Source Translation: The Last Carolingian Capitulary

 The Capitulary of Ver (March 884, Ver)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Carloman, by grace of God king, to all the venerable bishops, abbots, counts, judges and all those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us.

When, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 884, the fifth year of Our reign, in the second indiction, in the month of March, We and a group of Our followers with Us had convened at the palace of Ver, it was pleasing that certain statues of the sacred canons and certain capitularies of Our ancestors should be renewed. For We deeply and solemnly grieve that through the impediment of sin and the abounding malice of wicked men they have become worthless beyond measure and are nearly destroyed, especially those which were promulgated against the evil of robbery and plundering by the holy fathers and confirmed with royal authority by most Christian kings.

Indeed, so far and wide has this poison been spread and dispersed everywhere that now everyone, infected and corrupted in body and soul, quite freely takes advantage of this disease which is so very sinful and deadly, not acknowledging that which Paul said – or rather God Almighty through him – ‘Nor thieves shall possess the kingdom of God’ [1 Corinthians 6:10], nor that which the apostle said elsewhere, because if we bite and devour one another [see Galatians 5:15] (that is, if we plunder), we ill quickly fall. Therefore it is fulfilled in us – through us, even! – that reproach cast by God Almighty through the prophet Isaiah, saying ‘they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm’ [Isaiah 9:20], that is, lay waste the possessions of their brother. For he devours the flesh of his arm and drinks the blood of his arm who takes the possessions of his neighbour, from which he should get his sustenance.

It is not surprising if pagans and foreign nations have dominion over us and take from us temporal goods, since everyone takes from their neighbour by force their means of subsistence. Therefore that which God Almighty threatened through Isaiah the prophet justly applies to us, saying ‘Woe to thee that spoilest, shalt not thou thyself also be spoiled?’ [Isaiah 33:1]. We despoil our brothers, and therefore the pagans deservedly plunder us and our possessions.

How, therefore, can we securely proceed against the enemies of the holy Church of God and us, when the spoil of the poor is in our houses [Isaiah 3:14]? And not only is it kept in the house, but also it often happens that some people march off to battle with a belly full of spoil. And how can we defeat our enemies when the blood of our brothers drips from our mouths, and our hands are covered in blood and our arms are weighed down with the burden of miseries and robberies, and all our strength of soul and body is crippled? God receives not our prayers, because the clamours and wails and heavy sighs of paupers and orphans, wards and widows come before and forestall our prayers, which are weighted down with the bloody flesh of our brothers and so become hoarse, having none of the full, rich sound of virtue.

There are many who are seen to give alms from this spoil, not understanding that Isaiah says this of such acts: ‘Whoever offers the Lord an offering from spoil, it is as if he slaughters a son before his father.’ (*). There are no few people who seek counsel and penitence for murders, adulteries, perjuries, and arsons and think nothing of the evil of robbery, not understanding that as often as someone robs the poor and puts them in danger from hunger and nakedness, he perpetrates that many murders, for he kills his neighbour when he takes from him their means of subsistence. We know from the saying of Paul the apostle that ‘no murderer hath life in the kingdom of God’ [see 1 John 3:15], and ‘adulterers God will judge’ [Hebrews 13:4].

Because, therefore, ‘no thieves shall possess the kingdom of God’ unless they return that which they took and do penance as well, let us flee this great evil, from which so many and such terrible other evils come forth; and let us love our neighbours as ourselves, fulfilling the Law, which says ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.’ [Exodus 20:17], because otherwise we can neither resist our enemies nor possess the kingdom of God.

Cap. 1: And thus We wish that Our palace should be established in the custom of Our predecessors and the worship of God and royal honour, as well as the habit of religion and the concord of unanimity and the order of peace; and that the peace preserved in Our same palace by the enactments of Our predecessors should be brought forth to be followed throughout the realm.

Cap. 2: Therefore We decree that everyone dwelling in Our palace or coming to it from any place should live in peace. But if anyone violates the peace and commits robbery, let them by Our royal authority and the command of Our representative be brought to an audience at the palace so that they might be punished by a legal judgement, in accordance with what is contained in the capitularies of Our ancestors, with a threefold fine and the royal ban.

Cap. 3: If anyone without a lord either within the palace or living near it does the same, let Our representative approach him, and by Our command order him to come to the palace. But if they rashly spurn coming, let them be brought to Our presence by force to be subjected to the enactments of Our predecessors. But if they spurn both Us and Our representative and do not want to come to Us and is killed there while defending himself, and any of his relatives or friends want to begin a feud against Our followers who killed him, We will authoritatively make them swear not to, and We will help Our followers in the matter by royal authority.

