A document of partition: how to cope with the Treaty of Verdun (843)

If I leave aside the porn searches and count only strings that look academic, the two things that bring people to this blog from search engines more than anything else are, firstly, my piece on the First Crusade, which is good as that’s what it’s there for, and secondly, the piece I wrote about Charles the Simple, because it includes a reference to and a map of the Treaty of Verdun. It’s searches for “treaty of Verdun” that bring people to that, and they can’t really be getting what they want out of it. I’m not going to try and fill that gap here, because there are already better sites out there explaining what the Treaty was, but I will do two things. Firstly, I will make an important point about the Treaty’s effect, and then I will do what I do best, or at least most, and tell you a story from a charter that helps to illustrate the sort of thing that was going on.

Map of the Treaty of Verdun

Map of the Treaty of Verdun scrounged from the defunct MSN Encarta

First things first. The map above is very nice, but it doesn’t give you the whole story. You, if you were searching for it, have probably been told that the Treaty laid the foundations for the division of France and Germany. This is half-true. It’s true, in as much as West and East Francia are meaningful divisions hereafter and do, eventually, come to be something like what we now know as France and Germany, including the confused bits in the middle that have place-names in multiple languages. It’s not true, in as much as no-one could yet have told you where those areas ended. A big chunk of what would later be called Germany, what the Ottonians called Franconia, was still Francia to the people of the tenth century, and though Germans went on Crusade alongside Italians and people from what was by then France, outsiders were clear that really they were all just Franks. Germany, after all, isn’t a single country with an overall government, until Bismarck. The kingdom of the Germans is a subtly different thing that includes, for example, big chunks of Italy… So, as well as that map you need this one:

Map of Frankish Europe circa 880

Map of Frankish Europe circa 880

And if you click through that map, you’ll find a page with nine different post-Verdun divisions mapped on it any of which might equally be said to `create’ France and Germany (except the 884 one). That project of state-formation has a way to go yet in 843. Neither France nor Germany comes out of it, the line where the areas separate is argued over for the next century or more, and the two are even briefly unified again under Charles the Fat (hence the 884 map), though that raises further questions about how far the regions have their own identities by then, what those regions are, and whether they constitute nations yet. That set of uncertainties is where you need to locate your answer I’m afraid, not at the end of the Brüderkrieg.

That said, we can get a bit closer to the realities of those politics than the lengthy reports in the Annals of St-Bertin and Fulda, useful though they be. One of the things that does result from Verdun, just as it does from most subsequent and indeed preceding royal divisions, is that people find themselves in awkward positions. If you have opted to back, for example, Charles the Bald in the hope that he will take over Alemannia, because your family have had lands at Zürich for ages, and then it goes to Louis the German in 843, you have hard choices to make. Join Louis, and give up whatever Charles may have given you (not much, most likely, chimes in Nithard bitterly from the sidelines) to keep the family lands safe? Try and maintain good relations with both kings without being called a traitor or generally kept out of patronage because you’re not a safe bet as a supporter? What happens, after all, if one of the kings threatens you with expropriation unless you support an invasion of the other’s territory? No-one will be exactly sure whose side you’re on. Or, finally, sell up in Alemannia and go to Charles a supplicant saying, “I’ve given up all I had to support your majesty, plz halp“?

Text sample from a book in the Hochstift Freising

Text sample from a book in the Hochstift Freising

All hypothetical you may think, but I learn from my current reading that actually we have good evidence of someone in just this position, apparently actually at Verdun in 843. Coincidentally, his charter is one of the best pieces of evidence we have for the people present with the kings. But he’d taken the third option, and was selling what he owned in Bavaria, always Louis the German’s heartland, to go west. Here is the document in translation. It’s a bit confusing, partly because when Cosroh, the scribe who wrote up most of the oldest Traditionsbuch of Freising Cathedral, which is where this is preserved, copied this one up, he seems to have tried to blur bits, and bits have gone missing. This seems to be because the bishop, having bought the lands, immediately passed them into the care of his nephews rather than putting them to the service of Mother Church whose money he’d presumably bought them with. All the same, Paldric here is just the example we need…

Notice, that Erchanbert the venerable bishop and also a certain noble man, Paldric by name, constituted an agreement to exchange between themselves.

