or count of Rheims. Personally, I don’t think his comital status derived from specific comital office at all – Flodoard says pretty explicitly that it derived from his Königsnahe and whatever administrative jurisdiction he possessed was probably irrelevant to it – but this charter is decent evidence that he did have lay jurisdiction at Rheims. It’s not perfect evidence, though – this is an eleventh-century copy that gets other things wrong (Bishop Gibuin’s see, for example), and we’ve seen in the pastthat later scribes were not averse to giving people erroneous titles based on what held true in their own day.

Regardless of that, if last time we saw Burgundians communicating with the royal court, here we can see a fairly hefty delegation of northerners going south. We don’t know exactly when this happened (beyond ‘around 950’), but it’s evidence of continuing and ongoing ties between Burgundy and West Frankish kingship. Particularly interesting is the reference to a royal precept referring to Charlieu. This is one of the Chevrigny diplomas we saw a few weeks ago, and it’s therefore intriguing that we have this private charter later and separately. I think what’s happening here is that, both practically and symbolically, Louis’ delegation is confirming this transaction now that the king is out of Hugh the Great’s thumb. As that specific diploma was also the one granting to Cluny property pertaining to Saint-Martin of Tours, I wonder if we might not also be seeing a kind of show of force in front of Sobbo, reminding him who’s boss?

On a bigger picture, despite the fact that by now Conrad the Pacific was fully set up in Provence, this is yet another occasion where the Trans-Ararian Fluidity Zone is in effect! Sobbo refers to precepts from both Louis and Hugh of Arles, and although the abbey is in the Mâconnais it was founded by the bishop of Valence; and Sobbo himself probably has kinship ties to several archbishops of Lyon and Vienne. There’s a bit of a parallel between this and the Lotharingian networks we were looking at last week: whatever the nominal borders were, cross-border networks were really important for actual on-the-ground politics.

Name in Print XII

As this year drags itself towards its close, and we’re left pondering that, like Conservative prime ministers of the UK, ‘worst years ever’ are coming thicker and faster these days*, something small has popped through my letterbox to try and alleviate the winter gloom. That’s right, my latest article is in print!

Some of you may remember from years ago that I was, on the side, doing a bit of looking at the re-use of charter preambles, known as arengae, in royal diplomas. Well, at one point in lockdown I went into this hard, and I now have a Word document with basically every royal arenga on it to do compare-and-contrast with. After having done this, I noticed one strange thing: a diploma of Robert the Pious and his son Hugh for the cathedral church of Chalon had an arenga that was only ever otherwise used for a short period by Louis IV. So I made further textual comparison, and it turns out that Robert’s act is close to the style of a certain kind of acts of Louis, and these acts of Louis are so distinctive that only a missing example could have provided the model.

That’s obviously a very bald statement, and for the full case you’ll need to consult this, in the latest edition of Francia. As usual with Continental European journals, it’s not open access yet, but it will be after a couple of years and when it is you’ll be able to get the link from the blog. In the meantime, as ever, I have PDF offprints I’d be glad to sent to you if you contact me on the blog, on twitter, or by email at ralph [dot] torta [at] gmail [dot] com. The full citation is:

Fraser McNair, ‘A lost diploma of Louis IV for the church of Chalon-sur-Saône?’, Francia 49 (2022), pp. 479-490.

I’m pleased with the reasoning here. I’ve always argued that Burgundy is a lot more important to the West Frankish kings than is usually appreciated, but one problem in showing that is source preservation. Here, though, we have a diploma not hinted at in any of our sources whose existence is only deducible through textual comparison. This method might have further applications, but you do need quite specific comparanda – arengae which are unusually distinctive but not actually unique – of which there aren’t many out there.

The gritty details: Another straightforward case. I did the research for this in lockdown, summer 2020, wrote it up at the very very start of 2021 and submitted it. One round of peer review later, re-submitted about three-quarters of the way through 2021 and has come out now, autumn 2022.

*Still 2016, for my money; by 2020 the bar had been set so low that ‘global plague’ felt par for the course and 2022 is clearly, erm, ‘benefitting’ from the same effect.

