More Wandering Charter Prologues: Louis IV and the Germans

There was another blog post scheduled for today, but I’ve moved it down the pipeline so that I can share with you all another exciting thing I’ve found in my obsessively-close reading of royal diplomas. Come with me now to autumn 948, where King Louis IV issues two diplomas, one to the abbey of Sant Pere de Roda in the Spanish March and one to the cathedral church of Mâcon. Each of these diplomas begins with a prologue that goes:

(The prologue for Mâcon is longer; I add the extra bits in square brackets.)

If royal majesty, for love of God [and His saints], endeavours to freely receive and adjudicate[/vindicate] and ordain the cares of churchly matters with just consideration of equity, We are confident that this ought to greatly benefit it in eternal repayment [because that which is paid out to the Repayer of All Goods cannot be fruitless].

I was, as I have been known to do for fun but in this instance actually for part of the book, looking to see where the textual precedents for this came from. And do you know what I found? Germans.

The abbey of Klingenmünster (source)

Specifically, Louis the German, who issued an act for the abbey of Klingenmünster in 849 with an identical opening. This opening, which is extremely distinctive and not really found anywhere else, matches it essentially word-for-word, with some slight scribal variants. This gives us three alternatives:

  • There is a separate, no-longer-surviving, third source for both.

It is, at least, fair to say that I haven’t found one. If you know of one, please let me know! With that said, this strikes me as extremely unlikely. If there were a common source, given how far apart in time and space the recipients are, I’d expect at least fragments of it to show up elsewhere, and they don’t.

  • Louis IV’s acts are a source for Louis the German’s.

Obviously the chronology here raises problems, insofar as Louis the German’s act was purportedly issued in 849, almost exactly a century before Louis IV’s. Admittedly, Louis’ act as it exists now has been interpolated, but the diploma’s editor reckons it’s a ninth-century interpolation and as far as I can tell German historiography has followed in his footsteps in agreeing with this. So unless it’s a much, much better forgery than previously suspected, which is unlikely, we can rule this one out.

  • Louis the German’s act is a source for Louis IV’s.

Now we’re talking. You see, when I saw that these acts were issued in 948, my first thought was ‘oh, hang on a sec. Where is Klingenmünster?’ And it turns out that it is in the Rhineland, a little bit south-west of Speyer and north of the modern French border. And that’s when I started grinning like a maniac, because in 948 Louis IV has particularly good reason to be talking to people from that area. In 946, Louis was imprisoned and blackmailed by his most powerful magnate Hugh the Great. He was freed, and his wife Queen Gerberga sent to her brother, Otto the Great of Germany, for help. In 948, this kicked into high gear: at a synod at Ingelheim, Hugh the Great was excommunicated and Otto sent an army to help Louis kick Hugh out of the lands around Rheims. He didn’t lead it himself, however.

Instead, at the head of the Ottonian army, was the duke of Lotharingia, Conrad the Red. Louis and Conrad appear to have spent the last half of 948 acting in concert. Conrad even acted as godfather to Louis’ daughter! And although he might have been duke of Lotharingia, Conrad’s home base was around… Speyer.

Now, we can’t trace a direct connection between Conrad and Klingenmünster. Insofar as I’ve been able to find out, the tenth-century history of Klingenmünster is essentially a blank. (Thanks to Levi Roach and Björn Weiler for their suggestions!) However, the area was his power-base, and his family had priors with that particular area – Conrad’s son Otto of Worms was intimately associated with the abbey of Wissembourg, a morning’s walk to the south. And certainly, this is a clear channel for this text to end up in Louis’ chancery.

What does this mean? This is perhaps the important part of this story. In late 948, Louis owed his restoration to Ottonian arms, and specifically to Conrad. That these two acts – his first (surviving) since his imprisonment – both drew on a unique example of East Frankish Carolingian munificence to an institution in Conrad’s home base to compose their texts. The royal chancery was expressing itself in East Frankish words. By picking Rhineland texts to base their portrayal of kingship on, Louis and his circle were displaying and broadcasting their alliance with their East Frankish benefactors in a very direct way.