Cap. 4: It also pleased Us and Our followers that whoever robs or plunders anything within Our realm should pay a fine of triple the total value, and pay the royal ban, and in addition do public penance for it, as is contained in the capitularies of Our ancestors. But if they are a cottar or serf, let them similarly pay a fine of triple the total value, or their lord on their behalf, and receive sixty firm blows, and in addition let them do public penance for it, the nature of which should rest within bishop’s judgement in accordance with the magnitude of the deed, because from them come forth fornications and adulteries and murders and arsons, drunkenness and many other vices. If anyone, however, denies the deed, if it not clearly proven, let them clear themselves by swearing an oath with their own hand, except Our royal vassals, on whose behalf their better men should swear the oath. This will carried out in this way with the greatest diligence.

Cap. 5: The bishop in whose diocese anyone who plunders anything lives will by his admonition, canonically, through his priest, summon him once and twice and if necessary three times to make amends or to pay the fine or to penance, so that he might give satisfaction to God and the Church, which he has wounded. If, however, he despises and spurns his admonition and very salutary invitation, let him strike him with the pastoral rod, that is, a sentence of excommunication, that he should be separated from the communion of the holy Church and all Christians until he provides appropriate satisfaction and makes worthy amends. The same bishop ought to notify his lord of this excommunication, and all his fellow bishops, let they receive him before he has made amends.

Cap. 6: Concerning those who do not have benefices and allods within the diocese and are parishioners of another bishop and commit robbery and plundering within a diocese when they go to court or make a journey from place to place, it pleased Us and Our followers that, if it is done sufficiently close to the bishop that their plundering can be made known to him before they leave his diocese, he should send an active and prudent priest who should summon them on his behalf to reasonably make amends, which should be the kind of fine and amends outlined above, if, having been summoned, they wish to come. If, though, they proudly spurn the summons and admonition of the bishop, let them be struck by a similar sentence of excommunication, lest they leave the diocese before what is established above has been carried out. Their excommunication should be communicated to their lord and their own bishops, lest they receive them before they return to where they committed robbery and make full amends there.

Cap. 7: And because the bishops, who are occupied with Us and their people and the common needs of the Church and the whole realm, cannot oversee everything which is perpetrated within the limits of their diocese alone, We establish that, whenever bishops leave their own city, each one should leave such helpers in their city who can carry out everything in that city with the highest degree of prudence, and whom the poor forever redeemed by the blood of Christ might find present in the city, from whom they might receive an answer and some solace. Let each bishop establish in townships and estates far away from the city reverend and careful priests, temperate in the prudence of their habits, who can on his behalf carry out in a disciplined manner what is established above, and let other junior and less careful priests refer their case to them.

Cap. 8: It pleased Us and Our followers, for common advantage and imminent need, that no bishop should gravely sorrow if another bishop excommunicates one of his parishioners due to plundering of this kind.

Cap. 9: And because it is necessary that episcopal authority should be helped by judicial power in eradicating and removing completely such an ill and fixing and establishing such a good, it pleased Us and Our followers in common that royal representatives should faithfully aid them in this matter generally, and the count should order his viscount and his vicars and hundredmen and other officers of the commonwealth and Frankish men learned in the documents of worldly law that, for love of God Almighty and the peace of the holy Church and loyalty to Us, each time bishops or their ministers or also the poor themselves appeal to them on this matter they should help in this, insofar as they usefully can, both by themselves and with ministers of the Church, such that officers of the Church should have the authority of their bishop and officers of the count should have Our authority and that of their count.  

Cap. 10: We also wish that, if anyone staying in a county or making a journey rashly thinks nought of episcopal or royal authority, and spurns making amends legally for what they unjustly stole, and becomes a rebel, if they are killed there, let no-one begin a feud against any of Our followers who killed him, nor should they pay any fine for his death. If any of his relatives or friends wants to begin a feud about this matter, We will authoritatively make them swear not to, and We will help Our followers in the matter by royal authority.

Cap. 11: Concerning Our royal vassals, We command that, if any of them takes spoil, the count in whose power they are should summon him to make amends. If anyone does not want to hear the count or his representative, let them be compelled to make amends by force, as the law teaches, and as is specified in the capitularies of Our ancestors as king, in the same place where the despoiling was committed. If they declare formally that they want to be distrained before Our presence rather than before the count, let him be permitted to come before Us through credible securities or through the oath of a better person, so that pleas of this sort might be resolved there. We concede, certainly, this honour to Our royal vassals, that they should not swear an oath with their own hand like others; but one of their better and more credible men should not delay doing it instead. If they despise, though, what We said above, and do not wish to make amends in any way, and remain in contempt, and are killed there, We will harbour no rage against those who killed them. And if any of their relatives or friends wants to begin a feud about this matter, We will authoritatively make them swear not to, as was said above, and We will help them in this by Our royal authority. If they say that in fact the count has not acted in regard of them in accordance with the law, but has done this out of some rage or jealousy which he previously held against them, let the count make satisfaction to them before Us, in accordance with what pleases Us, that he has acted for no other reason than for the robbery they committed.

