Charles the Simple in Lotharingia after 911

One of the chief planks in my case that Charles the Simple was pretty good after all, actually, is that alone of the West Frankish kings he was able to put together a winning coalition to take and rule Lotharingia. He not only managed to defeat his rival, the East Frankish king Conrad I, in battle; he also managed to unite the Lotharingian nobles behind him and rule the kingdom peacefully for almost a decade – not a small thing in the very fractious world of late ninth century Lotharingia. Even more, not only was he able to take most of the kingdom in one fell swoop, he was also able to expand his control over time.

Active hostilities between Charles and Conrad appear to have mostly ended by 912. At that time, Charles had gained all of Lotharingia other than Alsace and Frisia (and Trier, but that’s a different story; and in any case Archbishop Ratbod would come over by 913). In the following years, he would manage to gain both. Conrad was in Strasbourg in March 913, but his hold over the city would not persist much longer. Shortly after Conrad left, his ally Bishop Otbert was murdered, and replaced by Charles’ nephew Gozwin. Admittedly, Gozwin didn’t last very long; he died in early November of the same year. Gozwin’s successor is more of a mystery. His name was Richwin and his background was Lotharingian, but how did he become bishop? In 916, Conrad and his bishops held a council at Hohenaltheim at which they accused him of usurping the bishopric. Intriguingly, one of our major sources for the history of Strasbourg, a series of commemorative poems written by the mid-tenth century Bishop Erchembald, says that he was bishop for fifteen years. Given we know he died in 933, this puts the start of his reign in 918 – not before 916. It’s a reasonable supposition that Conrad’s complaint was that Richwin was Charles’ appointee, and that Hohenaltheim was an attempt to retake this liminal region. Evidently in 918, some kind of deal was made. Perhaps Strasbourg became a kind of condominium, the same way that Cologne may have done as well. Notably, in 922 a synod gathered at Koblenz at the command of Charles and Conrad’s successor Henry the Fowler. None of the bishops present were from Lotharingia proper or the West Frankish kingdom – but both Hermann of Cologne and Richwin of Strasbourg were there, and this may signal a kind of joint rule.

Similarly, we can see the Frisian elites supporting Conrad up until 914, but not afterwards. In 916, we see Count Dirk I of Holland and Count Waltger, also a Frisian, at Charles’ court. When Bishop Ratbod of Utrecht died in 917, he was replaced by Baldric, who was friendlier towards Charles and appeared as one of his followers in 920. Charles’ gains in Frisia are thus more straightforward to demonstrate than the situation in Alsace. Even more, Charles’ activity in Frisia gives us a small glimpse of Charles at work. In 912, Conrad had founded an abbey at Weilburg (where his father was buried) in honour of St Walpurgis; in 914, he granted an immunity to the bishopric of Utrecht at Count Waltger’s request there. Charles, though, was also competing for Walpurgis’ patronage. In June 916, he founded a chapel at Attigny for her relics – which it’s implied he stole from the East Frankish kingdom. This is significant, because around this time Waltger and his wife Alberada founded a church at Tiel in Walpurgis’ honour. Alberada was the widow of Charles’ closest Lotharingian supporter, Reginar Long-Neck, and it was probably from Charles that Waltger acquired the relics he used to endow the church. (We know that Charles was handing out such relics elsewhere at this time too, but that’s a story for another post.) Between them, the marriage and the acceptance of the gift of relics signals the success of Charles’ policy towards the Lotharingian margins. Waltger accepted the gifts and the alliance, and brought himself under Charles’ rule.

Unfortunately, the only thing I could find left of it was this rather mundane plaque… (source)

What this shows is that Charles’ takeover of Lotharingia was not a fluke. Conrad wasn’t useless and he wasn’t powerless; and as generations of Carolingians before him and Ottonians afterwards would learn to their cost the Lotharingian aristocracy wasn’t either. Nonetheless, Charles was simply able to outcompete Conrad and attract the Lotharingians. The problem with Charles is the way his deposition becomes the story of his reign. If we abandon such a teleological approach, a different Charles emerges. This Charles is a canny ruler able to deploy various different forms of patronage to draw local and regional elites into his regime, and one who could do so better than his regional rivals. This Charles is the one who ruled as king for twenty uncontested years, the one whom the defeat at Soissons buried, and the one we need to resurrect if we want to understand the political changes of the tenth century.

A Sad Story About Why Charles the Simple Succeeded Odo

We’ve discussed Charles the Simple’s succession to the West Frankish throne a little bit before, but never really gone into detail about one question which has always bugged me: why did Odo let Charles succeed him? OK, sure, we can talk about Charles’ dynastic legitimacy and his hereditary claim to the throne, and that may have been a factor. Certainly, later sources put Odo and Charles in some kind of ward/guardian situation; but this is basically ahistorical and the result of working backwards from eleventh century expectations. The main practical reason that Charles ends up as Odo’s successor is that, over the course of several years of peace negotiations but most crucially in late 897, as Odo lies on his deathbed, Odo conceded that role to him. So, to reframe the question, why was Odo so willing to negotiate?

It can’t be because Charles posed a significant military threat. The high point of the rebellion of which Charles was the figurehead was right at the start, in 893 and 894. After 895, when the siege of Laon which Charles conducted with Zwentibald failed, the young ruler’s situation was pretty dire. From the beginning, his rebellion was riven with internal dissent, and by the last years of Odo’s reign virtually everyone had jumped ship. All of Charles’ backers – even Archbishop Fulk of Rheims, who was in loco parentis to the young man – went back to Odo’s side (in Fulk’s case only briefly, but his persistent opposition to Odo and support for Charles was the exception in these years). Odo was able to confiscate the rebels’ castles, estates and resources. Charles had no money, no troops, and no friends.

It is very surprising, therefore, that Odo condescended to negotiate from this position of superiority, yet in 896 he did so. Not merely did he do so, but he was – according to the Annals of Saint-Vaast – active in encouraging his followers to lend their support to Charles as his successor. What could his motivations for such a thing have been? One option is that he was a far-sighted statesman, who could see that the best way to repair the damage the civil war had caused the realm was to allow Charles to succeed him whilst negotiating for the best deal for his followers after his own death. This is not an implausible option, and certainly it seems like Odo’s brother Robert of Neustria was well-placed to be honourably received by the king after Odo’s death. But was there more at work?

Perhaps the general sense of malaise hanging over Odo’s court by 895 had something to do with it. Morale on Odo’s side, even the king’s own morale, seems to have been declining. Abbo of Saint-Germain-des-Prés complained in an addition to his Bella Parisiacae Urbis that the king whom he had once praised as a glorious Viking fighter was now useless and apathetic: he heard of Vikings raiding across his kingdom, and declared he simply didn’t care. Certainly his pacific tendencies after 895 form a contrast with his bullish approach before that year.

However, there may be more to it than that Odo was simply ground down by war. A neglected carmen figuratum, a picture poem in praise of Odo written around 893, ends with a prayer that God will bestow a son on Odo.

The manuscript in question being this one, Berlin Staatsbibliothek Fragm. 89, fol. 8r (source)

A second poem, in praise of Odo’s queen Theodrada, accompanies the first. However, evidence of Odo actually having any children is generally conspicuous by its absence. (There is a bizarre document purporting to be from the early tenth century from the Breton monastery of Redon which mentions the presence of one ‘Guy, son of King Odo of France’ – however, this is transparently a later forgery and Guy did not have any historical reality.) These poems are interesting because they are signs that, a brief way into Charles’ rebellion, Odo had dynastic ambitions. A clear inference, therefore, is that something had changed by 896, and the most obvious thing is that Theodrada had died. It would have been quite possible for Odo to remarry, of course – one thing that always surprises me about Odo is how young he was, being only in his early thirties when he became king – but that was a way in the future and Charles’ rebellion was a problem now. It seems that Odo’s ambitions to have a male heir were buried with his wife. Under these circumstances, negotiating with Charles was the option of least resistance. If Odo couldn’t be succeeded by an heir of his body, he could at least ensure that the crown went to someone with a good claim, and try and prevent a war such as he had been fighting for the previous several years from breaking out anew on his death.

