Charter a Week 56: Gotta Have Those Bishops

I’ll be honest with you all: these last few years of Ralph of Burgundy’s reign are probably the hardest of the whole period I’m covering with Charter A Week. As I mentioned before, the number of private charters is small; but compared to the earlier period where that’s made up for by a good survival of royal diplomas, the mid-930s (until the reign of Louis IV) are also short on those as well. As such, the next three of these are slightly peculiar in a number of ways. This week, for instance, we’re going a little off the beaten track:

D Burg, no. 23 (932)

By the favouring grace of a supernal gift, Rudolf, king of the people of the Jura to all soldiering perfectly under the yoke of the eternal king, everything more pleasant on Earth and happier in Heaven.

At the time when a multi-faceted and desirable peace, by the largess of divine clemency, was being enjoyed in the areas under Our rule and everyone was rejoicing greatly, Our churches suffered the loss caused by the death of three bishops. For this reason, obeying the statutes of the holy pontiffs which they desired to be fixed in words, that the benediction of the bishops who are to be ordained should not be delayed by too great an interruption (that is, so that the Mother Church should not endure any loss of its members along with the absence of consecration by unction), We sent to the lord archbishop of Besançon, to wit, Metropolitan Girfred, that he, with his remaining suffragans, might deign to succour those basilicas currently widowed by the death of their pastors.

He, acting in accordance with the holy canons and at the same time obeying Our command, ordained bishops for the abovementioned churches, that is: for Lausanne, Bero; for Belley, Jerome; for Sion, Asmund.

This round letter is preserved in British Library Additional MS 15222, which has the marvellous advantage of being digitised such that one can see that this heads up a series of oaths taken to the archbishops of Besançon over the course of the eleventh and twelfth century.


This being that manuscript (source)

It’s essentially a written foundation stone for the right of the archbishop to exercise authority over his ecclesiastical subordinates, and its interesting that it comes from the reign of Rudolf II, a man whose exploits outside Italy are not well-preserved. One wonders if the fact that Girfred had to ordain three men at once stuck in the memory.

Or perhaps it was the inevitable Louis the Blind. I’ve mentioned before on this blog how after Louis’ death Rudolf II gets basically the eastern portion of his kingdom. I’d call it the ‘mountainous portion’ except that I have actually now been to Apt, at least, and if it’s not exactly flat it’s certainly not vertiginous. Anyway, this letter is some of the best evidence for this process. The last time we have a handle on the bishops of Belley they are firmly part of the kingdom of Louis the Blind; now they’re firmly under Rudolf’s control. It’s probably not a coincidence that this comes after the family meeting of 929 which probably divided up Provence between the competing parties. We know that Ralph of Burgundy spent a fair chunk of time around 930 attending to Provençal affairs, and this may be his Transjurane cousin doing the same on his end.

Indeed, there’s lots of diplomacy we don’t have much of a handle on occurring in this and following years, culminating in a meeting between Ralph, Rudolf and the East Frankish king Henry the Fowler on the Chiers in 935. Everything happening there is still murky to me, not least because the Transjurane role is so obscure; but letters like this are an important part of whatever’s going on.

As far as the bishops themselves go, whilst this is as straightforward a case of royal appointment as you’re likely to see, that’s still not very straightforward. If you remember the charter of Bishop Fulcher of Avignon, then you know that there’s a fair bit of manoeuvring behind Rudolf’s relatively bland command – although usually we don’t have such a lovely piece of evidence showing it. (And, finally, the reference to a delay relates to the canonical injunction that there shouldn’t be more than three months’ delay between the death of one bishop and the selection of another – I’ve been reading a lot of the letters of Gerbert of Aurillac lately and he gets very hot under the collar about this after the death of Archbishop Adalbero. That, though, is another story!)


Charter a Week 49 – Twilight in Vienne

It’s been almost a decade since we last checked in on Provence. In the middle of the 910s, it was already pretty weird – despite its ruler’s political failure in Italy and subsequent blinding, and, even more importantly, despite the fact that Louis the Blind did not (as far as we can tell) leave Vienne for the last twenty years of his life, it seems to have been a stable polity with Louis’ rule still proving effective. And then, in the mid-920s, it collapsed.

Quite why is a question up for debate. Our internal evidence from Provence consists, more or less, of a handful of royal diplomas – including this one:

D Prov 70 (c. 925)

In the name of God Eternal on high.

Louis, by grace of His favour emperor augustus.

We decree it be known to the industry of all the followers of the holy Church of God and Us, present and future, that Our famous son Count Charles [Constantine of Vienne] approached Our presence, entreating that We might command a precept be made for a man named Bonus, faithful and of one mind with Us and the most intimate obediencer of Our sacred palace, concerning a certain curtilage in Tressin which he bought off Levi the Jew, with fields and woods, and a vineyard held above it, which he exchange with the good Bonus from his inheritance in that estate.

Lending Our ears to his petition, We decreed this letters of Our Eminence be made, through which let the said Bonus and his wife Gertrude be able to obtain, rule and possess firmly and securely all the aforesaid goods in the estate of Tressin acquired by himself as property.

And that this authority of Our largess might obtain undisturbed firmness, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of the most serene augustus Louis.

Ubald the notary wrote this.

The abbey of Saint-André-le-Bas in Vienne, where Louis seems to have spent much of his time (source).

The two figures in this charter are the only men (other than the archbishop of Vienne) to appear in Louis’ diplomas from these years: Bonus the obsecundator (which I have translated as ‘obediencer’, but more on which below), and Louis’ son Charles Constantine. Charles’ role is slightly less murky: in the mid-920s he emerges as count of Vienne (itself not a common royal for king’s sons). Bonus, though, is a different question. It is possible that he was basically insignificant – all we know of him comes from three royal diplomas which ended up in the archives of Cluny, so his omnipresence at court may be an illusion caused by source preservation. However, his title of obsecundator is a strange one – as far as I know, it’s the only instance of this – and how it should be translated depends heavily on what you think his political role is.

There’s a chicken-and-egg question here: are Charles (and Bonus) big deals because everyone else abandoned Louis; or did Louis’ promotion of Charles (and Bonus) drive others away? If obsecundator could be translated as something like ‘disability support assistant’, the closeness to the king which the role would have given might produce the latter scenario, but there’s no other evidence for it. Frankly, either case is plausible.

Are there any other hints? Two things spring to mind. First, the deposition of Charles the Simple. West Frankish power up to the early 920s had been significant, and if Louis was in any way connected to it, this might have promoted his regime’s stability. Even more, Charles’ deposition made way for Ralph of Burgundy, a king who already had significant interests in southern Burgundy and northern Provence, and who in 924 met and spoke with Hugh of Arles, although to what effect we don’t know. Hugh of Arles is himself the second factor – in 926 he became king of Italy, and it might be that his departure hollowed out Louis’ regime. I’ve always had trouble with this idea, though, because Hugh had been looking towards Italy with interest for years; and also because Hugh’s bid to become king didn’t seriously take off until after Louis’ power seems to have collapsed. If I were going to attribute Louis’ mid-to-late 920s problems to any one factor, then, it would be the predatory interest of his cousin Ralph of Burgundy looming on the horizon; but really, I don’t know. Research remains ongoing!

