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 51/2: A Sad, Angry Gesture of Defiance

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

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

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1280px-Galeries_sud_et_ouest_de_l'ancien_monastère

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

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

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

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

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

Charter A Week 51/1 – Dismembering Aquitaine

One disadvantage of the ‘Charter A Week’ format is that charters which are important but not prima facie interesting don’t usually make the cut. Last week is a case in point: there are  pair of related documents in the name of one Gerbald for the abbey of Cluny, which are by themselves not that interesting, but which reveal William the Younger, duke of Aquitaine, gathering his men – and Archbishop Anskeric of Lyon – about him as part of a rebellion he was launching against Ralph of Burgundy. One thing we didn’t cover when we looked at his first diploma is that the Aquitanians refused to play ball with Ralph for a while – that diploma was issued when he made a very carefully stage-managed visit to the Loire to receive William’s homage.

Part of the problem was that Ralph had been fighting William for years well before he became king. We know from various sources that Ralph and Robert of Neustria won and lost possession of Bourges several times in the years around 920. When Ralph became king, as I just said, this hostility carried over, with an extra dollop of ‘he’s really a usurper’ on top Thus, even after William submitted in 924, things were not well and warfare had broken out again by 926. Ralph led an army against Nevers, which was being held by William’s brother Acfred, and was intent on pressing further into Aquitaine until he had to turn and deal with rumours of an Hungarian invasion. The next year, though, William the Younger died.

His was not the only big-name death that year. Abbot Berno of Gigny, the first abbot of Cluny (amongst many other places) also died in 927. His will divided his abbeys between his nephew Guy and a rising star of the monastic world named Odo. Guy objected to the will and started muscling in on Odo’s position. Thanks to Odo’s papal connections, he was able to get a warning against Guy, but the pope’s response also put a burden of protection on King Ralph, pushing Odo and Ralph together.

Odo_Cluny-11

An eleventh-century image of Odo of Cluny. You know, for some reason I’d always imagined him clean-shaven. (source)

Thus the following:

D RR no. 12 (9th September 927, Briare)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Ralph, by God’s grace pacific, august and invincible king.

Because it is certain that “God is mighty but despith not any” [Job 36:5], and indeed “without Him there is no power” [Romans 13:1], thus it is also clear that He will examine the works of the mighty, and because of this We should take great care that, since by His dispensation We are able to either help or hurt, We should subject Our potential completely to His will in order that it might do what will increase His holy Church’s honour.

Wherefore, let it be known to everyone, both kings and persons of other dignities, that is, either present or future, that William [the Pious], that great and magnificent man of his time,built through the hand of Berno [of Gigny], a certain reverend abbot, a certain monastery named Cluny in honour of the leading men of Heaven, to wit, Peter and Paul, and made this same place free from all worldly dominion under a great and terrible abjuration, and subjugated it to the Apostolic See to be protected (and not to be dominated).

We, rejoicing in his work and favouring what he established, establish through this precept of Our authority that the place – in accordance with what he decreed through a testament – should be completely free and absolved from disturbance and domination both from kings and from all princes, or kinsmen of the same William, and indeed of all men; that is should remain in the monastic order and be administered in accordance with the tenor of the testament which he made thereof; that the inhabitants dwelling there under the order of the Rule might elect for themselves from amongst themselves an abbot in accordance with the rule of St Benedict after Odo, whom Abbot Berno left for them; that they should possess their common goods, either those which they have now or those which will be acquired in future, to wit, whether they be from Our liberality or from the largess of anyone else, without domination or contradiction from anyone; that they should pay no toll on market days; that no-one should distrain their men, free or servile, against their will; that they should have their indominical tithes for the hospice; that they should hold the allod which Gerbald gave to the aforesaid monastery, and they should similarly claim Blanot with its appendages in perpetual right; that no-one should accept any produce-fee from woods where they have a part and from assarts except them; that they should also possess the curtilage which is called La Frette (which the aforesaid Berno, taking from Gigny, freely turned over to Cluny – for it was through him, actually, that each place was founded) on the conditions which he established, with the allod of the late Samson, and the bondsmen and manse which were Larvin’s, with perennial dominion.

Naturally, in accordance with the earnest entreaty which the aforesaid William prayed for, We too, in Christ’s name, command and appeal to God that it should never be subjected to any mortal through any kind of agreement, but that they should be permitted to live in accordance with the tradition which they are seen to hold in Our days. If they turn away from it, then by God’s judgement let them be preserved for correction of their rule, and let no donation made to God and the saints ever be taken back.

But that this constitution of Our precept might perpetually endure unbroken, We undersign it with Our seal and We command Our leading men to undersign it.

Sign of King Ralph.

