Charter A Week 33: Clearing Up a Deposed King’s Messes

It’s a quiet year in Charles the Simple’s kingdom. (Actually, in June of this year there’s a prominent Church council held at a place called Trosly, but I didn’t think of that far-enough in advance to put it up as a source translation. We may get back to it anyway.) Given this, we haven’t turned our attention eastwards for a while, not really since the death of Zwentibald. As it happens, though, his legacy is still a live issue:

DD LtC no. 70 (9th November 909, Ingelheim)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Louis, by ordinance of divine grace king.

Every time We succour the needs of holy churches of God with the defence of regality, We imitate the custom of Our ancestors and We believe without hesitation that this will profit Us in securing aid in the present age and the prize of future blessing.

Wherefore let the prudent knowledge of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, present and future, know for certain that the venerable archbishop Hatto and Gebhard approached Our Highness and recounted how Our brother Zwentibald, after the magnates of the kingdom of Lotharingia deposed him from the government of the realm, gave a certain property to a man named Roing, which Roing afterwards consigned in whatever way to the resources of the canons dwelling in the place named Chèvremont. And when the aforenamed count scrutinised such an act, he brought it to Our ears and, with the aforesaid pontiff Hatto, he sought that We might confirm the same goods for the aforenamed canons through a precept of Our authority for the salvation of Our soul.

We, freely acquiescing to their petition, concede and confirm the aforesaid goods, sited in the county of Liège, and the place named Mortier, with all their appendates, as the said Roing is seen to have held them up to the present, for the resources of the said canons henceforth, that is, with a demesne and a church with 12 other manses, cottages, fields, meadows, pastures, woods, cultivated and uncultivated land, waters and watercourses, mills, fisheries, passable and impassable land, roads out and in, incomes claimed and to be claimed, mobile and immobile goods, and bondsmen of both sexes residing there; establishing and enacting strenuously that the aforesaid canons should have, hold and possess them by ecclesiastical custom from this day for their portion of the abbey’s resources (mensa), and delight to become remembrancers of Us because of it.

And that this present precept of Our largess and confirmation might be more truly believed and more diligently observed through times to come, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our seal.

Sign of lord Louis, most serene of kings.

Theodulf the notary witnessed on behalf of Archbishop and Archchancellor Ratbod [of Trier].

Given on the 5th ides of November [9th November], in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 910, in the 13th indiction, in the 10th year of lord Louis.

Enacted at Ingelheim.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

SONY DSC
Chèvremont today. I have actually been here – the church is nineteenth century, but it’s a big darn hill… (source)

My commentary this week is going to be pretty short, but this charter has some unusual features. The first is that Zwentibald’s kingdom is now, apparently, ‘Lotharingia’, none of that ‘that some men call Lothar’s business’ of previous years. The second is that Louis’ court is apparently chill with Zwentibald having been deposed. Admittedly, this is probably because it ultimately worked out in Louis’ favour; but it definitely goes against the idea that you’ll see occasionally that the Carolingians don’t really know how to deal with deposition.

The final thing is that Zwentibald’s gift to Roing apparently took place after his deposition, whilst he was a man on the run. I get the feeling from this charter that Roing was a little unsure of his tenure: the ‘consigned in whatever way’ makes me think that he’s handed the land off to Chèvremont in the hope that with their backing he’ll be less vulnerable that he’d be by just himself… In any case, the presence of Gebhard of Lotharingia and Archbishop Hatto of Mainz shows that he’s firmly back in Louis’ good graces. Still, apparently even ten years later trying to re-integrate Lotharingia as a political unit is apparently an ongoing process.

Charter a Week 22, part 2: Overwriting King Zwentibald

Describing the opening of Charles’ reign as ‘competently-executed’, as we did on Wednesday, seems a bit damning-by-faint-praise for such an interesting and intelligent monarch. Happily, though, Charles’ next diploma does something a little more out of the ordinary:

DD CtS no. 11 (13th February 898, Compiègne)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by the gracious favour of divine clemency king.