Cap. 12: To remove any excuse for robbery, We wish that priests, who should provide a good example of charity to everyone, should be hospitable, as the apostle says: ‘use hospitality to one another without grudging’ [1 Peter 4:9], and let them offer hospitality to those making a journey, because some people pleased God through being hospitable when they gave a warm welcome to His angels.  

Cap. 13: It pleased Us and Our followers that priests should admonish their parishioners that they should be hospitable and deny hospitality to no-one making a journey, and – to remove any excuse for robbery – sell nothing to passers-by more dearly that they could sell it in the market. If they want to sell something more dearly, let the passers-by refer this to the priest, and let them sell to them ethically by his command.

Cap. 14: We wish that priests and comital officers should order the villeins that they should not form the organisations which they call in the common tongue ‘guilds’ against those who rob anything. Rather, let them refer their case to that priest who is the bishop’s representative, and to those who are the count’s officers about this in these places, so that everything may be prudently and reasonably corrected.

* Isaiah says nothing of the sort; the line has vague parallels to Isaiah 66:3.

Capitularia_ _Lex_Salica_ _[...]_btv1b10548477k
Picture of a king in state from one of the manuscripts in which the capitulary is preserved, BNF Lat 9654, probably from Metz. Image from Gallica.

It’s really hard to find people writing about the Capitulary of Ver, which is odd, because it’s a very rich text. To put it in perspective, Monday’s charter, short and weird as it is, has more in-depth scholarly commentary than this lengthy bit of lawmaking. But look how interesting it is! Not least, it’s got the sermon conveying the rationale for this particular bit of legislation bundled in with the chapters themselves, which illustrates just how pragmatic a response to Carloman’s problems this is.

We’ve been mostly looking at internal Carolingian politics these last few weeks, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that this is all taking place to the background of incessant Viking raids. I don’t think anyone, either now or then, thought that there was a serious chance that the Northmen would conquer Gaul or Germany outright, but at the same time there just didn’t seem to be any hope that things would get better. This is admittedly an impression gained from the thoroughly miserable Annals of Saint-Vaast, but we saw it in Monday’s charter as well and this capitulary too makes it clear that the king’s circles don’t think that as matters currently stand they can fend off the Vikings.

It’d be nice to know who wrote this. One scholar said it was Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, which would be an impressive achievement as he’d been dead for a couple of years at this point. (The scholar in question knows that perfectly well; what it reads like is a slip of the pen on the assumption that if it’s grandiloquent, hectoring and late ninth century it must be Hincmar’s…) Hincmar’s successor Fulk is not particularly close to the royal court at this point, although we can’t rule him out necessarily. In any case, there are enough Francian bishops around who could produce something like this we can’t narrow it down.

What are they saying? On Monday, we saw that Carloman was trying to build up support for a renewed attack on the Vikings in autumn 884, and this is a key part of it. God’s favour cannot be won for the Franks as things currently stand because rampant theft has despoiled the poor to such an extent that He cannot hear their prayers for victory: ergo, to defeat the ‘pagans and foreign nations’, theft must be suppressed. This rings, to my ear, quite Anglo-Saxon, less in the language than in the priorities. Later, in the tenth and early eleventh centuries, King Athelstan’s law codes would be remarkably punitive towards thieves; and Æthelred the Unready responded to Viking attacks in his time not least with attempts to win divine favour. So this is very much a document of 884.

Is it addressing real problems? I’m inclined to think not. Theft was a perennial problem for earlier medieval lawmakers (although it’s interesting that here it’s theft rather than, say, orthodoxy or runaway slaves). This isn’t quite a Patrick-Wormald-esque case of law-as-royal-performance: I don’t think Carloman is simply mouthing empty platitudes to look appropriately kingly. This is fairly comprehensive legislation, aiming to address the causes of theft as well as the act itself – hence chapter 13, forbidding gouging travellers. (When we brought Ver up on the blog before, it was in the context of Geoffrey Koziol using it as an example of ‘unpragmatic’ Carolingian lawmaking – that seemed wrong then and seems bizarre now.)

Certainly, it was taken as an authoritative bit of rule-making over the course of the next century. I remember reading somewhere someone claiming that it wasn’t received, and certainly I don’t know how it compares to the manuscript tradition of other capitularies, but Ver shows up in three manuscript collections from the tenth and early eleventh centuries, one from as far away as southern Germany.

