Source Translation: The Breviary of Erchanbert and the Continuation of Notker the Stammerer

Recently, I updated the Translated Primary Sources page. I know that translating charter material is kind of our gimmick on this blog, and I know that the inevitable progression of chronological time means that if you started at a given point heading towards another you’re going to have more of the earlier material if you haven’t finished yet; but I was nonetheless a bit put out to find how much it skews towards late ninth-century material rather than tenth-century stuff proper, and I also thought that some non-diplomatic sources wouldn’t go amiss. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I decided, now that we’ve paused translating wills, that it wouldn’t go amiss to translate some smaller non-diplomatic sources. The fact I’m doing all this for free in my spare time is going to impose limits on what I deal with – an English translation of the acts of the Council of Saint-Basle is something I’d like very much, but I personally don’t feel incentivised to go through all sixty-odd pages of it – but plenty of material on the shorter side is important and can be overlooked.

Today’s source is certainly the former, although I don’t think it’s the latter. (Ironically too given my concerns, it’s also late ninth century!) It comes in two parts, the first being a breviary written by one Erchanbert around 826. I’m translating this part from the MGH edition, which is an abbreviated version of the text, which is fine by me because the part I’m more interested in is the Continuatio Erchanberti, written by Notker the Stammerer in 881. Between them, these texts cover the history of the Franks from the Merovingians down to the end of the ninth century.

Breviarium Erchanberti

  1. The Breviary of Erchanbert from the Fifth Century Up to AD 827

With the death of King Faramund, who was the first king over the Franks, etc…

King Theuderic, son of Clovis, brother of Chlothar, reigned for 19 years. His mayor of the palace was Berthar; when he was killed, the younger Pippin, son of Ansegisl, coming from the Austrasians, succeeded in the leadership of the mayors of the palace.

Thereafter, the kings began to have the name and not the honour; wherever they were established, they had lots to eat, and they were held under constant oversight in order that they could not do carry out any act of power. In those times and thereafter, Gotfrid, duke of the Alemannians, and other dukes all about were unwilling to obey the dukes of the Franks, because they could not serve the Merovingian kings as they had previously been accustomed. And so each of them carried on, until finally, a little after the death of Duke Gotfrid, Charles [Martel] and the other princes of the Franks little by little endeavoured to bring them back into the fold as tightly as they could…

The Franks established Daniel, formerly a cleric, who had let his hair grow, as king, and they named him Chilperic; because the line of kings had failed, they established him whom they could found to be the closest relation to the Merovingians, because the Merovingians (as they say), just like the Nazarenes of old, never cut their hair; and he reigned for 6 years…

Therefore, the aforesaid prince, with the counsel of his best men, having asked and persuaded the king and receiving in the end his unwilling consent, divided the realm of the Franks between his two sons Carloman and Pippin, and following an illness immediately ended his life in the year 741. 

Carloman, therefore, and his brother Pippin, having divided the realm between themselves, held the leadership of the Franks together for 10 years. Meanwhile, as they say, the aforesaid King Theuderic held the name but not the realm, and only that minor dignity which previous kings had held, nothing except solely that when the aforesaid princes made charters of gift, they put his name and year at the end of the page.

Prince Carloman, in the sixth year of the aforesaid, commending his realm and sons to his brother, in order that he might raise them to kinship when they came of age, went to Rome, was tonsured at St Peter’s, went to the monastery of St Benedict, and subjected himself to be surrendered to the discipline of the Rule.

Before Pippin was elevated to the kingship, a pope named Stephen came from Rome to the borders of the Franks in order to seek out the aforesaid prince so that he could help him with Haistulf, king of the Lombards, because he had seized both cities and other places and borders from St Peter. The aforesaid prince is said to have responded ‘I have a lord king, and I do not know what he wants to rule on this matter’. But the pope beseeched help from the king with the same words. Then the king said ‘Do you not see, O pope, that I do not enjoy royal dignity and power? How can I do any of this?’ The pope said ‘That sounds right, because you are unworthy of such an honour’. Returning to Prince Pippin, he said, ‘By the authority of St Peter I command you to tonsure him and send him to a monastery. How can he hold land? He is useful neither to himself nor to others.’ He was immediately tonsured and thrust into a monastery, and the pope said to the prince: ‘the Lord and the authority of St Peter chooses you to be prince and king over the Franks’. And he immediately established and blessed him as king, and consecrated his two sons – who were still immature – Charles and Carloman as kings. But King Pippin promised that he would do everything as pleased him, and afterwards he did. And King Pippin reigned 17 years after his consecration.

Kings Charles and Carloman, the sons of Pippin, held the realms together for 4 years. King Charles reigned by himself for 45 years, and Pope Leo consecrated him as emperor in the thirtieth year of his reign. Louis, king and emperor, has reigned happily, with God propitious, for 19 years at this point. From King Chlothar to the present 13th year of Emperor Louis, there are 232 and ten years in total. 

Notker the Stammerer, allegedly (source)

2. The continuation of a monk of Reichenau for the years 840-881

Emperor Louis died in the 27th year of his reign, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 840, in the third indiction, on the 12th kalends of July.

In the second year after his death, his three sons, after a terrible battle which raged between them over the sharing out of the realm, divided up Europe in this fashion. The first-born Lothar received Italy, Burgundy and part of Lyonnais Gaul, the province of the Moselle, and the part of those who are called the Old Franks. His brother, the most glorious King Louis, received the whole of Germany, that is, the whole of East Francia, Alemannia or Rhaetia, Noricum, Saxony and many barbarian nations. Again, Charles, who was yet a boy, by the efforts of his mother, the most cunning Judith, accepted five provinces: the Viennois, the province of Autun, Gallia Narbonnenis, and part of Belgica or Lyonnais. Their fourth brother, named Pippin, retained Aquitaine, Spain and Gascony and Gothia, which he had received whilst his father was alive (against the will of his father and his brothers), until the end of his life. Provence, which is simply called ‘the Province’, is known to have passed between this party and that party.

