The Fieschi Letter/La Lettera Fieschi

On this page you can discover the Fieschi Letter and the remarkable story it tells in great detail.

In questa pagine potete scoprire la Lettera Fieschi e il suo racconto straordinario in dettaglio.

King Edward II’s Odyssey – map and observations

L’Odissea di Re Edoardo II – mappa e osservazioni

Full-page photograph of the Fieschi Letter

We wish to thank the staff of the Archives départementales de l’Hérault, Montpellier, for their kind help and permission to use photographs taken of archival material in their possession.

Ringraziamo gli Archives départementales de l’Hérault, Montpellier, per la grande gentilezza che ci hanno mostrato, e di averci concesso di pubblicare questa fotografia della Lettera Fieschi.

The Fieschi Letter G 1123, Archives départementales de l’Hérault (France)
The Fieschi Letter
G 1123, Archives départementales de l’Hérault (France)

 

lettera Fieschi trascrizione

Elena Corbellini on the transcription of the Fieschi Letter:

I have created the following transcription using the the various photographs and latest scanned image kindly supplied to me by the Archives de l’Hérault of Montpellier. Of the (very few) existing transcriptions, only that of Cuttino and Lyman(1) (CL) differs from that of Germain, at least as far as I have seen. A copy of this was posted on our site at the beginning, but errors crept in as a result of digitalization, which compounded original printing errors.

I propose this transcription above all for reasons of utility, as the basis for all textual references from now onwards (form, language, content, etc). I employed the following criteria, as a consequence of certain differences also with CL.

1. Uppercase letters and punctuation inserted, as in the previous ‘historical’ transcriptions. 

2. All abbreviations have been expanded in a homogeneous way. Nevertheless, I have maintained the alternation between cum and con where it is evident from the type of abbreviation or explicit, and I have resolved the isolated abbreviation for conjunctions or prepositions (= cum, con, chon, cun) always as ‘cum’

3. I have maintained the oscillation in the desinences of the cases, also when they denote the destination of movement. I have indicated the final m of the accusative indicating the destination of movement only where an abbreviaiton was possible. 

4. All alterations present in the writing out of the text by the scribe, such as cancellations and additions, are indicated in the footnotes. This is not only for the sake of rigor, but also because I believe they lead to interesting observations, to be explored in the analysis. And naturally, if other people wish to make observations, it will be a pleasure.

Elena Corbellini

Premessa a Trascrizione Lettera Fieschi.

L’ho effettuata sulle diverse foto e sull’ultima scansione fornitami cortesemente dagli Archives de l’Hérault di Montpellier. Confrontata con le altre (poche) edite, delle quali solo quella di Cuttino e Lyman (CL) si differenzia dalla prima di Germain, almeno a quanto ho visto. Una copia di questa era stata data qui all’inizio, ma vi erano entrati anche errori e strani refusi di trasferimento a computer e qualche errore di stampa originario che si è riprodotto.

Per quanto io la proponga soprattutto in funzione di utilità, da tenere come base per riferimenti testuali diversi da ora in poi (forma, lingua, contenuto, ecc.) e sia certamente da migliorare, mi sento in dovere di indicare almeno alcuni criteri che ho seguiti, per via di alcune differenze anche con CL.

1. Normalizzate le maiuscole e inserita la punteggiatura, come nelle precedenti trascrizioni ‘storiche’.

2. Ho sciolte tutte le abbreviazioni in maniera omogenea. Tuttavia ho lasciato l’alternanza cum/ con nelle forme evidenti per tipo di abbreviazione o perché esplicite, e risolta l’abbreviazione isolata per congiunzione o preposizione (= cum, con, chon, cun) sempre in cum.

3. Ho mantenuto le oscillazioni nelle desinenze dei casi, anche per i complementi di luogo. Ho indicato la (m) dell’accusativo di moto a luogo solo dove era possibile un’abbreviazione.

