Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Two years on….

 

It’s two years since I started writing my blog and in that time it has received a large number of  hits.  This far exceeds what I hoped for and shows just how interested people are in History in its myriad forms.  Though I do not know who has used the site I can make a few educated guesses.  Use of the site is at its most intense during school terms and this suggests that many of those who read the blog are students studying for GCSE and Advanced Level.  I’ve noticed that the blog appears on several reading lists for university students as well.  Thanks for reading it and for your comments.

I’m planning to take a month off in August so the next blog won’t appear until early September (unless something comes up that I want to comment on).  Once I’ve completed the materials on the life of Louis VI (and there are two appendices to add), I intend to published annotated editions of two further sources, those of William of Apulia and Geoffrey Malaterra on southern Italy in the eleventh century.  In addition, I’m going to republish the material on Nineteenth Century Britain in an extended form with more detailed references.  This will certainly keep things going for the next year or so!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Chapter 34

With what piety he faced death

However he gasped his way back a little towards good health and was able to go in the best carriage he could to Melun, on the Seine. On the road, crowds of devoted people for whom he had kept the peace came to meet him, pouring out of the castles and towns and abandoning their ploughs to commend him to God. He got out of the cart and on horseback arrived very swiftly at the shrine of the holy martyrs, which he wanted to visit out of love for them, to give them his thanks. He was most solemnly and devotedly received by the brothers and almost the whole countryside as the most pious father of the church and its noble defender. He prostrated himself very humbly before the most holy martyrs. In tears, he fulfilled his vow to give thanks devotedly for benefits received, and very humbly begged them to continue to look after him. 

When he came to the castle of Bethizy[1], he was at once followed[2] by messengers of William, duke of Aquitaine[3], who told him of the duke’s death on his pilgrimage to St. James, and reported that before he went away to die on his journey, he had decided to place in Louis’ hands for the purpose of marriage[4] his most noble daughter Eleanor, and all his land to be safeguarded. After holding counsel with his close advisers, Louis accepted gladly and with his customary magnanimity the offer made to him, and promised to wed Eleanor to his dearest son Louis.[5] Without delay he organised a noble cortege to send there, and collected an army of five hundred or more of the best knights in the kingdom, the noblest of men, commanded by Theobald, the count palatine, and his cousin the excellent count of Vermandois, Raoul. He added to the escort his close advisers, including me, and whomever else he could find of good judgement.[6] As his son was leaving, he bade farewell like this: ‘May the omnipotent God through whom kings reign protect you and yours with his arm, my dearest son! For if by some misfortune I lose you and your escort, I shall care nothing either for myself or for my kingdom.’

Then he handed over much wealth and a sufficiency of treasure, and forbade them on the authority of his royal majesty to steal anything in the whole duchy of Aquitaine, to harm the land or the poor, or to turn friends into enemies; he did not hesitate to order that they should give a suitable daily wage to the army from his own treasure.[7]

We crossed the Limousin and came down to Bordelais, where we pitched our tents opposite the city but across the great river Garonne. There we waited for the boats to take us to the city. Then the following Sunday[8], in the presence of the magnates of Gascony, Saintes and Poitou, the prince crowned Eleanor with the crown of the kingdom and married her. We went back through Saintes ready to deal with any enemies there might be and arrived in Poitiers to the great joy of the whole country[9]

At that time the heat of the summer was even more oppressive than usual and for a while I was wearied, wasted and broken by it. The unbearable fatigue it produced exhausted King Louis who was in Paris, and brought on a very serious attack of dysentery with diarrhoea that wore him out. Always well prepared for occasions like this, he summoned Stephen[10], the venerable bishop of Paris and Guildin, abbot of St. Victor[11], by whom he was confessed the more intimately because he had built that monastery from its foundations; he repeated his profession of faith, and with the greatest devotion set about fortifying himself for his departure with the viaticum of the Lord’s body. But when he ordered that he should be carried to the church of the holy martyrs, to fulfil in deep humility the vow he had so often made, he was prevented by the sufferings of his condition, and so he accomplished with his heart, soul and will what he could not achieve in fact. He ordered that a cloth should be placed on the ground, and the sign of the cross marked on it in ashes, then he was laid on it by his men, and fortifying his body with the sign of the cross, he died on the kalends of August[12], after thirty years of his rule, when he was around sixty years old. 

At once they covered his body in a precious cloth and brought it to the church of the holy martyrs for burial. As some men were arranging the burial place, something happened which ought not to be passed over in silence. The king had sometimes, indeed often, touched on the royal tombs in conversation with me, and had asserted that the man was blessed who was first to be buried between the altars of the Holy Trinity and of the holy martyrs, for he would obtain pardon for his sins from the assistance of the saints and from the prayers of those who visited them. Thus he implicitly expressed his own wishes.

Earlier, before I had left with his son, I had proposed in conjunction with Hervey, the venerable prior of the church that Louis should be buried in between in front of the altar of the Holy Trinity opposite the tomb of the emperor Charles.[13] But the place was occupied by Carloman[14], king of the Franks, and since neither law nor custom permits that kings should be exhumed, what I had proposed could not be done. However in the place which he himself, with a kind of premonition, had chosen, the gravediggers found a piece of ground of exactly the right length and breadth for his body, as if it had been reserved for him; and this was quite unexpected, for everyone thought the place already filled. So he was buried there according to royal custom, with a great concert of prayers and hymns, and with a very solemn and devoted funeral service. There he awaits his participation in the future resurrection, even closer in spirit to the host of saintly spirits than he is in body to the holy martyrs, next to whom he lies buried to benefit from their help. ‘Blessed is he who can foreknow where he will be when ruin shakes the world.’[15]

May the Redeemer, at the intercession of the holy martyrs to whom he was so devoted, revive his soul, and may he be made worthy of the company of saints through Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for the salvation of the world; he who lives and reigns king of kings and lord of lords throughout all ages. Amen.


[1] Bethizy is about forty miles north-east of Paris.

[2] Ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 580 dated this to the early days of June 1137.

[3] William X, duke of Aquitaine and William VIII of Poitou had left in the preceding March for the shrine at St James at Compostella where he died on 9th April. The messengers did not arrive at Bethizy until the beginning of June 1137.

[4] Suger uses the term ‘desponsandam’ (for the purpose of marriage) to describe the dying William entrusting all his land and his daughter Eleanor to Louis. Whether William intended marriage with the younger Louis or merely wardship for Eleanor we do not know but ibid, Mirot, Leon, (ed.), La Chronique de Morigny (1095-1152), p. 67 and Orderic Vitalis 5: 81 both explicitly state that William ordered that his daughter be given in marriage.

[5] Suger is clearly writing before the disastrous rift between Louis VII and Eleanor. Perhaps he would have told the tale differently had he known what was to happen.

[6] The escort left around 15th June, was in Limoges on 1st July and probably in Bordeaux on 11th: see Mirot, Leon, (ed.), La Chronique de Morigny (1095-1152), p. 68, n° 7.

[7] The generous grant of treasure to the host of over five hundred knights was, as Suger implies, a precaution against their helping themselves to what they needed on their journey.

[8] Ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 589 dated this as either 25th July or 1st August 1137.

[9] Their coronation as duke and duchess of Aquitaine took place in Poitier on 8th August 1137 where Louis was almost certainly informed of the death of his father.

[10] Stephen de Senlis had been bishop of Paris since 1124. Brother of the butler Guy III de Senlis, he had been archdeacon of Paris and chancellor of Philip I. He died in 1142.

