The Counts of Boulogne Who Mostly Weren’t

Sometimes you just end up chasing ghosts. I’ve addressed the tenth-century counts of Boulogne before in print (which you could read right here and now if you so chose!) but only in passing as part of the game of ‘Which Arnulf?’, which used to be my go-to example of obnoxious prosopographical questions before it became clear to me that compared to some others it was pretty entry-level. More recently, I’ve been revisiting the question whilst dealing with Flanders and Lotharingia in the 970s, and it’s become clear to me just how murky the history is. For this week, then, I thought we’d take a step-by-step look at the tenth- and early eleventh-century history of Boulogne and ask: what do we really know?

A quick bit of early tenth-century background first. ‘County of Boulogne’ is a bit of a vague term, because it can also (but doesn’t always) cover Ternois, and more generally the western part of Flanders, as well. Around 900, Boulogne seems to have been under the control of a man named Erchengar, who seems to have been reasonably important but who also probably lost control of Boulogne to his neighbour, Count Baldwin the Bald of Flanders, who also ruled Ternois. When Baldwin died in 918, his inheritance was split between his two sons: Arnulf the Great got Flanders proper, and Adalolf got the western portions including Boulogne and Ternois. In 933, Adalolf died and Arnulf brought his brother’s inheritance under his own power.

At this point, we hit our first stumbling block. Back in the ‘40s, Jan Dhondt brought up a passage of Flodoard’s Annals under the year 962:

‘King Lothar, having spoken with Prince Arnulf, made peace between him and his nepos of the same name, whom the count held to be his enemy owing to the killing of the brother of the same, whom the same count had put to death having discovered he was disloyal.’

Nepos can mean either ‘grandson’ or ‘nephew’ (although for what it’s worth in Flodoard it seems to mean ‘nephew’ every time). Dhondt argued that this nepos ought to be a son of Adalolf, based on the emergence shortly after Arnulf the Great’s death of a Count Arnulf of Boulogne. Dhondt put this in relation to the death of Arnulf the Great’s son Baldwin III in the winter of 961/2 to argue that Arnulf’s sudden weakness gave his nephews the opportunity to try and win back their paternal inheritance. Dhondt admitted that this was ‘a supposition, pure and simple’; but his supposition has become the historical consensus.

I argued in the article cited above that Dhondt was wrong, but to recap: we have two genealogies and a narrative source from this period which mention Adalolf, and don’t give him any legitimate heirs. It could be argued that one of these genealogies (that of Witger) is pro-Arnulf propaganda, and that the author of the narrative source, Folcuin (writing precisely during these events), was deliberately passing over contemporary controversies to protect himself; you could even argue that the second genealogy (known as the De Arnulfo comite) is completely untrustworthy or itself a political production. However, once you’ve done that, all you’ve done is to defend a hypothesis for which there is no direct evidence – it is, basically, letting the argument dictate approaches to the evidence not vice versa. Moreover, some of these arguments are unconvincing – the De Arnulfo comite and especially Folcuin (who was not Arnulf’s panegyrist) have no reason not to mention sons of Adalolf, if any existed. In fact, Folcuin actually does mention Arnulf the Great’s nepos Arnulf in passing, without mentioning any connection to Adalolf. Dhondt’s arguments, before they passed into the lofty realm of consensus, were rejected by some of his own, equally distinguished, contemporaries – his friend Philip Grierson, for instance, argued against them in his Cambridge fellowship thesis.

Compared to my 2017 article – which was written in 2014 – I can actually go one further now. The charter on which Dhondt bases the existence of a Count Arnulf of Boulogne after the 960s is, as we technical diplomatic types say, ‘well dodgy’. It purports to be a 972 grant by Count Arnulf II of Flanders to the abbey of Sint-Pieters of Blandijnberg in Ghent, granting them the estate of Harnes, near Lens. In the witness list, one does indeed find the signum of ‘Arnulf, count of Boulogne’. However, in its current form this act is a mid-eleventh century forgery. It does seem to have been based on some sort of real act – Harnes shows up in a more or less unsuspicious royal act from a few years later – but its forged status is really significant for our purposes. Tenth-century charters almost never have a count’s jurisdiction in their titulature in witness lists, so the ‘count of Boulogne’ appears very suspicious. This is especially so because there are clear grounds for confusion here. A figure who in the 970s was closely associated with the Flemish court was Count Arnulf of Valenciennes. However, by the mid-eleventh century the area around Lens was a key part of the patrimony of the contemporary counts of Boulogne. We may very well be dealing with a situation where the forger saw a ‘Count Arnulf’ in the witness list and assumed it must be the count of Boulogne. In any case, this forged document is a bad foundation for a ‘Count Arnulf of Boulogne’.