Charter a Week 40: What It’s Like to Become a Bishop

We’ve spoken before on this blog about royal influence over episcopal elections. In general, though, when we have evidence for that it’s generally from a third party, or in the case of Charles the Simple, on the part of the king. This charter – probably my second favourite, for those of you sad enough to keep track – is a rare glimpse into, if not the mind, at least the self-presentation of a bishop chosen by royal (in this case imperial) authority. You see, at some point around 910 Bishop Remigius of Avignon died, and was replaced with some named Fulcher. As to how that happened… well, why don’t we let Fulcher take over from here?

ARTEM 915 (2nd May 916, Avignon)

Let the whole Church of the faithful know that I, Fulcher, humble bishop of Jesus Christ, when I first approached the height of this honour and the distinction of such a burden, at the suggestion of Boso [of Arles], prince of an imperial bloodline, approached the illustrious primate of Arles, Rostagnus, in order that, because the church of Avignon lay widowed, he might place a pastor in charge of the same see, if he thought it useful – above all, with the clergy and people asking for My Smallness for themselves in this matter. I sought it not out of desire for pomp nor to vitiate the necessity of poverty; but struck with divine fear and struck with zeal, to busy myself to raise up and ennoble with my own resources what barbarian devastation and depredation had everywhere, for the most part, wasted of worldly riches. Why say more? In the end, by the common ill, having joined together with the most shining of nobles Hugh [of Arles], I was shown into the imperial presence. I, appointed by his command to the episcopal through of Avignon, although unworthy, by the disposition of the will of the Highest, will take pains to protect it in every way, as far as my ability and knowledge allows, both spiritually and corporally.

For this reason, meditating on the thundering of the Gospels’ teaching, which says ‘Give alms, and you shall be purified with every splendour’ [variation of Luke 11:41]; and again, ‘lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven’ [Matthew 6:20] and the others which follow; and that which the prudent father told the prudent son: ‘alms free from death’ [Tobit 12:9], and ‘do not permit men to go into the shadows’ [Tobit 4:10]; and other wisdom: ‘the redemption of a man’s soul are his riches’ [Proverbs 13:8], and no few others. This succession of such voices clamoured together; and, as was related above, before I took up the height of the bishopric, I came to a decision, glorifying my God and redeemer, Who granted me body and soul out of spontaneous piety and Who gathered together every alleviation of human poverty. For the remedy of the souls of my father and mother, and also that of Prince Boso, and for myself, an unhappy sinner, I delegate and give my inheritance to His mother, the queen of Heaven and Earth, the undefiled virgin Mary, and the most blessed protomartyr Stephen (who after the first opening of the celestial paradise merited to enter into the hall of the eternal king first). Indeed, I know and believe with the greatest certainty that they reign with God!    Therefore, I bestow on them a worldly inheritance, that by their prayers we might receive pardon for sins, and when the day of our departure from this wretched world occurs, they might snatch us from the dark power of Satan, and make us consorts and co-heirs of that most shining dwelling which they enjoy in the sight of the King of Kings, where arises no sorrow, no fear, no grief, no hunger, no pollution; but all dwell in peace before His eyes, and delight without end in the vision of His light.

This, then, is the inheritance which We wish the aforesaid mother of God and protomartyr Stephen to have as successors, for the easing of our crimes: the church in honour of Saint Mary which is in the county of Avignon, in the vicariate of Valergue, with its advowson; in addition an allod in the same place, in the same estate, which is called Four, as much as I have and can acquire there. Next, a church named in honour of Saint Mary, Saint John and Saint Baudilius; and another church built in honour of the holy martyrs Cosmas and Damian nearby on the banks of the Rhône, in view of the castle which is called L’Hers, which I got by royal munificence through the testament of a precept, with the territory which is kept there, or which hereafter ought at any time to adjoin or be appended to it, and which both I and my successors will be able to seek out; also the port of the same place, which in a similar way I earned in its entirety by an imperial gift through a precept; no less, the church in honour of the holy martyr Genesius sited in the same county, in the place which is called Nidadis, with all its appendages. I give and donate all this inheritance to the aforesaid mother of God Mary and the blessed martyr Stephen and wish them to hold it perpetually without any disturbance.

If, though, at Satan’s instigation, any of Our kinsmen or direct or indirect heirs might undertake to disturb or infringe this testament of Our donation, unless they come to their senses, let them be tormented in the perpetual torments of Hell with Dathan and Abiron and Korah and with Judas the traitor, Ananias and Caiaphas; and may the donation of this Our offering flourish and endure undisturbed and stable forever, signed by the subscription of our hands.

Enacted publicly in the city of Avignon, in the 916th year from the Lord’s Incarnation, in the 4th indiction, on the 6th nones of May (2nd May), on the day of the Lord’s Ascension, in the 13th year of the imperial reign of Emperor Louis, son of Boso.

Bishop Fulcher of the holy church of Avignon, who confirmed this donation with my own hand. Rainald wished and consented to this. The humble bishop Gunther [probably of Maguelone] confirmed and was present in person. Rainard, humble bishop of the holy church of Cavaillon. Count Boso confirmed. Sign of Viscount Hugh, a witness. Leotard, having been requested. Sign of Walter, a witness. Pons, having been requested. Sign of Walcavus, a witness. Sign of Albert, a witness. Sign of Adelelm, a witness. Sign of Silvio, a witness.

The original charter of Fulcher of Avignon. Photo by author.

The first thing to say is that everything Fulcher is describing here happened about half a decade earlier. Bishop Remigius died around 910, and we have a surviving precept from Emperor Louis the Blind (for it is he) giving to Fulcher to properties he describes here, dated to the year 912. So what we are dealing with is a retrospective perspective, but no less valuable for that. In particular, this charter is a revealing guide to Fulcher’s priorities about his own ordination, and four things stand out in that regard:

First (perhaps unsurprisingly) is the vestigial role of the people and clergy of Avignon. Election by people and clergy was the gold standard of the Carolingian church, but – by parallel to Early Modern English elections – the key there seems to be their right to participate, rather than any expectation that they’ll have a say in who the actual candidate is. In general, episcopal candidates were acceptable to local audiences – and where they weren’t, such as in the case of the infant archbishop Hugh of Vermandois in 925, it generally helped to have the candidate’s father’s soldiers standing around looking menacing – but often the clergy and people were not where decision-making power resided.

Second, the who-you-know is unsurprisingly significant. As we’ve seen before, Hugh of Arles and his brother Boso are particularly influential at this time and place, which might lead an ambitious bishop to stress his connections with them. However, numerous studies have emphasised the importance of intercessors in royal courts of this period (and, as it happens, the 912 diploma does mention that it was petitioned for by both Hugh and Boso), so this is likely a matter of rhetorical emphasis rather than fiction. Fulcher’s appointment, then, was particularly helped along by his powerful friendships, and he wasn’t shy about letting people know it.