[11] Guildin was the first abbot of St Victor, a house of regular canons founded in Paris with Louis’ help in 1113. Suger paid no attention to the importace of this house in the spiritual and religious life of the twelfth century in the same way as he ignored Bernard of Clairvaux. St-Denis alone mattered to him.

[12] Louis died on 1st August 1137 and this date is preferred to 4th August in Orderic Vitalis 5: 88.

[13] Charles the Bald was emperor 875-877.

[14] Carloman king of the Franks from 879 to 884 was the son of Louis II ‘the Stammerer’ and grandson of Charles the Bald

[15] Lucan, De bello civili, IV, 393

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Chapter 33

With what courage he bore illness

The lord King Louis was in the process of failing not in mind but in body, as men habitually do, worn out by his corpulence[1] and by the continual strain of his tasks; for should anything offensive to royal majesty occur anywhere in his kingdom, he could not bear to let it go unpunished. Although he was sixty[2], he was so knowledgeable and hardworking that, had it not been for the perpetual obstacle of his swollen body, he would have overcome and destroyed all his enemies. He often groaned and complained to his friends this: ‘Alas, what a wretched state of affairs! It is hardly ever or never possible both to know how to do something and to be fit to do it. If as a young man I had known how, or now as an old one were able, I should easily have subdues many kingdoms.’

But weakened as he was by his corpulence, even lying flat on his bed, he put up so much resistance to the English king and to Count Theobald that anyone who saw him and heard of his famous deeds would praise his nobility of mind and deplore his ill health. Suffering torments, with a wounded leg[3], and scarcely able to be carried, he fought against Count Theobald[4] and ordered that Boneval[5] should be set on fire, except for the monastic buildings which he took under his protection. Another time although he was absent, his men destroyed Chateau-Renard[6], which was in Count Theobald’s fief and on his last expedition, with a splendid army he set fire to the castle of Saint-Brisson-sur-Loire, because of its lord’s greed and his depredations on merchants forcing both the lord and the keep to surrender.[7]

On his return from this expedition, at the new castle of Montraer[8], he had a very serious attack of diarrhoea, as sometimes happened, and began to be very worried. Foresighted as he was in counsel, he took care of himself and of his soul. He provided for his salvation with repeated confessions and devoted prayers, thus pleasing God. One thing he wished with his whole soul, that he should be carried by any means possible to his protectors, the saintly martyrs Denis and his companions, and before their most holy bodies should resign his kingdom and his crown, giving up a crown for a tonsure and the royal insignia and the imperial ornaments for the humble habit of St. Benedict, and thus be professed in the monastic order. Those who deride monastic poverty should see how not only archbishops but even kings prefer eternal life to this transitory one, and escape to the incomparable security and protection of the monastic order.[9]

Day by day his diarrhoea troubled him more, and in order to stop it the doctors gave him many unpleasant potions, forcing him to swallow various extremely bitter powders, which even healthy and vigorous men could not have borne. In these and similar sufferings he remained sweet-tempered and benevolent, spoke kindly to everyone, was available to all, and treated everyone as pleasantly as if he suffered no pain. 

As the disease grew worse and the weakness of his exhausted body increased, he scorned to die dishonourably or unexpectedly. So he called together the religious, bishops, abbots and many priests, and rejecting all false shame, he asked that, out of respect for God and his angels he might most devotedly make his confession in their presence and might fortify himself against his death with the most secure viaticum, the body and blood of the Lord. While they hastened to prepare, the king unexpectedly arose and prepared himself. To the admiration of all he left his chamber fully clad to come into the presence of Christ’s body, and with greatest devotion he stood up. Then in the sight of them all, both clerks and laymen, he set aside kingship, renounced the kingdom and confessed that he had reigned in sin. He invested his son Louis with his ring, obliged him to swear to defend the church of God, the poor and the orphans, to guard for each man his rights and to take no-one prisoner in his court if he had committed no crime then and there in his presence. 

Then for the love of God he distributed to the churches and to the poor and needy his gold and silver, his precious vases, his rich hangings and covered cushions, all the moveables he possessed and used, including his ornaments and royal clothes down to her very shirt. But his precious church plate, his very precious bible covered in gold and gems, his gold censer of four ounces, his gold candelabra of a hundred and sixty ounces, his costly chalice of gold and precious gems, ten copes of precious materials, and the very precious hyacinth inherited from his grandmother, the daughter of the king of Russia[10], he put with his own hand into mine and ordered that it be placed on the Lord’s crown of thorns.[11] All these he sent to the holy martyrs through me and he promised devotedly to follow the same road if it were possible. 

Delivered from this burden and filled with God’s mercy, he most humbly knelt before the holy body and blood of Christ, which those who had just celebrated mass had brought there in procession with devotion. He broke out in true and catholic confession of faith with hear and lips, not like an illiterate but like a most learned theologian[12]: ‘I, Louis, a sinner, confess there to be one true God, father, son and holy spirit; I believe that of this sacred trinity one person, the only begotten son, consubstantial and coeternal with God the father, was born of the holy virgin Mary, suffered, died and was buried; the third day he arose from the dead, he ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of God the father. He will judge the quick and the dead in the great and final judgement. We believe that this Eucharist of his body is the same body he assumed from the virgin, and which he delivered to his disciples, so that they might remain joined and united in him. And that this most holy blood is that which flowed from his side as he hung on the cross. We believe most firmly and confess with my mouth and heart that we shall be safeguarded at my death by this most sure viaticum, and we prefer to be defended by its most certain protection from all the powers of the air.’[13]

When, to the admiration of all, he had made first confession of his sins, he most devotedly communicated with the body and blood of Christ. Suddenly he seemed to be recovering, went back to his chamber and rejecting the pomp of all secular pride, he lay down on a simple linen sheet. When I saw him change from so great to so small, from so high to so low, I cried as other men would. ‘Do not weep, dear friend,’ he said, ‘on my behalf. You ought rather to rejoice greatly that God’s mercy had permitted me to prepare myself to meet him, as you see.’ 


[1] Orderic Vitalis had commented on his obesity ‘inherited from his father and mother’ at the council of Reims in 1119.

[2] Louis was no more than fifty-four years in 1135 but Suger represented his heroes as older than they were in reality. He speaks of Philip I as the same age.

[3] Wounded at Livry in 1128, he had delayed having the leg treated.

[4] Suger is the only source that deals with the hostilities between Theobald and Louis in the early 1130s.

[5] The Benedictine abbey of St. Florentine was founded in Bonneval in 857 and had received letters of protection from Louis in 1110. Bonneval is on the upper Loire about eighteen miles south of Chartres.

[6] Ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 530 argued that the campaigns against Bonneval and Chateau-Renard, about fifty miles east of Orleans, took place in 1132-1133.

[7] Ibid, Molinier, Auguste, Vie de Louis le Gros par Suger, p. 124 n° 4 and p. 127 n° 4 dated the siege of Saint-Brisson-sur-Loire to 1137. However, Achille Luchaire’s dated the onset of Louis’ illness at the castle of Montraer to November 1135. Both historians cannot be correct. I am inclined to accept Luchaire on this occasion.

[8] The castle was in Chateauneuf-sur-Loire, upstream about forty-five miles from Orleans. The name of Montraer was already in use in 1154 and the castle fell into disrepair in the second half of the twelfth century. Louis fell ill here: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 559 dated this to November 1135.

