The Hunt for the King 25) Back to the Verdale Hypothesis, with new evidence

Today once again we return to Elena Corbellini’s fascinating analysis of the Fieschi Letter, and finally we also return to the “Verdale Hypothesis”, which emerged from the study of the letters of Pope Benedict XII, all the way back in December 2013. In our last post Elena demonstrated that the Fieschi Letter most likely came to be where it is today thanks to having been in the possession of Arnaud de Verdale, bishop of Maguelone. She now continues to look at the significance of this in the wider geo-political context of the time, and anyone reading these last two posts and those on the Verdale Hypothesis (Verdale Hypothesis 1 and Verdale Hypothesis 2) together cannot fail to appreciate the importance of these discoveries. Which have come about by paying close attention to detail over a long period of time, and with enormous patience. Well done Elena, we really appreciate your work!

Some notes on the situational historical context: coming back to the “Verdale Hypothesis”…

Arnaud de Verdale became bishop of Maguelone after having been the private chaplain of Pope Benedict XII, his great friend and confidant, and above all plenipotentiary in the rather frenetic diplomatic negotiations of the years 1338-1339.

Maguelone Cathedral. Today a place of haunting beauty, in the Middle Ages a seat of religious and secular power.
Maguelone Cathedral. Today a place of haunting beauty, in the Middle Ages a seat of religious and secular power.

Maguelone 2

French historians, but strangely German ones even more so, underline his determining role in the negotiations aimed at reconciling Pope Benedict XII and the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV ‘the Bavarian’, convincing the latter to lean towards the king of France and away from Edward III, whose pretentions to the throne of France were at the time becoming ever more overbearing, thanks also to the title of ‘Imperial vicar’ granted him by the Emperor. These negotiations were complex, and conducted virtually alone by the Pope and his legates, in accord also with Robert of Anjou, king of Naples (from whom Provence depended). (1) The king of France seems to have been left in a relatively marginal position in the negotiations (in the papal letters of those years at times the Pope instructs to wait before making everything clear to King Philip…).

In any case, on January 14th 1340 at Vilshofen in Bavaria, the Emperor solemnly swore friendship and alliance to his nephew the king of France until death, and promised to withdraw the title of vicar of the Holy Roman Empire from Edward III.

“Arnaud de Verdale had wrought the dissolution of an alliance [between England and the Empire, Ed.] that would have been catastrophic for the history of France.” Fabrège).

  • We now have, I believe, more grounds to re-propose our “Verdale Hypothesis” (see Verdale Hypothesis 1 and Verdale Hypothesis 2), and perhaps the theory that there was diplomatic blackmail, with more solid motivations, and to a greater and more complex degree than previously imagined by some historians. But let’s wait a moment.

– I continue to believe that a more precise definition of the ‘identity’ of the Fieschi Letter through the analysis of the document and its text is fundamental in order to understand how, by whom and why it may have been written: such a definition is, I maintain, absolutely necessary before advancing any hypothesis concerning the truthfulness of the contents of the Letter.

For this reason in the next part of the analysis I will attempt to interpret an aspect of the Letter that seems not to have been taken into consideration by scholars before now: the corrections in the manuscript. Might they add some pieces to the research puzzle?

(1) In the Roman de Pierre de Provence et de la Belle Maguelone (XII century.) by the canon Bernard de Tréviez (author also of the inscriptions on the portal of the cathedral) the damsel is the daughter of the king of Naples and it was she who desired to create the first site of hospitality for pilgrims at Maguelone. Traces of history reflected in an etiological fable, which may be familiar to some music lovers thanks to the cycle of 15 lieder it inspired in Brahms. Critical edition: A.M.Babbi, 2003.

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