With that said, I’m not sure it’s a healthy sign for West Frankish politics. Some historians have suggested that, had Carloman lived, he would have proven particularly effective; and certainly he appears to have been an energetic and able ruler. But this kind of hyper-moralising response to military defeat is uncomfortably reminiscent of Louis the Pious and particularly Æthelred – I can’t help feeling that, had Carloman kept on ruling, West Frankish political culture would have ended up with a case of perpetual hysteria in the face of their inability to deal once and for all with Viking raids (the causes of which were, after all, out of their control). In that regard, the accession of Charles the Fat was probably a much-needed cooldown of West Frankish politics.

Charter a Week 8: Integrating the North

The factional politics of Carloman II’s reign, as we have been learning these last weeks, are very complicated. However, one region above all did not want Carloman: the region known as Francia, which is the part of northern France east of the Seine. This was ultimately a personal clash between Gozlin, abbot of Saint-Amand and later (as of 883, in fact) bishop of Paris, and Hugh the Abbot. Whilst Carloman’s brother Louis III lived, each of these groups could have their own king: Carloman got Burgundy and Aquitaine and Louis got Francia (and Neustria, although given that in practice ‘Neustria’ meant ‘Hugh the Abbot’ I wonder how far this ever translated into practice). After Louis’ death, however, things got tense.

The northern magnates did invite Carloman to be their king, but they seem to have broken with him immediately afterwards. At the assembly in Worms in 882, Hincmar notes that a group of magnates had withdrawn their support from Carloman, hamstringing his efforts to fight off the Viking menace; this group was probably this northern collective. The objection was probably that they weren’t being given a role in Carloman’s government: the king’s diplomas in 882 and 883 are almost entirely destined for and petitioned by southerners. Some northern magnates were clearly trying to work with the king – Count Theodoric of Vermandois petitioned for a diploma in favour of Adalgar of Autun – but this was the exception not the rule.

Carloman clearly realised this was a problem, and began trying to with the northerners over, with a key moment here being when Gozlin was made archchancellor in summer 883. This coincided with a campaign against the Vikings in the north which led to the king’s forces retreating at Grand-Laviers and Vikings raiding the north-east during the winter.

A gratuitous bit of Scandinavian art because this week’s charter isn’t original (source)

This, in turn, led to a crisis. According to the Annals of Saint-Vaast, ‘all the princes of the realm’ gathered at Compiègne to decide what to do about the Vikings, because the king was a minor. The king was actually eighteen, by contemporary standards perfectly adult; so this must represent the magnates trying to bypass royal decision-making entirely. They made an agreement with the Vikings to pay tribute, which bought them eight months. In that time, you can see Carloman trying to retake the reigns of power. Part of this we’ll cover on Wednesday, but part of it we’ll deal with today.

DD LLC no. 76 (13th March 884, Compiègne)

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

If We expend the means of Our liberality on places given over to divine worship or, also, legally restore Church goods rightly pertaining to the same which were once alienated by Our progenitors through pastoral indolence, or rather through the deceitful lips and lying tongues of crooked men, We do not doubt this will benefit the souls of Our predecessors in earning pardon for sin and Us in divinely protecting the state of Our present realm and acquiring the crown of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Wherefore let it be known to all those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, both present and future, that the venerable Berno, bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne, who is full advantageous and faithful to Us amongst the vanguard of Our realm in both counsel and aid, and who resolved to abide in the same fidelity, approached Our Serenity and made known to Us that the little abbey of Saint-Sulpice, which Our vassal and judge Rothard holds in benefice, was unjustly stolen from the church of the blessed protomartyr Stephen, and submissively requested that We restore the same to him. Our followers, to wit, the venerable Ingelwin, bishop of Paris, and Count Theodoric [of Vermandois], greatly beloved of Us, advising and appealing for the same thing with him.

Therefore, favouring their petitions, We restore the aforesaid little abbey, sited in the suburbs of the city next to the bridge over the river Marne, to the aforesaid church of the blessed Stephen, that he might protect Us and Our realm by his glorious prayers and defend Us and it from the devastation of the pagans, to wit, on the condition that the said Rothard should hold the same little abbey in right of benefice, through the consent of the venerable bishop Berno, for such time as it takes Us to compensate him with something appropriate in place of that benefice. After, however, Our aforesaid vassal has received a substitute benefice or, as it may be, has by the lot of the human condition departed from this life, let the aforesaid church presently gain possession of the same goods freely, as its own, without any resistance or need for further evidence.

Concerning this, We commanded this precept of Our Highness be made, through which We re-endow the church of the blessed Stephen with the aforesaid goods in their entirety, that is, with bondsmen of both sexes dwelling thereon or rightly pertaining to the same, and lands cultivated and uncultivated, vineyards, meadows, mills, pastures, roads in and out, woods, and all legitimate borders, so that it might justly and legally hold and possess them, as We said before, like other Church goods, and dispose of them canonically in accordance with its will.

But that this Our restitution might obtain inviolable vigour through times to come, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be safeguarded by the impression of Our signet.

Norbert the notary witnessed on behalf of Gozlin [of Paris].

