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 42: The Defence of the Realm

When I’ve spoken before about the foundation of Normandy, I’ve referred to the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, made in 911. The problem is that this date, whilst traditional, is less secure than it looks. The only person who actually puts a date on the agreement made between Charles the Simple and Rollo is Dudo of Saint-Quentin, whose chronology is dreadful. For instance, he puts Rollo’s arrival in the West Frankish kingdom in 876, a date cherry-picked from his written sources with no internal logic behind it. 911, in Dudo’s work, was clearly picked because that was the date of the battle of Chartres, and whilst we know from other sources that an agreement was reached soon after that, it could have been up to several years later. (One historian, in fact, has argued that the foundation of Normandy happened several decades before, in the 880s; but her arguments have not generally found any traction because they’re very reliant on internal chronological indicators within Dudo’s writings which aren’t themselves trustworthy.)

What that means is that the earliest reference we have to the existence of Rollonid Rouen is in fact this:

DD CtS no. 92 (14th March 918, Compiègne) = ARTEM no. 2049 = DK 6.xxi

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

Because God Almighty, Who is King of Kings, by His gift worthily placed Our Clemency over both His realm and His people, it therefore behoves Us not only to preside over, but truly rather to profit holy churches, and especially the downfallen, in whom the bodies of the saints lie beaten by pagan savagery, lacking until now due veneration.

Wherefore let the skill of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, as well present as future, ascertain that the venerable margrave Robert [of Neustria], the counsel of Our realm and a helper to Us, and also abbot of the monastery of the holy martyr Vincent and the outstanding pontiff of Paris Germanus, approaching Our Sublimity with Count Heribert [II of Vermandois] and the extraordinary Bishop Abbo [of Soissons], advised that both for the veneration of holy remains, to wit, of Archbishop Audoënus and as well of the blessed confessors Leutfred and his brother Agofred, and also moreover for Our salvation and that of the whole realm, the abbey which is named Croix-Saint-Ouen should be conceded to the monks of the aforesaid confessor Germanus, so that from now and in future, the limbs of the aforesaid saints, which have for a long time gone without the divine office, might be reverently received by the same abbey-dwellers and be honoured, having been set beside the blessed limbs of Germanus.

Assenting to their worthy petitions, to wit, those of Our followers, We donated and subjected that abbey, whose head is in the district of Madrie, on the river Auture, to Saint-Germain and its monks, to constantly [serve] their mensa, except the part of that abbey which We granted to the Seine Norse, that is, to Rollo and his comrades, for the defence of the realm.

Therefore, We decreed the goods of the aforesaid abbey, with all estates, lands cultivated and uncultivated, vineyards, meadows, woods, waters and watercourses, mills, with bondsmen and cottars, and with all other dependencies therein, except the Northmen’s portion, be given and subdued and confirmed for the food, clothing, and also other uses of the congregation of Saint-Germain, so that each year, on the 4th ides of February[10th February], they might markthe anniversary of Our most beloved spouse Frederuna with vigils and offerings of masses, and celebrate the day of Our unction, the 5th kalends of February[28th January], the feast of Saint Agnes, with a great feast; and after Our death, let this be changed and the help of prayers and feasts be on the day of Our passing.

And We commanded this Our royal precept be made concerning the authority of this cession, through which We decree and command that none of the faithful of the holy Church of God, present and future, or the abbot of that abbey, should try to cause a disturbance or resistance or inflict prejudice or violence concerning the abovewritten goods. Rather, the same congregation should be permitted to securely and perpetually possess and enjoy the same goods in their entirety, inviolably, without any calumny or contradiction, without any subtraction or diminution.

Therefore, that this precept of Our authority might firmly obtain the vigour of continuation and be truly believed through the course of years to come, confirming it below with Our own hand, We commanded it be signed by Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

 

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

 

Given on the 2nd ides of March (14th March), in the 6th indiction, in the 26th year of the reign of the glorious king Charles, the 21st of his restoration of unity to the kingdom, and the 6th of his acquisition of a larger inheritance.

 

Enacted at the palace of Compiègne.