Charter A Week 73: A New Beginning

Not one but two charters for you today! As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, after Louis IV’s imprisonment in 946, Otto the Great came to help his brother-in-law, and the tide turned in Louis’ favour. By 949, it was clear that Louis was going to win the war – or, rather, that Otto was, as the East Frankish king’s interests weighed heavily in the balance. However, Louis’ own authority was substantially repaired, and we can see that in our documentary evidence, including both of today’s documents. Our first comes from the north-east, from a very small abbey called Homblières that I wrote about in one of my very first articles. The backstory here is that the materially poor community also had a holiness problem. Most of the time monks replace nuns, the nuns’ character is slandered by the community which replaced them to justify the replacement. At Homblières, the opposite is true: the new abbot, Berner, wrote hagiographical works lauding his predecessor Abbess Bertha, trying to establish that Homblières always had been a holy centre of true religion – which strongly suggests that, in this case, it was perceived as genuinely problematic by some of its neighbours. Anyway, we have a community of badly behaving nuns – what now?

D L4, no. 32 (1st October 949, Rheims)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

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

If, by paying attention to divine worship, We endeavour to raise the Church of God to the highest state of holy religion, We use royal right and the privileges of Our progenitors.

Wherefore, let the skill of all the followers of the holy Church of God both present and future know that, approaching the presence, Count Albert [the Pious of Vermandois] of famous character, along with the noble man Eilbert [of Florennes] and his wife Hersind, suppliantly entreating Our Munificence that Our Clemency might deign to hep a certain little place sited in the district of Vermandois, which is vulgarly called Homblières, where the most sacred bride of Christ Hunegund awaits the day of blessed remuneration, because certain nuns were not living entirely honourable therein and, being unwilling to be subject to the governance of the Rule, were removed therefrom, and monks were put in their place who would obey the Rule and an abbot, because, with the assent of Our authority, the aforesaid Elibert restored the aforesaid abbey to his lord the count, that is, Albert, and the same count bestowed the same on Our rule, to wit, on the condition that We might command it be defended by a precept of Our authority in such a way that, without any diminution at all, and without any subjection to anywhere else, it might remain conceded to a regular abbot inviolably and in perpetuity.

Therefore, by the favour of Our wife [Queen Gerberga] and the venerable Archbishop Artald [of Rheims], with Bishops Guy [of Soissons] and Gibuin [of Châlons] and the most splendid Abbot Hincmar [of Saint-Remi de Rheims] and the monks of the same congregation, and Counts Albert (the aforesaid) and Ragenold [of Roucy], and by the prayers and praises of all Our followers who were present, We decreed it be so done. With the counsel of all of them, We established that the said abbey in its entirety should be held in perpetuity by a regular abbot for the observation of the Rule in the same place.

And that this emolument of Our authority might be conserved inviolably through the course of times to come, confirming it below with Our hand We commanded it be corroborated by Our seal.

Seal of lord Louis, most glorious king of the Franks.

Odilo the notary witnessed on behalf of Artald, archbishop and high chancellor.

Enacted at the city of Rheims in the monastery of Saint-Remi, on the kalends of October, in the 6th indiction, in the 14th year of the reign of the glorious King Louis, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 948 [sic]. 

There’s a lot going on here. Albert the Pious is a significant figure to show up at this time. He was a son of Heribert II of Vermandois, one of Hugh the Great’s nephews, and in 949 he had jumped ship to Louis’ side. As we saw back in 946, the Heribertians were key allies of Hugh the Great, so Albert’s loss was emblematic of the significant blows his cause was suffering. Albert’s place amongst Louis’ supporters is validated here by the presence of a coterie of people who were now Louis’ main supporters in the north-east: Artald of Rheims (on whom more in a couple of months), Guy of Soissons, and the young Gibuin of Châlons, probably not older than his early twenties and at the start of fifty years of being a major prop of the Carolingian regime. (The main missing figure here is Louis’ half-brother Roric, formerly a royal notary but recently installed as bishop of Laon.) We also have Ragenold of Roucy, now one of Louis’ key lay followers, who at this time also probably became Albert’s brother-in-law: Ragenold was married to one of Gerberga’s daughters and likely at this time Albert married another.