In the name of the lord God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Let it be known to all those dwelling in the Christian religion, that Erchanbert bishop of the Church of Freising by rewarding divine grace collected together with the venerable man Paldric such things, as following reason is set out in order; this is that the same bishop and the same man named met together in the place called Dungeih which is next to the city of Verdun where was held the meeting of the three brothers Lothar, Louis and Charles and they agreed the division of their kingdom, for that the aforesaid Baldric might hand over a property that he had in the limits of Bavaria for money worth 250 pounds to the house of Holy Mary and so that Erchanbert the already-said bishop… to his nephews namely Reginpert… may have the same property till their departure from their own lives and let come from them every year to the already-said house of God 2 solidi of silver, that is from whichever of them between themselves while they live. After these things the aforesaid Baldric approached and handed into the treasure-chests of Holy Mary and into the hand of Bishop Erchanbert and his nephew Reginbert and their advocate Eparharius such property as he may have in the army-province of Bavaria in the places named Tandern, Hilgertshausen, Klenau and Singenbach with all pertaining to these things, that is a courtyard with a house, slaves, plots, meadows, pastures, woods, waters and streams, movable and immovable property, all complete in all integrity and pertaining to the aforesaid place by acquisition.

These are the witnesses brought by their ears according to the law of the Bavarians: Fritilo Count of the Palace, Count Cundpald, another Count Cundpald, Count Ratold, Count Herland, Count Orendil, Adalperht, Managolt, Reginperht, Adalhoh, Irinc, Hunolf, Cundalperht, Cundperht, Keio, Piligrim, Heriperht, Meginoit, Canto, Kepahart, Liuthart, Folmot, Petto, Regino, Reginperht, Eparherius, Otperht, Altolf, Adalo, Eginolf, Althrih, Unillihelm, Kepahoh, another Kepahoh, Tozzi, Hringolf, Sigiwart, Cozzolt, Waltfrid, Alprhih, Mahtperht, Rihperht, Willihart, Rocholf, Kernod, Tozzilo, Kartheri, Job, Friduperht, Reginhart, Immo, Tagaperht, Hiltikern, Ludwig, Erchanperht, Irmfrid, Regindeo, Chuniperht, Manno, Enginpald, Cotaperht, Jacob, Alpkis, Eccho, Helmuni, Antres, Oadalsalh, Reginheri, Perhtram, Urolf, Eigil, Ermpehrt, Offo, Rihheri, Heriperht, Engilrih, Meginperht.

And these are the demesne vassals of Freising: Ermfrid, Waldker, Lantfrid, Germo, Perhtolt, Adalhart, another Adalhart. And these the vassals of Paldric: Sigipôt, Kerans, Otachar, Camanolf, Folchaus, Deotolf, Hiltihram, Kerrih, Drudpald, Leipwin, Engilperht, Dincfrid, Magnus, Reginperht, Frumolt. These also are the sureties: Sigipot, Cundpald by whom bishop Erchanpert and his advocate Eparharius as one with his nephew Reginperht… accepted the investiture of the aforesaid things on the 11th Kalends of September among a multitude of witnesses whose names were: Adalperht, Cotaperht, Etih, Cundperht, Piligrim, Hitto, Eparheri, Jusiph, Folmot, Willihelm, Waldker, Oadalrich, Isankrim, Isanhart, Froimar, Nordperht, Wisunt, Reginpot, Perhtrih, Pisin, Jacob, Altolf, Lantperht, Talamôt, Erchanolf, Rihheri, Hucperht, Frecholf, Paldrih, Ekkiheri, Cozperht, Hrodperht, Rihheri, Lantperht, another Hitto, Hiltolf, Hrodlant, Eparhelm, Reginolt, Reginpot.

Done the year of the Lord 843, in the 6th Indiction.

Done the tenth day of the 8th month, that is the 4th Ides of August.

