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 Triera 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.

Charter a Week 39: Big Synods and Big Problems

Since we last checked in with William the Pious, duke of Aquitaine, things have not gone well for him. A bunch of his important allies – including the archbishop of Bourges – have died, and Charles the Simple and Robert of Neustria are breathing down his neck in the north. Meanwhile, Charles the Simple was consolidating his control of Lotharingia, Rudolf I of Transjurane Burgundy had died (in 912), and Hugh of Arles is looking pointedly at the Italian throne. This is the context for one of the most frustratingly fascinating sets of documents to have come out of the early tenth century. In 915, a murderer’s row of bishops set up a council at the church of Saint-Marcel-lès-Chalon, and transacted the following business:

Cartulaire de Saint-Vincent de Mâcon, no. 144 (915)

When in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ the venerable archbishop lord Auster was residing in the suburb of the city of Chalon, in the church of Saint-Marcel the martyr, with a college of archbishops and bishops (that is, with Ardrad, venerable bishop of the same town; Gerald of Mâcon; Archbishop Aimoin of Besançon; Archbishop Agius of Narbonne; Bishop Elisachar of Bellay; Odilard of Maurienne), that is, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 915, in the 3rd indiction, and they were canonically settling no few matters therein for the rights andconcerning the state and advantage of the church, a certain priest named Bererius approached their presence, making a complaint that a certain priest named Ivo had usurped a certain estate named Lente, in the parish of Saint-Clément which Bererius held, against ecclesiastical right. The pontiffs, looking with diligent inquiry into his complaint, decreed that the said estate of Lente should revert to its former holder, that is, to the mother church of Saint-Clément, i.e. from the public road which begins at the Saône, which flows to Fredeco’s Hate before it goes across to the road which goes to the spring at Le Bioux; concerning which matter the aforesaid bishops commanded this writing of testimony, which they call a ‘restoration document’, be made in this wise, such that in future the church of Saint-Clément should endure no calumny concerning its parish. And that it might be held more firmly, they undersigned it with their own names.

So far, so clear. Things get wonkier with the next one:

Sixteenth-century text, from Paradin’s book (source)

G. Paradin, Histoire de Lyon, II.xxvi (915)

“Raculf, count of Mâcon, wishing to take his part of the spoils,had occupied the goods of the church of Saint-Clément of Mâcon, assured of the favour of King Carloman [sic], on whose behalf he was an échevin in the duchy of Burgundy. And this belief was justified, knowing the service which his father Bernard had done for King Carloman in recovering the city of Mâcon, knowing King Boso, who had been chased out of it thanks to his said father. The bishop of Mâcon, named Gerald, seeing himself lesser in credit and favour, did not know what better thing he could do than to take himself to Auster, archbishop of Lyon, his metropolitan, to whom he complained of the wrong which Raculf, count of Mâcon, had done to him. Then Archbishop Auster brought up with the king the affair of the bishop; he, unwilling to sadden Raculf nor to favour him in his wrongdoing, ordained that the affair should be decided by a provincial council of bishops. They forthwith convened at the priory of Saint-Marcel, outside the town of Chalon, and present there were Auster, metropolitan archbishop of Lyon, who presided; Archbishop Aimoin of Besançon; Archbishop Agius of Narbonne; Bishop Elisachar of Bellay; Odilard of Maurienne; Ardrad of Chalon; and Gerald of Mâcon. It was demonstrated to them, through Auster’s own words, that those who in earlier times had stolen the goods of the Temple of God has been visibly punished with strange punishments, like Antiochus, Heliodorus, Nicanor, Shoshenq, and others; and that the kings were the protectors of churches, not meaning that lords should undertake to take them and enrich themselves from the goods which had been donated by their predecessors for the support of ministers of churches and of the poor. It was quite possible to recognise this from the benefactions of the great emperor Charlemagne, of Louis the Pious, Charles the Bald, Louis the Stammerer, father of the present kings; therefore he was of the opinion that Count Raculf should restore to the church of Mâcon everything which he had occupied there. After this remonstrance, the assembly of bishops made a decree by which the count was condemned to restore the goods he occupied, directly or indirectly, to the church of Mâcon. He did this, as much out of fear of the excommunication which was appended to the decree, as through that which he saw was not advised by the king in this detention…”

So, to start with there are problems of preservation here. The first charter is from the cartulary of Saint-Vincent de Mâcon, and is thus less problematic (although there has clearly been some corruption – the name given above as ‘Archbishop Agius of Narbonne’ is actually gibberish in the text itself). The second section of text here, as you can see in the image, is actually an Early Modern French paraphrase made by a Humanist named Guillaume Paradin in the late sixteenth century. It’s not clear precisely what he was basing it on, either, although odds are good it’s a synodal document of some sort.