This is doubly so given the evidence adduced by Vanderputten and others that the Flemish still controlled the Ternois at the very least for several years after Arnulf the Great’s death. This evidence is not entirely conclusive, but abbatial witness lists from the abbey of Saint-Bertin do suggest that the lay abbacy was held first by Arnulf II’s regent Baldwin Baldzo and then by Arnulf II himself until the early-to-mid 970s. The loss of the abbacy could – emphasis on could – mean that Arnulf II lost control of the region then – but this is a decade after 962 and doesn’t give any link to the ‘nephew of the same name’ mentioned by Flodoard.

The next bit of evidence for a count of Boulogne comes from ‘988’, and a charter of Baldwin the Bearded for Blandijnberg. At the bottom of this charter one finds the signa of Count Dirk [II of Holland], Count Arnulf [probably Arnulf of Ghent, Dirk’s son], Count Artold, Count Baldwin, and another Count Arnulf. These last three have been identified as the counts of Guînes, Boulogne and Ternois respectively. However, as the scare quotes above probably suggested, this charter is another eleventh-century forgery – and in some respects blatantly anachronistic, as in the attribution of the title of ‘Queen’ to Baldwin’s mother Rozala-Susannah well before her marriage to Robert the Pious could have taken place. The identification of Artold and Arnulf ‘of Ternois’ was certainly accepted by c. 1200 – both men show up in the legendary early parts of Lambert of Ardres’ History of the Counts of Guînes – and the forged 988 charter is certainly passable evidence that there were other counts in the Flemish sphere of influence by the late tenth century, but who these men were, where they were based, and how they were related to each other or to the counts of Flanders is unknown.

Beyond this 988 charter, I know of three more-or-less unimpeachable references to counts of Boulogne/Ternois in the decades around 1000.

  1. A papal letter of perhaps c. 995 inserted into the Chronicle of Hariulf of Saint-Riquier addressed to ‘Count Arnulf, Count Baldwin and his mother’. (Zimmerman thought that this was a forgery but he was probably wrong about this.) Baldwin and his mother are pretty clearly Rozala-Susannah and Baldwin IV, so the Count Arnulf is not Arnulf II of Flanders but a count in the area between Ponthieu and Ternois.
  2. An unnamed count of Boulogne was also mentioned by Hariulf as having been killed in battle by Enguerrand, first count of Ponthieu. This can’t have been Count Eustace I of Boulogne – first attested, to my knowledge, in 1024 (although the charter he appears in is also dodgy) – so must be one of his unnamed predecessors.
  3. Finally, we have our most important source, the miracles of St Bertha of Blangy, written in the early eleventh century, which identify a Count Arnulf of Ternois in the years after 1000. This Arnulf has both a wife and children, but the miracles give no other genealogical information.

As far as I have been able to trace, everything else we claim to know about the counts of Boulogne or Ternois before the 1020s/1030s is based on either indirect evidence or very late and legendary thirteenth-century sources.

The first record I know of of Count Eustace I of Boulogne: a forged charter of Baldwin IV of Flanders nominally dating to 1024. Taken from ARTEM, no. 367 (source)

One final note before I sum up is that later genealogies of the counts of Boulogne don’t give Eustace I a father. This is mostly a reflection of their interest in the Carolingian descent of the counts via Eustace’s wife Matilda of Leuven, but I think it also relates to the fact that they don’t know anything in particular about his descent because Eustace basically comes out of nowhere – as Nieus points out, there’s little connecting the two families.

