Peripheral Violence: Kalyvas and the Carolingians

There’s a reasonably large faction of early medieval historians who are somewhat suspicious of theory, a trait which is particularly pronounced at Cambridge. Given this background,my instinct is to be sceptical about applying elegant theoretical models to messy historical reality. On the other hand, I am also a historian specialising in a field that has a shortage of sources. Such a situation encourages omnivorous scholarship, fed by a diet of whatever evidence or ideas you can get your teeth into. As a consequence, early medievalists are magpies by nature, pilfering from archaeology, geography, anthropology and a whole range of other subjects for anything that looks useful/shiny. This post is about one particular shiny object I acquired some years ago which I still find valuable.

Subjects of the Carolingians took part on both sides of many of the conflicts that involved the Frankish empire in the ninth century. Given that civil war was a Carolingian pastime rivalled only by the growing of silly moustaches, this shouldn’t surprise us too much, but it also features regularly in conflicts with outside powers. Powerful Frankish figures from the frontier supported invasions from Muslim Spain on multiple occasions. When Prince Svatopluk I of the Moravians invaded Bavaria in 882, he was accompanied by Count Aribo, whose job it was to stop these sorts of things. Clearly leading Frankish aristocrats had choices to make about whose side they were on when war broke out.

In trying to understand what is going on here, I’ve found useful food for thought in the work of the political scientist Stathis Kalyvas, and in particular his book, The Logic of Violence in Civil War (2006). Kalyvas is interested in modern civil wars, particularly the Greek Civil War of 1943-1949. He argues that the apparently mindless violence that often characterised such conflicts is actually highly (if monstrously) rational based on the logic of the situation combatants find themselves. There’s a lot going on in this book, which uses examples from a wide number of wars since the French Revolution. The theme of strategic uses of violence is explored in a number of different ways. The passages that most caught my attention were the ones which discussed the way local actors were drawn into the wider war on either side.

Soldiers from the Greek Civil War. Conclusions as to how Carolingian warfare would have changed had Charlemagne had an artillery battery will have to remain speculative until my time machine is ready.

For Kalyvas, one of the problems in the way that wars are studied is the assumption that central elites dictate politics and the local population on the peripheries more or less go along with it, fighting for the causes of different ideological movements or powerful factions as a monolith. In reality of course this is very far from the case, as Kalyvas observes ‘more often than not that populations (including ethnic groups) are internally divided into competing families, clans, localities, or other factions (p.11)’. He argues that these local divisions were often more salient for people than conflict on a state level. The outbreak of civil war is important for such groups because:

‘individuals and local communities involved in the war tend to take advantage of the prevailing situation to settle private and local conflicts whose relation to the grand causes of the war or the goals of the belligerents is often tenuous. (p.365)’

Local actors can use the disruption of the broader war to remove enemies and achieve power in their vicinity, provided they legitimise their violence by using the appropriate terminology which makes them combatants on one side of the national conflict. The groups being attacked in this way will then often ally with the other side of the civil war on the time and tested doctrine of ‘my enemy’s enemy’. These alliances allow actors at the centre to expand their power in the periphery by allying with local groups who are already present in those regions. In turn, actors in the locality get muscle and sanction from the centre.

Kalyvas’ case studies are all civil wars from the modern world, which should make us hesitant about applying his conclusions to wars involving external polities in the Carolingian era. Nonetheless, I find his ideas intriguing because they help me with thinking about some of the ninth-century conflicts I’m interested in. A surprising number of wars or almost-wars in the period were triggered by local conflicts which then expanded. The Umayyad invasion of 829 was invited by a number of frontier lords on the Spanish March who were frustrated at the accumulation of power and honours by Bernard of Septimania, led by Willemund, whose family’s position in the March had been undermined by Bernard’s. The Wilhelminer war I mentioned in a recent post on atrocities (because I like picking cheerful topics to write about), was kicked off when one family group attacked Count Aribo because they wanted his title. Aribo called in Svatopluk of Moravia to help him, the Wilhelminer turned to Arnulf of Carinthia, and before you know it everything starts looking a bit Europe 1914. Most notably, in both of these conflicts, key figures or families can be observed changing side shortly afterwards as their local circumstances changed. Bernard’s own son, William, would ally with al-Andalus in order to wage war on the March following the execution of his father by Charles the Bald. In 893, a member of the Wilhelminer family was executed for corresponding with Svatopluk.

