On the Origins of Viscounts

Recently Months ago, friend of the blog Jonathan Jarrett posted some reflections on Carolingian viscounts over on A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe. At the time, I was visiting my wife in Georgia, but it’s a topic on which I have a lot of thoughts, so I wrote up some ideas offline during a car ride between Vardzia and Tbilisi. Since then, it has sat in a drafts folder waiting to be posted. Today, I decided to clear out said drafts folder and revisited it. Turns out, it’s pages long, which is too long for a comment – but, as it happens, I have this place I can put short-form written content and so you guys now get the dubious benefits of being able to read it, so enjoy…

Jonathan’s musings were prompted by having read an edited volume by Hélène Débax on Vicomtes et vicomtés, viscounts and viscounties. Débax and her fellow authors, who were mostly but not entirely focussed on southern France, basically saw viscounts as the product of comital weakness, ‘taking over unattended jurisdictions’ and acting as their own little lords of the manor. Jonathan, by contrast, was used to a Catalan historiography which sees viscounts as ultimately comital delegates, i.e. public officials there to represent the counts in places the counts cannot be. Jonathan doesn’t like this argument in a Catalan context because viscounts don’t emerge at a time when there’s any special reason for counts to need delegates and because when we seem them in charter evidence from the Spanish March, they don’t often behave like counts except maybe in presiding over courts. For Jonathan, the vicecomital title puts its holder in relation with a count and thus with public power. Its emergence is thus best seen as a way of getting ‘powerful independents’ to engage with comital power by offering them certain kinds of authority which only public officials could wield in return for their own acknowledgement of their subordinate status. He then emphasises the sheer amount of variety we see in a Catalan context, but concludes that “if there’s a pattern there, it seems to me that it is the one of powerful independents accepting a space in a hierarchy which they could work to advantage that explains most cases”.

This might work for Catalonia, but I think in the rest of the West Frankish kingdom, the delegation theory holds up better – albeit perhaps amended with some ideas of this sort. Comital weakness, by contrast, I think we can dismiss. Even if I wasn’t inherently opposed to the idea of ‘strength’ and ‘weakness’ as analytical terms, most viscounts north of the Dordogne show up at a time when authority in their regions is getting more intensive and (less demonstrably but still there) having its connections to a royal centre strengthened.

We have to distinguish here between viscounts and vice-counts. ‘Viscounts’, in this context, are more institutionalised figures, whose status isn’t contextual and/or temporary. To give you an example, royal legislation from the reign of Charles the Bald sets up a meeting between the king and vicecomites from Paris and Sens in the immediate future. Here, I think we are dealing with ‘duly appointed comital deputies’ nominated for this specific task rather than permanent officials – like advocates at St Gallen vs advocates at Saint-Martin – because otherwise viscounts don’t show up in our sources for these areas until much later.

By contrast, the first significant institutional viscounts I know of from the West Frankish kingdom north of the Dordogne, which are also the ones I know best, are on the Neustrian March. Men such as Viscount Atto I of Tours begin to emerge in the 870s, and this looks like genuine change rather than just the revelation of things that have been there all along, not least because normative formulae change at the same time as specific vicecomital individuals appear. Even more, this does look like delegation. Men such as Atto, and then later Fulk the Red and Theobald the Elder in Angers and Tours respectively, appear when the supra-local authority of the Neustrian marchiones makes actual on-the-spot rule logistically impractical, and our evidence suggests that these viscounts are in fact holding things together for the March’s rulers. Now, this is admittedly mostly holding courts in the charters we have – but that’s also most of what the charter evidence reveals the marchiones doing as well!

Similar patterns can be seen in Aquitaine. This is straightforward, I think, in Poitou and its environs. Greater Poitou is doing much the same thing in political-cultural terms as Neustria, and its viscounts are pretty well controlled by the counts for the tenth century and beyond; pace Delhoume and Remy, the first viscounts of Limoges don’t seem to be associated with the counts of Toulouse, but with Ebalus Manzer of Poitiers, who is also able to assert his jurisdiction over them pretty effectively. In Auvergne and its environs, viscounts show up at the very end of the ninth century, and (as Lauranson-Rosaz says in the Débax volume) appear to be appointments of William the Pious at exactly the time when his personal hegemony stretches over a massive chunk of central Aquitaine. The role of specifically royal authority here might be questioned, but it is I think relevant that William’s subordinates are called ‘viscounts’ rather than anything else, tying them into Late Carolingian regional hierarchies. William himself was trying to capitalise on his Königsnahe at basically the same time, and these phenomena might be connected.

Notably, in generally weird Burgundy, viscounts are mostly absent, and the earliest example I can think of is Ragenard of Auxerre, who is based precisely in one of the key centres of Richard the Justiciar’s power. Based on our analogies above, I’d say Richard’s wobbly personal hegemony, which did not have the benefit of royal approbation for much of its existence, didn’t – perhaps couldn’t – use the language of legitimate Carolingian hierarchy. Equally, viscounts tend to be absent in the north-east, which is much more politically fragmented, and it looks to me rather like comital jurisdictions there are sufficiently small not to need deputies.

Could we consider this in political culture terms? Yes, certainly, but not primarily I think as a means of getting ‘powerful independents’ to participate in the system. Insofar as we can see viscounts in these regions, they tend to be nobodies. Fulk the Red of Angers, for example, has been the focus of a long-running debate about whether or not he was a novus homo because of his family’s onomastic connections to the important Widonid family; but what tends to go overlooked is that whether or not he had famous relatives he himself started his career not as a big Neustrian cheese but as a very minor member of the retinue of the count of Paris. His Tourangeau counterpart Theobald the Elder seems to have been a complete no-name. What I think vice-comital office offers is a means of legitimising counter-weights to the powerful independents. There was no way that, say, Fulk the Red could face off against a genuine powerful independent in Neustria like the Rorgonid Gauzfred, whose family had been there since dot and whose authority in the area doesn’t seem to have depended at all on his intermittent possession of a comital title, without the might of Carolingian royal authority behind him. I’ve spoken before about the calcification of Neustrian hierarchies, and the delegated authority of the vice-comital office is a part of that.

Now, can these guys pull out of comital orbits? Yes, certainly, but it only really works when areas of jurisdiction become simultaneously areas of conflict over spheres of influence – like the way that the viscounts of Thouars become much more independent than the other Poitevin viscounts because they end up caught between Poitiers and the counts of Angers.

The walls of Thouars (source)

A final point I’d like to consider here is that, despite the centuries-long history that the vicecomital office would go on to have in France, their genesis looks like a very specifically Carolingian phenomenon. In most of the regions we’ve been considering, viscounts have a straight line of descent from a Carolingian inheritance. Even in the Limousin, ‘the land of viscounts’, the proliferation of viscounts is fundamentally owed to the prominence (and fecundity) of the viscounts initially appointed by Ebalus Manzer. When the counts of Flanders’ domain got big enough in the tenth century that they started appointing their own delegates, these men were castellans, not viscounts. The vicecomital moment had passed, and new ways of conceptualising comital subordinates were on the rise.

