Charter A Week 58: A Triple Alliance in Provence and Italy

934 and 935 continue to be pains to pick charters for, so once again I’m playing a little fast and loose with the format. In this case, like last week, the dating elements in the document we’re going to look at are discordant: the AD year is 934, but the indiction gives 933. Schiaparelli, who edited the act, plumped for 933; the Regesta Imperii isn’t so sure, and that’s good enough for me to put it here.

So, somewhat unusually, we’re in Italy. We’ve spoken before about the multipolar Europe of the 930s, and this act is an interesting insight into that.

D HL no. 34 (8th March 933/934, Pavia)

In the name of Lord God Eternal.

Hugh and Lothar, by God’s grace kings. 

If we grant worldly benefits on places venerable and dedicated to God, we do not doubt we will gain eternal prizes from the Lord.

Consequently, let the entirety of all the followers of the holy Church of God and ourselves, to wit, present and future, know that we, for love of God Almighty and of the holy virgin Mary and of the blessed apostles, to wit, Peter and Paul, and for love of the other apostles, and for the remedy of our souls and those of Our father and mother, to wit, Theobald and Bertha, and our other relatives, concede to the holy and venerable monastery of Cluny, where Odo is at present now seen to be abbot, two curtilages from the right of our property lying in the county of Lyon, of which one is called Savigneux and the other Ambérieux-en-Dombes, in their entirety (besides Leotard the baker and five other servants pertaining there, who now serve us, whom we reserve for our power); that is, with chapels, houses, lands, vineyards, fields, meadows, pastures, woods, salt-pans, feeding grounds, waters and watercourses, hills, valleys, mountains, plains, male and female serfs of both sexes (besides those six servants whom we reserved for our power above), labouring men and women, and with everything they can say or name justly and legally pertaining to these two curtilages in their entirety (these six servants put to one side), so that from the present day, in their entirety (these six servants, as we said, put to one side), they might be in the right and dominion of the same abbey and of the abbot who is there now and of his successors, for the common advantage of the brothers serving God there at the time, rightly, quietly, and without any contradiction. 

If anyone might with reckless daring endeavour to infringe or violate our donation, let them know themselves to be damned by God Almighty like a sacrilege; in secular terms, as well, let them know themselves to be liable for a fine of one hundred pounds of pure gold, half to our treasury and half to the abbot of the aforesaid abbey and his successors and the brothers who are there at the time.

And that this might be more truly believed and diligently observed by all, we strengthened it with our own hands and commanded it be marked below with our signet.

Sign of the most serene kings Hugh and Lothar.

Chancellor Peter witnessed on behalf of Abbot and Archchancellor Gerland.

Given on the 8th ides of March [8th March], in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 934, in the 8th year of the reign of the most pious lord king Hugh and the 3rd of lord king Lothar, in the 6th indiction

Enacted in Pavia.

Happily in God’s name, amen.

By itself, this might not look like very much. It’s a royal grant of property with added extra memorialisation, to Cluny no less – and royal diplomas for Cluny, from across Europe, are ten a penny. However, what’s interesting about it is the way that it takes us into the middle of alliances spanning most of western Europe: Hugh of Arles, for this short period, was the man in the centre of almost everything, and right behind him was Odo of Cluny. Hugh and Odo may have known each other (so thinks Isabelle Rosé) from Odo’s upbringing at the court of William the Pious, and they seem to have remained on good terms. However, this was particularly expressed in the early 930s. Besides this diploma, in 929, Hugh arranged his own betrothal with the important Roman noblewoman Marozia, who in 931 imposed her son as Pope John XI. Shortly afterwards, he granted Odo a papal privilege. He also intervened in 932 to confirm the new archbishop of Rheims, Artald, who (as we will have much cause to hear about in subsequent weeks) had recently been imposed on that church by Ralph of Burgundy.

In 933, too, Ralph of Burgundy was active in northern Provence. In 931, Count Charles Constantine of Vienne had promised his loyalty to Ralph; in 933, he actually handed it over. Hugh of Arles may well have had a hand in this. In 929, he had played an important role in ending the rebellion of Count Heribert II of Vermandois, the jailer of Charles the Simple, who had released his captive from prison and set him up against Ralph. Part of the deal was that Hugh agreed to grant Heribert the ‘province of Vienne’ (whatever that meant) on behalf of Heribert’s son Odo. West of the Rhône, the role of Odo of Cluny in West Frankish politics is something we’ve covered a lot recently; but to summarise, Ralph’s takeover of the duchy of Aquitaine was thoroughly aided along by the fact that he had the support of Odo, along with the networks of alliances surrounding his abbeys.