His notes, though, were clearly not very good. For one thing, this document evidently does not come from the reign of Carloman II; and the count in question is equally evidently not Raculf of Mâcon. For one thing, the reference to Bernard is clearly to Bernard Plantevelue, who captured Mâcon from Boso of Provence back in 880. For another, Raculf was almost certainly dead by this point. What seems to be happening is that Paradin has mixed up his notes somewhere, and confused Charles the Simple for Carloman II and Raculf for William the Pious.

In terms of content, the first thing to notice is that this is a big, big synod. We have no fewer than three archbishops, and they come from no fewer than three kingdoms. This is the first way in which these documents are frustrating – a trans-regnal synod like this must have been a hub for politics across the Frankish world, but we don’t even know enough about the background to suggest what they might have been talking about. In an Aquitanian context, though, we can make some suggestions. For one thing, the presence of Agius of Narbonne is significant – Agius’ predecessor Arnulf had been murdered in 913, in a chain of events which remain murky but which William was bound up in. Notably, it was in the aftermath of Arnulf’s murder that Viscount Alberic of Narbonne fled to Mâcon – where he married Raculf’s daughter. Bishop Gerald of Mâcon – the beneficiary of the council’s decision in the second document – was not particularly close to William. We may therefore be seeing here an attempt to retrench William’s authority in Mâcon at a time when the duke was weak, putting Alberic in place and dealing with the fallout from events in Narbonne. In this case, perhaps Bishop Gerald was using his position in the region to leverage some advantage for his church off William. However, this document is so fragmentary and so frustrating – the role of the king makes sense in terms of the reign of Carloman II but not of Charles the Simple in the 910s – that we end up scratching our heads. If only Paradin had transcribed the original document!  

Name in Print VI

As a nice cap to my frantic end-September deadline drive (ends this evening, hurrah!), today I found this in my office pigeonhole:

img_20190927_111901-1
Yaaay!

This, as you can see, is the new volume of The Mediaeval Journal, and I am in it. You may remember that a while back, I came runner-up in their essay competition, and now the article has seen the light of day as ‘Kingship and Consent in the Reign of Charles the Simple: The Case of Sint-Servaas (919)’, The Mediaeval Journal 7.2 (2019), pp. 1-22. I’m proud of this one – anyone who’s met me (or indeed read this blog) will know that I am an unashamed Charles the Simple fanboy, and whereas my last article about him unavoidably focussed on his failures, this one aims to put down one particular historiographical myth, that of Charles’ absolutism. In wider terms, it’s about the shades of royal ideology and the use of charters to convey ideology, so if any of this strikes your fancy, please do have a look!

It is unfortunately not freely available online, but if you can’t get hold of the journal I have a PDF I’d be happy to send you – if you don’t have my contact details, you can find them under the ‘About’ page on the right-hand side of the blog.

The gritty details: My word, do you know it’s been five years since this thing first saw the light of day?! That was as a conference paper back in 2014, which then became my IMC paper in 2015. It then got written up for the Mediaeval Journal Essay Prize when I moved to Brussels in 2016, the results of which you know already. This came with a cash prize (and I’d already been asked if I wanted to publish a previous entry with them which was only short-listed) so I waited to hear about publication, given they’d already given me some money for it*. I then waited some more, until several months later I asked if they wanted to publish it, to which the answer was thankfully ‘yes’. Reviewer reports wanted a few minor revisions, which I submitted by year-end 2017. Then it was another waiting game, in large part because the previous issue of the journal was taken up with a special issue, but final proofs were off by year-end 2018 and now, nine months later, it’s out!

*For non-academics, this is unusual and only because this was a prize – we don’t get paid for articles.

Charter A Week 35: Acquiring A Larger Inheritance

911 was a busy year. In that year, traditionally, Charles finally came to an agreement with the Viking leader Rollo, officially handing over to him the city of Rouen and the neighbouring districts. This was to go on to have long-term implications, but what everyone at the time was probably more concerned about was the other big event: the death of King Louis the Child.

Louis’ death came at an unstable time in his own reign. Evidence is short, but it appears that the magnates of Lotharingia had risen up in rebellion against him, and this was still ongoing when he died. The question was open: who would be king now? The new East Frankish ruler, Conrad, made a game effort, but the eventual winner was Charles the Simple.

