Brothers-in-Arms: The Treaty of Liège (Feb 854)

One of the enduring fascinations of the medieval world for the present is the way it pitches high politics as family drama. The cosily intimate domestic squabble prosecuted on the battlefield is an inherently gripping story. Notoriously the Carolingians have a great deal to offer for aficionados of familial conflict in the Middle Ages. This is also an interesting period in the study of diplomatic relations. The middle of the ninth century saw three brothers – Lothar I, Louis the German and Charles the Bald – who all ruled separately as independent monarchs over a population of elites that saw themselves as part of a wider shared Frankish and Christian community. Their struggles against each other married dysfunctional family relationships with matters of state in front of an aristocratic audience who could easily change allegiance or refuse to participate. The Treaty of Liège of February 854 serves as a sort of sequel to my previous post on the Treaty of Valenciennes. But it also offers a window into the way the brothers sought to communicate the rightness of their respective causes to each other, and to the watching Frankish nobility.

‘Hlotharii et Karoli Conventus Leodii Habitus’, in MGH Capit. II, no. 207 (pp. 76-8).

The most serene Emperor Lothar:

  1. We wish all those who are faithful to us to know that in the past year we have frequently sent invitations to our most beloved brother Louis in order that we might have a common conversation with our faithful and with his concerning the Lord’s will, insomuch as He wishes to send inspiration, and that we might manage and ordain the advantage of God’s holy Church and the common progress, honour and needs of ourselves and our men. But because our aforesaid brother has because of some sort of impediment put off coming until now, as we had hoped, We were unwilling to set it aside in such a way that we did not usefully come together. 
  2. Now we want you to be sure of our coming together, because, with Christ propitious, we want to come together indissolubly in thought and deed in accordance with God’s will, for the salvation of the holy Church and for our and your common advantage and needs, so that we may be one in Christ and you may be one with us.
  3. Understand that we grant to you a law of the kind which our ancestors, that is, our father and grandfather, conceded to and conserved for your ancestors, and we wish to respect it in every way inviolably and incorruptibly, in both present and future times.

The most glorious king Charles: 

  1. Accordingly, we have for this reason delayed having this meeting up until now, because we wished that our aforementioned brother would meet with us as well and attend the same meeting with us. But because he, being hindered by some impediment, neglected to come, we, having heard the disturbance which his son is attempting to cause, wished to ally with each other. Know therefore that we shall be together in prosperity and adversity; nor, with God’s help, will any trifling offence be able to separate us from that love by which we are bound together by fraternal bonds. Rather, wherever we are in need of reciprocal comfort and assistance, as far as the Lord permits, we desire to be supported and sustained by each other, and we wish to bring one another assistance against every earthly enemy.
  2. But if our same brother delays coming to us in the manner that we desire and send to him, we are united to each other such that one shall provide such comfort and assistance to the other wherever it is necessary from this time forward, as we have said above, so that each can rest assuredly in the kingdom that has been entrusted to him by God. And if either one outlives his partner, let him who is left keep his nephews under their tuition and protection together with their father’s kingdom, so that they may be so fortified against the machinations of adversaries with the help of God that they can rest assuredly in the kingdom of their father.
  3. Therefore, We desire Your Devotedness to know for certain that we truly recognize that we have offended God in many things and have carelessly troubled your minds, so have made a vow to, by Christ’s favour, make every effort to amend all of these things so that we might be able to appease God and give satisfaction to Your Devotedness. When a greater number of our faithful men shall come together, or when our aforesaid brother, as we have commanded him to, shall come, if he wishes to come, We will take care to keep you informed of all things in whatever way will be agreeable to you, such that you might truly know us to want to observe and keep our promise most fully and in every way.
  4. In addition, let your skill and the skill of everyone discover it in common, that for this reason we earnestly wished to announce these things to you in this sacred place so that you may know that we will inviolably observe everything which we say, with the favour of the Lord and the support of his saints in whose presence they are announced. 

This is the oath which they swore to one another:

From this day forth, if our brother Louis (or his sons) is breaking or will break the oath he swore to us, regarding that part of the realm which you have received as your share from him, insofar as the Lord give me the power to do so, if you ask it I will offer you help with your defence against him, and against his sons and against all others who wish to take it from you without just or reasonable pretext. And if I should outlive you, I will not take away from your sons that part of the kingdom which you have received as your share from me and my brother but will consent for them to have it. And if they or their faithful men ask for help in defending against our brother, his sons, and anyone, so that they can hold it, I will aid them as far as I can, so long as you and your sons give us the same aid and do not part with us.