If We bestow advantageous benefices on places given over to divine worship for love of God and of those who serve in the same places, We are not doubtful that We will be repaid with the prize of eternal repayment before the Lord.

Therefore, let the sagacity of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, both present and future, know that Our venerable mother Queen Adelaide approached the presence of Our Dignity, devotedly asking that We might for love of God deign to consign through a precept of Our authority certain goods of the holy archangel Michael, which are known to have formerly been given over as benefices for certain people, to the stipends of the brothers serving the Lord therein.

Favouring her petitions with pious love, We concede and consign them to the brothers of the holy archangel Michael for their use and stipends, that is, in the district of Verdunois, the estate of Buxières-sous-les-Côtes with Heudicourt-sous-les-Côtes, with all their dependencies, meadows, fields, woods, buildings and bondsmen of both sexes pertaining thereto; and in the estate of Vaux, the chapel of Saint-Rémi with all its dependencies; and in Refroicourt one manse with a mill; also, in the district of Scarponnais, in the estate of Essey, one chapel with all its dependencies.

Whence We decreed this precept of Our Magnitude be made for them concerning this, through which We order and command that from this day forth the monks should hold and possess the goods here enrolled for their advantage in their entirety, and do whatever is necessary for them therewith, disturbed by no-one.

And that this edict of Our precept might in God’s name be conserved inviolably through times to come, We confirmed it with Our own hand and We commanded it to be sealed with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Heriveus the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Archbishop and Head Chancellor Fulk [of Rheims].

Given on the ides of February [13th February], in the 1st indiction, in the 6th year of the reign of and 1st year of the restoration of the kingdom’s unity by of Charles, the most glorious of kings.

Enacted at the palace of Compiègne.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

Any of this looking familiar? Yes, Charles the Simple is getting his claws out. This diploma basically overwrites Zwentibald’s diploma from Trosly-Loire – “Now I’m the king you damn well go to”. There is, methinks, some bitterness here. Even more, though, Charles is confirming lands in Zwentibald’s own kingdom. This is surely a precursor to Charles’ invasion of Lotharingia, which we have discussed on the blog before. It’s certainly a good sign about Charles’ regime, though, that he was after so little time sufficiently well-entrenched that he could launch a credible attack on another king.

That king’s days were themselves numbered. This will be our last encounter with King Zwentibald – enough is happening in the West in 899 and 900 that none of his diplomas made the cut – but Charles’ involvement was not finished. Zwentibald bungled his patronage – switching from supporting Reginar Long-Neck to throwing him to the wolves might have made sense in theory, but somehow he failed in practice – and ended up with most of his nobility arrayed against him. Charles had a hand here. In 899, Zwentibald held a major colloquium at Sankt Goar, on the Rhine. Present were Bishop Anskeric of Paris and Count Odoacar, both Charles’ men. Privately, Charles’ men, the men of Zwentibald’s dying father Arnulf, and the Lotharingians, were probably conspiring to overthrow Zwentibald, something which happened in 900 and which led to Zwentibald’s death in battle. In the end, Charles go the last laugh over his once-so-overbearing cousin.

Charter a Week 20: Peace, Saint-Denis, and Who’s King, Again?

A two-for-one special today, folks, as once again we pick apart the tangled relationship between Charles the Simple and Zwentibald of Lotharingia. Let’s start with the recipient of both these diplomas: the priory of Salonnes, in Lotharingia. Salonnes was a priory of Saint-Denis, originally given to that abbey by Abbot Fulrad in the time of Charlemagne centuries earlier. One particular winter’s day, a group of Sandionysian monks, accompanied by the magnates Reginar Longneck and Odoacer of Bliesgau, petitioned Zwentibald to restore to the Parisian abbey the cell of Salonnes, which had apparently been lost to Saint-Denis in the mid-ninth century.