Charter A Week 52: Sint-Servaas Redux

Remember Sint-Servaas? Gislebert of Lotharingia remembered Sint-Servaas. As we’ve seen on a previous occasion, conflict between his family and the archbishops of Trier had been centring around this little abbey for decades by the time that Charles the Simple confiscated it off him in 919; and that confiscation was one of the main events in the civil war that erupted between Gislebert and the king. After 919, events in Lotharingia spiralled out of control. Different magnate factions invited Ralph of Burgundy and Henry the Fowler to rule them, and despite the predominance of power lying with Ralph originally, by 925 Henry had gained control of the region. Part of the reason for that was Gislebert himself, whose loyalties to either side or neither ping-ponged all over the place for most of the early 920s. At one point, his brother Reginar II ransomed him from captivity and Gislebert immediately started ravaging his lands: there was presumably a logic to this that is now lost to us, rather than Gislebert being simply a random asshole, but it is illustrative of just how volatile Lotharingian politics were.

Gislebert, then, was too powerful to ignore and too much of a loose cannon to easily trust. How could East Frankish king Henry the Fowler deal with him?

MRUB no. 169 (928, Maastricht)

 In the name of God Eternal and our saviour the highest shepherd Jesus Christ. Gislebert, by God’s grace duke and ruler of the holy church of Maastricht.

We wish it to be recognised by all the followers of this church and of the holy lord Servatius present and future that, through the council of Our followers, clerics and laymen, We have acquired the abbey of Sint-Servaas through the consent of Roger, archbishop of the see of Trier. I, then, in return for this largess, gave by a legal and very firm gift to the altar of the blessed Peter a certain estate named Bourcy lying in the district and county of Ardenne, with all the appendages justly and legally pertaining to it, very much on the condition that I might hold both, to wit the abbacy and the same estate, in usufruct for my whole lifetime. After my death, let all the goods, the monastery, and every possession of Sint-Servaas with the aforesaid estate of Bourcy revert in their entirety to the altar and power of St Peter, and endure with perpetual stability in their dominion.

Right now, I gave another place which is called Burg by the river Moselle in the county of Maifeldgau by a legitimate gift to St Peter to be held without end. Moreover, I restored Güls, from the goods of Sint-Servaas, in the aforesaid district and in Eberhard’s county lying next to the Moselle for vestment and firmness. I, Gislebert, also concede to the aforesaid church of St Peter in benefice from the goods of [the abbey of] St Maximin [in Trier] an estate named Thalfang with all its appendages, on the condition that whilst I live the same estate should serve the uses of the holy church of Trier and be disposed of at the bishop’s judgement.

This covenant and pact concerning this affair was established before Our lord the glorious king Henry [the Fowler] and before his princes, and was praised and sanctioned by him with the consent of his magnates. However, lest perchance the notice of this agreement and gift fall into oblivion, so that it might instead endure stable and inviolate, We commanded the testament of the present writing to be made and the names of certain men who were present be added beneath, that is, of those who saw the gift and vestment before the altar of Sint-Servaas.

Sign of Odalbert, who brought the security. S. Count Waltger. S. Count Dirk. S. Count Christian. S. Count Fulcauld. S. Godfrey. S. Gerulf. S. Razo. S. Hugh. S. Reginald. S. Burgeric. S. Giselbert. S. Godfrey. S. Ingobrand. S. Ansfred. S. Waltgar. S. Arnold. S. Abbot Nithard. S. Frederick the deacon. S. Prior Herulf. S. Saruward the deacon. S. Herimar the custodian. S. Stephen the priest. S. Arnold the priest. S. Gerard the priest. S. Sigebert the priest. S. Helmerin the priest. S. Walter the priest. S. Odric the priest. S. Gerold the priest. S. Reginhard the deacon. S. Sfogilus the deacon. S. Warner the deacon.

Sigibert, pupil of Sint-Servaas, wrote and subscribed this.

Enacted at Maastricht, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 928, in the 5th year of the most serene king lord Henry over the realm of the late Lothar [II], in the 1st indiction.

In its form, this is about 90% a normal precarial grant, but oh what a 10%! Let’s start with the basics here: Henry has clearly brokered a compromise. The pattern ‘the challenging party gets the land in their lifetime and the Church gets it afterwards plus some extras’ is a fairly common compromise, but see the documentary evidence of it at this social level is somewhat unusual. I say ‘this social level’, but this is presumably another part of what Gislebert gets. Note the ducal title. This special mark of status is lent extra force by the recognition and acknowledgement of Henry the Fowler and all the princes. Indeed, the fact that Henry is explicitly mentioned as giving his consent is another part of what makes this strange. I suppose it wouldn’t be a royal diploma because Henry is simply overseeing the transaction, he’s not any part of it, but there were royal acts confirming exchange which could have been adapted… I wonder whether this is a way of keeping Gislebert at arms’ length or whether it’s added extra prestige, issuing a sort-of royal act?

Another interesting thing to note: the witness list. Waltger, Dirk, and Christian were all supporters of Charles the Simple back in the day. That they’re here with Gislebert might perhaps have been worrying for Henry. Whatever you can say about Gislebert’s loyalties, Charles had a lot of supporters in Lotharingia and whilst he himself is in prison at this point – although presumably would have been out of prison for a brief attempted restoration whilst this was being negotiated, an interesting chronological coincidence – it’s a potential pool of support for a West Frankish ruler. Henry had other ways of dealing with this than just a land transaction. Around this time, Gislebert got married to Henry’s daughter Gerberga. Lotharingia was thereafter pretty quiescent for the rest of Henry’s reign.

(Of course, you will note the chronological qualifier there…)

Charter A Week 51/2: A Sad, Angry Gesture of Defiance

Acfred of Aquitaine was not a well man. When his brother died in 927, Acfred himself was in poor health. This is one of the reasons that, as we saw last week, Ralph of Burgundy was able to gobble up big parts of Acfred’s duchy. Still, Acfred might not have been able to carry on the fight he had begun the year before during the defence of Nevers, but he could still get his revenge from his sickbed, with a little bit of Deific help:

Sauxillanges no. 13 (11th October 927, Sauxillanges)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Acfred, by the bestowal of divine mercy duke of the Aquitanians.

Let it be known to all administering the care of God’s holy Church, that is, present and future, and as well all the famous men of the Earth that I, Acfred, a most humble servant of the servants of God, considering the disaster of human fragility, in order that the pious and merciful Lord might deign to mitigate something from the enormity of my crimes, both for myself and for my father Acfred and my mother Adelinda and my uncles William and Warin and my brothers Bernard and William and for all my kinsmen and followers and friends, restore a certain small portion to my Creator, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, from the land which He deigned to bestow through his bountiful clemency on my relatives and my most unworthy self, so that it might be built in His name, held in His honour, and governed under the shadow of His majesty, such that no count, nor bishop, nor abbot, nor any of Our progeny, or any mortal might dominate the same land, nor should the land be subject to any of the saints, nor to angelic spirits, but to the Lord alone, who lives and reigns in perfect Trinity, and the ministers allotted to the church therein should expect no protection and no ruler from saints or men. Nor should any judicial power presume to inflict any force on them or distrain them, or exact anything dishonest or unjust from them. Rather, let them serve God Almighty alone, and live in His name; and if they are questioned in any matter, let them make a claim through Him; and let the serfs and tenants who live on the land be subject to Him. If they are accused or questioned or rebuked, let them seek no other protector or governor except our lord Jesus Christ and the ministers of the church who are established therein at that time. 

In order that He who mightily created me from the mud of the Earth, clemently gave me the breath of life and mercifully restored me with the ruined world and gave me knowledge of Him and caused me, a sinner, to reach this age and conceded as much as pleased Him to me from His goods might know that I have restored to Him some small part of the land which He deigned to bestow upon me, and in honour of the twelve apostles who, obeying the Father’s command, believed in their heart and professed with their mouths His son, our lord Jesus Christ, I establish twelve monks therein, who should give unceasing praise to the Lord, the Creator of all, day and night, and humbly and devotedly beseech Him for the state of the Church and ask for mercy for Our sins and those of all Christians with many prayers. 