Apart from not being pure civil wars, these conflicts differ from the ones Kalyvas describes in that the local violence happens before, and causes, the bigger violence between state actors. The Carolingians wanted none of these wars, and I suspect that Svatopluk wasn’t entirely happy to get pulled into the mess either. That said, in both cases we can see the same pattern of local actors using their alliances with central governments to acquire the military strength and the legitimacy they need to prosecute their own feuds in the periphery. Those alliances existed because the Carolingians and their neighbours wanted to project influence in those border regions because they were worried about the potential for war with each other and needed to ensure that the frontier could be easily defended/invaded according to preference. They did this by cultivating leading figures in the area by giving them official titles or offering them protection. As a result, wider tensions between the Franks and the Umayyads or the Moravians created the conditions for the likes of Willemund or the Wilhelminer to settle scores.

Things I like about this approach:

1.     It gets us thinking about the impact of local politics on state-level conflict. Kalyvas tells us that if we want to understand the success or failure of the national cause, we need to pay attention to pre-existing tensions on a smaller scale. People had their own concerns, which mattered to them as much as the fates of kings. These spheres of politics are motivated by different things, but are nonetheless inherently linked, so that both operate under the influence of the other.

2.     It also helps explain how apparently very distant causes could motivate and mobilise support far away from the centre of the action (you should totally risk your life and limb over whether my brother-in-law’s best friend gets to be king may or may not be the easiest sell otherwise).

3.     I find the awkward coalition of different groups needing each other’s support for purposes that aren’t the same but can be aligned a compelling model for understanding the otherwise very confusing conflicts I encounter in the sources.

Things that I don’t like:

1.     There’s a risk that actors at the centre start coming across as either total rubes who haven’t understood why they get the support they do or as cynics willing to go along with any crime so long as there is something in it for them. Coalition-building was at the core of most medieval politics. Monarchs and ministers who didn’t know exactly who their constituency was weren’t going to last very long. Nor were such rulers necessarily relaxed about the wholesale slaughter of their subjects. Part of the point of having a king was that they can act as an arbiter in conflicts, making sure that justice happened. Allowing one’s allies to settle scores certainly happened, but it had to be done carefully.

2.     The bigger problem here is that it makes it seem like local elites were never interested in state politics and had no political ideas beyond getting stuff and removing enemies. In this reading, only people at the royal court get to have actual values or a capacity to think on multiple levels. As work on the Crusades has shown, medieval elites generally genuinely believed the things they said and were willing to take part in causes that transcended their own immediate interests in the name of faith, nation, justice or loyalty. The Carolingian era is particularly interesting for the number of secular counts on the edge of the empire who seem to have been genuinely committed to the imperial project of reform, corresponding with intellectuals, collecting books and founding religious houses. The civil wars of the ninth century caused real emotional strain for Frankish nobles who believed in a united empire.

These possible problems indicate that we have to be cautious when using this model. Despite this, I think that there is a valuable insight here for how conflicts could spread from the centre to the periphery and vice versa via chains of alliances by linking up apparently unconnected disputes, which is why I have kept it in my collection of shiny items.

Charter a Week 57: North or South?

Bear with me here. I said last time that the mid-930s was a problematic time to be focussing on whilst running a series which looks at charters, and this week is a case in point. It doesn’t help that my plans for the 933 charter were completely ruined when writing up the commentary for my charter from a few weeks ago. You see, originally my choice for a 933 charter was a no-brainer. However, doing the reading around the charter of Bishop Godeschalk of Puy that I put in the 931 slot, it turns out that it is by no means clear that my 933 choice was actually from 933, and rather more likely that it wasn’t. I had a look at other options, but none of them were very inspiring. So, I thought, I don’t often get into the weeds of technical diplomatic here – why not look at this act’s problematic dating, and explain which this fairly dry discussion matters to our knowledge of the period?

D RR no. 21

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Ralph, by God’s grace pious, invincible and ever august king of the Franks and Aquitanians and Burgundians.