What’s going on here? Ultimately, this is all part of the fallout from the failed seige of Laon we mentioned last week. Having originally agreed to help Charles the Simple, Zwentibald managed to alienate Charles’ camp, who sent peace envoys to Odo. Zwentibald himself made a truce with Bishop Dido of Laon and withdrew back to Lotharingia. And then he issued this diploma:

DD Zw no. 7 (22nd January 896, Schweighausen) = ARTEM no. 3041 = LBA no. 8310

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Zwentibald, by the procuration of divine clemency king.

It is therefore meet for Us, who enjoy royal power, to above all place the fear of God before all mortal business, and to love and build up the places which Our ancestors built in honour of God before other worldly things, because, as We believe, for this reason God, for love of Whom We do this, be more pleased with Us, as well as his saints, whose service We worthily venerate.

Wherefore let it come to the notice of the whole Church trusting in God that the congregation of the blessed martyr Dionysius and his companions sent one of their brothers to make a claim for the goods which are sited in Our realm, which Our ancestors and religious men had given to the aforesaid martyrs for their salvation to be used for the lighting and for the advantage of the brothers and to take care of the poor and for the honour of that place.

We, hearing their claim, because of the intervention of Our followers Odoacer [of Bliesgau] and Reginar [Long-Neck], restore to them a certain little abbey sited in the district of Saulnois, named Salonnes, for the abovesaid uses with all its appendages. Concerning this little abbey, they asked Us to concede two estates specially for the lighting and the care of the poor, that is, Suisse and Baronville, with all their appendages. We consented to this for the salvation of Our soul and Our ancestors, and We decreed it be done, and also We conceded all the demesne of the tithes of that little abbey, as is done throughout the abbey of Saint-Denis, for the use of the paupers and the poor pensioners who serve Saint Privatus each day and offer offerings daily, at their request, for common advantage; and let no-one ever come as a dominator who might dare to infringe this.

If anyone should begin to violently infringe this alms, first let them incur the wrath of God and His saints, to whose places We decreed this concession be made and – that I might shortly conclude – let them remain bound by the chains of anathema now and forever unless they come to their senses, and let the present edict endure firm and stable. And that it might be more credible to everyone who sees it, in God’s name, We confirmed it with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of lord Zwentibald, most glorious of kings.

Waldger the notary witnessed on behalf of Archbishop and High Chancellor Ratbod.

Given on the 11th kalends of February (22nd January), in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 896, in the 14th indiction, in the first year of the reign of lord Zwentibald.

Enacted at Schweighausen.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

zwent 896
Zwentibald’s diploma, from the Marburg Lichtbildarchiv älterer Originalurkunden linked above.

This diploma represents a sign of peace between Odo and Zwentibald. The petitioners, Reginar and Odoacer, are Zwentibald’s “western specialists”, particularly involved with West Frankish affairs, and their role in petitioning for the diploma probably is a symbol that the relevant parts of Zwentibald’s court are behind the deal. Odo and Zwentibald never seem to have been what you’d call ‘friendly’, but Zwentibald’s active engagement outside his own kingdom was over.

896 was a rather more turbulent year for Charles. His supporters tried hard to make peace with Odo, but their efforts were thwarted by Baldwin the Bald, count of Flanders, who disrupted the assemblies at which Odo was trying to make peace. One by one, Charles’ supporters abandoned him and went over to Odo, probably to get protection from Baldwin. Charles’ supporters had spent the winter of 895/896 ravaging Baldwin’s land, and Baldwin was out for revenge – later (we’re not quite sure when), he had one of them, Heribert I of Vermandois, murdered. Given that, as we are told at several points, Odo had taken all of Charles’ supporters lands and fortresses, going back over, in the absence of a peace treaty, was probably a necessity.

This left Charles in a pickle. As more and more of his men defected, his cause began to look weaker and weaker, and so more and more of his men defected. Eventually, even Archbishop Fulk of Rheims left Charles’ side, and Charles withdrew to Lotharingia. There he issued this diploma:

DD CtS no. 7 (25th July 896, Gondreville) = ARTEM no. 204 = DK 7.xx

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by God’s mercy king.