The sons of Lothar, that is, Louis and Lothar, divided the realm of their father in such a way that Louis received Italy and the name of emperor and Lothar the cisalpine portion of his father.

Louis, king of Germany, many years before his death, providing for peace, took care to divide his realm between his three very illustrious sons born of Queen Emma in such a way that he committed Noricum and part of the barbarian nations to his first-born, the very warlike Karlmann, to be ruled; he made his like-named son Louis co-heir of his realm, that is, of the Franks and the Saxons, with tribute from the foreign-born. Again, he sent the most mild Charles as ruler into Alemannia, Greater Rhaetia and also Chur. He did this in such a way that his sons should hold these specificestates while he was still alive, and take care to determine minor cases, and that all the bishoprics and monasteries and counties and the public fiscs and all the higher justices should be beholden to himself. 

Therefore Louis, king of Germany, died at Frankfurt on the 5th kalends of September in the thirty-sixth year after the death of his father Emperor Louis, and was buried in Lorsch in the basilica of St Nazarius, and left his three aforesaid sons as heirs to his realm, having also added to his realm about half a part of Lotharingia.

Meanwhile Louis, Lothar’s brother, had died in Italy the year before King Louis of Germany. Their brother Karlmann occupied Italy up to the Po. Charles of Gaul invaded it beyond the Po, and then returned to Gaul from there and died on the journey. He left the government of the empire to Karlmann, since he had previously added the realm of Pippin (who had died without living offspring except only one, Bishop Charles of Mainz) to his own realm.

And so, Karlmann, after holding Italy for a short time, returned to Noricum, attacked by a terrible and incurable disease, whilst he was still alive, conceded Italy to his most pious and faithful brother Charles to be governed. 

He, having gathered a large army, occupied it completely unexpectedly, and came to Ravenna, and commanded the Roman pope, named John, to be summoned to him, and the patriarch of Friuli too, and the archbishop of Milan, and all the bishops and counts and the other leading men of Italy, and he was established king there by them, and all of them besides the bishop of the apostolic see bound themselves with oaths to his devoted service. Liutpert, bishop of Mainz, was present at this gathering at the command of King Louis.

In the same year, the fourth after his father’s death, Karlmann put an end to dwelling in this life. The following year, that is, the 881st from the Incarnation, in the 14th indiction, the same most clement Charles, equal to his grandfather the great emperor Charlemagne in all wisdom and industry and success in war and overcoming him in the tranquillity of peace and the prosperity of affairs, went to Rome with all the rulers of Italy and many from Francia and Swabia, and was consecrated as emperor by the Roman pontiff, who placed on his head a crown from the treasury of the holy apostle Peter, and was called Augustus Caesar, and now by favour of divine clemency rules the most peaceful empire, and lady Richgardis was elevated together with him to the consortship of the realm by the same apostle.

Charles of Gaul left one surviving son, named Louis. He lived a very short time after the death of his father, and left this life by an early death, leaving two surviving sons, that is, Louis and Carloman, who are now growing into the first flower of youth as the hope of Europe. Karlmann, son of the great Louis, had no sons except one named Arnulf, born from a certain very noble woman who was not legally betrothed to him. He still lives and O! Let him live so that the light of the great Louis be not extinguished in the house of the Lord!

Similarly, Louis king of Francia had one son named Hugh, a very attractive and warlike youth, from a concubine of very high nobility, who this year was killed in battle against the barbarians alongside the most religious bishops Thierry and Markward and Bruno, brother of Queen Liutgard, to the ruin of the Franks, since not long before the son of this Liutgard received from lord Louis was killed by a sudden death on the journey to Noricum whilst Karlmann yet lived, I know not from what cause, and indeed various opinions are bandied around about this by the fickle mob.

Now, therefore, it rests in the hand of God Almighty alone, by Whose will the universe is ruled, whether He will deign to awaken the seed of the lord emperor Charles, who is still young but excels all the old in good habits, and from the most religious queen and augusta Richgardis, through which the tyrants, or rather bandits, who (although the most serene emperor Charles and his brother the lord king Louis yet lived) presumed in secret to raise their head, might be suppressed by divine help. In the meantime, having respect for human shame, we will pass over them in silence until either they come over to the princes of the world and seek pardon for their stupidity or (as is appropriate that men who disturbed the commonwealth should suffer) until they are burned to ashes and blown away in the wind and condemned with their names – or, better, their ignominy and memory – forever.

I’m not going to comment on the original Breviarium here, although there’s some pretty darn interesting stuff on it out there. But there’s enough to talk about in Notker’s comments on his own time! First of all, Notker is already starting to get really concerned about the shape of at least the East Frankish descent line. Noteworthily, whilst he comments on whether or not children are legitimate, he’s not completely ruling at least some illegitimate offspring out of the royal succession. Notker’s view on Arnulf of Carinthia would only get sharper as the 880s wore on, but his apparent interest in Hugh, son of Louis the Younger, is also interesting. Noteworthy too is the fact that Charles the Fat’s illegitimate son Bernard doesn’t get a mention here – possibly he was too young? Even more, it’s only 881 – there are still four legitimate, crowned Carolingians rocking around.  I suppose, from his point of view, there have been four major deaths in just the last two years; but I think the main clue is that final paragraph.

