In 945, everything went wrong for Louis IV. The background to this is something we haven’t really discussed, because there’s more-or-less no charter evidence relating to it, but we have seen in other contexts: the assassination of William Longsword, count of Rouen, by Arnulf the Great of Flanders in 943. William had no obvious heir – he had one illegitimate son who was a small boy – and so his quite substantial lands and offices were up for grabs. Louis and Hugh the Great spent several years arguing with each other and several viking chieftains about who got what. In the end, the vikings won: Harald, ruler of Bayeux, whose own position was probably recent and somewhat precarious, ambushed Louis and captured him. He was then sold down the river Seine to Hugh the Great (in exchange for hostages, one of whom – as we’ve previously discussed – was Bishop Guy of Soissons). Hugh then proceeded to keep him in prison for the rest of the year.
However, international and domestic pressure was mounting. King Edmund of England send angry embassies on behalf of his nephew. He was then murdered at Pucklechurch, but he wasn’t the big problem anyway. The big problem was Louis’ brother-in-law, who was generally somewhat cool towards him but whose sister Queen Gerberga now launched frantic embassies to seek his assistance: Otto the Great. Otto, who had faced multiple serious rebellions in his ten-year reign, was in no mood to see a king treated badly by successful rebels. It was with these storm clouds gathering that Flodoard described Hugh hold public assemblies to decide what to do with the king. And, as it happens, a charter from one of these meetings survives.
Cartulaire de Notre-Dame de Chartres no. 7 (19th June 946)
In the name of the highest and eternal Saviour, our lord Jesus Christ.
Hugh, most excellent margrave and duke of the Franks.
Since, in this doubtful and inconsistent life, each mortal is, by gift of the Highest Benefactor, ennobled with the happiness of worldly advantage and nourished by an abundance of temporal goods, each of the faithful should take the greatest care that celestial goods should be acquired through that which they possess in this world, and that, by a happy exchange, the invisible is bought by the visible and the incorruptible by the corruptible. Indeed, anyone will more easily deserve to obtain the rights of an enduring heavenly inheritance if (amongst other efforts to pious action) they faithfully cede their worldly and transient goods to the Bestower of All Goods and strive to honour and elevate the most holy Church, that is, His house, with gifts of perishable things.
Let, therefore, the prudent sagacity of all the faithful of the holy Church of God, present and future, and of Our successors, know that – reinforced by the admonition of this holy exhortation and taught by the inspiration of divine grace – along with the consent and will of Our relatives and followers, We concede and donate to the mother church of Notre-Dame de Chartres a certain fisc of Ours, named Ingré, which We have until now possessed freely and by hereditary right, which is in the district of Orléannais, in the vicariate of Les Muids, with all its appendages, which have these names: Champoigny, Grand Muid, Petit Muid up to Alleville and up to the estate which is called Cercottes, Cultura, Boignaux, Montpatour, Brogilus, Villaris, Chiregius, Coust, Changelin, Sorberes, Pataliacus, Les Masures, Montabusard, Sucrogilas, Buiras, Le Buisson, and certain land which lies in the estate which is called Ormes, and other adjacencies lying both within and also without the town, whatever is seen to be beholden there at present; and the rulers of the estate will have the ability to reclaim whatever has been taken away at any time; and We transfer it from Our dominion and place under its rule, with lands cultivated and uncultivated, pastures, meadows, woods, and bondsmen of both sexes and a church there named and built in honour of St Lupus.
And thus, conceding this gift of Our right, We established through deliberation that it should be delegated to the feeding of the brothers of the said church, and assigned to their stipends and usages, from whence they might every day have food and nourishment and more freely pay attention to divine worship and spiritual exercises, and constantly pour out unceasing prayers to the Lord for us and our wife and as well all our offspring, so that He, by the merits of his mother Mary, for whose love We gave a little gift of this sort, and by the plea of all the saints, might rule and govern Us in the height of temporal dignity and sublimity, by which in the land of the living We might at some time merit to see and gain its good things and possess the freedom of a heavenly inheritance.
If, though, any of Our relatives, heirs or proheirs or any calumniating person should try hereafter to violate the authority of this gift, let them incur the wrath of the Three-In-One Deity and Mary Mother of God on whom they committed this fraud, knowing that she will never be their helper; and let them be unable to vindicate what they have claimed, and withdraw in confusion from this presumption, and let the present writing persist undisturbed and undefiled through times to come, relying on this guarantee.
But so that this page might obtain the strength of stronger firmness, We and Our son Otto [of Burgundy] undersigned it with Our own hands, and We determined it be strengthened by the hands of Our nephews and followers.
Sign of Hugh, duke of the Franks, who made and affirmed the authority of this writing. Sign of Hugh [Capet], his son. Sign of Otto, his son. Sign of Heribert [the Elder], his nephew. Sign of Odo. Sign of Robert. Sign of Theobald. Sign of Fulk. Sign of Bernard. Sign of Godfrey. Sign of Aimo. Sign of Ivo. Sign of Warin. Sign of Gauzbert. Sign of Godfrey. Sign of Frotmund [of Sens]. Sign of Adelelm. Sign of Isembard. Sign of Ansculf. Sign of Walter. Sign of another Walter. Sign of Gauzbert. Sign of Cadelo. Sign of Robert. Sign of another Robert. Sign of Landric. Sign of Hugh. Sign of Heriveus. Sign of Suger. Sign of Gislebert. Sign of Odo. Sign of Ralph.
Given on the 13th kalends of July [19th June], in the 11th year of the reign of King Louis.
Obviously, the big interest here is the witness list. We have a veritable Who’s Who of Robertian allies. We’ve got a bunch of relations and clients of the late Count Heribert II of Vermandois, including his sons Heribert the Elder, Robert of Troyes and probably Odo of Amiens, as well as Bernard of Beauvais. We’ve got Hugh’s Neustrian subordinates, including Theobald the Trickster and Fulk the Good; the ‘Ivo’ is perhaps the ancestor of the Bellême on the southern border of the future Normandy, and I’d be inclined to put the ‘Aimo’ there too. We’ve got various Burgundian figures, most obviously Frotmund of Sens but I’d lay decent odds that the ‘Landric’ in the list is the ancestor of the later count of Nevers. In short, these are Hugh the Great’s fideles – but no-one else. That’s far from a negligible base of support, and its certainly enough to be a threat to anyone else in the West Frankish kingdom – but it likely does indicate that he’s having problems winning over anyone else.
We also have Hugh’s sons, Hugh Capet and Otto of Burgundy, both making their first public appearances at the age of about six to eight (their father and mother married in 937, so they can’t be much older). It’s interesting that Otto is the one who confirms this charter, and not Hugh Capet. It’s often assumed that Hugh was the oldest son, but that may well not be the case: this isn’t the only time that Otto shows up first in tenth-century sources… In fact, if Otto were the eldest and Hugh the Great intended for him to get Neustria (as his presence here implies), that might explain developments of a couple of decades later which we’ll get to in time…
Was Hugh the Great planning to depose Louis? It’s a picture that has tempted many historians, and I’ve softened on the idea over time; but ultimately I think he wasn’t. This charter provides one key clue: the dating clause. If Hugh were really planning to kick Louis off the throne, why would this charter be dated by Louis’ regnal years? A subtle clue such as anno Domini dating would be key evidence here; the fact that no such thing exists indicates that whatever Hugh’s goals were, outright deposition is unlikely to have been one of them.
So what did he do instead? That, I’m pleased to say, is a question for a different day, specifically this time next week. Tune in to find out!