[9] Louis’ desire lay down his crown and become a monk for his final years followed a long-established tradition of rulers who sometimes followed this route. Count Burchard of Vendôme and County Geoffrey Martel of Anjou had done this in the eleventh century and count William of Nevers did the same in 1147. However, by the 1130s such conduct was seen as being rather old-fashioned though Louis’ wish would have caused little surprise. Suger emphasises that Louis wished to enter St-Denis even though Montraer was close to the abbey of St-Benoit-sur-Loire where his father was buried.

[10] Louis’ grandmother was Anna of Kiev, daughter of Jaroslav the Great, prince of Kiev and wife of King Henry I: see Hallu, R., Anne de Kiev reine de France, Rome, 1973.

[11] The abbey boasted of possessing a piece of the Cross and the crown of thorns. It was said that these had been given to Charlemagne by the Byzantine emperor and taken from Aix-la-Chapelle to St-Denis by Charles the Bald.

[12] Louis’ statement of belief consisted of two parts of roughly equal length. The first closely followed the Apostles’ Creed, while the second part is a declaration of faith in the Eucharist expressed in the first person plural.

[13] The mention of ‘powers of the air’ refers to the activities of demons: see Ephesians ii: 2.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Chapter 32

How he received Pope Innocent when he fled to him

At that time it happened that the Roman church was deeply wounded to the quick by schism. For when the venerable supreme pontiff and universal father Honorius went the way of all flesh[1], the more important and wiser members of the Roman church[2] to prevent tumult in the church, agreed that the famous election should be held at St. Mark’s and not elsewhere, and that it should be made in common, according to Roman custom. But those who had been the more regular and intimate companions of the dead pope did not dare to go there out of fear of the rioting Romans; so, before the death of the lord pope was announced, they elected the venerable cardinal of St. Angelo, the deacon Gregory[3], as pope. But the partisans of Pierleone met at St. Mark’s, inviting the others to come there as had been agreed, and when they had learned of Honorius’s death, elected in accordance with their vows the cardinal priest Pierleone, with the consent of many bishops, cardinals, clerics and Roman nobles.[4] So they started the pernicious schism, that tore the seamless robe of Christ in two dividing the church of God and ‘while each appealed for support to the great judge’[5], each party tried to win over the other, each excommunicating the other, neither waiting for any judgement other than their own. 

But when Pierleone’s party triumphed through the help of his family and the support of the Roman nobility, the lord pope Innocent decided to leave the city with his supporters to win the world over to his cause. So he sailed down to the shore of Gaul, and chose for the protection of his person and the church the safest and best refuge he could find after God, the noblest kingdom of the French. He sent messengers to King Louis, praying that he would aid him and the church.[6]

As the king was the most pious defender of the church, he was at once moved by this request. He called a council of his archbishops, bishops, abbots and religious to Étampes[7], and on their advice made further enquiries rather on the character of Innocent than on his election[8], for it often happens that disturbances caused by uprisings in Rome necessitate slight irregularities in elections and on the advice of those men he gave his assent to Innocent’s election, promising to support him from thenceforth.[9] Through me he sent the pope at Cluny the first fruits of his welcome and service, and he, delighted by such assistance, sent me back with his grace and benediction to convey his thanks to the lord king. 

When the pope came to St. Benedict-sur-Loire, the king and queen and their sons met him.[10] Louis bowed his noble and aft-crowned head as if before the tomb of St. Peter, fell at the pope’s feet, and promised for him and his church the goodwill of a catholic and devoted, effective service. Following Louis’s example, King Henry of England went to meet him at Chartres[11], most devotedly fell at his feet, vowed to receive him and his entourage in his lands as if it were his own, and promised him full filial obedience. 

While he was conducting a visitation of the French church, as circumstances demanded, he crossed over into Lotharingia[12]. There, at the city of Liege[13], the Emperor Lothar with a great concourse of archbishops, bishops, and magnates from the German realm came to meet him in great pomp. In the square before the cathedral, Lothar humbly offered himself as the pope’s groom. He hurried on foot towards him through the middle of the sacred procession, bearing in one hand a staff to protect him and in the other the bridle of a white horse, and led the pope along as if he were his temporal lord. And when the whole procession dismounted, he supported and carried him, making plain, both to those who knew and to the ignorant, the majesty of the pope’s paternity.

So peace was established between the empire and the church. Easter[14] was now approaching and the pope aimed to celebrate it with us in the church of St. Denis, as his special daughter church. Out of fear for God, for the mother church and for her daughter, we received him thankfully the day before[15] Maundy Thursday, and in a solemn procession offered to God and man, greeting his arrival with hymns of exultation, we embraced him. 

The Lord’s Supper was celebrated in our church in the Roman manner and with extravagant generosity, known as the presbyterium.[16] With veneration he attended the services for the holy crucifixion of the Lord, and with due honour spent the night of the holy resurrection in vigil. Very early the next morning he went out as if in secret to the church of St. Denis de l’Estrée[17], with a large number of companions. There they made preparations in the Roman way, they clothed him in splendid attire and set on his head a mitre[18] like a helmet, a truly imperial adornment, with a golden crown surrounding it; then they led him forth, mounted on a white horse with a saddle cloth, while they went before him two by two, wearing rich robes, riding horses of various colours but all with white saddle cloths, and singing festive hymns. The barons who held in fee of our church and the noble castellans accompanied him on foot, holding his horse’s reins like humble grooms. Men went before them throwing a shower of coins to scatter the crowd which blocked the way. The royal highway blazed with embroidered cloths attached to posts and branches. A crowd of knights in formation and masses of people received him with great honour. Everyone was there including even despite their blindness, representatives of the Jewish synagogue in Paris. When they offered him a roll containing the Law, they received from him this merciful and pious prayer: ‘May the omnipotent God tear the veil from your hearts.’[19]

When he arrived at the basilica of the saints, it was gleaming with golden crowns, and shining with the splendour of precious gems and pearls a hundred times brighter than silver or gold. There the pope divinely celebrated the divine mysteries, and with my assistance offered the most holy sacrifice of the true paschal lamb. After mass, tables had been set up in the cloister covered with fine cloths, and there they took their places as if on couches, and ate the fleshly lamb, along with the other dishes that noble tables usually offer. The following day they reformed the same procession and went from the church of St. Remigius[20] to the principal church. Then, after giving me his thanks and promising me his aid and counsel, three days after Easter the pope entered Paris[21]. He then visited the French churches to supply his need from their wealth, and after wandering about for a while, he chose to take up residence in Compiègne.[22]

Meanwhile a singular and hitherto unknown struck the French kingdom. King Louis’ son Philip[23], a healthy and agreeable boy, who brought hope to good men and fear to the bad, was riding one day in a suburb of Paris when his horse collided with a devil of a pig in the road, and fell down very heavily, throwing the noble boy his rider against a stone, which crushed him to pieces under its weight. The citizens and all those who heard of it were grief-stricken as that very day he had summoned the army for an expedition and they exclaimed, wept and lamented. They picked up the delicate boy almost at death’s door and took him to a nearby house where at nightfall, alas, he died. Even Homer himself would not have been able adequately to express the extent and depth of grief and sadness that swept over his father and mother and the magnates of the kingdom.[24]

He was buried as a king in the church of St. Denis, in the royal tomb on the left of the altar of the Holy Trinity, in the presence of a large assembly of bishops and magnates of the realm. After grief-stricken plaints and miserable lamentations that he should be the survivor, his wise father allowed himself to be consoled, in accordance with the advice of religious and wise men. As his close and intimate friend, I feared that the continued suffering of his weak body might lead to sudden death. So I recommended that he should crown his son Louis, a very fine child, have him anointed with the sacred oil, and make him king with him, in order to prevent any disturbance from his rivals. Louis agreed and went to Reims with his wife and son and the barons of the kingdom, where in a full and solemn council called by Pope Innocent, his son was raised to royalty by sacred unction and coronation, and thus he provided his realm with a fortunate successor.[25] Many saw it as an excellent omen that the young Louis’ power would increase, since he had received the lavish benediction of so many great and different archbishops and bishops of France, Germany, Aquitaine, England and Spain. 