Since ‘there is no power but of God’, who (as is written) ‘doth establish kings upon their throne’, it thus follows entirely that those on high should humble themselves below His powerful hand and that the ministers of their realm ought to conduct themselves in accordance with His will.

Wherefore let it be known to all carrying out duties to the realm in time both present and future that I, solicitous to restore to wholeness the state of religion, decreed that the abbey of Tulle should be renewed in a Regular way of life, as once it was. It is sited in the district of Limousin, on the river Corrèze, built in honour, that is, of the most blessed lord Martin. In this place, by God’s largess, the ancient reverence is preserved to this day by new miracles.

By the prayers of the noble man Adhemar, who has until this point held that place, and also at the suggestion of Count Ebalus [Manzer], I commended the same place to a certain religious abbot named Aimo to restore a Regular way of life; and I made it subject to the abbey of Saint-Savin. However, because experience proved that this subjection was an obstacle to religion, wishing to take complete care of that same religion, by wiser counsel We decreed that, in accordance with ancient custom, it should be held under the protection – as opposed to the domination – of the king alone.

However, no-one may decide to do this against the laws of the realm. Seeing that the most excellent emperors are read to have changed their decrees whenever the situation made it necessary and – as the apostle adduces – ‘there is made of necessity a change in the law’, We therefore by the authority of this Our precept establish this monastery, with everything which now pertains to it or which might fall to it hereafter, should endure such that they might be subjected to the domination of no-one save only the holy Rule.

Furthermore, after the death of Our most faithful and beloved lord Odo [of Cluny], who succeeded the aforesaid venerable Aimo, and after Adacius, whom the same venerable Odo asked be ordained to supply a replacement for him, let them have permission in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict to elect from amongst themselves whomsoever they, through wiser counsel, choose.

And let neither king nor count nor bishop nor any other person presume to disturb their goods nor give them to anyone; and let no-one at all dare to dominate them. Let them receive after his death the whole part of the abbey which the aforesaid Adhemar, by the abbot’s consent, retained. When he dies, let whomsoever they communally wish have mundeburdum and legal oversight.

In addition, We concede the right of immunity and the reverence which now and previously has been divinely observed in that holy place, such that no-one should undertake to inflict any violence on either it or the goods pertaining to it. As for the rest, let both the abbot and the monks together – as if before the eyes of God – conserve a regular way of life.

But that this Our precept might persevere undiminished, We signed it in the name of the Creator on High with Our signet.

Sign of the most glorious king Ralph.

Godfrey the priest, on behalf of Bishop Ansegis [of Troyes], witnessed and subscribed.

Enacted at Anatiacus, on the ides of [most copies: September; one copy: December] [13th September/December], in the third indiction, in the 11th year of the reign of the most glorious King Ralph.

So, what’s the problem here? The problem is the fact that the elements of the diploma’s dating clause don’t add up. The third indiction (a Byzantine system – figuratively and literally – to do with Roman tax collection) ought to be 930; the 11th year of the reign of King Ralph ought to be 933. How do we tell which is which? There are a few methods. First, we might note that scribes tend (although by no means universally) to be more confident about the regnal year than the indiction. This would point us towards 933. Second, though, we might look to contextual elements. Take Abbot Aimo, for instance. Aimo is last attested at Tulle in May 931, and this again pushes us towards 933.

So far, it’s sounding like 933 is a pretty solid choice for a date. But wait! There’s one key element we have to talk about here, and that’s the place at which the act was issued, Anatiacus. The act’s editor, Dufour, plumped for Anizy-le-Château, roughly halfway between Soissons and Laon. However, Jean-Pierre Brunterc’h pointed out that Anizy’s Latin form is always something like Anisiacus – it’s always got that first i and a following s, not an a and a t. He pointed instead towards Ennezat, a centre for assemblies under the Guillelmid dukes and – crucially – a place whose Latin orthography fits Anatiacus notably better. The problem now is that by dint of his itinerary, Ralph cannot have been at Ennezat at any point in 933. However, as we’ve seen, thanks to the reference to Abbot Aimo, 930 is also out. Brunterc’h therefore proposes 931, a time when we know that Ralph was in the Auvergne and one which requires the scribes who wrote the later copies in which this act survives to have simply misplaced a minim, turning ‘the IXth year’ into the ‘XIth year’ (as well, perhaps, as the ‘IVth indiction’ into the ‘III indiction’), something known to have happened elsewhere.