Given on the 3rd ides of March [13th March], in the 2nd indiction, in the 2nd year of the reign of King Carloman in Francia.

Enacted at the palace of Compiègne.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

This diploma is weird in a number of ways. The biggest is that Bishop Engelwin of Paris, by March 884, has been dead for several months. I thought that the 883 death date might be a mistake in the literature, but nope, it’s pretty certain. Could it be a fake? Well, it could be, but there’s nothing formally wrong with it. The process of issuing any charter doesn’t take place all in one go, and we know that some diplomas can’t have been issued with everyone present there. What this suggests, then, is that the March diploma was issued regarding an issue which had actually been resolved a while ago.

The diploma, then, is at least in part performative in the purest Koziolian sense. That is, it’s being issued above all to show that the northern magnates are now fully part of the king’s circle. Berno, bishop in the strategic see of Châlons-sure-Marne, Count Theodoric of Vermandois, the new bishop of Paris Gozlin as archchancellor, and the old one, Engelwin, mentioned as a petitioner as a gesture of reconciliation for the last few years – all get to show themselves as key parts of Carloman’s regime.

It’s also clearly being issued in a time perceived as one of disaster – note the need for St Stephen to defend the kingdom from Viking attacks. Carloman, as we’ll see on Wednesday, was very keen on getting the affairs of his realm in order to gain divine support, but it was part of an overall strategy of belligerence – he wanted to fight the Northmen, not least because most of the time he won at least tactical victories!

The final interesting point of this diploma is the dating, which is the regnal year in Francia. This is unique in Carloman’s diplomas, but it’s also (minus one diploma issued on the king’s deathbed for an abbey in Soissons) the only diploma for a Francian recipient, so that does make sense. MacLean has read this as regional posturing, which I think is fair so long as we’re careful to keep in mind that this posturing is a very short-term product of factional politics which Carloman is here validating to gain short-term military support.

Not that it worked. That deathbed diploma I mentioned? Issued in December of this year. Hunting accident, natch. This left only one adult Carolingian male to come and pick up the pieces – but before that, we’ll be looking at the biggest statement of Carloman’s ideas about rule, the Capitulary of Ver.

Charter a Week 7: Neustria and Burgundy

I’ve briefly mentioned Hugh the Abbot before, but we’ve never had cause to talk about him properly, and we should probably remedy that. So, Hugh the Abbot. By origin, he’s very closely tied to the Carolingians. He was the cousin of Lothar II through his mother, of Charles the Bald through his father, and through his father as well the nephew of Louis the German. As such, he spent the 850s and 860s bouncing between the three kingdoms, at one point being granted the archbishopric of Cologne by Lothar II (albeit unsuccessfully). When that gambit failed, Hugh went back to Charles the Bald, and did so with remarkable good timing.

In 866, Robert the Strong was killed at the Battle of Brissarthe. He wasn’t the only Frankish magnate to be killed by Vikings, but his death left a very important vacancy. The western parts of the West Frankish kingdom – the region around the Loire valley known as Neustria – were something of a disaster area for Charles the Bald. He was crushingly defeated there a number of times, and there was always something to worry about – if it wasn’t Frankish rebellion, it was Viking raids; if it wasn’t Viking raids, it was Breton attacks; and usually it was several of these in combination. The Bretons were perhaps the most dangerous: Charles had to make significant territorial concessions. To give you some idea of the significance of this, Rennes is still part of modern Brittany (and Nantes only isn’t due to local rivalries): these areas have never been recovered. The solution Charles hit on was to put Robert the Strong in undisputed charge of the Neustrian March, loaded up with so many resources and so much status that he could not be seriously opposed. Robert, though, was killed only a year after taking up the role, and Charles handed it off to Hugh.

Hugh did a fantastic job. We spoke a couple of weeks ago about how Viking attacks could be warded off by being more dangerous than elsewhere, and, after a bad patch in the 850s and 860s, Hugh’s tenure on the March saw a couple of decades of respite. This was bad for the Anglo-Saxons, where the Great Army of the late 860s and 870s probably had rather more reinforcements than would otherwise have been the case, but good for the Franks. This was not a purely military thing, moreover: Hugh the Abbot led a trend toward ‘governmentalising’ Neustria, making its government more formal and its society more rigid. But that’s a post for well down the line – today, let’s talk high politics.

You see, from the late 870s onwards, and especially under Carloman, Hugh the Abbot became the magnate in the West Frankish kingdom. He wasn’t quite utterly predominant, but he was clearly front of the pack. And this had its benefits:

DD LLC no. 66 (23rd January 883, Compiègne) = ARTEM no. 757 = DK 5.xxxvi

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

If We lend the ears of Our Piety to the petitions of servants of God and pay heed to their advantage, We are confident that God Almighty will make repayment on the matter.