4. Ho messo in nota le alterazioni nella scrittura del testo: cancellazioni, aggiunte. Non solo per un minimo di rigore, ma anche perché mi sembra comportino osservazioni interessanti, che intendo proporre presto. E naturalmente se verranno da altri… sarà un piacere.

Elena Corbellini

English translation of the Fieschi Letter

In the name of the Lord, Amen. That which I heard of the confession of your father I wrote by my own hand and afterwards I took care to make it known to your highness.  First he says that feeling England in subversion against him, afterwards on the admonition of your mother, he withdrew from his family in the castle of the Earl Marshal by the sea, which is called Chepstow. Afterwards, driven by fear, he took a barque with lords Hugh Despenser and the Earl of Arundel and several others and made his way by sea to Glamorgan, and there he was captured, together with the said Lord Hugh and Master Robert Baldock; and they were captured by Lord Henry of Lancaster, and they led him to the castle of Kenilworth, and others were kept elsewhere at various places; and there he lost the crown by the insistence of many. Afterwards you were subsequently crowned on the feast of Candlemas next following. Finally they sent him to the castle of Berkeley. Afterwards the servant who was keeping him, after some little time, said to your father: Lord, Lord Thomas Gurney and Lord Simon Bereford, knights, have come with the purpose of killing you. If it pleases, I shall give you my clothes,  that you may better be able to escape. Then with the said clothes, as night was near, he went out of the prison; and when he had reached the last door without resistance, because he was not recognised, he found the porter sleeping, whom he quickly killed; and having got the keys of the door, he opened the door and went out, with his keeper who was keeping him. The said knights who had come to kill him, seeing that he had thus fled, fearing the indignation of the queen, even the danger to their persons, thought to put that aforesaid porter, his heart having been extracted, in a box, and cunningly presented to the queen the heart and body of the aforesaid porter as the body of your father, and as the body of the said king the said porter was buried in Gloucester. And after he had gone out of the prisons of the aforesaid castle, he was received in the castle of Corfe with his companion who was keeping him in the prisons by Lord Thomas, castellan of the said castle, the lord being ignorant, Lord John Maltravers, lord of the said Thomas, in which castle he was secretly for a year and a half.  Afterwards, having heard that the Earl of Kent, because he said he was alive, had been beheaded, he took a ship with his said keeper and with the consent and counsel of the said Thomas, who had received him, crossed into Ireland, where he was for nine months. Afterwards, fearing lest he be recognised there, having taken the habit of a hermit, he came back to England and landed at the port of Sandwich, and in the same habit crossed the sea to Sluys. Afterwards he turned his steps in Normandy and from Normandy, as many, going across through Languedoc, came to Avignon, where, having given a florin to the servant of the pope, sent by the said servant a document to Pope John, which pope had him called to him, and held him secretly and honourably for a further fifteen days. Finally, after various discussions, all things having been considered, permission having been received, he went to Paris, and from Paris to Brabant, from Brabant to Cologne so that out of devotion he might see The Three Kings, and leaving Cologne he crossed over Germany, that is to say, he headed for Milan in Lombardy, and from Milan he entered a certain hermitage of the castle of Milascio, in which hermitage he stayed for two years and a half; and because war overran the said castle, he changed himself to the castle of Cecima in another hermitage of the diocese of Pavia in Lombardy, and he was in this last hermitage for two years or thereabouts, always the recluse, doing penance and praying to God for you and other sinners.

In testimony of which I caused my seal to be affixed for the consideration of Your Highness. Your Manuele de Fieschi, notary the lord pope, your devoted servant.

