Charter A Week 35: Acquiring A Larger Inheritance

911 was a busy year. In that year, traditionally, Charles finally came to an agreement with the Viking leader Rollo, officially handing over to him the city of Rouen and the neighbouring districts. This was to go on to have long-term implications, but what everyone at the time was probably more concerned about was the other big event: the death of King Louis the Child.

Louis’ death came at an unstable time in his own reign. Evidence is short, but it appears that the magnates of Lotharingia had risen up in rebellion against him, and this was still ongoing when he died. The question was open: who would be king now? The new East Frankish ruler, Conrad, made a game effort, but the eventual winner was Charles the Simple.

This gain tends to be massively under-rated by historians. Charles gained and held control of Lotharingia. No West Frankish ruler had successfully done this ever. Charles the Bald had tried and failed; but Charles the Simple, in the face of active opposition, managed to defeat a military rival and build a functioning coalition of governance in his new realm.

How’d he do it? Well, this is the kind of thing it involved:

DD CtS no. 68 (20th December 911, Cruzy-le-Châtel) = ARTEM no. 356 = DK 7.xxvi

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

As often as We make reasonable provision for the advantages of churches and the convenience of those who serve God, We are totally confident that this can benefit Us both in the salvation of both body and soul, and as well the stability of the whole realm bestowed on and conserved for Us by God.

As such, We wish the vigour of all of Our followers, not only present but also future, to know that the venerable man bishop Stephen of the holy church of Cambrai, approaching Our Magnificence, indicated to Us that the clerics of his said see held certain goods of the same bishopric consigned to their victuals, concerning which they had also once held a royal precept by the largess of King Zwentibald. But, when the same city burned down, the precept was also consumed by the hungry flames.

On the business of this matter, therefore, he humbly supplicated Our Piety that We might by Our munificence make good the loss of the old edict, which We in turn quite freely agreed to do for love of God and the brothers serving God therein, and We commanded that this authority should be renewed to them and for them for their protection. We therefore order and proclaim that the aforesaid clerics of the church may freely and at will concede amongst one another their houses which they have in the city to whomever they wish within the congregation of the same place, by no less than hereditary right, whether through sale and purchase or through exchange or simply through a gift.

Furthermore, let both the current clerics and their future successors in the same place now and henceforth in perpetuity hold and possess the monastery’s territory which is outside the town, and equally the villas consigned to their uses, to wit, in the district of Cambrésis, Carnières, Viesly, Cateau, Montigny, Gouzeaucourt, Gondrechies; plus Onnaing in the county of Hainaut; Thorigny in Vermandois, Carseuil in the Soissonnais as well, together with bondsmen of both sexes, with lands cultivated and uncultivated, meadows, waters and watercourses, mills, fields, and everything pertaining the brothers’ aforesaid goods, having power as if by hereditary right to do with them whatever they justly choose by common decree through unanimous consent.

If, though, someone hostile to this Our decree (which We little imagine) might strive to inflict any injury no matter how little, let them be judged culpable of a 600 shilling fine, in such a way that two parts of it should fall to the brothers of the same place, and the king’s fisc should receive the third; and in addition let them be unable to vindicate what they have iniquitously struggled towards, so that no-one might presume to usurp anything of this sort again.

And that the authority of this edict might perennially obtain inescapable vigour, We strengthened it with Our own hand, and We commanded it be adorned with the worth embellishment of Our ring.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Hugh, notary of royal dignity, underwrote and subscribed this on behalf of Archbishop Heriveus.

Given on the 13th kalends of January [20th December], in the 14th indiction, in the 19th year of the reign of the most glorious king Charles, in the 14th year of his renewal of the kingdom’s unity, and in the 1st year of his taking-up of a larger inheritance.

Enacted at the villa of Cruzy-le-Châtel.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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The original diploma, taken from the Diplomata Karolinorum as given above. 

