Charter a Week 32: Running a Court in Governmentalised Neustria

This week’s theme was originally supposed to be dealt with about twenty-six years – erm, five months – ago, in 882. But, it turns out there were some cool royal diplomas and it would have duplicated this week’s material anyway, and so we’re dealing with it now. I’ve mentioned before that in the later part of the ninth century, Charles the Bald and his point-man in Neustria, Hugh the Abbot, engaged in a process of calcifying and formalising the hierarchies of what had previously been a chaotic atelier of civil war. Robert of Neustria inherited their efforts, and as of the middle of Charles the Simple’s reign, they’re still going:

ARTEM no. 1434 (23rd June 908, Tours)

A notice of how and in what way the power of Saint-Martin de Marmoutier – that is, Dean Erlald and Dodo, levite and precentor, representatives in court – came and issued a complaint on behalf of all the brothers that lord Robert, levite and treasurer from the flock of the basilica of the blessed Martin and also a canon of the aforesaid Marmoutier, held one of their meadows, sited in the district of the Touraine in the place which is called Mercureuil, against their will. Lord Robert, though, diligently investigated and examined the complaint which had been raised, and found in this regard that the brothers of Marmoutier’s complaint was very true.

Wanting not to work against them anymore, he then made restoration. Coming, then, to the public gathering-spot (locus accessionis) with Adelelm, by then dean of the same flock, and Deacon Dodo, and Ingelger the priest, he quit that meadow before them, and declared before everyone that he would not hold it anymore.

However, Amalric, attorney (legislator) and ruler of the gatehouse of the basilica of Saint-Martin immediately asserted that lord Robert should neither make that meadow over to them nor litigate with the brothers over it; and he wished to reclaim it for the work of the gatehouse which he held. Yet with the brothers immediately contradicting him over that meadow, Amalric sent his followers – that is, Wichard and Erlo and Martin, who wanted to acquire that meadow for their benefice, which they held from the aforesaid gatehouse – to make diligent inquiries into the matter amongst their own cottars and see that they had not unjustly stolen the meadow from the brothers.

They, shaking down their own cottars, found no-one who dared to go either to judgement or to oath in the matter, because everyone knew that the brothers’ complaint was very just.

The aforesaid Adelelm, priest and dean of the aforesaid Marmoutier, and Deacon Dodo and Ingelger the priest, who had first brought this case forward on behalf of the brothers, went on the 9th kalends of July [23rd June] to the city of Tours, on the wall on the side of the Loire, to the assembly which thereupon, before Viscount Theobald [the Elder], and Walter and Fulcrad and Corbo, royal vassals, and all the aforementioned of both orders, accepted their right. Present there as well was lord Peter, sacristan of the aforesaid monastery, with other brothers, who had there legitimate and worthy and very truthful witnesses from amongst their own cottars, that is, Rainfred, who the local headman at the time when that meadow, through God’s judgement, had previously been proven in the work of Saint-Martin de Marmoutier, and Adalher and Gerald, also Robert, who was now local headman, and Adalgis, who undergo God’s judgement [i.e. undertake an ordeal] at any time to come. All of them once more were prepared to undergo God’s judgement and swear oaths.

Seeing this, the aforesaid followers of Amalric dared to receive neither a second judgement of God atop the first, nor an oath. Rather, they quit the aforesaid complaint and judgement and oath and also the meadow before everyone, in the same place and assembly.

Concerning which, the brothers found it necessary to receive a notice about this sentence, lest anything be shaken up again about this claim, which they commanded them to make and confirm immediately, through the undertaking of everyone.

These people were present when the act was enacted:

Robert, dean and custodian of the basilica of Saint-Martin and an unworthy canon, subscribed. Viscount Theobald confirmed this. Walter confirmed this. Ebalus the vicar confirmed this. Dean Erlald confirmed this. Dodo the levite subscribed this. Fulcrad confirmed this. Ingelger the priest subscribed this. Corbo, a proven vassal, confirmed this. Adelelm the priest confirmed this. Amalric the attorney, who then made restoration, confirmed this. Wichard confirmed this. Herlend confirmed this. Martin confirmed this.

Given on the 9th kalends of July [23rd June], in the year of the Lord 908, in the reign of King Charles [the Simple].

I, Gozlin, a priest of the flock of the blessed Martin and master of the school, wrote and subscribed this.

14341
The original charter, from ARTEM, as linked above.

So, important things to note. First, despite how it’s described (and in Latin, the words used to talk about Erlald and Dodo there are quite formal), the initial complaint to Treasurer Robert appears to have been done informally. Erlald, Robert’s nominal superior, showed up and told him that he was holding some of Marmoutier’s property wrongfully, and this appears to have been settled amicably out of court.

It is only when Amalric gets involved that things go to trial. This makes sense, really: as we’ve talked about before, Amalric is a lawyer. The court itself is constituted in the way we might expect. It’s the local vassi dominici, overseen by the viscount – this is how other Neustrian courts run at this time. In fact, the viscount running things seems to be a policy decision. I can point you at a charter from 895 where the marchio is actually there, but it’s the viscount still in charge of the mallus court.

Despite its dry and legalistic tone, the notice that survives is a parti pris record of what must have been more colourful events. Amalric’s men allegedly, even after some light intimidation, can’t find anyone willing to act as a witness for their side; but the thing still goes to court. There, two interesting things happen. First, apparently neither side’s witnesses are enough on their own. Second, and relatedly, the whole things seems to have turned on a previous ordeal, and this is what ends the trial now: Marmoutier evidently won the last time, and the other side aren’t quite willing to try again.