Regular readers will remember that when we last left Charles and Lothar in November 853 things were looking pretty good. The situation was stable enough that Charles could concentrate on domestic affairs and the two brothers went through a number of items concerning the church and the law. By February 854 things were considerably less rosy. In late 853, leading Aquitanians had invited the second son of Louis the German, Louis the Younger, to become their king. Charles had only recently won the last war for Aquitaine and had managed to alienate an important kindred of magnates by having an otherwise unknown Gauzbert beheaded in March 853 for similarly mysterious reasons. These rebel Aquitanians received a positive reception from Louis. Alarmed by the alliance between his brothers and annoyed at getting shut out of the question of Lothar’s inheritance, Louis was inclined to support the venture. As news of this development spread, Charles became increasingly concerned that Lothar might decide he was a bad bet and reach out to Louis instead. The result was another meeting between Charles and Lothar, this time at Liège in February 854, where the brothers made their military and political alliance explicit in this treaty.

psalter

Some dubious looking brethren assembling in the Stuttgart Psalter, Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart, Bibl. fol. 23.149v.

This background emerges in the text of the treaty. In order to keep Lothar invested in the alliance, Charles promises to protect his children’s inheritance if Lothar predeceases him (Charles c.2; oath). The treaty is very clearly aimed at Louis, inviting him to join them in their alliance (Lothar cc.1-2; Charles c.1), but warning him that an attack on one will be counted as an attack on the other (Charles cc.1-2; oath). Special reference is made to the ambitions of the younger Louis in Aquitaine, with Louis the German called upon to restrain his son (Charles c.1), and the brothers specifying that their alliance would also apply against Louis’ children (oath). Even as they threatened him, Lothar and Charles were probably sincere in inviting Louis to join them, at least in the short term. Both would benefit from peace as Charles dealt with his problems in Aquitaine and Lothar would get the agreement of both of his brothers for his succession plan.

But there was another audience for the treaty, and that was a Frankish elite that was largely tired of internecine conflict. Family drama is entertaining from a distance, but participants in it need to find ways to make other people care about and adopt their cause as their own. By publicly offering Louis a place at the table, Lothar and Charles were deflecting blame for subsequent fighting while suggesting a means by which the multipolar Carolingian world could be peacefully organised. For anyone watching who felt that the problems besetting the empire had more profound causes, they also promised to discuss ecclesiastical matters and to undertake measures that would win back divine favour (Lothar c.2; Charles c.3). Lothar placed particular emphasis on the laws initiated by Charlemagne and Louis the Pious, assuring that the brothers would follow and keep the legal protections accorded to their people (Lothar c.3).

A further, more speculative, point. Liège was an important site in Lothar’s realm, which benefitted Charles in that it meant that the emperor publicly committed to the alliance in front of an assembly of his own people, making it harder to weasel out of it without losing face. I’m struck by the reference to the oath being sworn in a sacred place (Charles c.4), and I wonder if it means that it is being taken in St Lambert’s Cathedral. Liège had been patronised in the early eighth century by the Carolingians as an alternative to Maastricht. Liège was also the centre of Charles Martel’s power in the civil wars that followed the death of Pippin II, and as much the cradle of the Carolingian dynasty as anywhere else. While it is almost certainly a coincidence, I can’t help wondering if there was a deliberate choice made in making this treaty about the need for family unity in a place intimately associated with the beginning of that family, in a cathedral dedicated to a bishop who had been killed as a result of civil conflict (slightly awkwardly by Pippin of Herstal).

Viewed from a distance, this treaty was a success. The alliance between Lothar and Charles held down to the former’s death a little over a year and a half later, at which point Lothar’s sons succeeded as planned. Looked at more closely, this outcome had relatively little to do with the treaty. Lothar had talks with Louis later in the year, forcing Charles to hold another meeting with the emperor, this time at Attigny, to remind him of the agreement, distracting him from affairs in Aquitaine. Undeterred by the alliance, Louis the Younger had travelled to Aquitaine to claim the throne in early 854. Although support for his bid was not as strong as he had been promised, he managed to make trouble until he went home in the autumn.

