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.

Chapters of decrees

While written laws like the lex salica governed everyday life, the Carolingians also issued decrees from time to time, called capitularies. Capitularies are legal documents, so named because they are divided into chapters or articles called ‘capitula.’ Capitularies were issued by the king, and describe and explain legal obligations of the king’s subjects. It is through capitularies that the flavor of royal rule can be known. “While the decisive influence of Charlemagne on the institutions of the Frankish monarchy is well known, what is more obscure… is the manner in which Charlemagne wielded this influence. This was done chiefly through the capitularies… by which the Carolingian monarchs issued legislative and administrative provisions.”1.Ganshof, Carolingians, “The impact of Charlemagne on the institutions of the Frankish realm,” p.143.

There are about 100 capitularies that have come down to modern times. Of these, maybe twenty-five have been translated into English, primarily by King and Loyn & Percival. I find Loyn & Percival’s translations a little clearer to read, although King provides more background on each capitulary.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Ganshof, Carolingians, “The impact of Charlemagne on the institutions of the Frankish realm,” p.143.

Bertrada of Laon – Not Mother of the Year

Bertrada of Laon is one of the very few women of the century about whom we can know anything more than just a name and a marital disposition. But from what we can see of her, particularly one series of events late in her life, she must have been a formidable lady.

She was born sometime between 710 and 727, in Laon, France, of noble parents. After that, we get nothing until she reappears as the wife of Pepin about 741, and the details immediately get fuzzy. No one is sure if she was Pepin’s first or second wife. In fact, it is hard to be sure just what a wife was back then, as the line between wife and concubine was not well defined. Also fuzzy were the rules on who could marry whom, based on how closely they were related. Always a problem when the 1% keep marrying each other.

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