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Hincmar of Reims on King-making: The Evidence of the Annals of St. Bertin, 861–882

Janet L. Nelson

Hincmar of Reims wrote voluminously—on theology, on canon law, and on the conduct of the powerful. Modern historians of medieval political thought have ransacked these works with an energy worthy of the Vikings and have amassed a disparate hoard of fragmentary discussions of how kings ought to act.[1] Among this hacksilver can be found a rare gem of Hincmarian political analysis: a typology of king-making.[2] Its original location was in a series of ripostes to a list of objectionable propositions, which Hincmar appended to his bulky treatise on the divorce of Lothar II and Theutberga. As so often, controversy sharpened Hincmar's cutting edge. "Some wise ones," he noted sardonically, had alleged that Lothar II was "a king, and subject to no human laws or judgments but only those of God, who constituted him king in the realm which his father had left him."[3] Hincmar first tackled the issue of the king's subjection to law: "The law is not laid down for the just man, but for the unjust." Hence a just king would be judged, and rewarded, by Christ alone, but a bad king would be judged by bishops "either secretly or in public."[4] The related, but distinct, proposition that the king was "set up" by God through the workings of filial inheritance then received separate discussion. There were three ways, said Hincmar, that a man could be "set up in rulership": by God, like Moses, Samuel, and Josias; by God through men, like Joshua and David; and by man "but not without the divine nod [of permission]," like Solomon "on the orders of his father David, and by means of Zadoch the prophet and Nathan the priest." Hincmar went on to elaborate further subtypes of the third category: kings constituted "by the support of citizens and soldiers," and kings who succeeded to their fathers, as can be found, said Hincmar, "in the case of all those in the Histories and Chronicles , and even in the Lives of the Caesars ."[5] The Histories and


Chronicles Hincmar had in mind were presumably Frankish ones; and Lothar II, succeeding his father, thus clearly came into this section of Hincmar's third category. But of the timing or form of Lothar's becoming king, Hincmar said not a word, preferring, instead, to spell out the Biblical lesson that a bad king (and he hastily disclaimed any allegation that Lothar's father had been a bad king) would see the succession depart from his line.[6] In other words, characteristically, Hincmar slid away from analyzing into moralizing.

This passage has been discussed by several modern commentators. It has been excerpted, taken from its immediate context, sometimes misconstrued.[7] Above all, it has not been set against the broader context of Hincmar's own political experience. Yet, as a man who for a generation and more was at the heart of events in the oft-divided Frankish realm, Hincmar observed many settings-up of rulers. His personal interest in the practicalities of royal inauguration is documented in the consecration ordines he himself produced for Carolingian rulers.[8] But most ninth-century Frankish kings received no ecclesiastical consecration. How important was such a ritual in Hincmar's view? How otherwise did a man become a king? Who, other than bishops, could participate? Did Hincmar have consistent criteria for gauging the legitimacy of a king's accession? Given that he regarded "tyrannical usurpers" as divinely ordained ("whether to fill up the number of their own sins, or to allow vengeance on the people's sins"), yet clearly identified the tyrant as one who acquired kingship in a wrongful manner, how did Hincmar distinguish in practice between the usurper and the rightful king? In canonical treatises, and in Mirrors of Princes, such questions could be sidestepped. What forced Hincmar to address them, however briefly and often obliquely, was the writing of contemporary history. His sustained essay in the genre, virtually disregarded by historians who have dealt at length with his political ideas, and even dismissed as "the prelate's most anonymous work," was the last section of the so-called Annals of St. Bertin , covering the years 861–882; it was a work that Hincmar himself designated "the Deeds of Our Kings."[9]

In the AB , Hincmar mentions some twenty-six acquisitions of regnal power, some abortive, mere attempted coups, some confirming previously established tenure, some inaugurating effective reigns.[10] The twenty years of his authorship of the AB were years of unprecedented disruption in the transmission of Carolingian power. A generation of long-lived kings gave way to a series of reigns cut short by illness or accident. Filial succession, whether to a subkingdom during a royal father's lifetime, or to the father's whole kingdom after his death, was no statistical norm, even if contemporaries considered it normal. As frequent as cases of sons succeeding fathers were those where another close kinsman made a bid for the succession.[11] Even where a son was available, the timing of his succession could be problematic: more than one prince was tempted to jump the gun and "usurped part of the realm" as a


rebel against his father.[12] The fact that conflict was, with a single exception, contained within the dynastic circle of those descended from Charlemagne in the male line did not remove its intensity. A brother might pit his "hereditary right" against an uncle's claim: the rules of family inheritance in any case allowed room for maneuver.[13]