Traduzione italiana della Lettera Fieschi

In nome di Dio, amen. Le cose che ascoltai dalla confessione di vostro padre scrissi di mia propria mano e quindi procurai di portare a conoscenza della signoria vostra. Prima dice che, venendo a sapere l’Inghilterra in rivolta contro di lui, a seguito della minaccia di vostra madre, si allontanò dai suoi nel castello del Conte Maresciallo (il Conte di Norfolk) sul mare, che si chiama Gesosta (Chepstow). In seguito, spinto dal timore, salì su una barca con i signori Ugo Dispensario (Hugh Despenser) e il conte di Arundel e alcuni altri, e sbarcò a Glomorga (Glamorgan) sul mare, e qui fu catturato, insieme con il suddetto signor Ugo e maestro Roberto di Baldoh (Baldock) e furono presi dal signor Enrico di Longo Castello (Lancaster); e lo condussero nel castello di Chilongurda (Kenilworth) e altri furono (condotti) altrove a luoghi differenti. E qui perse la corona su richiesta di molti. In seguito, di conseguenza, foste incoronato nella vicina festa di santa Maria della Candelora. Infine lo mandarono al castello di Berchelee (Berkeley). In seguito il servo che lo custodiva, dopo qualche tempo, disse a vostro padre: “ Signore, il signor Thomas de Gornay e il signor Symon Desberfort, cavalieri, vennero per uccidervi. Se siete d’accordo, vi darò i miei vestiti, perché possiate fuggire più facilmente. Allora, con i detti vestiti, sul far della notte, fuggì dalla prigione; ed essendo giunto fino all’ultima porta senza opposizione, poiché non lo (ri)conoscevano, trovò il portinaio che dormiva, che senza esitare uccise; e, prese le chiavi della porta, aprì la porta ed uscì, e anche il suo custode, che lo custodiva. Vedendo i detti cavalieri, che erano venuti per ucciderlo, che era così fuggito, temendo  l’indignazione della regina e il pericolo per le persone (loro stessi), decisero di mettere questo detto portinaio, estrattogli il cuore, in una cassa. E il cuore e il corpo del predetto portinaio come (fosse) il corpo di vostro padre astutamente presentarono alla regina, e come corpo del re il detto portinaio fu sepolto a Glocesta (Gloucester). E dopo che uscì dalla prigione del sopraddetto castello, fu accolto nel castello di Corf con il suo amico che lo custodiva nella prigionia, dal signor Thomas, castellano del detto castello, senza che lo sapesse il signor (signor) Johann Maltravers, signore del detto Thomas, nel cui castello stette segretamente per un anno e mezzo. In seguito, sentito che il conte del Canzio (di Kent), poiché aveva detto che lui era vivo, era stato decapitato, si imbarcò su una nave con il suo predetto custode, anche per volontà e consiglio del detto Thomas che lo aveva accolto, e passò in Irlanda, dove fu per nove mesi. In seguito, temendo di essere lì riconosciuto, preso l’abito di un eremita, ritornò in Inghilterra e approdò al porto di Sandvic (Sandwich) e in quello stesso abito passò il mare presso Sclusa (Sluys). In  seguito si spostò in Normandia e dalla Normandia, come molti fanno, passando per la Linguadoca, venne ad Avignone, dove, dato un fiorino a un servo del papa, mandò per il detto servo una missiva al papa Giovanni, il quale papa lo fece chiamare a sé, e lo tenne segretamente con onori per oltre quindici giorni. Infine, dopo varie discussioni, esaminate tutte le questioni, ricevuta licenza, andò a Parisius (Parigi) e da Parisius in Braybantia (Brabante), dalla Braybantia a Colonia per vedere i tre re per motivo di devozione, e partendo da Colonia attraverso la Germania passò ovvero si diresse a Milano in Lombardia, e da Milano entrò in un eremitorio del castello (feudo) di Melazzo (o Mulazzo), nel quale eremitorio rimase per due anni e mezzo; e poiché al detto castello arrivò la guerra, si spostò nel castello (feudo) di Cecima, in un altro eremitaggio della diocesi di Pavia in Lombardia, e fu in questo ultimo rifugio per due anni all’incirca, sempre in ritiro, facendo penitenza, e pregando Dio per voi e gli altri peccatori. In testimonianza di ciò, stabilii si ponesse il sigillo in considerazione della vostra maestà.