Who are the ‘tyrants’ whom Notker is talking about? The text’s editor mentions Boso of Provence, but as always when talking about the early 880s we also have to consider Hugh of Alsace as well. Both these figures raise interesting questions about Notker’s ideas about rulership. Hugh of Alsace, illegitimate though he might have been, was a son of a Carolingian king, but if it is him about whom Notker is talking he clearly doesn’t envisage him as throne-worthy. (For the record, I think Notker does mean Hugh of Alsace, so from here on out I’ll stop with the qualifiers.) My guess is that Notker thinks he missed his window: he might be in a descent line, but he’s not an ‘heir to the realm’ and there’s already qualified kings. This makes his comments as applied to Boso equally interesting, as he mentions Charles the Fat and Louis the Younger, not Carloman II or Louis III, as the relevant kings. Boso did pose a threat to territory under the control of the East Frankish kings, but that wasn’t the primary objective. One of Boso’s justifications for becoming king was that there was no king otherwise after Louis the Stammerer’s death. I wonder if the argument that Carloman and Louis for whatever reason didn’t count could actually have found wider purchase? Louis the Younger, of course, was trying his hardest to come after the West Frankish kingdom as well…

More broadly, despite Notker being more-or-less contemporary the shape of the wider array of the Carolingian family is starting to get fuzzier. He mis-identified Pippin II of Aquitaine as a brother rather than a nephew of the sons of Louis the Pious – something even more noteworthy because he’s apparently familiar with Pippin’s brother (not son) Archbishop Charles of Mainz. He also manages to completely forget about Lothar I’s third son Charles of Provence. I can’t think of any particular sinister motivation for this, but it’s a useful reminder that the endless array of Charles’ and Louis’ were confusing for contemporaries as well.

A final note is about Louis the German’s division of his realm between his sons. If you remember our discussion of the provisions of the 877 Capitulary of Quierzy regarding Louis the Stammerer, you may also recall that Charles the Bald’s refusal to allow his son any quote-unquote ‘real power’ whilst he was in Italy is an important plank in the argument that Charles was uniquely contemptuous of Louis. Yet a simple look at Notker’s statements shows Louis doing the same thing with his sons. This is a strong plank in the case that Quierzy is just business as usual for power sharing between fathers and sons in the late ninth century.

Advertisement

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

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

Boso’s kingdom. c. 883 (source)

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

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

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

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

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

Source Translation: Dynasty and Rebellion

Flodoard of Rheims, Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, IV.v, pp. 380-383 (c. 894).

[Fulk] sent letters to the Transrhenian king Arnulf [of Carinthia] for the sake of King Charles [the Simple], whom he had anointed as king whilst he was still a boy, and he explained the causes for [Charles’] elevation, for he had heard that Arnulf’s mind had been turned against him because of what he had done. He noted that after the death of Emperor Charles [the Fat], Arnulf’s uncle, he had set out for Arnulf’s service, wanting to receive his dominion and governance – but the king had sent him away without any counsel or consolation. Therefore, since no hope remained for [Fulk] in [Arnulf], he was compelled to receive the dominion of [Arnulf’s] man, that is, Odo, who was unconnected to the royal family and tyrannically abused royal power, but whose dominion he had reluctantly endured until now. So, because he desired Arnulf’s dominion, he therefore set out for his service but after he could get no advice from him, he did the only thing which was left to him, which was to choose to have the only other king whom they had from the royal line and whose predecessors and brothers had been kings.

He also rendered account for why they had not done it before (for which the same king blamed him). Because, when Emperor Charles died, and Arnulf himself was unwilling to receive the rule of the realm, this Charles [the Simple] was still very little, both in body and in wisdom, and was unsuitable for governing a kingdom, and given the threat of persecution by the Northmen, it was at that time too dangerous to elect him. But since they had seen him reach an appropriate age, when he knew to proffer assent to those wholesomely giving him counsel, they received him in a manner appropriate with God’s honour, that he might take care of the realm, wanting to establish him in such a manner that he might be useful to this realm and Arnulf. Against the accusation that they had presumed to do this without Arnulf’s counsel, he asserted that they had followed the custom of the Frankish people, whose custom had always been that when the king died, they would elect another from the royal family and lineage without respect to or inquiry after the wishes of any greater or more powerful king. Having made the king by this custom, they wanted to commit him to [Arnulf’s] fidelity and counsel, so that he might use his aid and counsel in everything, and so that both the king and the whole realm might be subdued to his precepts and ordinances.

Thereafter, because he had heard it suggested to the king that he had done this against the king’s fidelity and for his own private gain, he said that the very Anskeric [bishop of Paris] who was known to have bandied this about had, before the archbishop himself had tried to do anything about this matter, come to him in the presence of Counts Heribert [I of Vermandois] and Ecfrid [of Artois] and sought both counsel and aid on what he should do about the commands of Odo, who had ordered him to do insupportable things. He asked for counsel on behalf of Gozfred’s sons concerning the evil which Odo was trying to do to them; and they asked that a chief should be established by common counsel who was such a man that they might be secure after having submitted themselves to him, intending either on Guy [of Spoleto] or on this Charles of the royal line. At the same time, those who were there considered whom they would be better advised to attend, and it seemed to them, for the sake of gaining the realm’s advantage and out of fear of contradiction on Arnulf’s part, and because the rulership of a royal race is right and proper, that they should go over to this Charles. They believed that Arnulf would be happy for his kinsman, and defend him and the realm.