Charles’ dealing with these problems owed fairly little to the vision of family comity found in the treaty of Liège. There is no evidence that Lothar intervened in the conflict. Rather, Charles neutralised Louis the German by encouraging Slavs and Bulgars to attack the East Frankish kingdom, leaving him unable to support Louis the Younger. He also may have divided the Aquitanians by releasing the imprisoned Pippin II, who immediately gathered many of the people who might have otherwise backed Louis the Younger. The Treaty of Liège may have promised a concert of Carolingian princes working in amity to resolve problems. The reality was altogether messier and depended more on the politics of division than of unity.

Charter a Week 3, part 1: What I Am

Charles the Bald’s son Louis the Stammerer did not reign for a very long time. When he died, he left behind two young sons and a pregnant wife. Almost immediately, the kingdom got caught up in vicious factional intrigue between a number of people, noticeably Hugh the Abbot and Gozlin of Paris, both of whom we’ve met before on this blog; but the other West Frankish supermagnates as well as King Louis the Younger in the east got involved. The specifics are complex, but I summarise as follows: Louis the Stammerer had left the whole kingdom to his son Louis III, which in practice meant Bernard Plantevelue, Hugh the Abbot, and Boso. Gozlin, left out the loop, looked to Louis the Younger to be king instead. Both factions competed for Louis’ favour; eventually the impasse was solved by crowning both of Louis the Stammerer’s sons, Louis III and Carloman II, kings; and splitting the West Frankish kingdom in half. The competition, however, threatened to unseat Boso – and so this happened.

DD Provence no. 16 (25th July 879)

I, Boso, by grace of God that what I am, and my beloved wife the imperial offspring Ermengard, for love of God, give to the monastery of Montiéramey, etc., our goods which the lord emperor the most serene augustus Charles [the Bald] gave to us through a precept, which are in the district of Lassois: a demesne in the estate which is called Lanty with everything beholden to it, etc.

I, in the name of God, Boso, subscribed this charter of donation and ask that it be confirmed. The imperial offspring Ermengard consented. Sign of Count Richard [the Justiciar]. Sign of Count Theobald [of the Jura]. Sign of Count Bernard [of Gothia].

I, Archchancellor Stephen, at the command of the famous and illustrious man lord Boso and his wife lady Ermengard, wrote and subscribed this charter.

Given on the 8th kalends of August [25th July], in the year of the Incarnation of our lord Jesus Christ 879, in the 1st year after the death of the most glorious king Louis [the Stammerer].

Happily in the name of God, amen.

Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims wrote that Ermengard, who was the daughter of Louis II, emperor of Italy (would it kill one of them to not be called Louis?), nagged Boso to become king – she was the daughter of an emperor and felt that her birth entitled her to a higher-status husband. This doesn’t have to be dynastic, but certainly an emperor’s daughter was a high-status position and Boso, as in this charter, was clearly trying to have that position rub off on himself.

Otherwise, this charter is a masterpiece of hedging one’s bets. It’s a shame that it’s basically abbreviated notes on an original, because you can see that Boso already has an archchancellor, but isn’t yet ready to call himself king, using instead the famous phrase id quod sum, which could mean anything, but to those in know… well, the writing was on the wall.

King_Boson_of_Provence
The clue is the crown. (source)

Charter a Week 1, part 2: Carlopolis

As warned on Monday, there’s another of these last diplomas of Charles the Bald. Sometimes, you just can’t choose, and this is a particularly rich case. I mentioned on Monday that in 877, Charles did not expect to die; he expected to rule more and more of his family inheritance. This diploma in particular is a rich tapestry of Carolingian memory and aspirations:

DD CtB no. 425 (5th May 877, Compiègne) = ARTEM no. 1787 = DK 5.xx

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by mercy of the same Almighty God emperor augustus.

Whatever We offer by way of thanks in vow or action to God Almighty, to Whom We owe not only that which We have and which We got from His hand but Our very self, Who deigned to elevate Us and the emperors and kings Our predecessors to the garland of royalty not by Our merit but by His most beneficent grace, We in no way doubt that this will be of greater consequence for Us in more happily passing through the present life and more fruitfully laying hold of the future.