Charter A Week 63: An Unknown Document from Chinon

More synergy! For the last time, mind, if only because I think this is the chronologically latest document I cite in that article… In any case, this is also another special document, because it’s also (drumroll please) unpublished! In fact, other than my article, I think it’s also unmentioned in the scholarly literature; or, at least, I’ve never seen any references to it. So without further ado, here we go:

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Collection Touraine-Anjou 1, no. 167 (May 939, Tours)

It befits everyone to whom pastoral care is at any time committed to solicitously investigate how they might remove any excuse in regard to the allods under their dominion*, lest anyone be able to inflict any molestation on priests or other ministers of the Church attending* to the cells of the saints out of worldly greed.

Wherefore I, Theotolo, although unworthy humble archbishop of the see of Tours, heard that a certain priest of Saint-Mexme, named Elias, and the place of St Maximus, where he rests in body, had been very frequently dishonoured by Our archdeacon Robert and molested by a serious incursion using the excuse of his ministry and Our service against ecclesiastical right deriving from the institutes of the canons. And thus, desiring to completely banish the most savage intention of him and his successors from that place of Saint-Mexme, We made the fixed decision, with the counsel of Our followers of both orders, that for love of God Almighty and out of veneration of His confessor the blessed Maximus We should entirely remit circuit-fees and synod-fees from that place, so that the body of the saint might be more devotedly venerated by priests and by other ministers of the holy Church of God, and be dealt with more securely. Furthermore, chiefly so that no assessment of renders might be carried out there, it was equally worthy that the same place should endure immune from every render of synod- or circuit-fee and also as well from any molestation from archdeacons or lords. Even more than that, I, Archbishop Theotolo, along with the counsel of Our followers, as We said above, and through the sequence of this writing, establish, and in establishing confirm, that the said Elias the priest and his successors should henceforth pay neither Us nor Our successors any synod-fee nor circuit-fee on behalf of that place of Saint-Mexme. Rather, let these go to lighting and food stipends for the same church in alms for Us and Our successors, and for the prize of eternal repayment.

If anyone (God forbid!), roused up by the prick of greed, should henceforth wish to reclaim from the rulers of Saint-Mexme this which We remitted above or inflict any molestation by any evil trick, let them know themselves liable to the wrath of our most pious Lord and aforesaid patron Maximus, unless they quickly come to their senses. In addition, We pray the intention of Our successors in holy pastorality that, just as they would wish their statutes which they have enacted for love of God Almighty and veneration of His saints to be conserved, thus they should permit this thing done by Our Smallness to be violated by no-one. In order that it might be better known and might be presumed to be infringed nor made viler by anyone, We strengthened the current writing with the strength of Our pontificate and established it be confirmed by the hands of Our followers of both orders in Our general synodal convent.

☧ Theotolo. ☧ Dean Badilo. Aimo the precentor. Robert. Gozbert. Ricbert. Arnulf. Iter. Robert. Robert. Bodald. Hildegar. Otbert. Otgar. Adalulf. Mainard. Girard. Odo. Folcuin. Godalbert. Girard. Armand. Girard. Robert. Gogobrand. Gozwin. Otgar. James. Waldo. Berengar. Warengaud. Ingelbald. Benedict. Erchembald. Adalmar. Isembert. Elias. Henry.

Given in the month of May, in the city of Tours, in the third year of the reign of King Louis, son of King Charles.

Adalbert.

Image dans Infobox.

So I do have photos from when I went, but I went on a grey and overcast day so Wiki’s is actually nicer… (source)

On a basic level, this document reveals one of the problems with the way they train medievalists. When I did my initial training at Master’s level, I was given a full background in medieval palaeography – only for it then to turn out that I’d be spending most of my manuscript-reading career dealing with Early Modern script. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem except that this means rather than dealing with the careful, simple Caroline Minuscule in which most actual tenth-century manuscripts were written, I have to deal with whatever a hungover seventeenth-century notary splurged onto a page that day. This example isn’t that bad, but some of the readings underlying the above are questionable, and I’ve marked them with an asterisk:

  • Alodis sibi dominissis. This feels like it wants to be ‘dominical allods’, but then I don’t know what to do with the sibi and the clause wants a participle in there…
  • in cellulis sanctorum ministrantium. This, by contrast, looks like a ministrantibus (going with ‘priests and other ministers’) has been put in the genitive by accident, because it doesn’t make a lot of sense as ‘cells of the ministering saints’.

There are probably more – and if you spot any which mean the translation is wrong let me know and I’ll fix it – but at the very least, the gist of this is pretty clear.

This is another example of clergy in the archdiocese of Tours getting on each other’s nerves. In this case, it’s Tours archdeacon Robert and a priest of Saint-Mexme in Chinon. (I have actually been to Saint-Mexme, which is quite a pretty church; but its archives no longer exist – I’ve seen this and a late eleventh-century charter of Archbishop Bartholomew of Tours.)

But what makes this charter more than just another clerical complaint, though, is the type of clerical complaint it is. Archbishop Theotolo of Tours was, alongside Odo of Cluny, one of the hardcore faction in Saint-Martin (where he had served as dean). It is therefore striking that the theology of attacks on Church property here has similarities with Odo’s (obviously, in the masses of surviving Odonian evidence, much more developed) views. It is also not too dissimilar to some Saint-Martin charters we’ve seen before. In the article, I argued this similarity was genetic, that there was a fundamentally Martinian background to these ideas that evolved out of how the Neustrian March dealt with itself. Of course, if you want to find out more, you’ll have to read the article…

Charter A Week 30: From Law to Liturgy at Saint-Martin, Sort Of

Man, this cross-branding thing is really getting out of hand. Once again, we’re looking at dispute settlement charters from Saint-Martin of Tours. This time, though, we’re further afield than usual – and if you’re expecting a trial record then, well, prepare for disappointment:

Brunterc’h, ‘Succession d’Acfred’, appendix (3rd May 930, Bourges)

As it has been from the very beginnings of the holy mother Church, from its birth through time up to the end of the age, such people have always joined together in the bosom of its organisation who, having been faithfully reared at its breasts, in turn repay it like a mother, increasing it and lifting it up; and, burning with the love of brotherly affection, do not cease to bear Christ in their bodies through glorifying him and to glorify Christ through bearing him [see 1 Cor. 6:20], fulfilling that which the Truth itself said: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself’ [Matt. 22:37-39].