That such changes to the no-longer-surviving original might have been made are indicated by other signs this charter has been tampered with. This is, for reasons we’ll discuss below, an unusual document anyway, which makes our job harder; but the sections in first person singular (‘I’) rather than first person plural (the royal ‘We’) are very suspicious to my mind, and may have been added later. (I doubt, though, that it was much later.) Similarly, the reference to miracles at Tulle strikes me as a later addition – we know from a letter of Odo of Cluny to the brothers at Saint-Martin of Tours that Tulle was experiencing a surge of miracles at this time, but as a former canon of Saint-Martin himself I don’t think any act in which Odo was so heavily involved would have made quite so much of them at Tulle. For these reasons, I think December 931 (as Brunterc’h suggests) is the most plausible date, although it’s far from conclusive.

Why does this matter? It matters because this act is crucial evidence for Ralph’s involvement with the Aquitanian elite, and that involvement looks very different depending on whether this diploma comes from Ennezat in 931 or Anizy in 933. I covered the Ennezat side in my previous installment of Charter A Week, so you can go there for the details; but the short version is that if it’s from there he appears as a regional peacemaker in the wake of the disturbances following the death of the last Guillelmid duke of Aquitaine Acfred. If it’s from Anizy, it’s a different story. In 933, Ralph’s attention was firmly focussed on attacking and defeating the persistent northern rebel Count Heribert II of Vermandois, in pursuit of which goal he besieged Château-Thierry and Ham. In this context, Adhemar and Ebalus Manzer are most likely north to provide Ralph with military support. This would be far from unprecedented – the most clear-cut example comes from the reign of Ralph’s successor Louis IV, where Ebalus’ son William Towhead is unambiguously attested doing just that for the new king – but in that case this diploma would be firm evidence that connections between the king and the Aquitanian magnates were less arms-length than often supposed.

Whether the act is from 931 or 933, though, one important thing remains unchanged. The unusual preamble and titulature Ralph is given here has usually – and in my view correctly – been taken to show the influence of Odo of Cluny on the drafting of the diploma. We’ve noted the importance of Odo to Ralph’s regime at this time in previous posts, but this is quite a dramatic departure for West Frankish diplomatic, and is an interesting view of a road ultimately not taken, where Cluniac  – or, better, Odonian – ideology became a crucial part of West Frankish kingship.

Charter A Week 46: Mothers and Sons

For several weeks now, we’ve been focussing on Charles the Simple and royal politics, but plenty of things were happening elsewhere in the realm, not least in Burgundy. In 921, Richard the Justiciar died, probably after ailing for at least half a decade (a 916 charter has his eldest son Ralph of Burgundy signing on his behalf). There are signs that Richard’s position in the last years of his life was not a secure as once it had been. Steven Robbie, whose thesis I love but who has a bad habit of overstating his case (even by my standards) in this regard, has a really cool picture of badly deteriorating relations between Richard’s family and the so-called Manassids, the family of Richard’s right-hand man Count Manasses the Old of Dijon. There is some evidence for this (such as a 918 charter where Bishop Walo of Autun condemns Manasses for seizing an estate of Autun’s church which Richard restored), but not as much as I would like. Meanwhile, the family was getting involved in conflicts outside its heartland: at some point around 920, Ralph teamed up with Robert of Neustria to snatch the city of Bourges away from William the Younger of Aquitaine.

So when, in 921, Richard died, Burgundy was ripe for a change. We have hints that not all was well amongst Richard’s sons, hints such as:

ARTEM 609 (c. 922)