Source Translation: Charles the Bald’s Proclamation against a Traitor Archbishop

Today finds me en route to charming Aberdeen, where I’ll be taking part in the Bishops’ Identities, Careers and Networks conference (and as I write this I realise I’ve forgotten my little cartoon Lambert of Liège badge, which makes me very sad). However, lest you should fear that I would abandon you, dear readers, I have (for once) prepared something special for today: a translation of the Libellus contra Wenilonem. This text, usually thought to have been written for King Charles the Bald perhaps by Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims (whom this blog has encountered before, it being hard to avoid him when dealing with the Frankish episcopate) in 859. In 858, Charles’ persistent difficulties with the Neustrian part of his realm had come to a head, and a group of major nobles had invited Charles’ elder brother King Louis the German to become ruler in the West Frankish kingdom. Thanks in large part to his support from the West Frankish episcopate, Charles was able to beat off Louis and re-establish his rule.

There was one major exception to the general support Charles received from his bishops, and that was Archbishop Wanilo of Sens. Wanilo had crowned Charles, but switched sides to Louis and; well, let’s hear Charles’ side of the story:

[EDIT: Latin text here.]

The outline of lord king Charles’ case against Wanilo, archbishop of Sens, promulgated by his own hand before archbishops Remigius of Lyons, Herard of Tours, Wanilo of Rouen, and Ralph of Bourges, chosen as judges from amongst a holy synod of twelve provinces, held in the diocese of Toul, in the suburb of the same city which is called Savonnières, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 859, in the 7th indiction, on the 18th kalends of July [i.e. 14th June].

Chapter 1: Because, as Saint Gregory said and you know to be true from time immemorial, kings in the kingdom of the Franks come from one dynasty, by divine provision, my lord and father Emperor Louis of pious memory gave me, like my royal brothers, a part of the realm. In this part of the realm, the metropolitan archbishopric of Sens happened to be lacking a pastor; so, in accordance with the custom of my predecessors as king and with the consent of the holy bishops of that archbishopric, I gave it to Wanilo to govern – at that time, he was serving me as a cleric in my chapel. He commended himself to me after the fashion of free clerics, and swore an oath of fidelity, and I got all the bishops of my entourage to ordain him as archbishop in Sens.

Chapter 2: After that, there came to pass between my brothers and I the well-known settlement concerning the division of the realm, as a result of which I received a portion of the division to hold and govern, with mutual oaths on the parts of us and our followers, in the manner whereof the leading men of the whole realm had devised. Like the other bishops present, Wanilo swore to me and my brothers, with his own hand, to uphold in future this division between me and my brothers in future as, in essence, my supporter. Wanilo also confirmed the peace and agreement of mutual aid between me and my aforesaid brother Louis with an oath.

Chapter 3: After his election, by the will, consent and acclamation of the rest of the bishops and the other faithful of Our realm, in his diocese, at the city of Orléans, in the church of Sainte-Croix, Wanilo and other archbishops and bishops consecrated me as king in accordance with Church tradition, and anointed me to rule the kingdom with sacred chrism, and elevated me to the throne with a diadem and royal sceptre. As a result of this consecration, I ought not to have been overthrown or supplanted by anyone, at least not without a tribunal of and judgement by bishops, by whose ministry I was consecrated as king, who are called the ‘Thrones of God’, in whom God sits and through whom He declares His judgements; and to whose paternal reproofs and castigatory judgements I was prepared to submit myself and now submit myself to.

Chapter 4: Then, when sedition had begun to grow within Our realm thanks to impudent men, by the consent of Our bishops and other followers, we wrote a mutual agreement concerning how I, with the Lord’s help, intended to act towards them, and how Our same followers ought thereafter to bring me solace through help and counsel. At the estate of Bayel, Wanilo subscribed this document with his own hand, as you can now see.

Chapter 5: After that, when Our followers and I had, as you know, gone to fight the pagans [the Vikings] at the island of Oissel on land and sea, some defected from Us and fled. Wanilo, however, returned to his own see, saying he was too infirm to go to Oissel. But while We remained there, girded for battle although under strength, Our brother Louis, as you know, invaded Our realm from his own with hostile intent, accompanied by seditious men. Wanilo went to his assembly without my agreement and permission. He knew that he wanted to supplant me. No other bishop from Our realm did this.

