This post was a mistake. Not a serious mistake, to be clear: this was going to be the Charter A Week for 937 and I got the whole way through translating it before I realised that, duh, it’s from 936. Still, no need to waste a diploma, and this one genuinely is quite important and interesting. I keep talking about Hugh the Great’s pretentions to overwhelmingly high status after Louis IV’s accession; and I’ve mentioned that there was tension in the air – but so far you haven’t seen the worst of it. Today’s source gets us up close and personal with that discontent:
D L4 no. 4 (25th December 936, Compiègne)
In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.
Louis, by the preordaining clemency of the Highest King king of the Franks.
If We come to help and concede any gift of honour and restoration to the holy church of God and also extend the hands of Our Highness and Piety to those who should dwell Catholically in it and devotedly seek the gift of His clemency for the state of this realm and of Christianity, through the deliverance of the King on High Jesus Christ and the most clement intercession of His saints such that they might not be illegally and unjustly oppressed by violence from anyone, We hold most firmly that it will benefit Us temporally and eternally in the augmentation of Our honour.
Thus, let the skill of those both present and future discover that the brothers of the abbey of Compiègne, when We first came there, made a complaint before the summit of Our Highness concerning Bishop Rothard of Meaux, previously prior of the same place, regarding their own land, which ought to pertain to their allowance of food, and clothing, and which had been conceded by Our progenitors to the nourishing mother of God and undefiled virgin Mary and the most precious martyrs Cornelius and Cyprian, for the work of the brothers serving therein; to wit, concerning the estate which is called Chauny and also concerning Gury and concerning Mareuil-la-Motte and Marest-sur-Matz and Manseau and concerning Margny-sur-Matz and concerning Elincourt and concerning the churches sited in them, that is, Notre-Dame, Saint-Denis, Saint-Médard, Sainte-Marguerite, and concerning their tithes and concerning the other side of the river Aronde and the mill which is called Frost and concerning the land which lies besides the same river, on this side of the aforesaid river and on the far side, and also concerning the space next to the aforesaid river on which he had strengthened a residence, which space, that is, is named Coudun; all of which, when in fact he should have been a servant of the said place, he kept hold of and usurped for himself, purportedly for rent, which he also never paid any of.
We, then, hearing this and enjoying the common consent of Our followers, to wit, of Hugh [the Great], Our most beloved and the duke of the Franks, who is second to Us in all Our realms; and Our most faithful pontiff Walbert [of Noyon], and also with the counsel of the most prudent man Bernard [of Beauvais], tremendously great in Our fidelity, and Ermenfred [of Amiens], restore to them, to the common portion of the brothers serving the Lord therein, all the said land with all the aforesaid things, in order that from this day forth they might hold and possess that land and all the aforesaid things for their allowance of food, and clothing in times to come without the trouble of any contradiction.
In addition, moreover, We concede to the said brothers that they should have free power to distribute prebends and that they should have all the service given for them for their own uses, just as Our most glorious father King Charles [the Simple] conceded to them in a precept of renewal.
Let them have the same power over the appointed ministers of the place as well, except the prior and dean, treasurer and cantor; and in these cases, with the counsel of the senior brothers and the election of the other clerics.
Let them have the same, too, over houses given between them or over land within and without the castle pertaining to the same brothers.
We concede to them, furthermore, in regard to the castle and its ramparts and concerning the outside area inside the walls and defensive ditch, that none who is an outsider to the same place should accept command on the pretext of overseeing the castle; and that no-one should claim rights of hospitality there.
Next, We concede to them in regard to the cultivated land which they have for outward uses that no-one should presume to enter their residences; and the toll from the ovens which have been or will be built there and from the wine-taverns within the castle and without the castle which customarily came to the part of Our predecessors.
From the confluence of waters next to the estate of Clairoix up to the bridge of Venette, We concede to them the river with both banks, and fishing-rights, and ship-passage and wherever nets ought to be dragged out of the river, whether going upriver or downriver, and from there up to Magnicurtis; also that no-one should presume to fish or hunt there without permission from the brothers; and if any fleeing wild animal comes there without being pursued by hunters, let it be brought to the brothers’ table. And similarly We concede to them whatever might be found from the confluence of waters next to Clairoix up to Magnicurtis.
We also concede permission that if any fiscal servant wishes to sell or give anything from his allod to that holy place or to the canons of that place, they may have free power to do it and the deed may endure perpetually, as Our father King Charles [the Simple] once established and conceded there through a precept.
If, though, anyone might presume to violate this statute and that which Our father established and Pope John of the holy Roman see conceded in his privilege and excommunicated and cursed those who might try to violate it, let them have portion with Judas, the betrayer of the Lord, and be anathema maranatha, and be excluded from the company of the faithful and be burned forever in the punishments of Hell.
But that this precept of Our authority might endure firm and inviolable eternally without fear, confirming it below with Our own hand We mandated it be signed with the signet of Our royal dignity.
Sign of the most glorious king Louis.
Gerard the notary witnessed on behalf of Artald, Archbishop and High Chancellor.
Enacted at the royal palace of Compiègne, on the day of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the 10th indiction, in the 1st year of the reign of the most glorious King Louis.
The closest surviving thing we have to part of the Carolingian palace, and it ain’t that close (source)
Christmas at Compiègne was by itself a sign that something new was in the air. Under Ralph of Burgundy, Compiègne was not a significant royal palace. In fact, it seems to have been something of a neutral zone – there are a couple of times when Ralph and his squabbling brothers-in-law met there seemingly because it was a liminal location where they could get together on a roughly even footing. Compiègne was Charles the Simple’s place, and it’s appropriate that Louis IV issued his rehabilitative diploma for ‘the glorious king Charles’ quoting at length from one of Charles’ own diplomas for the abbey. Louis also pulled in Count Ermenfred of Amiens, whom we’ve met before as a prop of Charles’ late period regime. Hugh’s own father Robert of Neustria had been rehabilitated in the early 930s – but, of course, rehabilitating Charles was more fraught, given Hugh’s personal role in his overthrow.
This isn’t to say that Hugh was opposed to this. In fact, one wonders if it was the bone he threw Louis, because otherwise the diploma shows off Hugh’s power over the king. Note the presence of Bernard of Beauvais, with a remarkably exalted epithet. Bernard had been Hugh’s right-hand man during the Burgundy campaign, and his presence – and elaborate praise – here gives an insight into how cloying Hugh’s oversight of the king may have been. Bernard was also the cousin of Heribert II of Vermandois, who had led Charles to imprisonment at Saint-Quentin, and thus his presence was at best ironic. Too, Ansegis of Troyes has been replaced as archchancellor by Archbishop Artald of Rheims. Given later developments, it can be hard to remember this, but in 936 Artald was Hugh’s ally, the man to whom he owed his position. Most important of all, though, is the description of Hugh himself. Hugh’s new title, ‘duke of the Franks’, was ambiguous, and it seems that he may have been pushing for a clarification. The act spells it out, and it is startling. Raymond Pons was right: Hugh was a menace to the ambitions of every other aristocrat in the kingdom. He is placed as greater than all the realm’s other magnates, not simply in the north of Gaul but in Aquitaine and Burgundy as well. Even Robert of Neustria at the peak of his power had never had his status exalted in such concrete terms.
Perhaps the most appropriate presence was Bishop Walbert of Noyon. This diploma was the last thing he ever did: he died on Boxing Day 936. Hugh and Louis’ alliance would follow suit soon after.