The Hunt for the King 22) The position of the Fieschi Letter in the codex, and what it might mean

1.3. In chartularies (1) documents are generally arranged by content. For example, first general privilegia, followed by property deeds in geographical order, and so forth. Thus, the documents are not necessarily in chronological order. As far as I can tell from Register A of the Maguelonne Chartulary, this type of arrangement is present. The copies of documents it contains are explicitly referred to as recognitiones: copies of acts which acknowledge situations, facts, and rights. These copies fully attest to the content of the originals they were copied from, which the bishop or one of his representatives received from people and nobles, vassals of the bishop himself and his church (a personis et nobilibus infrascriptis suis et Ecclesie predicte vassallis). The Fieschi Letter, as can be seen in the photograph below, is numbered as document 120 on c. 86r. (with both ancient and modern numeration).

The top half of the Fieschi Letter. The page numbering, both ancient and modern, is clearly visible, as is the word 'vacat' in the right margin.
The top half of the Fieschi Letter. The page numbering, both ancient and modern, is clearly visible, as is the word ‘vacat’ in the right margin.

In the chartulary, the document preceding the Fieschi Letter (numbered 119, on c.85v.) is dated 1264 (the bishop of Maguelonne at the time was Bérenger de Frédol, Berengarius Fredoli, 1263-1296). The document following the Fieschi Letter (numbered 121, on c.86v.) is dated 1299 (the bishop of Maguelonne at the time was Gaucelm de la Garde, 1296-1304): domino Gaucelmo Dei gratia Magalonensi episcopoactum in claustro ecclesie de Corcona. Both documents, just as the other acts immediately before (numbered 112, 113, 114, 118) and after (numbered 122, 123, 124) are differing types of recognitiones, but in all of them the location that is clearly named is Corcona, which I firmly identify as today’s Corconne, a few kilometres Sauve (Salvii, in Latin).

The relative positions of Maguelone, Montpellier, Corconne, Sauve and Cournonterrail.
The relative positions of Maguelone, Montpellier, Corconne, Sauve and Cournonterrail.

This corresponds to what Germain stated in a generic manner, speaking of “documents relative to the Barony of Sauve, assigned to the bishops of Maguelonne by Philip IV of France in 1293”. I only examined these documents in brief, but found no evidence to support Seymour Phillips’ statement that they represent “an unrelated collection of charters concerning the bishop’s property rights in the small town of Cournonterral (….)” and “it is preceded and followed by documents related to Cournonterral…” (Edward II, p.583 and note 35, p.584). Cournonterral is today a small city, but at the time was one of the wealthiest piories in the diocese of Maguelonne, and is mentioned in many documents of the Chartulary, including documents written in loco (Cornone Terralli) and chronologically close to those ‘around’ the Fieschi Letter, but not spatially. In other words, they are not in the same part of Register A.

Therefore, from what I have seen, Register A is ordered geographically and thematically, and in part also chronologically within each specific group of documents. This order is brusquely interrupted by the Fieschi Letter, which comes as an ‘anomaly’ by comparison with the other documents, both in terms of the type of text and because the date and place of writing are missing, whereas they are nearly always present in the other documents copied into the chartulary. But let’s make some more observations, and look at some relative hypotheses.

The folio technique in binding. On the left, two folded sheets come together to form a signature. On the right, four folded sheets come together to make a signature. The same technique is used in the binding of Register A.
The folio technique in binding. On the left, two folded sheets come together to form a signature. On the right, four folded sheets come together to make a signature. The same technique is used in the binding of Register A. If we number the sheets in the signature on the right from the back-most (1) to the foremost (4), the Fieschi Letter is on the equivalent of the ‘recto’ of sheet 3, or the second from the front (though the signatures of Register A are formed of 8 sheets, thus it would be number 7).

Observation A) Register A is a bound volume using the ‘folio’ technique. In other words, the codex is entirely made out of large sheets of vellum, folded in half to create four pages, and sewn into signatures. The page on which the Fieschi Letter is written, 86r., is thus one of four pages on a single sheet of vellum. The other three pages on the same sheet of vellum also bear writing. The documents copied onto the other three pages of this sheet of vellum, such as 86v., are consistent with the internal ordering of the chartulary as described above. Therefore, the Fieschi Letter as a physical entity – ink on parchment – cannot have been created separately and then inserted into the register.

The binding of Register A open at the Fieschi letter (right). An example of folio binding using vellum.
The binding of Register A open at the Fieschi letter (right).

Relative hypothesis – Page 86r. may have been left blank in the compilation of the chartulary, and the Fieschi Letter copied onto it at a later time. Blank pages were frequently left in chartularies, but normally at the end of a section, in order to add further documents to it. Here, the ‘blank page’ would have been in the middle of a section – that concerning Corconne. Given that the documents copied into the register vary greatly in length, the page would have been left blank in the hopes that any document which may have needed to be inserted would fit on a single page. This seems an unlikely risk to take, and I would tend to exclude this hypothesis.

Observation b) The handwriting of the Fieschi Letter seems to be the same as that of the preceding and following documents. (However, given the characteristics of the writing used, which is common in notarial documents of the 14th century, and is highly formalized, ‘resemblance’ is not enough to state with certainty that it was copied by the same person who copied the other documents. It is necessary to analyze the writing and the graphology of the documents in question to be sure (more on this will follow in part 2.1 of the analysis, the document: extrinsic characteristics)).

Relative hypothesis – If it is true that the Fieschi Letter is in the same hand as the documents that precede it and follow it, we can hypothesise that the document from which the Fieschi Letter was copied may have been among the documents that arrived from Corconne or Sauve, in its current position, and this is the reason why it is in this position within the codex. In other words, the scribe simply encountered this document in a series of papers from Corconne, and copied it into the register as he systematically copied all the documents in the series in the same order as he encountered them. Considering this, I believe it is well worthwhile posing the question: are there any links between the diocese of Maguelone, Corconne, Sauve and the Fieschi Letter, or people linked to it in some way, or Edward II himself?

[Editor’s note: As always, Elena Corbellini finishes this section of the analysis by posing a question. She asks this question with her ‘analyst’ hat on, knowing full well that the Auramala Project has already in part answered it. In fact, our previous posts on the Verdale Hypothesis 1 and the Verdale Hypothesis 2 and the Papal letter it is based upon show that there is good reason to believe there may have been a link between Maguelone and the Fieschi Letter, via Bishop Arnaud de Verdale. However, we have not yet found any links with Corconne… we will anxiously follow Elena’s advice, and search for them!]

Notes:

(1) Here we mean ‘chartularies’ proper. It must be clarified that in the Middle Ages, in France and in Italy in the era of the comunes, the term also indicated the registers in which notaries wrote the imbreviature of their acts. In any case, it was later used in a more generic sense, for originals and copies together, etc, or also for compilations made by authors of documents.

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