In the AB , Hincmar recorded nearly all of the settings up (successful or otherwise) of rulers known to have occurred during the decades 861–882.[14] Though his accounts were mostly terse, he indicated for some cases distinct elements or stages in the ruler's inauguration. Hereditary right clearly underlay nearly every case, for all save one of the claimants were Carolingians born; yet Hincmar scarcely even mentions it. It was commonplace, uncontroversial: only a Carolingian, and a king's son, was eligible for kingship. By contrast, in nearly all the cases of filial succession not said to involve usurpation of power, Hincmar expressly mentions paternal designation.[15] Still more striking is the stress on the participation of the aristocracy in every type of dynastic succession. The quest of a would-be king for aristocratic support, or aristocratic initiative in inviting a hoped-for king, is mentioned explicitly in well over half the cases Hincmar covered.[16] His silence in certain cases may thus be significant. An elective element could occur, of course, alongside others, such as paternal designation or fraternal division. But rarely was it wholly absent. In fact, Hincmar presents nearly every king-to-be, or would-be king, whatever his position in the dynasty, as dependent on the support of aristocrats for the timing, course, and outcome of his bid for rulership.[17] The emphasis is worth noting, since it has been argued on the basis of Hincmar's ordines that his basic view was hierocratic—that he was trying to establish the authority of bishops, and especially the archbishop of Reims, as king-makers. The performance of royal consecration rites, on this argument, gave Hincmar the means to control the king. But Hincmar the recorder of royal Gesta expresses no such view and is, as we shall see, capable of realism about the political forces that could underlie, and belie, episcopal role-playing.[18]

The status of the AB as evidence of Hincmar's opinions is also worth noting. This was an "unofficial," private work in which Hincmar gave vent to some very personal views on, for example, the interventions of Pope Nicholas I in the affairs of the Frankish Church, or the promotion of the archbishop of Sens to the primacy of Gaul.[19] For Hincmar, perhaps even more than for any of his contemporaries, the writing of royal Gesta was a self-conscious and subjective business: it involved selectivity and (in both senses of the word) discrimination.[20] In the AB , Hincmar did not seek anonymity: his own preferences, and prejudices, shine through almost every page. Hence, if we want to know what Hincmar "really" thought about king-making, his section of the AB seems a good place to look. A brief examination of four cases follows.


The Attempted Setting Up of Carloman as King in 873

This is Hincmar's account of the final phase in the rebellion of Charles the Bald's son Carloman. Three years before Carloman was first alleged to have been "plotting against his father, thereby breaching his fidelity."[21] He had been put into the Church as a child of five or six and tonsured as a cleric, subsequently receiving minor orders as a deacon. He had then been given several abbacies, which he held in the manner of a lay abbot, having a regular abbot in office alongside to supervise the monasteries' religious life. In 868, Hincmar records Charles the Bald's sending of Carloman "with a crack force of household troops" to Neustria to fight the Vikings on the Loire.[22] In 869, when Charles made a strong bid for the succession to his nephew Lothar II, he endowed Carloman with further abbacies in the newly acquired western part of Lothar's kingdom. But the new situation had evoked a new ambition in Carloman: his rebellion was surely a response to the potential availability of a Lotharingian kingdom for himself. Though Hincmar does not say that Carloman aspired to kingship in 870 or 871, his record of Carloman's activities in these years strongly suggests such an ambition. The annal for 873 makes this explicit. Life imprisonment was the punishment intended by Charles for his faithless son. But when the bishop had

deposed Carloman from all ecclesiastical rank, and left him only the communion of a layman, . . . the ancient cunning Enemy incited Carloman and his accomplices to exploit another argument, namely, that because he no longer held any ecclesiastical orders, he could be all the more free to assume the title and power of a king. . . So it came about that, following his deposition, his former accomplices began to rally to him again, more enthusiastically than ever. . . : their plan was that, as soon as they got the chance, they would snatch him out of the prison where he was being held, and set him up as their king.[23]

Charles the Bald then had Carloman hailed before a secular court and condemned to death for his crimes—a sentence commuted to blinding "in order to deceive the pernicious hope in him on the part of those men who hated peace."[24]

