Name in Print XI

This week I got back to the UK from Tübingen to discover that something I was looking forward to receiving very much had arrived! Some of you may remember that several years ago I wrote a blog post about a bit of tenth-century textile work known as the Kriegsfahne of Queen Gerberga. As of this week, that article now exists in the world for you to read in the latest issue of Viator. This makes it the second article I’ve got into print which had its genesis on this here blog, so I’m doubly proud of it.

Turns out Viator doesn’t put its name on the front cover, forcing me to resort to desperate measures.

This article rexamines whom the Kriegsfahne depicts and, having identified that figure as Ragenold of Roucy, the son-in-law of the textile’s patron Queen Gerberga, proceeds to examine changing strategies of aristocratic legitimation as they evolved hand-in-glove with changing strategies of royal legitimation. It’s probably the clearest exposition of the capillary nature of political culture I’ve ever written, which is to say that it looks at how changes in the nature of legitimate authority spread down socio-political networks like an inkblot. Even though it’s about the Ottonians and the West Frankish kingdom, I think it’s worth a read if you work on anything in the earlier Middle Ages.

Sadly it’s not open access, but if you’d like to read it I have a PDF offprint I’d be very happy to send you if you e-mail me on the usual address at ralph [dot] torta [at] gmail [dot] com. The citation in full is:

Fraser McNair, ‘The Kriegsfahne of Queen Gerberga and the Liudolfing ascendancy in the West’, Viator 52 (2022), pp. 115-135.  

The gritty details: This one was actually pretty straightforward. I wrote the blog post back in 2019, and wrote up a first draft of the article pretty quickly. I sent it round a couple of beta readers – my thanks to Simon MacLean and Megan Welton, the latter especially for some very focussed suggestions on clarifying the structure – and thence to Viator. One round of relatively minor revisions later*, it was accepted in summer 2021 and came out now in summer 2022.

* and I have to say, my respect for the anonymous reviewer who remembered that Heinrich Löwe had made the identification with Ragenold in an offhand footnote in a piece dedicated to something else has my serious respect for their memory and/or note-taking system…

One more thing: both Sam and I will be at the Leeds International Medieval Congress this coming week. I’m not speaking myself, but Sam will be doing a roundtable on ‘Rethinking the Medieval Frontier’ on the Monday night at 19:00 in the Esther Simpson Building room 3.08, and then giving a paper on the Thursday morning at 11:15 on Stage 2 of Stage@Leeds on ‘Hungry Borders: Escalating Conflict on the Carolingian Frontier’. So do pop along to both of those if you’re interested, and please do come and say hi to either of us if you see us around – we’d love to meet the blog’s audience!


Flagging Up an Issue

Being a mostly text-based historian, it’s nice when I get to work with more material-culture stuff, not least because it means that I can put it into blog posts like the following… So, take a look at this:

(source, copyright them)

Good, no? This is the Kriegsfahne (‘war banner’) of Gerberga. It’s not actually a war banner – it’s too small, for one thing – but that name has become attached to it. To give a bit of explanation about the iconography, what we have here is Christ and several saints in the middle, with a ‘Count Rainard’ (Ragenardus comes) kneeling before Christ, several martial verses from Psalm 144 stitched around the outside, and the phrase ‘Gerberga made me’ near the bottom. The textile is currently to be found in the cathedral treasury at Cologne, where it has been since the mid-tenth century. It is usually associated with Queen Gerberga, wife of Louis IV, which is fair enough insofar as a) Bruno, archbishop of Cologne in the mid-tenth century, was her brother; and b) one of the saints on this thing is St Baso, who was only culted in the abbey of Nore-Dame de Laon, which Gerberga happened to own.

The more interesting question, in terms of what this flag is trying to convey, is who Count Rainard is. He’s usually associated with Count Reginar III of Hainaut, a major figure in northern Lotharingia. So the argument goes, Gerberga, Bruno, and Reginar had a major dust-up in the 950s, the flag depicts Reginar defeated and prostrate, and it’s a reminder of her role in Reginar’s overcoming.

I have to confess to being unconvinced by this. First of all, Reginar (Ragenarius, Reginherus, Raginerus) is not the same name as Ragenardus. Second, Ragenardus here is not visibly defeated. For one thing, he’s not wearing penitential clothing; for another, he’s still very visibly wearing a sword, which one would have thought would be an obvious no-no if you wanted to depict a beaten enemy. In fact, the closest parallel to Ragenardus’ position are Carolingian and Ottonian pictures of reigning kings kneeling before Christ.

Such as this image of Otto III, from the emperor’s own prayer book (source)

So what do I think is happening here? Well, first, who is Ragenardus? My answer to that is that it is a man named Count Ragenold of Roucy. Ragenold was Queen Gerberga’s son-in-law, a major figure in Louis IV’s latter years, and a major military leader in the fight Louis and Gerberga led against Hugh the Great. It must be admitted that Ragenardus and Ragenoldus are also not quite the same name, but an L-R elision is not unknown, and in the parallel case of Count Rainald the Old of Sens, you can see contemporary authors making precisely this elision.

If it is Ragenold, then the flag must be presenting him not as a penitent, but as a successful warrior. The words of Psalm 144 around the edge, ‘Blessed be the Lord my strength which teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight’, caption an armed figure kneeling before a triumphant Christ. This fits well into the context of Ragenold’s career in the late 950s, where he was involved in a number of Carolingian military expeditions into Burgundy in which both Gerberga and Bruno of Cologne were involved. Given that, thanks to his marriage, Ragenold was part of the extended Ottonian family, imagining this as a gift to the in-laws is far from implausible… This does of course raise the question: why give to the in-laws, and why give this? And for the answer to that, well, you’ll have to wait for the book…