Third, and perhaps more surprisingly, the role of Rostagnus of Arles, Fulcher’s metropolitan bishop, is stressed. This raises my eyebrows a little more – ornery gits like Hincmar of Rheims might like to puff up an archbishop’s authority, but that it gets more play here than the clergy and people is a bit unexpected. Still, for all that I think Hincmar was happy being a voice in the wilderness, he was also a very experienced political operator (if not perhaps an instinctual savvy one) – he must have been trying to appeal to someone.

Fourth and finally, the role of Louis the Blind is interesting, both practically and rhetorically. Practically, because Fulcher clearly understands the key moment which made him bishop as being the point when Louis gave him the nod (maybe it was an unproblematic election and he would have been a bit more ambiguous if Louis had given him the cold shoulder, but rejected episcopal candidates such as Hilduin of Liège also seem to have thought this so it’s clearly a mainstream part of Late Carolingian political thought. Rhetorically, though, Louis is a bit like looking at the sun – he’s not even mentioned by name, he’s just ‘the imperial presence’. It’s a remarkable reminder of the strength of royal legitimacy, even with a ruler traditionally dismissed as ineffective.   

Charter A Week 36: Justice is Blind

Whilst Charles the Simple was winning over the Lotharingians, things were going less well for his southern relative Louis the Blind. In 905, Louis’ attempt to become king of Italy had gone horribly wrong and he had indeed been blinded. He then retreated back to Provence. This is a very interesting and unusual period of rule. Being blinded, in the Byzantine world, typically disqualified you for the throne; and traditionally had done in the Frankish one. Yet Louis just keeps on truckin’. Although he never again left Vienne, people continued to come to him, and here’s an example of this:

DD Provence no. 52 (912, Vienne)

While lord Louis, most glorious of august emperors, was residing at Vienne, in the palace of the blessed apostle Andrew, the venerable man Remigiar, bishop of the holy church of Valence, coming before him into the presence of his magnates, lodging a complaint concerning Villeneuve, which his predecessors as king and emperor had conceded to God and the outstanding confessor and pontiff Saint Apollinaris from the tame of Charlemagne, including, most recently, his father, Boso, the most glorious of kings, and his mother, the most glorious Ermengard, along with our said lord the most glorious of emperors, who had presented it to Saint Apollinaris, the extraordinary confessor of Christ, through a royal precept. The famous duke and margrave Hugh [of Arles] held the said Villeneuve wrongfully, and had alienated it from God and Saint Apollinaris.

The aforesaid duke and margrave, hearing the outcry of this pontiff, was struck by piety, and through the command of our lord the emperor and through the counsel of the bishops and through the judgment of the counts, the nobles, and his other followers, restored this land to God and Saint Apollinaris through his wadium, promising that he would never in future be negligent concerning it.

Hearing this, the lord emperor restored that land to the aforesaid bishop through a stick which he held in his hand, ordering that his deeds and the precepts of his predecessors as king and emperor should in God’s name endure for all time.

But that it might be believed by everyone and that the aforesaid estate might never be harassed by anyone, that most glorious of emperors commanded this document to be made and confirmed it with his own hand and commanded that it be strengthened by his followers and ordered it be signed with his signet.

Sign of Louis, most serene of august emperors. Alexander, humble bishop of the holy church of Vienne, confirmed this document. S. Isaac, humble bishop of the holy church of Grenoble. S. Theodulf, consecrated bishop of the holy church of Embrun, confirmed this. S. Hugh, famous duke and margrave. S. Count Boso [of Arles]. S. Count Adelelm, S. Boso his son. S. Gozelm.

Theudo the notary composed this document at the command of Archbishop Alexander of Vienne, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 912, in the 15th indiction, in the 11th year of the reign of our lord Emperor Louis.

Enacted at Vienne.

Happily in the name of God.

cathédrale Saint-Apollinaire
The apse of Valence Cathedral in modern times (source)

My strong suspicion is that this is a Scheinprozess, a fake trial designed to show Remigiar of Valence’s title to the land in a court situation. Hugh of Arles (for it is he) was the most important man in the kingdom, and I don’t think he could have been forced to hand over the land if he didn’t want to. That he is presented as doing it out of his own piety is important here. Although Remigiar makes his complaint to the king, it’s Hugh who hears it – unlike previous cases we’ve seen, there’s no attempt to make a defence, simply an acknowledgement of the duke’s own piety. We know from other sources, notably the Vita Apollonaris, that Remigiar and Hugh were collaborators during this period, so it’s likely that the two men were colluding to confirm the land in the church’s possession.

In fact, the Miracula Apollonaris’ formula for Hugh’s role at this time, ‘ruling the commonwealth under Emperor Louis’ is itself remarkable. This charter shows the remarkable degree of consensus Louis’ regime had built up – we have the most significant figures of the realm here, from north and south, and even – in the person of Theodulf of Embrun – from the mountainous regions to the east. Most – we’ll talk about some exceptions in future, but most – of the great magnates of Louis’ kingdom seem to have been quite happy with his regime. (This is, incidentally, a useful refutation of the idea that Carolingian government had to be itinerant to be effective.) No-one cared that the emperor had no clothes – well, no eyes – because royal rule was going along perfectly well anyway.

Charter a Week 26: An Aquitanian at King Louis’ Court

This week, the south. We haven’t seen much of Louis the Blind since his election in 890. So far, things have been going pretty well for him. In 900, he was asked to become king of Italy and a little later, emperor. This is going to go very badly for him (see: Louis the Blind), but for the moment it’s still working out. Winter 902 sees him back in Provence, giving a diploma to a very familiar figure…

DD Provence no. 41 (11th November 902, Vienne) = ARTEM no. 2485 = DK 9.iv

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Louis, by grace of God emperor augustus.

Let the industry of all Our followers, to wit, present and future, know that William [the Pious], the famous duke and margrave, approaching Our Excellence, earnestly requested that We might concede to some of Our followers, to wit, Bernard and Theobert, what seemed just and legal, that is, an abbey named in honour of Saint Martin, which is named Ambierle, pertaining to the county of Lyon, lying in the district of Roannais, with everything justly and legally pertaining to it, and there are in total thirty manses along with dependents of both sexes, completely and entirely, which could be legally done through a precept of Our authority.

Proffering assent to his prayers, We decreed this precept of Our Serenity be made, through which let Our aforesaid followers Theobert, and also Bernard, be able to possess in future times all that which is covered above, which is just and legal, along with male and female serfs, vineyards, meadows, cottages, pastures, woods, fields, waters and watercourses.

We concede all of the aforesaid to Our aforesaid followers and We give it into their dominion, as can be legally done, so that they might have power hereafter to do whatever they wish, that is, sell, cede, donate, exchange and freely bequeath to their heirs, remote from disturbance from any power.

And that this might be held more truly, We confirmed it with Our own hand, and We commanded it be signed by Our seal.

Sign of lord Louis, most serene of august emperors.

Arnulf the notary witnessed on behalf of Archbishop and Archchancellor Ragemfred [of Vienne].

Given on the 3rd ides of November [11th November], in the year of the Lord 902, in the 5th indiction, in the second year of the imperial rule of lord emperor Louis.

Enacted publicly at Vienne.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

CW 26 902
Diploma photo taken from dMGH as above.

