I think I can furnish you with two short posts this week, which may make up a little for the slow posting of late, the causes of which I hope at some point also to be able to tell you about (except those parts which could be summarised as ‘new software inflicted on a user-base without notice or testing’, which I shan’t bore you with). That all said, I’m not necessarily happy about having this post to write, because it’s about a mistake; but everybody makes mistakes, except that one colleague everyone has who seems not to, and I’m not him. And of course, this is one advantage of a blog; when you find that you’ve got something wrong in your work, you don’t have to wrangle with the publishers to somehow print or post a correction; you can just write one yourself.1 So here I go.
It’s not that big a thing, anyway. In my 2012 article that I’m forever citing but no-one can get hold of, ‘Caliph, King and Grandfather’ in The Mediæval Journal, among many things that I believe to be right I discuss the franchise which Count-Marquis Borrell II of Barcelona gave to the town and inhabitants of frontier Cardona, which he was trying to refound for the third time, in 986, in the immediate aftermath of the sack of Barcelona and thus presumably in the context of establishing better defences.2 And there I say, on. p. 10, firstly that the franchise dates from 987 and secondly that it says it was done ‘through the voice of the king’, per vocem regis, which I use to argue for the effectiveness of royal orders on the March even at this very late date, or perhaps again at this late date. It’s important because Borrell was at this point back in touch with the kings for the first time in roughly thirty-five years, having otherwise tried pretty hard to escape their claims over his office and set up more or less on his own as, if not boss, at least biggest boss, of what’s now Old Catalonia, and that failure to escape is what the article is mostly about.
Well, I may be right about the basic point, but I’m wrong about both those details. Firstly, the document dates from 986. I don’t know where I got the idea of a 987 date from except that I was obviously under the impression that Borrell had royal orders; possibly I thought it just needed long enough after the sack for him to have sent an embassy, got one back and then formed a plan of action based on it. But the document actually uses an Incarnation date, which most don’t, and dates in two other systems too, so 23 April 986 is pretty inarguably when it claims.3 And it also doesn’t use the phrase per vocem regis; I was misremembering that from the Vall de Sant Joan hearing of seventy-three years before, where it does occur.4 And this only became clear to me in April 2019 when I got a mail from Professor Adam Kosto gently asking where in the Cardona franchise this phrase was used, because he couldn’t find it… So I sent him a red-faced reply and now, finally, I also admit my error here.
Now, this matters if, as Adam was, you were looking for that particular phrase, but when I say it isn’t that big an error, I mean it because what the franchise actually says in its introduction about the king is:
“… and by order, obedient to the great authority of our King Louis, son of King Lothar, in the first year of his reign…”4
which is, firstly, still another means of dating, and secondly pretty inarguably a reference to royal orders. So I think my point holds up. But Adam was still right to question my quote; I did get my charters mixed up. To be fair, they’re both huge, it’s a lot of words. But yeah, my bad. Hopefully no-one else has needed to rest an argument on this assertion…
1. That said, I do intend to mention this post to the journal editors, in case they feel like they need to do something with it. Really, a correction needs to be visible at point of access to the original. It should be an interesting experiment!
2. Jonathan Jarrett, “Caliph, King, or Grandfather: Strategies of Legitimization on the Spanish March in the Reign of Lothar III” in The Mediaeval Journal Vol. 1 no. 2 (Turnhout 2011), pp. 1–22.
3. The Cardona franchise is most recently printed in Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya carolíngia Volum 8: Els comtats d’Urgell, Cerdanya i Berga, Memòries de la Secció Històrico-Arqueològica 111 (Barcelona 2020), 2 vols, doc. no. 738, where it is dated as follows: “Regnante in perpetuum Domino nostro Ihesu Christo, sexta etate mundi, in sexto miliario seculi, era millesima vigesima quarta, anno trabea Incarnationis Domini nostri Ihesu Christi DCCCCLXXXVI, Resurrectionis dominice nobis celebranda est II nonas aprilis…” That should have been enough, really!
4. I almost feel bad for citing this document here yet again, but, it is best printed as Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya carolíngia volum IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció Històrico-Arqueològica 53 (Barcelona 1999), 3 vols, doc. no. 119.
4. Ordeig, Catalunya carolíngia 8, doc. no. 738: …”et sub iusione magno imperio nostro Ludovico rege obediente, filio Lutarii regi, anno I eo regnante…“.
I cited that “Caliph, King or Grandfather” article in my masters thesis. It also provided (a long with Charles West’s “Reframing the feudal revolution”) a significant amount by way of indirect inspiration for the argument of the second chapter.
Frankly, I am curious as to why Lothar gets called Lothar III in the modern scholarship. Is it to say that the Merovingians count as kings of France and should be included in the numbering? Or is it to say that Lotharingia is essentially French (similar reasoning to why the twelfth century German king-emperor Lothar also gets called that). But then again, why isn’t Edward I called Edward III or IV (Anglo-Saxons count after all!)?
I’m very glad to know that someone has read it into whose digital hands I haven’t myself pressed it; it doesn’t seem to be in the bundles which most places have from Brepols. But thankyou. As to Lothar, though, lengthy wrangles with Fraser McNair while he was at Leeds have eventually forced me to admit that whatever number he was, it shouldn’t be III; either I or more likely II, because Lothar I was after all emperor of the whole shebang for a short while in 834. But Lothar of West Francia shouldn’t be successor to Lothar I’s son Lothar, really, unless as you say it’s really all about Lotharingia. And many things are, but probably not French regnal numbering…
As for the German Lothar III (r.1125 – 1137), it seems like he gets called that not by German regnal numbering (there hadn’t been any East Frankish kings called Lothar), or even by imperial numbering (only one emperor Lothar), but by Lotharingian and Italian regnal numbering. In which case it would make better sense to call him Lothar I of Germany and III of Italy, much like James VI of Scotland and I of England, or just Lothar I if we’re treating the empire as a single unit. Seriously, these inherited conventions (presumably with their origins in nineteenth century scholarship) for writing medieval political history can get super weird sometimes.
Once upon a time Colleague A explained to me why Colleague B managed to publish so much. (i) He doesn’t read the literature properly so he can just fire ahead and publish something that someone else has already done. (ii) He doesn’t think critically about his own results so he can just churn out papers.
Personally I had always had a soft spot for Colleague B: he was a stranger to rigour but he was a lively lad. Some time later I was present at an academic dinner where his few words to the meeting included the rudest thing I’ve ever heard one academic say in public about another (not Colleague A). As I say, lively.
I often feel these days that I must be guilty of (i) myself, because there is always so much stuff, often in German or Italian, that I know exists but have had to decide isn’t important enough to follow up, and probably more in Chinese and Turkish that I don’t know exists, which might nonetheless anticipate my idea. So I try and make up for it with extra (ii). Sadly, on this occasion at least, there were apparently costs in precision elsewhere…