There are two implications here for Hincmar's view of ninth-century Frankish king-making. First, however much Hincmar disapproved of Carloman's supporters, he did not challenge their capacity to "set up a king."[25] It was Carloman's personal ineligibility that made his elevation to kingship impossible: the would-be king-makers' qualifications for their role were implicitly accepted. Significantly, there is no hint here or in Hincmar's letters that Carloman's supporters included any bishop. Second, in affirming here Charles's right to override filial claims in making his arrangements for the future, Hincmar was asserting (and perhaps wished to assure Charles the Bald) that the Church could offer a workable method for excluding a legitimate son from a share in the royal succession. Consecration to holy orders,


was indelible: hence Carloman, by receiving tonsure as a cleric, had been removed permanently from the ranks of those eligible for kingship.[26] Carloman's supporters sinned in ignoring this. In the end, the Church's rule was vindicated, even if secular power and a secular judgment were needed to enforce it.[27] Thus the Church, which increasingly stressed the obligations of Christian marriage, and hence, by implication, the claims of all legitimate sons, was offering at the same time an escape route from the ensuing intensification of problems arising from partible inheritance. In practice, previous kings too had recognized that partibility had limits: the kingdom of the Franks had never been treated just like a family holding. But the Carolingian dynasty in the middle decades of the ninth century seemed to risk a crisis of overproduction. Hincmar was clearsighted about the threat further partition might pose to royal power in a kingdom reduced to a mere "fragment."[28] Carloman could, perhaps should, receive honores that would enable him to maintain high social status. But the "title and power of a king" would be denied him. Hincmar was no less clearsighted about Charles's need to buttress the new method of exclusion by a traditional one. Only by blinding was Carloman's fate sealed, and his supporters' hopes thereby finally dashed. Hincmar recorded the sentence without comment. In his view, it was justified by Carloman's faithlessness towards his father and by the overriding need to forestall any further partition of the Frankish heartlands.[29]

The rest of the 873 annal sets Carloman's story in a context that also suggests its meaning for Hincmar. Alongside it is placed the story of the East Frankish prince Charles the Fat, tempted doubly by the devil, on the one hand, to rebellion against his father, and on the other, to renounce the world. Both temptations had to be spurned, in Hincmar's view: royal power must be transmitted legitimately, from father to son, and, thus acquired, must be used.[30] The annal goes on to highlight Charles the Bald's success in defeating the Vikings at Angers. Here was a king acting "manfully and strenuously," and carrying out his royal function to the full. His judgment on his faithless son was amply vindicated in a triumphant affirmation at once of his paternal and regal authority, and of the integrity of his realm.

The Royal Consecrations of Louis III and Carloman

Another view of Hincmar on king-making can be noted in the consecration of Louis III and Carloman, sons of Louis the Stammerer at Ferrières in 879. The context of this event was the complex situation that arose in the West Frankish kingdom after the death of Louis the Stammerer at Compiègne on 10 April. Hincmar began the 879 annal with an account of the arrangements made by Louis during his final illness for the sole succession of his elder son, the future Louis III. Though the boy was already of age, a sort of regency council was set up for him. Then the dying father sent his son


"crown and sword and the rest of the royal gear, and ordered those who were with his son to have him consecrated and crowned king."[31] According to Hincmar, these paternal plans were blocked by the interests of two powerful factions, the one inviting the intervention of the East Frankish king Louis the Younger to take over the West Frankish realm, the other wishing to see the realm divided between the Stammerer's two sons.[32] To avert the former's success, "Abbot Hugh and the other magnates who were with the sons of their late lord Louis (the Stammerer) . . . , namely, Louis and Carloman, sent certain bishops, Ansegis and others, to the monastery of Ferrières, and there had Louis and Carloman consecrated and crowned kings."[33]