Since worthy witness ought to be given to all just largesse, if only to protect from the fluctuations of worldly fortune, it is necessary that a largess of full devotion should be confirmed by the witness of writings such that the truth of reason is able to understand when it is brought before the gaze of the inquiring. On which account I, Adelaide, by disposition of heavenly piety formerly a countess and now by the gracious favour of the same mercy a handmaid of the Heavenly Emperor (and by a shining family of most brilliant sons enduring in the dignity of the earlier appellation), thinking of these and many other gifts of God’s benefactions granted to me, and with some of my time well-spent, desiring and believing to gain the prize of eternal repayment, decided at the advice and consent – indeed by the exhortation – of my beloved son the illustrious Count Hugh [the Black] – and moreover thinking the worthy thought that such a thing would most certainly benefit us in the gain of eternal rest – thought of the estate of Boyer, which is sited in the district of Chaunois, on the river Natouze, once legitimately given to the late martyr of Christ Vincent and to the uses of the canons by the largess of their own bishop the blessed Lupus, which was seen to be their patrimony by our forefathers, but which by the cunning of the malignant and blind cupidity is known to have been [taken] by lovers of this fallen world from ancient days, although the investiture of the nones and tithes remained.

Therefore I thought it worthy, at the counsel of my aforesaid son Hugh, that I should return the aforesaid estate of Boyer, which I obtained through a precept of royal majesty, with churches and manses, and bondsmen, and everything pertaining to it within and without, sought and to be sought, all adjacencies everywhere, to the stipends of the servants of God soldiering for God and St Vincent in the aforesaid mother church, for the remedy of the soul of my most beloved lord the duke and margrave Richard [the Justiciar], and also mine, and those of my sons, so that the intercession of the said soldier of Christ Vincent and the frequent prayers of his servants might beat at the ears of the Highest Piety in our aid, for which reason we might deserve to obtain eternal life happily by the grace of the Remunerator of All. Whence We commanded this charter of Our largess to be made. Solemnly we avert any bishop, or any person of whatever order or sex, from presuming to subtract it from the table of the same canons; but let the aforesaid brothers enjoy its stipends inviolably, with no impediment.

I also wish that from this estate, three of the better manses with their appendages and acreage and all the serfs’ renders, should constantly serve in looking after the wretched and the hospital of the same church, with their bondsmen, on the condition that in my lifetime they should hold the estate for my uses. For the moment, in vestiture, let the canons always receive the church of that jurisdiction, which is in honour of St Victor, with everything granted to it, and pay the renders in its alms.

If any prince or bishop, therefore, or any person, might presume to subtract or alienate or diminish this offering of Our devotion from the table or stipends of the aforesaid canons, for their presumption and to vindicate this charter of our restoration on the day of Judgement, we commended them to the terror and anathema of unspeakable revenge. In addition, I command and humbly pray my heirs that they might as far as they can support the aforesaid canons regard this my largess, for true life and the remedy of their souls. If the aforesaid brothers are unable to expel the wrongdoers, let my heirs receive it for their uses until they can restore it to the aforesaid congregation in line with my devotion.

And that this charter of our largess might in God’s name obtain a more secure firmness, I fully confirmed it with my own hand, and We commanded it to be strengthened under the hands of my sons and our followers, such that after my death the aforesaid brothers might and hold have this charter of our largess in its entirety.

Cathédrale de Chalon

Chalon cathedral as it looks today (source).

Hugh the Black was Ralph’s brother, and this isn’t the only charter of Adelaide immediately after Richard’s death feting him – another was issued for the church of Autun in 922, ‘at the exhortation of my beloved son the illustrious Hugh’, where Hugh signs before Ralph (and their other brother Boso) in the witness list. It is possible that what we are seeing here is a struggle for power within the family. Ralph had been pushed forward by Richard during his lifetime; but Hugh was backed by their mother, and Adelaide was making no secret of her favour for Hugh following Richard’s death. I don’t think that this was a violent struggle, but it may explain how the Bosonid family reacted to the ongoing West Frankish civil war.

Ralph of Burgundy – who was, by this point, Robert of Neustria’s son-in-law – went to negotiate with Robert, but nothing seems to have come of it, and Ralph did not lend active support to Robert’s campaign. By contrast, Hugh the Black did lead an army against Charles. He did not achieve very impressive results – he attacked a small raiding party and killed three of them – but he was nonetheless there with armed men at Robert’s side. I wonder if they might have been trying to secure their local position by Robert’s intervention. If so, Hugh gained Robert’s support in the short term, but it left him dangerously exposed if Robert’s position were to crumble. As for how that went – we will see next week…

A Time of Origins in Aquitaine: The Peace of God, Ducal Power, and the “Vita Amabilis”

So I recently had cause to be in Cambridge, and whilst catching up with the University Library there I discovered a fascinating new document which provides insight on Auvergnat history and the Peace of God, and I’d like to share it all with you. You see, I went back to Christian Lauranson-Rosaz’s L’Auvergne et ses marges. This is a very large book, and I’ve never read it cover-to-cover because in addition being very large it’s also quite blinkered and in a lot of ways a bit weird. But you can’t fault it for comprehensiveness, and so it was that I turned to the passage on early eleventh-century Auvergne and found reference to the Vita of St Amabilis of Riom.