By contrast, it is undoubted that there are some held in it who envy the advantages of common life, being separated from it by their own iniquity, and who, to increase their own greed, exert themselves to take away from simper people the offerings of goods or the resources from which Christ should be recreated in his poor to through worldly cunning to make them their own as much as they can. Indeed, as the evil of this negligence becomes more general, it becomes more distressing and graver in members of Christ and the Church. For this reason, indeed, the more widespread the estates upon which any place consecrated to God is founded in these times, the graver the weight of the ruin by which it is typically ground down – the higher the status, the heavier the disaster.

Therefore, when the flock of Saint-Martin had been communally beaten and plagued by these calamities and by many others, partly from the savagery of the Northmen, partly, in fact, from the greed of depraved people who popped up within and without, ceaselessly and without respite, it was finally compelled to take the misfortune which it had endured, along with the authority of royal precepts and as well apostolic privileges, to the notice of the most reverend abbot lord Hugh [the Great]; and to zealously intimate to him that the common goods from which they should be fed and clothed had been greedily taken from them by certain parties, and – to leave other things out in order to give a more succinct account of the present matter – to devotedly beseech that Monnaie with all its appendages and in its entirety (and if there was anything else which had once been delegated by the canons for the service of the granary) be restored to them by the abbot.

Indeed, our elders – that is, the fathers who came before – pursuing in every way the pursuit of piety and burning with the zeal of lovingkindness, assigned certain renders from the aforesaid estate to the common uses of the brothers’ mill. However, against this were some, puffed up with the arrogance of pride and defiled by the itchy rash of depraved greed (which is the root of all evil), who sought the ministry of the granary not freely from the brothers (as was the custom) but through the abbot’s command having given him gifts, desiring to deprive the communion of the brothers of that whole power, and this they did. <At that time, indeed, the brothers needed the granary and the mill, because they freely supplied what had been stored in it; not, they cannot satisfy that need, because they do not supply what is placed there, and neither was anyone able to receive a prebend for a year and two months.>

At length, the same venerable abbot was repeatedly accused by this most worthy petition of the aforesaid flock, and assented to it in this matter to the extent that he knew it to be most eager in faith to Martin, the lord and outstanding confessor of Christ, and to his service. Therefore, a notice was made on this matter, how a little later an embassy of no small dignity from the congregation of the excellent confessor of Christ the blessed Martin –  that is, Berner the levite and dean, Farmand too, also a levite and the keymaster; and Archenald the priest and head of the school; as well as Prior Nefingus [later bishop of Angers] and Leotrand the deacon, on behalf of all the other canons – came to the city of Bourges, into the presence of the sweetest lord and oft-named abbot Hugh, one more renewing and intimating to his most pious familiarity the necessity of themselves of their confreres, so dolefully lamentable and lamentable doleful, and their complaint, which so many times before had not been granted, and asking with a submissive prayer that he in his piety might for love of God and St Martin rescue them who laboured under this grave and long-lasting loss, and deign to kindly grant them a small amount of worldly goods in this world, that he might be repaid by many goods in eternity by the Lord.

Mercifully assenting to their legitimate petitions, he promised not only to amend and restore the neglected and lost good about which they had come, but also to provide many benefits for them in future. Soon, having summoned not only the bishops who were there, but also all of his followers of both orders, he explained this case to them, and the very necessary petition of the brothers, seeking from them what and what sort of counsel they wanted to give him on this matter. At this, they unanimously gave him the counsel, so useful and so beneficial, that he should never permit the canons of Saint-Martin to ever sustain any kind of harmful loss from their property and from the things which pertained particularly to them, which they were incontestably known to possess (as was said before) through royal precepts and apostolic privileges. They added that no-one at all who agreed to infringe and violate the aforesaid authorities of Saint-Martin could obtain the Kingdom of God.

Giving to their salubrious and agreeable suggestion consent given as freely as he believed that it was beneficial for him before God and Man, he restored to them, for love of God and St Martin as well as for the remedy of the soul of his father lord Robert [of Neustria], the late most pious king, and his mother, and for the remedy of his uncle lord Odo, also a glorious king, and all of his relatives and friends, the aforesaid Monnaie, with all its adjacencies and in its entirety, that which was said to pertain to the granary and that which was usurped by the greed of certain men, through the consent (as was said) of the pontiffs present there and of his followers, to wit, to sustain them in this life, as was contained in the precept of the most glorious king lord Charles and in the privileges of the apostles, such that from this day forth they might hold and possess the said estate of Monnaie for their stipend without any contradiction or opposition from any abbot of the same place of Saint-Martin, whoever it might be, as with their other goods.

But that the authority of this notice might be able to endure firm and inviolable for all time, now and in the time which remains, and obtain more certain firmness in God’s name from his successors as abbot of Saint-Martin, lord Hugh, the oft-named abbot, corroborated it with his own hands under the sign of the holy Cross, and asked both the bishops who were present to subscribe it and also his followers, certain venerable men, to confirm it.

✝ Sign of the holy cross solemnly written by lord Hugh, abbot of Saint-Martin.

☧ Robert, archbishop of Tours, subscribed.

☧ Gerontius, archbishop of Bourges, was present and subscribed.

☧ Turpio, bishop of Limoges, confirmed.

☧ Walter, bishop of Paris, subscribed.

☧ Anselm, bishop of Orléans, subscribed.

Sign of Viscount Fulk [the Red]. Sign of Viscount Theobald [the Elder]. Sign of Geoffrey, an indominical vassal. Sign of Erwig, advocate of Saint-Martin. Sign of Count Burchard [probably of Vendôme]. Sign of Count Hugh [I of Maine], son of Roger. Sign of Ebbo [of Déols?]. Sign of Hildebert. Sign of Roger. Sign of Gimo. Sign of Viscount Geoffrey [of Bourges]. Sign of Sulpicius. Sign of Emeno.

The renewed firmness of this notice was given in the year of the Lord 930, in the month of May, on the fifth nones [i.e. May 3rd], outside and near the city of Bourges, in the sixth year of the reign of the lord and glorious king Ralph [of Burgundy].

Leotrand, a certain unworthy levite by office, wrote and subscribed on behalf of Archenald the schoolmaster.

[Experimenting with new formatting for crosses and chrismons on witness lists – hopefully this works!]

So this is not what we’re expecting, huh. In my article I said:

The language here is not that of the dry and formal Carolingian dispute-settlement record. Instead, we are faced with a sermonizing, highly morally coloured document… writing the case in to the entire arc of Christian history in a fallen world.