And thus let all the faithful men of the holy Church of God know that I restore to God, Creator of all, in the district of Auvergne, in the county of of Brioude and in Tallende, in the vicariate of Usson and in Ambron

  1. in the first place my indominical curtilage which is called Sauxillanges, with two churches, one constructed in honour of St Peter and the other in honour of St John the Evangelist, and my indominical house, and the indominical wood, and five mills with manses, fields, meadows, woods, vineyards, and and from all which beholds or is seen to behold to that curtilage, and all appendages which are seen to pertain to it, that is:
    1. in Gignat, one church constructed in honour of St Julian with everything pertaining to it; 
    2. and in Chargnat, a church constructed in honour of St Remedius, with everything pertaining to it; and four manses in that villa, with one shed;
    3. and in Brand, three manses and one house with a vineyard; 
    4. in Merdantio three houses with a close;
    5. in Vinzelette one house with a vineyard;
    6. in Lachaux, one house with a vineyard; 
    7. in Montaigner, one shed; 
    8. in Castellum, four sheds and a close; 
    9. in Usson, four manses with vineyards; 
    10. in Mons-Moriacus, two manses, two sheds;  
    11. in Brenat, two manses, one shed;
    12. in Montbenoit, five manses, four sheds; 
    13. at Le Say, three manses, three sheds; 
    14. at Illa Calma, one shed; 
    15. in Sacot, two manses, one shed; 
    16. in Jarrige, four manses, three sheds; 
    17. in Riberia, one shed; 
    18. in Genestogilla, two manses, one shed; Sperendeus has one manse; 
    19. at Mansionem-Guntardi, two manses; 
    20. at Mansionem-Baseni, two manses, two sheds; 
    21. at Le Montel, two manses; 
    22. in Le Picondry, two manses, four sheds; Balfred has two manses; Gozbert has one shed, Armand has one manse, Rodina has two manses, Dacbert one manse, Gadlindis one manse, the children of Sicbert, one manse, Siegfried, one manse, Gozbert, one shed; 
    23. at Le Theil, six manses, four sheds; 
    24. at Lemovicas, one manse, nine sheds; 
    25. in Charel, five manses, one shed; 
    26. in Illa Buffaria, one manse, three sheds; Benedict has one manse; 
    27. in l’Équinlerie, three sheds, Adalbert and Ingilbald have one sheds; Aldegaud, one shed; two sheds for the fishermen; Bernard, one shed; Peter, one shed;
    28. in Poius Lacpatricius, one shed;
    29. Victriarius, one shed;
    30. in le Cros, one shed; Ingirand has one shed;
    31. in Saint-Quentin-sur-Sauxillanges, two sheds with a church;
    32. between Condamina and Conros, twelve sheds;
    33. in Crizilonus, one manse, three day-labour’s worth of vines; 
    34. in Caldemaisons, one manse, one shed.

I, an unworthy and most wretched sinner, restore all the abovesaid in their entirety, cultivated or uncultivated, sought or whatever should be sought, with churches, manses, fields, meadows, woods, vineyards, curtilages, gardens, tree-plantations, incomes and renders, waters and watercourses, with mills, with male and female serfs pertaining to the same curtilage who are there now or who will, with the Lord multiplying, be born afterwards, to the Lord, just and a justifier of sinners, that everything might be governed and protected under the defence of His living name, and the monks established therein should bend the knee to Him alone, adore Him, invoke Him as their sole ruler, and that the serfs and tenants pertaining to it all should do the same. 

Moreover, I, a most unhappy man, beseech the mercy of God Almighty that He might grant to me that this same remain in His holy service and be ruled and governed under the protection of His name; and that after my death, in whatever way it please Him I should end my days, none of my heirs, whether son or daughter, if I have one, or any mortal, should presume to do anything because of what is written above. If anyone so presumes, let them know themselves traitors, and let them receive the judgement of damnation from the Lord for such presumption, with everyone looking on, and let them be delivered with Dathan and Abrion and as well with Judas the betrayer into the deepest inferno, and let all the curses which are contained in the Old and in the New Testament come upon them, because they, in present or in future, desire to twist these goods which are written above from God and His saints and the monks who desire to serve the Lord for the state of the world and the salvation of the living, unless they come to their senses and make amends and come to penitence and satisfaction. Let no-one now or in future attempt to do such things. 

And that this uncertain matter might obtain firmer vigour in times to come, I decided to confirm it below with my own hand, and let it be strengthened by the hands of other noble men.

Sign of Count Acfred, duke of Aquitaine, who asked this charter be made and affirmed. Sign of Viscount Robert [of Clermont]. Sign of Guy the listener. Sign of Viscount Dalmatius [I of Brioude]. Sign of Bertrand. Sign of Theotard. Sign of Matfred. Sign of Armand. Sign of Viscount William. Sign of Eustorgius. Sign of another Viscount William. Sign of Rigald. Sign of Hugh. Sign of Leotald. Sign of Erlebald, prior of the church of Saint-Julien de Brioude. Sign of Cunebert, dean of the same church. Warraco the priest was present. Sign of Gozbert.

Enacted on the 5th ides of October [11th October], at Sauxillanges, in the 5th year in which the unfaithful Franks dishonoured their king Charles [the Simple] and chose Ralph as their prince.

In Christ’s name, Ragenbert the priest, although unworthy, wrote this at Acfred’s command. 

1280px-Galeries_sud_et_ouest_de_l'ancien_monastère

There’s not a lot of Sauxillanges left, and it’s definitely not tenth-century. (source)

To start with, we need to comment on the diplomatic because this charter is not entirely kosher. The big list of properties there is a mid-tenth century estate survey document which has been bolted into the middle of the act, and its likely other parts of this charter were also touched up at a later date (Acfred being described as ‘duke of Aquitaine’ rather than ‘duke of the Aquitanians’ is a case in point.

This charter is yet another act where my analysis isn’t really going to add anything to Geoffrey Koziol’s, so I will simply summarize his arguments: Ralph and Odo had taken Cluny, the abbey of St Peter and St Paul, away from Acfred. Acfred, quite simply, refounded Sauxillanges without such extraneities, without celestial traitors, for God alone who, he hoped, would see the justice of his cause. (I might note that Acfred’s revenge was not simply going to be posthumous – he does still envisage the possibility of having children, so this isn’t quite a deathbed bequest.) With God on his side, and no-one else – no-one else was needed – the monks and dependents of Sauxillanges would prosper and so – please Lord? – would Acfred.

I would like, though, to make special note of the reference to Charles the Simple. William the Younger (insofar as we have his charters) didn’t do this, dating simply by Ralph. This is clearly something special Acfred picked out. (He clearly took the loss of Cluny personally.) Not that it would have helped Charles the Simple, though, not least because although I think Acfred plumped for this choice in a way William didn’t, the general sense is in the air. Even Ebalus Manzer of Poitiers, whom as we have seen was on generally good terms with Hugh the Great at the very least, was dating his charters by Charles’ reign at this point, and doing so in not terribly flattering terms towards the anti-Charles rebels. Even if Acfred had lived, therefore, Charles probably couldn’t have expected any help from him.

Acfred, though, died soon afterwards. The Guillelmid community in the Auvergne, as we have seen in a different context, persisted; but the Guillelmid family did not. Even worse (from Acfred’s point of view), charters for Sauxillanges continued to refer to it as the abbey of St John. Acfred’s rage against the dying light was, ultimately, futile.  

Charter a Week 47 – King Robert

Here we are. In June 922, Robert of Neustria had himself crowned king by Archbishop Walter of Sens. This was a drastic move, more drastic even than it sounds. Every previous would-be usurper of a throne – Boso of Provence in 879, the participants in the scramble for crowns of 888, Charles the Simple in 893 – all had greater or lesser claims to either be stepping into a vacuum or to have a plausible right to the crown. Robert had neither. His coronation came about purely because the situation between him and Charles had deteriorated so badly. It was a repudiation of Charles’ rule, in a way which had little direct precedent. What possessed him to do such a thing? Part of an answer might lie in his only surviving royal diploma:

DD RR no. 1 (25th January 923, Saint-Denis)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Robert, by God’s grace king.