We have here a three-pointed alliance. Hugh can help both Ralph and Odo on the Italian side, as in the cases of Artald and Odo’s papal privileges (notably, both papal interventions came before the breakdown in relations between Hugh and the Romans later in 932). Odo can help Ralph in Aquitaine. His use for Hugh is a bit more obscure to me, but my guess is that, amongst other things, his connections with the Transjurane court and thus with Hugh’s rival for the kingship of Italy Rudolf II may be the operative factor. Ralph, meanwhile, can help Odo against his monastic rival Guy of Gigny; and he can ensure that the situation in northern Provence remains relatively stable. In fact, I would say that ensuring regional stability in the face of the deaths of both William the Younger and Louis the Blind (at least, once they’ve all helped themselves after the initial instability) is probably the most obvious binding force between these three men.

This diploma hints at that more than it says any of it. It is nonetheless significant that the estates in question are right next to Anse, where Ralph issued a diploma for Cluny in summer 932; and are also in William the Younger’s former county of Lyon. These gifts have presumably, therefore, been selected to implant Odo more firmly in Lyon and to emphasise the ongoing role of Hugh and Ralph together in ensuring a stable division of power in Provence. Much of the diplomatic activity of this period is hidden from us, and so there’s a lot of inference in this picture. Nonetheless, our box of hints builds up to a pretty convincing picture of a multipolar Frankish world in the 930s, all centred on the Trans-Ararian region.

Charter a Week 57: North or South?

Bear with me here. I said last time that the mid-930s was a problematic time to be focussing on whilst running a series which looks at charters, and this week is a case in point. It doesn’t help that my plans for the 933 charter were completely ruined when writing up the commentary for my charter from a few weeks ago. You see, originally my choice for a 933 charter was a no-brainer. However, doing the reading around the charter of Bishop Godeschalk of Puy that I put in the 931 slot, it turns out that it is by no means clear that my 933 choice was actually from 933, and rather more likely that it wasn’t. I had a look at other options, but none of them were very inspiring. So, I thought, I don’t often get into the weeds of technical diplomatic here – why not look at this act’s problematic dating, and explain which this fairly dry discussion matters to our knowledge of the period?

D RR no. 21

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Ralph, by God’s grace pious, invincible and ever august king of the Franks and Aquitanians and Burgundians.

Since ‘there is no power but of God’, who (as is written) ‘doth establish kings upon their throne’, it thus follows entirely that those on high should humble themselves below His powerful hand and that the ministers of their realm ought to conduct themselves in accordance with His will.

Wherefore let it be known to all carrying out duties to the realm in time both present and future that I, solicitous to restore to wholeness the state of religion, decreed that the abbey of Tulle should be renewed in a Regular way of life, as once it was. It is sited in the district of Limousin, on the river Corrèze, built in honour, that is, of the most blessed lord Martin. In this place, by God’s largess, the ancient reverence is preserved to this day by new miracles.

By the prayers of the noble man Adhemar, who has until this point held that place, and also at the suggestion of Count Ebalus [Manzer], I commended the same place to a certain religious abbot named Aimo to restore a Regular way of life; and I made it subject to the abbey of Saint-Savin. However, because experience proved that this subjection was an obstacle to religion, wishing to take complete care of that same religion, by wiser counsel We decreed that, in accordance with ancient custom, it should be held under the protection – as opposed to the domination – of the king alone.

However, no-one may decide to do this against the laws of the realm. Seeing that the most excellent emperors are read to have changed their decrees whenever the situation made it necessary and – as the apostle adduces – ‘there is made of necessity a change in the law’, We therefore by the authority of this Our precept establish this monastery, with everything which now pertains to it or which might fall to it hereafter, should endure such that they might be subjected to the domination of no-one save only the holy Rule.

Furthermore, after the death of Our most faithful and beloved lord Odo [of Cluny], who succeeded the aforesaid venerable Aimo, and after Adacius, whom the same venerable Odo asked be ordained to supply a replacement for him, let them have permission in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict to elect from amongst themselves whomsoever they, through wiser counsel, choose.