I don’t think this is a change in the courts (older-style documents can be found throughout this period) as much as a change in discourse. Compared to the ninth century, it was a lot clearer who had to deliver justice by the 930s: the viscounts, the advocates, and so on. However, through the inevitable process of competition between local elites, these same people were also some of the most likely to challenge Saint-Martin’s interests. Reform of the system wouldn’t work, because the system was already reformed – so there was a shift instead to a reform of the people involved, through exhortations to virtue in informal settings such as we see in this charter. (You can read the article for the full argument, but this is a decent summary of the relevant section.) The end result is the charged semi­­-clamor of this charter, which looks so distinct from earlier documents even though the same processes were at work behind the scenes. It’s notable that this is the last evidence for advocates at Saint-Martin – within an ideological framework such as this charter, there wasn’t really any room for them and so their role faded out.

Of course, there’s a smaller picture here too. Note that this charter concerns an estate at Monnaie. This had, at the turn of the tenth century, been held by the advocates of Saint-Martin, Adalmar and Erwig. Their possession of it does not seem to have been popular, and by 914 the granary-master Guy had been able to reclaim it from Erwig. One wonders if the unnamed malefactors of the 930 included Erwig? It might well explain why this is the last charter any advocate of Saint-Martin appears in, if Hugh the Great’s judgement against him led to a loss of face or office.

Leaving behind the internal history of Saint-Martin, why are all these people at Bourges? They’re in the entourage of Hugh the Great, and Hugh is in the entourage of Ralph of Burgundy.  We saw in previous years that Ralph was able to put Acfred of Aquitaine out of the picture and set up networks of his own allies in the old Guillelmid dominions. In 930, he had a further big success. It helped that Charles the Simple had died in 929, removing one of the main barriers to Ralph’s legitimacy; but the biggest help was that Ralph won a big victory over the Northmen in the Limousin. In the aftermath of this, the biggest names of central Aquitaine submitted – and Hugh and his men were there for it.

It is, in this respect, interesting that this charter refers to Robert of Neustria both as a king and as a good one. We’re not covering it in Charter A Week, but in Easter 931, Ralph came to Tours, where he and Hugh both issued acts emphasising Robert’s positive memory. In the north-east, Hugh was Ralph’s main ally against their mutual brother-in-law Heribert of Vermandois. It looks rather like part of his reward for this, and for his help in Aquitaine, was a public statement that Robert of Neustria’s memory actually was glorious, thank you very much; and this charter might well be preparing the groundwork for that.

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.

Charter a Week 10: The Robertians

It’s time to introduce another important member of our cast of characters. By late 886, Hugh the Abbot, ruler of Neustria and dominating figure in West Frankish politics, was dead. His command passed to the son of its original ruler Robert the Strong: Odo, count of Paris. Odo’s rise to command the Neustrian March was by no means inevitable. After his father’s death, Charles the Bald had taken his father’s remaining honores away from Odo and his brother Robert – neither of whom can have been terribly old at the time – and they went to live with their relatives in the Rhineland, where Odo can be seen with his uncle Megingoz I of Wormsgau giving land to Lorsch in 876. Megingoz died in around 880, which might have been the impetus for Odo to move back west. Frankly, the beginnings of Odo’s career are very shady: how a relative/client of an East Frankish count went from being a no-one in 876 to being count of Paris in 882 is open to speculation.

But hey, I love speculation! One interesting piece of evidence is an interpolated diploma which can be dated to summer 884, probably in the general area of Worms or Metz, which features a Count Robert as intercessor. This Robert is identified by historians as a) Odo’s brother Robert of Neustria and b) count of Namur, for reasons I in the first case don’t really understand and in the second case think is a dubious assumption – to wit, that because the document deals with land in the area, Robert must have been count there. However, if the identification of Count Robert as Robert of Neustria is correct, then that might be Odo’s in – Robert of Neustria used his family connections to become a count, and then, when Charles the Fat took over the West Frankish kingdom, the emperor was able to appoint the brother of one of his more conspicuously loyal Lotharingian followers to the important stronghold of Paris. This requires Odo’s appointment to be in 885 rather than 882, but we have no solid evidence pinning him to Paris until that year anyway. (It also implies although doesn’t require that Robert is Odo’s older brother rather than vice-versa; but historians are always very quick to assume that the most successful brother is also the oldest. See also Ralph of Burgundy, although I think in that case his not necessarily being the eldest brother is rather easier to make a case for.)

Anyway, in 885 Odo became the West Frankish celebrity count. That year, a huge Viking army besieged Paris, and Odo, Bishop Gozlin of Paris (who died during the siege), Abbot Ebalus of Saint-Denis, and Gozlin’s eventual successor Anskeric led the Frankish resistance, which was eventually successful, although it took over until 886 for Charles to lead an army to relieve the city.

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Some Carolingian soldiers, from the Golden Psalter of St Gallen (source)

In the aftermath, and with Hugh the Abbot having meanwhile died, Charles granted Odo the Neustrian March. Odo was Charles’ favourite in the West Frankish kingdom.

DD CtF no. 143 (27th October 886, Paris)

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

If We clemently lend the ears of Our Imperial Dignity to the petitions of servants of God and Our followers, and We furnish the work of Our Munificence for their advantage, We little doubt that this will benefit Us both in the state of Our empire and in the reward of perpetual repayment.

And so, let the industry of all Our followers, to wit, present and future, know that one of Our followers, Count Odo, made known to the highness of Our Dignity how, by a tenancy agreement, the venerable abbot the late Hugh [the Abbot], that is, Our dearest kinsman, with the consent of the canons of Saint-Aignan [d’Orléans], gave to certain venerable bishops, Archbishop Adalald [of Tours] and also the brother of the same, Bishop Raino [of Angers] a certain estate named Aschères-le-Marché, in the district of Orléanais, in the vicariate of Lion-en-Beauce, with all its appendages and goods appertaining to it, by a tenancy agreement as We said; and in recompense for the same service, they gave from their own goods to Saint-Aignan and to the same Abbot Hugh and the canons dwelling in the abbey 7 manses with bondsmen of both sexes, with a chapel constructed therein in honour of the mother of God Mary, such that as long as the aforesaid bishops lived, they should hold and possess everything , all the same goods, to wit, the estate of Aschère and the estate of Bracieux, where the aforesaid 7 manses are located, in the district of Blésois in the vicariate of Huisseau-sur-Cosson, quietly, on the condition that they pay each year 5 silver solidi for the lighting of Saint-Aignan, and in addition that they should pay the tithes from the demesne labour and from the demesne vineyards and from the corvées to the canons of the aforesaid Saint-Aignan, for the hospice of the same saint.

They appealed to the serenity of Our Highness on this matter, that We might deign to confirm it through a precept of Our authority.

Observing their petition to be valid, We commanded this precept of Our rule to be made for them by imperial custom, through which We decreed and at the same time in ordering command that from this day and in time to come, the aforesaid bishops should hold and possess all the aforesaid goods in their dominion and power, corroborated by Our authority, quietly, by a tenancy agreement, without disturbance from anyone, rendering each year the rate laid out above.