Just as We are confident to gain the fullness of all goods and the highness of perfected dignity from the Lord in the present, and the palm of highest blessings in the future, thus We should with God’s assent do good for the advantage of God’s churches and servants.

Let it then remain known to the sagacity of all Our followers, to wit, the Frankish magnates, that through divine clemency, given the necessities of the situation, with the support of all the princes, We took up the sceptre of royal majesty to direct the realm’s governance.

And thus, having contemplated in the high citadel of memory the riches of divine goodness which were generously bestowed on Our unworthy self from childhood’s cradle, the distinguished offices of great honour with which We were promoted through each age of man, and Our increasing mental acuity, We think that Our Creator and Redeemer does not begrudge Us some small portion of worldly fortune. Quite the reverse: We consider that He decreed for Us the throne of royal dignity. Forewarned by His divine inspiration, We have decided not to shut up the treasury of heavenly opulence with the tight-fisted key of sterility like an ungrateful or avaricious usurer, but to pay out in a more illustrious fashion solely for the praise and glory of divine majesty.

Thus, having been adorned with the prerogative of royal dignity, by the custom of preceding kings, with the inspiration of divine clemency We have decided to be most kind and liberal not only to others generally, but especially to the places of the saints by whose patronage We are able to manage the present sceptre and by whose protection We might not experience the deserved weight of divine reproach but may instead securely scorn the fate of final damnation and deserve to reign in peace everlasting with Christ amongst the co-heirs of his glory.

Therefore, to be a reward for their work, We approve the conferral of some type of work of Our largess to the brothers of the monastery of Our special patron the supremely blessed Dionysius (under the wings of whose protection We have been exalted and have overcome so many perils thus far and, We are confident, have ascended to the peak of the realm), so that they might be more diligently free for divine service, and commend Our safety and that of the whole realm. Thus, We decreed that certain estates sites in Beauce, to wit Tivernon and Toury, and Rouvray with a church, and Garsenval and Poinville, with the bonded tenants pertaining to these estates, be bestowed entirely upon the same monks.

Therefore, We concede to the same brothers these estates in order that all renders be paid to them, because prebends always used to be provided to them by the abbot from the income, but now the income is insufficient because of the infestation of barbarians.

We also add other estates by these names: Asnières and La Nerville with all their appendages, specifically that Our memory might be in their prayers both in the present life and after death, and so that they might solemnly recall this anniversary day.

We bestow in their entirety the abbey of Liepvre, the estate of Bliderstroff and Cocheren; and We concede half of two estates, that is, Condé and Gernusta, and the other half for lighting Saint-Denis to carry out the solemnities of the first day of Our death; We separate our a third part of the wine from Reuilly for their use.

And thus, We desire to earn with this grant of Our royal largess the patronage of the sacred martyrs Dionysius, Rusticus, and Eleutherius, to whom We formerly committed all the trust of Our faith, so that We might be able to lay victorious hands* upon Our enemies and thereafter with God’s assent bring back with the triumph of victory the undefeated battle standards from their subjugation. Therefore, looking after the advantages of the brothers, We delegate the abovesaid for their uses by the authority of royal majesty, and We confirm them perpetually in everything.

But that this holy congregation might be able to exhort the mercy of the Lord and His saints more attentively for Us and Our son Hugh and all Our progeny and Our whole empire, and no violence from anyone, or the person of their own abbot or of any dignity whatsoever, might presume to subtract anything from this, We undersigned this Our authority and confirmation with Our own hand and We commanded it be sealed with Our signet.

Sign of the glorious king Robert.

Ragenard the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Abbo [of Soissons], bishop and high chancellor.

Given on the 8th kalends of February [25th January], in the 11th indiction, in the first year of the reign of the glorious King Robert.

Enacted at the monastery of Saint-Denis.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

*victrices dexteras inferre, literally ‘apply victorious right hands’, which I was very tempted to translate as ‘inflict a mighty smackdown upon’

Raoul roi de France.jpg

A fourteenth-century depiction of the Battle of Soissons (source)

Now, I’ve said before that this is one of my favourite charters, and it’s one of my favourite charters largely because of the work Geoffrey Koziol has done with it. I don’t agree with everything Koziol says in that article, but the core of it – Robert’s diploma is a powerful expression of his core principles and right to rule – is absolutely on the money. Robert, by now, was in his ‘60s (his father had died in 866, so the youngest he could possibly have been was 55) and facing an uncertain future. He therefore passed over the specifics of his rebellion – had Charles the Simple heard the line ‘given the necessities of the situation’ he might have complained with some legitimacy that Robert had created the situation largely by himself – and reached for eternity. Unlike Charles, Robert listened to the princes, not simply to his one favourite. Unlike the boy-king Charles, he was an experienced man who had been promoted in line with his experience. Now – as everyone must have been expecting for decades – he was taking the throne.

Incidentally, it’s never as far as I know been noted in the context of Robert’s rebellion, but the fact it’s in the early 920s is important. Charles the Simple spent most of his reign without a male heir, and Robert must have been the expected successor. In c. 920, though, Charles gave birth to a son, cutting Robert out of the loop. It’s probably not a coincidence a serious rebellion followed within a few years…

The other thing about this diploma, which Koziol brings out beautifully, is that Robert was not certain he was right. The diploma hopes and believes. And, as it turned out, it was wrong. On Sunday 15th June 923, Charles attacked and killed Robert near Soissons. It was the bloodiest battle between Franks in almost a century. What would happen next?

Charter A Week 45: Memory, Family, and Favourites

921 was a key year for Charles the Simple’s fortunes. Having brokered a compromise with Robert of Neustria the year before, the two men were engaged in sorting out their positions. One of the threads of this year, in my reading, is how hard either found it to get any kind of unequivocal support on side. Duke William the Younger of Aquitaine was hostile to both; Richard the Justiciar of Burgundy had recently died and his sons seem to have had very different political orientations (Hugh the Black, pro-Robert; Boso of Vitry, pro-Charles; Ralph of Burgundy, on the fence). Meanwhile, Charles began lavishing favour on men from his north-eastern heartlands, above all our old friend (?) Hagano.

In Easter 921, Charles issued this diploma for the abbey of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés:

D CtS no. 108 = ARTEM no. 2050 = D.Kar 6.XIII (22nd April 921, Compiègne)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by gracious favour of divine clemency king of the Franks.

We believe without doubt that the good and useful things which We carry out, at the suggestion of Our followers, for love of divine worship profit the realm of Our rule in its greatest increase, and that it benefits the blessing of Our salvation.

Therefore, let it be held known by the followers of the holy Church of God and Us, present and future, that the most reverend bishop Abbo [of Soissons] along with the venerable Count Hagano, and the reverend Abbot Rumald [of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés] endeavoured to make it known to Our Serenity how the abbey of Fossés, which is sited in the district of the Parisis, on the river Marne; and which is built in honour of the holy mother of God Mary and the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, where the aforesaid Abbot Rumald now presides, having previously been destroyed, was restored by kinsmen from the side of Our mother Adelaide, building it again, with a full restoration under the monastic order; and that they strengthened through the precepts of the kings Our predecessors – from Our great-grandfather Louis [the Pious] and Our grandfather Charles [the Bald], and other kings – whatever had been bestowed upon the same monastery in any increase of goods; and that Abbot Rumald, together with his congregation, asked that they wanted the same monastery to be held by Us in the same manner as prior kings by a renewal from Our precept. Whence they brought before our gaze the authority of Our lord and great-grandfather the augustus Louis, in which is contained how Bego, the great-grandfather of Our mother, had restored the monastery (which was nearly destroyed) to its original state under the norm of religion; and how he came and commended the abbey under that emperor’s tutelage and defence, with the abbot and monks and goods pertaining to it; and that this authority was reinforced by Our grandfather Charles and by their other successors.

Hence, We wish that the said abbot and the monks established under him, with all the goods beholden to the same monastery, should fully persist under the defence of Our immunity. Besides which, the monastery of Saint-Maur [of Glanfeuil] sited in the district on Anjou, on the river Loire, which was subjected to the abbey of Fossés by Our late brother Carloman [II] through a precept of his command that they should be one and governed under one abbot, We in like manner commend to persist.