The tone of this account is markedly reserved, as if Hincmar were detaching himself from proceedings that constituted a plain violation of Louis the Stammerer's plans for the single succession of his eldest son; the consequence would be a new division of the realm, as described in the next annal.[34] Note the pointed reminder that the magnates who acted were with "the sons of their late lord," whose last wishes they were disregarding. No doubt Hincmar was motivated by personal rancor: his deepest hostility was to Louis the Younger's main partisan, Abbot Gauzlin, whose motives and support he blatantly misrepresents; but Abbot Hugh and Archbishop Ansegis of Sens were also his rivals and supplanters in influence at court.[35] Hincmar may well have thought that he, if anyone, ought to have performed the consecrations of the Stammerer's sons, as he had their father's.[36] Nevertheless, the AB 's account stresses the need for haste. For Hincmar (unlike the other main source for these events) records the impending invasion of Louis the Younger, which justified the action of Abbot Hugh and the other magnates. Further, Hincmar, though absent from the consecrations, sent envoys to convey his consent to what was done.[37] In the AB thereafter, the Stammerer's sons are referred to as kings. The king-makings at Ferrières were valid, then, in Hincmar's eyes; and his account indicates that their validity derived from the magnates' initiative and role therein. They are the subjects of the two main verbs of Hincmar's key sentence: they "sent" the bishops, and they "caused" the late king's sons to be consecrated and crowned. Hincmar seems to be suggesting that when paternal designation and aristocratic choice did not coincide, in the last resort the latter sufficed to authorize the setting up of king's sons as kings. Again, his prime concern was to preserve the separate existence of a West Frankish realm.

Boso's Consecration, 879

Hincmar sets the scene for his account of Boso's king-making by another explicit attribution of initiative: Boso was "persuaded by his wife, who kept on saying that she no longer wanted to live if, daughter as she was of the emperor of Italy, and former betrothed of the emperor of Greece, she did not


make her husband a king."[38] The statement gains its point from the account that immediately precedes it in Hincmar's annal (and the word "meanwhile" signals the synchronicity of the two events) of the king-making of the Stammerer's sons. There the subject of the verb (regem) facere was the primores ; here the subject is Boso's wife! After this travesty of correct proceedings, we are not surprised to read that Boso "persuaded the bishops of those regions, who had in part been constrained by threats, in part drawn in by greed for the abbacies and estates promised them and later given them, to anoint and crown him king."[39] Hincmar's single long sentence is carefully constructed: the final verbs "anoint and crown" are drained of their usual meaning, and rendered positively ironic, by what precedes them.

Further, as in the case of Carloman's fate in 873, the Boso episode needs to be read in the context of a whole annal. In fact it is framed by accounts of two other king-makings. Not only is it immediately preceded by the description of the consecrations at Ferrières, as we have seen, but it is immediately followed by this statement: "And also Hugh, son of Lothar II by Waldrada, collected a great gang of brigands and tried to seize the realm of his father."[40] The use of the words "meanwhile" and "also" to introduce the successive sentences dealing with Boso and Hugh suggests that Hincmar means us to link these episodes. Boso's attempted coup "in those parts" has as complement the bastard Hugh's abortive "invasion" of Lotharingia. Only in the next sentence, with its neutral statement that Charles the Fat "obtained the kingdom" of Lombardy, does Hincmar recover his composure; he can go on to conclude this annal with an upbeat account of the young West Frankish kings' encounter with the Vikings, "and the army of the Franks, by God's will, returned home safe with victory."[41]

Both in his record of Boso's consecration, and in his setting of it, Hincmar has packed a judgment. The omission of reference to primores (though other sources imply just such backing for Boso) is surely deliberate. For a man who lacked any hereditary right, only aristocratic invitation could have supplied legitimacy. A consecration performed by bishops under such circumstances was inoperative as far as Hincmar was concerned: in his remaining annals, he pointedly denies Boso the title of king. Far from elevating episcopal consecration to the cardinal constitutive act of king-making, Hincmar shows here his contempt for what the relationship of king to bishops could all too easily become: a mere matter of bribes and threats. By juxtaposing this to the very different case of the Stammerer's sons, Hincmar highlights the absence of the primores from Boso's inauguration and hence implies that no true king-making was effected.

The King-Making of Charles the Bald in Lotharingia, 869

Hincmar's account of Charles the Bald's assumption of power in the Middle Kingdom is the great set-piece of the AB . It occupies more space than almost


any other single episode. This is not only because Hincmar here quotes more texts in full than elsewhere; nor does Hincmar give this event such prominence simply because he himself had "stage-managed" it. In fact, the theatrical metaphor diverts us from Hincmar's purpose in writing up these events as he does: precisely what he seeks to emphasize are the spontaneous actions of many powerful men, clerical and lay.[42]

Hincmar acknowledges that the news of Lothar II's death in Italy without a legitimate heir produced divergent responses among the Lotharingian aristocracy. Two sets of envoys, he says, came to Charles at Attigny: a minority of the bishops and magnates (primores) of the late Lothar's kingdom sent word that Charles should await his brother Louis the German's agreement to a partition of Lotharingia before himself advancing into that kingdom; but a majority invitied Charles to move into Lotharingia as swiftly as possible, promising to meet him either en route to Metz or on his arrival at that city. Hincmar reveals his own preference: the latter counsel was "sounder" (sanior), and Charles thought it "more acceptable and healthier [salubrius] for him."[43] These adjectives are redolent of the language of church councils, and evoke the role of consensus therein.[44] Sounder, healthier proposals naturally prevail: a vote carried by the part that is greater both in quantity and quality entails unanimous compliance.

