Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 2: The Impact of Louis IV, 936-945

Last time, Raymond Pons of Toulouse had just declared himself to be duke of Aquitaine, and you may well have been wondering, ‘What has this got to do with Bishop Stephen II of Clermont?’ Well, today we find that out.

You may remember that Raymond’s claim to the ducal title had occurred in the context of the dislocation brought on by the death of King Ralph of Burgundy in 936. The problem is that the next five years or so of Aquitanian political history are very murky indeed. The situation is not helped by the fact that a lot of the documentary evidence we rely on for the Toulouse side of things looks very dodgy. The good news, is that this means the period of just under a decade between 936 and Stephen’s emergence in 945 can be zipped through rather more quickly than the previous ten years.

The first thing to say is that, once again, evidence of conflict between Toulouse and Poitiers is non-existent, and evidence of the counts of Poitiers playing any role in Auvergnat politics ditto. There are three main actors in the Auvergne of the late 930s and early 940s: the local nobility, the count of Toulouse, and the king.

Of these, the local nobility are basically the same as the following of Duke Acfred. They stick together as a community, and it is these people who you can see around Raymond in 936. Raymond himself plays the very classic role for a major aristocrat of working with the king when Louis IV starts to display an interest in Aquitaine in around 940. (There’s theoretically a diploma issued for one of Raymond’s abbeys in 939, but the whole of the dating clause is spectacularly forged, and I don’t think we can take it seriously. I’d be more likely to put it in either 941 or 944, absent other evidence.) And the king is evidently a significant figure during the early 940s: he shows up in Vienne in winter 941, where the Aquitanians submit to him and he issues a diploma for the abbey of Chanteuges, the same foundation where Raymond had appeared to claim the title of ‘duke of Aquitaine’ in 936. Aquitanians then proceed to give him military assistance, so this doesn’t look purely formal.

Louis’ visit in 941/42 appears to have been fairly significant long-term. After going from Vienne to Poitiers, he issued several diplomas with Ebalus, the count of Poitiers’ brother, as intercessor. If we take seriously Adhemar of Chabannes’ claim that Louis played a role in acquiring for Ebalus the bishopric of Limoges, it is probably now that he made any agreement to the effect that Ebalus could legitimately succeed to the bishopric after the death of its current inhabitant. Louis went back to Aquitaine in 944 to negotiate with Raymond and other Aquitanians.

Unlike in 941/2, this visit was not obviously occasioned by any challenge to the king’s position in the north, which was at this time fairly stable. The most likely reason for Louis’ visit, therefore, is to deal with purely Aquitanian affairs. What were these? Well, one of them probably was ensuring the installation of Ebalus as bishop of Limoges. It is also possible that dealing with the succession to the bishopric of Clermont was on the agenda, for it was around this time that Stephen II became bishop. Finally, 944 is the last sure reference we have to Raymond Pons of Toulouse being alive, and I think it is likely that he died shortly afterwards (although some scholars think he lived until 950 or even 960).* In any case, what I think we have here is another shift in power.

Certainly, Raymond doesn’t appear to have troubled the Auvergne again. Liutprand of Cremona refers to a ‘Raymond of Aquitaine’ appearing in Italian politics at this time; personally, I think this was Raymond Pons’ son shifting his political sphere of action; but for our purposes, what matters is that Toulousain influence cannot be shown in the Auvergne. This is significant, because (as was hinted last week) Viscount and lay abbot Dalmatius of Brioude looks to have been linked to him; and with Stephen’s emergence, a different set of local nobles, the family of the viscounts of Clermont, appear to have replaced Dalmatius as the key figures within Aquitaine. As I said previously, Stephen was the son of Viscount Robert of Clermont, who figures prominently in his early charters. Robert and Dalmatius don’t appear to have been unfriendly or poorly-disposed to one another – they show up at many of the same gatherings – so I think this is not the product of conflict, but rather a simple transfer of power due to Stephen’s appointment.

It’s at this moment that the charter discussed when Stephen first appeared on this blog was issued, in 945. We don’t necessarily have to imagine Louis coming down in 944 and settling things with a wave of his royal hand, but I think that his kingship was a key element in whatever happened in the mid-940s. Stephen’s act is an ‘accession act’, firmly staking his claim as the predominant local figure in the Auvergne, displaying the core members of his faction, and doing so based on and legitimated by his connection to King Louis.

*Some, in fact, think he died earlier and the Raymond who shows up in 944 is a different guy. The reason for this is that the 944 guy is just ‘Raymond’ and Raymond Pons always shows up in his charters as ‘Raymond Pons’ or ‘Pons’. Problem is, the evidence from 944 isn’t one of his own charters, it’s Flodoard, who always refers to him as just ‘Raymond’ and there’s no reason to think it’s a different person.


Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 1: A Duchy without A Duke, c. 920-936

Lately I’ve been writing up my paper for the ‘Revisiting the Europe of Bishops’ conference at Liverpool that you should all totally come to (although someone appears to have put my name on the list next to the respectable people), the which paper is all about revisiting the career of Bishop Stephen II of Clermont. In the process, though, I’ve discovered two things. The first is that Aquitanian history is really difficult. For all that with Flodoard of Rheims you occasionally need to read between the lines, he at least usually says something about a given year in the north-east of the kingdom; and at least Dudo of Saint-Quentin is reliably weird. The scraps of detail you have to pin together Aquitaine are another matter entirely. Possibly relatedly, the second thing I’ve discovered is that a lot of what’s been written on it is eyebrow-raising. In particular, you can’t take Christian Lauranson-Rosaz’s narrative on trust…* (Of course, you can’t take the one I’m about to propose now and over the next few weeks on trust either; this is explicitly a work-in-progress blog…) The ultimate question is how yer boy Steve got to be at the head of the Auvergnat network of fideles bound together in a community of prayer; but this context is pretty damn tricky. So, this is my attempt to reconstruct it, starting with the decades immediately before Stephen emerges.