There’s a big burst of diplomatic activity in 911 and 912, and the recipients are from quite a wide spectrum of grandees. This is Bishop Stephen of Cambrai, but there are also acts for the major lay magnate Reginar Long-Neck, Bishop Drogo of Toul, Bishop Stephen of Liège, Count Ricuin of Verdun, and Count Berengar of Lommegau. The major absence here is Archbishop Ratbod of Trier, who doesn’t appear in Charles’ entourage until 913; but this is a fairly long list of Lotharingia’s great and good.

Some of them, like Reginar Long-Neck and Stephen of Liège, Charles had close prior contacts with. Others, like Stephen of Cambrai, appear to have been quickly brought into Charles’ circles with rewards such as this confirmation diploma. Charles distributed access to his presence fairly evenly over Lotharingia, and this reaped rewards.

Not the least of Charles’ rewards was getting to call himself king in Lotharingia (although not king of Lotharingia), and we can see in this charter that there has been a quite important shift in his diplomatic. There are a couple of elements here I’d like to pick out. The first is that he has assumed the title of vir illustris, an old Roman senatorial title. Charles probably wasn’t claiming specific continuity with Rome so much as with his Carolingian and Merovingian ancestors. Tenth-century figures knew that vir illustris was an important rank and an old one. With that said, Charles dropped it fairly quickly, and it was ‘king of the Franks’, rex Francorum, which persisted. This was also explicitly backwards looking. As we’ve seen, until now kings in royal diplomas have tended to be simply entitled rex, king. Now, by hearkening back to the earlier Frankish rulers, Charles was (probably, this is disputed) trying to assert his overlordship over the whole Frankish world.

The absence of evidence for the 910s is a pain. Make no mistake, after the acquisition of Lotharingia, Charles probably was the most powerful man in the Frankish world, by quite a large margin. His two competitors, Berengar I of Italy and Conrad I of Germany, ruled territories racked by civil war and Saracen and Magyar invasions. Having beaten out his rivals and settled the Norman problem in the West, Charles was at the height of his power; and it’s a shame we can’t see how that worked in his relations with his neighbours.

Charter A Week 33: Clearing Up a Deposed King’s Messes

It’s a quiet year in Charles the Simple’s kingdom. (Actually, in June of this year there’s a prominent Church council held at a place called Trosly, but I didn’t think of that far-enough in advance to put it up as a source translation. We may get back to it anyway.) Given this, we haven’t turned our attention eastwards for a while, not really since the death of Zwentibald. As it happens, though, his legacy is still a live issue:

DD LtC no. 70 (9th November 909, Ingelheim)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Louis, by ordinance of divine grace king.

Every time We succour the needs of holy churches of God with the defence of regality, We imitate the custom of Our ancestors and We believe without hesitation that this will profit Us in securing aid in the present age and the prize of future blessing.

Wherefore let the prudent knowledge of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, present and future, know for certain that the venerable archbishop Hatto and Gebhard approached Our Highness and recounted how Our brother Zwentibald, after the magnates of the kingdom of Lotharingia deposed him from the government of the realm, gave a certain property to a man named Roing, which Roing afterwards consigned in whatever way to the resources of the canons dwelling in the place named Chèvremont. And when the aforenamed count scrutinised such an act, he brought it to Our ears and, with the aforesaid pontiff Hatto, he sought that We might confirm the same goods for the aforenamed canons through a precept of Our authority for the salvation of Our soul.

We, freely acquiescing to their petition, concede and confirm the aforesaid goods, sited in the county of Liège, and the place named Mortier, with all their appendates, as the said Roing is seen to have held them up to the present, for the resources of the said canons henceforth, that is, with a demesne and a church with 12 other manses, cottages, fields, meadows, pastures, woods, cultivated and uncultivated land, waters and watercourses, mills, fisheries, passable and impassable land, roads out and in, incomes claimed and to be claimed, mobile and immobile goods, and bondsmen of both sexes residing there; establishing and enacting strenuously that the aforesaid canons should have, hold and possess them by ecclesiastical custom from this day for their portion of the abbey’s resources (mensa), and delight to become remembrancers of Us because of it.

And that this present precept of Our largess and confirmation might be more truly believed and more diligently observed through times to come, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our seal.