Leaving aside the diplomatic nuggets like the three different dates, transaction, invesititure and redaction, this is a pretty interesting set of data. Half the world is at Verdun this 843 autumn; even if we don’t know who they all are, it’s an indication of the sort of scale of hubbub such a meeting of kings would produce. On the other hand, the kings aren’t taking any part in this. That doesn’t, I think, imply that they weren’t very close by, but it does imply that this sort of business is serious enough not only to bring more supporters than your buyer does, but also that many others were there too. Each side seems to name a surety, which implies that Freising doesn’t have the money straight away (not surprising, but interesting). And Paldric is clearly not short, but if as it looks he’s selling up all he owns in Bavaria, where these gatherings are being held, what happens to his ‘vassals’ he leaves behind, presumably master-less? That could matter, yet they’re here participating. Does he retain ties that will keep them afloat? Or do they now become Freising’s vassals? If so, do they serve the bishop, or his nephew custodians? And why is it, I ask suspiciously, that only one of Erchanbert’s nephews seems to fall through the copying gaps? If I knew Freising’s material better—it’s often really interesting diplomatically but I can’t be me and Warren Brown at once—I might have an idea who this nepotic embarrassment was but as it is, I can only guess that there is some scandal here marked by the documentary silence…

As usual many questions to which we don’t have answers, but it’s still fun to wonder. And, meanwhile, if you want to know how big a deal the Treaty of Verdun was, there are 79 people who seem to have turned up for it, and that’s not even counting each side’s named dependants or the people who were presumably still hanging round the kings making sure they didn’t fight and angling for positions in the new territories…


On Verdun itself and its aftermath the best place to start may well be both of Jean Dunbabin’s France in the Making, 843-1180 (Oxford 2000) and Timothy Reuter, Germany in the Early Middle Ages, c. 800-1056 (Harlow 1991). The charter is edited in Theodor Bitterauf (ed.), Die Traditionen des Hochstifts Freising (Aalen 1905-1909, repr. 1967), 2 vols., I doc. no. 661, and I read about it in Wilfried Hartmann’s Ludwig der Deutsche (Darmstadt 2002), p. 39. I will shortly be recommending this book in more detail, but for these purposes you’ll possibly also be pleased by the fact that there’s a good map of the Treaty in the endpapers…

About these ads

14 responses to “A document of partition: how to cope with the Treaty of Verdun (843)

  1. Both the edition by Bitterauf and the Cozroh-Codex itself have been digitized (Latin text of the charter and Cozroh’s copy). There is also some further information about Cozroh’s Codex.

  2. By the way, the first map above seems to be from here.

  3. Here’s a question — How do you know that Baldric (OMG, this needs a Cunning Plan joke!) is selling the property because of the division? I’ve had a long day, and might be particularly stupid at this point, but I’m not seeing any reason given for making the sale. OTOH, I can see that an assembly this big is always a good place to record a land transaction.

    Also, what’s the Latin for demesne vassal? Seriously, I’m asking because I have a nasty feeling that I’ll be running into it as I deal with the post-Carolingian records I’m playing around with. So far, I’ve only got one reference to a fidelis, and one vassus, I think. And that’s up to 911.

  4. ADM, now that I’ve approved Clemens’s earlier comment you can find your way to the Latin yourself, but it’s my rendering of “vassalli dominici“. But it’s odd that you don’t find them sooner in your stuff!

    Clemens, thankyou very much for those links: I hadn’t realised how far the BSB’s initiative had got beyond the MGH! (Dude they totally have two early Heliand manuscripts digitised there! and the Old Aleman Psalter with the OHG glosses! etc.) I could have had this post drafted much more easily had I known this :-) Also, you’re right about the map, and consequently I have changed the version above and in that post to a link to that site rather than borrow it direct, though I’m sure they have better things to chase down.

    As to your initial question, ADM, I think it’s entirely circumstantial, and so you may be right and there could be other reasons. But the fact that he does seem to be getting rid of everything he has in Bavaria at the same time as the divisio regni is being finally (ha!) settled is pretty suggestive, I think.

  5. Also, it’s fascinating that he refers to what Karl-Ferdinand Werner tells us was a regnum fair and square as an exercitus, isn’t it? This is why I think Hartmann is probably right, and there will be more on this, to see a nascent super-kingdom that would be Germany in formation already. It’s already problematic to call Bavaria a regnum because the king of it now rules other kingdoms too…

  6. Is this guy Baldric, Paldric, or both?

    In the late 70s, all over the area the Ottonians called Franconia, there were beer ads referring to “Frankland.”

  7. It’s a one-all draw for the spelling of the name: the facsimile at which Clemens points us has the two spellings very clear, paldhrico on its eighth line and bald ricus (with an apparent erasure in the middle, perhaps an `e’ the scribe decided he hadn’t actually heard), on the sixteenth.