But he had heard it bandied about that he had done this on behalf of Guy [of Spoleto], so that by this wile he might secretly bring him into the realm and, having dismissed the boy Charles, go over to Guy’s side. He asserted that this was a knowing falsehood bandied against him by the envy of the jealous. For the sort of man who promulgated such slanders knew that he could be accused in the same way; he, on the other hand, knew himself neither to be such a man nor to be born from such parents. The king’s predecessors had never found such trickery in his forefathers, whom they considered proven as completely loyal and useful for the realm, and for that reason they honourably elevated them. Wherefore he blushed on the king’s behalf, that he would believe this of him or brand himself with such infamy.

Finally, because he had heard that it had been said to Arnulf that this Charles was not Louis [the Stammerer’s] son, he asserted that he could not believe that there was anyone who, if they saw him and knew his relatives’ appearance, would not recognise him as coming from the royal lineage: he bore certain signs of his father Louis by which he could be known as his son. He therefore asked Arnulf’s royal majesty that he should worthily accept this truth and that no-one be able to turn his mind against his innocent king, his kinsman, but that he have examined in his presence and the presence of his followers whether matters were as he had stated, and lead affairs to their due conclusion, thinking of how his ancestors had governed the state of the realm and how the descent of royal highness had always hitherto flourished, but how at that time just that prince and his little kinsman Charles remained from the whole royal family; and he should consider what might come to pass if the end due to everyone should ask for him, since there were already some many kings unconnected to the royal family, and there would be yet more who would affect for themselves the name of kings. Who would help his son ascend to the inheritance of the realm due to him after his death, if it happened that his kinsman Charles were toppled?

He also added that it was known that amongst nearly all the peoples, the Frankish people were accustomed to have hereditary kings, offering the witness of the blessed Pope Gregory on this, and adding as well from German books the story of old king Ermenric, who sent all his offspring to die by the impious counsels of one of his counsellors; and he begged that the king should not acquiesce to wicked counsels, but should have mercy on this people and aid the failing royal race, taking care that the dignity of his line should be strengthened in his own time, and that those who became kings from unconnected families, or who desired so to become, should not prevail against those to whom royal honour was due because of their family. He stated that he had sent Aletramnus to suggest to the same Arnulf that he should command any of those who had established Charles as king he pleased to come into his service, and they would reasonably show before his sublimity that matters were as he had described.

He also solicited and prayed that the king should deal with the aforewritten material with a receptive heart, and know of [Fulk’s] devotion to and intent on his fidelity, that Charles should respect [Arnulf’s] counsel in everything he did, and remain protected by his piety, and that no-one should be able to turn the heart of the king away from helping the realm or Charles.

This isn’t the first time justifying rebellion has come up on this blog, and it isn’t the first time that dynasty has either. What’s significant about this letter is that it is more-or-less the key piece of evidence for historians who want to argue that 888 represents a ‘dynastic crisis’ as opposed to just a succession crisis. And if you read it you can see why: if you’re looking for a statement about the paramount importance of blood, it’s right hee.

It’s just a shame the letter itself is such a crock. As we talked about on Monday, Archbishop Fulk of Rheims was using Charles the Simple as figurehead for his own rebellion. This letter was written to defend himself against the charge of – as he puts it – putting his private interests ahead of that of the realm. Thing is, it’s clear from reading it that this is exactly what Fulk has done. He has to defend himself from charge after charge after charge – that he didn’t crown Charles in 888 (he didn’t), that he’s going against Arnulf in crowning him now (he is), that he’s working on behalf of Guy of Spoleto (he probably isn’t, but given that Guy is who he did crown in 888, it’s a reasonable belief), and so on. It’s also clear from the letter that he has few friends at Arnulf’s court, and that some people who he thought were originally on side have turned out not to be – Bishop Anskeric of Paris comes in for a drubbing here. Even worse, he doesn’t have real arguments against the Guy of Spoleto point, which is probably the key charge against his own rhetoric – note how what he says in response amounts to ‘I know you are, but what am I?’

Fulk’s appeals availed him nought. It’s clear that justifying his rebellion in terms of Charles’ Carolingian blood did not gain him much support, and may in fact have caused contemporaries to view his cause with a certain degree of cynicism. Equally, it didn’t persuade Arnulf. If Fulk hoped that an appeal to family would help, he was sorely mistaken. Arnulf stayed on Odo’s side throughout the 890s, fairly constantly, and Fulk himself was given the cold shoulder. I think what is happening here is that Fulk has picked out a fringe idea to legitimise himself in the hope that it’ll appeal to Arnulf’s self-interest, but that idea is in fact too fringe to be convincing.

Charter a Week 14: Unking

Louis the Blind had a really weird career, starting right with his by-name (although sat as we are in 890, there’s still over a decade to go before he’s blinded in an Italian misadventure – of course, unless your name is ‘Otto I’ and it’s after the 950s, I’m not sure anything happens in tenth-century Italian politics which couldn’t be described as a misadventure…). To start with, this is currently year three of dealing with the new kings following Charles the Fat’s succession crisis; but Louis was the only one who didn’t get crowned in 888.

Largely I think this is due to the nature of the Frankish overkingship we spoke about before. Louis’ status is a bit paradoxical: at the same time, his position is very strong and very weak. On one hand, of all the kings who came after Charles the Fat, he’s probably got the strongest claim to legitimacy via his ‘adoption’ – whatever we think happened, it definitely involved receiving Charles’ imprimatur qua kingship. He’s also (as we’ll see this week) got a fairly solid amount of local backing: the bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Lyon and Vienne, as well as further south, and a fairly substantial chunk of magnates. On the other hand, he was also the son of a sort-of king and his royal legitimacy was thus heavily tied in to the Carolingian system. This necessarily put him in a strange position after the accession of Arnulf of Carinthia: Louis might have been adopted by Charles the Fat, but what would happen next?