Sign of lord Louis, most serene of kings.

Theodulf the notary witnessed on behalf of Archbishop and Archchancellor Ratbod [of Trier].

Given on the 5th ides of November [9th November], in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 910, in the 13th indiction, in the 10th year of lord Louis.

Enacted at Ingelheim.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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Chèvremont today. I have actually been here – the church is nineteenth century, but it’s a big darn hill… (source)

My commentary this week is going to be pretty short, but this charter has some unusual features. The first is that Zwentibald’s kingdom is now, apparently, ‘Lotharingia’, none of that ‘that some men call Lothar’s business’ of previous years. The second is that Louis’ court is apparently chill with Zwentibald having been deposed. Admittedly, this is probably because it ultimately worked out in Louis’ favour; but it definitely goes against the idea that you’ll see occasionally that the Carolingians don’t really know how to deal with deposition.

The final thing is that Zwentibald’s gift to Roing apparently took place after his deposition, whilst he was a man on the run. I get the feeling from this charter that Roing was a little unsure of his tenure: the ‘consigned in whatever way’ makes me think that he’s handed the land off to Chèvremont in the hope that with their backing he’ll be less vulnerable that he’d be by just himself… In any case, the presence of Gebhard of Lotharingia and Archbishop Hatto of Mainz shows that he’s firmly back in Louis’ good graces. Still, apparently even ten years later trying to re-integrate Lotharingia as a political unit is apparently an ongoing process.

Source Translation: Lothar-what-now?

This actually was a regular charter of the week, until I realised that I had been misreading the date and placing it too early… So enjoy this week’s plethora of acts, and we’ll be back with non-translated material next week!

Meanwhile in the East Frankish kingdom, Arnulf of Carinthia has died and Zwentibald of Lotharingia has been overthrown then killed. Their successor is Arnulf’s other son, this one legitimate, Louis the Child. Per his name, he’s a child. This means that the kingdom is in the hands of his minders, above all Archbishop Hatto of Mainz and Bishop Adalbero of Augsburg. This could in theory create problems, but they seem to have dealt with it relatively successfully:

DD LtC no. 20 (24th June 903, Forchheim)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Louis, by the favour of divine clemency king.

If We clemently assent to and piously take care the petitions of Our followers which they suggest to Us for the profit of the churches committed to them, We are clearly confident that this will benefit Us both in the state of the present realm and to happily obtain the prize of the future kingdom.

On which account, let the general company of all Our followers, to wit, present and future, know that Salomon [III], the venerable bishop [of Constance] and abbot of the abbey of Sankt Gallen, who was first substituted by royal power in place of Abbot Bernhard – whose abbatial office was taken from him because of his crimes, because he supported Bernard [the bastard son of Charles the Fat], an alien invader of the realm, in resisting royal majesty – and then elected by the common consideration  of all the brothers serving the Lord therein, because he endeavoured to manage them will in both divine and human affairs, in accordance with the Rule of Saint Benedict, in Our general assembly held at Forchheim, through the advice of Our followers, that is, the chief men who were present there, gathered from the sundry corners of Our realm, whose names are as follows: the venerable bishops Hatto [of Mainz], Waldo [of Freising], Adalbero [of Augsburg], Erchanbald [of Eichstätt], Theodulf [of Chur], Tuto [of Regensburg], and Einhard [of Speyer], and Counts Conrad [the Elder], Gebhard, duke of the realm which many call Lothar’s; Burchard, margrave of the Thuringians; Adalbert [of Babenberg]; Burchard, margrave of Churrhaetia; Liutpold, duke of the Bavarians; Papo; Odalric; Conrad [the Younger]; Hugh; Reginpold; Adalgoz; Roger; Burchard, son of Walaho; Liutfred; Godedank; Ernust and Erlolf – by the intervention and consultation, as was said before, of all of these Our followers and many others, the aforesaid Salomon, Our beloved bishop, asked Our Clemency that We might fortify all the privileges conceded to the aforesaid abbey by Our pious father of good memory, that is, the august emperor Arnulf [of Carinthia], and by his other predecessors, that is, his great-grandfather Emperor Louis [the Pious] and his son Louis [the German], the most glorious of kings, and also his paternal uncle the august emperor Charles [the Fat], by the authority of Our writing.