Yes, it’s the Trans-Ararian Fluidity Zone again. William the Pious, who is count in Lyon, shows up in almost as many diplomas of Louis the Blind as of Charles the Simple (which is to say, one versus two). To some extent this is inevitable: William, not least, is married to Louis’ sister Engelberga. As count in Mâcon as well, William is plugged into that network of Burgundian bishops we’ve seen before – and in fact this will become very evident in a few years time. For the moment, though, what we are seeing is William operating as much in one kingdom as in another, and helping his followers do the same. The Theobert in the diploma is generally accepted to be Count Theobert of Apt, who had been an important figure in Louis’ court but is on the way out. He will, however, find a new life in William’s domains, helped along not least by his possession of Ambierle as per this act. There’s more to say about how things go on the borderlands between Provence, Transjurance Burgundy and the West Frankish kingdom – but that will wait for a later blog post.

Source Translation: The Election of Louis the Blind

MGH Capit. II, no. 281 (August 890)

In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 890, in the 8th indiction, the religious and full venerable Archbishop Bernoin of the holy see of Vienne visited the apostolic see to consult with the apostolic lord (under whose purview lies the care of and duty towards all churches) about certain needs of his church and the general needs of the whole realm. By his worthy report, he related the disturbance in this realm: how, after the death of the most glorious emperor Charles [the Fat] it had been for a long time without a king and prince, and was badly afflicted everywhere not only by its own inhabitants, who were checked by no rod of dominion; but also by pagans, for on one side the Northmen pressed in, devastating nearly everything; and on the other, the Saracens plundered Provence, returning the land to wilderness. After he had heard these reasons, and others of the same kind, the reverend apostolic lord Stephen [V], moved to tears, advised by his most holy exhortation, both in words and in writings directed generally to all the cisalpine Gauls, both archbishops and other venerable bishops, that everyone should unanimously and concordantly give their consent to Louis, grandson of the late Louis [II], most glorious of emperors, and establish him as king over the people of God.

When, therefore, we had diligently discovered that the assent of our holy, catholic and apostolic mother Church favoured this election, we – to wit, lord Aurelian, archbishop of the see of Lyon, and also lord Rostagnus, archbishop of the town of Arles, and the venerable Arnald, archbishop of Embrun, and lord Bernoin, archbishop of Vienne, himself, by whose report we reverently accepted the will of the apostolic lord; with many others of our fellow bishops – all gathered together in the city of Valence, we investigated, discussed and inquired in accordance with God’s will whether we should worthily and reasonably establish him as king over us in accordance with the admonishments of the apostolic lord, whose writings we had to hand.

And so, everyone agreed about him that no-one would make a better king than he, who came from an imperial bloodline and who had already grown into a lad of good character. Although his age seemed insufficient to curb the barbarians’ savagery, it could nonetheless be crushed by the counsel and strength, by God’s assistance, of the noble princes of this realm, whose number is not small. Supported above all by the assistance of Richard [the Justiciar], the most famous of dukes and an extraordinary prince, and moreover of lady Ermengard, the most glorious of queens, whose deeply profound and razor-sharp prudence was given to her by God, to which was joined the worthy exhortation of the aforesaid bishops and the counsel of the whole realm’s magnates, the realm’s advantage will be managed very worthily, in a God-fearing way.

Finally, supported and encouraged by such confidence, as we believe through God’s will, we elected the aforesaid Louis, son of the most excellent of kings Boso and decreed he be anointed as king, judging worthy for the role him to whom Charles [the Fat], the most all-surpassing of emperors, had already conceded the royal dignity; and of whose realm Arnulf [of Carinthia], who became his successor, was proven to be a protector and supporter in everything, through his sceptre and through his wisest legates, that is, Bishop Riculf [of Soissons](*) and Count Berthold [from Alemannia]. Supported by such and so great a permission of authority, everyone came into the same city, and by common consent we decreed that this royal record should be made and, preferring that it remain valid and fruitfully thriving for all time, we strengthened it with our own hands and we each subscribed.

(*) It’s also been proposed that this is Bishop Theodulf of Chur. Riculf of Soissons seems like a better bet, though – Fulk of Rheims was closely tied to Arnulf of Carinthia’s court, to the extent of being a papal legate to sort out various problems in the East Frankish church, and it’s quite possible that one of his suffragans would be sent on an errand, particularly in light of the Rheims archdiocese’s previous support of Louis.

Here’s a cool thing. You remember we’ve talked before about how you don’t have to be count of anywhere, and there are cases of people who weren’t bishops of anywhere? Well, here we have a case where we have a king who is not king of anywhere, or at least not of anyone. You see right at the end there, where they note that Charles the Fat had already – key word, already­ – conceded the royal dignity to Louis? That means Louis was king, just one with no subjects. On Monday, of course, Louis wasn’t being called king at all, but as this document acknowledges he kind of was.

The ambiguity doesn’t end here. The picture of kingship in the first paragraph is fairly typical: kings are supposed to repress the wicked and defend against the pagan. It all sounds like the king-making liturgies we spent a good chunk of last year looking at. But then paragraph three says that he’s too young to do any of this – it’s actually Richard the Justiciar who’s doing most of the fighting. One imagines the scribe wincing as he writes this: because Louis’ claim to kingship isn’t straightforwardly hereditary, and he’s manifestly inappropriate to perform any of the functions of kingship, his erstwhile backers have had to keep a lot of the framework of the Carolingian discourse about kingship even as it groans under the strain of a situation it’s not really set up to handle.

Or do we? There’s an article by Ross Samson called ‘Carolingian Palaces and the Poverty of Ideology’ which every now and then I read and worry about. Basically, Samson argues that despite the efforts of contemporary (meaning early-to-mid ‘90s) archaeologists to argue that Carolingian palace architecture was an expression of ideology, in fact there wasn’t anything coherent about their architectural elements at all: they were a thrown-together mess of historical and cultural references meant to go ‘hey, isn’t the king impressive?’ rather than anything more sophisticated.

Specifically, he’s talking about the palace complex at Ingelheim, taken here from fig. 6 in Webster, ‘Charlemagne’.

This is usually cited as ‘for another perspective see…’, which means he’s probably wrong in his wider point (one thing which has happened since the article was published in 1994 is that it has become very clear that huge chunks of the Carolingian elite were highly-educated and thoughtful, even if not terribly profound, which makes his claim at the end that ‘gosh, Aachen is big’ is a better representation of one of Charlemagne’s count’s thought processes than ‘reformatio et correctio’ very old-fashioned), but despite this, he’s put his finger on something which bothers us in the time between turning off the light and going to sleep.

That being: what if these people don’t care about consistency? Doesn’t this description look as though the bishops of Provence are trying to legitimise a fait accompli by throwing everything which makes a good king (The pope’s backing! Election! Character! Approval from a more legitimate king! Heredity! Justice and warfare!) at it despite the fact that some of these ideas don’t work with each other and some don’t work well with the eight-year-old they’ve now made their ruler.