So Louis’ joy in the living alleviated his sorrow over the dead. After the council was over he returned to Paris, while the pope chose to stay at Auxerre[26]. Then an opportunity arose for him to return home in the company of the Emperor Lothar[27], who promised to establish him by force in Rome and to depose Pierleone. They went there together. But after Innocent had proclaimed Lothar emperor, Roman resistance prevented them from making peace in the lifetime of Pierleone. But when Pierleone died[28], with the help of God peace finally returned to the church after a long upset and after lengthy and almost mortal weakness. The lord pope in blessed succession enhanced the glory of the most Holy See by the merits of his life and his devotion to duty.[29]


[1] Honorius II died on the evening of 13th February 1130.

[2] Suger’s attitude to the schism of 1130 is ambiguous. He suggests that the party that elected Anaclectus consisted of ‘the senior and wisest members among the members of the Roman church’, that they planned to elect him ‘according to the Roman custom’ and that his election was approved by ‘many bishops, cardinals, clerics and Roman nobles’. It may be that Suger sympathised with Analectus and the Gregorian tradition he represented rather than the continuance of the policies of Honorius and the reformed monasticism that Innocent stood for. However, Suger was not prepared to go against the decision of the Council of Etampes that recognised Innocent II as pope. See: Grabois, A., ‘Le Schism de 1130 et la France’, Revue d’histoire ecclesiastique, vol. lxxvi, (1981), pp. 593-612 and Stroll, Mary, The Jewish Pope, Leiden, 1978 on Anaclectus.

[3] Innocent II was elected on 14th February 1130 and died 24th September 1143. He was a native of Rome and belonged to the ancient family of the Guidoni. The youthful Gregory became canon of the Lateran and later abbot of Sts. Nicholas and Primitivus. He was made Cardinal-Deacon of the Title of S. Angelo by Paschal II, and as such shared the exile of Gelasius II in France, together with his later rival, the Cardinal-Deacon Pierleone. Under Calixtus II, Gregory was sent to Germany in 1119 with the legate Lambert, Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia. Both were engaged in drawing up the Concordat of Worms in 1122. In the following year he was sent to France. On 14th February 1130, the morning following the death of Honorius II, the cardinal-bishops held an election and Gregory was chosen as his successor, taking the name of Innocent II; three hours later Pietro Pierleone was elected by the other cardinals and took the name of Anacletus II. Both received episcopal consecration on 23rd February; Innocent at Santa Maria Nuova and Anacletus at St. Peter’s. Finding the influential family of the Frangipani had deserted his cause, Innocent at first retired into the stronghold belonging to his family in Trastevere, then went to France by way of Pisa and Genoa. There he secured the support of Louis VI and in a synod at Etampes the assembled bishops, influenced by the eloquence of Suger of St-Denis, acknowledged his authority. This was also done by other bishops gathered at Puy-en-Velay through St. Hugh of Grenoble. The pope went to the abbey of Cluny and then attended another meeting of bishops in November 1130, at Clermont; they also promised obedience and enacted a number of disciplinary canons.

Through the activity of St. Norbert of Magdeburg, Conrad of Salzburg, and the papal legates, the election of Innocent was ratified at a synod assembled at Würzburg at the request of the German king, and here the king and his princes promised allegiance. A personal meeting of pope and king took place 22nd March 1131, at Liège, where a week later Innocent solemnly crowned King Lothar and Queen Richenza in the church of St. Lambert. He celebrated Easter 1131 at St-Denis in Paris, and 18th October opened the great synod at Reims, and crowned the young prince of France, later Louis VII. At this synod England, Castile, and Aragon were represented; St. Bernard and St. Norbert attended and several salutary canons were enacted. At Pentecost 1132, the pope held a synod at Piacenza. The following year he again entered Rome, and on 4th June crowned Lothar emperor at the Lateran. In 1134 the pope, at the request of the emperor, ordered that Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the island of Greenland should remain under the jurisdiction of Hamburg. On the departure of the emperor, Innocent also left and went to Pisa, since the antipope still held sway in Rome. At Pisa, a great synod was held in 1135 at which were present bishops of Spain, England, France, Germany, Hungary, etc. In the spring of 1137, Emperor Lothar, in answer to the repeated entreaties of the pope, began his march to Rome. The papal and imperial troops met at Bari on 30th May, 1137, and the pope was again conducted into Rome. Anacletus still held a part of the city, but died 25th January 1138. Another antipope was chosen, who called himself Victor IV, but he, urged especially by the prayers of St. Bernard, soon submitted, and Innocent found himself in undisturbed possession of the city and of the papacy.

To remove the remnants and evil consequences of the schism, Innocent II called the Tenth Ecumenical Council, the Second of the Lateran. It began its sessions on 4th April 1139. One thousand bishops and other prelates are said to have been present. The official acts of Anacletus II were declared null and void, the bishops and priests ordained by him were with few exceptions deposed and the heretical tenets of Pierre de Bruis were condemned. Thirty canons were made against simony, incontinence, extravagance in dress among the clergy, etc. Sentence of excommunication was pronounced upon Roger, who styled himself King of Sicily. Several minor synods were held during the last few years of the life of Innocent, one at Sens in 1140, at Vienne in 1141 and in the same year at Vienne and Reims; in 1142 at Lagny, in which Ralph, the Duke of Vermandois is said to have been excommunicated by the legate Yvo of Chartres for having repudiated his lawful wife and married another. A synod was held under the presidency of the papal legate 7th April 1141, at Winchester; and 7th December 1141, at Westminster.

After the death of Alberic, Archbishop of Bourges, in 1141, Louis VII of France wanted to secure the nomination of a man of his own choice whom the chapter did not consider the fit person, and they chose Pierre de La Châtre but Louis refused to ratify the election. The bishop-elect in person brought the matter to Rome, and Innocent, finding after due examination that the election had been made according to the requirements of ecclesiastical law, confirmed it and himself gave the episcopal consecration. When Pierre returned to France, Louis would not allow him to enter his diocese. After useless negotiations Innocent placed France under interdict. Only during the reign of the next pope was the interdict removed and peace restored.

[4] Cardinal Pietro Pierleone took the title Analectus II at the contested papal election of the year 1130. The date of his birth is uncertain but he died on 25th January 1138. Though the Pierleoni were one of the wealthiest and most powerful senatorial families of Rome, and though they had loyally supported the Popes throughout the fifty years’ war for reform and freedom, yet it was never forgotten that they were of Jewish extraction, and had risen to wealth and power by usury. The Cardinal’s grandfather, named Leo after Pope Leo IX, who baptised him, was a faithful adherent of Gregory VII; Leo's son, Peter, from whom the family acquired the appellation of Pierleoni, became leader of the faction of the Roman nobility which was at enmity with the Frangipani. His attempt to install his son as Prefect of Rome in 1116, though favoured by the Pope, had been resisted by the opposite party with riot and bloodshed. His second son, the future antipope, was destined for the Church. After finishing his education at Paris, he became a monk in the monastery of Cluny, but before long he was summoned to Rome by Pope Paschal II and created Cardinal-Deacon of SS. Cosmas and Damian. He accompanied Pope Gelasius on his flight to France, and was employed by successive pontiffs in important affairs, including legations to France and England.