We freely assented to the advice of Our said beloved bishop and Our aforementioned followers, and We complied with and rejoiced in their just and reasonable petition, and We receive that abbey with the brothers soldiering for the Lord in it under the tutelage of Our immunity, and whatever the aforesaid emperors or kings of the Franks conceded, We confirmed completely and in every way by this writing, decreeing and establishing that no public judge or any person of higher or lower order should presume either to hear cases or exact peace-money or make a halt or claim hospitality in the churches, estates, places or fields of that monastery, nor distrain through force the men both free and servile dwelling on the land of the same abbey, or to take securities, nor dare to unreasonably disturb them; and let whatever should be investigated in respect of that monastery by a legal inquest with oaths required from the noble men dwelling in each county where an inquest of this sort should be carried out be carried out in such a manner as was conceded to the nearby monastery of Reichenau in carrying out their inquests.

And because this petition was made particularly for a privilege of election for the same brothers by the above-written bishop and abbot and by them and all his above-written friends, although We should wish all the statutes laid out above to be valid and firm (and they ought rightly so to be), We firmly establish with the power divinely bestowed on Us that the brothers of the oft-said monastery should from this day forth hold secure power to elect an abbot from amongst themselves, as long as such a one can be found amongst them who can order and rule a monastic way of life well, in accordance with the Rule of Saint Benedict.

And that the present page of this privilege might endure firm for eternity and beyond, and be more truly believed and diligently conserved by all Our followers, We confirmed it with the inscription of Our own hand and We commanded it be authenticated by Our seal.

Sign of lord Louis, most serene of kings.

Ernust the chancellor witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Archchaplain Thietmar.

Given on the 8th kalends of July [24th June], in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 903, in the 6th indiction, in the 4th year of the reign of lord Louis.

Enacted at Forchheim.

Happily, amen.

(This is an original diploma, but I can’t find a reproduction of it…)

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Instead, a propos of nothing, it turns out that the abbey of Sankt Gallen, which received this diploma, has a hot-air balloon shaped like it (source)

Those really long lists of petitioners are important. They represent a kind of team-building exercise, a public demonstrate of everyone involved’s consent to Louis’ regime. But it’s one of those names in particular that I want to point out specifically today, that being Gebhard.

Gebhard was a member of the kin-group historians call the ‘Conradiner’, a powerful family in the East Frankish kingdom. He had been part of the 899 meeting in Sankt-Goar which had led the plot to overthrow Zwentibald, and his status in this diploma as ‘duke of the kingdom which many call Lothar’s’ must reflect part of the reward for doing that.

But, ‘the kingdom which many call Lothar’s’ is a bit of a funny thing to be a duke of, no? His colleagues are all the rulers of some straightforwardly-described things: peoples, like the Bavarians; or places, like Churrhaetia, all of which have apparently-uncomplicated names. (How uncomplicated they were in practice is entirely another question, but apparently at least the chancery scribes knew what they were talking about there in a way they evidently don’t with Lotharingia.)

Lotharingia is in fact an interesting case where there is a clear sense of what it is not but not necessarily a clear sense of what it is. The identity of Lotharingia would become clearer over the tenth and eleventh centuries, but for the moment it seems awfully like regional distinctiveness has arisen before anyone has a very particular idea of how or why the region is actually distinctive…

Charter a Week 27, part 1: Robert’s Back!

The split between Robert and Charles didn’t last forever. In 903, the Neustrian ruler was back in the West Frankish king’s good graces. Quite why then is a little bit open to question. My preferred answer is that there are hints in the sources that 903 was a time when Viking attacks were starting up again – in that year, Tours was burned down by two leaders named Bard and Eric – and Charles, being basically unable to lead an army out of a wet paper bag, needed his most experienced anti-Viking commander to help. This doesn’t really explain why he wouldn’t turn to Richard, who had form fighting Vikings as well, but it’s the best answer I’ve got. Another possibility is that the death of Charles’ mother Queen Adelaide in around 902 had opened the way to reconciliation. But what did the reconciliation look like?