This gain tends to be massively under-rated by historians. Charles gained and held control of Lotharingia. No West Frankish ruler had successfully done this ever. Charles the Bald had tried and failed; but Charles the Simple, in the face of active opposition, managed to defeat a military rival and build a functioning coalition of governance in his new realm.

How’d he do it? Well, this is the kind of thing it involved:

DD CtS no. 68 (20th December 911, Cruzy-le-Châtel) = ARTEM no. 356 = DK 7.xxvi

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

As often as We make reasonable provision for the advantages of churches and the convenience of those who serve God, We are totally confident that this can benefit Us both in the salvation of both body and soul, and as well the stability of the whole realm bestowed on and conserved for Us by God.

As such, We wish the vigour of all of Our followers, not only present but also future, to know that the venerable man bishop Stephen of the holy church of Cambrai, approaching Our Magnificence, indicated to Us that the clerics of his said see held certain goods of the same bishopric consigned to their victuals, concerning which they had also once held a royal precept by the largess of King Zwentibald. But, when the same city burned down, the precept was also consumed by the hungry flames.

On the business of this matter, therefore, he humbly supplicated Our Piety that We might by Our munificence make good the loss of the old edict, which We in turn quite freely agreed to do for love of God and the brothers serving God therein, and We commanded that this authority should be renewed to them and for them for their protection. We therefore order and proclaim that the aforesaid clerics of the church may freely and at will concede amongst one another their houses which they have in the city to whomever they wish within the congregation of the same place, by no less than hereditary right, whether through sale and purchase or through exchange or simply through a gift.

Furthermore, let both the current clerics and their future successors in the same place now and henceforth in perpetuity hold and possess the monastery’s territory which is outside the town, and equally the villas consigned to their uses, to wit, in the district of Cambrésis, Carnières, Viesly, Cateau, Montigny, Gouzeaucourt, Gondrechies; plus Onnaing in the county of Hainaut; Thorigny in Vermandois, Carseuil in the Soissonnais as well, together with bondsmen of both sexes, with lands cultivated and uncultivated, meadows, waters and watercourses, mills, fields, and everything pertaining the brothers’ aforesaid goods, having power as if by hereditary right to do with them whatever they justly choose by common decree through unanimous consent.

If, though, someone hostile to this Our decree (which We little imagine) might strive to inflict any injury no matter how little, let them be judged culpable of a 600 shilling fine, in such a way that two parts of it should fall to the brothers of the same place, and the king’s fisc should receive the third; and in addition let them be unable to vindicate what they have iniquitously struggled towards, so that no-one might presume to usurp anything of this sort again.

And that the authority of this edict might perennially obtain inescapable vigour, We strengthened it with Our own hand, and We commanded it be adorned with the worth embellishment of Our ring.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Hugh, notary of royal dignity, underwrote and subscribed this on behalf of Archbishop Heriveus.

Given on the 13th kalends of January [20th December], in the 14th indiction, in the 19th year of the reign of the most glorious king Charles, in the 14th year of his renewal of the kingdom’s unity, and in the 1st year of his taking-up of a larger inheritance.

Enacted at the villa of Cruzy-le-Châtel.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

CW 35 911
The original diploma, taken from the Diplomata Karolinorum as given above. 

There’s a big burst of diplomatic activity in 911 and 912, and the recipients are from quite a wide spectrum of grandees. This is Bishop Stephen of Cambrai, but there are also acts for the major lay magnate Reginar Long-Neck, Bishop Drogo of Toul, Bishop Stephen of Liège, Count Ricuin of Verdun, and Count Berengar of Lommegau. The major absence here is Archbishop Ratbod of Trier, who doesn’t appear in Charles’ entourage until 913; but this is a fairly long list of Lotharingia’s great and good.

Some of them, like Reginar Long-Neck and Stephen of Liège, Charles had close prior contacts with. Others, like Stephen of Cambrai, appear to have been quickly brought into Charles’ circles with rewards such as this confirmation diploma. Charles distributed access to his presence fairly evenly over Lotharingia, and this reaped rewards.

Not the least of Charles’ rewards was getting to call himself king in Lotharingia (although not king of Lotharingia), and we can see in this charter that there has been a quite important shift in his diplomatic. There are a couple of elements here I’d like to pick out. The first is that he has assumed the title of vir illustris, an old Roman senatorial title. Charles probably wasn’t claiming specific continuity with Rome so much as with his Carolingian and Merovingian ancestors. Tenth-century figures knew that vir illustris was an important rank and an old one. With that said, Charles dropped it fairly quickly, and it was ‘king of the Franks’, rex Francorum, which persisted. This was also explicitly backwards looking. As we’ve seen, until now kings in royal diplomas have tended to be simply entitled rex, king. Now, by hearkening back to the earlier Frankish rulers, Charles was (probably, this is disputed) trying to assert his overlordship over the whole Frankish world.