Hence, because the emperor of rich recollection, to wit, Our grandfather Charle[magne], on whom divine providence deigned to bestow sole rule of this whole empire, is recognised to have built a chapel in the palace of Aachen in honour of the blessed virgin Mary the mother of God, and to have established clerics therein to serve the Lord for the remedy of his soul and the absolution of his sins and equally for the dignity of the imperial highness, and to have consecrated the same place with a great collection of relics and to have cultivated it with manifold ornaments, We likewise, desiring to imitate the custom of him and other kings and emperors, to wit, Our predecessors, since that part of his realm has not yet fallen to Us as a share of the division, nevertheless raised from the foundations within the domain of Our power, that is, in the palace of Compiègne, a monastery in honour of the glorious mother of God and always ever-virgin Mary, to which We give the name ‘royal’, and We enriched it, by the Lord’s help, with great offerings, and We decreed that there should be clerics therein numbering a hundred, to constantly implore the Lord’s mercy for the state of the holy Church of God, for Our fathers and progenitors, for Us, Our wife and offspring, and for the stability of the whole realm.

We consigned these estates to be held perpetually for the use of this basilica and for necessary stipends for the aforesaid brothers. That is, in the district of Tardenois, the estate of Romigny with a chapel and in its entirety; and in the district of Beauvaisis, the estate of Longueil-Sainte-Marie, Sacy-le-Petit, and Marest-sur-Matz with everything pertaining to them; and in the district of Amiénois, Piennes and Erches; in the district of Boulonnais, the estate of Attin, and the cell of Sainte-Macre in the district of Tardenois with all its appendages; and in the Soissonnais, the estate of Bruyères; and in the district of Laonnois, the estate of Estraon and Berry-au-Bac (after the death of Primordius); and in the district of Vermandois, the estate of Cappy, and also the cultivated land which We conceded with a fishery to the same brothers for their outside uses outside the monastery; a chapel in Venette, a chapel in Verberie, a chapel in Nanteuil-le-Haudoin, a chapel in Montmacq (after the death of Berto); in the district of Noyonnais, the small estate which is called Les Bons Hommes; also, the tithes of the fiscs which We conceded to them through a precept, that is, the tithe of Le Chesne, Verberie, Cuignières, Roye, Montmacq, and two parts of the tithe of the estate of Orville, Doullens, Creolicupinus, Ferrières, Sinceny, Amigny, Voyenne, Rozoy-sur-Serre, Samoussy, Andigny, Erquery, Sevigny-Waleppe, Attigny, Belmia, Taizy, Bitry, Ponthion, Merlaut and Bussy, and all the others which they have through Our precept; and cottages in Bourgogne, and the bridge over the Vesle pertaining to Fismes, and the all the toll of the annual market with the meadow by Venette where it usually takes place. Also, We similarly confirm that the custom of complete silence and quiet should be canonically observed there, and be violated by no outside guest, as is contained in the same precept. Moreover, We concede to the said holy monastery and the brothers assiduously serving the Lord therein on this day when We celebrated the dedication of that holy basilica, that is, the 3rd nones of May [5th May], through the same precept of Our authority, the estate of Sarcy in the district of Tardenois, with a demesne, and a chapel, and whatever is beholden there, and whatever Count Othere once held from the same; and in the district of Beauvaisis, in Béthancourt, whatever is beholden there from Margny-lès-Compiègne.

And thus, We resolve that all the aforesaid, those estates and goods which We conceded before the dedication of the aforesaid basilica and those which We conceded at the dedication of the same, with chapels and all their appendages, lands, vineyards, woods, meadows, pastures, waters and watercourses, mills, bondsmen of both sexes dwelling thereon or justly and legally pertaining to the same, roads in and out, and all legitimate boundaries, should be eternally held and canonically disposed of by the said holy place and the congregation serving the Lord therein for their advantage; and from Our right We place them in the right and power of the same monastery, such that, as We ordained in Our other precepts, they may have, hold and possess whatever from this day divine piety might wish to bestow upon the said place and brothers through Us and through Our successors or by gift of any other person and have free and most firm power to act and make canonical dispositions in everything, to wit, on the condition that the offices and ministries of the same place, to wit, of lighting, of guests, and of the reception of the poor, and of the brothers’ stipends should remain ordained in accordance with what We or Our representatives or the prelates of the same monastery might dispose.