Chapter 6: Moreover, when I, in the company of those faithful to God and me, marched against my aforesaid brother and my enemies and those with him, who plundered the Church and pillaged the realm, he sent no help, either in person or through the due assistance which my royal ancestors and I had been accustomed to have from the church committed to him, even though I sincerely asked this of him.

Chapter 7: I then had reason and need to retreat from my aforesaid brother at Brienne. My brother Louis returned to my kingdom for this reason: that he might steal my nephew [King Lothar II] from me and take my men from me and violently oppress my followers. Wanilo went to my aforesaid brother Louis with all the help he could muster, acting against me. With him were excommunicate and seditious men of this realm, concerning whose excommunication he had received letters from his fellow bishops. And Wanilo celebrated public masses for my brother and the seditious men who accompanied him, in my palace of Attigny, in the diocese and province of another archbishop who was loyal to Us, without the permission and consent of his fellow bishops, and for excommunicates and the accomplices of excommunicates. And it was in that council and by his counsel (as much as Lothar’s counsellors’) that my nephew Lothar was stolen from me through lies, and the consolation and help due from him and promised by an oath was taken from me.

Chapter 8: Wanilo was no less present amongst the counsellors of my aforesaid brother in dealings both public and private, with his special favourites and amongst the foremost of his entourage, along with, as We said, those excommunicated by episcopal judgement and condemned by the judgement of the realm. This was so that my oft-mentioned brother might gain and I might lose that part of the realm concerning which my same brother and Wanilo swore an oath to me, and in which Wanilo had consecrated me as king.

Chapter 9: Wanilo advised and discussed how the bishops who owed me sworn fidelity and ought to give me the counsel and help they had confirmed with their own hands might desert me and give their service and obedience to my brother Louis.

Chapter 10: He obtained from my brother Louis a precept concerning the abbey of Sainte-Colombe and goods and honours in my kingdom, and asked for letters to send to agents who could retake the same abbey, Heccard and Theodoric.

Chapter 11: In the same letters to the aforesaid agents, Wanilo procured my brother Louis’ order that they should have permission to take stones from the wall of the castle of Melun, which rightly belongs to royal power. This shows how he endeavoured to cherish and tried to support him amongst all the people of the realm bestowed on me by God.

Chapter 12: Wanilo was present in council and dealings with the aforesaid excommunicates, where it was considered how those men who were loyal to me and had promised me loyalty with an oath might willingly or unwillingly swear loyalty to my brother Louis and give him help, and how he could obtain my kingdom from me. And Wanilo was not only present in council, but he himself gave the same counsel to my brother Louis, against the loyalty which he had promised me by an oath.

Chapter 13: Wanilo, both in person and through his companions, to wit, the abovesaid excommunicates, got my brother Louis to give a vacant bishopric, to wit, that of the city of Bayeux, to his kinsman, my cleric Tortald, who had commended himself to me and sworn an oath of loyalty. He, acting unfaithfully towards me and against the loyalty he had promised me, accepted the same bishopric with the consent of my brother Louis.

Chapter 14: Finally, after God, through the assistance of my followers against my brother, had given me the strength to recover, I came to Wanilo’s city. He knew to come to me against my brother to recover my realm; and offered no help, either in person with the counsel he had promised and signed off on, or through the soldiers who are usually provided by the church committed to him.

Wanilo reconciled with Charles later in 859, although his name became a by-word for treachery in later generations. There are a few things that could be said about this, but in the name of space I’ll limit myself to just one, relating to Chapter 3. It’s been said that there was no theory of deposition in Carolingian times, but Charles’ statement that he could, in theory, have been removed as king by a council of bishops looks very much like one. It does look as though Charles is accepting the legitimacy of the very procedure whereby his father Louis the Pious was deposed in the 830s (although in that case the deposition didn’t stick). It’s also remarkably favourably to the Church – admittedly correcting the ruler and giving him admonition and guidance is very much a bishop’s role at this point; but I have trouble imagining this idea coming from the court of Charles the Simple whilst it was justifying itself in handing out bishoprics like Halloween candy. So I have a question for the audience, if anyone’s working on a later period: does this ever get cited?  I can imagine Gregory VII (as a bishop who claimed the right to depose rulers) enjoying this one, but does it ever actually come up?