1920px-riom_d27aprc3a8s_guillaume_revel_28vers_145029
A fifteenth-century image of Riom (source)

What does it say? The relevant portion of the text opens with a reference to a Bishop Stephen of Clermont, whom everyone loved. He was a great pastor, and he got everyone in Auvergne to swear an oath to him on holy relics. However, the Devil inspired them to leave the path of peace and they called on William, count of Poitiers and Aquitaine, who attacked Stephen and besieged Riom, although they couldn’t take it. Eventually, Stephen was able to overcome William despite his smaller forces and the count returned home empty-handed.

Now, Lauranson-Rosaz dates this text – as far as I can tell entirely arbitrarily – to the reign of Duke William the Great, around 1015-ish. But I read the excerpts in the footnotes and went ‘Count William of Poitiers fighting Bishop Stephen of Clermont in the Auvergne? That sounds familiar!’ and rushed off to Gallica to check the text. And it turns out if you read the Vita Amabilis, a) there’s no reason at all to put is in c. 1010, but b) there are hints that it is a tenth-century composition. First, the William in question is described as comes Pictavensium et Aquitanicum. By the eleventh century, the counts of Poitiers have been claiming to be dux Aquitanensium for several decades – the terminology is unusually consistent. But right in the 960s, at the very beginning of the dukes’ claims to be dukes, they’re a bit more fluid, and William Towhead is at one point comes ducatus Aquitanici, much closer to the version in the Vita. This is far from proof, but it is suggestive. Just as important is the other name the text gives, that of a cleric named Ragenfred. I was able to look through my charters, and as it happens there isn’t anyone named Ragenfred recorded in the early eleventh century, only in the late tenth. It could still be that this is an otherwise-unrecorded Ragenfred, of course, but personally I’m fairly confident that this is a text written in the 960s.

As a description of Auvergnat politics in the 950s, in addition to according quite well with the other sources, it sheds some extra light. First off, it raises a very exciting possibility about the earliest origins of what would become the Peace of God. Most historians see the Peace as reactive, a response to… well, something, it’s debated, but often social disruption or knightly violence. What the text seems to suggest though is that at its earliest point, swearing an oath to a bishop within a discourse of peace was itself an act of disruption. This makes sense to me – as we’ll see in a couple of weeks, I’m happy seeing the peace tradition, small-p and big-P, not as a pragmatic peacekeeping measure so much as a claim to local or regional authority, so the idea that it started as a hegemonic gesture by Stephen II fits that neatly. This is also probably what annoyed the Auvergnat magnates – as far as I know, taking general loyalty oaths is a royal thing, and Stephen may well have been perceived as a usurper, especially given how tied in he was to royal legitimacy. It’s a shame that we can’t fit it too closely with that 958 charter, because it would be nice to know how the ‘princes of the Auvergne rebelling against one another’ matched with this document’s chronology… (I suspect the 958 charter is after these events, which puts Stephen’s oath-taking in around 954, which is very interesting timing, as King Louis IV would have recently died… More to think on here.)

What it also shows is William Towhead taking advantage of Auvergnat dissension to try and increase his own power there. The counts of Poitou, as we’ve seen before, had no history in the Auvergne and no reason to intervene there – unless they were drawn in. In short, this text might also be an important insight into the origin of the wider hegemony of the dukes of Aquitaine in the early eleventh century as well as into the very beginnings of the Peace of God. Watch this space!