Ragenard witnessed on behalf of Bishop Abbo [of Soissons].

Enacted at the estate of Briare, in the twelfth indiction, on the fifth ides of September [9th September], in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation nine hundred and twenty seven, also in the fifth year of the reign of King Ralph.

This diploma is, first and foremost, targeted at Acfred. As Odo’s ally, Ralph had plausible deniability when it came to not exercising dominion over Cluny; Acfred did not, and this act makes a point of noting that as William’s kinsman he has no place at the abbey. Such a gesture is perforce more effective when it’s being issued by a king at the head of an army. At this point, Ralph was returning north from the Mâconnais proper, on his way to Berry where he would receive the submission of William the Pious’ old – if inconsistent – ally Ebbo of Déols. In one fell swoop, he had managed to detach both Berry and the Mâconnais from the Guillelmid family – a hefty chunk of land, and in the case of Mâcon a significant one, given how tightly embedded William the Pious had been there.

Of course, what you may well be thinking – especially given how many royal diplomas we’ve seen on this blog – is ‘what on Earth is happening with the diplomatic here?’ This is the first of a little series of diplomas written in a recognisably ‘Cluniac’ style. We’ve seen elsewhere that the question of Cluniac influence on kingship would become very vexed in the early eleventh century, but there is a case to be made that it was really the years around 930 when Cluny, or at least Abbot Odo (which is not quite the same thing), had the most influence on West Frankish kingship. The preamble to this diploma sets out a coherent, if brief, political theory which is both evidence for Odo’s attitudes to kingship and an explanation of his politics. A king needed to be the humblest of all, because he had the most potential to do either harm or good. Ralph, willing as king to prostrate himself before God (or, at least, to safeguard Odo’s interests, which was more-or-less the same thing), had legitimacy Acfred did not.

So what did Acfred think of this? For the first time in a while, this Charter a Week comes in two parts; and as further evidence of the increasing inapplicability of the name, we’ll see the second part next week.

Charter a Week 49 – Twilight in Vienne

It’s been almost a decade since we last checked in on Provence. In the middle of the 910s, it was already pretty weird – despite its ruler’s political failure in Italy and subsequent blinding, and, even more importantly, despite the fact that Louis the Blind did not (as far as we can tell) leave Vienne for the last twenty years of his life, it seems to have been a stable polity with Louis’ rule still proving effective. And then, in the mid-920s, it collapsed.

Quite why is a question up for debate. Our internal evidence from Provence consists, more or less, of a handful of royal diplomas – including this one:

D Prov 70 (c. 925)

In the name of God Eternal on high.

Louis, by grace of His favour emperor augustus.

We decree it be known to the industry of all the followers of the holy Church of God and Us, present and future, that Our famous son Count Charles [Constantine of Vienne] approached Our presence, entreating that We might command a precept be made for a man named Bonus, faithful and of one mind with Us and the most intimate obediencer of Our sacred palace, concerning a certain curtilage in Tressin which he bought off Levi the Jew, with fields and woods, and a vineyard held above it, which he exchange with the good Bonus from his inheritance in that estate.

Lending Our ears to his petition, We decreed this letters of Our Eminence be made, through which let the said Bonus and his wife Gertrude be able to obtain, rule and possess firmly and securely all the aforesaid goods in the estate of Tressin acquired by himself as property.

And that this authority of Our largess might obtain undisturbed firmness, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of the most serene augustus Louis.

Ubald the notary wrote this.

The abbey of Saint-André-le-Bas in Vienne, where Louis seems to have spent much of his time (source).

The two figures in this charter are the only men (other than the archbishop of Vienne) to appear in Louis’ diplomas from these years: Bonus the obsecundator (which I have translated as ‘obediencer’, but more on which below), and Louis’ son Charles Constantine. Charles’ role is slightly less murky: in the mid-920s he emerges as count of Vienne (itself not a common royal for king’s sons). Bonus, though, is a different question. It is possible that he was basically insignificant – all we know of him comes from three royal diplomas which ended up in the archives of Cluny, so his omnipresence at court may be an illusion caused by source preservation. However, his title of obsecundator is a strange one – as far as I know, it’s the only instance of this – and how it should be translated depends heavily on what you think his political role is.

There’s a chicken-and-egg question here: are Charles (and Bonus) big deals because everyone else abandoned Louis; or did Louis’ promotion of Charles (and Bonus) drive others away? If obsecundator could be translated as something like ‘disability support assistant’, the closeness to the king which the role would have given might produce the latter scenario, but there’s no other evidence for it. Frankly, either case is plausible.