Certainly, if We lend the ears of Our Piety to the petitions of Our followers of Our Highness and especially those soldiering for God, We do not doubt that whatever We bestow on that which is given over to divine worship (*) will benefit Us in every way, and through this We believe God on High will establish and ennoble the garland of Our realm.

Wherefore, We wish it to be known to all of those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, to wit, present and future, that, for the increase of Our reward and for the remedy of Our soul and Our relatives, and through the appeal of Our venerable and dearest mother Adelaide on behalf of the brothers of the monastery of Salonnes, for veneration and love of the most holy martyrs resting therein, that is, the nourishing Privatus, Frodoald and Iddo, and Dionysius, most blessed of martyrs, Our lord and patron, to whom as well the same place is subject, because the same brothers are seen to be afflicted with the poverty of want, and their prebends are known to have been completely destroyed and taken away, it pleased Us and seemed just to honour the same holy place and the brothers strenuously serving God therein through a precept of Our authority concerning the goods of the abbey, so that they might hold them more freely and firmly, and so that they might more fully delight in exhorting the Lord for the peace and stability of the realm.

These goods, then, are in the district of Chaumontois, to wit, the estate of Loromontzey with a church in honour of Saint Martin on the river Loro, with the small estates nearby, as follows: Vicherey, Morelmaison, Maconcourt and Gironcourt-sur-Vraine; and in the district of Charmois, in the place which is called Montenoy, 1 manse with a vineyard beholden to it, and in Pompey 1 vineyard of 10 pecks, and next to the aforesaid monastery, in the estate named Courcelles [since destroyed], 2 manses with a vineyard of 40 pecks, [{interpolated:} and in Ancy-sur-Moselle, 12 manses with a vineyard of 100 pecks, and in Bey-sur-Seille, 7 manses, 1 church].

We commanded this precept of Our Highness concerning these to be made and given to the same brothers, through which We order and command and in God and because of God witness that no king, no abbot or anyone endowed with any dignity should dare to steal, alienate or by any trick purloin the aforesaid goods from the aforesaid holy place or the brothers assiduously serving God there. Rather, let the same brothers without any contradiction have, hold and possess the same goods with everything pertaining to them, with bondsmen of both sexes dwelling therein or justly and legally pertaining to the same, with lands cultivated and uncultivated, meadows, woods, vineyards, pastures, waters and watercourses, roads out and in, and with all legitimate borders as prebends or for their necessary uses, and let them have free and very firm power in everything, by canonical authority, to do whatever henceforth they might elect to do.

And that this largess of Our authority might endure stable and undisturbed through times to come, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Robert the notary, at the request of King Charles, wrote and subscribed this.

Given in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 896, in the 15th indiction, and in the 4th year of the reign of King Charles, on the 8th kalends of August [25th July].

[Adelaide and Rothildis [daughter of Charles the Bald] appealed for this.]

Enacted at Gondreville. Happily in the name of God, amen.

(*) There’s no way around the fact that the opening lines of this diploma don’t actually make grammatical sense, so I’ve done the best I can.

cts 896
Charles’ diploma, from the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above.

I admit, if I were in Charles’ shoes here, I’d be a bit worried. If all my supporters had abandoned me, and I were stuck at Gondreville, I might get to wondering about the fate of the bastard son of Lothar II, Hugh, who had tried to become king in the 880s and who had been arrested and imprisoned at Gondreville. This diploma is, it’s fair to say, issued at a low ebb. Note that there isn’t even an archchancellor here…

