King Lothar and Flanders in the Reign of Count Arnulf II

In theory, if there’s any two West Frankish regions I have any special claim to know, it should be Normandy and Flanders. I’ve been working on these areas since I was an undergraduate – in fact, my master’s dissertation was a comparison of tenth-century princely power in the two of them. Yet one of the joys of the tenth century is that by deep-diving into the sources and by making cross-connections you can discover new things and end up changing your mind even after working on it for a decade. Flanders is a case in point. As often mentioned on this blog, I wrote an article reassessing the succession crisis following the death of Arnulf the Great of Flanders; but the state of my knowledge in 2014 was such that I left it there. However, what has emerged out of my research since then is that Flanders played a pretty crucial role in the rest of Lothar’s reign too, and this is what I want to talk about today.

The short version of one of my arguments in the article is that when Arnulf died in 965, Lothar broke his promise to safeguard Arnulf II, the elder Arnulf’s baby grandson, invaded Flanders, imposed a friendly regent, and annexed a huge swathe of the south for himself. However, that’s not where things stopped. A little while ago, I argued that Lothar’s patronage can be detected on the Flemish border during the 970s, hoping to Lotharingian border magnates into his own orbit. That, however, is only half the story. What I left out is that all the magnates Lothar was hoping to attract were indelibly associated with Arnulf II of Flanders: Dirk of Holland was his guardian, Godfrey of Verdun his stepfather, and even though Arnulf of Valenciennes doesn’t seem to have been related to him (at least not in any way we can prove) he was an important figure in the last days of Arnulf the Great. In fact, Lothar’s patronage around 970 extended to Arnulf II directly. In 972, for instance, Arnulf issued a charter for Blandijnberg in Ghent. The Blandijnberg charters are never above suspicion, and indeed in its current form this is a mid-eleventh century forgery. The crucial thing about it for our purpose, though, is that it grants the abbey the estate of Harnes, near Lens. (This donation was confirmed by a more-or-less unsuspicious royal grant a few years later, so this bit of information in the charter is likely legit.) This is interesting, because Harnes was under Lothar’s control twice over after 965. On one hand, it was south of the Lys, the area he annexed after Arnulf the Great’s death; on the other, it was recorded in 899 (in a charter we’ve discussed on this blog before for entirely separate reasons) as belonging to Saint-Amand, an abbey which we know Lothar controlled at this time. The most likely way for it to get into Arnulf’s hands, therefore, is that Lothar gave it to him; and the most likely reason for that is that the king wanted to draw the young count into dependence on him.

Another hint is that despite everything, Arnulf was able to keep hold of at least the northern part of Ponthieu. Conflict over Ponthieu was a structuring element of northern French politics in the middle and late tenth century. To keep things short, I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say that the fighting pitted the Flemish counts on one side against the Robertians on the other; and that it was a multi-generational conflict. That Arnulf appears ruling Montreuil in 981, therefore, despite the fact that it was in the area Lothar took over in 965, indicates that Lothar favoured him over the Robertians and backed his continued possession of the stronghold.

All this changed, as I noted in my earlier post, after 973, when the exiled sons of Count Reginar III returned from exile. Their bellicose pursuit of their lost inheritance forced the border magnates to cling closely to Otto II, and undid years work of work on Lothar’s part. In the mid-to-late 970s, therefore, we can see Lothar pivot to attacking Arnulf. In 974, for instance, he issued a diploma for the elder Robertian brother and duke of the Franks Hugh Capet confirming donations he had made of land in the Ternois to the abbey of Saint-Riquier in southern Ponthieu, confirming his overlordship over the southern part of the region and giving him some kind of role in the north (which was in all likelihood under Arnulf’s rule at the time).  In 975, he issued a diploma for Marchiennes restoring the estate of Haisnes, which was ‘unjustly stolen from [the abbey] in the time of Count Arnulf [the Great]’ – Arnulf II’s grandfather ended up a historiographical casualty of the new hostility between the king and his comital relative. Interestingly, in 976 Arnulf’s step-uncle Adalbero of Rheims sponsored the translation of St. Thierry in Rheims. Lothar refused to come because he was busy in other parts of the kingdom, and when he did show up he was accompanied by a large army. We don’t know what this army had been used for, but one good suggestion is Flanders.

This brings us to a question we’ve covered before on this blog, the emergence of a separate line of counts of Boulogne. I argued in the previous post that our earliest evidence for any kind of count in the area comes not from the start of Arnulf II’s reign, but from the end.  Count Arnulf, that shadowy figure who is nonetheless the clearest outline we can see from this shadowy time, evidently had a powerbase in western Flanders. This is interesting, because Lothar had some support in that region (including, probably, the chronicler Folcuin of Saint-Bertin); and Arnulf II seems – from later, bitter reports of his behaviour towards Saint-Bertin – to have left a bad memory there. This is speculative, of course, but I think it’s quite possible that, first of all, Arnulf of Boulogne/Ternois was from the family of the advocates of Saint-Bertin (based on their onomastics); second, that that this advocatial position was the basis for the assumption of comital status; and third, this may have been helped by Lothar’s military intervention. Notably, our last attestation of this family as advocates is from 975 – by the 980s, a new family, the Gerbodos, was in place. It is worth considering, therefore, that the fragmentation of Flemish comital power which we know to have taken place by 988 was helped along by royal support for local opposition.

Lothar’s position changed again after 978. As we’ve seen, his invasion of Lotharingia in that year failed. It is therefore noteworthy that – by contrast with Charles the Simple’s invasion of 898 which I have argued was its closest comparison – it took  over a year for peace to be made after direct fighting had stopped. What was Lothar doing in that time? Dudo of Saint-Quentin has a confused anecdote as part of a panegyric on the peacemaking efforts of the Norman duke Richard the Fearless, which says that Arnulf II refused to do military service for Lothar and the king therefore invaded Artois and the area south of the Lys. This has intriguing parallels with a passage in the Gesta Episcoporum Cameracensium which says that Lothar invaded the area at the end of the reign of Bishop Teudo of Cambrai (so, late 978). Either on their own could be written off as a simple repetition of the events of 965. However, although both are evidently confused, the fact that two independent sources have put figures from the late 970s into the same scenario suggests that what is being confused with 965 is real events of 978. That is, Lothar invaded Artois, targeting Arnulf’s possessions or (more likely) those of the church of Cambrai or (perhaps) both.

He then used his gains to reconcile with Arnulf. This gave him a point of entry back into Arnulf’s family networks, and we can in fact see hints of his step-family being used to negotiate the peace between Lothar and Otto which was ultimately signed at Margut in 980. This peace and reconciliation between Arnulf and Lothar, though, led to hostility between Lothar and Hugh Capet. Hugh made a separate peace with Otto II at Rome in 981 and then rushed home to besiege and attack Montreuil, which he was able to take by surprise. Arnulf agreed to hand over the fortress and northern Ponthieu.