Phrased like that, some of you might be nodding and going, ‘well, duh – these are powerful people, they’re probably all about that hardcore Machiavellianism.’ But cynical Realpolitik doesn’t really fit either – again, Louis is eight. Child kings are problematic, for pretty much the reasons this document outlines – they can’t lead armies, and they can’t really do much in the way of decision-making or law enforcement. This is why Charles the Simple doesn’t seem to have gotten a crack at kingship in 884 or 888. So choosing Louis as king implies a commitment to Louis specifically which goes beyond the simple demands of political exigency – if you want a king who won’t bother you, Arnulf and Odo are far away and already crowned; if you want a king who was related to Boso but who is effective, Richard the Justiciar’s around; and so on. So we seem to be left with a situation in which a group of magnates are making a king based on a principled choice, but then justifying it with a different set of principles which don’t fit. Presumably this isn’t actually what’s happening – one just has to stand in the right place so that everything which looks out of alignment lines up. If that happens, I’ll let you know…

Charter a Week 14: Unking

Louis the Blind had a really weird career, starting right with his by-name (although sat as we are in 890, there’s still over a decade to go before he’s blinded in an Italian misadventure – of course, unless your name is ‘Otto I’ and it’s after the 950s, I’m not sure anything happens in tenth-century Italian politics which couldn’t be described as a misadventure…). To start with, this is currently year three of dealing with the new kings following Charles the Fat’s succession crisis; but Louis was the only one who didn’t get crowned in 888.

Largely I think this is due to the nature of the Frankish overkingship we spoke about before. Louis’ status is a bit paradoxical: at the same time, his position is very strong and very weak. On one hand, of all the kings who came after Charles the Fat, he’s probably got the strongest claim to legitimacy via his ‘adoption’ – whatever we think happened, it definitely involved receiving Charles’ imprimatur qua kingship. He’s also (as we’ll see this week) got a fairly solid amount of local backing: the bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Lyon and Vienne, as well as further south, and a fairly substantial chunk of magnates. On the other hand, he was also the son of a sort-of king and his royal legitimacy was thus heavily tied in to the Carolingian system. This necessarily put him in a strange position after the accession of Arnulf of Carinthia: Louis might have been adopted by Charles the Fat, but what would happen next?

DD Provence no. 28 (890, Varennes)

In the 898th [sic] year from the Incarnation of the Lord, in the 8th indiction, when Queen Ermengard and all the princes of Louis, son of Boso, had convened at an assembly at the place which is called Varennes-le-Grand, there came before her presence the monks of the monastery of Gigny, that is, Abbot Berno and the others placed under his rule,  lamenting and bewailing with monastic humility that the same queen’s vassal Bernard had possessed their goods by a wrongful invasion, that is, the cell of Baume, which they had previously acquired through a precept from King Rudolph [I of Transjurane Burgundy]. Both this most beneficent and venerable of queens and all the princes, who had come together from all over, diligently paying attention and more diligently listening to this, summoned the aforesaid Bernard into their midst and questioned him as to by what right he held the same goods.

He responded that he believed that he held the aforesaid goods through Louis’ gift. The queen did not agree with his responses, nor did the others deem that It was worthy to consent to them.

And then he, by the queen’s command, quit the said place in the presence of everyone, and promised that he would not invade the same goods anymore. Then, when this had been done, the lady queen commanded both the abbot and the other brothers to write this notice of confirmation, so that they might quietly hold the aforesaid place, contradicted hereafter by no-one.

And, that this notice might be able to endure firm through the course of many ages, she confirmed it with her own hand and asked it be affirmed by the hands of both the bishops and the magnates who had had come together there from all over.

S. Bernard, who made this quitclaim. S. Queen Ermengard, who commanded this be done and asked it be confirmed. S. Archbishop Rostagnus of Arles. S. Bishop Ardrad of the holy church of Chalon-sur-Saône. S. Bishop Isaac of Grenoble. The glorious Count Richard [the Justiciar] confirmed this. Count Guy [of Oscheret] confirmed this. Count Hugh [of Bassigny] confirmed this. Count Adelelm [of Valence] confirmed this. Count Rather [of Nevers] confirmed this. Count Theobert [of Apt] confirmed this. Count Ragenard [of Auxerre] confirmed this. Ansegis confirmed this. Raimbald the herald confirmed this. Gormar confirmed this. Adelard confirmed this. Aldemar confirmed this.

Enacted at Varennes.

The polities in the middle (source)

So, as you will have noticed, as of this point Louis is not in fact king. This is particularly interesting because it means we need to change tack dramatically and talk about Ermengard. We’ve met her before providing the ballast of legitimacy to Boso’s claims for a throne, but here she is the queen, and that’s very strange. Carolingian queens could be very important; Ottonian queens even more so; and this effect is amplified when we’re talking about Italy. Ermengard’s mother Engelberga remained a potent force in Frankish politics after death of her husband Louis II even though she was not the mother of any sons. However, in both the Carolingian and Ottonian periods it’s generally predicated that the power of queens rests largely on their status as consort, regent for an under-age king, or queen mother and here – well, stop me if I’m wrong and I will immediately qualify this sentence, but is Ermengard not here a ruling queen?

OK, sure, looking at things in terms of the big picture her power in Provence rests on the eventual accession of Louis the Blind. But here in 890, and presumably for several years before that, we have a situation where there is one person with a royal title making the decisions and it’s not Louis. In fact, Ermengard is directly and on her own authority overruling Louis here: what seems to have happened is that the princeling tried to reward a follower and the queen no-selled it. This is perhaps understandable – Louis is, maybe, eight years old at this point – but in equivalent situations, for example with Otto III, the royal child was still treated as a full king. Thus, Ermengard’s power seems unusually explicit here.

That’s not the only interesting thing about this charter. The political response to 888 was as we have noted at length heavily improvised, and it’s very striking that here major figures from what would later be ‘West Frankish’ Burgundy are attending court with ‘Provençal’ magnates. We’ve commented before on the fluid nature of politics in the region south of the Vosges, west of the Rhine and the Haut-Jura, north of the Vercors and east of Velay, Forez and the Morvan – basically, northern Provence, southern Burgundy, and what is now western Switzerland. I like to call this the Transararian Fluidity Zone (after the old name for the river Saône, which lies in the middle of its core), and it’s here in full force. Exactly where the border between Louis’ sphere of influence and Odo’s in this region actually was is very fuzzy. Odo has by this point received the submission of northern Burgundy as well as Adalgar of Autun, but not of the southern bishoprics of Chalon and Mâcon. Moreover, Richard the Justiciar and his followers are here in force, many from north of Chalon, and I don’t think it’s really right to classify them as belonging to one kingdom or the other – they are equally well parts of both. These guys are by now used to working together, and whether or not they’re currently dealing with Louis or with Odo probably doesn’t matter all that much.

There is a bit of personal advantage in this. Richard the Justiciar, as we will also see on Wednesday, appears in Louis’ early documents as a very high-status figure indeed, much higher than he appears in West Frankish contexts at this point; and the same extends to his followers. Ragenard of Auxerre up there is otherwise almost universally known as a viscount, not as a count. But a lot of it is simply the natural flow of politics in this region – note how the meeting is enforcing a grant by Rudolf of Burgundy (who, if you remember, had as one of his first acts in 888 made a major grant to Richard’s wife Adelaide), adding an extra king to the proceedings.