So what do we have? The existing scholarly picture is that a cadet branch of the counts of Flanders, usurped for most of the mid-tenth century, took advantage of a succession crisis to strong-arm their way back into their paternal inheritance in 962. After Arnulf (II) of Boulogne died after a reign of at least a decade, the county was partitioned between his sons, Baldwin (IV) of Boulogne and Arnulf (III) of Ternois. Arnulf died in 1019* and Baldwin in 1023, whereupon the county passed to his son or brother Eustace. What I think we can say after reviewing the evidence is that very little of this is demonstrably true. The emergence of late tenth century counts in Boulogne/Ternois has nothing to do with the events of 962, and should probably be dated to the years around 980 at the absolute earliest. The only evidence of a Count Baldwin in Flanders other than Baldwin the Bearded is the 988 charter, which is not great; and there is nothing connecting him to Boulogne specifically. Arnulf of Ternois is better attested, but was probably only one person. If there was a kinship connection between them and the counts of Flanders, and there may well not have been, they were certainly not a cadet branch. Arnulf may have been the count killed by Enguerrand of Ponthieu; if he wasn’t, we know nothing at all about background of the man who was. Finally, it is overwhelmingly probable that the later counts of Boulogne are nothing to do with these shadowy figures.

You may be wondering, do you have anything constructive to add, or is this demolition work? Well, mostly the latter today. However, there is more to say on this matter. In the next few weeks, I will follow this post up with one looking at King Lothar’s relationship with Flanders after Arnulf the Great’s death in 965. There’s also going to be as much supposition in that post as in Dhondt’s work, and I wanted to keep the directly evidenced-based stuff separate from the more hypothetical material (not to mention that this post is running long)! However, when we get there this post will be important background for royal politics in late tenth-century Flanders – so stay tuned!

Also, this is definitely a case where chasing the threads is a complicated job and I’m slightly out of my comfort zone. This post represents my current understanding, but if you know of a source which contradicts or adds to anything I’ve said, please put it in the comments!

*As far as I can follow it, the reasoning for this is such: there is a record of a siege of Saint-Omer by Robert the Pious in 1020. The assumption is that 1) Robert was pushing against Baldwin the Bearded and 2) Baldwin was taking advantage of Arnulf’s death to conquer Ternois. These seem like pretty big assumptions in the absence of other evidence.

Reform, Communication and Titulature

Back when I was an undergrad, the big debate over the attempts by Charlemagne and his immediate successors to transform government, culture, and society was ‘did they work?’ There are a lot of terribly ambitious texts from the late eighth and early ninth centuries, and there was a lot of scepticism about how they were put into practice. So the question about which we had to write essays was something along the lines of ‘All this was just court bumph which never made a difference to society at large. Discuss’.

Nowadays, that debate has been more-or-less entirely resolved in favour of ‘yes, but’. I’ve been trying to read around the latest scholarship on Carolingian reform for an article I’m redrafting – and so far I haven’t been able to find a mis-en-point for really up-to-date work, so this post could come off as terribly off-base – and a number of things are emerging. The first is that it’s now clear that the exhortations and plans of action produced at the royal court went far down into the localities – work on things like priests’ handbooks has made that abundantly clear. The king said ‘priests need to be educated and highly-trained’ and we have manuscripts of books for training priests which show that going down to the village level. The second is that the slightly more old-fashioned image, where Charlemagne et al were trying to create something like the USSR with popes – consistently and bureaucratically governed in an institutionalised and uniform manner in accordance with a strict and unyielding ideology – is rather off the mark anyway. Carolingian reformers seem to have been aiming at something more fundamental but less rigid. Given that I’m taking what follows more-or-less directly from Charles West anyway, I may as well quote him at this point:

Certain aspects of [Carolingian] reform could be legitimately and helpfully construed as working to make social relations clearer… Clear communication was everywhere the aim, in the expectation… that once this was achieved, all other problems would dissolve… The institutions which are most visible to us [and West mentions, among others, oath-taking, writing, and liturgical kingship] are best viewed as conduits for an underlying process, not as categories in themselves. (West, Reframing the Feudal Revolution, p. 103)

What that means is that the Carolingian reformers weren’t working per se to make sure that all court cases took place at the count’s tribunal or that royal missi were regularly supervising local nobles or what have you. These were all ways of (to paraphrase West again) getting society in order and keeping it there – making sure that no matter what anyone was doing precisely, they were all on the same page about what they should be doing.

Charlemagne's Practice of Empire
The front cover of Davis’ book, available here where I got the link from.

On the flip side, Jennifer Davis has recently argued something which – in my reading, anyway – looks rather different. She argues that Charlemagne’s rule was fundamentally need-driven, with consistent goals but no consistent policy. Hence, so long as it kept conflict, expense and trouble to a minimum and kept the royal court in the loop, Charlemagne felt free to try different things in different places: ‘they insisted on an ultimate overarching political culture centred on the court, but then nuanced their efforts to rule to local circumstance’ (Davis, Practice of Empire, p. 432). His rule was ultimately pragmatic and driven by local circumstances. Now Davis is talking about Charlemagne specifically and West about the ninth-century Carolingians, but this comes across like a major difference between a Carolingian reform which is about implementing an ideology and one which is about a bone-deep pragmatism.