Il vostro Manuele Fieschi, notaio del signore papa, devoto vostro servitore.

(traduzione di Elena Corbellini)

 

Word-for-word translation of the part of the Fieschi Letter which recounts the later life of King Edward II

You will find in brackets prepositions, pronouns and other words that are implicit in the case or tense of the Latin word being translated.  We would love you to check the text with your trusty Latin-English dictionary, but you should look for the words NOT in brackets in the English.

et postquam exivit carceres castri antedicti
and after (he) exited (the) prison (of the) castle aforementioned
fuit receptatus in castro de Corf con socio
(he) was received in (the) castle of Corf with friend
suo qui custodiebat ipsum in carceribus per
his which gaurded him in (the) prison by means of
dominum Thomam castellanum dicti castri
sir Thomas (the) castellan (of the) said castle
ignorante domino domino Iohanne
(being) ignorant (the) lord sir John
Maltraverse domino dicti Thome
Maltraverse lord (of) said Thomas
in quo castro secrete fuit per annum cum
in which castle secretly (he) was for (a) year with
dimidio postea audito quod comes Cancii quia
half afterwards heard that (the) count (of) Kent because
dixerat eum vivere fuerat decapitatus ascendit
(he) had said him to live (he) had been decapitated ascended
unam navim cum dicto custode suo et de
a ship with said guardian his and by (the)
voluntate et consilio dicti Thome qui ipsum
will and counsel (of) said Thomas who him
receptaverat et transivit in Yrlandam ubi fuit per
(had) received and crossed to Ireland where (he) was for
viiii menses postea dubitans ne ibi
viiii months afterwards doubting that there
cognosceretur recepto habitu unius heremite
(he) might be recognised received (the) habit (of) a hermit
redivit in Angliam et applicuit ad portum
(he) returned to England and (he) landed at (the) port
de Sandvic et in eodem habitu transivit
of Sandwich and in that same habit (he) crossed
mare apud Sclusam postea diresit gressus
by sea at Sluys afterwards (he) directed steps
suos in Normandiam et de Normandia ut in pluribus
his to Normandy and from Normandy as (-) many
transeundo per Linguam Occitanam venit Avinionem
crossing through Lingua d’Oc (he) came (to) Avignon
ubi dato uno floreno uni servienti pape
where given a floren (to) one servant (of the) Pope
misit per dictum servientem unam cedulam
(he) sent by said servant a note
pape Johanni qui papa eum ad se vocari
(to) Pope John which Pope him to himself call
fecit et ipsum secrete tenuit honorifice ultra xv
(he) made and him secretly held honorably further xv
dies finaliter post tractatus diversos consideratis
days finally after discussions many considered
omnibus recepta licencia ivit Parisius et de
everything received license (he) went (to) Paris and from
Parisius in Braybantiam de Braybantia in Coloniam ut
Paris to Brabant from Brabant to Cologne so as
videret iii reges causa devocionis et recedendo
(he) could see iii kings due to devotion and leaving
de Colonia per Alemaniam transivit sive
from Cologne through Germany (he) crossed or
peresit Mediolanum in Lombardiam et de
(he) came to Milano in Lombardy and from
Mediolano intravit quoddam heremitorium castri
Milan (he) entered a certain hermitage (of) castle
Milasci in quo heremitorio stetit per duos
Milascio in which hermitage (he) stayed for two
annos cum dimidio et quia dicto
years with half and because (to) said
castro guerra supervenit mutavit se
castle war overcame (he) changed himself
in castro Cecime in alio heremitorio diocesis
to castle Cecima in another hermitage (of the) diocese
Papiensis in Lombardiam et fuit in isto ultimo
(of) Pavia in Lombardy and (he) was in this last
heremitorio per duos annos vel circa semper
hermitage for two years or about always
inclusus agendo penitenciam et Deum pro vobis
closed away doing penance and God for you
et aliis peccatoribus orando.
and other sinners praying.
In quorum testimonium sigillum contemplacione
In of which testimony (my) seal (for the) contemplation
vestre dominacionis duxi apponendum.
(of) your lordship (I) ordered attached.
Vester Manuel de Flisco domini pape
Your Manuel of Fieschi (of the) lord Pope
notarius devotus servitor vester
notary devoted servant yours