Happily in the name of God, amen. 

Charles’ act, which survives in the original, from the Diplomata Karolinorum (source).

The abbey of Croix-Saint-Ouen, in the village now called Croix-Saint-Leufroy, is somewhat to the north-east of Évreux, which is an interesting place for a dividing line to be drawn by itself. We know from Flodoard’s account that Rouen was always the home-base of the Seine Norse, but the boundaries of their power are somewhat vague. To the north-east, the river Bresle seems to have been generally acknowledged as a border. To the south-east, the river Epte was the border in place by the turn of the millennium, although there are hints in our sources that the original border was rather further north, at the river Andelle. To the west of the Seine, though, things get a lot murkier. Évreux itself, for instance, seems by the 930s to have been under the control of a band of Northmen with only a loose affiliation to Rouen. (Further west, as we saw in previous weeks, Bayeux was under the control of Botho, who despite Dudo’s efforts to make a Viking chieftain was probably a Frankish count.)

Given the liminal position of Évreux, it is notable that taking possession of Croix-Saint-Ouen implants the Robertian abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés right in the middle of this zone of loose control. One thing I’ve always wondered about is what the phrase ‘for the defence of the realm’, pro tutela regni, is actually supposed to attach to. It’s normally taken as referring to the grant of lands to Rollo; but If the part about Rollo is an extended sub-clause, it could refer to the grant of lands to Saint-Germain. If the former, Charles is commenting on his ‘poachers to gamekeepers’ strategy of setting Rollo to defend against other Vikings; if the latter, it’s a comment on how the king doesn’t trust his new Northman subordinate.

You see who he does trust, though; or, at least, who he wants to make damn sure everyone else knows he trusts? Robert of Neustria. The dramatic set of epithets Robert is given in this diploma is about as high as he ever gets. At this point, his influence stretches from Nantes to Flanders, and he’s easily the most powerful man in the realm besides Charles himself. Some measure of his power here can be seen in the other count making the request alongside him: Heribert II of Vermandois, his son-in-law. Older historians will tell you that Heribert was in charge of the Vexin, but there’s little enough evidence for that. His presence here seems instead to be due to his role as a Robertian protégé being shown onto the royal stage for the first time. In fact, he’s very well-placed to take advantage of both Charles and Robert, as the latter’s in-law and the son of the former’s most prominent lay support back at the start of his reign.

As we leave 918 behind us, take a deep breath. This is going to be the last peaceful year for a very, very long time…

Good Guy Hugh the Great

Well, I’m in Leeds now. It’s not so much that everything’s sorted – much remains to be done – but I have an office and I’m sitting in it and so blog can be written. Onwards! Last week I put up a charter translation, which pointed towards this blog post. I mentioned when I was leaving Germany that it made sense to put all the arguments I had about the political narrative of tenth-century West Frankish history in separate articles so that, someday, I could write a book for a general audience without getting bogged down. Fairly high up my to-do list, then (largely because big chunks of it were already written and even partly footnoted) is a short piece on our old friend, the succession to Ralph of Burgundy.

The basic point of this, which I will rehearse in brief here, is not to make any big splash with new information, but to reinterpret what we already know. “So, like most of medieval history then?”, I hear you say. Good point well made, reader; but in this case we’ve ‘known’ something for rather longer than usual and it has remained unchallenged – as far as I know, at all. But on really trying to set down the state of affairs, I think that the consensus is all wrong and a bag of chips.

29kvqs

That consensus in a nutshell. I presume if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you already know the events, but if not, briefly: in January 936, King Ralph of the West Frankish kingdom, whose core support base was Burgundy, died. As king, he was succeeded by Louis IV, an exile who had lived his entire life in England; as duke of Burgundy, by his brother Hugh the Black. After Louis was crowned, he and Hugh the Great, the so-called ‘duke of the Franks’ and the magnate who had organised Louis’ crowning, attacked Burgundy, seizing the north of it from Hugh the Black. This was an unscrupulous attack carried out at Hugh the Great’s instigation and for his profit, snatching northern Burgundy from the rightful heir, Hugh the Black; and the only reason it could be done was because Louis was a helpless pawn completely under the power of Hugh the Great, whose only interest lay in exploiting the king’s presence to increase his own power, leaving Louis helpless and dependent.