Are there any other hints? Two things spring to mind. First, the deposition of Charles the Simple. West Frankish power up to the early 920s had been significant, and if Louis was in any way connected to it, this might have promoted his regime’s stability. Even more, Charles’ deposition made way for Ralph of Burgundy, a king who already had significant interests in southern Burgundy and northern Provence, and who in 924 met and spoke with Hugh of Arles, although to what effect we don’t know. Hugh of Arles is himself the second factor – in 926 he became king of Italy, and it might be that his departure hollowed out Louis’ regime. I’ve always had trouble with this idea, though, because Hugh had been looking towards Italy with interest for years; and also because Hugh’s bid to become king didn’t seriously take off until after Louis’ power seems to have collapsed. If I were going to attribute Louis’ mid-to-late 920s problems to any one factor, then, it would be the predatory interest of his cousin Ralph of Burgundy looming on the horizon; but really, I don’t know. Research remains ongoing!

A King in Nappies?

Whilst making revisions to an article, I’ve had to revisit a question which has been circulating, one way or another, since the nineteenth century: did Louis IV create a sub-kingdom in Burgundy for his son Charles in 953? As far as I know, this was first proposed by Auguste Bernard before being refuted by Ferdinand Lot; Lot’s view then held the field for decades until it was counterattacked by Carlrichard Brühl, and now historians are going in both directions.

So, first things first: why does this matter? Well, Brühl and Hlawitschka’s debate was over whether or not there was a ‘tenth-century principle of indivisibility’, which I find a rather abstract constitutionalist question. My interest is more direct: if Louis did try and endow Charles with a kingdom in Burgundy, this suggests that he was punching hard in the region, and it also explains why he made some really significant concessions to Hugh the Great in early 953. In fact, it suggests a paradigm shift in West Frankish politics which would have taken place in the mid-950s had matters not been scuppered by Louis’ early death.

The cases for and against are easy to lay out, not lease because the evidence consists entirely of two charters and their dating clauses:

CC 1.857: “I, Bernard, wrote and gave [this charter] on Thursday, in the month of October, in the first year of the reign of King Charles.”  

CC 1.875: “…Cluny, over which lord abbot Aimard (r. from 942, †965) presides… Rothard, levite and monk, wrote this on the 2nd March, a Thursday, at Cluny in public, in the reign of King Charles.”

When do these date from? The second is pretty clear: it must be between 942 and 965; based on the years where the 2nd March was a Thursday, 954 makes good sense. The first one needs a bit more context: it is a charter from one Engelard to his betrothed Neuthild, the contents of which were repeated, evidently at a later date, in another charter dated to “1st November, a Friday, in anno septanta of King Conrad [the Pacific of Transjurane Burgundy]”. Anno septanta, taken literally, should mean ‘in the seventieth year’, which is palpably ridiculous. If it means ‘in the seventh year’, then we’re dealing with some time in the late 940s (although we can’t be more exact than that); if ‘the seventeenth year’ then sometime in the mid-950s. (For what it’s worth, the 1st November was a Friday in 950 and then not again until 961; both Bernard and Brühl proposed emending it to a date that better suited their argument but there’s no reason to make this emendation.)

CC 1.875 in the original, with the dating clause underlined. Modified from source.

Of these two charters, the second is by far the most important, because 1) it still survives in the original, so we can probably rule out copyist error (which we can’t necessarily with the second, not least because it’s so loosely drafted anyway) and 2) because it can be fairly securely dated. So, we have a fairly unambiguous bit of evidence that a scribe in the Mâconnais in spring 954 thought that there was a ‘King Charles’ in the vicinity. For Brühl, this is enough to have Louis’ son Charles made into a full-fledged king over a Burgundian sub-kingdom.

So, what are the problems with this view? There are two main issues: one, the absence of evidence; and two, the inherent implausibility of the scenario. Let’s start with the second one, because it’s the weaker of the two (improbable things happen often), but it is still worth noting. Louis’ son Charles (the future Charles of Lotharingia) was born in summer 953, meaning that if he was a king, he was a king as an actual infant. Some sub-kings were constituted at very, very young ages, admittedly – Louis the Pious was all of three years old – but a literal baby seems a bit much.

The absence of evidence is a bit more substantial, enough to constitute evidence of absence. We have a substantial chronicler (Flodoard) and a couple of others (the Annals of Sainte-Colombe, the Annals of Fleury, the Annals of Nevers) who cover Burgundian affairs, and none of them give any kind of king-making ceremony the slightest bit of attention. Even more crucially, we have a whole load of other charters from 953 and 954, all of which are still dated by Louis’ reign – including, crucially, the notice of a court held by Count Leotald of Mâcon in October 953. We know from both Flodoard and diploma evidence that Leotald was one of Louis’ most consistent allies in southern Burgundy. Given, therefore, that he would have been both one of the people whom Louis most needed to bring on board to support any kind of subkingship and one of the most likely to support the king, the lack of any reference to Charles is significant.