It almost wouldn’t matter who the judgement was on behalf of, except that Abbot Berno will show up again. This is the first presaging we have of one of the most significant developments we’ll be covering: Berno, in 890, is abbot of the Juran abbeys of Baume and Gigny; but he also has ties to Aquitaine, and in about twenty years, these are going to come to fruition…

Charter a Week 11: Governing Burgundy with Bishops

Has it really taken this long to get to a private charter? Huh. I guess back when I was going to talk about Neustrian governmentality under 882 the overwhelming predominance of royal diplomas up to this point seemed less obvious; but that’s been moved well down the schedule; and so it’s come to pass that up to this point it’s been all kings all the time. To some extent, of course, this is a function of the nature of the surviving material. Private charter preservation (although there is a small blip in the 890s and 900s) doesn’t really ramp up until we’re dealing with material from the mid-tenth century, so to some extent it was inevitable, especially given that I prefer to be dealing with documents which are individually significant.

Today, though, we’ll be talking about, not Neustrian governance, but Burgundian. During the mid-to-late-ninth century, the West Frankish rulers lashed together their rule out of a series of regionally-customised compromises, deals, and experiments which meant that, despite the presence of a common political culture, different regions can look quite unlike one another under the hood. Burgundy is no exception here. Where in previous weeks I was able to use phrases like ‘Hugh the Abbot basically was Neustria’, I couldn’t say the same about Burgundy. Instead, the figures we’ve been meeting from that region are men like Adalgar of Autun and Geilo of Langres: super-bishops, who despite not being archbishops or provincial metropolitans, are very rich and very powerful; and I think it is they, rather than lay magnates, who are the Carolingian kings’ go-to guys for dealing with certainly southern Burgundy. Which brings us to 887 – what does this look like in practice?

MGH Conc. 5 no. 21C (18th May 887, Chalon-sur-Saône) = ARTEM no. 146

In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 887, and in the 2nd year of the imperial rule in Gaul of the most serene emperor augustus lord Charles, in the 5th indiction, on the 15th kalends of June [18th May], a sacred convent of bishops was in the name of Christ brought together at the church of the holy martyr Marcellus in the suburbs of Chalon-sur-Saône to establish the peace and tranquillity of the holy Church of God and settle Church business. Present there were the lords and most holy archbishops Aurelian [of Lyon], Bernoin [of Vienne], Theotrand [of Tarantaise], and as well the most reverend bishops Adalgar [of Autun], Geilo [of Langres], Stephen [of Chalon], Gerald [of Mâcon], Adalbald [of Belley] and Isaac [of Valence].

Then, the abovewritten Geilo, reverend bishop of the church of Langres, along with the aforesaid fathers residing in this sacrosanct convent, brought to their attention the edict of a precept from the aforesaid lord and most excellent of emperors the ever august Charles, bestowed on him, that is, concerning all of the goods of the church committed to him by God, both those which emperors and kings had presented to his aforesaid church in ancient times and restored by a precept of their authority, and also those which he had acquired in his own time through precepts from the most glorious lord emperor, so that through this aforesaid edict not only he, but all of his successors, should in the name of God be able to rightfully hold onto them without disturbance from anyone.

In fact, here are the names of these goods: that is, the castle of Dijon, where there is a church in honour of the blessed protomartyr Stephen, and next to the same castle the monastery of the holy martyr Benignus, and in the district of Tonnerrois the monastery of Saint-Pierre de Molosmes, and the castle of Tonnerre itself, where there is a church in honour of the blessed Anianus, with all the things properly its own; as well in the same district the little abbey of Saint-Symphorien, in the place which is called Ligny-le-Châtel, and many other goods lying in the same county. Finally, within the walls of the same city of Langres is the abbey of Saint-Pierre, and nearby, in the suburbs of the same city, two little abbeys, to wit, Saint-Amateur and Saint-Ferréol, and the monastery of Saints-Geômes; moreover, in the district of Atuyer, the monastery of Saint-Pierre de Bèze. There are many other goods, little abbeys and possessions of divers other goods which this same church of Langres is seen to justly, reasonably, and rightfully hold onto.

It was also shown in the same edict that the abovementioned bishop had in his time acquired through precepts from the aforesaid lord and most serene emperor augustus estates and other goods properly his church’s in castles, moneying-rights, markets, and immunities: that is, in the district of Tonnerrois, the abbey of Moutiers-Saint-Jean; and in the district of Mémontois, the abbey of Saint-Seine; and in the district of Atuyer, estates of these names: Gray-la-Ville, Pontailler-sur-Saône, Montigny-sur-Vingeanne, and as well Rancenay; and in the district of Lassois, and in the castle of Mont-Lassois itself, the little abbey of Saint-Marcel; and in the district of Troiesin, the estate which they call L’Ormeau.

Later, the same venerable Bishop Geilo humbly appealed to the aforementioned lords and most holy fathers and bishops, with as many prayers as he could, that they might deign to corroborate the edict of this precept by a privilege of their authority, so that it might be held more firmly and certainly and lest it be able to be infringed by anyone’s thoughtless obstinacy.

The aforementioned lords and most holy fathers, lending the ears of Their Mildnesses to his most pious and praiseworthy of solicitations, confirmed the aforesaid edict established concerning all the goods of the church of Langres through this privilege of their authority in this manner, and in confirming it established by their episcopal sanction that, in the manner in which the said emperor augustus had confirmed these aforesaid goods for the church of Langres by his imperial institution, so too do we confirm them by our canonical and episcopal authority, to wit, on the terms that no prince or any judicial power hereafter, or any presumptuous person, should presume to impede, disturb or sacrilegiously invade them; rather, let them be inviolably and perpetually held in their entirety in the same state as they are currently united to and stabilised for the said church of Langres.

But if anyone, overcome by thoughtless and sacrilegious obstinacy, and blinded by unshakeable greed, presumes to infringe in any way that which We have confirmed by Our and God’s authority, let them know that they shall pay the penalty of eternal damnation and be burned in the everlasting fire with the Devil and his angels and with Judas, the betrayer of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ and tortured by a perpetual penalty with Dathan and Abiram; and in addition, let them be kept from the threshold of the holy Church of God and from the company of all the Christian faithful for as long as it takes until they repent of their criminal obstinacy and take care to assuage the wrath of God Almighty, which they feared not to incur, with worthy penitence and satisfaction and amends.

And thus, in subscribing We marked down a very clear confirmation of these enactments with Our hands below, and We requested it be similarly corroborated through Christ and in Christ with the no less worthy subscriptions of absent priests.

Geilo, humble bishop of the holy church of Langres, related, consented to, and subscribed this privilege. Aurelian, poor bishop of the holy church of Lyon, in the name of Christ, strengthened this privilege. Bernoin, humble bishop of the holy church of Vienne, subscribed. Adalgar, bishop of Autun, subscribed. Stephen, humble bishop of the holy church of Chalon-sur-Saône, subscribed. Adalbald, bishop of the church of Belley, subscribed. Gerald, bishop of the holy church of Mâcon, subscribed. Isaac, humble bishop of the church of Valence, subscribed.