When Honorius lay on his deathbed, Pierleone could count upon the votes of thirty cardinals, backed by the support of the mercenary populace and of every noble family in Rome, except the Corsi and the Frangipani. The pars senior of the Sacred College numbered only sixteen, headed by the energetic Chancellor, Haymaric, and the Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia. These resolved to rescue the papacy from unworthy hands by a coup d’état. Though in a hopeless minority, they had the advantage that four were cardinal bishops, to whom the legislation of Nicholas II had entrusted the leading part in the election. Moreover, of the commission of eight cardinals, to which, in apprehension of a schism, it was decided to leave the election, one of them being Pierleone, five were opposed to the ambitious aspirant. To secure liberty of action, they removed the sick Pontiff from the Lateran to St. Gregory’s, near the towers of the Frangipani. Honorius died on the night of 13th February and was buried him hurriedly the next morning. The reluctant Cardinal of San Giorgio, Gregory Papareschi, under threat of excommunication, was forced to accept the pontifical mantle. He took the name of Innocent II. Three hours later, the party of Pierleone assembled in the Church of St. Mark and proclaimed him Pope, with the name of Anacletus II. Both claimants were consecrated on 23rd February, Anacletus in St. Peter’s and Innocent in Sta. Maria Nuova.

How this schism would have been healed, had the decision been left to the canonists, is hard to say. Anacletus had a strong title in law and fact. The majority of the cardinals with the Bishop of Porto, the Dean of the Sacred College, at their head, stood at his side. Almost the whole populace of Rome rallied around him. His victory seemed complete, when, shortly after, the Frangipani, abandoning what appeared to be a lost cause, went over to him. Innocent sought safety in flight. No sooner had he arrived in France than his affairs took a favourable turn. ‘Expelled from the City, he was welcomed by the world’, said St. Bernard, whose influence secured for him the support of practically the entire Christian world. He stated his reasons for deciding in favour of Innocent in a letter to the bishops of Aquitaine. They may not be canonically cogent; but they satisfied his contemporaries. ‘The life and character of our Pope Innocent are above any attack, even of his rival; while the others are not safe even from his friends. In the second place, if you compare the elections, that of our candidate at once has the advantage over the other as being purer in motive, more regular in form, and earlier in time. The last point is out of all doubt; the other two are proved by the merit and the dignity of the electors. You will find, if I mistake not, that this election was made by the more discreet part of those to whom the election of the Supreme Pontiff belongs. There were cardinals, bishops, priests, and deacons, in sufficient number, according to the decrees of the Fathers, to make a valid election. The consecration was performed by the Bishop of Ostia, to whom that function specially belongs.’

Meanwhile Anacletus maintained his popularity in Rome by the lavish expenditure of his accumulated wealth and the plundered treasures of the churches. His letters and those of the Romans to Lothar of Germany remaining unanswered, he secured a valuable confederate in Duke Roger of Apulia, whose ambition he satisfied by the gift of royalty; on Christmas Day, 1130, a cardinal-legate of Anacletus anointed him the first King of the Two Sicilies at Palermo. In the spring of 1133, the German King conducted Innocent, whom two great councils, Etampes and Piacenza, had proclaimed the legitimate Pope, to Rome; but as he came accompanied by only 2,000 horses, the antipope, safe within the walls of Castel St. Angelo, looked on undismayed. Unable to open the way to St. Peter’s, Lothar and his queen Richenza, on 4th June received the imperial crown in the Lateran. On the Emperor’s departure Innocent was compelled to retire to Pisa, and for four years his rival remained in undisturbed possession of Rome. In 1137, Lothar, having finally vanquished the insurgent Hohenstaufens, returned to Italy at the head of a formidable army; but since the main purpose of the expedition was to punish Roger, the conquest of Rome was entrusted to the missionary labours of St. Bernard whose eloquence was more effective than the imperial weapons. When Anacletus died, the preference of the Romans for Innocent was so pronounced that the antipope, Victor IV, whom the party chose as his successor, soon came as a penitent to St. Bernard and by him was led to the feet of Innocent II.

[5] Lucan, De bello civili, I, 127

[6] Innocent II left Rome on 6th May 1130. He stayed for some time in Pisa and Genoa and did not leave for St-Giles until 11th September.

[7] Étampes, some thirty miles south of Paris, was in Louis’ patrimony.

[8] This took place in August and September 1130 before the arrival of Innocent II. Suger does not refer to the presence of Bernard of Clairvaux at the Council of Etampes but the suggestion by his biographer that Louis specifically wanted him there should be treated with some suspicion. A decision taken on the basis of ‘electio’ would not necessarily have favoured Innocent and Suger emphasises the criterion of ‘persona’ (character) as did other writers who supported Innocent including ibid, Mirot, Leon, (ed.), La Chronique de Morigny (1095-1152), p. 52 and Bernard’s letters.

[9] Innocent was at Cluny from 25th October to 3rd November 1130.

[10] In the early days of January 1131, Louis accompanied Innocent as far as Orleans.

[11] The meeting between Henry I and Innocent II took place at Chartres on 13th January 1131.

[12] Innocent travelled via Étampes and the abbey of Morigny, Provins, Chalons, St-Quentin and Cambrai.

[13] Innocent was in Liége on 22nd March 1131. Lotharingia consisted of the diocese of Liége, Cambrai, Cologne and Utrecht.

[14] In 1131, Easter fell on 19th April.

[15] This was Wednesday 15th April.

[16] The presbyterium was the distributing of presents made by popes on the day they were installed or on other solemn occasions.

[17] The church of St. Denis de l’Estrée was in the neighbourhood of the paved Roman road from Rouen to Paris: in Latin ‘via strata’ and in French ‘estrée’. The church was founded between this route and the River Seine around 475 and was destroyed during the French Revolution in 1793.

[18] This was the ‘frigium’, conical like a twelfth century helmet.

[19] This statement can be compared with St Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, III, 15-16: But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.’

[20] The church of St. Remigius was sited six hundred metres to the east of the abbey’s church near to the cemetery.

[21] Innocent II remained in Paris from 22nd to 27th April 1131.

[22] He was installed at Compiègne on 26th May 1131 and remained there a month. He had previously visited Pontoise, Gisors, Rouen and Beauvais. He left Compiègne at the end of June and continued on his travels until October. He went from Auxerre to Orleans, to Blois, Étampes, Soissons and Reims.

[23] Philip was born on 29th August 1116, was associated with his father from 18th April 1120 and more formally from 14th April 1129: see Delise, L., ‘Sur la date de l’association de Philippe, fils de Louis le Gros, au gouvernement du royaume’, Journal des savants, (1898), pp. 736-740. The accident occurred on 13th October 1131.

[24] Ibid, Mirot, Leon, (ed.), La Chronique de Morigny (1095-1152), p. 54 says that Philip’s companions fled in terror after the accident and the dying youth was carried to the nearest house by the hands of poor people. The same chronicle supports Suger’s assertion that the pig was diabolical and it reports that the pig was never found.