Source Translation: Charles the Bald’s Proclamation against a Traitor Archbishop

Today finds me en route to charming Aberdeen, where I’ll be taking part in the Bishops’ Identities, Careers and Networks conference (and as I write this I realise I’ve forgotten my little cartoon Lambert of Liège badge, which makes me very sad). However, lest you should fear that I would abandon you, dear readers, I have (for once) prepared something special for today: a translation of the Libellus contra Wenilonem. This text, usually thought to have been written for King Charles the Bald perhaps by Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims (whom this blog has encountered before, it being hard to avoid him when dealing with the Frankish episcopate) in 859. In 858, Charles’ persistent difficulties with the Neustrian part of his realm had come to a head, and a group of major nobles had invited Charles’ elder brother King Louis the German to become ruler in the West Frankish kingdom. Thanks in large part to his support from the West Frankish episcopate, Charles was able to beat off Louis and re-establish his rule.

There was one major exception to the general support Charles received from his bishops, and that was Archbishop Wanilo of Sens. Wanilo had crowned Charles, but switched sides to Louis and; well, let’s hear Charles’ side of the story:

[EDIT: Latin text here.]

The outline of lord king Charles’ case against Wanilo, archbishop of Sens, promulgated by his own hand before archbishops Remigius of Lyons, Herard of Tours, Wanilo of Rouen, and Ralph of Bourges, chosen as judges from amongst a holy synod of twelve provinces, held in the diocese of Toul, in the suburb of the same city which is called Savonnières, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 859, in the 7th indiction, on the 18th kalends of July [i.e. 14th June].

Chapter 1: Because, as Saint Gregory said and you know to be true from time immemorial, kings in the kingdom of the Franks come from one dynasty, by divine provision, my lord and father Emperor Louis of pious memory gave me, like my royal brothers, a part of the realm. In this part of the realm, the metropolitan archbishopric of Sens happened to be lacking a pastor; so, in accordance with the custom of my predecessors as king and with the consent of the holy bishops of that archbishopric, I gave it to Wanilo to govern – at that time, he was serving me as a cleric in my chapel. He commended himself to me after the fashion of free clerics, and swore an oath of fidelity, and I got all the bishops of my entourage to ordain him as archbishop in Sens.

Chapter 2: After that, there came to pass between my brothers and I the well-known settlement concerning the division of the realm, as a result of which I received a portion of the division to hold and govern, with mutual oaths on the parts of us and our followers, in the manner whereof the leading men of the whole realm had devised. Like the other bishops present, Wanilo swore to me and my brothers, with his own hand, to uphold in future this division between me and my brothers in future as, in essence, my supporter. Wanilo also confirmed the peace and agreement of mutual aid between me and my aforesaid brother Louis with an oath.

Chapter 3: After his election, by the will, consent and acclamation of the rest of the bishops and the other faithful of Our realm, in his diocese, at the city of Orléans, in the church of Sainte-Croix, Wanilo and other archbishops and bishops consecrated me as king in accordance with Church tradition, and anointed me to rule the kingdom with sacred chrism, and elevated me to the throne with a diadem and royal sceptre. As a result of this consecration, I ought not to have been overthrown or supplanted by anyone, at least not without a tribunal of and judgement by bishops, by whose ministry I was consecrated as king, who are called the ‘Thrones of God’, in whom God sits and through whom He declares His judgements; and to whose paternal reproofs and castigatory judgements I was prepared to submit myself and now submit myself to.

Chapter 4: Then, when sedition had begun to grow within Our realm thanks to impudent men, by the consent of Our bishops and other followers, we wrote a mutual agreement concerning how I, with the Lord’s help, intended to act towards them, and how Our same followers ought thereafter to bring me solace through help and counsel. At the estate of Bayel, Wanilo subscribed this document with his own hand, as you can now see.

Chapter 5: After that, when Our followers and I had, as you know, gone to fight the pagans [the Vikings] at the island of Oissel on land and sea, some defected from Us and fled. Wanilo, however, returned to his own see, saying he was too infirm to go to Oissel. But while We remained there, girded for battle although under strength, Our brother Louis, as you know, invaded Our realm from his own with hostile intent, accompanied by seditious men. Wanilo went to his assembly without my agreement and permission. He knew that he wanted to supplant me. No other bishop from Our realm did this.