Which is, I think, what this late medieval miniature is supposed to show (source)

After decades of fighting, the Robertians had finally defeated the Flemish for Ponthieu. At the same time, Lothar had established himself as master of Artois, even if his more grandiose schemes for using his Flemish connections had failed to pan out. Lothar’s relationship with Arnulf, in fact, is a kind of microcosm for his entire reign. He was a canny politician and powerful ruler whose capacity to manipulate and control events within his kingdom was generally significant. However, he was not great at resolving the contradictions within his own policy aims. Thus, during the 970s, he treated Flanders and its associated elites as on one hand targets but on the other hand important allies. What this meant was that when Lothar was treating Arnulf II as an ally his capacity to get things done in the region was weakened through what Lothar had done when he was his enemy. There must have been other issues too – trust springs readily to mind – but this factor is a key for understanding why, despite all his efforts, the gains Lothar reaped from his Flemish policy during the 970s were so relatively limited compared to his designs.    

Lothar’s Potential Supporters in the Invasion of 978

In 978, King Lothar attacked Aachen, forcing Emperor Otto II to flee. It was an audacious move, aimed to conquer Lotharingia – the third attempt made in as many generations of West Frankish kings. However, unlike Charles the Simple in 911 or Louis IV in 939, Lothar’s support within Lotharingia itself seems remarkably weak. Charles and Louis had the backing of a vast array of Lotharingian nobles – it’s one of the reasons why Charles’ attempt worked and Louis’ required some serious bad luck to go wrong. Who did Lothar have?

Charlemagne’s throne at Aachen. The city was being revived as an imperial centre in the 960s and 970s, so an attack here had tremendous symbolic resonance. (source)

The only sure supporters we know about are two brothers, Reginar IV of Hainaut and his brother Lambert of Leuven. Reginar and Lambert were the sons of Reginar III, who had been an inveterate opponent of Archbishop Bruno of Cologne in the 950s and had been exiled to Bohemia and stripped of his lands. In the early 970s, Reginar and Lambert returned to Lotharingia and launched a serious of wars trying to regain control of their lost lands. In 976, they achieved a significant military success, capturing the citadel at Mons. The Annals of Niederaltaich actually give them credit for inspiring Lothar’s attack, and it’s quite possible that it was in part to capitalise on their strong position. However, in terms of explicit evidence of support for Lothar, that’s about it.

That’s not to say that cases – more or less tenuous – can’t be made for other members of the Lotharingian aristocracy being, if not behind Lothar, at least not behind Otto II. My personal favourite candidate is Archbishop Egbert of Trier. According to Alpert of Metz, once Lothar had taken Aachen, he went to besiege Metz. His route from Aachen to Metz would have taken him through Trier (at least if he was following the Roman road), and we know from charter evidence that Egbert was actually in Trier at the same time Lothar was. Even more, the charter from whence we know this is dated not by the regnal dates of Otto II, but only by an AD date. My suspicion is that this is because Egbert was acting as Lothar’s host. Later, in the 980s, he was accused of being a West Frankish sympathiser – might he have also been one in 978?

Egbert’s father, Count Dirk II of Holland, is another potential sympathiser. We don’t know much at all about what he was doing in this period, but besides his relationship to Egbert he has indirect ties to another potential supporter of Lothar. Abbot Poppo of Stavelot, a major ecclesiastical figure in the early-to-mid eleventh century Empire, was the son of a man named (according to his Vita) ‘Tizekinus’, who originated on the Lotharingian border of Flanders. The Vita says that Tizekin died in ‘the war for Hesbaye’, which is generally understood to mean the 978 attack. ‘Tizekinus’ as a name is unique, and is in all likelihood an error for the name ‘Tescelin’. There is a Tescelin who shows up in charters from Ghent next to Count Dirk II, and given that Poppo originally took up knightly service with Dirk’s grandson Dirk III, Vanheule has suggested the family had hereditary ties to the counts of Holland. I like this suggestion, but I want to pile one more on top of it. Tescelin’s death has generally been viewed as fighting against Lothar, but the Vita doesn’t say that explicitly, and he could have been fighting for Lothar. If he was, and if his allegiance reflected Dirk’s, the Frisian count might have thrown in his lot with the West Frankish king rather than his Ottonian opponent.

It is therefore interesting that the name ‘Tescelin’ appears in a list of malefactors who had attacked the church of Cambrai. This list is replete with problems, not least of which is the dating. It could be from the 950s or the 970s – Mériaux, the most recent commentator, suggests the 970s as more probable, and I agree with this view. This list of malefactors is clearly focused around the Reginarids, and a ‘Count Reginar’ is named. If this is a 970s list, this is evidently Reginar III. If Tescelin was an ally of Reginar, then this is another oblique hint that he might have been an ally of Lothar too.

Another name on the list of malefactors is ‘Count Albert’. There are a few potential identities for this figure. Probably the most likely, as Mériaux says, is Count Albert the Pious of Vermandois, a known enemy of the church of Cambrai during this period. However, Mériaux also keeps open the possibility that it is Count Albert of Namur. This latter Albert appears in an early eleventh-century vision of a monk from Saint-Vaast (an abbey in Cambrai’s diocese) being tortured in Hell, so evidently left an unhappy memory there. The reason this is interesting is that Lothar’s initial route to Aachen would have put him within easy striking distance of the citadel at Namur, yet he apparently passed without resistance. Albert of Namur’s father Robert was an old ally of the Reginarids, and of Count Immo, who had recently been killed fighting alongside Reginar and Lambert and who had also been a follower of Hugh Capet, one of the major figures on the expedition. Perhaps, then, Albert of Namur was at least a fence-sitter during the invasion.

A final piece of evidence comes from Toul. Charter evidence from the abbey of Bouxières – a clause referring to the seal ‘of whichever king God chooses to preside over the realm – has been convincingly dated to this period by Bautier, and may in turn suggest that at least some local people did not back the Ottonians to the hilt. However, we don’t know who.

Ultimately, after heaping up hypotheses, we still haven’t got very much – one potential episcopal supporter, a much weaker case for one comital supporter, and a possible neutral. I still think it’s worth making these arguments, or else Otto II’s powerbase within Lotharingia looks so overwhelming that Lothar looks like a complete cretin for even trying; but even if all this speculation happens to be accurate it was still a very risky gamble.

In fact, Lothar’s attack reminds me most of Charles the Simple’s attempted invasion of 898, right down to having limited and mostly Reginarid support. Our sources, in fact, emphasise that Lothar’s game plan was one massive alpha strike aimed at captured Otto II personally. Once this failed, Lothar does seem to have had a Plan B – an attack on Upper Lotharingia, where much of the tepid support-cum-lack-of-opposition we saw above came from – but that fizzled out pretty quickly.