And let neither king nor count nor bishop nor any other person presume to disturb their goods nor give them to anyone; and let no-one at all dare to dominate them. Let them receive after his death the whole part of the abbey which the aforesaid Adhemar, by the abbot’s consent, retained. When he dies, let whomsoever they communally wish have mundeburdum and legal oversight.

In addition, We concede the right of immunity and the reverence which now and previously has been divinely observed in that holy place, such that no-one should undertake to inflict any violence on either it or the goods pertaining to it. As for the rest, let both the abbot and the monks together – as if before the eyes of God – conserve a regular way of life.

But that this Our precept might persevere undiminished, We signed it in the name of the Creator on High with Our signet.

Sign of the most glorious king Ralph.

Godfrey the priest, on behalf of Bishop Ansegis [of Troyes], witnessed and subscribed.

Enacted at Anatiacus, on the ides of [most copies: September; one copy: December] [13th September/December], in the third indiction, in the 11th year of the reign of the most glorious King Ralph.

So, what’s the problem here? The problem is the fact that the elements of the diploma’s dating clause don’t add up. The third indiction (a Byzantine system – figuratively and literally – to do with Roman tax collection) ought to be 930; the 11th year of the reign of King Ralph ought to be 933. How do we tell which is which? There are a few methods. First, we might note that scribes tend (although by no means universally) to be more confident about the regnal year than the indiction. This would point us towards 933. Second, though, we might look to contextual elements. Take Abbot Aimo, for instance. Aimo is last attested at Tulle in May 931, and this again pushes us towards 933.

So far, it’s sounding like 933 is a pretty solid choice for a date. But wait! There’s one key element we have to talk about here, and that’s the place at which the act was issued, Anatiacus. The act’s editor, Dufour, plumped for Anizy-le-Château, roughly halfway between Soissons and Laon. However, Jean-Pierre Brunterc’h pointed out that Anizy’s Latin form is always something like Anisiacus – it’s always got that first i and a following s, not an a and a t. He pointed instead towards Ennezat, a centre for assemblies under the Guillelmid dukes and – crucially – a place whose Latin orthography fits Anatiacus notably better. The problem now is that by dint of his itinerary, Ralph cannot have been at Ennezat at any point in 933. However, as we’ve seen, thanks to the reference to Abbot Aimo, 930 is also out. Brunterc’h therefore proposes 931, a time when we know that Ralph was in the Auvergne and one which requires the scribes who wrote the later copies in which this act survives to have simply misplaced a minim, turning ‘the IXth year’ into the ‘XIth year’ (as well, perhaps, as the ‘IVth indiction’ into the ‘III indiction’), something known to have happened elsewhere.

That such changes to the no-longer-surviving original might have been made are indicated by other signs this charter has been tampered with. This is, for reasons we’ll discuss below, an unusual document anyway, which makes our job harder; but the sections in first person singular (‘I’) rather than first person plural (the royal ‘We’) are very suspicious to my mind, and may have been added later. (I doubt, though, that it was much later.) Similarly, the reference to miracles at Tulle strikes me as a later addition – we know from a letter of Odo of Cluny to the brothers at Saint-Martin of Tours that Tulle was experiencing a surge of miracles at this time, but as a former canon of Saint-Martin himself I don’t think any act in which Odo was so heavily involved would have made quite so much of them at Tulle. For these reasons, I think December 931 (as Brunterc’h suggests) is the most plausible date, although it’s far from conclusive.

Why does this matter? It matters because this act is crucial evidence for Ralph’s involvement with the Aquitanian elite, and that involvement looks very different depending on whether this diploma comes from Ennezat in 931 or Anizy in 933. I covered the Ennezat side in my previous installment of Charter A Week, so you can go there for the details; but the short version is that if it’s from there he appears as a regional peacemaker in the wake of the disturbances following the death of the last Guillelmid duke of Aquitaine Acfred. If it’s from Anizy, it’s a different story. In 933, Ralph’s attention was firmly focussed on attacking and defeating the persistent northern rebel Count Heribert II of Vermandois, in pursuit of which goal he besieged Château-Thierry and Ham. In this context, Adhemar and Ebalus Manzer are most likely north to provide Ralph with military support. This would be far from unprecedented – the most clear-cut example comes from the reign of Ralph’s successor Louis IV, where Ebalus’ son William Towhead is unambiguously attested doing just that for the new king – but in that case this diploma would be firm evidence that connections between the king and the Aquitanian magnates were less arms-length than often supposed.