Charler's calculation, so Hincmar wishes to imply, proved correct: at Verdun, Charles was met by "many men" from Lotharingia, and at Metz received "many others" into his lordship. All these persons participated in the ensuing rituals (cohibentibus omnibus) in the church of St. Stephen at Metz. Hincmar gives the full texts of two speeches. The first was by Bishop Adventius of Metz. His theme was the divinely inspired unanimity that activated all present. He quoted St. Paul: "[God] hath made us to live of one mind in one house, and broken down the middle wall of partition between us."[45] Adventius also stressed the hereditary right by which Charles succeeded as "legitimate heir" to his nephew's kingdom. Now therefore, he said, it was "worthy for Charles and necessary for us" that the "faithful people" should hear what was fitting from "the most Christian king." Charles responded with the desired assurances: "You know that I will keep for each his due law and justice, as long as each of you offers the royal honour due obedience and subjection.[46]

Hincmar now addressed the Lotharingian bishops present, to justify his officiating at Metz, which was outside his province. He could advance good canonical reasons for an archbishop of Reims to act during a vacancy in the neighboring province "in his Belgic region." On receiving the bishops' collective assent, Hincmar proceeded to a second, general speech. Charles, he said, who had "usefully been in charge of and benefited" his people in the West Frankish kingdom, has come to Metz "led by God" (deo ducente). Like Adventius, Hincmar stressed unanimity. But his accent was not just on the support of the Lotharingians, but on its voluntary, spontaneous character:


"Just as all the animals came together into Noah's ark, with no one compelling them," so "you have flowed together here by divine inspiration." What men could perceive as an unforced, collective assembling ("you have come together on your own volition") signified the action of God through them.[47]

Hincmar invoked two earlier occasions. One was in the remote past, when Clovis, "famous king of the Franks," converted by St. Remigius, "apostle of the Franks," with "his whole people," was baptized "with 3000 Franks (not counting their women and children)," and was anointed king with oil brought from heaven. The other occasion was within living memory, when Clovis's "descendant" and namesake, Louis the Pious, Charles's own father, was "restored to rulership and crowned with the crown of the realm by the priests of the Lord with the acclamation of the faithful people in this very church, as we saw who were present there!"[48] Hincmar could telescope the whole of Frankish history: the same heavenly oil "of which we still have some" was to be used for Charles as had been divinely supplied for Clovis, while Charles's coronation recalled that of his father in the same place a generation before. Both models, of oiling and of crowning, were to be taken up and fused in the ritual that followed.[49] The common factor linking the three occasions was the manifestation of God's will through the participation of the Franks, "the faithful people," as well of Frankish bishops, in the elevation of their rulers.

Hincmar ended by letting the "people" speak for themselves:

"If this pleases you, make a noise together with your own voices." And at this all shouted out together. The bishop [i.e. Hincmar] then said: "Let us give thanks with one mind to the Lord, singing 'Te deum laudamus.'" And after this [Charles] was crowned king by the bishops.[50]

In thus allowing us to "hear" the aristocracy's consent to Charles's king-making, Hincmar conveys the indispensability of their collaboration with the bishops. Louis the Pious's restoration, still vivid in Hincmar's memory, Clovis's anointing, no less vivid in Hincmar's historical imagination, both seemed to him to show God working through the Franks to give them the rulers that were good for them. The king-making of 869 too represented, for Hincmar, a Judgment of God.