Looked at through this lens, 978 looks like a much more traditionally Carolingian attempt to opportunistically exploit the ambiguous position of the Middle Kingdom than the kind of proto-William-the-Conqueror unsupported invasion it’s often implicitly portrayed as. This has two interesting corollaries. First, it implies that Lothar thought that he could pose a convincing military threat to Otto if it came down to it. This is striking because of how overwhelming Ottonian military power had been in the mid-tenth century compared to anything the West Franks could muster and indicates the degree of political and military consolidation which had taken place since the darkest days of the West Frankish civil war. Second, it gives Lothar’s second invasion of Lotharingia in 984 a much more interesting cast. After all, if traditional Carolingian warfare hadn’t worked for him, why not try something new? That, though, is a story for another day…

The Counts of Boulogne Who Mostly Weren’t

Sometimes you just end up chasing ghosts. I’ve addressed the tenth-century counts of Boulogne before in print (which you could read right here and now if you so chose!) but only in passing as part of the game of ‘Which Arnulf?’, which used to be my go-to example of obnoxious prosopographical questions before it became clear to me that compared to some others it was pretty entry-level. More recently, I’ve been revisiting the question whilst dealing with Flanders and Lotharingia in the 970s, and it’s become clear to me just how murky the history is. For this week, then, I thought we’d take a step-by-step look at the tenth- and early eleventh-century history of Boulogne and ask: what do we really know?

A quick bit of early tenth-century background first. ‘County of Boulogne’ is a bit of a vague term, because it can also (but doesn’t always) cover Ternois, and more generally the western part of Flanders, as well. Around 900, Boulogne seems to have been under the control of a man named Erchengar, who seems to have been reasonably important but who also probably lost control of Boulogne to his neighbour, Count Baldwin the Bald of Flanders, who also ruled Ternois. When Baldwin died in 918, his inheritance was split between his two sons: Arnulf the Great got Flanders proper, and Adalolf got the western portions including Boulogne and Ternois. In 933, Adalolf died and Arnulf brought his brother’s inheritance under his own power.

At this point, we hit our first stumbling block. Back in the ‘40s, Jan Dhondt brought up a passage of Flodoard’s Annals under the year 962:

‘King Lothar, having spoken with Prince Arnulf, made peace between him and his nepos of the same name, whom the count held to be his enemy owing to the killing of the brother of the same, whom the same count had put to death having discovered he was disloyal.’

Nepos can mean either ‘grandson’ or ‘nephew’ (although for what it’s worth in Flodoard it seems to mean ‘nephew’ every time). Dhondt argued that this nepos ought to be a son of Adalolf, based on the emergence shortly after Arnulf the Great’s death of a Count Arnulf of Boulogne. Dhondt put this in relation to the death of Arnulf the Great’s son Baldwin III in the winter of 961/2 to argue that Arnulf’s sudden weakness gave his nephews the opportunity to try and win back their paternal inheritance. Dhondt admitted that this was ‘a supposition, pure and simple’; but his supposition has become the historical consensus.

I argued in the article cited above that Dhondt was wrong, but to recap: we have two genealogies and a narrative source from this period which mention Adalolf, and don’t give him any legitimate heirs. It could be argued that one of these genealogies (that of Witger) is pro-Arnulf propaganda, and that the author of the narrative source, Folcuin (writing precisely during these events), was deliberately passing over contemporary controversies to protect himself; you could even argue that the second genealogy (known as the De Arnulfo comite) is completely untrustworthy or itself a political production. However, once you’ve done that, all you’ve done is to defend a hypothesis for which there is no direct evidence – it is, basically, letting the argument dictate approaches to the evidence not vice versa. Moreover, some of these arguments are unconvincing – the De Arnulfo comite and especially Folcuin (who was not Arnulf’s panegyrist) have no reason not to mention sons of Adalolf, if any existed. In fact, Folcuin actually does mention Arnulf the Great’s nepos Arnulf in passing, without mentioning any connection to Adalolf. Dhondt’s arguments, before they passed into the lofty realm of consensus, were rejected by some of his own, equally distinguished, contemporaries – his friend Philip Grierson, for instance, argued against them in his Cambridge fellowship thesis.

Compared to my 2017 article – which was written in 2014 – I can actually go one further now. The charter on which Dhondt bases the existence of a Count Arnulf of Boulogne after the 960s is, as we technical diplomatic types say, ‘well dodgy’. It purports to be a 972 grant by Count Arnulf II of Flanders to the abbey of Sint-Pieters of Blandijnberg in Ghent, granting them the estate of Harnes, near Lens. In the witness list, one does indeed find the signum of ‘Arnulf, count of Boulogne’. However, in its current form this act is a mid-eleventh century forgery. It does seem to have been based on some sort of real act – Harnes shows up in a more or less unsuspicious royal act from a few years later – but its forged status is really significant for our purposes. Tenth-century charters almost never have a count’s jurisdiction in their titulature in witness lists, so the ‘count of Boulogne’ appears very suspicious. This is especially so because there are clear grounds for confusion here. A figure who in the 970s was closely associated with the Flemish court was Count Arnulf of Valenciennes. However, by the mid-eleventh century the area around Lens was a key part of the patrimony of the contemporary counts of Boulogne. We may very well be dealing with a situation where the forger saw a ‘Count Arnulf’ in the witness list and assumed it must be the count of Boulogne. In any case, this forged document is a bad foundation for a ‘Count Arnulf of Boulogne’.

This is doubly so given the evidence adduced by Vanderputten and others that the Flemish still controlled the Ternois at the very least for several years after Arnulf the Great’s death. This evidence is not entirely conclusive, but abbatial witness lists from the abbey of Saint-Bertin do suggest that the lay abbacy was held first by Arnulf II’s regent Baldwin Baldzo and then by Arnulf II himself until the early-to-mid 970s. The loss of the abbacy could – emphasis on could – mean that Arnulf II lost control of the region then – but this is a decade after 962 and doesn’t give any link to the ‘nephew of the same name’ mentioned by Flodoard.

The next bit of evidence for a count of Boulogne comes from ‘988’, and a charter of Baldwin the Bearded for Blandijnberg. At the bottom of this charter one finds the signa of Count Dirk [II of Holland], Count Arnulf [probably Arnulf of Ghent, Dirk’s son], Count Artold, Count Baldwin, and another Count Arnulf. These last three have been identified as the counts of Guînes, Boulogne and Ternois respectively. However, as the scare quotes above probably suggested, this charter is another eleventh-century forgery – and in some respects blatantly anachronistic, as in the attribution of the title of ‘Queen’ to Baldwin’s mother Rozala-Susannah well before her marriage to Robert the Pious could have taken place. The identification of Artold and Arnulf ‘of Ternois’ was certainly accepted by c. 1200 – both men show up in the legendary early parts of Lambert of Ardres’ History of the Counts of Guînes – and the forged 988 charter is certainly passable evidence that there were other counts in the Flemish sphere of influence by the late tenth century, but who these men were, where they were based, and how they were related to each other or to the counts of Flanders is unknown.

Beyond this 988 charter, I know of three more-or-less unimpeachable references to counts of Boulogne/Ternois in the decades around 1000.