Whether the act is from 931 or 933, though, one important thing remains unchanged. The unusual preamble and titulature Ralph is given here has usually – and in my view correctly – been taken to show the influence of Odo of Cluny on the drafting of the diploma. We’ve noted the importance of Odo to Ralph’s regime at this time in previous posts, but this is quite a dramatic departure for West Frankish diplomatic, and is an interesting view of a road ultimately not taken, where Cluniac  – or, better, Odonian – ideology became a crucial part of West Frankish kingship.

Charter A Week 51/1 – Dismembering Aquitaine

One disadvantage of the ‘Charter A Week’ format is that charters which are important but not prima facie interesting don’t usually make the cut. Last week is a case in point: there are  pair of related documents in the name of one Gerbald for the abbey of Cluny, which are by themselves not that interesting, but which reveal William the Younger, duke of Aquitaine, gathering his men – and Archbishop Anskeric of Lyon – about him as part of a rebellion he was launching against Ralph of Burgundy. One thing we didn’t cover when we looked at his first diploma is that the Aquitanians refused to play ball with Ralph for a while – that diploma was issued when he made a very carefully stage-managed visit to the Loire to receive William’s homage.

Part of the problem was that Ralph had been fighting William for years well before he became king. We know from various sources that Ralph and Robert of Neustria won and lost possession of Bourges several times in the years around 920. When Ralph became king, as I just said, this hostility carried over, with an extra dollop of ‘he’s really a usurper’ on top Thus, even after William submitted in 924, things were not well and warfare had broken out again by 926. Ralph led an army against Nevers, which was being held by William’s brother Acfred, and was intent on pressing further into Aquitaine until he had to turn and deal with rumours of an Hungarian invasion. The next year, though, William the Younger died.

His was not the only big-name death that year. Abbot Berno of Gigny, the first abbot of Cluny (amongst many other places) also died in 927. His will divided his abbeys between his nephew Guy and a rising star of the monastic world named Odo. Guy objected to the will and started muscling in on Odo’s position. Thanks to Odo’s papal connections, he was able to get a warning against Guy, but the pope’s response also put a burden of protection on King Ralph, pushing Odo and Ralph together.

Odo_Cluny-11

An eleventh-century image of Odo of Cluny. You know, for some reason I’d always imagined him clean-shaven. (source)

Thus the following:

D RR no. 12 (9th September 927, Briare)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Ralph, by God’s grace pacific, august and invincible king.

Because it is certain that “God is mighty but despith not any” [Job 36:5], and indeed “without Him there is no power” [Romans 13:1], thus it is also clear that He will examine the works of the mighty, and because of this We should take great care that, since by His dispensation We are able to either help or hurt, We should subject Our potential completely to His will in order that it might do what will increase His holy Church’s honour.

Wherefore, let it be known to everyone, both kings and persons of other dignities, that is, either present or future, that William [the Pious], that great and magnificent man of his time,built through the hand of Berno [of Gigny], a certain reverend abbot, a certain monastery named Cluny in honour of the leading men of Heaven, to wit, Peter and Paul, and made this same place free from all worldly dominion under a great and terrible abjuration, and subjugated it to the Apostolic See to be protected (and not to be dominated).

We, rejoicing in his work and favouring what he established, establish through this precept of Our authority that the place – in accordance with what he decreed through a testament – should be completely free and absolved from disturbance and domination both from kings and from all princes, or kinsmen of the same William, and indeed of all men; that is should remain in the monastic order and be administered in accordance with the tenor of the testament which he made thereof; that the inhabitants dwelling there under the order of the Rule might elect for themselves from amongst themselves an abbot in accordance with the rule of St Benedict after Odo, whom Abbot Berno left for them; that they should possess their common goods, either those which they have now or those which will be acquired in future, to wit, whether they be from Our liberality or from the largess of anyone else, without domination or contradiction from anyone; that they should pay no toll on market days; that no-one should distrain their men, free or servile, against their will; that they should have their indominical tithes for the hospice; that they should hold the allod which Gerbald gave to the aforesaid monastery, and they should similarly claim Blanot with its appendages in perpetual right; that no-one should accept any produce-fee from woods where they have a part and from assarts except them; that they should also possess the curtilage which is called La Frette (which the aforesaid Berno, taking from Gigny, freely turned over to Cluny – for it was through him, actually, that each place was founded) on the conditions which he established, with the allod of the late Samson, and the bondsmen and manse which were Larvin’s, with perennial dominion.