Langres - Rue du Cardinal de la Luzerne - View NNW on Cathédrale Saint-Mammès 1768
Frustratingly, although this is an original charter, there aren’t any pictures of it I can find. Instead, this is what Langres cathedral looks like now. (source)

Pretty high-powered, huh? Three different archbishops, most of the major bishops of southern Burgundy and northern Provence… it’s all happening. This actually reflects some of the fallout from the death of King Lothar II decades previously – at this point, the ecclesiastical provinces of Vienne, Lyon and Tarantaise all make a sensible political unit. In that light, this synod can only be seen as a way to run that unit.

What we can’t do is see this as a strictly ecclesiastical affair. Synods are something bishops are supposed to do in any case, but when all the most important figures in your region are bishops, a synod becomes not simply a tool of ecclesiastical governance but a tool of, well, governance-no-qualifier-needed. Most of our evidence for the synod of Saint-Marcel comes from acts like this, charters in favour of Geilo of Langres’ churches. If you look at the language, these are in fact often confirming diplomas of Charles the Fat. That is to say, in practice, they are mediating the emperor’s authority and deciding on how (and indeed if) it is going to be applied in their area.

There’s also a political context here. At this point, Geilo has fairly recently returned from the emperor’s side in Alsace. Boso of Provence, long a friendless fugitive in the hills around Vienne, has finally died; and this raises the question of what to do with his son Louis the Blind. Louis’ mother Engelberga was negotiating with Charles in February, and Charles and Louis were reconciled that summer, with Charles adopting Louis (whatever that meant). This is particularly significant in light of the attendance here: Aurelian of Lyon, Adalgar of Autun, and Theotrand of Tarantaise had been supporters of Boso in 879, and Stephen of Chalon, Gerald of Mâcon and Isaac of Valence were successors of men who had. MacLean proposes quite reasonably that Geilo’s role here is to work through the Charles-Louis deal with these men, reinforcing his status both as the most important imperial fidelis in Burgundy and as the Burgundian bishops’ point man at court. The synod, then, comes across even more as a political assembly of the regional potentates; and we will see in upcoming months how this transitions into the tenth century. But first: 888.

Provence Continues To Be Weird

Not about Liutprand this time, you’ll be pleased to hear. Rather, this time I want to zoom out and talk about just how odd Provence is as a kingdom after the death of Louis the Blind. Chiefly what is weird about it is that there are six potential kings, and the one most people seem to recognise is the one who’s already dead, which is to say Louis the Blind himself. Now, Louis himself doesn’t appear to have done much during the last years of his reign. In the early 900s, he got mixed up in Italian politics, which is as bad an idea for tenth-century kings as twenty-first century historians, which is how he ended up blind in the first place. Louis is supposed to have been fairly useless during the last years of his reign – one historian called him a ‘shadow king’ – although I have questions about how far this is just due to the combination of a lack of narrative sources and the fact that (as you might expect, given the constraints upon disabled people at the time) he didn’t get around much. Certainly, he appears to have spent twenty years staying in Vienne and not moving, but looking through his diplomas people did come to him from all over the kingdom. The most important of these people was Hugh of Arles, who became Louis’ right-hand man up to the point in 924 where Hugh himself went to become king of Italy.

Saint-André-le-Bas in Vienne (source)

Louis died in 928. Well, probably. Overwhelmingly probably. We don’t actually know in what year he died, although it was certainly by 932, but scholarly consensus is basically-unanimous in putting his death in June 928 based on circumstantial evidence, and I think scholarly consensus is in this case correct. After Louis’ death, the first bit of weirdness comes into play: Louis had two adult sons, Charles Constantine and Ralph, neither of whom succeeded him. Some people have suggested that Charles Constantine didn’t succeed him because he was a bastard, but the source for his illegitimacy is late – it’s Richer of Rheims – and I strongly suspect that Richer is back-projecting, filling in an explanation for why Charles didn’t inherit, because the detail is not in Flodoard, which is Richer’s only source. In any case, Ralph is very unlikely to have been illegitimate, but he didn’t inherit either. Charles Constantine appears in Louis’ lifetime as Count of Vienne, which is unusual – royal heirs, even with counties, are not usually called counts (anyone got any counterexamples from this time?); and it has been suggested that this means that Louis did not intend Charles to succeed him; but again, this isn’t true of Ralph. (I did play around with the notion that the ‘Ralph, king of Vienne’ who shows up in a number of charters was Ralph son of Louis the Blind; but this doesn’t work chronologically if nothing else.) What this means is that we have a case where a reigning king with adult sons born to him whilst he was a king isn’t succeeded by his son, which I think is the only example from the whole Carolingian and post-Carolingian period. Pippin II of Aquitaine, maybe?

The thing is, if Louis isn’t succeeded by his sons, it doesn’t look like he’s succeeded by anyone. Kings Ralph of West Francia and Rudolf II of Burgundy both nibble away at bits of territory. Rudolf slowly pulls some of the Alpine bits of Provence, such as Belley and maybe Apt, into his orbit; and looks like he made a short-lived play for Lyon – if so, he was probably kicked out relatively quickly. Ralph made a better go of it, asserting his authority over Vienne and as far south as Uzès, which is only a little distance away from Avignon, so very deep. However – and we do admittedly have evidential problems here – it doesn’t look like either tried to become Louis’ successor directly rather than just annexing some of his territory (which in both cases, they were inching towards even before Louis’ death).

Hugh of Arles’ role is even weirder. You’d have thought he’d be the obvious choice to succeed Louis – already a king elsewhere, powerful allies in the form of his brother Count Boso and nephew Archbishop Manasses of Arles, and personally possessed of a lot of land in the kingdom from back when he was its chief magnate. But although Hugh shows up in autumn and winter 928 and issues a bunch of diplomas, it looks to my eyes rather as though he was trying to stay the kingdom’s chief magnate whilst at the same time being king in a different kingdom. (This, incidentally, is why I was asking for help on Twitter from Crusade historians – trying to look for parallels. The closest is William the Conqueror, but even then the situation is only loosely comparable.) Hugh maintains an interest in Provence, right through into the 940s, but it’s unclear that he ever tried to assert himself as king and very, very likely that no-one every accepted him as their ruler – there are, to my knowledge, no charters dated by Hugh’s reign, even those issued in the name of Manasses of Arles.

Rather, most people, especially in the south of the kingdom, seem to have continued to recognise Louis the Blind as king, through to the mid-930s. One charter from 934 refers to Louis as the currently-reigning emperor even though he’s been in the ground (overwhelmingly probably) for six years and (certainly) for two. To me, this says that most people don’t recognise anyone as their legitimate king (and that, for some reason, Hugh of Arles doesn’t want to be king there even though he probably could). I haven’t thought through the implications of all this yet, but it’s striking that Louis’ realm is apparently coherent enough to keep going after his death but that Louis’ kingship laid so lightly on his subjects that no-one needed someone else to keep doing it…

Lectiones Difficiles: More on Provence

Wow, the last post got a real reaction.