[25] The council sat at Reims from 18th to 26 October 1131. Louis VI arrived at the council on 24th October and the young Louis was crowned the following day. Louis VI had been anointed and crowned at Orleans, much to the distress of the church at Reims: see chapter 14. However, his son underwent those formalities at Reims, perhaps to the distress of Suger even though he appears to have counselled it. He deals with the ceremony in a few lines quite unlike ibid, Mirot, Leon, (ed.), La Chronique de Morigny (1095-1152), pp. 57-60. Suger’s dislike of Reims may well be coming into play here.

[26] Innocent II left Reims on 5th November and remained at Auxerre from 28th November until the beginning of January 1132.

[27] From Auxerre, Innocent II moved slowly south to the Alps via Nevers, Autun, Cluny, Lyon, Vienne, Valence and Avignon. He reached Geneva in April 1132 but could not re-enter Rome until 30th April 1133 a year later and he finally crowned Lothar on 4th June 1133.

[28] Analectus II died on 25th January 1138 but was replaced by another antipope Victor IV but he resigned on 29th May 1138 bringing an end to the eight year schism.

[29] Innocent II died on 24th September 1143. Although Suger does not specifically mention his death, he does not talk of him as if he was still alive.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Chapter 31

How he made an end of Thomas de Marle

On another occasion he wreaked a similar vengeance, equally pleasing to God and equally celebrated on Thomas de Marle, a malicious man who persecuted the church without respect for God or man. By the strength of his arm Louis snuffed him out like a smouldering brand.[1]

Moved by the complaints and lamentations of the churches, he came to Laon to take revenge. At the instigation of the bishops and magnates, and especially on the advice of the noblest count of Vermandois, Raoul, who was the most powerful man in that area after the king, it was decided that he should lead the army against Thomas at Coucy.[2] As he was hurrying towards the castle, those who had been sent ahead to find a suitable means of access reported that it was completely impregnable and inaccessible. Although he was pressed by many people to change his plan in the light of what he had heard, the king scorned to do so, saying with spirit: ‘This strategy was laid down at Laon. I shall not change what was decided there, either for life or for death. The magnificence of the royal majesty will justly be cheapened if we are scorned for having fled through fear of a wicked man.’ 

He spoke, and despite his corpulence, set off with astonishing enthusiasm on precipitous roads obstructed by woods, cutting his way through with his army until he arrived close to the castle. At that moment Count Raoul, who was scouting on the other side of the castle, was told that ambushes had been prepared for the army and that catastrophe was imminent for them. At once Raoul armed himself, and set out along a secret path in that direction with a few companions. He sent some of his men on ahead, then seeing that Thomas had already been struck and fallen, he spurred on his horse, charged him and boldly struck him with the sword, inflicting a mortal wound. If he had not been restrained, he would have repeated it. Captured and bleeding to death, Thomas was brought before King Louis and taken on his orders to Laon, with the approval of almost everyone, both his men and ours. 

The following day his lands in the plain were confiscated and his palisades broken down, but Louis spared the land because he held its lord. The king then went back to Laon. But neither his wounds not imprisonment nor threats nor prayers could induce that abandoned man to give back the merchants whom he held in prison, and whom he had deprived of all their possessions in shocking violation of his duties on the highway. When with the royal permission he summoned his wife, he seemed more grieved by being compelled to release the merchants than to lose his life. As the appalling pain of his wounds brought him to death’s door, he was implored by many people to confess and take the last rites, but would scarcely consent. When the priest had brought the body of the Lord into the chamber where the wretched man lay, it seemed as if even the Lord Jesus could not bear to enter the miserable shell of that insufficiently penitent man, for as soon as the wicked man raised his neck, he let it fall back broken, and breathed out his hideous spirit without having taken the Eucharist. The king disdained to proceed further against a dead man or a dead man’s lands, so he extorted from Thomas’ wife[3] and children[4] freedom for the merchants and the greater part of his treasure. Then, having restored peace to the churches by the death of the tyrant, he returned victorious to Paris. 

On another occasion, there arose between the king and the illustrious Amaury de Montfort, a great dispute about the seneschalship, which Stephen of Garlande fanned and both the English king and Count Theobald encouraged by their support[5]. With a hastily gathered army the king besieged the castle of Livry, brought up the siege engines, and by dint of frequent assaults and aggressions, he very courageously stormed it. And because his noble cousin Raoul, count of Vermandois, the swiftest in attack, had lost an eye from a crossbow bolt, he totally flattened the castle which had been very strong. But he so impressed them by this great act of war that they gave up the seneschalship and all hereditary claim to it[6], leaving it in peace. In this war the king, great soldier as he was and always prompt to take action against the enemy, was pierced in the leg by a bolt from a crossbow. Although seriously wounded he bravely made light of it, and as if enthroned royal majesty disdained the pain of a wound, he held himself stiffly, bearing it as if he had nothing to bear.[7]


[1] Thomas de Marle had been declared anathema in 1114 (chapter 24) but he had subsequently been restored to the communion of the church. However, he died without the sacrament and it not difficult to detect a note of satisfaction in Suger’s description of the death of a former excommunicant.

[2] Ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 461 argues for October 1130. However, there is some disagreement in the manuscripts on the exact date of the expedition against Thomas de Marle: some suggest 1130 while others 1128. Manuscript F maintains the earlier date and Luchaire followed this.

[3] Milesende was the daughter of Guy de Crecy and Nouvion and so was related to Louis’ enemy Hugh de Crecy.

[4] Thomas de Marle died on 9th November 1130. Louis VI allowed Enguerrand, son of Thomas de Marle to succeed after he had restored things acquired by force and had compensated the churches attacked by his father. Enguerrand was attacked by Louis is 1132 but agreement was reached with the king when he agreed to marry a niece of Louis’s cousin and ally, Count Ralph of Vermandois: ibid, Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, n° 491.

[5] The dispute between Louis VI and the Garlande family lasted from 1127 to 1132. Stephen became both chancellor and seneschal in 1120 and gave the latter to the Amaury de Montfort, husband of his niece. Louis VI, encouraged by his queen Adelaide an enemy of the Garlandes, opposed them by force. The taking of Livry was the principal event of the war and occurred in 1128 according to the Annales de Lagny. Suger’s discussion of these events is brief perhaps because he was regarded as part of the Garlande ‘party’ in the 1120s and owed his rise in royal favour at least in part to the patronage of Stephen de Garlande: Bournazel, Eric, ‘Suger and the Capetians’, ibid, Gerson, P.L., (ed.), Abbot Suger and St Denis, pp. 55-72, especially p. 56. Under Louis, the four Garlande brothers (Anselm, William, Gilbert and especially Stephen) acquired considerable power and influence. Stephen became chancellor in 1106 and seneschal in 1120 though the latter involved military command that many felt was incompatible with his also being an archdeacon. The brothers were from a non-noble family and this attracted considerable resentment especially for Stephen. However, from the mid-1110s growing opposition to him developed: in 1115 Louis married Adelaide de Maurienne; in 1119 her uncle became pope and her sister subsequently married William Clito. Stephen was also opposed by various streams of ecclesiastical opinion represented by Ivo of Chartres and Bernard of Clairvaux. It is difficult to assess the respective roles of political jealousy, social antagonism, clerical opposition, marriage alliance and the claim to hereditary succession in the fall of Stephen in August 1127. There may also have been concerns, heightened by the murder of Charles the Good about people of lowly origins in Louis’ court. Stephen was driven from court and with Amaury de Montfort allied himself to Henry I and count Theobald. Although Louis and Ralph de Vermandois attacked Livry in 1128, the war dragged on until 1130.