So, then, we have one unambiguous bit of clearly contemporary evidence, but it’s tinny in the face of a deafening silence. Ultimately, I’m with Lot, not Brühl: it might still be possible that baby Charles got his brief kingdom, but Occam’s Razor says that Rothard is the outlier, not everyone else. Charles’ brief kingdom would have to wait several decades to fail… but that’s another story.

Charter A Week 37: Princely Power at Cluny

Another week, another trial. This time, we’re back in William the Pious’ Aquitaine, where the abbey of Cluny – by now up and running as such – is having trouble with one of its estates.

CC no. 1.192 (30th October 913, Ennezat)

A notice of how and in what manner Count William, by the law’s favour, acquired a certain estate named Ainé from Anscher.

Therefore, let everyone who will hear or read this know that the aforesaid duke, within the timeframe prescribed by the law, laid a case against the same Anscher, to wit, because he held the estate of Ainé contrary to right either civil or public. Neither inflicting any force nor (although he was a prince) exercising any power, he conceded to him a time and place so that he could legally defend himself, if he could.

When the case had been discussed thoroughly for a long time, and in the end brought in an orderly manner to a conclusion, since the same Anscher could show in his defence neither a testament nor proof of inheritance, he made restoration, and during a great assembly in the estate of Ennezat, on the 4th kalends of November [29th October], with everyone looking on, he returned the same estate and restored it to its legal possessor, that is, Count William.

Then he presently endeavoured to restore it to Cluny, which had previously owned it and to which it pertained through the testament which Abbess Ava made concerning the same to Cluny, and to Abbot Berno and the monks of Cluny, and he had them receive it to be possessed in perpetuity for the honour of God and the holy apostles Peter and Paul.

Count Roger [Rather of Nevers?], Wigo, Wichard, Humfred, Bego, Franco, Bernard, Geoffrey, Herbert, Madalbert, Acbert, Ginuis, Gerlico.

Enacted publicly at Ennezat, on the 3rd kalends of November [30th October].

I, Ado, wrote this on behalf of the chancellor, in the 16th year of the reign of King Charles [the Simple].

There are three small things I want to pick out here. First, this is one of the few documents from our period which indicate that there was such a thing as separately conceived princely power. With that said, and with all due respect to Karl-Ferdinand Werner, the principalis potestas envisioned here is not evidently some kind of sub-royal legal jurisdiction. The implication seems to be that William could, if he wanted, exercise untrammelled force in his own interests and there’s not really anything anyone could do about it. This is fair enough – it is more or less what we saw Hugh of Arles doing last week – but it’s not some special jurisdictional privilege.

Second, we have (as Barbara Rosenwein has pointed out) at least four overlapping claims to this land: Anscher’s, which on this occasion goes unrecognised although he definitely had land here; William, who is the ‘legal possessor’, and Cluny, who used to own (unde dudum fuerat) it and to whom it ‘pertained’, has two different kinds of claim. How this works out in practice I don’t know, but those of you who are interested in land tenure might find it interesting. That William possesses the land suggests that, despite Cluny’s famous foundation charter completely giving up any claims from William’s family to rule the place, it was being used as a kind of land-bank. (I have work on this coming down the pipeline fairly shortly, I hope.)

Third and finally, note that Ava gave Aine to Cluny through a testament. This is particularly interesting because Cluny’s foundation charter from 910 was explicitly issued after Ava’s death and in memory of her. In fact, William the Pious probably didn’t found Cluny. There appears to have been a small church there beforehand, and it was probably this foundation of which Ava was abbot. Despite William’s foundation charter setting itself up as the Year Zero of Cluniac history, then, this act does appear to show that Cluny’s institutional prehistory did have some effect.

Charter a Week 17: Brothers and Sisters

Do you know what we haven’t really dealt with? (In this series, anyway…) Aquitaine. It came up in passing when dealing with its submission to King Odo, but that was five years ago now and a lot has changed. For one thing, none of the major figures who submitted to Odo in 889 are still around. Frothar of Bourges died. Ramnulf of Poitiers and Ebalus of Saint-Denis died, the latter in rebellion against Odo. (There’s a whole story about what happened to Poitiers which we can’t deal with, but basically Odo tried to make his brother Robert count of Poitiers and it looks like he rather mismanaged the whole affair, leading to a revolt in Aquitaine which led to a further revolt which will actually be relevant this week.)