Concerning which matter, We wish it to be known to the industry of all the people of the holy Church of God and Us, both present and future, that after the death of the venerable abbot Sadrebert, the requests of the monks came before Our Clemency through the intercession of Hugh [the Abbot], most venerable of abbots. They humbly asked, displaying on hand the precepts of Our grandfather and father, to wit, the august Charles [the Bald] and Our pious father and most pious of kings Louis [the Stammerer] of divine memory, in which is contained how Our grandfather and father enriched from their goods of their property a little monastery founded in honour of the Holy Saviour in the district of Atuyer, which was once named Alfa, for their everlasting reward, and place Abbot Rotfred from Montiéramey which is called the New Cell, an active man, in charge therein during his lifetime.

Therefore, the monks of the aforesaid place appealed to Our Royal Highness that we might receive the same little monastery, in memory of Our grandfather and father or Our grandmother and mother, under Our immunity; and confirmed by a precept of Our authority whatever had been bestowed there by Our aforesaid grandfather and father. And because they had lately lost Abbot Sadrebert, a man worthy before God, they humbly asked that We might establish a man named Rotfred as abbot in his place, whom they witnessed was commendable in his life and habits.

Freely acquiescing to their prayers, because they were just and reasonable, We established and confirmed the precepts of Our grandfather and father; and We placed the abbot whom they requested, that is, Rotfred, in charge of that place and congregation; and We subjected the monastery of Alfa there with all its appendages, and as well the goods which were bestowed there through the largess of Our grandfather and father, as is contained in their precepts. That is, on the condition and in such a way that the aforesaid Abbot Rotfred, the same monastery and its monks and their dependents with everything legally beholden to it should perpetually endure under Our mundeburdum and tutelage, corroborated by the authority of this testament of Our Royal Dignity, such that no-one should presume to send a monk from another place into their monastery, not create any officeholder within their congregation except from those who were raised there from infancy in accordance with the Rule, and let them have permission to elect an abbot from within themselves, not from amongst outsiders, in accordance with the institution of Saint Benedict.

We also establish that neither count nor other judicial power should presume to receive or exact any timber-fees or harbour dues or vehicle-fees or mooring-fees or billeting or hospitality or other service or render from them in any places – that is, counties, cities, or markets – in Our realm to which they or their dependents travel for their needs, except in those places in which We have conceded through Our precept that they should be gotten. Rather, let them more freely and devotedly exhort for all time the clemency of God Almighty for Us and Our glorious fathers the august Charles [the Bald] and King Louis [the Stammerer] and Our glorious grandmother Queen Ermentrude and Our mother Ansgard and Our dearest brother Louis [III] and the state of Our realm, and endure perpetually under Our tutelage, as We have established.

But that this largess of Our authority might in God’s name obtain greater vigour of firmness, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be undersigned with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Carloman, most glorious of kings.

Norbert the notary subscribed.

Given on the 10th kalends of February [23rd January], in the fifth year of the reign of Carloman, most glorious of kings, in the first indiction.

Enacted at the public palace of Compiègne.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

Pray for Honoratus and Leotheric, who ambasciated this, and for their dead brother Helmuin.

cw 7 883
Carloman’s diploma, from the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above. For those of you wondering why I translated this one and not the Orléans diploma mentioned below, the fact that this one’s in the original was a significant contributing factor!

It must be said that being simply a venerabilissimus abbas is not the most exalted Hugh appears in charters from around this time. About eight months later, in a diploma for the cathedral at Orléans, Hugh got to be the inclitus ac venerabilis Hugo abbas, tutor noster ac regni nostri maximus defensor, which is Latin for ‘like a boss’. So it’s clear that Hugh was a very dominant figure on the political scene – you don’t get to be the king’s ‘famous and venerable guardian and the greatest defender of his realm’ without being powerful indeed.

So why didn’t I translate that diploma? Because this one illustrates a theme which is going to be important for the next century plus. When Hugh first made his appearance in West Frankish affairs, he was made abbot of the monastery of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre, right in the heart of Burgundy. He was chased out in the 860s, but, as this charter shows, kept his interest in Burgundian affairs. Of course, part of his presence in this diploma is simply that he is the go-to man at court, but it’s also that he’s got history with this region as well. We’ll see at other points people connected with both Tours and Paris with Burgundian interests, but this shows quite nicely the dispersed interests of men at the highest ranks of Frankish society.

