The momentous historiographical debates surrounding the idea of a ‘feudal revolution’ stand at the centre of this chapter. It considers, first, the nature of social and political change in Francia in the decades around the year 1000, and the putative shift in a post-Carolingian world towards a privatization of public power: or whether, in fact, these changes are just tricks of the evidentiary light, the product of shifts in documentary culture. It turns next to the emergence of the new social stratum of knights, and changes to family and kin structure as the basis for personal identification, together with an apparent rise of unfreedom as individuals sought the protection of the Church against the warlords. Finally, it considers the rising donations to Frankish monasteries in this period, and their concomitant growth in status. It assesses the ‘Peace of God’ movement as an ecclesiastical response to violence, driven by those newly empowered monasteries.
This chapter considers the history of those polities that were formed across western Europe in the wake of the Roman Empire: many relatively short-lived, but others of much greater longevity, some of which are seen as the ancestors of modern European nation-states. It considers first their nature as ‘states’, questioning the utility of that term to describe what were often very large territories indeed, extensively governed but in a very shallow manner, with only limited purchase on the lives of the governed. It turns then to the question of identity, initially picking up the theme of ethnic labels raised in the first chapter, before turning to law and social status as arguably much more important markers of identity. Finally, it considers the religious life of the period: the great proliferation of holy men (and some women), the Christian saints, accounts of whose lives give us so much of our evidence for this period, and the widespread foundation of monasteries, in which those accounts were written and copied.
Dagobert II was a Merovingian king who ruled for about four years in Austrasia, the Frankish kingdom which included northeastern France, Belgium and the Rhineland. His reign probably began in late 675 or early 676. This chapter first reviews what we know of Dagobert and next examines the Vita Dagoberti. It then looks at how Dagobert II was rediscovered via the Life of Wilfrid in the seventeenth century, and was subsequently re-inscribed in the history of the period. This leads readers to an evaluation of the Life of Wilfred as a source, reflections on the significance of Wilfrid himself, and further thoughts on the relationship between memory and tradition. The Life of Wilfrid is therefore a text that is to readers vital for historical research, but not one of which more than a handful of early medieval people were aware.
This book provides a collection of documents in translation which brings together the seminal sources for the late Merovingian Frankish kingdom. The collection of documents in translation includes Liber Historiae Francorum, Vita Domnae Balthidis, Vita Audoini Episcopi Rotomagensis, Acta Aunemundi, Passio Leudegarii, Passio Praejecti, and Vita Sanctae Geretrudis and the Additamentum Nivialense de Fuilano. The Liber Historiae Francorum was written while a Merovingian king still ruled over the Franks and by someone geographically very close to the political centre of that realm. Late Merovingian hagiography tends to emphasise miracles which heal and eliminate the maladies of the life, and the Vita Audoini follows the pattern. The Vita Sanctae Geretrudis makes no mention at all of Columbanus and his mission among the Franks, a strange omission if the Irish were all one group. The Passio Praejecti provides information on the relationship between the politics of the locality and the politics of the centre, for a land dispute between Praejectus and Hector, the ruler of Marseilles, was heard at the royal court at Autun at Easter 675. The Passio Leudegarii has an overt peace-making element, although the issue of who was on which side is much clouded by the complexity of the political narrative.
This volume of essays in honour of Dame Jinty Nelson celebrates the way in which Jinty has used her profound understanding of Frankish history as a frame for reflecting upon the nature of early medieval culture and society in general. It includes a tabula gratulatoria of those very many others who wish to express their appreciation of Jinty's work and their warm personal gratitude to her. She has remained at King's throughout her entire career. Her early career was combined with young motherhood, a tough experience that has made her strongly supportive of colleagues trying to balance work and family. Although she continued to write about early medieval inauguration rituals, a new departure came with the 1977 paper 'On the limits of the Carolingian Renaissance'. The book discusses what factors determined and informed their particular take on the Frankish world, and how this compares to law-codes and charters. It considers the possibility that land was sometimes taken in early medieval Europe, whether by kings or local lords, for what they claimed was the common good. Whenever only meagre information was available, it was impossible to make sense of the past, that is, to take a prosaic approach to a sense of oblivion. The book explores both the roots of the historical interpretation and the stimuli for change, by considering the long historiographical tradition, attitudes to textual sources, and the changing political environment. The subjects of queens and queenship have figured prominently among Nelson's publications.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The eight texts translated in the book represent a selection from what is in fact a far wider range of written sources for Merovingian history. The eight texts includes Liber Historiae Francorum (LHF), Vita Domnae Balthidis, Vita Audoini Episcopi Rotomagensis, Acta Aunemundi, Passio Leudegarii, Passio Praejecti, Vita Sanctae Geretrudis and the Additamentum Nivialense de Fuilano, and Annales Mettenses Priores. Bollandist, H. Delehaye's work emphasised the importance of understanding the function and purpose of hagiography, and his insights have paid rich dividends when applied to Merovingian texts. The Latin the Merovingians wrote is for the most part, with the exception of that written by the seventh-century chronicler known as Fredegar, thoroughly understandable to someone trained in the standard Ciceronian idiom.
The Liber Historiae Francorum (LHF) is our most valuable guide through the last half of the seventh century and the first two decades of the eighth. The LHF was written while a Merovingian king ruled over the Franks and by someone geographically very close to the political centre of that realm. In the LHF the advent of the Pippinids into Neustria was a major political event. For the LHF, even after the Pippinids had made their political weight felt in Neustria, the most important expression of proper rule is a hereditary Merovingian king, reigning cum consilio of the Frankish nobility. For part of the period the Passio Leudegarii is of great help in adding to what can be gleaned from the LHF.
Queen Balthild appears in several trustworthy contemporary souces, but it is the Vita Domnae Balthildis which gives us the most information about her. The Vita Balthildis is about as contemporary a Merovingian source as has survived. The key to Merovingian high politics was co-operation between the Crown and some faction or factions of the powerful Frankish nobility. The 'slave' Balthild will play a key role in these politics. Balthild's hagiographer, of course, saw divine will as the reason for her rise to the status of queen, but providence may well have had some significant help from the contemporary politics of the British Isles. A seventh-century hagiographical work whose author is concerned about 'friends' and 'detractors' of a saintly queen, is a strong reminder of the period's intricate relationship between political power and Christian sanctity.