  1. A papal letter of perhaps c. 995 inserted into the Chronicle of Hariulf of Saint-Riquier addressed to ‘Count Arnulf, Count Baldwin and his mother’. (Zimmerman thought that this was a forgery but he was probably wrong about this.) Baldwin and his mother are pretty clearly Rozala-Susannah and Baldwin IV, so the Count Arnulf is not Arnulf II of Flanders but a count in the area between Ponthieu and Ternois.
  2. An unnamed count of Boulogne was also mentioned by Hariulf as having been killed in battle by Enguerrand, first count of Ponthieu. This can’t have been Count Eustace I of Boulogne – first attested, to my knowledge, in 1024 (although the charter he appears in is also dodgy) – so must be one of his unnamed predecessors.
  3. Finally, we have our most important source, the miracles of St Bertha of Blangy, written in the early eleventh century, which identify a Count Arnulf of Ternois in the years after 1000. This Arnulf has both a wife and children, but the miracles give no other genealogical information.

As far as I have been able to trace, everything else we claim to know about the counts of Boulogne or Ternois before the 1020s/1030s is based on either indirect evidence or very late and legendary thirteenth-century sources.

The first record I know of of Count Eustace I of Boulogne: a forged charter of Baldwin IV of Flanders nominally dating to 1024. Taken from ARTEM, no. 367 (source)

One final note before I sum up is that later genealogies of the counts of Boulogne don’t give Eustace I a father. This is mostly a reflection of their interest in the Carolingian descent of the counts via Eustace’s wife Matilda of Leuven, but I think it also relates to the fact that they don’t know anything in particular about his descent because Eustace basically comes out of nowhere – as Nieus points out, there’s little connecting the two families.

So what do we have? The existing scholarly picture is that a cadet branch of the counts of Flanders, usurped for most of the mid-tenth century, took advantage of a succession crisis to strong-arm their way back into their paternal inheritance in 962. After Arnulf (II) of Boulogne died after a reign of at least a decade, the county was partitioned between his sons, Baldwin (IV) of Boulogne and Arnulf (III) of Ternois. Arnulf died in 1019* and Baldwin in 1023, whereupon the county passed to his son or brother Eustace. What I think we can say after reviewing the evidence is that very little of this is demonstrably true. The emergence of late tenth century counts in Boulogne/Ternois has nothing to do with the events of 962, and should probably be dated to the years around 980 at the absolute earliest. The only evidence of a Count Baldwin in Flanders other than Baldwin the Bearded is the 988 charter, which is not great; and there is nothing connecting him to Boulogne specifically. Arnulf of Ternois is better attested, but was probably only one person. If there was a kinship connection between them and the counts of Flanders, and there may well not have been, they were certainly not a cadet branch. Arnulf may have been the count killed by Enguerrand of Ponthieu; if he wasn’t, we know nothing at all about background of the man who was. Finally, it is overwhelmingly probable that the later counts of Boulogne are nothing to do with these shadowy figures.

You may be wondering, do you have anything constructive to add, or is this demolition work? Well, mostly the latter today. However, there is more to say on this matter. In the next few weeks, I will follow this post up with one looking at King Lothar’s relationship with Flanders after Arnulf the Great’s death in 965. There’s also going to be as much supposition in that post as in Dhondt’s work, and I wanted to keep the directly evidenced-based stuff separate from the more hypothetical material (not to mention that this post is running long)! However, when we get there this post will be important background for royal politics in late tenth-century Flanders – so stay tuned!

Also, this is definitely a case where chasing the threads is a complicated job and I’m slightly out of my comfort zone. This post represents my current understanding, but if you know of a source which contradicts or adds to anything I’ve said, please put it in the comments!

*As far as I can follow it, the reasoning for this is such: there is a record of a siege of Saint-Omer by Robert the Pious in 1020. The assumption is that 1) Robert was pushing against Baldwin the Bearded and 2) Baldwin was taking advantage of Arnulf’s death to conquer Ternois. These seem like pretty big assumptions in the absence of other evidence.

King Lothar and the Origins of Valenciennes and Ename

At some point in the third quarter of the tenth century, several military commands appeared on the river Scheldt, based at Antwerp, Ename and Valenciennes. By the year 1000, their purpose was clear enough: defending Lower Lotharingia against attacks from the counts of Flanders. However, their original purpose is a bit fuzzier. The extant debate in historiography pitches one side which sees them as creations of the mid-960s, after the death of Duke Godfrey of Lower Lotharingia from plague whilst on campaign in Italy; and another which places their genesis in the early-to-mid-970s, responding to the return from exile of the sons of Reginar III, who had a military following, a lot of claims to land, and a grudge. (The wars began in 973 and kept going for years.) Basic to all these claims is the idea that from the very beginning the Flemish marches were a creation of the Ottonian emperors.

However, I wonder if we might not benefit from inverting our perspective. As I have written about before, when Count Arnulf the Great of Flanders died in 965, Lothar launched an invasion to take over as much of Flanders as he could get. Eventually, he grabbed most of the southern portion and placed his own man (Baldwin Baldzo) in the north, watched over by Queen Gerberga and Lothar’s brother Charles. This was presented to the East Frankish king Otto the Great – possibly as a fait accompli – and he signed off on it. One of the reasons he signed off on it was that he was keen to get back to Italy, where he spent most of the years from then until his death, bringing with him his heir Otto II and a surprisingly large chunk of the Lotharingian nobility.

Nothing about this time period is easy or clear – in fact, I’ll put an asterisk next to all the seemingly simple statements of fact which would require a lengthy discursive footnote to justify – but there are hints that Lothar took advantage of the cats being away to try and spread his influence across the Lotharingian frontier. Let’s work north-to-south. From the latter part of the tenth century, we find scattered references in our sources to a ‘county of Ghent’ which did not exist in Arnulf the Great’s time. In 969, however, we find Lothar granting Count Dirk of Holland ‘the forest of Waas in the same county’.* One of our sources explicitly equates the county of Ghent and the pagus of Waas. It may well be that Lothar deliberately sliced off an area of territory around Ghent to give to Dirk in return for the count’s support. Notably, despite the fact that Baldwin Baldzo had been put in place by Lothar as the guardian of the child-count Arnulf II, we find Dirk and Arnulf together in Ghent a few days before Lothar’s grant*.

Even more interestingly, Dirk’s donation was witnessed by Godfrey the Prisoner, count of Verdun. Godfrey’s powerbase lay around Trier and Verdun, and he had no existing ties to the Scheldt region – except one. Probably around this time*, he married Matilda Billung, the widow of Baldwin III of Flanders and Arnulf II’s mother. It is also around this time that Godfrey and Matilda were endowed with a significant estate at Ename. This is extremely unlikely to have belonged to either of them as their own hereditary property, and Matilda is also unlikely to have received it as a dowry from Baldwin. It has been suggested that Ename was a strategic wedding gift from the Ottonians. However, we know that the (by this point recently deceased) Queen Gerberga held estates in this area, just up the river at Krombrugge. Given this, Lothar is as if not more likely a source for this estate than the Ottonians.

