763: Waifar’s last chance

After the utter devastation wrought by Pepin’s full-on assault the previous year, in 763 the king was ready to consolidate his gains, both in land and morale, and press home the final blows to break the last Aquitanian resistance.

He decided to hold the annual Frankish Mayfield in the border city of Nevers.1.RFA, 763, p.44. Just a few years ago Nevers had been a frontier town on the Burgundian side of the Loire, the last stop before crossing over to ‘enemy’ territory. Now the town was considered central enough and safe enough a place for the king to hold the Frankish annual assembly there. Waifar, wherever he was, must have gritted his teeth to see the insolence and confidence of Pepin. But that was nothing to what Pepin unleashed next.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. RFA, 763, p.44.

762: Total war

In 762 Pepin broke the back of the Aquitanian resistance. While the war continued for another six or seven years, after 762 it was clear that it was only a matter of time before the final Frankish victory. The campaigns waged by each side during this pivotal year clearly illustrate both the strategy followed by the Franks, as well as the fatal flaw in the Aquitanian leadership.

The previous year Waifar, or more precisely, a couple of his dukes, had launched an unopposed assault into Burgundy, and returned with much plunder. But then king Pepin marched into eastern Aquitaine and burned several major fortresses. Clearly this was not an equation of exchange which would work out for Waifar in the long run. Waifar must have been pondering his options, none of them good, when Pepin came over the river in force, with a major siege train, heading for the de facto capital of northern Aquitaine.

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761: Waifar strikes back

As 761 dawned, two rulers faced each other across the Loire. To the north Pepin had delivered his ultimatum the year before, and then backed it up with a lightning strike down the eastern border of Aquitaine, looting the land and returning to Francia with minimal casualties. To the south Waifar was licking his wounds. Despite years of relative peace with which to prepare for a day he must have known was coming, his leadership and army were shoved aside when he refused to accede to Pepin’s demands. The fact that he later apparently caved on all counts could not have endeared him to his people or his commanders. He needed to take action, and so he did.

Waiofar in his wickedness started plotting against Pippin, King of the Franks. He made an alliance with Chunibert count of Bourges and Bladinus count of the Auvergne whom in the previous year he had sent with Bishop Bertelannus of Bourges to King Pippin, to the latter’s great indignation. With these and with other counts he secretly moved his entire army to Chalon, and he set fire to the whole region of Autun as far as Chalon. They laid waste the approaches to Chalon and destroyed whatever they found there. They burnt down the royal villa of Mailly. Then they went home with great spoils and plunder, there being no one to stop them. King Pippin was furious when he was told that Waiofar had plundered a large part of his kingdom and had broken his oaths that he had sworn to him.1.Fredegar, ch.42, pp.110-111.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Fredegar, ch.42, pp.110-111.