Naturally, in accordance with the earnest entreaty which the aforesaid William prayed for, We too, in Christ’s name, command and appeal to God that it should never be subjected to any mortal through any kind of agreement, but that they should be permitted to live in accordance with the tradition which they are seen to hold in Our days. If they turn away from it, then by God’s judgement let them be preserved for correction of their rule, and let no donation made to God and the saints ever be taken back.

But that this constitution of Our precept might perpetually endure unbroken, We undersign it with Our seal and We command Our leading men to undersign it.

Sign of King Ralph.

Ragenard witnessed on behalf of Bishop Abbo [of Soissons].

Enacted at the estate of Briare, in the twelfth indiction, on the fifth ides of September [9th September], in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation nine hundred and twenty seven, also in the fifth year of the reign of King Ralph.

This diploma is, first and foremost, targeted at Acfred. As Odo’s ally, Ralph had plausible deniability when it came to not exercising dominion over Cluny; Acfred did not, and this act makes a point of noting that as William’s kinsman he has no place at the abbey. Such a gesture is perforce more effective when it’s being issued by a king at the head of an army. At this point, Ralph was returning north from the Mâconnais proper, on his way to Berry where he would receive the submission of William the Pious’ old – if inconsistent – ally Ebbo of Déols. In one fell swoop, he had managed to detach both Berry and the Mâconnais from the Guillelmid family – a hefty chunk of land, and in the case of Mâcon a significant one, given how tightly embedded William the Pious had been there.

Of course, what you may well be thinking – especially given how many royal diplomas we’ve seen on this blog – is ‘what on Earth is happening with the diplomatic here?’ This is the first of a little series of diplomas written in a recognisably ‘Cluniac’ style. We’ve seen elsewhere that the question of Cluniac influence on kingship would become very vexed in the early eleventh century, but there is a case to be made that it was really the years around 930 when Cluny, or at least Abbot Odo (which is not quite the same thing), had the most influence on West Frankish kingship. The preamble to this diploma sets out a coherent, if brief, political theory which is both evidence for Odo’s attitudes to kingship and an explanation of his politics. A king needed to be the humblest of all, because he had the most potential to do either harm or good. Ralph, willing as king to prostrate himself before God (or, at least, to safeguard Odo’s interests, which was more-or-less the same thing), had legitimacy Acfred did not.

So what did Acfred think of this? For the first time in a while, this Charter a Week comes in two parts; and as further evidence of the increasing inapplicability of the name, we’ll see the second part next week.

Odo of Cluny on the Difficulties of Earlier Medieval Governance

It should probably be said right out somewhere on this blog that medieval government was difficult. In terms of relative scale, it was rather harder to govern a Frankish kingdom in the tenth century than to govern the entire world today – in three days, I could leave my apartment and, with enough money, be anywhere in the world; in the 990s, Richer of Rheims took three days to go from Rheims to Chartres (although he notes that that was a particularly difficult journey). Even with the much more limited practical ambitions of medieval governance, preventing your political hegemony from devolving into ultra-fragmented clusters of tiny village cells was a constant effort.

Chris Wickham has this thing he talks about called ‘capillary’ governance, the idea being that you have these local communities as ‘cells’ and then processes which pull them into larger units, and those larger units are in turn pulled into yet larger units by higher-level capillary processes. These processes take different forms in different societies – so in the Roman Empire, for instance, it might be tax collectors coming and assessing your province for tax; in Lombard Italy, it might be new issues of a law code coming to be used in your local courts; and so on. But what about the West Frankish kingdom, where there was no Roman-style tax system and no real ‘legal system’ as we would think of it today?

A neat little window into this is provided by the Vita Geraldi, which at one point has a vignette of its hero, Gerald of Aurillac, being politically courted by William the Pious of Aquitaine. Odo of Cluny, author of the Vita Geraldi, portrays Gerald as a very strange man, largely because he was trying to effect large-scale moral change amongst a lay audience; but to do that he had to drop Gerald into recognisable situations, and he had in fact grown up at William the Pious’ court, so it’s a glimpse into William’s SOP by someone who knew it quite well.

wtp
Image of William from a Cluny manuscript, c. 1200, BNF MS Lat 17716 (source, image from Gallica)

What Odo shows is William trying (and occasionally failing) to win Gerald’s loyalty by a variety of measures. He tries and fails to entice Gerald into commending himself to him, despite Gerald’s position as a royal vassal – he fails, interestingly enough, because Gerald has only recently taken the title of count, and presumably needs the royal connection to validate it. He offers to marry Gerald to his sister, only to be thwarted by Gerald’s vow of chastity. He talks to him often and takes his counsel. The two men go on long walks together. They fight together, and build up military camaraderie. All of this shows three things: first, that William was not the lord of all Aquitanians just by default; second, that the degree of his authority of Gerald was extremely negotiable; and third, that it require constant maintenance.

