Charter A Week 45: Memory, Family, and Favourites

921 was a key year for Charles the Simple’s fortunes. Having brokered a compromise with Robert of Neustria the year before, the two men were engaged in sorting out their positions. One of the threads of this year, in my reading, is how hard either found it to get any kind of unequivocal support on side. Duke William the Younger of Aquitaine was hostile to both; Richard the Justiciar of Burgundy had recently died and his sons seem to have had very different political orientations (Hugh the Black, pro-Robert; Boso of Vitry, pro-Charles; Ralph of Burgundy, on the fence). Meanwhile, Charles began lavishing favour on men from his north-eastern heartlands, above all our old friend (?) Hagano.

In Easter 921, Charles issued this diploma for the abbey of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés:

D CtS no. 108 = ARTEM no. 2050 = D.Kar 6.XIII (22nd April 921, Compiègne)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by gracious favour of divine clemency king of the Franks.

We believe without doubt that the good and useful things which We carry out, at the suggestion of Our followers, for love of divine worship profit the realm of Our rule in its greatest increase, and that it benefits the blessing of Our salvation.

Therefore, let it be held known by the followers of the holy Church of God and Us, present and future, that the most reverend bishop Abbo [of Soissons] along with the venerable Count Hagano, and the reverend Abbot Rumald [of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés] endeavoured to make it known to Our Serenity how the abbey of Fossés, which is sited in the district of the Parisis, on the river Marne; and which is built in honour of the holy mother of God Mary and the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, where the aforesaid Abbot Rumald now presides, having previously been destroyed, was restored by kinsmen from the side of Our mother Adelaide, building it again, with a full restoration under the monastic order; and that they strengthened through the precepts of the kings Our predecessors – from Our great-grandfather Louis [the Pious] and Our grandfather Charles [the Bald], and other kings – whatever had been bestowed upon the same monastery in any increase of goods; and that Abbot Rumald, together with his congregation, asked that they wanted the same monastery to be held by Us in the same manner as prior kings by a renewal from Our precept. Whence they brought before our gaze the authority of Our lord and great-grandfather the augustus Louis, in which is contained how Bego, the great-grandfather of Our mother, had restored the monastery (which was nearly destroyed) to its original state under the norm of religion; and how he came and commended the abbey under that emperor’s tutelage and defence, with the abbot and monks and goods pertaining to it; and that this authority was reinforced by Our grandfather Charles and by their other successors.

Hence, We wish that the said abbot and the monks established under him, with all the goods beholden to the same monastery, should fully persist under the defence of Our immunity. Besides which, the monastery of Saint-Maur [of Glanfeuil] sited in the district on Anjou, on the river Loire, which was subjected to the abbey of Fossés by Our late brother Carloman [II] through a precept of his command that they should be one and governed under one abbot, We in like manner commend to persist.

Commanding, therefore, We order that no judge nor any judicial power should presume to require anything through distraint in any of the goods of the same monasteries from which anything is seen to be able to be exacted; rather, let everything which Our fisc can exact therefrom go to alms for the poor and stipends for the monks, and let both of the said abbeys, under one abbot, have the liberty of Our royal defence, without the military service from which We absolve the same places in every way.

Finally, when the aforesaid Abbot Rumald, by the command of divine calling, goes forth from this light, let the monks of these monasteries have license to elect an abbot from amongst themselves, unless it should so happen that there can be found therein one living in accordance with the Rule from amongst the kin of Our mother, who should always carry out the office of abbot therein.

We decree, then, by the word of Our authority and the writing of these letters, that everything written above should persist fixed and stable for all time, so that the aforesaid monks might be able without disturbance to exhort God’s clemency for Our salvation for all time – but especially, whilst We live, on the 5th kalends of February [28th January], on which day We were anointed as king, let them carry out Our memorial in their prayers; and after Our death, let them change these prayers to the anniversary day of Our death. Furthermore, let them mark the anniversary of Our former wife Frederuna on the 3rd ides of February [11th February], always adding to them as well the memory of Our kinsmen who built their place; and in addition, with all of Our offspring, let them have a continuous perseverance in prayer for Count Hagano, who is very faithful to Us.

That this authority might obtain firmness forever by industry of this sort, We command it be sealed with Our signet, confirming it with Our own hand.

Sign of the glorious king Charles.

Gozlin the notary of this royal edict witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Archbishop Roger [of Trier].

Given on the 10th kalends of May [22nd April], in the 8th indiction, in the 29th year of the reign of the glorious king Charles, in the 24th of his restoration of unity to the kingdom and the 10th of his acquisition of a larger inheritance.

Enacted, truly, in the palace of the royal seat of Compiègne.

Faithfully. Amen.

caw 43 921

The original of Charles’ diploma, from the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above.

In this act, issued at the height of Easter time, Charles is doing a number of things. Above all, he is establishing Fossés as a monastery dedicated to the memory of his kinsmen, and specifically his female kinsmen, in particular his mother Adelaide and wife Frederuna. By this point, the initial splurge of dedications memorialising Frederuna has abated, so this demand for a memorial service is targeted and calculated. He places both Fossés and the Loire valley abbey of Glanfeuil (which had been united for about forty years at this point) under his mother’s kin. He also, in a quasi-adoptive act, places Hagano’s memory alongside that of his own family.

Equally noticeable in this act are the intercessors, above all Bishop Abbo of Soissons. Abbo shows up a few times at the end of Charles’ reign as someone high in his confidence, but when it came down to it he sided with Charles’ enemies. It is interesting to wonder whether we are dealing with Charles trying to bribe someone of uncertain loyalties, or whether Abbo’s betrayal was unexpected…

It is also interesting to note that the abbeys Charles is dealing with are in Paris and Anjou. Anjou was a core area of Robert of Neustria’s support, and Paris was an increasingly important liminal area between Charles’ sphere of direct influence and Robert’s. It may be that this diploma was part of a set of provocations in this area, because the final blow-up was also set in this area: Charles confiscated the abbey of Chelles from Rothilde, the mother-in-law of Robert’s son Hugh the Great, and gave it to Hagano. By 922, Robert and Charles were in open war.