Commanding, therefore, We order that no judge nor any judicial power should presume to require anything through distraint in any of the goods of the same monasteries from which anything is seen to be able to be exacted; rather, let everything which Our fisc can exact therefrom go to alms for the poor and stipends for the monks, and let both of the said abbeys, under one abbot, have the liberty of Our royal defence, without the military service from which We absolve the same places in every way.

Finally, when the aforesaid Abbot Rumald, by the command of divine calling, goes forth from this light, let the monks of these monasteries have license to elect an abbot from amongst themselves, unless it should so happen that there can be found therein one living in accordance with the Rule from amongst the kin of Our mother, who should always carry out the office of abbot therein.

We decree, then, by the word of Our authority and the writing of these letters, that everything written above should persist fixed and stable for all time, so that the aforesaid monks might be able without disturbance to exhort God’s clemency for Our salvation for all time – but especially, whilst We live, on the 5th kalends of February [28th January], on which day We were anointed as king, let them carry out Our memorial in their prayers; and after Our death, let them change these prayers to the anniversary day of Our death. Furthermore, let them mark the anniversary of Our former wife Frederuna on the 3rd ides of February [11th February], always adding to them as well the memory of Our kinsmen who built their place; and in addition, with all of Our offspring, let them have a continuous perseverance in prayer for Count Hagano, who is very faithful to Us.

That this authority might obtain firmness forever by industry of this sort, We command it be sealed with Our signet, confirming it with Our own hand.

Sign of the glorious king Charles.

Gozlin the notary of this royal edict witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Archbishop Roger [of Trier].

Given on the 10th kalends of May [22nd April], in the 8th indiction, in the 29th year of the reign of the glorious king Charles, in the 24th of his restoration of unity to the kingdom and the 10th of his acquisition of a larger inheritance.

Enacted, truly, in the palace of the royal seat of Compiègne.

Faithfully. Amen.

caw 43 921

The original of Charles’ diploma, from the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above.

In this act, issued at the height of Easter time, Charles is doing a number of things. Above all, he is establishing Fossés as a monastery dedicated to the memory of his kinsmen, and specifically his female kinsmen, in particular his mother Adelaide and wife Frederuna. By this point, the initial splurge of dedications memorialising Frederuna has abated, so this demand for a memorial service is targeted and calculated. He places both Fossés and the Loire valley abbey of Glanfeuil (which had been united for about forty years at this point) under his mother’s kin. He also, in a quasi-adoptive act, places Hagano’s memory alongside that of his own family.

Equally noticeable in this act are the intercessors, above all Bishop Abbo of Soissons. Abbo shows up a few times at the end of Charles’ reign as someone high in his confidence, but when it came down to it he sided with Charles’ enemies. It is interesting to wonder whether we are dealing with Charles trying to bribe someone of uncertain loyalties, or whether Abbo’s betrayal was unexpected…

It is also interesting to note that the abbeys Charles is dealing with are in Paris and Anjou. Anjou was a core area of Robert of Neustria’s support, and Paris was an increasingly important liminal area between Charles’ sphere of direct influence and Robert’s. It may be that this diploma was part of a set of provocations in this area, because the final blow-up was also set in this area: Charles confiscated the abbey of Chelles from Rothilde, the mother-in-law of Robert’s son Hugh the Great, and gave it to Hagano. By 922, Robert and Charles were in open war.

Charter a Week 44: Late Carolingian Absolutism

…so, I might be cheating again this week. For the second instalment in a row, we’re covering a charter I’m already in honest-to-goodness peer-reviewed print about; this time in the Journal of the Medieval Low Countries. This time, though, I’ve spoken less about it on the blog, so let’s start from the beginning.

Last week, we saw Charles and the prominent noble Gislebert of Lotharingia have a spectacular falling out. Gislebert raised the standards of rebellion, and one of the things he did at this time was to try and install a friendly bishop at Liège. The recently deceased bishop Stephen had been one of Charles’ most consistent supporters, and so there was a zero-sum game involved here. As for what happened, we have a remarkable and almost unique round letter from Charles explaining the events which have taken place, and why they are so bad:

MGH Conc. 6.1, no. 2 (920)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. The illustrious man Charles, by gracious favour of divine clemency king of the Franks, to all archbishops and bishops established in the realm committed to Us by God, peace and health from the same God eternal.

Cap I: Because We cannot possible enumerate the benefits of divine favour which We have known from Him from the cradle, therefore ‘shall my mouth speak the praise of the Lord and bless His holy name for ever and ever’ [Psalm 145:21]. Concerning the which, because (receiving Our just desserts) We have endured many adversities, We believe that this has been permitted to Us not to earn Our damnation but for the sake of reconciliation with Him, so that having been taught a lesson by His scourges We might learn to beware the perverse and obey His will in everything. As you know from many sources, some of Our followers deviated from the loyalty due to Us and tried to snatch from Us life and realm. They went to Our enemies and befriended them, and desired that they should give them the goods and bishoprics of Our realm. Leaving, therefore, many things unmentioned, We will make manifest to Your Sanctity of one of these men who poured into Our guts a serpent’s venom; that is, Hilduin, who acted against royal power and against the words of the Apostle, where it is said ‘Fear God, honour the king’ [1 Peter 2:17] and ‘whoever resists the authority resists against what God has instituted’ [Romans 13:2], ‘for there is no power except from God’ [Romans 13:1]; and against the words of David the harpist, who said to the Lord ‘You have set men over our heads’ [Psalm 66:12]. He crossed the Rhine to Our enemies, paying little heed to the oaths he had sworn to Us. Casting them over his shoulder, he asked for the bishopric of the church of Tongres [i.e. Liège] from Our enemy Henry [the Fowler, the East Frankish king], and usurped it to his own damnation against every statute both of the holy Fathers and of the kings, that is, Our ancestors. This is what the book of royal capitularies says concerning such matters: ‘If anyone should presume to a dignity he does not merit from a prince or just lord, he has committed sacrilege’. The blessed Gregory says ‘Just as he who refuses the invitation and flees the summons should be brought to the sacred altars, he who seeks office voluntarily and ruthlessly thrusts themselves forward should certainly be repelled. For what will he who struggles to reach a higher position do except diminish it by his gain? Why does he not consider that this blessing will become a curse for him who is promoted in such a way that he becomes a heretic?’

Cap. 2: When certain pestiferous men, as We said above, strayed from Our fidelity, We assembled 16 bishops and archbishops of Our realm, and no small number of magnates, margraves, counts and grandees, so that by their counsel, authority and virtue, We might resist such madness. It was found that new cankers should be severed and healed with new cures: by episcopal authority and the ordinance of the sacred canons, they should be driven from the company and consort of Christians. Hilduin united himself with their presumption and abominable tyranny, and gave Henry and his magnates many pounds of gold and silver. He not only knowingly joined in with them, but also, using the treasures of the church of Liège which he, instinct with the Devil, had snatched away and plundered, acted with threats and terrors to have himself consecrated as bishop by Hermann, archbishop of the city of Cologne, through the violence of Henry and his followers. Indeed, if Hermann had refused – as the venerable archbishop told Us later in the presence of many people – he would have taken his life and the goods of his church, butchered all its dependents and laid waste their goods. And so he consecrated him without the authority of legitimate precedents, as he himself has hitherto testified, but only because he was compelled by great terrors and dire cruelties. Concerning this, it is found in the Council of Nicaea: ‘If any clergyman is discovered to have communicated with an excommunicate, let him be deprived of communion like a rule-breaker. This is widely known from many councils and royal capitularies concerning excommunicates.

Cap. 3: Hilduin also invaded, pillaged and stole the goods of the aforesaid bishopric in Our realm at will, against the statue of Pope Anacletus, in which it is said: ‘St. Anacletus, who was ordained a priest by Peter the apostle, and was later made his successor as bishop of the see of Rome, with all the world’s priests, judged: “Whoever steals anything from their father or mother has committed murder. Our father is certainly God; our mother is the Church, who renews us in baptism. Therefore, whoever snatches away, steals, or defrauds the properties of Christ and the Church is a murderer, and will be regarded as a murderer in the sight of the Just Judge. He who snatches away the property of his neighbour is iniquitous; he who steals the property or goods of the Church has committed sacrilege, and should be judged as a sacrilege”’. 