    Given that this is a copy, it’s hard to say whether the two readings were once the same and Cosroh `fixed’ only one, or if they were just variant in the original, but my Catalan documents would give me to suspect the latter. Weird though it seems, scribes of this era don’t seem to look back at what they’d written as much as we might expect. And of course, even the scribe of the document Cosroh was copying was probably working from notes on a tablet in the first place, so there’s one more layer of mistakes in hearing or writing to take into account. Cosroh’s hand is very clear indeed, but the original(s) may not have been quite so gorgeously Caroline…

    As to Franconia, yes, the sources Hartmann’s using all call that area Francia Orientalis or similar, which doesn’t help because historians tend to use `East Francia’ or `the kingdom of the Eastern Franks’ to cover the whole area that Louis the German ruled, including Saxony, Bavaria, Thuringia etc. More on this in a subsequent post, in fact. Meanwhile, I’ll just say that Thomas Bisson at least confuses matters further by using `Frankland’ as an English translation of Francia

  8. Ok, Frankland is just stupid. It sounds all wrong. In terms of the spelling, I find it to be totally normal to have two or three variants in one charter. Steve Fanning has some good stuff on regna and subregna that might fit in here, btw. I’m not particularly sure that it should be seen as problematic that there are different ways of referring to Bavaria. And I’m trying to think — did we hear a paper last weekend on the dating of charters with all kinds of odd usages? I’m not so sure we shouldn’t also look at the ways people refer to Bavaria with the same sort of lens, i.e., that they may have different concepts of what Bavaria actually is, depending on when and where they are. A possible (and by this I mean, it just now popped into my head) comparison might be Aquitaine — at what point do we see it called a ducatus (if at all) or comitatus rather than a regnum (or even a sub-regnum?)

    In terms of the other stuff (and oh, thanks mucho — do you know how long it has been since I had to try to read actual!charters and not the nice edited ones?) — I don’t know that I’ve ever translated vassi dominici before. I’m one of those, ‘eh, just leave it in Latin, because it just makes more sense that way,’ people :-)

  9. I’ve always had problems with vassi dominici too. People try to render it as `royal vassal’ and, as with royal charters (again, to be discussed in next post) it just doesn’t work in areas the king doesn’t really reach, and it’s not what it means anyway. `Demesne vassals’ sounds weird but it’s more accurate. Romance languages would have the adjective `dominical’ out in its various forms with no bother of course, but that sounds even weirder to my ears.

    As to that paper with the weird charter usages, well, you know, that guy’s a little weird himself… but even then, it’s not places or identity that varies, it’s expressed allegiance. When geographical terms do turn up, they are clear about Francia (which is over there) and Spania (which is over in the other direction) but they get very confused when they have to define their own area, and so does everyone else. Gothia, Hispania citerior, Septimania, Tarraconense, all turn up, all are very rare, and all are kind of wrong. “Apud nos” is a lot more usual and accurate, but doesn’t tell you much. But it’s only really the union with Aragón in 1138 that forces them to see themselves as a unit in themselves which can be ranked equal with the new realm, I think.

    Aquitaine, I know less well but my sense is that it’s just a mess, especially at the edges where it’s political whether you’re in Aquitaine, or Provence or Gascony or whatever your alternative might be that doesn’t involve some kind of acknowlegement of Toulouse. So many of the sources are from outside…

  10. Also: “do you know how long it has been since I had to try to read actual!charters and not the nice edited ones?”

    That’s not a real charter, it’s a cartulary copy! You don’t have real charters over your side of the Empire… But given that the cartulary is itself well Carolingian in period, it’s kind of OK…

  11. I should have said, “Do you know how long it’s been since I took my one, single, only paleography class? (and that would be 20 years)

    I’ve been spoiled by the German editors, I admit.

  12. Well, there are harder ways to return to the texts than that one I think, though some of the abbreviation is a little unexpected. I mean, if you can read anything with only one palæography class it’s Caroline Minuscule, no? Or did you get uncial and half-uncial instead? Oh well, never mind, there’s Michelle Brown’s book and learning the hard way…

  13. Most of what we got was a bit later, although we did have one miniscule document. The guy who taught it did 12th and 13th C Imperial history, IIRC.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s