DD Provence no. 28 (890, Varennes)

In the 898th [sic] year from the Incarnation of the Lord, in the 8th indiction, when Queen Ermengard and all the princes of Louis, son of Boso, had convened at an assembly at the place which is called Varennes-le-Grand, there came before her presence the monks of the monastery of Gigny, that is, Abbot Berno and the others placed under his rule,  lamenting and bewailing with monastic humility that the same queen’s vassal Bernard had possessed their goods by a wrongful invasion, that is, the cell of Baume, which they had previously acquired through a precept from King Rudolph [I of Transjurane Burgundy]. Both this most beneficent and venerable of queens and all the princes, who had come together from all over, diligently paying attention and more diligently listening to this, summoned the aforesaid Bernard into their midst and questioned him as to by what right he held the same goods.

He responded that he believed that he held the aforesaid goods through Louis’ gift. The queen did not agree with his responses, nor did the others deem that It was worthy to consent to them.

And then he, by the queen’s command, quit the said place in the presence of everyone, and promised that he would not invade the same goods anymore. Then, when this had been done, the lady queen commanded both the abbot and the other brothers to write this notice of confirmation, so that they might quietly hold the aforesaid place, contradicted hereafter by no-one.

And, that this notice might be able to endure firm through the course of many ages, she confirmed it with her own hand and asked it be affirmed by the hands of both the bishops and the magnates who had had come together there from all over.

S. Bernard, who made this quitclaim. S. Queen Ermengard, who commanded this be done and asked it be confirmed. S. Archbishop Rostagnus of Arles. S. Bishop Ardrad of the holy church of Chalon-sur-Saône. S. Bishop Isaac of Grenoble. The glorious Count Richard [the Justiciar] confirmed this. Count Guy [of Oscheret] confirmed this. Count Hugh [of Bassigny] confirmed this. Count Adelelm [of Valence] confirmed this. Count Rather [of Nevers] confirmed this. Count Theobert [of Apt] confirmed this. Count Ragenard [of Auxerre] confirmed this. Ansegis confirmed this. Raimbald the herald confirmed this. Gormar confirmed this. Adelard confirmed this. Aldemar confirmed this.

Enacted at Varennes.

800px-karte_hoch_und_niederburgund_en
The polities in the middle (source)

So, as you will have noticed, as of this point Louis is not in fact king. This is particularly interesting because it means we need to change tack dramatically and talk about Ermengard. We’ve met her before providing the ballast of legitimacy to Boso’s claims for a throne, but here she is the queen, and that’s very strange. Carolingian queens could be very important; Ottonian queens even more so; and this effect is amplified when we’re talking about Italy. Ermengard’s mother Engelberga remained a potent force in Frankish politics after death of her husband Louis II even though she was not the mother of any sons. However, in both the Carolingian and Ottonian periods it’s generally predicated that the power of queens rests largely on their status as consort, regent for an under-age king, or queen mother and here – well, stop me if I’m wrong and I will immediately qualify this sentence, but is Ermengard not here a ruling queen?

OK, sure, looking at things in terms of the big picture her power in Provence rests on the eventual accession of Louis the Blind. But here in 890, and presumably for several years before that, we have a situation where there is one person with a royal title making the decisions and it’s not Louis. In fact, Ermengard is directly and on her own authority overruling Louis here: what seems to have happened is that the princeling tried to reward a follower and the queen no-selled it. This is perhaps understandable – Louis is, maybe, eight years old at this point – but in equivalent situations, for example with Otto III, the royal child was still treated as a full king. Thus, Ermengard’s power seems unusually explicit here.

That’s not the only interesting thing about this charter. The political response to 888 was as we have noted at length heavily improvised, and it’s very striking that here major figures from what would later be ‘West Frankish’ Burgundy are attending court with ‘Provençal’ magnates. We’ve commented before on the fluid nature of politics in the region south of the Vosges, west of the Rhine and the Haut-Jura, north of the Vercors and east of Velay, Forez and the Morvan – basically, northern Provence, southern Burgundy, and what is now western Switzerland. I like to call this the Transararian Fluidity Zone (after the old name for the river Saône, which lies in the middle of its core), and it’s here in full force. Exactly where the border between Louis’ sphere of influence and Odo’s in this region actually was is very fuzzy. Odo has by this point received the submission of northern Burgundy as well as Adalgar of Autun, but not of the southern bishoprics of Chalon and Mâcon. Moreover, Richard the Justiciar and his followers are here in force, many from north of Chalon, and I don’t think it’s really right to classify them as belonging to one kingdom or the other – they are equally well parts of both. These guys are by now used to working together, and whether or not they’re currently dealing with Louis or with Odo probably doesn’t matter all that much.

There is a bit of personal advantage in this. Richard the Justiciar, as we will also see on Wednesday, appears in Louis’ early documents as a very high-status figure indeed, much higher than he appears in West Frankish contexts at this point; and the same extends to his followers. Ragenard of Auxerre up there is otherwise almost universally known as a viscount, not as a count. But a lot of it is simply the natural flow of politics in this region – note how the meeting is enforcing a grant by Rudolf of Burgundy (who, if you remember, had as one of his first acts in 888 made a major grant to Richard’s wife Adelaide), adding an extra king to the proceedings.