So who’s in charge instead? We mentioned Bernard Plantevelue as being one of Charles the Bald’s palatine magnates, but he looks to have died in around 886 and to have been replaced with his son, William the Pious. William’s base of power is rather further east than the word ‘Aquitaine’ might make you think. Do you remember how Bernard took over Mâcon during Boso’s rebellion? The Mâconnais is one of the centres of William’s power. So too is Lyon. The centre of gravity in William’s reign is rather further north and east than it is for Stephen of Clermont, largely because these all get sheared off in the 920s – again, we’ll get to it. The point is that William’s powerbase is big and it’s diverse. His wider interests actually go even further north and east than Mâcon – let me show you.   

CC no. 1.53 (9th November 893) = ARTEM no. 1579 = Plus anciens documents de Cluny no. 2

We are taught by divine and churchly documents that one should before everything do good work in observing a double love: that is, of God and one’s neighbour, so that we who have been pure-heartedly fortified in both might both not be without present assistance and also rejoice in eternal help, because without these it is impossible either to please God or to lead a present life of praiseworthy honour.

I, Ava, a humble servant of Christ, recalling this in divine contemplation, and considering that the nearness of kinship is worth of affection, donate to you, William [the Pious] my brother and glorious count, my certain estate named Cluny, sited in the district of Mâconnais on the river Grosne, in its entirety, with its appurtenances and what is legitimately beholden to it, although only after the course of my present life is complete. After my death, I give and transfer this estate, with everything which pertains to it both in churches and in chapels, bondsmen of both sexes (except 20 bondsmen), manses, portions of arable land, arboreta, fields cultivated and uncultivated, vineyards, meadows, mills, waters and watercourses, roads out and in, from my power into your dominion with perpetual right, so that you may have the firmest power in everything to do whatever you want to do with it, whether donation or sale or exchange.

I give and donate this estate to Your Brotherhood on this condition, indeed: that in return for the same estate you should bestow on me a certain allod of your rightful property, which is called Einville-au-Jard, which is sited in the county of Chaumont, for use in my present life; and after my death it should return to you and your kinsmen.

Moreover, if I outlive you and God lengthens my days beyond yours and gives, by divine mercy, the fertility of sons and daughters from a legitimate marriage, let them, after my death, receive the estate of Cluny which I donate to you after my death in perpetual right in the place of an heir, and let them have, hold and possess it as an inheritance, contradicted by nobody.

If anyone, moreover (which I do not believe will happen), either I myself or any of my biological or legal heirs or any person opposed to it, might try to come against or generate any calumny of controversy against this charter of donate made of my own free will, let them be unable to vindicate their claim, but rather let them pay you and your heirs and the associated fisc 50 pounds of gold; and thus let this present donation endure true, free and firm for all time, with this corroboration attached.

Enacted publicly at the estate of Cluny.

Sign of Abbess Ava, who asked this donation be made and confirmed. Sign of Viscount Raculf [of Mâcon].

[First column] Sign of Amalung. Sign of Warulf. Sign of Grimald. Sign of Ramnald. Sign of Fulcrad.

[Second column] Sign of Sigebald. Sign of Achard. Sign of Waning. Sign of Grimo. Sign of Stephen.

[Third column] Sign of Guntard. Sign of Gladirus. Sign of Otbert. Sign of Tullo. Sign of Aloin. Sign of Ungrim.

[Fourth column] Sign of Isengar. Sign of Ernerius. Sign of Heribert. Sign of Amalbert. Sign of Giso. Sign of Eilbert.

Sigebert, having been asked to, subscribed.

I, Ratbod, an unworthy levite, wrote and subscribed this, given in the month of November, on the day of the kalends, the 5th ides of November [9th November], in the first year when two kings contended over the realm, that is, Odo and Charles [the Simple].

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Image from ARTEM as linked above

Surprise Cluny! Yes, this charter is the proximate beginning of the history of everyone’s favourite hegemonic medieval abbey. We’ve covered before on this blog the ‘capillary government’ of William the Pious’ Aquitaine, and here we can see another aspect of it. If Gerald of Aurillac was William’s man in Quercy, Ava was his woman in the northern Mâconnais. Thanks to the even-at-this-point-fairly-dense archives of Cluny, we can see Ava with a fairly dense cluster of properties between Cluny and the river Saône, and plenty of ties to local nobles. In particular, an entry in the Liber Memorialis of Remiremont seems to show her with Viscount Raculf; the sons of Warulf of Brancion, Cluny’s second-biggest patron after William the Pious himself in its early years, donated a fair chunk of property for her soul specifically; and so on – these can (from experience) be worked out into a 5000-word paper. We can see some of this in the witness list, where we have a group of local notables, including Raculf, Warulf, and the man whose name I have rendered as ‘Sigebald’, but who appears in Latin as Sievoldus and who might well be Sievertus, the advocate of Mâcon cathedral (orthography can be very inconsistent; but the ‘Sige’=’Sie’ elision is quite uncommon).