Cap. 4: Finally, with insatiable greed, Hilduin carried off the treasures of the church of Liège and the palace of Aachen, which had been placed in a strong-box next to the body of the blessed martyr Lambert – he stole them from the Church and gave them to Our enemies, that is, his accomplices. Concerning this, the sacred canons decree that: ‘If anyone is found to have sold or stolen anything from the ministers of the Church, he has committed sacrilege. Let him not be kept in an ecclesiastical order.’ ‘Further concerning this matter, the blessed Augustine says in his 37th homily on the Gospel of John: “Behold, Judas is among the saints; behold, Judas is a thief; and lest you think little of this, this thief has committed sacrilege, for he has not stolen from just anywhere but from the Lord’s sacred treasures”. And a little later: “Whosoever should rob or defraud the Church of anything, let him be compared to Judas the traitor”.’  

Cap. 5: He gave these treasures of the Church to bishops and counts and accomplices for his ordination, not having before him the statutes of the Council of Africa, in which it is orders that no-one should be ordained for money, saying: ‘If any bishop pays money to obtain the dignity, let him be deposed and totally expelled, just as Simon Magus was expelled by Peter’; and in the Council of Chalcedon: ‘If any bishop, priest or deacon should to obtain the grace of the Holy Spirit for money, he will be in peril of losing his rank. Let this ordination or promotion, made for money, profit him naught, but let him be anathematized.

Cap. 6: The said Hilduin, to cap his damnation, came before the venerable Herman and swore an abominable oath on sacred relics: that I, Charles, gave him the bishopric of Liège; and he compelled some clerics and laymen to swear it as well. Various testimonies of holy writings prove that this is absurd and detestable.  

Cap. 7: Although called three times to a synod by lord bishop Hermann, so that he might, if he had just cause, respond to these things of which he was accused; or if he could not, be struck with the barb of the canons. Hilduin, because he put off coming, incurred the sentence of Pope Boniface, who said this: ‘He who does not want to come to refute what is said against him proves it to be true. And lest anyone doubt that the guilty flee judgement in this way, an innocent man seeks how he can be absolved.’ And a little later: ‘Whoever thinks themselves able to avoid judgement through delay confesses to everything’. Also: ‘If he wishes to be present in person, let him respond to the charges, if he is sure. If he neglects to be present, let him not win postponement of his sentence through his absence’.  

Cap. 8: All the clerics and laymen of the aforesaid church approached Our Sublimity, making it known to Us in mournful voices that Hilduin and his robbers had laid waste their property and taken away all their supplies and household goods. Nothing remained to them, even so much as to live off. They added in their prayers that this, by your counsel, lest they be exposed to further looting and plundering, it might be done that We should give them Richer to be ordained as pontiff, whom they had all elected. We beseech you pontiffs concerning everything which has been written in these chapters: for God and the due fidelity which you promised to Us, help as much as your strength allows in preventing Our honour from decreasing further in this matter and stabilising the state of the holy Church of God.

siegel_heinrich_i_posse

Image: the seal of Henry the Fowler (source)

The first thing to note about this letter is the emergence of a new figure in our cast of characters. In 918, the East Frankish king Conrad I had died. Conrad was a beleaguered figure who had already been beaten by Charles in their war over Lotharingia, and it seems that the threat he posed to Charles after that was minimal. Conrad’s successor Henry, though, was a different question: his position was more secure, and he appears to have been looking for ways to aggrandise himself at West Frankish expense. We will see him, and his descendants, ultimately achieve that over the course of the next sixty or so years.

In this case, though, he’s starting small, by helping Gislebert get his man in to Liège. Precisely what happened in these events has been confused because Hilduin claimed – and he was backed up by the usually reliable historian Flodoard – that Charles actually did appoint him before changing his mind. Now, Hilduin has an obvious motive for lying here; and, as it happens, so does Flodoard, who really doesn’t like Charles. Given this, I’d normally be inclined to dismiss the claim completely, except for the fact that Charles’ denial here is so weak. If he had a better case, I’d expect it to come with more force; maybe that’s just from dealing with Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims recently, who never met a weak case that prolixity couldn’t buttress. On balance, I still think the source tend towards Hilduin rather than Charles being the liar, but it’s not an open-and-shut case.

Whatever the actualities, we can see Charles responding to this particular problem in his time-honoured manner: calling an assembly and getting the appearance of consensus. In this case, though, that is paired with a remarkable emphasis on the inviolable nature of his royal authority. In fact, Charles’ stress on his own authority is not the most extreme version of this stance we have from this dispute: letters from the pope of the time are even more forthcoming about his absolute right to appoint a bishop. (Something, incidentally, noticed hundreds of years later during the Investiture Controversy when a writer from Liège used this example in his tract against papal power.) It’s a sign of how royal power had changed from the mid-ninth century by the time of Charles the Simple: the balance of authority had slowly changed in favour of kings, both relative to bishops and to aristocrats. However, all this garnish comes in a letter which is about how all these ostensible norms have been broken. There’s a kind of dissonance – Charles’ position is crystallised in the troubles, but it’s a position which might make solving the troubles themselves difficult. Charles’ royal authority might have been strong, but it was also brittle.  

Charter a Week 43: A Question of Perspective

This Charter A Week is going to be shorter than usual, for the simple reason that I’ve already written a whole article about the diplomas we’re going to be looking at. Still, they’re some of my favourite charters, it’s a fascinating case, and if you’re reading the article it might be useful to have some translations to hand.

Some background: by 919, Charles’ rule in Lotharingia is starting to look shaky. In 916, Charles’ most important Lotharingian ally Reginar Long-Neck died. His son Gislebert initially seems to have taken over some, although perhaps not all, of his fathers honores. However, within a few years things had gone downhill, and Gislebert was in open rebellion. This seems to have been his problem – we can see from evidence dating to shortly after Reginar’s death that Gislebert was in an honoured place at Charles’ court, but he seems to have wanted more. Gislebert’s rebellion was countered by Charles, who began to favour Gislebert’s enemies. Above all, in terms of our sources, Charles intervened in a long-running dispute over the abbey of Sint-Servaas in Maastricht. Sint-Servaas had been granted to Reginar by King Zwentibald, but in 898 Zwentibald regranted it to Archbishop Ratbod of Trier. When Charles became king, he gave it back to Reginar, but now…

DD CtS no. 100 (13th June 919, Herstal)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by gracious favour of divine clemency king of the Franks.

We are taught by divine teaching and admonished by royal majesty that We should provide for the places of the saints under solid protection, and if any are worn down by anyone’s depravity, We should cause them to return to their pristine state.

Therefore, let the industry of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, that is, present and future, know that Roger, archbishop of the church of Trier, a venerable man and very faithful to Us, often approached Our Highness in lamentation, saying that the abbey of Sint-Servaas, which is built in Maastricht, in the count of Maasgau, which King Arnulf gave to the church of Trier committed to him through his precept, had already previouslybeen unjustly stolen from the aforesaid church of Trier by the violence of Count Reginar [Long-Neck] and his son Gislebert [of Lotharingia]. Therefore, sending his claim to Our court, by the judgement of the scabini of Our palace, by the testimony of all Our followers, We restored that abbey to St Peter, in whose honour the church of Trier is built, and to the aforementioned bishop, in such a way that he and his successor might hold and possess that abbey in perpetuity without contradiction from any person in its entirety, and have free power to do anything they might decree to do with it for the profit of themselves and their church.

And that this notice might be believed to be fixed and held more firmly by those present and in future time, We commanded it to be strengthened by the seal of Our palace.

