Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Carolingian Son

Uzés was founded around an early Roman aqueduct
Back here I mentioned that Bernard of Septimania married a woman named Dhuoda, whom he had travel with him for awhile; then he sent her to live at Uzés in what is now southern France. As is the case with many political figures involved in military or court jobs, he rarely spent time with her after that. This is not to say that he no longer cared for her; just that his job came first. The circumstantial evidence is that he wanted her there for her safety: he became involved in every civil strife caused by the sons of Louis the Pious. When not involved directly at Court (that is, when he was exiled), there is evidence that he returned to the south to see her. It is certain that he fathered a second son on one of these visits. Dhuoda wrote a book of advice for her elder son; there is, however, no evidence that he ever read or even received it. In fact, it seems highly unlikely, if he did read it, that he took any of it to heart.

William of Septimania (29 November 826-850), was first raised by his uncle, Theodoric of Autun, until Theodoric's death when William was four; then he was sent to the court of Louis the Pious, where his father was chamberlain. William stayed with Louis throughout the emperor's life, although he seems to have traveled to Toulouse with his father at times, and also spent time at Uzés with his mother. After Louis' death in 840, Bernard used his son as a go-between, sending him to pledge loyalty to Charles the Bald. William stayed with Charles, asking for (and eventually receiving) Theodoric's lands in Autun.

Barcelona castle from William's era
When Bernard was executed in 844 by Charles, William joined Pepin II in his attempt to keep control of Aquitaine (Louis had given it to Charles, but the Aquitaine nobles had preferred Pepin). Pepin offered him his father's territory of Toulouse, although Charles had given it to Fredelo (who was actually a cousin of William's: William of Gellone was grandfather to both men). William was present in Toulouse and was able to defend it, but in 849 he went to Barcelona to take control of an area his father had once ruled, leaving Toulouse unguarded for Charles to take over; Charles confirmed Fredelo in possession of Toulouse. William made no friends in Barcelona—having taken it, it was said, "more by cunning and lies than by force of arms"—and in 850 when he fled back there to escape the wrath of Charles after a later military defeat, Charles' supporters killed him.

Clearly, his political choices and personal behavior were no more commendable than his father's. Would he have made different choices if he had read his mother's book of advice? Let's look at what was in it and see what we think.


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