In relation to the last one, this diploma has caused confusion. Is it expressing alliance with Zwentibald or rivalry? Well, first of all, I don’t believe for a second Charles is living off Gondreville without at least Zwentibald’s tacit approval. More relevantly, I don’t actually think it’s primarily related to the Lotharingian king at all. Koziol has looked at this diploma as Charles’ way of connecting himself to Saint Dionysius without actually controlling Saint-Denis, and I’m sure that’s part of it; but Koziol’s analysis assumes as its base that Charles is trying to rival Odo here. Certainly the king and the anti-king are not best buds, but by this point attempts at compromise and peace-making have been ongoing for a year. What I think Charles is actually doing here, therefore, is trying to appeal to Odo. He might have no supporters, but he’s still a king, he’s still got a connection to one of the premier royal saints, and if you can negotiate with Zwentibald, why not with him? This diploma, slightly weirdly-redacted as it is, is a message to Odo saying Charles is still a legitimate king and can’t be ignored.

 

Charter a Week 19: The Attempted Conquests of King Zwentibald

Enough hanging around in the provinces! Let’s get to where the action is really happening: the civil war, baby! We’ve had cause to mention a couple of times that, beginning in 893, there was a rebellion launched against Odo in the name of Charles the Simple. The underlying cause for this appears to be that, for whatever reason, Archbishop Fulk of Rheims did not like Odo – he had, in 888, tried to crown his relative Guy of Spoleto king instead, although that hadn’t taken – but more broadly, given that the rebels were largely confined to the north-east, the immediate catalyst seems to have been Odo’s execution of his cousin Walker, who held the castle of Laon. (There may be parallels as well to the north-east’s distrust for King Carloman II a decade earlier.)

Things did not go terribly well for the rebels. After Easter 893, Fulk and Heribert I of Vermandois, with the young Charles and an army, set out against King Odo. When they met him, the Latin of our main source, the Annales Vedastini, does not make it fully clear what happened, but it is evident that the rebels lost an important political struggle to win over Richard the Justiciar, William the Pious, and Count Adhemar of Poitiers, who were won over to Odo. Odo then won a strategic victory against Fulk that autumn, forcing him to leave the kingdom and spend the winter negotiating for peace (probably, in Fulk’s case, in bad faith).

The following year, Odo took Rheims, forcing Fulk and Charles to flee to Arnulf of Carinthia, who apparently received them warmly but did not give them any support against Odo. Charles now went to Richard the Justiciar, who looks to have been at best lukewarm about having Fulk and Charles there. By the start of 895, then, Charles and Fulk were in a bit of a spot.

All was not lost, though. Whilst this drama had been playing out in the West, Arnulf himself had been trying to make his bastard son Zwentibald king of Lotharingia. In 895, he succeeded. Zwentibald, however, appears to have felt like expanding his kingdom. Thus, although his father Arnulf was a supporter of Odo, Zwentibald provided military support for Charles. And thus, this week’s charter:

DD Zw no. 3 (14th August 895, Trosly)

In the name of the holy and inseparable Trinity. Zwentibald, by the assent of supernal clemency king.

Let all those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us know that Our beloved and faithful archbishop and chancellor Ratbod [of Trier] appealed to Us that We might concede something to a certain congregation of monks which is the congregation of the holy archangel Michael for their prebend. We, not refusing his petition, for the increase of Our reward, conceded to them a manor named Buxières-sous-les-Côtes and Heudicourt-sous-les-Côtes with everything which pertains to that benefice, that is, forty-four manses, and one manse in Refroicourt with a mill, as well as one chapel in Bannoncourt with its appendages, and it is sited in the district of Verdunois, in Ricuin [of Verdun]’s county; and in the district of Scarponnais, in Iremfred’s county, one chapel in the estate of Essey with its appendages.

And all this which We concede to the aforesaid abbey used to previously pertain not in fact to the allowance for the monks, but was specifically rendered to the abbot. But We considered their poverty, which stemmed from the oppression of the gentiles, and with the consent of their abbot Stephen We concede to them the aforesaid goods with everything which is seen to pertain there, that is, bondsmen, fields cultivated and uncultivated, mobile and immobile goods, meadows, vineyards, pastures, woods, waters and watercourses, with paths and impassable land, with roads out and in, with incomes claimed and to be claimed, so that they might more freely and faithfully pour out prayers for Us before the Lord.