But that this imperial authority liberally conceded by Us to the same might be observed more freely and devotedly by everyone, We confirmed it with Our own hand and We commanded it be authenticated by the signet of Our Dignity.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of august kings.

Amalbert then notary witnessed on behalf of Liutward [bishop of Vercelli].

Given on the 6th kalends of November [27th October, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 886, in the 4th indiction, in the 6th year of Emperor Charles’ empire in Italy, the 5th in Francia, the 2nd in Gaul.

Enacted in Paris.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

In terms of Odo’s career, this diploma is fairly straightforward. One of several diplomas Charles the Fat issued at Paris in the aftermath of the Viking siege, this diploma honours Odo, the hero of that siege, by showing him as the emperor’s counsellor. It also shows him as ruler of Neustria, written in as successor to Hugh the Abbot, and intervening on behalf of the two main bishops of the Neustrian March, those of Tours and Angers.

In fact, it is one of a series of diplomas issued in late October 886, almost all of which deal in one way or another with the siege of Paris or Hugh the Abbot’s legacy. Thus, Charles issued a diploma in favour of a man named Germund who is almost certainly one of Odo’s followers. He issued a diploma for Saint-Martin (although interestingly the petitioner there is Archbishop Adalald rather than Odo – maybe Odo hadn’t been invested at that point); and he issued a diploma for Saint-Germain d’Auxerre, where Hugh the Abbot had been buried. Unlike Neustria, Saint-Germain went not to Odo but to Bishop Anskeric of Paris: next time we see it, in 889, Anskeric is the abbot. It’s possible that it was given to him by Odo in 888/889, but I think it’s more likely it was given to him by Charles the Fat at this point, in 886, as another reward for a hero of Paris.

A final point: Odo’s ending up in Neustria was largely accidental. The fact that his father had also been marchio there can lend it a whiff of familial right, but this is mostly illusory. It just so happened that an important military command had opened up at the same time that Odo proved himself militarily competent. Had Hugh the Abbot lived an extra few years, I think it likely that Odo would have been reward with honores elsewhere, perhaps in Burgundy or Lotharingia; and history would have taken a very different course.

Charter a Week 7: Neustria and Burgundy

I’ve briefly mentioned Hugh the Abbot before, but we’ve never had cause to talk about him properly, and we should probably remedy that. So, Hugh the Abbot. By origin, he’s very closely tied to the Carolingians. He was the cousin of Lothar II through his mother, of Charles the Bald through his father, and through his father as well the nephew of Louis the German. As such, he spent the 850s and 860s bouncing between the three kingdoms, at one point being granted the archbishopric of Cologne by Lothar II (albeit unsuccessfully). When that gambit failed, Hugh went back to Charles the Bald, and did so with remarkable good timing.

In 866, Robert the Strong was killed at the Battle of Brissarthe. He wasn’t the only Frankish magnate to be killed by Vikings, but his death left a very important vacancy. The western parts of the West Frankish kingdom – the region around the Loire valley known as Neustria – were something of a disaster area for Charles the Bald. He was crushingly defeated there a number of times, and there was always something to worry about – if it wasn’t Frankish rebellion, it was Viking raids; if it wasn’t Viking raids, it was Breton attacks; and usually it was several of these in combination. The Bretons were perhaps the most dangerous: Charles had to make significant territorial concessions. To give you some idea of the significance of this, Rennes is still part of modern Brittany (and Nantes only isn’t due to local rivalries): these areas have never been recovered. The solution Charles hit on was to put Robert the Strong in undisputed charge of the Neustrian March, loaded up with so many resources and so much status that he could not be seriously opposed. Robert, though, was killed only a year after taking up the role, and Charles handed it off to Hugh.

Hugh did a fantastic job. We spoke a couple of weeks ago about how Viking attacks could be warded off by being more dangerous than elsewhere, and, after a bad patch in the 850s and 860s, Hugh’s tenure on the March saw a couple of decades of respite. This was bad for the Anglo-Saxons, where the Great Army of the late 860s and 870s probably had rather more reinforcements than would otherwise have been the case, but good for the Franks. This was not a purely military thing, moreover: Hugh the Abbot led a trend toward ‘governmentalising’ Neustria, making its government more formal and its society more rigid. But that’s a post for well down the line – today, let’s talk high politics.

You see, from the late 870s onwards, and especially under Carloman, Hugh the Abbot became the magnate in the West Frankish kingdom. He wasn’t quite utterly predominant, but he was clearly front of the pack. And this had its benefits:

DD LLC no. 66 (23rd January 883, Compiègne) = ARTEM no. 757 = DK 5.xxxvi

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

If We lend the ears of Our Piety to the petitions of servants of God and pay heed to their advantage, We are confident that God Almighty will make repayment on the matter.

Concerning which matter, We wish it to be known to the industry of all the people of the holy Church of God and Us, both present and future, that after the death of the venerable abbot Sadrebert, the requests of the monks came before Our Clemency through the intercession of Hugh [the Abbot], most venerable of abbots. They humbly asked, displaying on hand the precepts of Our grandfather and father, to wit, the august Charles [the Bald] and Our pious father and most pious of kings Louis [the Stammerer] of divine memory, in which is contained how Our grandfather and father enriched from their goods of their property a little monastery founded in honour of the Holy Saviour in the district of Atuyer, which was once named Alfa, for their everlasting reward, and place Abbot Rotfred from Montiéramey which is called the New Cell, an active man, in charge therein during his lifetime.

Therefore, the monks of the aforesaid place appealed to Our Royal Highness that we might receive the same little monastery, in memory of Our grandfather and father or Our grandmother and mother, under Our immunity; and confirmed by a precept of Our authority whatever had been bestowed there by Our aforesaid grandfather and father. And because they had lately lost Abbot Sadrebert, a man worthy before God, they humbly asked that We might establish a man named Rotfred as abbot in his place, whom they witnessed was commendable in his life and habits.

Freely acquiescing to their prayers, because they were just and reasonable, We established and confirmed the precepts of Our grandfather and father; and We placed the abbot whom they requested, that is, Rotfred, in charge of that place and congregation; and We subjected the monastery of Alfa there with all its appendages, and as well the goods which were bestowed there through the largess of Our grandfather and father, as is contained in their precepts. That is, on the condition and in such a way that the aforesaid Abbot Rotfred, the same monastery and its monks and their dependents with everything legally beholden to it should perpetually endure under Our mundeburdum and tutelage, corroborated by the authority of this testament of Our Royal Dignity, such that no-one should presume to send a monk from another place into their monastery, not create any officeholder within their congregation except from those who were raised there from infancy in accordance with the Rule, and let them have permission to elect an abbot from within themselves, not from amongst outsiders, in accordance with the institution of Saint Benedict.