It almost wouldn’t matter who the judgement was on behalf of, except that Abbot Berno will show up again. This is the first presaging we have of one of the most significant developments we’ll be covering: Berno, in 890, is abbot of the Juran abbeys of Baume and Gigny; but he also has ties to Aquitaine, and in about twenty years, these are going to come to fruition…

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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) The Election of King Boso.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the sake of removing ambiguity, one…   

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charter a Week 3, part 1: What I Am

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

DD Provence no. 16 (25th July 879)

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

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

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

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

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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

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

King_Boson_of_Provence
The clue is the crown. (source)

Source Translation: A Flemish Genealogy

HERE BEGINS THE GENEALOGY OF THE MOST NOBLE EMPERORS AND KINGS OF THE FRANKS, DICTATED BY KING CHARLES, WHO RESTORED COMPIÈGNE AFTER TWO FIRES.

The most noble Ansbert begat Arnold from Blitchildis, daughter of Chlothar, king of the Franks; and Feriolus and Moderic and Tarsicia.

Arnold begat Arnulf. Arnulf begat Flodulf, Walchisus, and Anschisus.

Walchisus begat the confessor of the lord Wandregisl.

Duke Anschisus begat the elder Pippin.

The elder Pippin, the duke, begat the elder Charles.

The elder Charles, the duke, begat Pippin, Carloman, Grifo, and Bernard from the queen; Remigius and Jerome from a concubine.

King Pippin begat Charles and Carloman and Gisla from Queen Bertrada.

Emperor Charles begat Charles, Louis and Pippin, Rotrude and Bertha from Queen Hildegard; Drogo and Hugh and Rothaida from a concubine.

Emperor Louis begat Lothar, Pippin and Louis, Rotrude and Hildegard from Queen Ermengard; Charles and Gisla from Empress Judith.

Emperor Lothar begat Louis, Lothar and Charles from Queen Ermengard.

King Louis begat Carloman, Louis and Charles from Queen Emma.

King Carloman begat King Arnulf.

King Arnulf begat Louis from Queen Uota; Zwentibald, though, from a concubine.

Emperor Charles begat from Queen Ermentrude four sons and the same number of daughters, that is: Louis, Charles, Carloman and Lothar; and + Judith* and Hildegard, Ermentrude and Gisla.

([in the margin:] You will find more on Judith on the next page.)

King Louis begat Louis and Carloman and Hildegard from Ansgard, called queen; and Charles (posthumously) and Ermentrude from Queen Adelaide.

King Charles begat from Queen Frederuna Ermentrude, Frederuna, Adelaide, Gisla, Rotrude and Hildegard; and from a concubine, Arnulf, Drogo, Roric, and Alpaidis. Then, after Queen Frederuna died, he joined himself in marriage to another, a queen named Eadgifu, from whom he begat a son named Louis of handsome appearance. And later, from Queen Gerberga, Lothar, Charles, Louis and Matilda.

HERE BEGINS THE HOLY BLOODLINE OF THE MOST GLORIOUS COUNT LORD ARNULF AND HIS SON BALDWIN, MAY THE LORD DEIGN TO PROTECT THEM IN THIS WORLD.

Baldwin, mightiest of counts, joined the beautiful and very prudent Judith to himself in the union of matrimony.

From her, he begat a son, placing on him his own name, that is, Baldwin.

This Baldwin, having taken a wife from the noblest stock of the kings beyond the sea, got from her two sons of good character, of whom he named one Arnulf and his brother Adelolf. This last was, with God’s permission, rescued from the burden of this world, and is known to be buried in the monastery of the holy confessor of Christ Bertin. If he had lived in this world for a longer time, his valour would have been the greatest joy to his people.

Lord Arnulf, now, most venerable of counts and greatly beloved to lord Jesus Christ, excels in prudence, is strong in counsel, shining with all goodness, a most perfect restorer of churches of God, a most pious consoler of widows, orphans, and wards, a most clement dispenser of help in necessity to all who seek it from him.

What more? If someone were to have a hundred mouths and tongues, they could never speak of the gifts of his kindnesses. Indeed, because we can in no way say enough about his thousand goodnesses, let us speak a little of many.

For there is a monastery in the palace of Compiègne, named in honour of the holy mother of God Mary, which he honoured with many donations, that is, in gold and silver and cloths. He often distributed lavish wealth in coins to the clerics serving the Lord therein. We know for certain that the bier of the holy witnesses of Christ Cornelius and Cyprian was decorated by him in the purest silver, weighing ten pounds. He bestowed that noblest of signs, which is called by another name a bell, to the same holy place. Nor is this to be wondered at, because the said place was in fact founded by his great-grandfather Emperor Charles, who was called ‘the Bald’, with workmanship marvellous in every way.

Now, the aforesaid venerable count Arnulf took a wife named Adele, daughter of lord count Heribert and niece of two kings of the Franks, to wit, Odo and Robert. From her, by God’s protection, he begat a son of handsome appearance named Baldwin, beautiful in his face, beloved to God and dear in every way to his followers, noblest of counts, after the example of his father a lover of churches of God, humble, mild, pious, modest, kind, sober, and in addition moreover replete with all goodness.

He, reaching the appropriate age, by God’s concession and his father’s will, took a wife whose nobility was worthy of his own, named Matilda, daughter of a most noble prince named Hermann. From them, by the grace of supernal largess, may his distinguished father and mother see sons of sons (if it pleases God), to the third and fourth generation, and may bodily health and complete safety and absolution from every crime be conceded to him, now and here and in world without end. Amen.

May this be done by the mercy of Almighty God the Father from heaven, amen. May this be done by the concession of His son lord Jesus Christ our Lord, amen. May this be done by the bestowal of the supernal grace of the paraclete Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son, amen, amen, amen.

The priest called by the name Witger desires this, that the said count should be healthy for a long time. Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen.

Let whoever reads this venerable genealogy of lord Arnulf, the most renowned prince of this world, and his son the most noble Baldwin, prostrate themselves for them in prayer, and sing and cry with a pure heart:

A PRAY FOR LORD ARNULF AND HIS SON BALDWIN.