For this reason, We commanded this precept be written on this matter, so that the present concession might endure firm and uncorrupted. In addition We, holding the pen in Our hand, signed and confirmed this, whereby this donation might be firmer, and We commanded it be imprinted this Our seal, that it might persevere perpetually undisturbed.

Sign of lord Zwentibald, most glorious of kings.

Sign of lord Louis [the Child], most serene of kings.

I, therefore, Waldger the notary, witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Archchancellor Ratbod.

Given on the 19th kalends of September (14th August), in the year of the Lord 895, in the 13th indiction, in the first year of King Zwentibald.

Enacted in the township of Trosly-Loire, next to the city of Noyon.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

Given on the 16th kalends of September (16th August), in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 908, in the 11th indiction, in the 9th year of the reign of lord Louis.

Enacted at Frankfurt.

800px-zwentiboldbrunnen_muenstereifel
A modern-day statue of King Zwentibald. (source)

Now, qua diploma, this diploma isn’t all that interesting (except the confirmation of it by Zwentibald’s half-brother and successor Louis the Child, which is interesting but we’re not going to deal with it now). Its content will become relevant shortly, but not today. No, what’s interesting about it is where it’s issued: in the West Frankish kingdom. The closest analogy here is Hugh of Arles’ diplomas from Provence – Zwentibald is doing king stuff in a kingdom, but how far he’s trying to claim it as his kingdom is up for debate. (Remember, Charles the Fat became West Frankish king precisely by coming to the kingdom and doing king stuff.)

That said, Zwentibald’s aggression is much more evident than Hugh’s. Zwentibald is not helping Charles out of the goodness of his heart. Charles’ supporters had promised him part of their kingdom, and whilst Charles and Zwentibald are besieging Laon, some of Charles’ men swap sides and go to Zwentibald – including Baldwin the Bald of Flanders. (There’s even a Flemish charter dated by Zwentibald’s reign, which is a very suspicious document but I think the dating clause is right because – well, no-one likes Zwentibald, why make it up?) After that, Charles’ men are worried Zwentibald is planning to kill him. So this alliance doesn’t really work out.

What is interesting about it, though, is that it’s one of the few efforts to conquer a bit of a kingdom that I know of from this period. Most invasions are with the aim of taking the whole lot. Admittedly the old Middle Kingdom has some fuzzy borders, so Zwentibald might feel like he has more wiggle room; and some of his key supporters, including Reginar Long-Neck, are from precisely the north-west area he’s trying to expand into. Still, it’s an unusual thing, and makes me think that the Charles/Odo civil war is a lot stranger and more important than the Annales Vedastini’s terse reportage implies.

Charles the Simple’s First Invasion of Lotharingia

First, for what it’s worth, I’d like to express my support for my UK friends and colleagues striking over the proposed cuts to their pensions. Good luck!

Now, blog. One of the key planks in my argument for ‘Charles the Simple: Best King Ever’ is that he manages to successfully take and rule Lotharingia, something which is actually rather difficult in this period. This, though, passes over the fact that his successful attempt in 911 was actually his second, and it’s his first, in 898, which I’ve been revisiting recently, and which is interesting not least because of what it says about the military potential of late Carolingian kingship.

So, we’re in 898. Charles the Simple has been undisputed king of the West Franks for about four months, having spent most of his adolescence figureheading a largely-undermanned rebellion against the previous king Odo. During this rebellion, Charles turned out to have as many connections to Lotharingia as to the West Frankish kingdom, and was even able to pull on them to the extent of getting King Zwentibald of Lotharingia to come and give him a hand in besieging Laon, although it seems pretty clear that in this case Zwentibald was using Charles as cover to try and militarily extend his own kingdom westwards. In any case, some of the first things Charles does are to try and appeal to Lotharingians.