We also establish that neither count nor other judicial power should presume to receive or exact any timber-fees or harbour dues or vehicle-fees or mooring-fees or billeting or hospitality or other service or render from them in any places – that is, counties, cities, or markets – in Our realm to which they or their dependents travel for their needs, except in those places in which We have conceded through Our precept that they should be gotten. Rather, let them more freely and devotedly exhort for all time the clemency of God Almighty for Us and Our glorious fathers the august Charles [the Bald] and King Louis [the Stammerer] and Our glorious grandmother Queen Ermentrude and Our mother Ansgard and Our dearest brother Louis [III] and the state of Our realm, and endure perpetually under Our tutelage, as We have established.

But that this largess of Our authority might in God’s name obtain greater vigour of firmness, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be undersigned with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Carloman, most glorious of kings.

Norbert the notary subscribed.

Given on the 10th kalends of February [23rd January], in the fifth year of the reign of Carloman, most glorious of kings, in the first indiction.

Enacted at the public palace of Compiègne.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

Pray for Honoratus and Leotheric, who ambasciated this, and for their dead brother Helmuin.

cw 7 883
Carloman’s diploma, from the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above. For those of you wondering why I translated this one and not the Orléans diploma mentioned below, the fact that this one’s in the original was a significant contributing factor!

It must be said that being simply a venerabilissimus abbas is not the most exalted Hugh appears in charters from around this time. About eight months later, in a diploma for the cathedral at Orléans, Hugh got to be the inclitus ac venerabilis Hugo abbas, tutor noster ac regni nostri maximus defensor, which is Latin for ‘like a boss’. So it’s clear that Hugh was a very dominant figure on the political scene – you don’t get to be the king’s ‘famous and venerable guardian and the greatest defender of his realm’ without being powerful indeed.

So why didn’t I translate that diploma? Because this one illustrates a theme which is going to be important for the next century plus. When Hugh first made his appearance in West Frankish affairs, he was made abbot of the monastery of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre, right in the heart of Burgundy. He was chased out in the 860s, but, as this charter shows, kept his interest in Burgundian affairs. Of course, part of his presence in this diploma is simply that he is the go-to man at court, but it’s also that he’s got history with this region as well. We’ll see at other points people connected with both Tours and Paris with Burgundian interests, but this shows quite nicely the dispersed interests of men at the highest ranks of Frankish society.

The word ‘Reichsaristokratie’ (‘imperial aristocracy’) is hovering uncomfortably around this group. The idea here is that the Carolingian super-elite was composed of people whose lands were not simply provincial, but spread around a number of places within the Carolingian empire. This distinguished them from their forebears and from the ‘territorial princes’ who came afterwards, who were basically-provincial, and made them more invested in the continuation of Carolingian government. I say ‘uncomfortably’ because the idea that there was something special about the highest levels of the Carolingian aristocracy having widely-dispersed interests does not seem right to me. Before he was ever king, Hugh Capet (Hugh the Abbot’s successor in Neustria and possible namesake) had interests in the Loire valley, the Seine valley, Burgundy, and Lotharingia. This change therefore looks to me to be a change in historiographical emphasis above all… But as it happens this is a theme we’ll pick up in the main blog post in a fortnight’s time.

On the flip side of Hugh’s power, and by extension of Carloman’s, you don’t get that powerful in the faction-ridden world of the 880s without making some powerful enemies as well, and next week, we’ll be looking at some of them.

Name in Print II

So I’ve just got back to London after speaking at the Revisiting the Europe of Bishops conference in Liverpool, which was great fun but also very tiring. But, whilst I was there I discovered that an article which has been in the pipeline for a while has finally seen the light of day, and maybe you all would like to know about it.

The article in question is entitled ‘Sub-Kingdoms and the Spectrum of Kingship on the Western Border of Charles the Bald’s Kingdom’, and can be found in The Heroic Age via this finely-crafted hyper-link. As with my last article, it’s all open access and freely-available, so please do go and enjoy yourself.

As for what it covers, it’s basically an exercise in comparison between the rulers of Neustria, Aquitaine and Brittany, and how they are all kings, but not fully kings. The basic point, that kingship is a spectrum not an either-or, is fairly simple; but hopefully it puts a little flesh on those bones. To be honest, this is one where I wish that I’d brought in more Merovingian comparison (a sentence I never thought I’d say) – I wonder how odd any of this looks from a 6th century perspective…

The gritty details: This one had a while before it saw the light of day. After being one of the organisers of a conference in Cambridge on the Carolingian frontier, I was contacted by Cullen Chandler in Summer 2015 to ask if I wanted to contribute something to a special Heroic Age edition on Carolingian borderlines. At the time, I was busy finishing off my thesis, I prevaricated; but Cullen generously said that proposals didn’t have to be in until Winter 2015. I got something together for February 2016. One round of revisions, resubmitted December 2016, and finally opened for the public just over a year later!

Capetian Kingship and Neustrian Tradition

So back when I was puzzling over the caritas-prologue in the diplomas of Robert the Pious, I mentioned off-handedly that I disagreed with Geoffrey Koziol’s theory about Robert’s use of the cross monogram; and given the topic’s fairly interesting, I thought I might discuss it further today.

First of all, what’s a monogram? Well, it’s this*:

 

That is, a visual symbol of a ruler’s name, made as a sign of their authority.  Here, for instance, we have a diploma and a coin of Charles the Bald, and you can see the Latin form of his name – Karolus – here, the K on the right, and the thing in the middle acting as AO, and U. These things are very common under the Carolingians, and for much of the tenth century they look like this:

 

Under Robert the Pious, however, the form changes to look like this:

RtP
Robertus; note the longer arms

Geoff argues in this article** (which includes prettier pictures, such as can be found here) that this change is a very personal one for Robert, reflecting his particular devotion to Christ’s holy Cross; an innovation in his kingship and deriving from the very particular context of his reign. And sure, it is a new innovation in terms of Frankish kingship, but not, I would argue, a novel expression of Robert’s authority. Rather, it appears to me more likely that it’s an amalgamation of a very long-standing tradition of Neustrian rulership into Robert’s kingship.

As long-time readers will know, Robert the Pious came from the so-called Robertian family, who had been rulers of the Neustrian March in western France for much of the tenth century. One peculiarity of Neustria was that lay abbots in the region (such as Robert’s family) sign charters with the signum sanctae crucis (the sign of the Holy Cross), as it’s usually expressed. I can find examples of this in a Neustrian context back to the early ninth century; and, moreover, I can’t find it outside Neustria, at least not in the regions of the West Frankish kingdom I know the evidence for – no Aquitanian or Burgundian parallels here.