May God Almighty, a strong lord, pious and clement, king of kings and lord of the lordly, save lord Arnulf, most glorious of counts, and his son, beloved to God, named Baldwin. May He rule, guard, protect and defend, preserve and support, exalt and comfort, safeguard and strengthen them all the days of their lives in this present world. After a long life in this world, with the intervening mertis of all the saints, may they deserve to go to the glory of paradise, by the gift of Him by Whom they were created. Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen.

Having recently received the offprints of my article on the Flemish succession crisis of 965, I thought that whilst I ponder what exactly to do with about fifty paper copies of the thing, I could share with you an important bit of evidence for late tenth-century Flanders, the Genealogia Arnulfi Comitis. This genealogy was written around 960 by a priest named Witger who was probably but not certainly associated with the Flemish abbey of Saint-Bertin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Where I have actually been, although the town of Saint-Omer is not what you’d call a tourist hotspot… (photo by author)

It’s a unique document for its period – other noble families in the West Frankish kingdom did not write their genealogies this way – or indeed at all, the big explosion in genealogical literature is in the eleventh century – and they didn’t go out their way to link themselves to the Carolingians the way Witger does here. In fact, the first half of this is an early tenth-century genealogy dictated by Charles the Simple back in the day, which Witger is using to give the tie more credence.

Arnulf was not, after all, particularly closely related to the ruling Carolingian king, Lothar; and his father, Baldwin the Bald (yes, I know), had not been particularly interested in pursuing his Carolingian roots specifically. Sure, Arnulf was (we know from one source) named after the Carolingians’ great ancestor Arnulf of Metz; but his brother was named after their grandfather King Æthelwulf of Wessex, and it seems to be kingship in general rather than dynasty in particular motivating their choice.

This all changed in the 960s. Arnulf had gobbled up a lot of land very quickly over the course of his decades-long reign, and made a lot of enemies on his southern border. His son Baldwin being quite belligerent, he needed a southern ally and fast; and wouldn’t you know it, there was the new king, Lothar, to whom he was distantly related. This genealogy’s oddness comes about because it is the product of a very serious charm offensive to woo the young ruler into supporting Arnulf. Note how the genealogy describes Arnulf’s political actions (i.e. endowing the church at Compiègne – which was the real emotional heart of the descendants of Charles the Bald) as motivated by family concerns – this is the flipside of trying to persuade Lothar that their kinship ties matter.

Did it work? Well, sort of. If you want to know more, you’re going to have to read the article…

Top 10 Charters: The House Selection, pt. 2

We’ve already covered the first half of the #top10charters list I put up on Facebook a couple of months ago; so without any further ado, let’s get on with the second half!

No. 5: Robert of Neustria to Saint-Martin of Tours, 892.

‘I’m supposed to steal the property of Saint-Martin and the brothers and hurt my soul for three shields?’

Roman Deutinger is sceptical of the authenticity of this charter. I’m not: his reasons basically boil down to ‘it’s weird, and it doesn’t look like a trial record’, to which I would respond ‘it’s not that weird, and that’s because it isn’t one’. It’s a notice wherein the brother of Saint-Martin and advocate Adalmar of whom we have spoken go and get some land of Saint-Martin of their abbot Robert; it’s interesting institutionally, and it’s got some nice echoes of personality in it.

No. 4: Richard the Fearless to Saint-Denis, 968.

‘Wherefore let the provident industry of both peoples, to wit, the Franks and the Normans, know…’

This is the foundational document of Norman identity. I’d write more about it, but as it happens I’ve already done that at length elsewhere, so you can read that if this interests you.

No. 3: Louis IV to Saint-Remi of Rheims, 953.

‘…the most blessed bishop, who was specially bestowed by God on Our royal bloodline as a pastor and patron…’

The middle of the tenth century was a crucial time of change for West Frankish kingship. Briefly, after about 920 everything went to hell and stayed there for about thirty years. It took Louis IV his entire reign, quite a lot of desperate improvisation, and in the end the help of some absolutely vast Ottonian armies to establish his throne on solid ground, and when he did so its ideological basis was distinctly different. Key here was the see of Rheims, and this charter exemplifies that, drawing links between the Carolingian bloodline (which is otherwise unusual), the patron saint of Rheims, Remigius, and the office of king.

It also has links to a diploma of Otto I issued at around the same time, linking the three protagonists – Carolingians, Ottonians, and the see of Rheims – together in an ideological framework which reinforces the hegemonic role of the Ottonian kings in stabilising West Frankish kingship.

No. 2: Charles the Simple to Saint-Denis, 917.

‘…similarly let them carry out my memorial, and the memorial of my dead wife Frederuna…’

Rather like no. 4, I’ve already written about this elsewhere. Suffice to say, it is the greatest love story of the entire century.

No. 1: Odo I of Blois-Chartres-Tours to Bourgueil, 995.

‘…and unless he repents, let him join Nero and Diocletian and Julian the Apostate and those who followed them as persecutors of martyrs in the eternal fires of Gehenna’

Coming from the same tradition as number 6, this charter, purely and simply, validates my whole approach to these documents, by proving that questions of legitimacy mattered enough to fight over, and being one of the few direct responses to ideological claims by lay magnates. That legitimacy mattered should, you’d think, be self-evident, but apparently not: I have been told, by a senior scholar as well, that no-one in the tenth century cared about legitimating their power because they were all bloodthirsty warlords who only spoke the guttural tongue of violence.