The word ‘Reichsaristokratie’ (‘imperial aristocracy’) is hovering uncomfortably around this group. The idea here is that the Carolingian super-elite was composed of people whose lands were not simply provincial, but spread around a number of places within the Carolingian empire. This distinguished them from their forebears and from the ‘territorial princes’ who came afterwards, who were basically-provincial, and made them more invested in the continuation of Carolingian government. I say ‘uncomfortably’ because the idea that there was something special about the highest levels of the Carolingian aristocracy having widely-dispersed interests does not seem right to me. Before he was ever king, Hugh Capet (Hugh the Abbot’s successor in Neustria and possible namesake) had interests in the Loire valley, the Seine valley, Burgundy, and Lotharingia. This change therefore looks to me to be a change in historiographical emphasis above all… But as it happens this is a theme we’ll pick up in the main blog post in a fortnight’s time.

On the flip side of Hugh’s power, and by extension of Carloman’s, you don’t get that powerful in the faction-ridden world of the 880s without making some powerful enemies as well, and next week, we’ll be looking at some of them.

Charter a Week 6: Carolingian Cooperations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign of Carloman, most glorious of kings.

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

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

Enacted at Vienne.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign of Charles, most serene of emperors.

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

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

Enacted at Worms.

Charles’ diploma, from the ARTEM page linked above.

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

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

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

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

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

Charter a Week 5: They Come From the Land of the Ice and Snow

How important were the Vikings? Viking raids are very flashy and get a lot of press, but were they that much of a danger to late Carolingian rulers? The difference between the British Isles and Gaul is noticeable: whereas most of the former was actively conquered by Vikings in the latter part of the ninth century, only the North Sea littoral of Gaul was ever subject to Scandinavian rule (whatever that meant in practice…).

The thing is, Viking attacks got a lot of press at the time, and the Carolingian response was traditionally derided. In part, this is because one of our major sources, the Annals of Saint-Vaast, are just miserable as all get-out. An old colleague of mine once compiled the ‘Saint-Vaast Table of Pessimism’, categorising all of the different ways the annals say ‘They tried X and it didn’t work’. Thing is, this is so consistent and so clearly this one source’s particular bias that it shouldn’t be taken as Gospel – we know that Frankish responses to Viking attacks were often fairly successful, both in terms of winning battles and in terms of changing the strategic picture.

The problem at the start of the 880s, though, was that the West Saxons were currently more successful. Dealing with Viking raids has a lot of similarities to the old saw about running away from a bear – you don’t need to be fast, just faster than the slowest person in the group. The same is true with Vikings: you don’t have to construct impregnable fortifications, just make it more inconvenient to raid you than your cross-Channel neighbour. Thus, when in the late 870s Alfred the Great defeated the Great Army at Eddington and signed an agreement known as the Alfred-Guthrum Treaty, Wessex suddenly seemed like a rather poorer opportunity than the Frankish kingdoms. Remember how they were in the middle of a succession dispute in 879? Vikings love that. It means the Frankish kings are too distracted to respond… A veritable Norman storm fell on the northern shores of Gaul, particularly Flanders; and although the Carolingians had a number of military successes against them, there were too many different Viking bands to have real success.

So, we need to balance the sources written by pessimistic churchmen – monasteries being famously rich and in theory undefended – with the recognition that Vikings might have provoked genuine trauma.  And then there’s sources like the one which follows:

DD LLC no. 55 (5th June 881, Pouilly-sur-Loire)

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

Whatever We strain eagerly to do for the advantage and need of servants of God, We are, far from doubt, confident that it will benefit Us in more easily obtaining eternal blessing and more happily passing through the present life.

And thus, let the skill of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, both present and future, know that the venerable man and religious abbot Ralph of the monastery of the blessed Florentius, along with the monks soldiering for God therein, coming before Our Sublimity – lamentable to hear –exposed to Our Mildness by his lamentable intimation the misfortune of the aforesaid monastery and other woes of that region cruelly and frequently inflicted for Our sins by those cruellest enemies of God the Northmen, such that the same province, once very beautiful to see, appears reduced to the appearance of a wilderness. Wherefore, there was no dwelling-place at all in the same place, as with other former inhabitants of that countryside, but much worse for the monks of the said monastery overseen by the care of that religious man the same abbot. Therefore, the same venerable abbot Ralph suppliantly prayed that We might deign to concede to him, as a refuge for his monks and to receive the most hallowed body of the blessed Florentius, a cell by the river Loire, sited in the district of Berry, which is called Saint-Gondon, as We are known to have done for his predecessor the late abbot Dido, in which cell the grace of Saint Gundulf is reverently honoured, so that, rejoicing that they have slipped through the hands of the aforesaid enemies of God, they might finally deserve to find a rest therein from such persecution, with Christ propitious, and be able to enjoy a respite in praise of divine mercy.