Now, in recent works this is presented a bit less moralistically than it was in the early twentieth century, but it’s still more-or-less the same argument. However, it hinges on the idea that a) Hugh the Black was the ‘rightful heir’ to a ‘duchy of Burgundy’ and b) Hugh the Great was shortsightedly self-serving. I’ve argued against the first point here (Hugh the Black was an outsider to much of his brother’s core regions, and there’s no reason to think that men who had been operating in Ralph’s royal court would not look to the next royal court – rather than a not-so-local potentate – as his successor); but the second is also important.

Historians have long appreciated that kings and nobles were not always and inherently antagonistic such that the kings had to keep unruly and unscrupulous aristocrats down before they tore polities apart in pursuit of their own profit. This appreciation can sometimes seem to stop at around 870. But let’s look at Hugh the Great’s actions. We have a new king. He’s young, and unlike his almost-as-young East Frankish counterpart Otto the Great, he’s inexperienced. He has no West Frankish allies, and a lot of the old royal lands and palaces in the north-east are contested (thanks, Heribert of Vermandois!). But, there are these other guys to the south, in Burgundy, who were in with the last king, and who have no particular love for his brother’s attempts to impose himself on them by force…

Seen in this light, Hugh the Great’s campaign against Hugh the Black looks like a good-faith attempt to set Louis up as successor to Ralph’s power in the region of Burgundy. Certainly, not a disinterested one – Hugh the Great was made lay abbot of Saint-Germain-d’Auxerre – but this was just allowing Hugh an office which had for most of the late ninth century been attached to his particular bloc of lands and offices. (Hugh’s Neustria was actually much more formal than Ralph’s Burgundy, and maybe I should do a post about that…) But Ralph of Burgundy had not been a negligible figure, and asserting Louis as his heir in Burgundy made sense as a way of ensuring that Louis would also be a figure to reckon with.

Why did Hugh want Louis to be a figure to reckon with? Because useless kings were… erm, useless. If, as Hugh could reasonably expect, he would be the most important figure in Louis’ regime, then he needed the king to be rich and powerful, or else he couldn’t reward Hugh or judge in his favour in any meaningful way. He’d just be a useless appendage of Hugh’s own power. Moreover, in the 930s this wasn’t just hypothetical. Less than ten years before, Heribert of Vermandois had tried that sort of puppet arrangement with Louis’ imprisoned father, Charles the Simple, who – absent any particular power of his own – could add nothing to Heribert’s own resources except an alliance with the Normans, who were so suspicious of Heribert’s treatment of the king that they ended up demanding enough in the way of hostages to be rather counter-productive.

Hugh the Great, then, emerges not as a grasping aristocrat exploiting a helpless king, but as a man who, for his own benefit certainly but that makes it no less illustrative of how politics worked, tried to turn an exile king into a political force to be reckoned with.

Name in Print I

After a nearly two-year hiatus in publishing, my latest article is now in print, and available for anyone to read. It is entitled ‘After Soissons: The Last Years of Charles the Simple (923-929)’, and it can be found – for free – with the good folks at the Rivista Reti Medievali via this finely-crafted hyperlink.

Charles’ last years haven’t really ever been the subject of historical enquiry, and certainly not in the last, say, seventy-five years or so, so I can say with some confidence that this represents the cutting-edge treatment of the subject. It also features ornery Vikings, Frankish nobles in both conniving and morally-outraged flavours, and Charles’ underwhelming 927 comeback tour. In short: HARDCORE TENTH-CENTURY POLITICS. And it is, as said, open access, so you’ve really got no excuse not to read it.

The gritty details: originally written Winter 2016 for the Chibnall Prize, revised and resubmitted to Rivista Reti Medievali May 2017, one round of revisions, and in print now, five months later. Given some of my stuff that’s still in development hell, this is a fine speed record!

(This format shamelessly ripped off from Jonathan Jarret’s blog…)