But no! The situation here is fairly simple. Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, and Odo I of Blois-Chartres-Tours were fighting for dominance in Brittany. In the year 992, Fulk had fought a battle with Count Conan of Rennes at a place called Conquereuil, and massacred him and his army. This was a big deal – killing Christians was never seen as a good thing, and was increasingly frowned on at this time. Thus, when, two years later, Fulk’s castle at Langeais was besieged by Conan’s patron Odo, before setting off to defend it, Fulk issued a charter ‘in penitence for the exceedingly great slaughter of Christians which happened on the plain at Conquereuil’, evidently issued in order to gain divine favour before the siege.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The author explaining all this at the tenth-century donjon of Langeais, which still survives.

The siege of Langeais lasted for some time, beginning in or around May or June and continuing into the next year. Things got desperate for Fulk, sufficiently desperate that he offered to surrender to Odo. These terms, as recorded in the history of Richer of Rheims, were humiliating: Fulk offered to pay compensation for the death of Odo’s ally Conan of Rennes, to give service to Odo, and to pledge his son to Odo’s service. However, news reached Fulk that reinforcements were coming, and he withdrew the terms. After this, and almost certainly in response to it, Odo issued this charter.

In it, there is one key clause in the charter which demonstrates that the siege of Langeais was an ideological as well as a literal battleground. Odo threatens violators of his grant thusly: ‘let him be associated in the flames of eternal gehenna with Nero and Diocletian and Julian the Apostate and their followers as persecutors of martyrs.’ This formula is unique in tenth-century France, and it is a directly and unsubtle attack on Fulk Nerra: Fulk was a killer of Christians, Fulk was an insincere penitent, Fulk would not get the salvation he claimed.

The greatest princes of tenth-century France, then, were sufficiently concerned about justifying their rule to go beyond simple school-bully tactics. They developed and contested ideological claims, going beyond simple coercion to develop strategies of legitimacy which not only existed, but mattered. For Odo, denying Fulk the moral high ground was as important as denying him the literal high ground.

888 And The Dynastic Crisis Which Wasn’t

Sorry about the lack of posts last week – I was on my way to one conference in Cork having just attended one in Canterbury. I’m back home in Brussels now, though, so this little moment of respite from your drab, wretched lives can once more take up its customary position.

The Canterbury conference provided the opportunity to vent a rant which has been building up for several years now. The end of the Carolingian Empire is usually ascribed to the ‘dynastic crisis’ of 888, when the Carolingian family ran out of legitimate, adult males to be king, and a gourmet selection of new, non-Carolingian, kings emerged. Thing is (to put it as bluntly as possible): I don’t think there’s anything ‘dynastic’ about this dynastic crisis. Carolingian legitimism – the idea that the Carolingian family was specifically owed the crown by virtue of its being the royal family – was either non-existent or the view of fringe weirdos.

Let’s confine ourselves simply to two of the sources most often pointed to as evidence for the legitimacy problem which affected the new kings by virtue of their not being Carolingian. First, Regino of Prüm. Regino wrote his Chronicon in the early tenth century, and here’s how he describes the events of 888:

‘After the death [of Emperor Charles the Fat], the kingdoms which had been under his rule, as though they did not have a legitimate heir, dissolved into pieces, and did not wait for a natural lord, but created kings for themselves from their own entrails.’ [source]

‘Legitimate heir’, ‘natural lord’ – sounds like Carolingian legitimism here, right? Well, not so much. In 887, as Regino describes it, the leading men of Charles’ realm had overthrown him and made his illegitimate nephew Arnulf of Carinthia ruler in his stead. Regino is more-or-less a supporter of Arnulf, and the reason that he talks about natural lords and legitimate heirs is not because Arnulf is a Carolingian, but because he’s already been made king! There’s a ‘natural lord’ because a duly-designated king already exists – and it is noticeable that when the new kings proffer due submission to him as their overlord, Regino starts presenting them as legitimate. Their dynastic affiliation doesn’t change, but his presentation of them does – whatever’s going on here, it’s not dynastic.

The second source is a letter (translated here) from Archbishop Fulk of Rheims seeking the aid of Arnulf in overthrowing the West Frankish king Odo on behalf of this blog’s favourite, Charles the Simple. Fulk refers to Odo as ‘not a member of the royal family’, and says that he ‘chose to have for his king he… who was from the royal bloodline [i.e. Charles the Simple]’. This is Carolingian legitimism here, but what’s interesting is that it appears to be fringe weirdness. Fulk’s professions of loyalty to Charles are somewhat disingenuous. In 888, he hadn’t supported Charles – or even Arnulf – but his own relative Guy of Spoleto, who became king of Italy, and whom Fulk had invited to become king in the West without any particular success. Fulk clearly indicates that his readers knew this, because he fills a good half the letter with rather weak justifications for why he did this, and it’s clear from context that what he refers to as the slanders and lies surrounding him at Arnulf’s court are in fact the well-justified scepticism of people whose memories stretch back longer than five years.

Fulk, it seems, disliked Odo intensely. He spent most of his reign in rebellion against him on any pretext, and it looks like his support for Charles was yet another one of these. (There’s more to his rebellion than personal dislike, of course, but it doesn’t detract from the main point.) It’s worth saying that his arguments don’t seem to have convinced many people – Arnulf didn’t join the war on Charles’ side, and Fulk’s party was consistently outmatched and defeated.

Carolingian legitimism, then, did exist, but its influence doesn’t seem to have been very great. Viewing 888 as this massive, seismic shift in the politics of Frankish Europe is somewhat misleading – in everything except which womb the king had come out of, the kingdom of Odo and that of the man reigning ten years before him, Louis the Stammerer, were basically similar. The imposition of later ideas about royal succession – and royal families – onto 888 has meant that historians have spent centuries seeing a gap where there isn’t one.