For this article – which is going back to the Carolingian advocates of Saint-Martin – both of these are nice springboards to talk about why advocates show up when and how they do. Advocates at Saint-Martin look very different to advocates in, say, Sankt Gallen, or even closer to home in Poitou. So why are these very different people called the same thing, ‘advocates’, in all three places? Why even have advocates in Saint-Martin when the brothers had been doing perfectly well without them for decades? Davis’ point about regional variety is key here: Neustrian circumstances required a specifically Neustrian response – it couldn’t be finally and fully integrated within Carolingian political society otherwise, and the ongoing failure to integrate the region over the ninth century meant instability, war, and territorial loss. Equally, though, integrating Neustria under the Carolingian aegis meant buying into the court’s discourse – making sure that communication was clear rather than muddied through endless local proliferation of discourses. Hence, Adalmar of Saint-Martin was an advocate specifically, not a ‘lawman’ or a ‘knight of the Church’ or ‘St. Martin’s Go-To Headbreaker’ or whatever, because the differences I’m interested in – things like geographical competence or social and institutional status or precise legal function – weren’t relevant to Carolingian advocati. They were laymen standing between the Church and the impure world in doing legal things – they were advocati, so that everyone was clear what they did. How they did it, precisely, could vary based on regional circumstances.

This also has interesting repercussions for a topic dear to this blog’s heart, the assumption of comital titles by local potentates. The very first time this came up, we were talking about Gerald of Aurillac, and how he was called a count because people thought he was sufficiently powerful and important. What I didn’t mention is that there’s a diploma of Charles the Simple to Aurillac in which Gerald acts as the petitioner, and he is called a count there. This is one of the way Carolingian rule is supposed to happen – the royal centre acknowledging and giving weight to local claims of status. Now what’s interesting is that by the eleventh century, counts are almost everywhere, including places they weren’t in the ninth century. Clearly, lots of men who a hundred years before would have had no stable title are deciding to call themselves counts. This represents, I think, the continuation of those Carolingian ideals of clear communication: these people are counts, not praeses or optimates or hypersebastes, because ‘count’ clearly communicates the status they’re claiming. The difference is that the royal court doesn’t act as an arbiter anymore – the count of Brienne (for instance) can be a count now because who’s going to say otherwise?

This raises one interesting question, which is: are there any failed counts in the late ninth century? That is, people who we can see trying for comital rank but not getting it? As it happens, the answer to that is probably ‘yes’. Raculf, viscount of Mâcon, shows up in one charter as a ‘venerable count’, but not otherwise. Raculf is in contact with kingship, probably – he shows up in a diploma of Charles the Bald as the brother of a vassus – but none of them ever validate his comital title and he never vindicates it. I bet you a hundred years later he could have done.

Anyway, this post is more of a sketch than usual – this is right up-to-the-minute work in progress (it actually bumped a post about arengae down the planning order a few weeks). Not so much the comital stuff, which is just musing on the wider implications, but the reform stuff; so please let me know what you think so I can fiddle with it before it goes to beta readers/peer review!

Towards a Typology of the Carolingian Count?

I wasn’t sure about writing this one. I started, and then went, ‘Insofar as this isn’t half-baked, I think I’ve just ended up at Matthew Innes’ arguments about royal power in the localities; and in any case this is an old battle to fight’. But, apparently there’s interest, so I might as well jot this down and see if people think there’s anything to it. (Plus, it’ll be a break from the Aquitanian stuff, although there’ll be more of that next week.)

The question of the Carolingian count is a big historiographical question, more or less revolving around the questions of ‘what did a count do?’ and ‘where did he do it?’ There’s an old model that a count is a government functionary, he exercises state power, and he does it in his comitatus (‘county’) which can be directly equated with the districts known as pagi (such as Flanders, Touraine, or Wormsgau). Modern historians have raised serious questions about this (many of these questions are in German, in a literature dealing with south Germany, which I have tried to read a little of in preparation for this but basically don’t really know, so consider yourself forewarned). Hence the idea that 1 pagus = 1 comitatus now seems very questionable indeed. I myself have observed that some pagi just don’t have counts at all. The Limousin is a case in point here: one will often find references to William the Pious being ‘count of Limoges’, but actually what that means is he shows up on a charter witness list in the 880s and again in a diploma dealing with land in the area a decade or two later, and there’s no evidence at all to assume that he had administrative jurisdiction or even real political clout there unless you assume that every pagus had to have a count.