Map from Dirk Callebaut, ‘Ename and the Ottonian West Border Policy in the Middle Scheldt Region’, in de Groote & Pieters (eds), Exchanging Medieval Material Culture, p. 224.

This leaves Valenciennes. Valenciennes had been a Carolingian royal estate in the ninth century, but had been badly hit by Viking attacks. I need to do some more reading about this – Leeds’ library doesn’t have the relevant books – but it could well have belonged to Gerberga by the mid-tenth century as well. More significantly, though, Count Arnulf of Valenciennes (whose career would stretch well into the eleventh century) emerges into our sources in the 960s* as a man whose interests and estates were split between Lotharingia and southern Flanders. In fact, he seems to have acted as Queen Gerberga’s advocatus when she donated Meerssen to Saint-Remi in 968*.

However, there is more. Later in 969, Archbishop Odalric of Rheims died. His successor was Adalbero, a canon of the church of Metz. Metz’s cathedral was one of the tenth century’s ‘episcopal finishing schools’, so this is not by itself surprising; but more significant than his ecclesiastical background is the fact that he was Godfrey of Verdun’s brother. In light of all of the above, the shadows thrown by our sources come together to form a picture that looks rather like Lothar was trying to weave a network of alliances covering the whole of northern Lotharingia, infiltrating himself into a area stretching from the Netherlands to Luxembourg. This was probably not, originally, intended as a military rather than a political network. Archaeological excavation at Ename has revealed that at this time it was set up as a trading rather than a military site. The transformation of the site into a military base probably did come in the 970s with the return of the Reginarids, which pushed Godfrey and Arnulf away from Lothar and towards Otto II.

It is questionable whether Lothar’s plan would have worked that well anyway. Godfrey and especially Adalbero turned out to be very canny political operators, neither of whom cared that much for Lothar’s interests. Still, it’s worth thinking about Lothar’s part in the story of these marches, because otherwise we run the risk of putting the Ottonians at the centre of everything, perpetuating the stereotype of the West Frankish rulers as weak and lacking initiative. Quite apart from anything else, this doesn’t explain anything about late tenth century politics. By the 970s and 980s, Lothar thought he could fight and win against the Ottonians, and he was never definitively proven wrong. His schemes came to an end with his death in 986, and the reaction against them led to the end of his dynasty as kings in 987. As such, putting Lothar back in his place as a major Lotharingian player is key to explaining political changes which had repercussions for centuries afterwards.  

Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 7: New Kid on the Block

Last time, we bid a fond farewell to Bishop Stephen II of Clermont and his generation in a few-hundred-word jaunt through twenty years of deeply under-sourced history. (To give some idea of the occasional frustrations of tenth-century history writing, that was as much time as between 9/11 and the present day, with rather less documentation that currently exists for my office furniture.) The sources for around 980 are not substantially better, but we can see a generational shift as three groups of people make a play for power in eastern Aquitaine.

The most ephemeral of these is also the best-recorded and in a lot of ways the most interesting, and that’s the Carolingian kings. In or around 980, King Lothar decided to make his young son Louis V king of Aquitaine. It didn’t work. I’d like to say that this incident has not received enough scholarly attention, but that’s rather unfair – having lavished scholarly attention on it, there’s just nothing there; it’s like post-Carolingian Aquitaine has friendzoned me.

Libellus precum de Saint Rémi.jpg
And here they are: Lothar and Louis V, both on the left. This is a later copy of a prayer book belonging to Lothar’s wife Queen Emma (on the right), and yes, it would be nice if it had survived… (source)

But what happened, you ask? Well, I will tell you what the sources say, and then go from there. To start with, let’s bring in a perhaps-unexpected group of magnates: the counts of Anjou and their family. For reasons I shan’t go into, they were becoming increasingly powerful at court over the course of the 960s and 970s, as well as developing interests in the south. Count Geoffrey Grisegonelle apparently married off his sister Adelaide-Blanche to a man named Stephen, probably in the mid-960s (come on, it’s eastern Aquitaine – everyone’s either Stephen, Amblard, Bertrand or Eustorgius) who was not himself of comital rank but who was nonetheless a big damn deal in the area. Geoffrey and Adelaide-Blanche’s brother Guy, abbot of Cormery, as already mentioned on this blog, was appointed by King Lothar to be bishop of Le Puy in around 975. Then, in 980, when Adelaide’s first husband was dead (and in fact so was her second), Geoffrey’s people at court apparently started trying to persuade Lothar to marry Louis off to her and make him king of Aquitaine which he did.

Lothar went south, had his son crowned at Brioude by the bishops of the province, and left him and Adelaide there to deal with things. This did not go very well – Louis was about fifteen and Adelaide about thirty, and we are told that they had little in common. Louis was unable to get the magnates of the area to listen to him and he was left poor and helpless. His father had to come pack down, probably in 982, and get him. Adelaide fled to William the Liberator, count of Provence, and married him instead. It is not clear that she and Louis V were divorced first. In any case, the attempt to revive a sub-kingdom in Aquitaine was a failure.

I have a few issues with this account. The biggest is that it comes almost entirely from the pen of Richer of Rheims, who is not one to let a good story suffer for want of contact with reality. As it happens the account of a different historian, Ralph Glaber (who I think is independent) corroborates the very basic outline of a lot of this. Nonetheless, between the three main historians of the early eleventh century, Richer, Ralph and Adhemar of Chabannes, we have three quite different accounts. All agree that Louis’ marriage was unsuccessful, but that’s about it. Ralph claims that coming south was Adelaide’s idea, and Adhemar doesn’t mention Louis’ kingship at all, although he does know that Louis married Adelaide and that Lothar was active in central Aquitaine in the 980s. So this makes me uneasy.  

Even taking the account as it stands, however, there are a few things which we can pick out about this. First, it wasn’t a stupid decision either in terms of Aquitanian politics or the wider world. Adelaide-Blanche was connected by blood or marriage to some of the most important people in Aquitaine, and it was reasonable to think that marriage to her would give Louis some sway there – something similar had proven true a century earlier in the case of King Charles the Child. Second, and more importantly, Lothar and Louis weren’t trying to put Louis over any old Aquitaine – they were looking specifically at Guillelmid Aquitaine. Louis V was crowned at William the Pious’ Auvergnat monastery par excellence, at Brioude, rather than at Poitiers or Bourges or one of the old royal palaces. That Auvergne and eastern Aquitaine, rather than Poitou and the west or Limoges and the centre, was chosen, suggests the kings were trying to pull on the ongoing tradition of Königsnahe which Stephen of Clermont had cultivated – Louis’ kingship was not in its envisagement an alien imposition but an attempt to inscribe Louis into the Guillelmid polity as it had developed under Stephen II. It didn’t work, but it was an honourable failure. Next week, we look at something more enduring: the emergence of the Counts of Clermont under Stephen’s nephew Guy.