Finally, We enact as well that all the aforesaid goods should remain under that defence of Our immunity and tutelage under which the goods of other churches which earned to obtain this from Us or from Our predecessors are known to remain, such that none of Our followers or anyone with judicial power or anyone else, both present and also future, might dare to enter into the churches or places or fields or other possessions of the aforesaid monastery which it justly and legally possesses in any pagi or territories, or those which henceforth divine piety wishes be placed within the right of that holy place to hear cases or exact fines or tribute, or make a halt or claim hospitality, or take securities, or distrain the men both free and servile dwelling on its land, or require any renders or illicit requisitions in Our or future times, nor might they presume to exact anything from what is noted above. And whatever the fisc might be able to hope for from the goods of the said church, let it be completely open that We have conceded it to the aforesaid holy place for eternal repayment, so that for time everlasting it might contribute towards alms for the poor and an increase in the stipends of the canons serving the Lord therein, so that it might delight these servants of God and their successors to exhort the Lord’s mercy for Us more fruitfully. And because all the aforesaid goods are from Our fiscs, We wish and equally command that they should be protected and defended under that law under which the goods of Our fisc constantly remain, and under the relevant mundeburdum and defence, and that they should remain under that imperial tutelage under which the abbey, to wit, Prüm, which Our forefather Pippin built; and the monastery of nuns at Laon established in honour of Saint Mary are known to remain.

Verily, whatever We have conceded in gold, silver and jewels, garments, goods or in any kind to the same place, because We offered them to be consecrated to the Lord out of love for divine worship and equally for the remedy of Our soul and Our fathers and progenitors, We ask and prohibit under the witness of the divine name that no successor of Ours as king or emperor, nor anyone endowed with the dignity of any rank, should receive anything from whose which are recorded above into their own uses or put them to use in the worship of their chapel, nor (as is known sometimes happens) confer them to another church under the supposed pretext of almsgiving. Rather, let them completely and perpetually conserve them as We have given them, to be held by the Lord and the aforesaid holy place. Truly, let no-one presume to diminish anything from all of the aforesaid goods, which We have established as aid for the advantage of the basilica and the aforesaid brothers, numbering one hundred. Rather, this concession of Our piety and ordinance of imperial highness be as conserved in perpetuity as is set out in the privilege of the lord and Our most holy father John [VIII], the apostolic and universal pope, and in the privileges of other bishops. And, if anyone might wish to add to it, after their goods and uses have been increased and multiplied let the number of those taking care of divine service be increased. Finally, We confirm through this Our word the said privilege of the most holy pope lord John, and, as his ordinance decreed, let Our strengthening also decree that it should endure in perpetuity.

And that this authority of Our donation and establishment of an edict and strengthening of an immunity should be conserved, in God’s name, inviolably and be more truly believed for all time, We confirmed it below with Our own hand, and We commanded it be sealed with impressions of Our bulls.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of august emperors.

Sign of the glorious king Louis [the Stammerer].

Odoacer the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Gozlin.

Given on the 3rd nones of May [5th May], in the 10th indiction, in the 37th year of the reign of lord emperor Charles in Francia and the 7th in succession to King Lothar [II] and the second of his empire.

Enacted at the imperial palace of Compiègne.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

CW1.2 877
It’s an impressive looking sucker, too. From the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above. 

The year before this, in 876, Charles’ dangerous older half-brother Louis the German had died. Charles immediately moved to try and claim a portion of his kingdom – Louis had already thwarted his efforts to claim Lotharingia in 869, after the death of Lothar II. However, Charles suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of Louis’ son Louis the Younger at the Battle of Andernach.

With that in mind, this diploma doesn’t sound particularly defeated. Sure, Charles is explicitly building a substitute for Aachen; but that’s only because it hasn’t fallen to his part yet. In the meantime, Charles is building a full statement in stone of his absolute right to succeed Charlemagne: Compiègne is big, it’s rich, and above all it’s royal. Charles calls it royal, and he endows it with the same privileges of Notre-Dame de Laon and above all of Prüm, which is the Carolingian family foundation. It’s a statement of intent: Charles will be the head of the Carolingian family no matter who controls the dynasty’s old heartlands.

Of course, within a few months Charles would be too dead to do anything much, and Compiègne’s importance abated somewhat. Hereafter, its associations would be primarily not with Charlemagne, but with Charles the Bald himself – and one future monarch would be particularly interested in the place. However, that’s many moons down the line from here…