DD CtS no. 47 (5th June 903, Melay) = ARTEM no. 3043 = DK 6.xiv

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

If We pay heed to the petitions of servants of God and things advantageous to churches, and bring them into effect, We are confident that the Lord will make repayment for it.

Therefore, let the profit and skill of people both present and future know that the venerable Count Robert, truly beloved of Us, abbot of the monastery of the holy martyr of Christ, the champion and Our special patron Dionysius and his companions came before Our Clemency and made known a certain little abbey in the realm of Our most beloved kinsman Louis, that is, Lièpvre in the Vosges, which the late venerable abbot Fulrad of the aforesaid monastery had bestowed on the most holy Dionysius and the brothers serving him by charters’ firmness and the authority of precepts; and which the aforesaid brothers had always held from then for their own uses with one salt-pan and one saline in the township of Marsal; and he humbly appealed to Our Clemency that We might deign to renew and confirm the aforesaid goods through a precept of Our authority against abbots to come, so that the brothers might be able to hold the aforesaid goods for all time without any disturbance or invasion or division from any abbot.

And thus, assenting to the prayers of the aforesaid Count Robert, in accordance with what is contained in the testament of the venerable abbot Fulrad and in the privilege of the apostolic lord Leo [III], We perpetually confirm by a precept of Our authority the aforesaid goods for the monks of the aforesaid monastery of Saint-Denis, both for food stipends and for the lighting and for the reception of the poor, reminding and invoking future abbots that they should guard inviolably what We have conceded and strengthened. May he who hears and observes this precept receive an eternal reward, but let anyone who violates it, if they do not come to their senses, remain bound by the chains of the anathema concerning the confirmed goods in the privilege of the apostolic lord Leo.

But that this precept, written after the fashion of a privilege, might be more truly believed and more fully observed, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it to be sealed by Our ring.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Ernust the notary related and subscribed on behalf of Bishop Anskeric [of Paris].

Given on the nones of June [5th June], in the 6th indiction, in the 11th year of the reign of Charles, most glorious of kings, in the 6th of his restoration of unity to the kingdom.

Enacted at the estate of Melay.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

CW 27 903
Original diploma taken from dMGH as above.

Once again, this charter has been analysed by Koziol, and in this instance he’s basically right. The Saint-Denis diploma came as the culmination of a series of acts for Robert (I didn’t translate them because there are some minor questions of authenticity over their surviving versions), where he was restored to Charles’ grace over the course of the Easter celebrations. The big difference between my reconstruction and Koziol’s is that I don’t think Robert had prior claim to any of the abbeys he received, so when Charles presented him with the major Parisian abbeys of Saint-Denis and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, these were bribes not restorations.

This diploma is also a reminder of how wide-spread these abbey’s resources were. When anyone talks to you about ‘narrowing horizons’ and ‘territorial consolidation’ in the tenth century then, well, they might have a point, but it’s evidently not in terms of the extent of landholding. As you can see if you click through to the map, the cell of Liepvre is in the middle of Alsace; but Robert has to take it into account along with the closer-to-home estates in the Paris Basin. Also interesting is that Charles apparently has no problems confirming an estate in Louis’ kingdom. Unlike when he did the same to Zwentibald, though, here Louis is marked as being the king and being, officially at least, well-regarded. The dynamics at play here are a little shadowy to me, honestly. Maybe it’s something as simple as Charles keeping his hand in re: claims to Lotharingia…

Charter a Week 6: Carolingian Cooperations

Those of you who’ve been following the last couple of weeks may have noticed something of a paradox. Vikings were attracted by a succession crisis, yet I’ve also been talking about Carolingian cooperation to a remarkable degree in the early 880s. What gives? Well, the latter was responsive – in the face of a series of disasters, the Carolingians built (or rebuilt, you could argue) family consensus. What did that look like? Something like this.