I want to go further than that today, though. Like I said, maybe this will be obvious to people who know the literature better than me, but I would propose that the title comes (‘count’) did not have the same meaning all the time. So here is a list of all the different types of counts I think I’ve encountered. Some of them in fact overlap; but not all of them do.

First, you have counts who are counts of comitatus. These are much easier to see in Lotharingia and the East Frankish kingdom, where royal diplomas often refer to property as being in ‘the pagus of X, in the county of Y’. And we know that the pagus and the comitatus don’t necessarily overlap, so that you can have multiple pagi under the same comital jurisdiction; but you can also have multiple comitatus in the same pagus. I went looking for examples of the latter, actually, and found one in DD Arnulf no. 60, where a grant to Corvey is ‘in pago Huueitago in comitatibus Ecperti et Reithardi et Herimanni’; sometimes one finds one comitatus being held by multiple people but the plural here suggests that it is multiple counties. (Because this isn’t really what I’m supposed to be doing at all, I stopped there; but there may well be others.)

However, there’s a twist. Because much of this work comes from historians working east of the Meuse, they’re not necessarily as familiar with the West Frankish evidence, because I can tell you that we do in fact have counts who are explicitly counts of pagi. Thus Odo of Paris, the later King Odo, can describe himself in the 880s as ‘count of the pagus of Parisais’. So sometimes counts evidently were made counts of individual pagi.

‘Made’ is an important word there, because some of these counts are as well royal functionaries, or at least royal appointees, coming in from outside to run a locality. Odo is also a good example here: he seems to have spent most of his life in Lotharingia and became count of Paris mostly because Charles the Fat put him there.

Some of them, however, don’t appear to be. This post in fact comes out of the older one about Gerald of Aurillac, who I think is a good example of a figure who is locally entrenched already and whose acquisition of the comital title is a bottom-up process: he is first called count as a mark of respect in the locality, and then the king decides to roll with it as a way of co-opting them. My suspicion is that the evidence for Alemannia, Bavaria, or the middle Rhine would show more of these guys, if I had any familiarity with it at all…

800px-malles2c_chiesa_di_san_benedetto2c_ritratto_del_fondatore_della_chiesa2c_affresco_ix_secolo
Maybe a count, maybe not; but certainly a Carolingian aristocrat (source)

Another suspicion is that these people might be how to explain counts who it’s hard to place geographically. A shout-out here to my friend and colleague Jelle Lisson, who’s done some work on this regard about ancestors of the counts ‘of Vermandois’ (coming soon, he informs me, in the Journal of Family History as ‘Family Continuity and Territorial Power in Early Medieval West Francia: A Reconsideration of the “House” of Vermandois (9th-10th Centuries)’ [edit: and it is now available open access through this finely-crafted hyperlink.). What his work shows is that Heribert I of Vermandois is actually really hard to localise, and that past work calling him the count ‘of Soissons’ or ‘of Meaux’ or the like is reading too much into the contemporary evidence. I’m not sure he’d push it this far, but I think that this is because Heribert I doesn’t actually have a comitatus at all, just a cluster of local interests. Hence, he might be a count who controls an abbey in Soissons or territory in Vermandois, but he’s not count of Soissons or of Vermandois, or of anywhere: his title is unconnected to his territory.  

Opposite to him are people who definitely have comitatus (it’s an annoying word to write in English, because the Latin plural of comitatus is comitatus, not comitati, but it looks wrong…), but whose comital title seems to me unlikely to rest on that fact. The ancestor of the Capetians Robert the Strong looks to me like an example of this sort of figure: the Annals of Saint-Bertin show him being shuffled between the counties of Angers and Auxerre and Nevers, but I think his status is such that his comital title probably doesn’t depend on which specific counties he possesses. Some evidence for this comes from the Annal’s entry for 867, which describe how Charles the Bald took the county of Bourges away from Count Gerald and gave it to Egfrid; that Gerald is still described as ‘count’ suggests that his title was socially embedded rather than legally linked to possession of a specific official competence.