This is entirely typical. William’s Aquitaine was built out of little bundles of local rights, connections and lands, and pulling them together required constant activity, cajoling, threatening, and bribing the people in his following to stay in his following. Exercising real power in the earlier Middle Ages was exhausting work!

“Who made you count?”

It’s a good question, and one famously reported by Adhemar of Chabannes. King Hugh Capet was fighting Count Aldebert of La Marche, and, when they met, asked him “Who made you count?”, in an attempt to seize the moral high ground. Aldebert replied “Who made you king?”, and it is for that latter that the story is usually remembered, but the former question is perhaps more important. We have a reasonable idea of how Hugh Capet became king having previously been a duke, as it was described in reasonable detail by several sources. How someone becomes a count without coming from a comital lineage is a bit less clear.*

However, a nice little source snippet on this question fell into my lap recently. I was looking at the Vita, or biography, of St. Gerald of Aurillac, and had to deal with the arguments of Matthew Kuefler to the effect that the version most historians are familiar with was written not in the 920s by Abbot Odo of Cluny but after the year 1000 by… well, by Adhemar of Chabannes, actually. I think this is unconvincing, personally, and the question of countship relates to one of Kuefler’s key arguments. He argues (p. 51, as well as elsewhere) that Gerald is referred to as count of Aurillac, but there don’t appear to have been other counts of Aurillac, so this is anachronistic.

However, this rests on the – very Carolingian – assumption that comital office was acquired through administrative mechanisms, that is to say, that one was granted a countship by the king and thus legally became a count. This, though, is not what the text actually says. Key here is Book 1, chapter 27 (not exactly the most up-to-date edition, but the easiest to link to; there’s a translation of the whole thing here):

On the whole route, he was of the highest rank of nobility, and was famous everywhere for his piety and largess. When, therefore, the traders, as is their custom, were going between the tents and asking if anyone wanted to buy anything, some of the better ones came to the lord [Gerald’s] tent, and asked his servants if, perchance, the lord count (for so everyone called him) would command that cloths or spices be bought.

Key here is the ‘for so they called him line’, because what this indicates is that countship was not necessarily legal, but social. By the tenth century, a sufficiently noble, wealthy and powerful man of good repute could be called a count not because of any formal process, but because his social position was sufficient for him to be acknowledged as at the top rank of regional society. There are other examples of this – the early eleventh-century counts of Ponthieu, and I think something similar happens in the late tenth century with the counts of Ternois – but the best example is roughly contemporary with Gerald, in the case of Fulk the Red, count/viscount of Anjou.

Fulk had been made viscount of Anjou in the first decade of the tenth century, and in the context of the region, with its formal hierarchy of rank and relatively tight governance, I think ‘appointed’ is the right way to describe it. He appears in a charter of 929 issued in his own name as ‘count’ not ‘viscount’. Despite this, he signs charters of his superior, Hugh the Great, ruler of the Neustrian March, as ‘viscount’ up through into the 930s. What seems to be happening here is that, in an Angevin context, he was a sufficiently big player by 929 that he could reasonably and plausibly claim to be a count as a marker of his social status, but this did not yet look plausible on a wider stage.

In any case, a focus on the juridical aspects of being a count is potentially misleading here. Late- and post-Carolingian counthood could be flexible, not necessarily always claimed, and fundamentally a matter of social status not legal role.

*In Aldebert’s case, I assumed the answer Hugh intended was ‘the king, i.e. me’, referring to the comital office as royally-constituted. In poking around, I’ve found that Aldebert became count of Perigord (which is how Adhemar refers to him) after capturing and blinding his brother, so the intended answer may well have been ‘no-one’, in which case Aldebert’s response becomes a bit more pointed, given that Hugh gained the throne by imprisoning his predecessor’s uncle…