What do we want? Charter pedantry! When do we want it? NOW AND ALWAYS

(with apologies to Levi for stealing his tweet for the title)

I’ve mentioned before that putting up discarded blog ideas on Twitter lead to the discovery that I have no idea what you people want. And it turned out, when I did this ages ago, that at least two of you want a really nitpicky point about a 966 diploma of King Lothar for the Mont-Saint-Michel. It got put on the back-burner for a while because for a moment it looked like it was going to be trickier than I thought it was, but actually it isn’t, it’s written up, and it’s ready to rumble.

So, what’s the story? Well, first of all, there’s a relatively long-standing debate over whether this diploma is forged, and if not how much of it is interpolated. This has wider ramifications than just shoving another royal precept in the Unecht basket: the Mont-Saint-Michel was on the frontier between Bretons and Normans.

Seen here backgrounding a tiki restaurant (source)

Our old friend Dudo of Saint-Quentin claims that Duke Richard I of Normandy (with whom we have some prior acquaintance*) sent in a bushel of monks to reform the abbey, but it doesn’t look like this dragged the Mount undisputedly into the Norman duke’s orbit, to say the least, and Dudo being Dudo, if it were just him we’d raise eyebrows about whether or not it happened. But, we have this diploma.

As it happens, some scholars have thought that Richard I messing around that far west is so unlikely that the diploma must be a fake. The argument is that it must have been produced in the early eleventh century – when we know the Norman rulers had a presence that far west – rather than the mid-tenth – when they can’t possibly have done. There is a prima facie case to answer here. The reason for that is that the diploma as it currently exists includes reference to a papal bull of Pope John XIII which was definitely an early eleventh-century forgery. So it’s definitely been interpolated; but was it outright forged? As I said, some scholars think so. I don’t.

That reason is the prologue. The diploma’s prologue begins ‘If We confirm that which Our predecessors, illuminated by divine esteem…’ It appears to have originally comes from the abbey of Saint-Denis in the 860s, and shows up in a few diplomas of Charles the Bald making Very Serious Arrangements for organising Church estates; but the specific version of the formula that the Mont-Saint-Michel diploma is copying was issued for the cathedral at Rouen in around 872. (Incidentally, actually looking this up required an awful lot of intense diploma research before I discovered there’s an entire book which is specifically a reference work for this topic, which would have resolved the whole question in about five minutes…)

The fact that this formula was in the Rouen Cathedral archive and nowhere else goes well with another detail from the diploma. Lothar’s act doesn’t mention anyone from the Mont itself petitioning for it, but it does say that Archbishop Hugh of Rouen did. Normandy in 966 was not exactly drowning in very solemn royal diplomas (and, actually, if Hugh – originally a monk from Saint-Denis – was familiar with his old house’s archive he would have had extra associations with prologues of this type), so the most plausible scenario is that Hugh brought this formula with him when petitioning Lothar for the diploma. Point is, having that prologue in this diploma requires that it was produced for a Norman visit from Rouen to Lothar’s court in the 960s rather than cooked up out of whole cloth in the Avranchin in the 1020s.

This in turn means that we can say with some confidence that the Norman rulers were successfully claiming authority over Brittany in the second half of the tenth century. In general, I think in general the evidence for Norman involvement in the area which would eventually become western Normandy tends to be downplayed, not least because it looks weird by the standards of people expecting the strong and stable government of early eleventh-century upper Normandy – but it’s pretty convincing for a vaguely-conceived but nonetheless-important hegemony over a factionalised borderland.

* Back when I was first drafting this, I got @-ed into a discussion thread about the then-recent proposal to move the Bayeux Tapestry, and it turned out that people are actually reading my articles; and I know that’s the point but I still got unnerved. Does anyone else find this?

Source Translation: A Flemish Genealogy


The most noble Ansbert begat Arnold from Blitchildis, daughter of Chlothar, king of the Franks; and Feriolus and Moderic and Tarsicia.

Arnold begat Arnulf. Arnulf begat Flodulf, Walchisus, and Anschisus.

Walchisus begat the confessor of the lord Wandregisl.

Duke Anschisus begat the elder Pippin.

The elder Pippin, the duke, begat the elder Charles.

The elder Charles, the duke, begat Pippin, Carloman, Grifo, and Bernard from the queen; Remigius and Jerome from a concubine.

King Pippin begat Charles and Carloman and Gisla from Queen Bertrada.

Emperor Charles begat Charles, Louis and Pippin, Rotrude and Bertha from Queen Hildegard; Drogo and Hugh and Rothaida from a concubine.

Emperor Louis begat Lothar, Pippin and Louis, Rotrude and Hildegard from Queen Ermengard; Charles and Gisla from Empress Judith.

Emperor Lothar begat Louis, Lothar and Charles from Queen Ermengard.

King Louis begat Carloman, Louis and Charles from Queen Emma.

King Carloman begat King Arnulf.

King Arnulf begat Louis from Queen Uota; Zwentibald, though, from a concubine.

Emperor Charles begat from Queen Ermentrude four sons and the same number of daughters, that is: Louis, Charles, Carloman and Lothar; and + Judith* and Hildegard, Ermentrude and Gisla.

([in the margin:] You will find more on Judith on the next page.)

King Louis begat Louis and Carloman and Hildegard from Ansgard, called queen; and Charles (posthumously) and Ermentrude from Queen Adelaide.

King Charles begat from Queen Frederuna Ermentrude, Frederuna, Adelaide, Gisla, Rotrude and Hildegard; and from a concubine, Arnulf, Drogo, Roric, and Alpaidis. Then, after Queen Frederuna died, he joined himself in marriage to another, a queen named Eadgifu, from whom he begat a son named Louis of handsome appearance. And later, from Queen Gerberga, Lothar, Charles, Louis and Matilda.


Baldwin, mightiest of counts, joined the beautiful and very prudent Judith to himself in the union of matrimony.

From her, he begat a son, placing on him his own name, that is, Baldwin.

This Baldwin, having taken a wife from the noblest stock of the kings beyond the sea, got from her two sons of good character, of whom he named one Arnulf and his brother Adelolf. This last was, with God’s permission, rescued from the burden of this world, and is known to be buried in the monastery of the holy confessor of Christ Bertin. If he had lived in this world for a longer time, his valour would have been the greatest joy to his people.

Lord Arnulf, now, most venerable of counts and greatly beloved to lord Jesus Christ, excels in prudence, is strong in counsel, shining with all goodness, a most perfect restorer of churches of God, a most pious consoler of widows, orphans, and wards, a most clement dispenser of help in necessity to all who seek it from him.

What more? If someone were to have a hundred mouths and tongues, they could never speak of the gifts of his kindnesses. Indeed, because we can in no way say enough about his thousand goodnesses, let us speak a little of many.

For there is a monastery in the palace of Compiègne, named in honour of the holy mother of God Mary, which he honoured with many donations, that is, in gold and silver and cloths. He often distributed lavish wealth in coins to the clerics serving the Lord therein. We know for certain that the bier of the holy witnesses of Christ Cornelius and Cyprian was decorated by him in the purest silver, weighing ten pounds. He bestowed that noblest of signs, which is called by another name a bell, to the same holy place. Nor is this to be wondered at, because the said place was in fact founded by his great-grandfather Emperor Charles, who was called ‘the Bald’, with workmanship marvellous in every way.

