Tag Archives: kings

Leeds International Medieval Congress 2016, reflected upon from a distance

Somehow Action Short of a Strike still looks a lot like a really hard week—the contract I’m working to doesn’t have fixed hours—so I find myself blogging very late on a Sunday. Both because of that and because of the topic, I don’t want to write a long post (though when I say that it never works, not least because of parentheses like these…): what can there be to say about a conference three years ago? On the other hand, in so far as this blog is my academic record, I don’t want to miss it out: I was there, I did things I hope will matter, and I was for the first time able to host friends for it at the house then ours in Leeds, so it was a sociable occasion worth remembering. Indeed, I made quite a few new friends at Leeds 2016, looking back, so some sort of record is needed. I’ll restrict it, however, to a list of the papers I went to and limited commentary where I have some memory or good notes, and I’ll put it behind a cut so as not to bore those who think this a touch too obsessional. If I don’t feature your paper, please blame my memory, not your content; it was a long and tiring conference, as it always is. But I will take the last day in a separate post, because it was sort of a conference within a conference for me, for reasons that will become obvious in that other post. So this is 4th to 6th July 2016 in my world, as it unfolded… Continue reading

Unconsidered trials

Well, the problem appears to be partly fixed in as much as I can write under IE, though not Firefox. I may well need to update. Anyway, this means firstly that I really need to get one of my newer machines going, but secondly that I can at least write this post. This is just a little Catalan vignette while I deal with other things about which I want to post, which involve downloading pictures, reading PDFs or building webpages, whereas all this involves is some reading I did the other day.

I went to the library the other day because I had just gone through a chapter where I’d said that I’d looked for Count Miró of Cerdanya (Abbess Emma‘s brother, against whom she holds the Vall de Sant Joan hearing, since you ask) in all the available editions, and of course there was one where I hadn’t. So I went checking, and did in fact come up with two occurrences I hadn’t observed, though not really significant ones. The thing that linked them was that they were both hearings carried out at the wish of the Bishop of Girona, and the second one hasn’t been published before. Now of course the fun thing about dispute hearings in this era and area is how they frequently contain reported speech, so that you get slightly formal-sounding arguments laid out in front of you.2 This one, however, though it does do this, cries out for deformalising immediately. If one had been allowed to script it for comic effect, it would clearly have gone like this…

The saió The court of Girona, 5th March in the year of our Lord 950, judge Adericus presiding! Gentlemen, be seated!
Adericus Now then, now then, what’s the cause, hey?
Bishop Godmar II The advocates of Holy Mary of the See of Girona will show that the defendant Gauzfred wrongfully abstracted lands in Villalonga from the selfsame Church of the Mother of God, your honour.
Adericus Right then! Anything to say in defence, Gauzfred?
Gauzfred Yes yer ‘onner, I’ve got a charter for it. [Brandishes charter.]
Adericus Oho! And who issued this charter then?
Gauzfred The Lord Count Miró the Young, yer ‘onner, and ‘is son the lord Count Sunifred, when ‘e succeeded, yer ‘onner, ‘e called it in and checked it in case of fraud, and ‘e signed it as well, yer ‘onner.
Adericus Well your Grace, over to you then, anything to beat that?
Godmar Well, that is quite impressive, certainly. A charter not just from the current count of Cerdanya, but his father too? The only way to beat that’d be if you had a royal charter, wouldn’t it?
Gauzfred, sotto voce I don’t like the sound of this…
Godmar, continuing I don’t suppose you have a royal charter as well, do you? Because that would really be the clincher.
Gauzfred: Er, no, just this one signed by, you know, two generations of the rulers of our land…
Godmar: Oh dear. Pity. Because… [produces sheaf of parchments] we actually have got royal documents covering these lands. Observe, they’re in this one of King Carloman, this one of King Odo, this one of King Charles who was father of King Louis whom we’ve got now, and, oh, actually, here’s one from Louis himself that we got just a few years ago. So that’s all the way back to the year of Our Lord’s Incarnation 881, before Miró was even born, and four different divinely-anointed rulers. Will that do, do you think, Adericus?
Adericus: Aye! Case found for the Mother of God, sorry Gauzfred but Count Miró stitched you up. Sixty days to turn over the lands or we’ll have yer guts for garters. Next!