Signing charters with the sign of the Cross, by the mid-tenth century, was one of the few visible markers of Robertian status they didn’t share with other Neustrian magnates. It’s a consistent, if low-key, part of the visual repertoire of their authority: they sign with the Cross because they’re just that little bit closer to God than everyone else. What I think is happening in Robert’s reign, then, is that this Neustrian tradition of the sign of the Cross is mixed with that of the royal monogram, not so much putting Robert’s personal mark on Frankish kingship as a wider Neustrian one. After all, when the non-royal Robertians became the royal Capetians, they inherited a lot of Carolingian traditions of how to be a king – but they had their own century-long tradition of rulership as well; and this particular example is a nice little case of how that influenced earlier Capetian kingship as well as the flashier traditions of the descendants of Charlemagne.

(This does of course raise questions about timing, such as why Hugh Capet didn’t do it, and why it took Robert until 1019 to start, which I need to think on; but that will wait until another day.)

*So it turns out I can’t do my usual trick of putting image sources in the captions, so I’ll put them here instead:

Diploma of Charles the Bald 

Coin of Charles the Bald

Diploma of Charles the Simple

Diploma of Ralph of Burgundy

Diploma of Louis IV

Diploma of Lothar

Diploma of Robert the Pious

**Which I actually really like, for the record; I just happen to think he’s wrong about this specific point.

 

The Tria Regna pt. 1: The Land

Historiographical Introduction

Aquitaine, Burgundy, Neustria. These are the three great subdivisions of the West Frankish kingdom for decades after the end of the Carolingian empire in 888. Known, sometimes, as the tria regna, the ‘three kingdoms’, under the respective rules of William the Pious, Richard the Justiciar, and Robert of Neustria, are obvious starting points for historians who want to look at the political world after the end of the Carolingian empire and, well, I’m evidently no different.

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The Tria Regna. Red is Neustria, orange is places under looser Neustrian control. Blue is Aquitaine, yellow is places disputed between Aquitaine and Burgundy. Green is Burgundy. Bourges, disputed between all three, is in purple.

With that said, I’m increasingly less comfortable with the way the three are lumped together. Most of the work on the ‘first wave of territorial principalities’ is pretty old by now, and the frameworks analysis are hung within are pretty much those which they were hung in thirty years ago. It’s probably time to look again at this period. With that said, this blog says right on the ‘About’ page that it’s a vessel for getting things written down, and this series on the tria regna – however many weeks it takes – is going to be more thinking out loud than usual. I can’t even promise a conclusion at the end! But, if I don’t write this down, I’ll never get these thoughts in so much as a policy document, let alone something coherent and polished. Thus, what I plan on doing is going through a number of themes for each regnum, and seeing what emerges.

The Ninth-Century Background

In the mid-ninth century, all three areas were part of a band of territories where the most intensive competition for honores was played out. If, within the West Frankish kingdom, some places – like Champagne – were locked down under direct royal lordship; and others – like Rouen – seem to have been backwaters, a banana of land stretching roughly from Tours to Lyons via Bourges looks to have been a particularly fertile place for conflicts over land, office and status.

The western valley of the Loire – Robertian Neustria, as it would become – was taken out of the game relatively quickly. This region was directly proximate to both the sea (and thus the Vikings) and Brittany (and thus the Bretons). The interaction of Bretons, Vikings and rebellious Frankish magnates created a kind of resonance effect which led to Charles suffering substantial military defeat and territorial losses which haven’t yet been made up – to date, Rennes and Nantes, lost by Charles, are still part of Brittany. Eventually, in the name of consolidating his command structures, he endowed a magnate named Robert the Strong with a vast number of honores (lands, offices, status) based on the abbey of Saint-Martin of Tours. Robert didn’t live long enough to enjoy it, as he was killed in battle in 866 shortly after receiving these honores, but the aim seems from the very beginning to create an institutional framework for the Loire, as Hincmar of Rheims records the Charles sent another man, Hugh the Abbot (of whom we have lately heard), loco Rotberti – ‘in Robert’s place’, taking over his resources and role. The position isn’t named, or conceived of terribly clearly, but there’s clearly an element of institutional continuity here, which lasted down to the tenth century.

However, the ‘south’ of the kingdom (used here to denote the lands south of a line drawn between northern Poitou and Dijon) was still an active spot in competition for honores. Irritatingly, for a crucial couple of decades there were no fewer than three major players in this region called Bernard – Bernard Plantevelue (‘Hairypaws’), Bernard the Calf, and Bernard of the Auvergne – and the situation is not helped by the fact that the main narrative sources aren’t terribly interested in affairs in this area. Still, it seems apparent that this part of the kingdom was a fertile area for treason, murder, and becoming very wealthy and powerful in the 860s and 870s – one of the abovesaid Bernards (Plantevelue) murdered another one for his honores, and the magnate Boso, whose power-base was in the valley of the Saône, became the most powerful man in Louis the Stammerer’s kingdom before declaring himself king after Louis’ death (abortively, as it turned out).

screenshot-26
Even his only surviving royal diploma is forged…

This is not to say that the area, or at least all of it, was a playground for secular magnates. One important regional difference is the much more active and important role of both the episcopate and the West Frankish king in Burgundy. Whilst at the end of Charles the Bald’s reign figures such as Boso of Provence and Bernard Plantevelue held important clusters of Burgundian honores, the local episcopate remained powerful and became more so by the end of the century. By the end of the Carolingian empire in 888, the most powerful figures in the region were the court-focussed bishops such as Geilo of Langres and Adalgar of Autun. The same is not true in either Neustria or (for the most part; Bourges is an exception) Aquitaine: the archbishops of Tours and bishops of Clermont, for instance, are almost totally obscure during this period.

Similarly, kingship was felt much more immediately in Burgundy, and particularly in some parts of it such as Auxerre, than in Aquitaine. Charles the Bald and his successors visited the area more frequently, and had closer ties with (particularly) the regional bishops. This had been the case for a while, in fact – during the invasion of Charles’ kingdom by his brother Louis the German in 858-859, Burgundy had been the region of Charles’ steadiest support. By contrast, whilst royal authority was important in Neustria – the office of its ruler remained a royal appointment – the kings rarely visited there; and Aquitaine was never under West Frankish control to the extent of the other two areas.

One reason for this is that, for much of the period in question, Aquitaine had its own sub-king. (Neustria briefly did as well in the 850s, when Charles set up the west as a kind of Baby’s First Kingdom for Louis the Stammerer, but this was fairly short-lived and doesn’t seem to have had much effect. Continuity with the Neustrian regnum of the Merovingian period appears to have been entirely absent.) The Aquitanian sub-kingdom was a long-lived and relatively serious institution: it persisted on-and-off for most of the ninth century, and several of its holders, such as Charles the Bald’s son Charles the Child, appear to have made a serious effort to be taken seriously as proper quasi-kings. Consequently, West Frankish authority in the region generally operated at more of a remove than elsewhere.