In particular, Zwentibald was at the time just finishing the first phase of a prolonged feud with a group of counts around Metz known as the Matfredings. Thanks to an intervention in May 897, Zwentibald and the Matfredings had been reconciled, but there were probable still tensions. Charles (and his eminence gris/substitute father figure Archbishop Fulk of Rheims) had actually had prior dealings with one of the Matfreding’s closest allies, Abbot Stephen of Saint-Mihiel, for whom, in February 898, Charles issued a diploma. This diploma did two things: 1) it confirmed property in Zwentibald’s kingdom and 2) confirmed property which Zwentibald had already confirmed himself, at his and Charles’ joint siege of Laon no less. I think one has to read it as Charles advertising himself as king for the Lotharingians and the Matfredings more specifically.

Zwentibald’s response, it appears, was to seek friends in the southern bit of Lotharingia, where the Matfredings were strong. Certainly, he reached out to Archbishop Radbod of Trier, and that’s as good an explanation for why as any I’ve seen. Problem was, Radbod had his own local rivals, and one of them was another Lotharingian aristocrat with ties to Charles from old, Reginar Long-Neck. Radbod was able to persuade Zwentibald to kick Reginar out of his court, and Reginar went all the way to Charles.

The chronology here is slightly unclear, but it seems that Charles was once again trying to push himself as king for the Lotharingians, because at the end of June 898 he was sitting on the river Aisne at Vienne-la-Ville, a boundary between his kingdom and Zwentibald’s, issuing diplomas for recipients on the Spanish March of all places. Why make people from Narbonne come to you so far north and east, rather than at Rheims or Laon? I reckon it’s because Charles is sitting there, displaying his appropriately kingly status, hoping that Reginar (and/or others) is going to come and say hello – which is exactly what Reginar ended up doing.

(Some historians have put Reginar’s appeal for Charles’ help a little earlier, and had the June diplomas as signalling the point when he was moving in with an army, but a) that makes the chronology of the fighting between Zwentibald and Reginar compressed to the point of unworkable and b) it doesn’t really fit with Regino of Prüm’s history of events, which strongly implies all of the fighting took place in Autumn.)

So, Reginar and another Lotharingian count, Odoacer, come and ask Charles for help. Charles and his men duly invade, going first to Aachen and then to Nijmegen. Zwentibald, meanwhile, heads south, but is able to gain Matfreding support and win over some key northern bishops, Franco of Liège and Dodilo of Cambrai. I am as of yet unclear why they go for him and not Charles, but go for him they do. Charles goes down to Prüm, probably although not certainly against the will of Regino of Prüm – for it is he – the then abbot*, and then there’s a stand-off, where neither side commits to battle, Charles goes home, and the matter rests there.

Conspiracy then follows, and Lotharingia actually ends up with Zwentibald’s young half-brother Louis the Child, but this is where the actual invasion stops, and it’s enough to pull out a few threads. First, Charles’ actual support in Lotharingia appears to have been very limited on this occasion, basically Reginar and a few mates. This means that their initiative, although useful in giving him an excuse to intervene, probably wasn’t all that helpful in terms of active support. Second, and further, Charles was clearly angling very strongly for someone to give him an excuse. Third, he was apparently by himself able to put together a credible enough army to mount a serious potential challenge to Zwentibald.

Fourth and finally, despite this his lack of Lotharingian support was key, because without overwhelming backing from the Lotharingian magnates, his army and Zwentibald’s appear to have been sufficiently well-matched that neither wanted to risk pitched battle. Pitched battle in this period, quite apart from the risk of losing, was morally-fraught, so one can sympathise with him here – but it did mean that the war was probably going to be negotiated out soon rather than later as soon as it became clear that no-one wanted to roll the dice. In these senses, in fact, the 898 invasion of Lotharingia by Charles the Simple is pretty typical, almost archetypical of inter-regnal warfare in the late Carolingian period.

*Simon MacLean thinks that Regino gave Charles help; this is possible but perhaps unlikely, insofar as one of Zwentibald’s first gifts in late autumn 898 is to Prüm…