Charter a Week 41: The Mourning is the Twilight

The last time we checked in on Charles the Simple, it was way back when he gained control of Lotharingia in 911. There’s a few reasons for that, but ultimately it boils down to the fact that although there were a few royal diplomas I considered translating in previous entries, mostly the interesting things happening have been elsewhere. And that’s perfectly to be expected. The early 910s were a relatively calm time for internal West Frankish politics: no Vikings, internal problems in Aquitaine largely dealt with, a victorious war against the East Frankish king for the incorrigibly belligerent. In comparison with what was to come, the Belle Epoque of Charles the Simple’s reign seems positively prelapsarian.

Of course, it’s been a while since we checked in on Charles the Simple, we haven’t seen Queen Frederuna since she got married. It’s hard to tell because of how reliant we are on the charter record, but she doesn’t seem to have been particularly politically significant. Now, there are methodological concerns here. One of the unspoken reasons, I think, that Frederuna is dismissed is that she doesn’t have the presence in Charles’ diplomas which Ottonian queens will have in later tenth-century royal diplomas. However, Charles wasn’t an Ottonian ruler: he was placed directly in a ninth-century Carolingian tradition. Whilst it’s far from unheard of for Carolingian queens to show up in their husbands’ charters, it’s nowhere near as common – virtually everything we think we know about the power of, say, Charles the Bald’s second wife Richildis, for instance, comes from narrative rather than documentary sources. Still, the thing about absence of evidence not being evidence of absence is that you still don’t have any evidence, which is why it’s a sudden surprise when this happens: 

DD CtS no. 87 (14th February 917, Rheims)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by gracious favour of divine clemency king of the Franks.

We wish it to be known to all men, to wit, present and future, that the late queen Frederuna, my dearest wife, for love of God Almighty and veneration of St Remigius, the apostle of the Franks, before whose most holy relics she was anointed as queen by consecration and benediction of oil, gave to the monks actively soldiering for God in that place, for their mensa [portion of the abbey’s resources], for the remedy of her soul, whatever she was seen to have in the dominion of her control, while life yet ruled her body’s frame, to wit, from the dowry of Our royal marriage: that is, Corbeny, in the county of Laon, except the little cell which is named in honour of the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, and where the body of the confessor of Christ Marculf rests, and which the aforesaid coenobites as a body conceded to me in my lifetime for a rate of 10 solidi to be paid each year.

She also gave them one church in Craonne, strenuously asking Our Munificence that I might give it to the aforesaid monks in accordance with legal custom and make a precept of Our authority for them, so that they might be able to hold it more securely through times to come without resistance or indeeddisturbance from anyone; and importuning Us to leave it to her nephew, named Ernust, in his lifetime, to wit, on the condition that each year on the anniversary of her death, he should pay one pound of silver to the brothers’ mensa in vestiture. After his death, finally, let the same brothers receive it presently, without resistance from any of her kinsmen, with all its dependencies, for the banqueting tables.

Beneficently favouring her freely-made petition in every aspect, as was fair, by the Lord’s largess We executed in every which way what she had asked and her heart desired.

If in future there should be anyone, therefore, which We little believe shall come to pass, who might endeavour to frustrate this gift and endeavour to damage the aforesaid brothers, or rather steal it from them, just as she invoked with complete singlemindedness the Judge of the quick and the dead, let him incur His wrath, and be anathema maranatha before the tribunal of the same Judge.

And that this precept of Our authority might be held more firmly and believed more truly and observed more attentively, confirming it below with Our own hand, We ordered it to be signed by Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Gozlin, notary of royal dignity, witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Archbishop and High Chancellor Heriveus [of Rheims].

Enacted on the 16th kalends of March [14th February], in the 5th indiction, in the 25th year of the reign of Charles, most glorious of kings, in the 20th of his restoration of unity to the kingdom, in the 6th of his acquisition of a larger inheritance.

Enacted at the monastery of Saint-Remi.

Happily in the name of God, amen. 

West Façade of Basilique Saint-Rémi, Reims 140306 1.jpg
The basilica of Saint-Remi in Rheims as it is today (source).

You knew it was coming. Charles’ reaction to Frederuna’s death is something I’ve covered before on this blog. This diploma is one of several dealing with her pious benefactions – from the surviving charters, sorting out Frederuna’s last wishes seems to have taken up a very large portion of Charles’ 917. For now, I’m not so interested in their content – the most interesting thing about this particular donation is that it shows an interest in the relics of St Remigius and their connection with Frankish royalty which has up to this point been unusual (although watch this space for what’s going to happen in about thirty years’ time) – as in using them as a sign of where the kingdom is heading.

My hunch is that losing Frederuna was a real blow to Charles’ state of mind. Obviously I can’t prove that; but I do think he did not handle his grief well. He does seem to have reached out to people who had been close to Frederuna – Bishop Bovo of Châlons, her brother, appears more frequently in royal acts from this point, for instance. The most significant, however, was a man who Charles promoted up the ranks from the lower nobility, a man whom Charles would eventually lose his kingdom over: Hagano. There has been a lot of speculation as to why Hagano was so dear to Charles that the king would stake so much on him; and certainly there are more-or-less plausible arguments about the principle that a king should get to choose his own councillors. However, if you’re asking why this man specifically became the focus for arguments like that, I think it boils down to what Hagano ultimately offered Charles: a shoulder to cry on.

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…

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?