In his section of the AB , Hincmar supplied his contemporary audience with something other than objective reporting. What they could perceive as apologia or propaganda or self-conscious myth-making, we modern historians tend to read as a genre familiar to us: history as fact. This short paper's sampling of just one theme has suggested that each annal may be a more skillful literary construct than hitherto suspected and would thus repay careful textual analysis.[51] But the historian's further aim must be to get behind the text to ninth-century political realities. The more closely we scrutinize


the AB in the light of other literary sources of the period, the stronger our impression that its "facts" are refracted—that inconvenient realities have been distorted, even obscured altogether. This is clear, for instance, in the case of the Ab 's presentation of Charles's inauguration at Metz: where the AB shows unanimity, divisions remained; where spontaneity is depicted, political pressures were rife; where the historic unity of the Frankish gens is evoked, only a localized fraction of that people were involved; where Charles's success is implied, in fact only months later, Metz, and much of Lotharingia, were in the hands of his rival Louis the German.[52]

But we need not give up the quest for truth of a kind in the AB . Hincmar's original audience, a coterie of sympathizers sharing his local concerns, would have expected bias, but not cynicism. For them, the writing of Gesta , based, so to speak, on "real life" details, was an opportunity to express, and evoke, more general assumptions and values. Hincmar's accounts of king-makings are evidence of consistent views as to how power might legitimately be acquired in the Frankish realm. The AB is a work of ideology. The power to shape the past is itself an historical fact. In the case of the AB , the early medieval historian can know more than usual of the wielder of this power, his methods and his purposes.

The political ideas of the mature Hincmar touched his theological views at a crucial point. He had fought hard, and successfully, against the predestinarian teachings of Gottschalk: "How could it be that each will receive according to his works on the day of Judgement, if there were no Free Will?"[53] Hincmar wanted to affirm the responsibility of individuals for their own actions, hence for their own salvation. The alternative, as Hincmar saw it, was social disintegration. Hincmar was "above all a pastor."[54] Like Gottschalk, he was acutely aware of the ubiquity of coercion in the temporal world: unlike Gottschalk, he could conceive of truly voluntary human actions and understood divine grace as enabling rather than constraining. Hence Hincmar could set a high value on decision-making that was unforced. Of course, he was no egalitarian democrat: those directly involved in the choosing of Frankish kings were the leaders of the Franks, the aristocracy, to which Hincmar himself belonged. Nevertheless the assumption was that they spoke for the rest.[55] Hincmar has been regarded as a less true Augustinian than Gottschalk; but his appreciation of the role of consensus as the expression of the community of faithful men accords with Augustine's definition of the commonwealth as an association of wills.[56] For Hincmar, God worked through the church and its sacraments, but he could also work "through soldiers and citizens." In old age, responding to what he perceived as new threats both to the kingdom that he had struggled so long to defend, and to his personal influence in its government, Hincmar laid new stress on the politics of consensus. His annals (and he was nearly sixty when he took up the job of writing them) convey, intermittently, the same message as his


revision of the de Ordine Palatii , or the letter written in 879 to a great lay magnate reminding him that "the general disposition of the realm" must depend, not on any one man, but on "the judgement and consent of many."[57] Such ideas had long underlain the political practice of the Franks. Hincmar gave them clearer expression and a new coherence and social force: "The Deeds of Our Kings" were the pastor's teaching aid. Whether addressing his intimates at Reims, in the AB , or reaching out in capitularies and manifestos to a wider audience, Hincmar had a very clear perception of "the useful past."[58]

Hincmar saw in the Carolingian dynasty a divinely placed bulwark of social order for the Franks. Boso, the non-Carolingian, was to be rejected. The dynasty's discarded members deserved some sympathy and some share in its honores . But discarded they must be. The overriding problem of past and present was to transmit the dynasty's power safely over time. In a letter to Charles the Bald, Hincmar pointed anxiously to "the loss of many capital places as a result of the multiple divisions of the Frankish realm. For the sake of the royal honor , there must be no diminution of the resources your predecessors used to be able to have from those places." The king and the faithful men in his household needed those portiuncula for their upkeep.[59] The solution was to avoid further division of the Frankish heartlands (the tripartite arrangement agreed at Verdun by the leading men of the Franks along with their kings became for Hincmar both model and limiting case), and if possible to reintegrate what had previously been divided.[60] Hincmar supported Charles the Bald's efforts in this direction, opposing distractions in far-off Italy; he supported Louis the Stammerer's plan for an undivided succession in 879. But another equally urgent requirement had to be set alongside this one: namely, to maintain the aristocratic support on which the dynasty's power depended. Hincmar sought to square these imperatives, presenting Charles in 869 as having such support, Boso in 879 as lacking it. But in the last resort, as in the case of the Stammerer's sons, or as in 876 when Charles sought to acquire his nephew's inherited kingdom, it was the expressed will of the local primores that must prevail. Without their consent, Hincmar implied, no realm could be acquired, in fact or in right. Contemporary history taught prudence, recognition of the fundamental reality of aristocratic power. But for Hincmar, it also showed the role of the faithful men in king-making, not opposed to, but the vehicle of, God's intervention in the world.