Some of the little left of the abbey of Homblières (source)

Yet purely material concerns aren’t the only thing happening in this document. The arenga there, which I think of as following the operam dantes formula after the opening words, is a new development which is significant. This arenga would be used in almost all Louis’ acts until the end of his reign. It coincides with the emergence of this new court circle and the renewed importance of Queen Gerberga and her Lotharingian and Lotharingian-facing allies. The sentiment of the arenga, emphasising the need for Church reform and the specifically royal privilege and duty to carry it out, spoke to this new circle and suggested a new, or at least newly emphasised, basis for royal authority (again, we’ll come back to this when we talk about Rheims in 953).

The north-east wasn’t the only important place, though. Our second diploma comes from Burgundy:

D L4 no. 33 (10th November 949, Autun)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

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

We wish it to be known to all of the faithful of the holy Church of God that, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 949, when the lofty margrave Hugh [the Black], son of Richard [the Justiciar], Our follower, and Count Gilbert [of Burgundy], and the magnates of the realm of Burgundy had convened in the city of Autun to deliberate over the holy Church of God and to deal with the utility of the realm, amongst other things, Hildebod, bishop of Chalon, and the monks of Cluny, made a complaint concerning the failure of religion at the monastery of Saint-Martin [d’Autun], sited in the suburbs of the same city, which was once special with all religion and honour, but is now completely deprived of the status of its dignity and the patronage of an abbot. Therefore, whilst they were seeking in turn a person on whom this salubrious burden could be imposed, the monks of the same place stood by with a privilege of Pope Gregory, asking that, as is contained in the same document, the election might be conceded to them. This was conceded, and they unanimously elected one of their own, named Humbert, whom they brought with them not many days later, that is, on the feast of St Philibert, and presented to the same princes. Rejoicing in their choice, and proffering assent to their petitions, they committed the aforesaid abbey in its entirety on Our behalf to the same Humbert.

But because the same place should be given by the king’s hand, the aforesaid man approached the presence of Our Highness as quickly as he could. Whence, on account of the intervention of Our wife, and with the leading men of Our realm, to wit, Archbishop Artald [of Rheims], Bishops Gozlin [of Toul] and Achard [of Langres], and the venerable Abbot Hincmar [of Saint-Remi] and Counts Ragenold [of Roucy], Bernard and Theodoric standing by and approving with Our other followers, for the remedy of Our soul and Our progenitors, We conceded the same place to him for the repair of religion.

Wherefore, We ordered a precept of Our Highness to be made and given to the aforesaid Abbot Humbert, through which he might hold the aforesaid abbey with the cell which is called Anzy-le-Duc and all its appendages in accordance with the Rule.

And that this concession of Our authority might be conserved inviolably, confirming it below with Our own hand, We commanded it be corroborated by the image of Our signet.

Sign of lord Louis, the most glorious king.

Odilo the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Bishop and High Chancellor Artald.

Given in the city of Autun, on the 4th ides of November, in the 7th indiction, in the 14th year of the reign of the glorious King Louis. 

The diplomatic of this document is peculiar, and appears to have been formed out of a mash-up of a synodal document and a royal diploma per se. There’s no reason to doubt its authenticity, despite how weird it is: what I suspect happened is that Abbot Humbert bought the synodal document and it was just copied wholesale by the royal scribe (although it’s quite possible that this is a later mash-up of two separate but still genuine documents).

Anyway, second verse same as the first: we see here once again the importance of sponsoring monastic reform to Louis’ re-established authority; and we also get another sense of that new court circle. Counts Bernard and Theodoric’s spheres of influence are unknown, but were probably in the forested regions to the east of Rheims, on the West Frankish-Lotharingian border. Ragenold of Roucy we’ve already met. Gozlin of Toul – Charles the Simple’s old notary – is a particularly interesting case, and his presence illustrates the importance of Lotharingians to Louis’ new regime. With Louis now acting as (in essence) Otto’s underking, there was a kind of merging of the West Frankish and Lotharingian kingdoms at the highest level after a 940s where the two realms looked in different directions. Finally, as always, we have the Burgundians. Achard of Langres’ presence is a major indicator of how important this see was – in fact, Achard’s predecessor Heiric had acted as Louis’ archchancellor in the past. Overall, though, the importance of Burgundy to West Frankish royal power at this time can’t be understated, and definitely shouldn’t be minimised – and we’ll see more of this next week.