But We, proffering beneficent assent to the beseechments of the same Abbot Ralph and the prayers of his monks, commanded this precept of Our Highness to be made, through which We concede and bestow the said cell of Saint-Gondon, with dependents of both sexes and the total of all other things to be held by the said venerable abbot Ralph and his successors: that is, so that, in the name of God and for the washing-away of Our sins, that monastery with everything pertaining to it might be lead in accordance with order of the institution of the Rule by the same reverend Abbot Ralph and his successors, and be disposed of in accordance with the Rule without the disturbance of any contradiction, for the advantage and need of the servants of God serving and attending upon the Lord therein in Our and future times in accordance with the norm of the sacred institution of Saint Benedict.

And We concede to the aforesaid monastery four ships in every waterway which flows through Our realm, and permission to sail them without any impediment, that no officers should take river-fees or toll, nor should the aforesaid abbey pay any kind of price for them.

Finally, We wish and decree and command through this precept of Our authority that no public judge or anyone with judicial power should dare to enter into the churches or places or fields or other possessions of the said monastery, which it justly and reasonably possesses in modern times within the domain of Our realm or which hereafter divine piety might wish to bestow upon the said monastery, to hear cases or exact peace-money or tribute or make a halt or claim hospitality or take securities or distrain the men of the same monastery both free and servile dwelling on its land, nor require any renders in Our and future times. Rather, let the said abbot and his successors be permitted to possess the goods of the aforesaid monastery in quiet order under the defence of Our immunity.

In fact, it pleased Our Highness to decree by royal authority that We should establish a privilege for the aforesaid place through a precept of Our authority that if anyone is seen to infringe anything from the aforesaid at any time, they should be compelled to pay an immunity of six hundred solidi to the rulers of the same place. And whatever hereafter Our fisc can hope for, We concede entirely to the aforesaid monastery for eternal repayment, so that it might accomplish an increase in the alms for the poor and stipends for the monks serving God therein for all time. And when, by divine summons, the aforesaid abbot and the others following him depart from the light of this world, let the monks serving God therein through Our permission and consent, in accordance with the order and rule of the blessed Benedict, always have permission to elect an abbot from amongst themselves, so that it might delight these servants of God who serve God therein to constantly exhort the Lord for Our grandfather, father, for Us and the stock of Our bloodline and to conserve the stability of Our whole realm. Let them have an advocate whom they rightly elect, and for Our repayment We remit all torts to him.

But that this authority of Our munificence might be held more firmly and be more diligently conserved in future times, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with Our signet.

Sign of Carloman, most glorious of kings.

Norbert the notary witnessed on behalf of Wulfard [of Flavigny].

Given on the nones of June [5th June], in the third year of the reign of Carloman, most glorious of kings, in the 13th indiction.

Enacted at the township of Pouilly-sur-Loire, happily, amen.

The venerable abbot Hugh [the Abbot] ambasciated.

Were the Vikings trying to Karve up the Carolingian Empire? (wahey!) (source)

First of all, again, there have been questions about the authenticity of this diploma. The modern editor, Bautier, reckons it’s legit, and I agree with him, but it is still within the realms of possibility that this is a later fake. In any case, in terms of its text, the first half is largely a copy of an 866 diploma of Charles the Bald. What that means is that all of the Viking depredations it’s describing had happened twenty years previously. This is a major problem – it doesn’t take very long for Viking raids to become a canard, a fossilised excuse to explain monastic behaviours. This community, which had formerly been located at Saint-Florent-le-Vieil, had now been relocated upriver from Orléans, a region which was passed over by the Viking attacks of the years around 880.

This isn’t to say that the old site of the abbey was peaceful by now. In addition to a Frankish succession crisis, the late 870s also saw the beginning of a civil war in Brittany, and although we don’t know about any Viking raids there during those years, we do know that Vikings were active on the lower Loire during that period and it would surprise me if they weren’t ratcheting up their raids in Brittany and the region west of Angers. Thing is, this wouldn’t necessarily have any impact on the new community in Berry!

In fact, the main object of the diploma appears to be to exempt the abbey’s shipping from river tolls. What we have, then, is a diploma where the rhetorical spectre of the pagan menace overlies a much more mundane goal. This is actually a fairly nice illustration of what I, at least, think is happening with the Vikings: their shadow is much larger than their presence, but that shadow can be quite important in and of itself. It might have been that what the monks of Saint-Gondon wanted was relief more from toll-collectors than Danes, but anti-Viking activity provided a useful cover for royal action. (The parallels between Viking attacks and terrorism in the modern world are there to be found, and I wouldn’t be the first one to notice that by a long shot…)

(I did also do a search for ‘vikings + terrorists’ and… oy. Don’t go down that snake-hole…)

Charter a Week 4: The Provençal Anticlimax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign of Carloman, most glorious of kings.

Norbert the notary subscribed.

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

Acted at the estate of Nérondes.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

Count Theodoric [of Vermandois] ambasciated.

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

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

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

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

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

Charter a Week 3, part 1: What I Am

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

DD Provence no. 16 (25th July 879)

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

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

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

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

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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

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

The clue is the crown. (source)