So, let’s begin around 920. William the Pious, duke of Aquitaine, has recently died. His nephew William the Younger has taken over, and does a reasonable job of holding on to his uncle’s properties. He dies in 927, and his own brother Acfred takes over as duke, but only for about six months or so, as he dies shortly thereafter.

When exactly this was is the first problem. Our source for William’s death is the Annales of Flodoard, so that’s fairly good evidence; Acfred’s will was issued in October 927. The issue is that Acfred was in rebellion against King Ralph of Burgundy, and dated his will to show it, taking Charles the Simple as the real king and addressing Ralph as a fake. He also appointed Viscount Dalmatius of Brioude as one of his executors. But, Dalmatius had issued a charter in February 927 which was dated after Ralph’s reign. This is a disconnect. My solution: Dalmatius’ charter is misdated to the fourth rather than the fifth year of Ralph’s reign, and Dalmatius only accepted Ralph after Acfred died. So far, so simple.

After Acfred’s death, a lot of historians will tell you that there was a war in Aquitaine between the counts of Poitiers and Toulouse over who got to be duke of Aquitaine. (I read somewhere a suggestion that it might have been an ethnic conflict, which, what on Earth?!) This is not really supported by the sources. Flodoard refers to the ‘quarrelling Aquitanians’ in 931; but this is years after Acfred’s death and – importantly – the year after King Ralph has come down, crushed the Viking forces operating in Aquitaine, and made the Aquitanians submit to him. So I don’t think they’re arguing over some putative ducal succession, but over something else, perhaps Königsnahe. We don’t really know, to be honest. In any case, we have charters from both sides, and neither of them claims to be dux in their own documents. This wasn’t a problem for old-fashioned French historians, who could happily see this as being because the king hadn’t filed the paperwork yet; but given we now know that titulature was largely socially-determined (and, yes, you can parallel this with the title dux), it looks more likely that no-one was claiming to be Duke of Aquitaine, quite possibly because no-one cared – you only need to be ‘duke’ if there’s some reason to do so, after all; and it’s striking that although Acfred called himself dux (‘duke’), William the Younger didn’t.

In any case, there isn’t a duke of Aquitaine recorded until 936, which could be a function of the evidence, but I don’t think it is. Diplomas of Ralph after 931 refer to ‘Count’ Ebalus Manzer of Poitiers and Dalmatius of Brioude as a ‘famous knight’, and Flodoard says that ‘Prince of Gothia’ Raymond III Pons of Toulouse submitted to the king; so I think what happens is that we have three regions, Poitou, Auvergne and the south (Gothia), with only a loose connection between the latter two (Dalmatius intervened in a diploma for an abbey in Gothia). In 936, though, Raymond Pons of Toulouse is in Brioude for the foundation of the abbey of Chanteuges, titled as ‘duke of Aquitaine’. Dalmatius and the Auvergnians are there, but the count of Poitou is not.

Chanteuges today (source).

Why does Raymond claim the ducal title now? The probable answer has to do with the death of King Ralph. In his thirteen-year reign, a lot of things shifted politically, not least in relation to Aquitaine. William the Pious’ and William the Younger’s duchy, which had major investments in the north and west – Nevers, Bourges, Mâcon – was dismembered by Ralph. The ‘frontier’ between the authority of Raymond Pons (or, more practically, Dalmatius of Brioude) and everyone else is now a lot further south and east than it used to be. Ralph claimed Mâcon and Nevers, and the Robertians seem to have taken over suzerainty in a lot of northern Berry.  Now, moreover, the new king, Louis IV, has the Robertian ruler of Neustria Hugh the Great as his main support – basically his puppet-master, although this state of affairs won’t last for very long – and Hugh has claimed a new title, duke of the Franks, dux Francorum, which he alleges gives him a vice-regal position throughout the entire kingdom.

Mostly, I think that Raymond’s claim of the title of ‘duke of Aquitaine’ is defensive, a response to Hugh’s claim of being ‘duke of the Franks’ – he might be duke of the Franks, but he ain’t duke of the Aquitanians, he ain’t vice-regal in the kingdom of the Aquitanians, and he ain’t better than Raymond Pons of Toulouse.

On the other hand, there may be an element of opportunity. Things are in flux. This presents a practical threat to Raymond – it’s possible that figures in Transjurane Burgundy are nibbling around the edges of the Velay at this time – but it also presents an opportunity. The agglomeration of territory ruled by Ralph of Burgundy and before him his father Richard the Justiciar was a recent and wobbly creation, and there are hints than on Ralph’s death it started disintegrating. (But that’s another post!) Here, claiming the ducal title might enable Raymond to push his power outwards into the recently-lost western regions. Whether or not he actually did this… well, I think there are hints he might have done, but this is already over a thousand words, that’s including breaking the Burgundian crisis of c. 936 into another post, and we’re still a decade off of Bishop Steve. So I’ll stop here, and we’ll get back to this next time.

*Pleasingly, the late Professor Lauranson-Rosaz put large amounts of his work, including his big book, online at his page, which you can find through the link; so if you want to find what I’m reacting to, it’s there.