In summer 882, whilst making one final crack at the siege of Boso of Provence’s Vienne, Carloman II issued a diploma in favour of Canon Otbert of Langres, issued at the request of Bishop Geilo (another one of those big-cheese palatine magnates from Charles the Bald’s late court):

DD LLC no. 62 (8th August 882, Vienne) = ARTEM no. 137 = DK 5.xxv

In the name of lord God Eternal and our saviour Jesus Christ. Carloman, by grace of God king.

If We freely proffer assent to the petitions of Our followers, far from doubt We both bind them more tightly in Our fidelity and are satisfied to follow the custom of Our predecessors.

Wherefore let the industry of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, present and future, know that the venerable man Geilo, bishop of the see of Langres, approaching Our Mildness, made it known that a certain cleric named Otbert had by a resolution(*) of goodwill consigned his very beneficial goods to Saint-Mammès and received a certain part of the goods of the same just from the same Bishop Geilo through a tenancy agreement, that is, on the terms that as long as Otbert and his nephew Gozelm live they should hold and possess both the things they have given and what was conceded by the bishop through a tenancy agreement, and claim their renders for their uses, except solely that they should unhesitatingly pay two solidi to the aforesaid church in vestiture, as is specified in their document.  And thus he asked that Our authority might also confirm the aforesaid tenancy agreement, which the said bishop had entered into with the aforesaid Otbert, with the consent of the clergy committed to him, and corroborated with his hands.

Therefore, assenting to his petition, We commanded a precept of Our authority be writing about this, in which We confirm and corroborate the aforesaid documents, that is, on the understanding that after the aforesaid Otbert and his nephew Gozelm die, the clerics of the same see should claim for their uses both the goods conceded to them by the venerable Bishop Geilo in the tenancy agreement and those which the said Otbert and his nephew Gozelm confirmed through a charter of donation to the church of Saint-Mammès, without any diminution or loss and without any alteration.

But that this precept of Our authority established concerning this tenancy agreement might always in God’s name obtain everlasting vigour and be able to endure into the far future, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We command it be undersigned with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Carloman, most glorious of kings.

Norbert the notary subscribed at the command of King Carloman, after the death of his master Wulfard [of Flavigny].

Given on the 6th ides of August [8th August], in the fourth year of the reign of Carloman, most glorious of kings, in the 15th indiction.

Enacted at Vienne.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

(*) Reading propositio for praeposito here, because the latter doesn’t make sense to me.

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Carloman’s diploma, from the Diplomata Karolinorum volume linked above.

A few months later, the same man Otbert received a diploma from Carloman’s cousin Charles the Fat, this time at the request of Margrave Guy of Spoleto:

DD CtF no. 61 (4th November 882, Worms) = ARTEM no. 138

In the name of our lord Jesus Christ, God eternal. Charles, by ordination of divine providence emperor.

Truly, if We freely assent to the petitions of Our followers, We are confident that this pertains to the state of Our realm, because We render them more ready in Our service.

For that reason, We wish it to be known to all the faithful of the holy Church of God both present and future that Count Guy brought to Our Highness’ mind a certain tenancy agreement made between himself and a certain canon named Otbert concerning, verily, the goods of the monastery of Notre-Dame de Favernay, which seemed useful in every way to both sides. Verily, Our aforesaid follower sought that by We might content to consider the aforesaid matter worthy and strengthen it by Our precept.

Therefore, We assented and strengthened it with Our precept, that Otbert himself and one of his heirs should quietly possess the said goods in their lifetime, abiding strictly by the condition which is specified in the text of the tenancy agreement.

And that this precept might endure firm and stable, We commanded it be sealed with Our signet and We confirmed it with Our own hand.

Sign of Charles, most serene of emperors.

Waldo witnessed on behalf of Archchaplain Liutward [of Vercelli].

Given on the day before the nones of November [4th November], in the year of the Incarnation of our lord Jesus Christ 882, in the 15th indiction, in the 3rd year of the aforesaid king’s empire.