I mean, it’s the Fallout: New Vegas guy! Do you know how many hours I sunk into that game?               <pauses, thinks> erm… none I should have been spending doing thesis work instead, honest…

This is a little surprising to me, because it was dealing with an extremely difficult, abstruse and technical question. Hopefully it’s comprehensible; or if it isn’t, that’s because I don’t have a full grasp on what’s going on yet. In either case, there’s more to say on the subject, because I need to get this sorted out. Despite an agonizing wait over the weekend to get hold of some key articles on the issues raised last time, I’ve had a few days to familiarise myself with the sources and historiography around the kingship of Lower Burgundy (where I discovered that, happily, there is actually a debate around this), and the conclusion I’ve come to is that it’s really hard, you guys. I actually received two responses on the issue, for which I am grateful: both were thoughtful, considered, and diametrically opposed to one another about whether the Radulfus from Burgundia mentioned in Liutprand of Cremona’s Antapodosis 3.48 is King Rudolf II of Upper Burgundy or King Ralph of West Francia. So you’re getting another blog post going into more detail about the evidence and its problems.

First, Liutprand. There are four main arguments in favour of Rudolf II of Upper Burgundy being Liutprand’s Radulfus. 1) that Liutprand’s relative chronology seems to place the deal between Radulfus and Hugh in 933; 2) that every other time Radulfus and Burgundia appear in the text, it is Rudolf and Upper Burgundy which is meant; 3) that Rudolf has much more reason to be involved in Italian politics than Ralph has; and 4) that Liutprand was actually a page-boy in Hugh of Arles’ court at the time, so it would be odd for him to get it wrong.

Points 1) and 2) are not, to my eyes, very convincing. Liutprand’s chronology here is vague in the extreme. He doesn’t actually give any concrete dates, simply saying ‘around this time’. Given that what we’re talking about largely concerns events in Gaul, where Liutprand can get very fuzzy, I’m open to the idea that he’s filling in a lot of his own blanks. If what he actually knows is that at some point around 930 Hugh made a deal about some land in Gaul with a Radulfus from Burgundia, he might well assume it’s Rudolf and Transjurane Burgundy not Ralph and ducal Burgundy simply because he knows that the former had much more to do with Italy than the latter.

Point 3) is much more of a problem. One can argue around it in two ways: first, that although Rudolf II was in fact very heavily involved in Italian affairs and Ralph not, the Italians did sometimes look to seemingly-random West Frankish aristocrats to intervene in their affairs – in the mid-1020s, apparently quite serious plans were made to offer the Italian crown to Duke William V of Aquitaine. Second, that Liutprand doesn’t actually know the context of the deal, and is making assumptions, albeit plausible ones, about what happened: why did Hugh offer his land to Radulfus? Because he must have been in trouble, as he was in 933, and because some Italian nobles had offered Radulfus the crown, again, because that kept happening. Still, no matter which way you slice it, Rudolf is a better fit for the Italian context than Ralph.

Point 4) could go either way. Yes, Liutprand was there in the early 930s – but he was pre-pubescent or barely a teenager, and he was actually writing his book about thirty years later. This is significant because his story doesn’t match up very well with that of Flodoard of Rheims. The reason the deal between Hugh and Rudolf II is placed in 933 is because of the way Liutprand’s relative chronology, describing Hugh being kicked out of Rome, syncs with Flodoard’s absolute chronology, for it is he who describes it as being in 933. This is actually a problem, because we have a good idea about Flodoard’s information here – in 933, two messengers from Rheims came back to that city with a bit of archiepiscopal bling for the local prelate, and they gave Flodoard what appears to have been a decent bit of information on Italian affairs. In general, Flodoard is interested in what’s going on in Italy, and in the early-to-mid 930s, he has a decent amount of information on it, including a trip he himself made to Rome sometime around 936. It is therefore a bit odd that he doesn’t mention a deal made in the 930s, given that it would presumably have impacted the land his church held in the area around Lyon. As I said, it could go either way when dealing with an argument from silence: it could be that Flodoard was too far away to have the relevant information, despite being interested and contemporary; or it could be that Liutprand was too chronologically distant and confused, despite being a member of Hugh’s court.

Moving from our narrative sources, we need to look at the Lower Burgundian context. Here, it seems to me that the identification Radulfus=Rudolf has been finding increasingly little favour amongst researchers. The reason for this is simple: there’s lots of evidence that Ralph of West Francia was doing lots of exciting things in Lower Burgundy around 930, and very little for Rudolf.

However, that brief description underplays just how confusing the evidence is. I should therefore say that most of what we’re dealing with is charter dating clauses. These are important, because charters are mostly dated by the reigning king, and therefore they give us a glimpse of who people thought was in charge. And we are dealing here with three main types of dating clause. First, charters dated by the reign of King Ralph, from Vienne and from Lyon (we have hardly any evidence at all from further south, although Fournial suggested that charters from the Vivarais and environs dated by Ralph’s successor Louis hinted that Louis had inherited his position from Ralph). Second, a couple of charters for the monastery of Savigny near Lyon dated by Rudolf II’s reign. Third, and most importantly, there are a lot of charters from all over Lower Burgundy which continue to be dated by the reign of the late Louis the Blind, right up through the early 930s.

What is clear from this is that the situation was itself conflicted. Evidently, there were a lot of people, some of them very important people, who did not think that there was a legitimate king after Louis the Blind’s death. Thus, our tiny hints about what Ralph was doing in 928-930 (maybe issuing a diploma for Uzès, possibly trying to assert himself further south, probably minting coins in his name in Lyon, and definitely making concerted efforts to bring Vienne under his sway, even though for reasons which are utterly opaque it keeps falling away) suggest that although he was the biggest player in Lower Burgundy at this time, he wasn’t the only one. However, the evidence also suggests that his biggest opposition was small-scale and localised, rather than his fellow-monarchs: other than a couple of hints for the Lyonnais, Rudolf II doesn’t appear to have played much role in the area, and I actually think that a charter from 929 suggests that the West Frankish and Upper Burgundian kings had come to some kind of accommodation. What we have, then, says that if Rudolf fits Italy better than Ralph, Ralph fits Italy better than Rudolf.

To summarise what we’ve got so far, both arguments have important problems. (I haven’t even mentioned the diplomas issued by Hugh of Arles, which raise severe issues no matter what you think is happening.) If the traditional identification of Radulfus=Rudolf is wrong, and the event described by Liutprand can be identified with the deal between Hugh of Arles and Ralph in 928, then it solves a number of issues, chiefly that of why there is so little evidence for Rudolf II in Provence, and the problem of reconciling Flodoard and Liutprand. On the other hand, if the traditional identification is right, it fits much more clearly with Liutprand’s text, as well as providing a reason for the hints that we do have of Rudolf’s involvement in Burgundy in the 930s. Personally, I tend to lean towards Hofmeister, Brühl, and the French historians who think it is more likely that Radulfus is Ralph of West Francia. The issues this creates with Liutprand are extremely serious, but I don’t think they’re insurmountable; and on the other hand, the Radulfus=Ralph identification does fit better with the Lower Burgundian circumstantial evidence and deals with the problem of Flodoard’s silence. With that said, in the absence of a smoking gun one way or another, the issue remains to be decided.