A coin of Pippin II, king of Aquitaine (when not deposed or imprisoned).

Whether as cause or consequence, Aquitaine also had more of regional identity. It is common, although not universal, for charters to be dated by the West Frankish king, identified as ‘King of the Franks and the Aquitanians’, indicating a consciousness of separation in the region. This isn’t to suggest that there was some yearning for national freedom in the breast of all true Aquitanians, but it was a potential resource seemingly not available in Burgundy or Aquitaine, where regional identities are a lot less visible. The foundation documents of the abbey of Vézelay refer to it being placed in the regnum of Burgundy; several decades later, the poet Abbo of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, author of a poem about the Viking attack on Paris in 886, was very vocally Neustrian – but both of these are hard to parallel.

The Hour Cometh…

At the end of the ninth century, then, we have three very distinct regions. Well over to one side is Neustria, relatively tightly unified, administratively focussed, in royal gift, and already under the control of a single lay magnate. Aquitaine and Burgundy are more similar to one another, but still important differences emerge. Both are part of a ‘contested belt’, but Aquitaine has both more contestation and a stronger regional identity, and even semi-separate political framework, whereas Burgundy is distinguished by royal presence, both per se and through powerful and well-connected bishops. The first question to ask next time, then, is what happened, how did they all end up under one dominating lord, and is this a significant as it looks?

The Short-Lived Glory Days of Advocacy in Saint-Martin of Tours

This is not one of the promised posts about the Tübingen conference, but it was prompted by a discussion which happened there. You see, last year I was invited to take part in a conference on medieval advocacy at the University of Namur; I was enthusiastic about the prospect, but looked through my evidence and couldn’t find enough to say, so had to sadly decline… So here, as a kind of penance, is the one little story my efforts found: the brief but glorious career of the advocates of Saint-Martin of Tours.

But first I should explain what an advocate is. In the Carolingian period – so from the early ninth century onwards – an advocate is a representative who speaks for another person or institution in court. Overwhelmingly, the word is associated with ecclesiastical institutions. Clergy weren’t really supposed to take part in lay courts – although this requirement was both flexible in principle and often honoured more often in the breach than the observance in any case – and so they had advocates to represent them.

Advocacy is a big deal in the history of Lotharingia – eastern France, western Germany and the Benelux countries – because it became a very important way for lords to exert dominance over churches. Being an ‘advocate’, in eleventh-century Lotharingia, was not simply a way for an abbey to lawyer up, but a parcel of potentially very lucrative financial and judicial rights which could be exploited very effectively. A case could be made, for instance, that the modern country of Luxembourg is just the long-term impact of very effective management of advocacy rights. In France, though, and particularly the further west one goes, the less significant advocacy becomes.

But they did exist. At the important abbey of Saint-Martin in Tours, we can even trace them relatively closely in the documentary record. Institutional advocates there do not seem to have existed before the late ninth century – an 857 trial record records that an individual priest had an advocatus, but it’s not until 878 that we see one Adalmar leading a trial as advocate of Saint-Martin. It’s possible there was another man before him – an 892 charter refers to one Guy having held lands propter advocariam (‘in return for his services as advocate’?) – but he’s not attested in the documentary record.

This time, around the 870s, is a time when the area around Tours is getting organised. The area’s new ruler, Hugh the Abbot, is a man with a lot of responsibilities, and so these years see the growth of structures of delegated responsibilities – it is at this time, for instance, that viscounts first start emerging. An institutional advocate for Saint-Martin appears to be part of this organisational drive.

Adalmar came from the local nobility. He was, among other things, the lord of Monnaie and possessed an allod (i.e. inheritable land) near the church of Notre-Dame-de-Pauvres (now Notre-Dame la Riche, so I guess things have improved in the last thousand years), both very near Tours proper. He and his family appear as vassi dominici, a kind of lower-rank noble, which, for our purposes, means that he and his family were, in a local context, of particularly high status.

Adalmar’s job was the protection and defence of Saint-Martin’s interests. In theory (and here I crib liberally from, among other places, Charles West’s article on the Carolingian advocate), this involved representing the abbey in court, and normative sources specify that an advocate was expected to be learned in the law. Indeed, Adalmar appears in one charter witness list as a legis doctor (‘legal expert’). He wasn’t the only one – charter evidence from contemporary Tours indicates that there was a thriving community of legal experts at this time, including one Amalric legislator who appears several times. The Life of St. Odo of Cluny also claims that his father Abbo knew Roman law, and this may be the same Abbo legislator who appears in a charter witness list from 898.

However, it is very likely that there was a more direct aspect to Adalmar’s advocacy than this. In 892, some of Saint-Martin’s lands were claimed by a man named Patrick, a vassal of the count-abbot of Saint-Martin, Robert of Neustria. Adalmar was able to win possession of the lands from Robert, and was given a dagger (cultellus) by the abbot as a symbol of this, with the words ‘You should have it, because you are their [the brothers of Saint-Martin’s] advocate – and if necessary, you should fight for them’. By my reading, this implies that part of Adalmar’s job was also to enforce legal decisions – to take these knives and force Patrick or his men off the land so the canons of Saint-Martin could reclaim it.

Adalmar was dead by 914, when his heir, Erwig (Hervicus), had taken over his role as advocate. This isn’t necessarily surprising, as advocates were supposed to have strong local ties and other places also provide examples of the position passing from father to son. Erwig, however, did not play the role his father had. He appears as advocatus for the last time in 930, and there’s no evidence that he was involved in the abbey’s lawsuits. In 926, for example, a lengthy dispute in which the brothers tried to reclaim property around Thouars, in northern Aquitaine, was carried out completely without Erwig’s being involved. Part of this may be due to the rise to power within Saint-Martin of Theotolo, dean of the abbey and later archbishop of Tours. Theotolo was associated with contemporary monastic reform movements – he was a schoolfriend of the aforementioned Odo of Cluny, the poster-child of monasteries theoretically immune from lay influence – and it is possible that he belonged to the strain of Church thought which did not believe that the ecclesiastical cases should be heard before lay courts. Evidence from Tours shows that Theotolo made a number of efforts to regain Saint-Martin’s land, all of which involved situations substantially less formal than a formal mallus (court), and none of which involved an advocate.

Erwig himself lived on for a while, and is likely attested for the last time in 957. Whenever he appears, he is either untitled or a vassus, so it’s likely that even if he claimed the role of advocatus, he couldn’t make it stick. His family’s role vis-à-vis Saint-Martin was ephemeral, and flourished only in the brief period between high-political imperatives creating it and developments in ecclesiastical thought rendering it too embarrassing to continue.