Enacted at Worms.

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Charles’ diploma, from the ARTEM page linked above.

There’s more going on here than at first meets the eye. The first thing is that Otbert here is no simple canon, but someone who appears to be one of those second-tier fixers you don’t see much of. He was an archdeacon at Langres, and eventually prior; and possibly also prior of Flavigny and maybe even bishop of Troyes (although the chronology for the last two is confusing and it might be a different Otbert). He also shows up a surprising number of times in royal diplomas, and it looks rather as though he was successive bishops’ go-to man for dealing with royal courts. What did he get out of it? Status, but as in this particular instance, land as well. These diplomas are rewarding Otbert, but they’re also signalling rather more.

First, Carloman’s diploma has at least two things going on. First, note that the petitioner is Bishop Geilo of Langres. Geilo, like Adalgar of Autun, was one of Boso of Provence’s initial supporters – it was in fact Boso who made him bishop of Langres! That Geilo is acknowledging Carloman so publicly as king, just as Carloman is about to break off the siege of Vienne to go north, is a sign – the campaign has worked. Boso has lost all his friends. Everyone knows who the real king here is.

Ah – yes. Forgot to say. Carloman is about to break off the siege of Vienne and go north. This diploma was issued on the 8th August 882, but on the 6th August 882 Carloman’s brother Louis III had died at Saint-Denis after a brief illness. Carloman can’t possibly have heard about the actual death at this point, but the magnates of Louis’ kingdom must have been in constant communication with the king, making preparations for Louis’ death. This diploma, then, is part of that preparation.

By November, when Charles the Fat issues his diploma, Carloman II is sole king of the West Frankish kingdom. Charles, though, has himself benefited from the death of his own brother. At the beginning of the year, Louis the Younger died, and Charles became sole king in the East Frankish kingdom and Italy. This raised a number of questions, the most important of which was the status of Lotharingia. Louis the Younger and the West Frankish brothers had made a deal about who got which bits, and this had held firm after Louis the Younger’s death, but would it hold steady after Louis III’s?

Charles’ diploma is therefore walking a very narrow tightrope. At the assembly in Worms where it was issued, Hugh the Abbot (whom we will meet in more detail next week) was present to try and negotiate the return of parts of Lotharingia to Carloman, something which Charles refused. Thus, confirming a property at Favernay, right in the march-lands between southern Lotharingia and West Frankish Burgundy, is making a statement that Lotharingia will remain Charles’. However, confirming this property for a cleric of Langres is I think a gesture of goodwill: acknowledging that he and Carloman will continue to co-operate by favouring the same person Carloman had favoured back in August. The intercession of Guy of Spoleto is also important: Guy had a lot of Burgundian connections, particularly with Geilo of Langres (Geilo, in fact, would invite Guy to become king in the West Frankish kingdom in 888). So we have co-operation – but not that much co-operation.

Charles the Simple’s First Invasion of Lotharingia

First, for what it’s worth, I’d like to express my support for my UK friends and colleagues striking over the proposed cuts to their pensions. Good luck!

Now, blog. One of the key planks in my argument for ‘Charles the Simple: Best King Ever’ is that he manages to successfully take and rule Lotharingia, something which is actually rather difficult in this period. This, though, passes over the fact that his successful attempt in 911 was actually his second, and it’s his first, in 898, which I’ve been revisiting recently, and which is interesting not least because of what it says about the military potential of late Carolingian kingship.

So, we’re in 898. Charles the Simple has been undisputed king of the West Franks for about four months, having spent most of his adolescence figureheading a largely-undermanned rebellion against the previous king Odo. During this rebellion, Charles turned out to have as many connections to Lotharingia as to the West Frankish kingdom, and was even able to pull on them to the extent of getting King Zwentibald of Lotharingia to come and give him a hand in besieging Laon, although it seems pretty clear that in this case Zwentibald was using Charles as cover to try and militarily extend his own kingdom westwards. In any case, some of the first things Charles does are to try and appeal to Lotharingians.