Chapter 6: Moreover, when I, in the company of those faithful to God and me, marched against my aforesaid brother and my enemies and those with him, who plundered the Church and pillaged the realm, he sent no help, either in person or through the due assistance which my royal ancestors and I had been accustomed to have from the church committed to him, even though I sincerely asked this of him.

Chapter 7: I then had reason and need to retreat from my aforesaid brother at Brienne. My brother Louis returned to my kingdom for this reason: that he might steal my nephew [King Lothar II] from me and take my men from me and violently oppress my followers. Wanilo went to my aforesaid brother Louis with all the help he could muster, acting against me. With him were excommunicate and seditious men of this realm, concerning whose excommunication he had received letters from his fellow bishops. And Wanilo celebrated public masses for my brother and the seditious men who accompanied him, in my palace of Attigny, in the diocese and province of another archbishop who was loyal to Us, without the permission and consent of his fellow bishops, and for excommunicates and the accomplices of excommunicates. And it was in that council and by his counsel (as much as Lothar’s counsellors’) that my nephew Lothar was stolen from me through lies, and the consolation and help due from him and promised by an oath was taken from me.

Chapter 8: Wanilo was no less present amongst the counsellors of my aforesaid brother in dealings both public and private, with his special favourites and amongst the foremost of his entourage, along with, as We said, those excommunicated by episcopal judgement and condemned by the judgement of the realm. This was so that my oft-mentioned brother might gain and I might lose that part of the realm concerning which my same brother and Wanilo swore an oath to me, and in which Wanilo had consecrated me as king.

Chapter 9: Wanilo advised and discussed how the bishops who owed me sworn fidelity and ought to give me the counsel and help they had confirmed with their own hands might desert me and give their service and obedience to my brother Louis.

Chapter 10: He obtained from my brother Louis a precept concerning the abbey of Sainte-Colombe and goods and honours in my kingdom, and asked for letters to send to agents who could retake the same abbey, Heccard and Theodoric.

Chapter 11: In the same letters to the aforesaid agents, Wanilo procured my brother Louis’ order that they should have permission to take stones from the wall of the castle of Melun, which rightly belongs to royal power. This shows how he endeavoured to cherish and tried to support him amongst all the people of the realm bestowed on me by God.

Chapter 12: Wanilo was present in council and dealings with the aforesaid excommunicates, where it was considered how those men who were loyal to me and had promised me loyalty with an oath might willingly or unwillingly swear loyalty to my brother Louis and give him help, and how he could obtain my kingdom from me. And Wanilo was not only present in council, but he himself gave the same counsel to my brother Louis, against the loyalty which he had promised me by an oath.

Chapter 13: Wanilo, both in person and through his companions, to wit, the abovesaid excommunicates, got my brother Louis to give a vacant bishopric, to wit, that of the city of Bayeux, to his kinsman, my cleric Tortald, who had commended himself to me and sworn an oath of loyalty. He, acting unfaithfully towards me and against the loyalty he had promised me, accepted the same bishopric with the consent of my brother Louis.

Chapter 14: Finally, after God, through the assistance of my followers against my brother, had given me the strength to recover, I came to Wanilo’s city. He knew to come to me against my brother to recover my realm; and offered no help, either in person with the counsel he had promised and signed off on, or through the soldiers who are usually provided by the church committed to him.

Wanilo reconciled with Charles later in 859, although his name became a by-word for treachery in later generations. There are a few things that could be said about this, but in the name of space I’ll limit myself to just one, relating to Chapter 3. It’s been said that there was no theory of deposition in Carolingian times, but Charles’ statement that he could, in theory, have been removed as king by a council of bishops looks very much like one. It does look as though Charles is accepting the legitimacy of the very procedure whereby his father Louis the Pious was deposed in the 830s (although in that case the deposition didn’t stick). It’s also remarkably favourably to the Church – admittedly correcting the ruler and giving him admonition and guidance is very much a bishop’s role at this point; but I have trouble imagining this idea coming from the court of Charles the Simple whilst it was justifying itself in handing out bishoprics like Halloween candy. So I have a question for the audience, if anyone’s working on a later period: does this ever get cited?  I can imagine Gregory VII (as a bishop who claimed the right to depose rulers) enjoying this one, but does it ever actually come up?