On the gripping hand, note that we have this charter but not a record of the first ordeal. It’s possible that it just wasn’t written down. It’s also possible that this, second, contest got preserved because it was seen as less ambiguous than the first (the first one, after all, was demonstrably subject to challenge). It’s also also possible that it just seems that way because the canons of Saint-Martin got to write the charter…

What is important, though, is that dry and legalistic tone. No matter how informal, how compromised, or how morally-weighted the actual events were, the people of governmentalised Neustria knew that this is how you wrote down disputes. Government, in this sense, happened by portrayal rather than by action.

Blogging at the BnF 1: Aides-Memoires in Eleventh-Century Tours

There’s nothing like Paris in the spring: swearing at a microfilm reader because the zoom function won’t focus properly. Yes, this month your humble blogger is in one of his least favourite major world cities, working his way through a fearsome array of Early Modern charter collections, and discovering that, whilst there are people out there who care about the endless undated chart-notices of dispute settlements from eleventh-century western France, he’s not one of them… In any case, what that means is that this month the blog will be doing something different. Rather than the usual stately progress of one post every Thursday, I’ll be putting something up every time I find an unpublished document interesting enough to blog about. (Of course, if it’s really interesting I might hold it back for publication down the line…)

The first thing to go up, then, is something I came across in MS Lat 5441(4), a collection of the charters of Marmoutier made in the late seventeenth century(ish). The charters of the two major abbeys of the city of Tours, Saint-Martin and Marmoutier, are in a fairly chaotic state, and there are all kinds of things from them that have never seen the light of print. This charter, dating from 1044, is one of them.

marmoutier
Marmoutier today; I believe it’s a girls’ school, actually…

How do I know it dates from 1044? Because when describing when the transaction took place, it begins ‘this is the exchange which took place when Count Geoffrey captured the city of Tours’. This phrase is actually the only dating element, but it’s relatively common in Marmoutier practice: there are several examples of Marmoutier scribes dating charters by newsworthy events, from Hugh Capet destroying a local fortification to King Lothar invading Lotharingia.

What’s particularly interesting about this is the lack of precision. As someone who’s recently lost several bets to his colleagues about when such-and-such a song was a number 1 hit (I could have sworn that Pretty Fly For A White Guy was no. 1 in 2000…), ‘the year when event x occurred’ is no guarantee that you’ll get the right year. But of course, for these purposes, you don’t need exactitude: it doesn’t matter exactly when the transaction took place, so long as you can say ‘oh yeah, when Count Geoffrey took over, I remember that land sale…’ There’s a kind of ‘memory palace’ effect at work here, associating something big with something small so that the one prompts the recollection of the other. It’s a neat little trick to ensure that your transaction can enjoy a few decades of permanence, as long as there are people around to remember it…

The transcription of the document follows; obviously it’s not a formal edition, but if you want the text, here it is:

BnF MS Lat 5441(4)

Fol. 57:

In illa rerum conuersione et mutabilium commutatio=/ne quae facta est cum comes GAUSFREDUS TU=/RONORUM Ciuitatem cepisset aliorum ad alios/ incolarum ad extraneous possessiones & hereditates Deo/ cuique iusta tribuente, transierunt. Unde factum est/ vt prefati comitis satelles quidam nomine andreas/ cognomento ARRIBATUS omnia que fuerant/ Rainaldi IUUENIS civis olim Turonici sortiretur/ Sed quoniam mentis humane auditas limites de=/dignatur habendi et concessa fastidiens in non con=/cessa caeco ruit impetu ambitu, miles ille in terram/ quamdam Sancti Martini Maioris Monasterii, Sapalicum nomine/ quam naturaliter et antiquitus solidam quietamque/

Fol. 58:

Tenebat, violentas inferre manus moliens, totam/ prorsus sibi illam quibusdam quod est ejus generis ho/minum, occasionum preiudiciis vindicare nitebatur./ loci autem Illius monachi conatibus iniustis ob=/viare jus suus reclamando illius iniusticiam ra=/tione convincendo, querelas iustas apud memoratum/ comitem persepe deponendo, stagebant. Tandem/ pars utraque concordie favens in hanc hommuni/ decreto venere sententiam, ut permissu domini/ alberti abbatis maioris monasterii fratrum dimidiam in/ ipsa terra consistentis luci partem, reliqua omnia/ Sancto Martino sicut antea Libere possidente, invita/ duntaxat sua pretaxatus andreas possideant, ita ta=/men ut neque vendat neue donet, neque dissipet quic/quam de sua illa parte, sed tantum ad sua necessaria/ id est ad se calefaciendum vel domum suam, vel vineas/ meliorandas inde accipiat et cetera conseruet & de=/fendat, post mortem uero eius id ipsum in sancti Martini/ dominium redeat, luci uidelicet pars concessa, et ut ali/quam beneficii huius gratiam mercedem maioris mo=/nasterii c [space of around 11 characters, presumably ‘comes gaufridus’ or something] retribueret, sepefato sancto post suum/ itidem decessum x agripennos vinearum dedit, ad locum/ qui dicitur Monasteriolum et II. pratorum ad mem=/breolam. Hec omnia asensu & auctoramento/ comitis Gauzfr{e}idi (e crossed out w/ i) et Vxoris eius comitisse AGNE=/TIS. facta sunt prima[?]tibus ipsis et hugone archiepiscopo/ VESANTIAE, et domno abbate ALBERTO, aliis/que quamplurimis clericalis monastici laïcalis/ ordinis, quorum aliquos firmitatis gratia huic sub=/scripsimus noticiae.

3 cols:

Col. 1:

Domnus Airardu

Walterius precentor

Petrus canonicus

Warnerius maior

Col. 2:

Rainaldus maior.

Ricardus maior.

Rotbertus maior.

Otbertus senior.

Col. 3:

otbertus iunior

Arnulfus malus finis

Rotbertus caput lupi

Martinus furnerius