The absence of evidence for the 910s is a pain. Make no mistake, after the acquisition of Lotharingia, Charles probably was the most powerful man in the Frankish world, by quite a large margin. His two competitors, Berengar I of Italy and Conrad I of Germany, ruled territories racked by civil war and Saracen and Magyar invasions. Having beaten out his rivals and settled the Norman problem in the West, Charles was at the height of his power; and it’s a shame we can’t see how that worked in his relations with his neighbours.

Charter A Week 34: Saint-Julien de Brioude, and Who’s King, Again?

Here’s a fun one! Last time we saw William the Pious it was seventeen years ago, and there was nothing particularly surprising about the diplomatic. Now, however, things have changed, and so…

Cartulaire de Brioude no. 51 (12th May 910)

In the name of God on High. William, by grace of God duke and margrave of the Aquitanians.

If We lend the ears of Our Serenity to the just petitions of loyal men, We tender the commerce of Our largess and beneficence.

And thus, We wish to make it known to all those administering the care of the holy Church of God, both present and future, and as well Our successors, and all Our followers, that Our faithful priest, named Erlebald, came and humbly sought that We might exchange with him certain lands from the domain of Saint-Julien de Brioude pertaining to Erlebald’s own benefice.

We did not refuse this, having consulted Our followers, that is, Heraclius and Stephen and Prior Eldefred and Dean Nectard and the other canons of the same place.

And thus, We gave the aforesaid Erlebald in right of property one field next to the township of Brioude from the goods of Saint-Julien formerly pertaining to his benefice, which are bordered on the upper and lower sides by land of Saint-Julien, on the other two sides by streets. Within these borders, We exchanged the said field in right of property, that he might have, hold and possess it and in everything do whatever he wishes.

In recompense for this give, We received from Erlebald’s own allod for the part of Saint-Julien four fields in that area. One of these is bordered on two sides by comital land, on the third side by the land of Saint-Jean, and on the fourth by public streets. Another field is bordered on three sides by land of Saint-Julien,  and on the fourth by public streets. The third field is bordered on two sides by public streets, on the third by comital land, and on the fourth by land of Saint-Julien. The fourth field is bounded on three sides by comital land, and on the fourth by a public street.

Within these aforesaid brothers, We received these fields from Erlebald’s allod for the part of Saint-Julien, that the ruler of Saint-Julien might from this day forth hold them and do in everything whatever he wishes, as Erlebald may do with that which We exchanged with him.

So that this exchange, which now seems very useful and pleasing to both sides, might endure for all time firm and stable, I confirmed it below with my own hand and I wanted it to be signed by the hands of other men.

I, Erlebald, recalled this charter made by me. Witnessing were Heraclius, Stephen, Robert, Abbo.

Enacted on the fourth ides of May [12th May], in the twelfth year of the reign of King Charles [the Simple], prince of the Franks and Aquitanians.

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A twelfth-century fresco from Saint-Julien. (source)

This is a royal diploma. Well, it’s not quite, but it’s pretty close. (In fact, it’s got some close intertexual links to a diploma of Odo for Clermont Cathedral.) It’s a fairly direct parallel to the acts of King Alan the Great of Brittany, really – quasi-royal, in a fairly exact sense.

This is a fairly exalted status claim for an aristocrat to be making. What’s going on? Well, partly Aquitaine does have more experience than much of the rest of the kingdom of quasi-royal rulers. For a big chunk of the ninth century, Aquitaine was ruled by sub-kings, kings who weren’t “proper” kings, or kings in the fullest sense of the word. William must be pulling on that tradition here.

On the other hand, it’s also much more pointed. Evidence is, as you can probably imagine by now, slim; but it looks like Charles the Simple is making a major effort at this time to push his influence in Berry. A charter of 912 refers to the abbot of Saint-Sulpice in Bourges as having been appointed by royal largess, and in the foundation charter for the abbey of Cluny (which was issued in the same year as this one for Brioude), William explicitly excluded the king from interfering with the abbey. It looks as though Charles was pushing his way into northern Aquitaine successfully enough that William was bringing out the big ideological guns to remind his followers that he, not Charles, was the person you had to go to in the region…