William doesn’t actually appear without Ava during her lifetime, so it makes sense to see these people as here because of the siblings as a pair, rather than just as William’s followers. In this sense, Ava is another version of Gerald of Aurillac – a middlewoman between William and the locality. She pulls the locals into William’s orbit, and is herself pulled into William’s orbit by bonds of kinship and – as in this instance – property.

Interesting is that William gives Ava an estate in Lotharingia. William was another actor in that Transararian Fluidity Zone, as we’ll see a bit down the line; but his interests in Lotharingia are largely a blank book, as are what Ava did with it.

A final note is that dating clause: in 893, Archbishop Fulk of Rheims finally got sick enough of Odo to anoint the young Charles the Simple as king and lead a rebellion. This was not thrillingly successful, but a lot of the southern magnates, including William and Richard the Justiciar, hedged their bets at least at the beginning, and this dating clause expresses that in the most direct way possible: both Odo and Charles are acknowledged, as is their fight, without any side being taken.

Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 8: Becoming the Counts of Clermont

If Louis V was the new hotness, the career of Bishop Stephen of Clermont’s nephew Guy shows that the power of the more rooted families was by no means old and busted.

men_in_black_poster
Pictured: Guy of Clermont and Louis V (source: property of Columbia Pictures)

Guy’s attempt to assert his power in Auvergne after Stephen’s death was less showy than that of the Carolingians, but led to longer-term success. Guy appears a few times in Stephen’s reign, first appearing around 950-960 when he must have been fairly young, and then appearing in the Rigald charter we discussed previously as a viscount, signing after his brother Robert. Robert appears to have been the older brother, and to have died around the same time as Bishop Stephen: a charter of May 980 (which is, frustrating, the only document of Guy’s dossier which is dated) has Guy, ‘viscount of the city of the Auvergne’, making a donation for the souls of both men.

It’s an interesting document. May 980 is more-or-less right the time that Louis V is being made king of Aquitaine, so it’s interesting that the donation is of property in southern Burgundy to the abbey of Cluny and that most of the ‘old families’ of the Auvergne appear to be witnessing – it implies they’re not in Aquitaine at that moment. Guy does Bishop Stephen’s old trick of putting himself at the head of a prayer association of his relatives. The introduction of the charter announces that this should be known to ‘everyone… to wit, kings and dukes and counts’, which is very much not Stephen praying for the reigning monarch but hasn’t cut them out the loop either. It’s also interesting that Guy is called viscount rather than ‘count’ here. My suspicion is that this is Guy – and the ‘old families’ more broadly – hedging their bets and waiting to see how Louis V’s kingship works out. After all, Louis’ connections, although significant, weren’t with them…

After the early 980s, though, Guy was more open about his power. At some point, perhaps in 984, Guy was at some more gatherings of the ‘old families’. Two charters, one to Sauxillanges and one to Brioude, feature two different men named Viscount Bertrand donating to these abbeys with Count Guy as their overlord: the donation of Bertrand, husband of Faith, has Guy as Bertrand’s almsman, to whom he entrusts the carrying-out of the donation; the other charter is by Guy’s brother Bertrand husband of Arsinda, where he is viscount and Guy is count. There is some overlap in the witness lists – a scribe named Stephen, a guy named Gozbert – which makes me think these donations are connected. If so, 984 would be a reasonable guess at the year – the first donation is a larger gathering, which suggests a church festival. It took place on a Sunday in March, and as it happens between the early 980s and Guy’s death c. 990 the only year Easter took place in March was 984. This logic ain’t exactly watertight, but it’s a reasonable stab, and in any case I’d be mildly surprised if Guy wasn’t up and running with his full suite of claims to authority by the mid-980s anyway. The difference here would be the chronology – I suspect that these charters are the ‘old families’ actually acknowledging that Guy is now preeminent amongst them, although obviously I can’t prove that.

Certainly, by what must have been the mid-980s because Guy’s career isn’t that long, he was referring to himself in a charter as princeps Arvenorum, ‘prince of the men of the Auvergne’ (coincidentally this was what Vercingetorix was called, but I’m 95% sure that’s a coincidence), again donating for Stephen’s soul. He makes appearances in a couple more charters, always with some specific reference to his predominant position – for Prior Eustorgius of Clermont Cathedral, Guy was ‘my lord’; for Hugh the priest – who was evidently a member of the same social cluster – he was ‘our defender’.