Now, the aforesaid venerable count Arnulf took a wife named Adele, daughter of lord count Heribert and niece of two kings of the Franks, to wit, Odo and Robert. From her, by God’s protection, he begat a son of handsome appearance named Baldwin, beautiful in his face, beloved to God and dear in every way to his followers, noblest of counts, after the example of his father a lover of churches of God, humble, mild, pious, modest, kind, sober, and in addition moreover replete with all goodness.

He, reaching the appropriate age, by God’s concession and his father’s will, took a wife whose nobility was worthy of his own, named Matilda, daughter of a most noble prince named Hermann. From them, by the grace of supernal largess, may his distinguished father and mother see sons of sons (if it pleases God), to the third and fourth generation, and may bodily health and complete safety and absolution from every crime be conceded to him, now and here and in world without end. Amen.

May this be done by the mercy of Almighty God the Father from heaven, amen. May this be done by the concession of His son lord Jesus Christ our Lord, amen. May this be done by the bestowal of the supernal grace of the paraclete Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son, amen, amen, amen.

The priest called by the name Witger desires this, that the said count should be healthy for a long time. Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen.

Let whoever reads this venerable genealogy of lord Arnulf, the most renowned prince of this world, and his son the most noble Baldwin, prostrate themselves for them in prayer, and sing and cry with a pure heart:


May God Almighty, a strong lord, pious and clement, king of kings and lord of the lordly, save lord Arnulf, most glorious of counts, and his son, beloved to God, named Baldwin. May He rule, guard, protect and defend, preserve and support, exalt and comfort, safeguard and strengthen them all the days of their lives in this present world. After a long life in this world, with the intervening mertis of all the saints, may they deserve to go to the glory of paradise, by the gift of Him by Whom they were created. Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen.

Having recently received the offprints of my article on the Flemish succession crisis of 965, I thought that whilst I ponder what exactly to do with about fifty paper copies of the thing, I could share with you an important bit of evidence for late tenth-century Flanders, the Genealogia Arnulfi Comitis. This genealogy was written around 960 by a priest named Witger who was probably but not certainly associated with the Flemish abbey of Saint-Bertin.

Where I have actually been, although the town of Saint-Omer is not what you’d call a tourist hotspot… (photo by author)

It’s a unique document for its period – other noble families in the West Frankish kingdom did not write their genealogies this way – or indeed at all, the big explosion in genealogical literature is in the eleventh century – and they didn’t go out their way to link themselves to the Carolingians the way Witger does here. In fact, the first half of this is an early tenth-century genealogy dictated by Charles the Simple back in the day, which Witger is using to give the tie more credence.

Arnulf was not, after all, particularly closely related to the ruling Carolingian king, Lothar; and his father, Baldwin the Bald (yes, I know), had not been particularly interested in pursuing his Carolingian roots specifically. Sure, Arnulf was (we know from one source) named after the Carolingians’ great ancestor Arnulf of Metz; but his brother was named after their grandfather King Æthelwulf of Wessex, and it seems to be kingship in general rather than dynasty in particular motivating their choice.

This all changed in the 960s. Arnulf had gobbled up a lot of land very quickly over the course of his decades-long reign, and made a lot of enemies on his southern border. His son Baldwin being quite belligerent, he needed a southern ally and fast; and wouldn’t you know it, there was the new king, Lothar, to whom he was distantly related. This genealogy’s oddness comes about because it is the product of a very serious charm offensive to woo the young ruler into supporting Arnulf. Note how the genealogy describes Arnulf’s political actions (i.e. endowing the church at Compiègne – which was the real emotional heart of the descendants of Charles the Bald) as motivated by family concerns – this is the flipside of trying to persuade Lothar that their kinship ties matter.

Did it work? Well, sort of. If you want to know more, you’re going to have to read the article…

Some Issues in Aquitanian History pt 5: Making Peace

Back in March, we covered the endemic conflict which started up in Auvergne in the late 950s; now, it’s time to see how it ended. The main players, if you remember, were King Lothar, Bishop Stephen II of Clermont, and Count William Towhead of Poitou. When we left off, Stephen, his carefully-cultivated closeness to the king under severe pressure thanks to William’s belligerence, was off to Rome. But life in Aquitaine went on without him. In 960, the knights of Nevers cathedral were attacked, seemingly unsuccessfully, by a guy named Airard. Airard is not, at this time, such a common name; and it is striking that the only man with that name I know of in the 950s and 960s is a follower of William Towhead – it looks awfully like William’s side making an unsuccessful attack on Nevers.

Important men, however, were gearing up to make peace, and there’s a Provence connection here. The archbishop of Lyon, at the time, was a man named Amblard, who actually came from Auvergne – much of what we know about him comes from his donation of the little abbey of Ris, north-east of Clermont, to Cluny.

And here it is, looking very rural-French. (source)

We know from other evidence that bishops in the West Frankish royal circle are getting together with Amblard of Lyon throughout this period – they sent round letters condemning a man named Isuard for stealing Church property, but this can’t have been the only thing they were talking about. We also know that in 960, Lothar confirmed some land just west of Charlieu, on the border between Burgundy and Aquitaine, to the monastery of Savigny, one of the most important in Amblard’s diocese; and we also know that in 960, Amblard made a deal with Bishop Ebalus of Limoges, William Towhead’s brother and a major prop of his regime, regarding some property claimed by the church of Lyon in the Limousin.

This last one is really quite important – Amblard is the only figure we know of with connections both to the Poitevins, and to the Auvergne, and to the West Frankish king. If he wasn’t trying to mediate a settlement in the Auvergne, I’ll eat my hat.

The problem is that, if the attack of Nevers is anything to go by, William wasn’t buying into the need to make a deal. Lothar had to apply a stick: he granted the pagus of Poitou to his cousin, Hugh the Great’s son Hugh Capet. Hugh the Great had, in 955, tried to capture Poitiers himself, although nothing had come of it. Nothing was to come of this grant either, and I think it is much more readily explicable as Lothar trying to use Hugh to intimidate William Towhead than as a serious grant of title.

If it was, it worked. In 961, Lothar met the Aquitanians , probably in Pouilly where his father Louis IV had met them in 954. The following year, Lothar granted a diploma to William Towhead, who very shortly thereafter retired into a monastery where he quickly died. At the same time, Stephen of Clermont issued his second charter, which we’ve talked about before. As I said then, Stephen is clearly renewing his local authority by re-emphasising his closeness to the king; but at the same time, it looks like William was given an honourable avenue into retirement, meaning that Stephen should be able to reclaim his hegemony in Auvergne. The bishop is back, baby!