[6] This probably took place in 1130 but Stephen was not restored as chancellor until after 3rd August 1132 though charter evidence suggests that his power was much less than in 1132: Achille Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de son vie et de son règne, Paris, 1890, n° 420. However, the balance of power had shifted decisively towards Suger and Ralph de Vermandois. Members of the Garlande family had been successive chancellors of Louis VI and increasingly considered the position to be hereditary within their family. Stephen died on 14th January 1150.

[7] Suger’s handling of the entire affair is understated and lacks the passion animating the Morigny chronicle and Bernard of Clairvaux. However, it is in keeping with the rest of his work that Suger focuses on the deeds of Louis concentrating on the fall of Livry.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Chapter 30

How he avenged the murder of Charles, count of Flanders

I intend to relate his finest exploit[1], the noblest deed he performed from his youth to his life’s end. Although it ought to be spoken of at length, I shall recount it briefly, concentrating on what he did rather than how he did it, in order to avoid boring my readers.[2]

The famous and very powerful count Charles, son of the king of Denmark and King Louis’s aunt, succeeded by hereditary right the brave count Baldwin, son of Robert of Jerusalem, and ruled the very populous land of Flanders both forcefully and diligently, proving himself an illustrious defender of God's church, a lavish almsgiver and a notable protector of justice[3]. Discharging the duty of his honour, he sought several times legitimately to bring to the judgement of his court certain powerful men of low birth who had risen through their wealth and were arrogantly trying to free their family from his lordship although they were of servile origin.[4] They were the provost of Bruges and his relations[5], notorious criminals puffed out with pride who trapped the count most cruelly.[6]

One day Charles came to Bruges and went early in the morning into God’s church[7]. He was kneeling on the floor in prayer, holding a prayer book in his hands, when suddenly a certain Burchard[8], the provost’s nephew, a savage fellow, arrived with other members of that wickedest of families and other accomplices in his detestable crime. As Charles was praying and talking with God, Burchard quietly slipped behind him, unsheathed his sword and gently touched the neck of the prostrate count, so that when the count raised it a little he would make a better target for the unexpected sword, then with one blow he impiously killed the pious man, and thus the serf beheaded his lord. 

His accomplices in this horrifying murder who were standing around thirsting for his blood, like dogs feasting on abandoned corpses, took pleasure in hacking the innocent man to pieces, particularly rejoicing that they had been able to accomplish the evil deed they had conceived and the wickedness to which they had given birth[9]. As if blinded by their own malice, they revelled in evil and massacred all the men of the castle and nobler barons of the count they could find when they were unprepared and unshriven, either in the church or outside in the castle, putting them to the sword in the most wretched way. However, we are convinced that it is good for these unfortunates to have been killed in such circumstances because of their fidelity to their lord and to have met their deaths with the prayers of the church, for as it is written: ‘When I shall find you, I will judge you.’[10]

The assassins buried the count in the church itself, fearing that if he were brought out for mourning and burial the people who were devoted to him both for his glorious life and for his more glorious death would be aroused to seek vengeance. Then they turned the church into a brigands’ cave, fortified both it and the count’s house which was next to it, procured whatever food they could and decided with the utmost arrogance to protect themselves there and thus to take over the land. 

The Flemish barons who had not consented to this were shocked by so great and depraved a crime[11]. They wept as they attended the count’s obsequies in order to avoid being branded as traitors, and reported it to the lord king Louis, and indeed to everyone, for the news swept across the world. Love of justice and affection for his cousin inspired war against the English king and Count Theobald[12]. So he crossed courageously into Flanders[13], intent on using all his resources to punish the wickedest of men most cruelly. He established as count of Flanders William of Normandy[14], son of Duke Robert of Jerusalem, who had a claim through ties of blood. Without fear either for the barbarity of the land or for the loathsome family which had engaged in treason, he went down to Bruges, and blockaded the traitors securely in the church and the tower, preventing them from obtaining any food other than what they had, which by divine assistance now disgusted them because it was unfit for use. For a while he wore them down by hunger, disease and the sword; then they abandoned the church the church and kept only the tower, which also guarded them. 

Now they despaired of life, and their lyre was turned to mourning and their organ into the voice of those that weep[15]; the most wicked Burchard left with the agreement of his companions, hoping to flee the land but found himself unable to do so, though only his own wickedness prevented him. On his return to the castle of one of his intimate friends he was seized by the king’s command and suffered exquisite torture in death. Tied to the upper part of a high wheel, exposed naked to the greediness of crows and other birds of prey, his eyes torn out and his whole face lacerated, pierced by a thousand blows from arrows, lances and spears, he perished miserably and his body was thrown into a sewer[16]

Bertold, the brains behind the plot, also decided to flee; but when he found he was able to wander around without restriction, he returned through sheer pride; for he asked himself, ‘Who am I and what have I done?’ So he was captured by his own men, handed over to the king’s judgement and condemned to a well-merited and wretched death. They hanged him from a gibbet with a dog and as the dog was struck it took its anger out on Bertold, chewed his whole face and, horrible to relate, covered him with excrement; so, more miserable than the most miserable of men, he ended his wretched life in perpetual death.[17]

The men the king had besieged in the tower were forced by many hardships to surrender. In front of their relations Louis had them thrown out one by one from the top of the tower to crush their skulls.[18] One of them called Isaac had been tonsured in a monastery to avoid death.[19] Louis ordered him to be defrocked and hanged on a gibbet. Thus victorious at Bruges, the king rapidly led his army to Ypres, an excellent castle, to take vengeance on William the Bastard, who had fomented the treason.[20] He sent messengers to the people of Bruges and brought them around to his side by threats and flattery. Then as William barred his way with three hundred knights, half the royal army rushed against him and the other half went off at an angle and boldly occupied the castle by way of its other gate. The king kept it, William lost all claim to Flanders, and was banished. Because he had aspired to gain Flanders through treachery, it was right that he should gain nothing whatever in Flanders. 

Flanders was washed clean and almost re-baptised by these different kinds of revenge and the great torrent of blood. So having installed William the Norman as count, the king returned to France[21], victorious by God’s help.[22]


[1] Suger appears to be exact in not only his discussion of the murder of Charles the Good but on many points of detail. The murder of Charles on consecrated ground was particularly heinous and the murder of a nobleman by someone of lower social status furnishes Suger with another reminder of the dangers posed by such people when they rise in status.

[2] Galbert de Bruges Histoire du meurtre de Charles le Bon, comte de Flandre, edited by Henri Pirenne, Paris 1891 and Le meurtre de Charles le Bon, edited by J. Gengoux, Angers, 1978 are far more detailed accounts of the events of 1127-1128 and can be compared with Suger. Ross, J.B., (ed.), The Murder of Charles the Good, Count of Flanders, by Galbert of Bruges, New York, 1959 is a useful translation. Ganshof, F.-L., ‘Le roi de France en Flandre en 1127 et 1128’, Revue historique de droit français et étranger, 4e série, vol. xxvii, (1949), pp. 204-228 is essential for Louis VI’s role. Dhondt, J., ‘Les 'solidarités' médiévales. Une société en transition: La Flandre en 1127-1128’, Annales, Economies, Sociétés, Civilisations, vol. xii, (1957), pp. 529-560 with an English version: ‘Medieval Solidarities: Flemish Society in Transition, 1127-28’, in Cheyette, F.L., (ed.), Lordship and Community in Medieval Europe, New York, 1968 pp. 268-296 provide valuable context. Murray, A.V., ‘Voices of Flanders: Orality and Constructed Orality in the Chronicle of Galbert of Bruges’, Handelingen der Maatschappij voor Geschiedenis en Oudheidkunde te Gent, nieuwe reeks, vol. xlvii, (1994), pp. 103-119 and Nicholas, K.S., ‘When Feudal Ideals Failed: Conflicts between Lords and Vassals in the Low Countries, 1127-1296’, in Purdon, L.O. and Vitto, C.L., (eds.), The Rusted Hauberk: Feudal Ideals of Order and their Decline, Gainesville, 1994, pp. 201-226 look at Galbert in detail.