These are the names of those who bestowed the aforesaid judgement: that is, the bishops Wigeric [of Metz], Dado [of Verdun], Robert [of Noyon], Abbo [of Soissons], Stephen [of Liège or of Cambrai]; and counts Matfred [of Metz], Sigard [of Liège], Otho [of Verdun], Fulbert [Charles’ standard-bearer], Christian, Erchengar [of Boulogne], Isembard, Hunger, Egfrid [of Artois], Ermenfred [of Amiens], Walter, another Walter; and the scabini Bildulf, Ragenard, Adalbert, Sigebert, Witter, Adelard, Gotbert, Bernacer, Ragembald, Fulmar, Roric, Otter, Enguerrand, Betto, Ingelbert, Bivin, Eilbert, Isuard.

Ratbod the notary wrote and subscribed this notice at the command of lord king Charles.

Given on the ides of June [13th June], in the 7th indiction, in the 27th year of the reign of King Charles, the 22nd of his restoration of unity to the kingdom, and the 7th of his acquisition of a larger inheritance.

Enacted at the palace of Herstal.

Charles’ diploma for the Church of Trier (image from LBA Marburg, whose website is set up so I can’t link to the specific document, but which can be found here)

We can see in this diploma a lot of the rhetorical themes that Carolingian kings generally, and Charles in particular, like to sound when they’re doing something controversial, notably that of consensus. Geoffrey Koziol wrote a really good article arguing that the introduction of witness lists into the diplomas of Robert the Pious was an expression of a commitment to being seen to take the opinions of his magnates into account. It is therefore noticeable here that the really long list of men involved in making the judgement in to all intents and purposes a witness list, evidence of Charles going ‘Look! It’s not just me, it’s all these key magnates in my kingdom too!’

This is doubly significant because we actually have another diploma about exactly the same issue:

DD CtS no. 103 (9th July 919, Thionville)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by largess of divine mercy king of the Franks.

If We freely lend Our ears to the petitions of servants of God for love of divine worship, We honourably follow the custom of kings and We truly believe that We will secure the prize of eternal life because of this.

Wherefore, let the industry of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, that is, present and future, discover that the venerable Archbishop Robert of the church of Trier approached the height of Our Serenity, complaining that the late King Arnulf, at the request of Ratbod, previously archbishop of the aforesaid church, had entrusted to the holy apostle Peter at the cathedral of Trier a certain abbey which is built on the river Meuse in the place named Maastricht, where the body of the most holy confessor of Christ Servatius rests, and had endeavoured to confirm it with a precept of his sanction; but, divers misfortunes intruded and the former Count Reginar had violently taken the same abbey away from the power of the same see. Later, at the said Ratbod’s reclamation before King Zwentibald, he was compelled to restore it to St Peter. However, once Zwentibald had been killed, it was again invaded by Reginar, and after him by his son Gislebert with equal violence, who has until now refused to restore it.

Knowing his petition to be salubrious, with the consent of Our bishops and by the judgement of Our counts and of their followers, We commanded the aforesaid abbey in Maastricht, sited on the river Meuse, in the county of Hesbaye, be restored to the aforesaid archbishop in Our sight and in the presence of Our princes themselves, for love of God, in such a way that once it has been restored by Us to St Peter and the uses of the holy church of Trier, from now and henceforth no-one should be able to take it away or divide it hereafter. Rather, let Archbishop Roger and his successors have and hold the oft-said abbey by the defence of Our Piety, with the estates, churches, bondsmen of both sexes and all things justly pertaining thereto, and the exactions from the same goods, and let them rule and dispose everything pertaining to it in pursuit of their advantage, as the authorities of previous kings make clear.

Therefore, We strengthened this restoration of the abbey by a precept of Our authority for Archbishop Roger and his church with Our own hand, and We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Gozlin the notary witnessed on behalf of Archbishop and Archchancellor Roger.

Given on the 7th ides of July [9th July], in the 7th indiction, in the 24th year of the reign of the famous king Charles, the 23rd of his restoration of unity to the kingdom, and the 8th of his acquisition of a larger inheritance.

Enacted in Thionville.   

This diploma was redacted not by the circles around the king, but by the Church of Trier. It’s therefore really noticeable that the ‘consensus’ note is heavily underplayed, but the ‘screw you Gislebert’ note has come to the forefront. (The same is true of the diploma they wrote for King Zwentibald, incidentally.) Whereas Charles wants to emphasise to his magnates that he’s behaving entirely legitimately and with their consent, Archbishop Roger of Trier apparently just wants to emphasise that he and his predecessors were right and Gislebert and his father Reginar were wrong. It’s probably issued for Trier home consumption, as opposed to the Herstal diploma which would likely have reached a larger audience. In any case, though, these fractures in Charles’ base aren’t a good sign going forward…

Charter a Week 42: The Defence of the Realm

When I’ve spoken before about the foundation of Normandy, I’ve referred to the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, made in 911. The problem is that this date, whilst traditional, is less secure than it looks. The only person who actually puts a date on the agreement made between Charles the Simple and Rollo is Dudo of Saint-Quentin, whose chronology is dreadful. For instance, he puts Rollo’s arrival in the West Frankish kingdom in 876, a date cherry-picked from his written sources with no internal logic behind it. 911, in Dudo’s work, was clearly picked because that was the date of the battle of Chartres, and whilst we know from other sources that an agreement was reached soon after that, it could have been up to several years later. (One historian, in fact, has argued that the foundation of Normandy happened several decades before, in the 880s; but her arguments have not generally found any traction because they’re very reliant on internal chronological indicators within Dudo’s writings which aren’t themselves trustworthy.)

What that means is that the earliest reference we have to the existence of Rollonid Rouen is in fact this:

DD CtS no. 92 (14th March 918, Compiègne) = ARTEM no. 2049 = DK 6.xxi

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by gracious favour of divine clemency king of the Franks.

Because God Almighty, Who is King of Kings, by His gift worthily placed Our Clemency over both His realm and His people, it therefore behoves Us not only to preside over, but truly rather to profit holy churches, and especially the downfallen, in whom the bodies of the saints lie beaten by pagan savagery, lacking until now due veneration.

Wherefore let the skill of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, as well present as future, ascertain that the venerable margrave Robert [of Neustria], the counsel of Our realm and a helper to Us, and also abbot of the monastery of the holy martyr Vincent and the outstanding pontiff of Paris Germanus, approaching Our Sublimity with Count Heribert [II of Vermandois] and the extraordinary Bishop Abbo [of Soissons], advised that both for the veneration of holy remains, to wit, of Archbishop Audoënus and as well of the blessed confessors Leutfred and his brother Agofred, and also moreover for Our salvation and that of the whole realm, the abbey which is named Croix-Saint-Ouen should be conceded to the monks of the aforesaid confessor Germanus, so that from now and in future, the limbs of the aforesaid saints, which have for a long time gone without the divine office, might be reverently received by the same abbey-dwellers and be honoured, having been set beside the blessed limbs of Germanus.

Assenting to their worthy petitions, to wit, those of Our followers, We donated and subjected that abbey, whose head is in the district of Madrie, on the river Auture, to Saint-Germain and its monks, to constantly [serve] their mensa, except the part of that abbey which We granted to the Seine Norse, that is, to Rollo and his comrades, for the defence of the realm.

Therefore, We decreed the goods of the aforesaid abbey, with all estates, lands cultivated and uncultivated, vineyards, meadows, woods, waters and watercourses, mills, with bondsmen and cottars, and with all other dependencies therein, except the Northmen’s portion, be given and subdued and confirmed for the food, clothing, and also other uses of the congregation of Saint-Germain, so that each year, on the 4th ides of February[10th February], they might markthe anniversary of Our most beloved spouse Frederuna with vigils and offerings of masses, and celebrate the day of Our unction, the 5th kalends of February[28th January], the feast of Saint Agnes, with a great feast; and after Our death, let this be changed and the help of prayers and feasts be on the day of Our passing.

And We commanded this Our royal precept be made concerning the authority of this cession, through which We decree and command that none of the faithful of the holy Church of God, present and future, or the abbot of that abbey, should try to cause a disturbance or resistance or inflict prejudice or violence concerning the abovewritten goods. Rather, the same congregation should be permitted to securely and perpetually possess and enjoy the same goods in their entirety, inviolably, without any calumny or contradiction, without any subtraction or diminution.