The following is a list of acquisitions of rulership (claimed or achieved) mentioned in Hincmar's section of the Annals of St. Bertin . (Page references are to the edition of F. Grat, J. Vielliard, and S. Clemencet, Paris, 1964.) Note: Consecrations of consorts are not included in this list.

1. 861, p. 85: Karlmann, son of Louis the German "magnam sibi partem . . . paterni regni praesumit."

2. 861, p. 87: Charles the Bald "a quibusdam invitatus quasi regnum Provintiae adepturus."

3. 863, p. 96: Louis II "Provintiam venit et quos potuit ipsius regni primores sibi conciliavit."

4. 865, pp. 117–118: Charles the Bald "Aquitaniae primores suscepit. Ad quorum multam petitionem filium suum Karolum . . . in Aquitaniam cum regio nomine ac potestate redire permittit."

5. 865, p. 123: Charles the Bald "Hludouuicum filium suum in Neustraim dirigit, nec reddito nec interdicto sibi nomine regio."

6. 867, p. 135: Charles the Bald "primores Aquitaniorum sibi obviam accersivit et filium suum Hludouuicum . . . eisdem Aquitanis regem praefecit."

7. 869, pp. 106–111: Charles the Bald in Lotharingia.

8. 869, pp. 167–168: Louis II "regnum quondam regis Hlotharii. . . Hludouuico imperatori . . . hereditario iure debetur."

9. 870, pp. 169, 172: Louis the German/Charles the Bald "talem portionem de regno Hlotharii regis consensit habere, qualem aut ipsi iustiorem et aequiorem aut communes fideles eorum inter se invenerint. . . Reges. . . convenerunt, et. . . regnum Hlotharii inter se diviserunt."

10. 873, p. 190: Carloman's bid for a kingdom.


11. 875–876, pp. 199–Charles the Bald "quibusdam de primoribus primoribus ex Italia ad se non venientibus, pluribus autem receptis, Roman invitante papa Iohanne perrexit et . . . in imperatorem unctus et coronatus atque imperator Romanorum est appellatus."

12. 876, pp. 206–207: Charles the Bald "dispositum habens . . . episcopos et primores regni quondam fratris sui ad se venientes recipere."

13. 876, p. 207: Louis the Younger uses Judgment of God to assert "plus per rectum ille habere deberet portionem de regno [Hlotharii] quam pater suus dimisit."

14. 877, pp. 218–221: Louis the Stammerer's accession to West Frankish kingdom, receiving "praeceptum per quod pater suus illi regnum ante mortem suum tradiderat," and regalia ; "coronatus est"; promissio to bishops; professio to clergy and people.

15. 878, p. 227: Louis the Stammerer "coronatus Hluduuicus a papa Iohanne" at Troyes.

16. 879, pp. 234–235: Louis the Stammerer designates Louis III.

17. 879, p. 236: Gauzlin and others persuade "potentes homines . . . ut Hludouuicum Germaniae rege, in hoc regno convocarent."

18. 879, p. 238: Louis the Younger hears that his late brother's illegitimate son Arnulf "partem regni illius occupasse."

19. 879, p. 239: The consecrations of Louis III and Carloman.

20. 879, p. 239: Boso's consecration.

21. 879, p. 239: Hugh's bid for Lotharingia.

22. 879, p. 240: Charles the Fat "in Longobardiam perrexit et ipsum regnum obtinuit."

23. 880, p. 241: Louis III and Carloman "sicut fideles illorum invenerunt regnum paternum inter se diviserunt."

24. 880, p. 243: Charles the Fat "a Iohanne papa se . . . in imperatorem consecrari obtinuit."

25. 882, p. 245: "Venientes autem primores partis illius regni [Lotharingia] voluerunt se [to Louis III] commendare. Sed . . . non eos in commendatione suscepit."

26. 882, pp. 246–247: "Primores autem regni [of Louis III] nuntium miserunt ad Karlomannum, mandantes ut . . . ipse quantotius ad eos venire festinaret. . . . Ipsi autem parati erant illum recipere et se illi commendare, sicut et fecerunt."


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