Guy died around 990, but his brother William became count in his stead, and his descendants after him. The later counts don’t appear to have had to fight for their position in the way Guy did, so clearly he did a good job. In fact, the right of the rulers of Clermont to be counts was retroactively accepted around 1020 – when King Robert the Pious confirmed Guy’s 980 donation to Cluny, Guy was named as count, not as viscount. The line of counts continued until the fourteenth century, so of all the attempts to rule Auvergne it was the longest-lasting. However, that longevity came with a price. We’ve seen Guy using some of the same techniques of legitimation as Stephen, but on a smaller scale. The prayer community wasn’t as large, nor was it any longer connected to the kings. In fact, Guy seems to have worked largely on getting his face-to-face subordinates to acknowledge his superiority in their own documents. This led to a shrinking of the political community, pretty much back to just the ‘old families’ of the Auvergne. There was, however, a closer successor to Bishop Stephen in terms of reach and ambition if not blood, and like Guy he would leave a long-term legacy to the European world – but his would go far beyond the confines of the county of Clermont.

Talkin’ Angevin, Talkin’ Burgundian: Geoffrey Grisegonelle of Anjou and his rule in Chalon-sur-Saône

This may well come as a surprise to readers who’ve been following the blog the last few months – or indeed to anyone who’s sat opposite me in a pub – but I’m not just an antiquarian/aspiring story-writer. My thesis, and even more so my book as it’s developing, is fundamentally about legitimacy – how did people in charge persuade people not in charge that they should be in charge. I mean, think about it: if every serf had banded together and obstinately refused to provide renders to their lord, could the lords have stopped them? You can’t repress everyone all the time, and you certainly can’t kill all your productive workers. (In fact, the Carolingians were perfectly aware of this, which is why they were so worried about associations amongst the peasantry.) If that’s the case with serfs, it’s much more so with lower-level members of the elite. You might get away with whipping Bellerophon the serf, but you definitely can’t do that with Corbo by God’s grace the noblest of knights – you have to persuade him that you have right on your side.

My fundamental argument about the West Frankish kingdom by the end of the tenth century is that the way you do this, as a ruler, has fractured. Rather than one landscape of political discourse, there is a proliferation of them, in a way which would make ninth-century Carolingian reformers blanch. Some of these are really obviously both new and local: the development of Norman identity which is so beloved to my heart is an example of this. But there are more subtle examples as well.

One admittedly not subtle example is the case of Anjou. I will undoubtedly talk about Anjou more in future, but for now let it be said that, by the end of the tenth century, the Angevin counts have developed a regionally-peculiar discourse of legitimacy, wherein they are in charge because they are saved – as in, Jesus Christ has guaranteed the posthumous state of their souls – and their followers, whilst committing the same sins, aren’t. This is ‘proven’ not least through some entertainingly brazen misuse of Biblical quotations in their charters; but it’s fairly consistent for the last quarter of the tenth and first decade or so of the eleventh centuries.

However, the counts of Anjou weren’t just counts of Anjou. Recently, we spoke about how transregional aristocrats didn’t just go away with the end of the reign of Charles the Fat, and Geoffrey Grisegonelle, count of Anjou from c. 960 to 987, is a prime example of this. This is actually one of the things which the only English-language author on Geoffrey, Bernard Bachrach, gets absolutely right – despite Bachrach’s apparent belief that the counts of Anjou are infallible crosses between Napoleon and Brainiac, he is very, very good at pointing out that they have interests all over the West Frankish kingdom; and in fact we’ve already met them in eastern Aquitaine.

One of Geoffrey’s most direct interests, after about 980 or so, was the southern Burgundian county of Chalon-sur-Saône. The local count, Lambert, had recently died, leaving behind a minor son named Hugh and a widow named Adelaide. Geoffrey, a widower himself, married Adelaide and ruled Chalon with her for the next half-decade or so. How did he do it? Not least by adopting the language of legitimacy which Lambert had developed, one quite different from that of Anjou.

1920px-cathc3a9drale_saint-vincent2c_chalon-sur-sac3b4ne_-_view_from_place_du_marchc3a9
Chalon-sur-Saône cathedral today (source)

At some point during his reign, Geoffrey and Adelaide issued a charter in favour of Cluny. (<Looks to see if we’ll be covering it on Charter a Week> Eh, it’s a maybe.) It’s a valuable bit of evidence, because Geoffrey’s time in Chalon is pretty obscure. But what this shows is Geoffrey adapting himself to the different rhythms of discourse prevalent in southern Burgundy.