This leads to a final category, which is counts whose title was strictly palatine. There is a title ‘count of the palace’ (comes palatinus), which isn’t quite this, not least because by about 900 it’s become smooshed together into conspalatinus, a separate title you can hold together with comes. I mean counts whose title goes right back to the word’s origin – comes was originally the Latin word for ‘companion’, meaning men who were members of a ruler’s retinue and whose prestige came therefrom. It’s very hard to prove that a given count was a comes in this sense, but if I had to propose one figure, it would be Charles the Simple’s favourite Hagano. Everything we know about his career links him to the palace and only to the palace. I don’t think he ever was a comes in the sense of an administrative functionary in a locality; his title was always a product of his status at court.

Wow, that went on longer than I’d expected, and it’s still rather brief. In any case, it looks rather like the single word comes is hiding a number of different animals, different in degree and not just in scale… Is there anything to this, or have I stumbled the roundabout way onto something obvious?

“Who made you count?”

It’s a good question, and one famously reported by Adhemar of Chabannes. King Hugh Capet was fighting Count Aldebert of La Marche, and, when they met, asked him “Who made you count?”, in an attempt to seize the moral high ground. Aldebert replied “Who made you king?”, and it is for that latter that the story is usually remembered, but the former question is perhaps more important. We have a reasonable idea of how Hugh Capet became king having previously been a duke, as it was described in reasonable detail by several sources. How someone becomes a count without coming from a comital lineage is a bit less clear.*

However, a nice little source snippet on this question fell into my lap recently. I was looking at the Vita, or biography, of St. Gerald of Aurillac, and had to deal with the arguments of Matthew Kuefler to the effect that the version most historians are familiar with was written not in the 920s by Abbot Odo of Cluny but after the year 1000 by… well, by Adhemar of Chabannes, actually. I think this is unconvincing, personally, and the question of countship relates to one of Kuefler’s key arguments. He argues (p. 51, as well as elsewhere) that Gerald is referred to as count of Aurillac, but there don’t appear to have been other counts of Aurillac, so this is anachronistic.

However, this rests on the – very Carolingian – assumption that comital office was acquired through administrative mechanisms, that is to say, that one was granted a countship by the king and thus legally became a count. This, though, is not what the text actually says. Key here is Book 1, chapter 27 (not exactly the most up-to-date edition, but the easiest to link to; there’s a translation of the whole thing here):

On the whole route, he was of the highest rank of nobility, and was famous everywhere for his piety and largess. When, therefore, the traders, as is their custom, were going between the tents and asking if anyone wanted to buy anything, some of the better ones came to the lord [Gerald’s] tent, and asked his servants if, perchance, the lord count (for so everyone called him) would command that cloths or spices be bought.

Key here is the ‘for so they called him line’, because what this indicates is that countship was not necessarily legal, but social. By the tenth century, a sufficiently noble, wealthy and powerful man of good repute could be called a count not because of any formal process, but because his social position was sufficient for him to be acknowledged as at the top rank of regional society. There are other examples of this – the early eleventh-century counts of Ponthieu, and I think something similar happens in the late tenth century with the counts of Ternois – but the best example is roughly contemporary with Gerald, in the case of Fulk the Red, count/viscount of Anjou.

Fulk had been made viscount of Anjou in the first decade of the tenth century, and in the context of the region, with its formal hierarchy of rank and relatively tight governance, I think ‘appointed’ is the right way to describe it. He appears in a charter of 929 issued in his own name as ‘count’ not ‘viscount’. Despite this, he signs charters of his superior, Hugh the Great, ruler of the Neustrian March, as ‘viscount’ up through into the 930s. What seems to be happening here is that, in an Angevin context, he was a sufficiently big player by 929 that he could reasonably and plausibly claim to be a count as a marker of his social status, but this did not yet look plausible on a wider stage.

In any case, a focus on the juridical aspects of being a count is potentially misleading here. Late- and post-Carolingian counthood could be flexible, not necessarily always claimed, and fundamentally a matter of social status not legal role.

*In Aldebert’s case, I assumed the answer Hugh intended was ‘the king, i.e. me’, referring to the comital office as royally-constituted. In poking around, I’ve found that Aldebert became count of Perigord (which is how Adhemar refers to him) after capturing and blinding his brother, so the intended answer may well have been ‘no-one’, in which case Aldebert’s response becomes a bit more pointed, given that Hugh gained the throne by imprisoning his predecessor’s uncle…