In particular, Zwentibald was at the time just finishing the first phase of a prolonged feud with a group of counts around Metz known as the Matfredings. Thanks to an intervention in May 897, Zwentibald and the Matfredings had been reconciled, but there were probable still tensions. Charles (and his eminence gris/substitute father figure Archbishop Fulk of Rheims) had actually had prior dealings with one of the Matfreding’s closest allies, Abbot Stephen of Saint-Mihiel, for whom, in February 898, Charles issued a diploma. This diploma did two things: 1) it confirmed property in Zwentibald’s kingdom and 2) confirmed property which Zwentibald had already confirmed himself, at his and Charles’ joint siege of Laon no less. I think one has to read it as Charles advertising himself as king for the Lotharingians and the Matfredings more specifically.

Zwentibald’s response, it appears, was to seek friends in the southern bit of Lotharingia, where the Matfredings were strong. Certainly, he reached out to Archbishop Radbod of Trier, and that’s as good an explanation for why as any I’ve seen. Problem was, Radbod had his own local rivals, and one of them was another Lotharingian aristocrat with ties to Charles from old, Reginar Long-Neck. Radbod was able to persuade Zwentibald to kick Reginar out of his court, and Reginar went all the way to Charles.

The chronology here is slightly unclear, but it seems that Charles was once again trying to push himself as king for the Lotharingians, because at the end of June 898 he was sitting on the river Aisne at Vienne-la-Ville, a boundary between his kingdom and Zwentibald’s, issuing diplomas for recipients on the Spanish March of all places. Why make people from Narbonne come to you so far north and east, rather than at Rheims or Laon? I reckon it’s because Charles is sitting there, displaying his appropriately kingly status, hoping that Reginar (and/or others) is going to come and say hello – which is exactly what Reginar ended up doing.

(Some historians have put Reginar’s appeal for Charles’ help a little earlier, and had the June diplomas as signalling the point when he was moving in with an army, but a) that makes the chronology of the fighting between Zwentibald and Reginar compressed to the point of unworkable and b) it doesn’t really fit with Regino of Prüm’s history of events, which strongly implies all of the fighting took place in Autumn.)

So, Reginar and another Lotharingian count, Odoacer, come and ask Charles for help. Charles and his men duly invade, going first to Aachen and then to Nijmegen. Zwentibald, meanwhile, heads south, but is able to gain Matfreding support and win over some key northern bishops, Franco of Liège and Dodilo of Cambrai. I am as of yet unclear why they go for him and not Charles, but go for him they do. Charles goes down to Prüm, probably although not certainly against the will of Regino of Prüm – for it is he – the then abbot*, and then there’s a stand-off, where neither side commits to battle, Charles goes home, and the matter rests there.

Conspiracy then follows, and Lotharingia actually ends up with Zwentibald’s young half-brother Louis the Child, but this is where the actual invasion stops, and it’s enough to pull out a few threads. First, Charles’ actual support in Lotharingia appears to have been very limited on this occasion, basically Reginar and a few mates. This means that their initiative, although useful in giving him an excuse to intervene, probably wasn’t all that helpful in terms of active support. Second, and further, Charles was clearly angling very strongly for someone to give him an excuse. Third, he was apparently by himself able to put together a credible enough army to mount a serious potential challenge to Zwentibald.

Fourth and finally, despite this his lack of Lotharingian support was key, because without overwhelming backing from the Lotharingian magnates, his army and Zwentibald’s appear to have been sufficiently well-matched that neither wanted to risk pitched battle. Pitched battle in this period, quite apart from the risk of losing, was morally-fraught, so one can sympathise with him here – but it did mean that the war was probably going to be negotiated out soon rather than later as soon as it became clear that no-one wanted to roll the dice. In these senses, in fact, the 898 invasion of Lotharingia by Charles the Simple is pretty typical, almost archetypical of inter-regnal warfare in the late Carolingian period.

*Simon MacLean thinks that Regino gave Charles help; this is possible but perhaps unlikely, insofar as one of Zwentibald’s first gifts in late autumn 898 is to Prüm…