First off, it’s a charter in favour of Cluny. At this time, Cluny is not the world-conquering monastic empire into which it will mutate in the early eleventh century. It’s big, certainly, but its penetration north of the Loire is pretty minimal – Abbot Odo of Cluny may have been asked to reform Saint-Julien at Tours (but the evidence for that is late and there’s no sign of Cluniac influence on the ground) and although he did reform Fleury, that one really didn’t take and his time at the abbey was quietly forgotten there. When Geoffrey himself tried to reform the abbey of Saint-Aubin in Angers, he brought in monks not from Cluny but from Rheims. Here, though, he patronises Cluny. In doing so, he puts himself into the tradition of Count Lambert, who was also a noted donor to the abbey. (In fact, elsewhere Geoffrey copied Lambert’s lead in this regard even more closely.)

The next thing is that the land, in the delightfully-named village of Jambles, is donated for the soul of Geoffrey and Adele’s fidelis Aimo. As it happens, we have Aimo’s own charter donating the same land to Cluny in 984, so we can say some things about him. First off, he’s quite a significant figure, being an archdeacon of the cathedral of Chalon. That’s a man of local influence – his charter is witnessed by Geoffrey, Adelaide, and Bishop Ralph. Second, he begins his charter with a prologue beginning ‘with the end of the world approaching and ruins increasing…’, a prologue which is relatively familiar elsewhere in the West Frankish kingdom but basically-unknown in the Cluny archive. In fact, the very nifty online edition of the Cluniac charters means that we can say that these two of about only five charters which begin like that before the mid-eleventh century – and that Geoffrey is copying the specific wording of Aimo’s. Geoffrey is having himself written into local languages of legitimacy – he’s not just donating to Cluny, he’s not just donating to Cluny for Aimo, he’s not even just donating to Cluny for Aimo in the same words Aimo had; he’s inscribing the rightness of his rule through the medium of Cluniac patronage, placing himself and the leading men of the Chalonnais in relation to one another via their relationship with Cluny.

Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 3: Kings and Poitevins, c. 945-955

Previously on ‘Excruciatingly-Detailed Trudge Through The Narrative History Of A Region Where The Sources Aren’t Good Enough To Support Narrative History’, Bishop Stephen II of Clermont had just staked his claim to be the predominant figure in the Auvergne, trading on royal backing and a shift in power after the disappearance from central Gaul of Raymond Pons, the count of Toulouse. You may well be wondering, ‘what happened next?’ Well, for the first half of his reign, up until about 965 or so, that’s easier to answer than the second (which is to say, not very easy at all).

In around 948, Stephen, his father Viscount Robert, and his stepmother Viscountess Hildegard, handed over the Auvergnat abbey of Sauxillanges to be ruled by Abbot Aimard of Cluny. In the document making the handover, Stephen called for prayers for Duke Acfred, William the Pious, and William the Younger, placing himself in a tradition of Aquitanian rulership. This was then confirmed in 951, when Louis IV showed up again at the borders of Aquitaine. Stephen and many of the other Aquitanian magnates went to meet him. Stephen apparently paid him special attention, and was rewarded with a royal diploma confirming his grant of Sauxillanges. So things seem pretty solid on that front – Stephen’s position at the forefront of local society was reinforced through royal confirmation of his special status vis-à-vis the kingship.

A few years later, Louis died. Aquitanians were present at his son Lothar’s coronation, presumably including Stephen; but, as when Louis succeeded Ralph, things were unsettled. Lothar was, as his father had been, under the thumb of Hugh the Great, to whom he granted Aquitaine. Hugh seems to have meant to enforce this: he intervened in a diploma for Bishop Gottschalk of Puy, and he got Lothar to lead an attack on Poitiers. Unlike the similar situation at Langres in 936, there was no complexity here: Count William Towhead had been happily in place for about thirty years, and this invasion can only be seen as a straightforward landgrab. It didn’t end up working, and Hugh died the next year.

Of course, William himself was not innocent here. In 955, he attempted to push his power into Auvergne, where no previous count of Poitiers had had an interest. He held a meeting at Ennezat, a place redolent with the power of the old Guillelmid dukes, where the lords of Auvergne swore to be his men. Rather like Hugh, William seems to have decided to enforce this: it is only at this point that he starts claiming to be ‘Count of Auvergne’, and his name starts appearing in Brioude’s charters. Interestingly, Stephen was also at the meeting, and appears to have had read there a royal diploma for some of his clients; this no longer survives, but I wonder if we might not take it as a sign that William and Stephen were negotiating for how power in the Auvergne would be divided between them?

Anyway, Hugh died in 956 as I said, and the situation changed dramatically. And that’s where we’ll leave it for today, and indeed for this year. This is the last post up before Christmas, and I’m off to relax and unwind after a full and busy year of working, international moves and, not least, blogging. We’ll be back in the New Year. In the meantime, I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy 2018!