Charter A Week 72: Manasses of Arles

Another short one this week, as I’ve discussed the background to this one extensively in a previous post. Just to give a little bit of context, though: in 947, Hugh of Arles, king of Italy and overlord of southern Provence died. Provence had already been in a political vacuum since the death of Louis the Blind in 928, and this further disrupted the balance of power. Who would take better advantage of the situation: Louis IV or Conrad the Pacific? The machinations which took place are invisible to historians, but there are tantalising hints. Hints such as:

CC 1.726 (September 948)

While one lives in the difficult pilgrimage of this world, since it is permitted during this time and whilst an acceptable time and the days of salvation are seen to be imminent, the highest care should be taken that, if we can do any good, putting aside all delay, we should not hesitate to act in making our debtors those whom we truly know and little doubt look after the safety of bodies in the present and will be judges of the soul in future. Because, indeed, we can do no good after death, we believe that before we are led to that subtle judgement beyond understanding, to satisfy the hidden Judge, we should not cease to cleanse with the work of prayers and the hand of penitence in this brief life however we can what we have negligent committed.

Therefore I, the unworthy archbishop Manasses, considering the enormity of my sins, and, which is more salubrious, adoring the sweetest voice of our lord Jesus Christ, who said ‘give alms and behold, the whole world shall be made clean unto thee’; ‘store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt’, and ‘the riches of a man are the redemption of his soul, give and transfer wholly and entirely in perpetuity these which are my goods which lie in the county of Chalon, which fell to me from paternal inheritance, which my father [Count] Warner [of Troyes] possessed by right of dominion, to God Almighty and St Mary mother of God and as well His holy apostles, to wit Peter and Paul; and I ultimately entrust this deed to the monastery of Cluny and establish it as preceptor and vicar, so that from this day and hereafter lord abbot Aimard, who now, by God’s assent, administers the governance of the aforesaid abbey with pious rule, and all his successors, might rule and ordain and dispose the same goods for all time as pleases them in God’s service. This place, indeed, is consecrated in honour of God and in veneration of the blessed Mary ever-virgin and the same apostles, and is sited in the district of the Mâconnais. These goods are, as already mentioned above, sited in the county of Chalon, in the vicariate of Buxy, that is, Jully, with all its appurtenances pertaining to it, that is, a church consecrated in honour of St Maurice and a church of the holy mother of God Mary, and of St John, and also another of St Martin, in their entirety, as was written above, with male and female serfs and all buildings, vineyards, meadows, fields, woods, pastures, waters, mills, incomes and renders, orchards, cultivated and uncultivated lands, sought and to be sought, I donate and wish to be donated in perpetuity to Lord God, for the remedy of my soul and also for the soul of my father and my mother Teutberga, and my brothers, that is, Hugh and Richard and also Boso and all my other relatives, and in addition for the salvation of the living and the rest of all the dead, so that the rulers of the said monastery and those serving God there might without any challenge always hold them firmly and solidly in perpetuity.

If, though, anyone (God forbid!), I myself or any person, might endeavour to inflict any calumny against this donation, let them be subject to every curse, unless they come to make amends.

Sign of Manasses, who commanded this donation be made. S. Gunther. Airard, humble bishop of the holy see of Avignon, confirmed. S. Countess Bertha. Abbot Warner. Lambert. Odilo. Pons. Ado. Warmund. Ragembert. Archembert. Rostagnus. Boniface. Hildegar. Madalgaud. Arnulf. Hugh.

Given in the month of September, in the 13th year of Louis, king of the Franks.

Ralph the levite wrote this.

This cannot have been a private party. Hugh of Arles’ niece Countess Bertha (wife of Raymond III of Toulouse) and the bishop of Avignon are a delegation if ever there was one. Manasses must have spoken to Conrad, and probably to Hugh the Black as well. At the time, moreover (and we’ll see more of this next time), Louis was also talking a lot to Hugh. Something must have been going on – but, as I said in the original post, it’s really not clear what.

This is the last we’ll see of Provence for a while, so it’s worth giving a little epilogue. After the late 940s, Louis IV and, eventually, Lothar lost all control of northern Provence, and the whole kingdom minus the east bank of the Rhône passed under the sway of Conrad the Pacific. It would remain part of the Transjurane kingdom until there wasn’t a Transjurane kingdom anymore – but that’s a story for much, much later.

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.


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 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…