Therefore, that this precept of Our authority might firmly obtain the vigour of continuation and be truly believed through the course of years to come, confirming it below with Our own hand, We commanded it be signed by Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

 

Gozlin the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Archbishop and High Chancellor Heriveus [of Rheims].

 

Given on the 2nd ides of March (14th March), in the 6th indiction, in the 26th year of the reign of the glorious king Charles, the 21st of his restoration of unity to the kingdom, and the 6th of his acquisition of a larger inheritance.

 

Enacted at the palace of Compiègne.

Happily in the name of God, amen. 

Charles’ act, which survives in the original, from the Diplomata Karolinorum (source).

The abbey of Croix-Saint-Ouen, in the village now called Croix-Saint-Leufroy, is somewhat to the north-east of Évreux, which is an interesting place for a dividing line to be drawn by itself. We know from Flodoard’s account that Rouen was always the home-base of the Seine Norse, but the boundaries of their power are somewhat vague. To the north-east, the river Bresle seems to have been generally acknowledged as a border. To the south-east, the river Epte was the border in place by the turn of the millennium, although there are hints in our sources that the original border was rather further north, at the river Andelle. To the west of the Seine, though, things get a lot murkier. Évreux itself, for instance, seems by the 930s to have been under the control of a band of Northmen with only a loose affiliation to Rouen. (Further west, as we saw in previous weeks, Bayeux was under the control of Botho, who despite Dudo’s efforts to make a Viking chieftain was probably a Frankish count.)

Given the liminal position of Évreux, it is notable that taking possession of Croix-Saint-Ouen implants the Robertian abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés right in the middle of this zone of loose control. One thing I’ve always wondered about is what the phrase ‘for the defence of the realm’, pro tutela regni, is actually supposed to attach to. It’s normally taken as referring to the grant of lands to Rollo; but If the part about Rollo is an extended sub-clause, it could refer to the grant of lands to Saint-Germain. If the former, Charles is commenting on his ‘poachers to gamekeepers’ strategy of setting Rollo to defend against other Vikings; if the latter, it’s a comment on how the king doesn’t trust his new Northman subordinate.

You see who he does trust, though; or, at least, who he wants to make damn sure everyone else knows he trusts? Robert of Neustria. The dramatic set of epithets Robert is given in this diploma is about as high as he ever gets. At this point, his influence stretches from Nantes to Flanders, and he’s easily the most powerful man in the realm besides Charles himself. Some measure of his power here can be seen in the other count making the request alongside him: Heribert II of Vermandois, his son-in-law. Older historians will tell you that Heribert was in charge of the Vexin, but there’s little enough evidence for that. His presence here seems instead to be due to his role as a Robertian protégé being shown onto the royal stage for the first time. In fact, he’s very well-placed to take advantage of both Charles and Robert, as the latter’s in-law and the son of the former’s most prominent lay support back at the start of his reign.

As we leave 918 behind us, take a deep breath. This is going to be the last peaceful year for a very, very long time…

Charter a Week 41: The Mourning is the Twilight

The last time we checked in on Charles the Simple, it was way back when he gained control of Lotharingia in 911. There’s a few reasons for that, but ultimately it boils down to the fact that although there were a few royal diplomas I considered translating in previous entries, mostly the interesting things happening have been elsewhere. And that’s perfectly to be expected. The early 910s were a relatively calm time for internal West Frankish politics: no Vikings, internal problems in Aquitaine largely dealt with, a victorious war against the East Frankish king for the incorrigibly belligerent. In comparison with what was to come, the Belle Epoque of Charles the Simple’s reign seems positively prelapsarian.

Of course, it’s been a while since we checked in on Charles the Simple, we haven’t seen Queen Frederuna since she got married. It’s hard to tell because of how reliant we are on the charter record, but she doesn’t seem to have been particularly politically significant. Now, there are methodological concerns here. One of the unspoken reasons, I think, that Frederuna is dismissed is that she doesn’t have the presence in Charles’ diplomas which Ottonian queens will have in later tenth-century royal diplomas. However, Charles wasn’t an Ottonian ruler: he was placed directly in a ninth-century Carolingian tradition. Whilst it’s far from unheard of for Carolingian queens to show up in their husbands’ charters, it’s nowhere near as common – virtually everything we think we know about the power of, say, Charles the Bald’s second wife Richildis, for instance, comes from narrative rather than documentary sources. Still, the thing about absence of evidence not being evidence of absence is that you still don’t have any evidence, which is why it’s a sudden surprise when this happens: 

DD CtS no. 87 (14th February 917, Rheims)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by gracious favour of divine clemency king of the Franks.

We wish it to be known to all men, to wit, present and future, that the late queen Frederuna, my dearest wife, for love of God Almighty and veneration of St Remigius, the apostle of the Franks, before whose most holy relics she was anointed as queen by consecration and benediction of oil, gave to the monks actively soldiering for God in that place, for their mensa [portion of the abbey’s resources], for the remedy of her soul, whatever she was seen to have in the dominion of her control, while life yet ruled her body’s frame, to wit, from the dowry of Our royal marriage: that is, Corbeny, in the county of Laon, except the little cell which is named in honour of the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, and where the body of the confessor of Christ Marculf rests, and which the aforesaid coenobites as a body conceded to me in my lifetime for a rate of 10 solidi to be paid each year.

She also gave them one church in Craonne, strenuously asking Our Munificence that I might give it to the aforesaid monks in accordance with legal custom and make a precept of Our authority for them, so that they might be able to hold it more securely through times to come without resistance or indeeddisturbance from anyone; and importuning Us to leave it to her nephew, named Ernust, in his lifetime, to wit, on the condition that each year on the anniversary of her death, he should pay one pound of silver to the brothers’ mensa in vestiture. After his death, finally, let the same brothers receive it presently, without resistance from any of her kinsmen, with all its dependencies, for the banqueting tables.

Beneficently favouring her freely-made petition in every aspect, as was fair, by the Lord’s largess We executed in every which way what she had asked and her heart desired.

If in future there should be anyone, therefore, which We little believe shall come to pass, who might endeavour to frustrate this gift and endeavour to damage the aforesaid brothers, or rather steal it from them, just as she invoked with complete singlemindedness the Judge of the quick and the dead, let him incur His wrath, and be anathema maranatha before the tribunal of the same Judge.

And that this precept of Our authority might be held more firmly and believed more truly and observed more attentively, confirming it below with Our own hand, We ordered it to be signed by Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Gozlin, notary of royal dignity, witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Archbishop and High Chancellor Heriveus [of Rheims].

Enacted on the 16th kalends of March [14th February], in the 5th indiction, in the 25th year of the reign of Charles, most glorious of kings, in the 20th of his restoration of unity to the kingdom, in the 6th of his acquisition of a larger inheritance.

Enacted at the monastery of Saint-Remi.

Happily in the name of God, amen. 

West Façade of Basilique Saint-Rémi, Reims 140306 1.jpg
The basilica of Saint-Remi in Rheims as it is today (source).

You knew it was coming. Charles’ reaction to Frederuna’s death is something I’ve covered before on this blog. This diploma is one of several dealing with her pious benefactions – from the surviving charters, sorting out Frederuna’s last wishes seems to have taken up a very large portion of Charles’ 917. For now, I’m not so interested in their content – the most interesting thing about this particular donation is that it shows an interest in the relics of St Remigius and their connection with Frankish royalty which has up to this point been unusual (although watch this space for what’s going to happen in about thirty years’ time) – as in using them as a sign of where the kingdom is heading.

My hunch is that losing Frederuna was a real blow to Charles’ state of mind. Obviously I can’t prove that; but I do think he did not handle his grief well. He does seem to have reached out to people who had been close to Frederuna – Bishop Bovo of Châlons, her brother, appears more frequently in royal acts from this point, for instance. The most significant, however, was a man who Charles promoted up the ranks from the lower nobility, a man whom Charles would eventually lose his kingdom over: Hagano. There has been a lot of speculation as to why Hagano was so dear to Charles that the king would stake so much on him; and certainly there are more-or-less plausible arguments about the principle that a king should get to choose his own councillors. However, if you’re asking why this man specifically became the focus for arguments like that, I think it boils down to what Hagano ultimately offered Charles: a shoulder to cry on.