Of course, it wasn’t that easy; and after this date, neither is researching this topic. I’m plugging on with it, but this is where my actual narrative stops for the moment. So you may be waiting a little while for the next of these…

Name in Print III


Ahem. Sorry about the vehemence there, but as you can see below the gritty details were peculiarly gritty with this one… Anyway, as advertised a little while ago, I now have the final proofs available of my new article, ‘The young king and the old count: Around the Flemish succession crisis of 965’, which has appeared in the latest issue of the Revue Belge de philologie et d’histoire, vol. 95/2 (2017).

I’ve given the full reference because, unfortunately, there’s not yet any hyperlink, nor is it yet open access. However, because an awful lot of continental journals have a more enlightened approach to this sort of thing than the UK does, it will automatically be on Persee after a two-year cool-off period, and I will update when it does. For the moment, I have a PDF and I’m told some physical offprints are on their way to my post-box soon, if that’s more your jam.

So what’s it about, I hear you ask? Well, it has basically three points. The first is working as a case study of the practice -> ideas -> practice cycle which I think is so important to earlier medieval politics. Here, Count Arnulf of Flanders faces a succession crisis, starts pushing his (fairly distant) kinship ties to the Carolingian king Lothar as part of a charm offensive, only for Lothar to turn these claims back against Flanders after Arnulf’s death. The second, relatedly, is to analyse the following succession crisis to argue that a) it was in fact a crisis – Lothar is behaving badly – and b) even when you’ve prepared for the succession as well as you can, a canny operator with a good claim can snatch an awful lot from under your heirs. The third and last is to finally settle the question which Arnulf Flodoard is talking about when he refers to a nepos of Arnulf of Flanders ‘who has the same name’ rebelling against the count. This is more of a problem than it sounds because Arnulf actually has about six potential nepoti all called Arnulf – although I argue that it’s very likely that the one everyone else thinks it is, Arnulf of Boulogne, wasn’t actually related to him at all.

The gritty details: This one took a looooong time. D’you know some version of this first saw the light of day in 2014? It was my Kalamazoo paper in the second year of my doctoral study… Anyway, I wrote that up for the Mediaeval Journal competition in 2015, a year where actually no-one won. I then assumed they wouldn’t want it and sent it off to the RBPH, only to discover rather later it had been short-listed and TMJ were interested in publishing it – by then, of course, it was with someone else so I had to regretfully decline (which they were very good about) and the competition feedback was in fact very, very useful. I then didn’t hear from the RPBH until I was – quite by chance – in Brussels, at the start of 2017, when the reviewers wanted some fairly hefty re-writes (it was at this point the ideas which became this blog post were cut, and someday I’d like to argue them further; but they weren’t really completely relevant, I guess), meaning that I did at least get an excuse to go to Ghent; to read a Dutch doctoral thesis on the charters of Blandijnberg, but still. Once the re-writes were in, I was actually told fairly quickly – late spring 2017? – that they were OK, but then it just sat in a queue waiting until – finally – it saw the light of day now, in Spring 2018.

Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 4: The Succession to Hugh the Great in Auvergne, 956-959

Postponed but not forgotten! (The last in the coronation ordines series is still on at some point as well; it just turns out I have nothing much to say about Philip I…) Last time in this occasional series about the career of Bishop Stephen II of Auvergne, Count William Towhead had tried to proclaim himself as ruler of the Auvergne, and come to some kind of agreement with the bishop. This agreement didn’t hold up very long, because of the death of Hugh the Great, that inescapable figure of tenth-century history.

We have discussed this before in relation to Neustria, but it had repercussions in Aquitaine as well, although they’re quite obscure. What appears to have happened is that Stephen (and perhaps William Towhead, if his authority was anything other than nominal) lost control over some of Auvergnat nobles. It’s hard to say when this process began – in 956 and 957, our extant sources are focussed on Burgundy – but it came to a head in 958. That year, according to one charter, ‘the princes of the Auvergne rebelled against each other in turn’. Around the same time, there was an Auvergnat attack on southern Burgundy defeated at Chalmoux by Count Lambert of Chalon.* Neither of these documents give the Auvergnats a leader, so I don’t think we’re dealing with anything as grandiose as a civil war. Rather, it looks a lot more like the eruption of a couple of years of endemic banditry. If I had to point to a cause, I’d ascribe it to the shift in leadership the region was undergoing: Stephen’s lord, King Louis IV, had recently died, as had his metropolitan, Archbishop Launo of Bourges, and Hugh the Great, who I am increasingly inclined to see as a peacemaker. Moreover, William Towhead’s – I think the word is fair – usurpation of authority in Auvergne, which may or may not have done him any good, looks likely to have weakened Stephen’s position. The violence of the time around 958, then, appears to be the result of local nobles looking to take advantage of the suddenly-shaky Stephanic regime to settle feuds and grab the upper hand in local disputes.

One thing Stephen did that I’m not going to talk about was to commission a statue of the Virgin in Majesty, which now only survives as this drawing. Image taken from M. Goulet & D. Iogna-Prat, ‘Vierge en Majeste’, in Marie. Le culte de la Vierge, ed. D. Iogna-Prat et. al., p. 405.

Stephen claimed to have restored peace in the region by September 958, although frankly I think this is dubious. Not the least reason for this is that on top of the localised violence, it seems clear that there was ongoing fighting between King Lothar, Hugh the Great’s sons (who were Lothar’s cousins), and William Towhead, with the first two joining forces against the latter whilst at the same time also quarrelling amongst themselves. Thus, in November 958, at Martinmas (possibly in response to the Auvergnat invasion of southern Burgundy?) Lothar and his cousins went to Marzy, a western suburb of Nevers on the river Loire, for a placitum against William Towhead. This is a slightly obscure phrase, and I’m not sure whether it means that there was a hostile meeting or something outright violent. Remember, Nevers was right where the old Guillelmid and Burgundian spheres of influence clashed, and it had passed back and forth between the two several times.

In 959, Nevers castle was captured and a new bishop, Natrand, formerly from the region of Sens, was imposed. This is far from certain, but I think that this is Lothar capturing the fortifications from William. Perhaps in response, but in any case a dramatic assertion of his authority over the region, William is attested for the first time entitled as count not simply of Poitou, but of ‘all Aquitaine’. At the same time, Stephen of Clermont put his affairs in order for a trip to Rome. This is an odd time to make a pilgrimage, you might think; but actually it does make a certain degree of sense. First, Stephen’s position depends on his links to royalty, links which are now jeopardised by William Towhead’s role in the Auvergne. So going to Rome gets him out of the way and means he can avoid any blame for that. Second, going to Rome gives Stephen ties with the papacy to brandish back home to further shore up his legitimacy (and in fact a few years later on we can see this happening).

As the 960s dawned, then, Stephen’s position did not look all that good. But peace (which, as his 958 charter said, rules all) was just on the horizon, and as this post is getting long enough, I’ll deal with that next time.

*Fair warning, this story is coming out of a lot of hypothesising and a strange melange of sources. If you’re interested how I got here, let me know; but this has taken me so long that I’m just going to tell the story.