Okay, enough hilarity (or not), but that’s roughly the sequence of events. The interesting things here are many-fold. Firstly, I find it fascinating that Sunifred called in his father’s charters, or at least this one, “to be shown to him so that he could ensure no fraud had taken place”. Is this just someone trying to mirror what Louis the Pious is supposed to have done with Charlemagne’s charters?3 Or was Sunifred really bothered that his father had probably, in between fathering extra kids on the wife of one of his castellans (which he did do), given away lands to which he plainly had no right? And if so, why didn’t this one get picked up?

Signature of Charles the Simple from a diploma to the Catalan nunnery of Sant Joan de Ripoll, 898

Secondly, Girona do love their royal charters: in the other hearing I mention above, they produced precepts of Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald to back their claim. And they have a long sequence, too, we have surviving texts to Girona from Louis the Pious (834, referencing a lost one of Charlemagne), Charles the Bald (844), Louis the Stammerer (878), Carloman II (881), Charles the Fat (886), Odo (891) and Charles the Simple (three of these, 899, 900 & 922).4 Every time the king changes, Girona get an update, and I’ve elsewhere argued that the updates change in a way that indicates real concessions by the counts on the king’s orders. But they’re talking here about having one of Louis the Foreigner. They don’t actually say “that King Louis who’s on the throne now”, but Charles who was father of Louis must be either Charlemagne, Charles the Bald or Charles the Simple, but if it’s the former two then the list is out of natural order, and it starts with Carloman for the very good reason that the charters before him don’t cover Villalonga so it really has to be Louis the Foreigner. Only we have no trace of that document, or any clue that it ever existed. Except this, previously neglected because of only existing in a seventeenth-century copy. But it seems possible enough, just unusual.

Finally, of course it tells you something fairly important that a person with a charter endorsed by one respected count and one still ruling can still lose to royal documents issued by a family that haven’t been near the relevant territories in person for more than a century. This would never work in Toulouse. But here, the counts still obey the king here and there, and in fact in four years’ time Sunifred’s brother Guifré will become the last Catalan count ever to go north to meet the king in person. Why does he go? Because he and his brothers want royal approval to the take-over of the lands of a viscount called Unifred who rebelled against them. But we first see this viscount in 913 (he witnesses Miró’s will along with Emma in 925) and last see him, probably, in 946.5 So he’s almost certainly died in rebellion before they can attempt this, and then they need royal approval. Why? What on earth can the king add to their own clout? I don’t yet have the answer to this, but I will suggest a few things before long, see if I don’t.


1. Santiago Sobrequés i Vidal, S. Riera i Viader, Manuel Rovira i Solà (edd.) , Catalunya Carolíngia V: els comtats de Girona, Besalú, Empúries i Peralada, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica LXI (Barcelona 2005), ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata, 2 vols, where the two hearing are docs 171 & 288 respectively, 288 being the one I explore in detail here.

2. My favourite one of these is one I discussed elsewhere where, with the count in question safely dead, a guy records how when that count demanded some of his lands in compensation for a lost castle in Andorra, he responded, “I am not giving away the alod of my parents before my death at the earliest!” Yeah, Sendred, I bet you gave him a real earful of defiance there in those chains…

3. Recorded in Thegan’s Gesta Hludowici imperatoris, ed. E. Tremp in idem (ed.), Thegan, Die Taten Kaiser Ludwigs (Gesta Hludowici imperatoris). Astronomus, Das Leben Kaiser Ludwigs (Vita Hludowici imperatoris), Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Scriptores rerum germanicum in usum scholarum separatim editi) LXIV (Hannover 1995), online here, last modified 8 November 2004 as of 30 May 2008, pp. 167-277 with commentary pp. 1-52, cap. X. Note however that at least one Catalan charter-holder, Teudefred the Hispanus got his father Jean’s original from Charlemagne back when he went to have it renewed as well as the new one from Louis that Thegan suggests should have been replaced: the charter is Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia II: els diplomes carolingis per a Catalunya, Memòries… II & III (Barcelona 1926-52), 2 vols, Particulars I & III, and on Jean and his family you can most conveniently see Susan Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals: the medieval evidence reinterpreted (Oxford 1994), pp. 106-110.

4. Abadal, Catalunya Carolíngia II, Girona I-IX & Particulars XXX.

5. Manuel Rovira i Solà, “Noves dades sobre els vescomtes d’Osona-Cardona” in Ausa Vol. 9 no. 98 (Vic 1981), pp. 249-260, online here, at pp. 255-256.