[3] In 1086, St. Knut II, King of Denmark and father of Charles the Good, was murdered. Charles who was only three years old, was taken by his mother Adela (1065-1111) to the court of Robert I, Count of Flanders (born 1030-died 1093), his maternal grandfather. When he grew up, he became a knight and accompanied his uncle Robert II, count of Flanders (born 1065, count 1093-1111) in a crusade to the Holy Land where he distinguished himself; on their return, Charles also fought against the English with his uncle. On Robert’s death in 1111, his son Baldwin VII succeeded him and designated Charles as the heir. At the same time, he arranged for Charles’ marriage to Margaret, daughter of the Count of Clermont. During Baldwin’s rule, Charles was closely associated with him, and the people came to have a high regard for his wise and beneficent ways as well as his personal holiness. At Baldwin’s death, in 1119, the people made his cousin their ruler.  Charles ruled his people with wisdom, diligence, and compassion; he made sure that times of truce were respected and fought against those who hoarded food and the sold it at inflated prices to the people especially by releasing grain from his own storehouses during the severe famine that hit Flanders in 1124-1125.

[4] The crisis that led to Charles’ murder came from his desire to ascertain what belonged to him in human and material resources. The increasing use of the courts to settle dispute was an important characteristic of Charles’ reign and he noticed that in important cases free men refused to answer suits from the unfree or serf who were suing in the public courts. Galbert de Bruges said that Charles, despite being in Flanders for forty years was surprised that the Erembald family were serfs and he decided to disgrace them. Their status appears to have been an open secret among the leading lords in Flanders and none were particularly concerned about it until Charles raised the issue. Charles summoned his councillors, many of whom were related to the provost, which means that there were serfs in the council and that the count knew this. While the ‘old guard’ whom the count wished to destroy were of servile origin, some of the officials of the central court were free ‘new men’ who incited Charles against the Erembalds. The assassination was an attempt to forestall the count.

[5] The two leading members of the Erembald family were: Bertold or Bertulf was appointed provost of St.-Donatian of Bruges in 1091 and had been chancellor of the count and chief financial official of the count’s lands and his brother, Didier (Desiderius) Hacket castellan of Bruges before 1115.

[6] Ibid, Molinier, Auguste, (ed.), Vie de Louis le Gros par Suger, p. 111 n° 2 suggests that Louis VI may have known about the conspirators’ plans and somewhat imprecisely that Charles the Good had been allied to England ‘for several years’. There are several problems with this argument given Charles’ involvement with Louis VI in his campaigns against Henry V in 1124 and in the Auvergne in 1126.

[7] The murder took place on 2nd March 1127 in the church of St. Donatian which was linked to the count’s house by a gallery.

[8] Formold, surnamed Burchard was the son of the Bertold’s brother.

[9] Comparison can be made with Psalms, vii, 15: ‘He made a pit and digged it and is fallen into the ditch which he made’.

[10] This seems to draw on a lost Apocalypse.

[11] The Erembalds expected the other Flemish barons who shared their own problematic ancestry to rise in support of their action, but they were badly mistaken. The attitude of the people of Bruges was ambiguous. In addition to the castellan, Bruges had a town government that could speak for the citizenry; for while their rulers allied with Gervase of Praat, a knight who led resistance to the assassins, many of the citizens seemed to favour the Erembalds whom they considered their own lords’. The Erembalds were besieged in the count’s castle in Bruges that was stormed on 19th April. Several escaped but to a man they were hunted down and killed.

[12] Suger uses an ambiguous phrase here that could either mean that Louis did not let a war detain him or that there was no war to detain him. He may wish to have implied to former but the latter was true. Neither Henry I nor Count Theobald was at war with Louis VI at this time.

[13] When Louis first heard of the murder, he went to Arras remaining there from 9th March until the end of the month. He arrived in Bruges on Tuesday 5th April and found the siege well advanced. Suger provides no explanation for Louis’ delay in moving into Flanders but perhaps he did not wish to get dragged into the internal affairs of Flanders until the eventual outcome was clear and certainly he consulted his advisers on the viability of William Clito as a desirable successor. Herman of Tournai provides additional detail on why Louis stayed so long in Arras: see Appendix II.

[14] Charles the Good died childless and there was need for the succession to be established. Suger’s account not surprisingly emphasised the importance of Louis but Galbert indicated that there was both a designation by Louis and an election ‘by all his barons and those of our land’: see Ganshof, F.L., ‘Le roi de France en Flandre en 1127 et 1128’, Revue historique de droit français et étranger, 4th series, vol. xxvii, (1949), pp. 204-228. According to Herman of Tournai, the office of count was given by Louis to William Clito. The selection of William was an anti-English act and William had previously been used by Louis on earlier occasions against Henry (chapter 26). William Clito was born at Rouen in 1101, the son of Robert Curthose. His paternal grandmother Matilda was the sister of the Robert I, count of Flanders who was the maternal grandfather of Charles the Good. He was briefly count of Flanders from 1127 until his death at St Omer on 27th July 1128 from a wound he received at the siege of Alost five days earlier. He was married first to Sybille, daughter of Fulk V of Anjou in 1123 when she was eleven. He later married Joan, about whom nothing is known. There were no children. William Clito’s claim to Flanders was disputed by Thierry of Alsace who succeeded as count in 1128 and ruled until 1168. His mother Gertrude (1070-1117) was also a daughter of Robert I of Flanders.

[15] Job xxx, 31

[16] Taken out the outskirts of Lille, Burchard was executed in the last days of April.

[17] Bertold was arrested on 11th April at Ypres on the orders of his accomplice William of Ypres, no friend of Louis and immediately executed. Suger’s view that he submitted to the judgement of Louis is therefore suspect.

[18] There were twenty-eight. They surrendered on 19th April and held in the prison in the count’s house. It was from the tower of this house that they were hurled to their deaths on 4th May.

[19] Before the capture of the others, Isaac, son of Didier Hacket had taken refuge at Saint-Jean de Therouanne. Captured on the night of 20th March, he was hanged on 23rd March, according to Galbert de Bruges on the orders of William of Ypres.

[20] William of Ypres was the illegitimate son of Philip of Loo, second son of count Robert le Frison. He was cousin to both Charles the Good and Baldwin VII but his illegitimacy prevented him becoming count despite having some support from Henry I of England. In 1119, on Baldwin VII’s death his mother Clementia had supported the candidacy of William of Ypres, who though illegitimate was the last descendant in the male line of Robert the Frison. The battle at Ypres took place on 26th April.

[21] Louis VI left Bruges on 6th May 1127 to return to France.

[22] I intend to add contrasting accounts to Suger’s after the completion of the Vita.