 

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Kathryn Warner in Pavia to debate the Fieschi Letter with the Auramala Project researchers

Today we interrupt our series of posts on Manuele Fieschi to tell you about an important event that took place in Pavia last Wednesday, when Kathryn Warner, British historian and biographer of King Edward II and his queen, Isabella of France, was with us in Pavia. We held an accademic debate on the Fieschi Letter and in general the hypothesis of the survival of King Edward II at the Biblioteca Universitaria of Pavia. Present were members of the Auramala Project team, and a number of history professors of the University of Pavia, as well as the general public. Professor Renata Crotti, teacher of Medieval History at the University of Pavia, moderated the event and contributed to the debate.

Kathryn and Ivan
Kathryn speaking about Edward II, and Ivan translating. Kathryn’s new book ‘Isabella of France, the Rebel Queen’ can be seen on the table.

Elena Corbellini read aloud her new transcription of the Fieschi Letter in Latin, and Mario Traxino read aloud the Italian translation. With his Genoese accent, it really seemed that Manuele Fieschi had entered the room!

Elena and Fieschi Letter
Elena Corbellini reading directly from the Fieschi Letter during the debate.

Line by line we deconstructed the Fieschi Letter, relying on Kathryn Warner’s encyclopaedic knowledge of 14th century England for the first part of the story, dealing with Edward’s overthrow and imprisonment in England, and then more and more on Auramala Project research as Edward’s steps take him towards Italy.

Ivan and Mario
On the left, Elena Giacomotti, president of Cultural Association Il Mondo di Tels, of which the Auramal Project is a part. Mario Traxino, Auramala Project researcher, points out medieval vocabulary to Lorena Gavazzoni, who acted as Kathryn Warner’s interpreter for the day, while Ivan adjusts the display focus.

Line by line, we dissected the Feischi Letter and other evidence for Edward’s survival, such as the Melton Letter, for no less than three exhausting hours. Other university professors and academics present included Prof. Ezio Barbieri, diplomatist, Prof. Luisa Erba, historian, and Prof. Italo Cammarata, historian.

Kathryn and Ivan and Crotti
Kathryn Warner, Ivan Fowler and Prof. Renata Crotti, answering questions from the audience.

Ironically, even after three hours of debate we still hadn’t managed to debate absolutely everything… But we did make a video of the event, and we will post snippets of the most interesting bits over the coming weeks, so that our followers online can be a part of the debate, too.

 

 

 

The Hunt for the King 30) Was the Fiecshi Letter Written by a Lawyer?

The real, historical Manuele Fieschi, was a papal notary. This means he was a professional lawyer in an extremely prestigious position, responsible for producing documents – both ecclesiastic and diplomatic in nature – for the Pope himself. In other words, a highly trained legal professional, carrying enormous responsibility.

Some historians have argued that the Fieschi Letter was not actually written by the real, historical Manuele Fieschi. Foremost among these is Roy Martin Haines, in his 2003 book King Edward II: Edward of Caernarfon, his life, his reign, and its aftermath, 1284–1330. He comments that the Fieschi Letter looks like part of a wider attempt to establish a cult of sainthood for the dead Edward II, and that “Its attribution to Fieschi is conceivably yet another carefully contrived circumstantial detail. […] Fieschi’s name may have been ‘borrowed’ to lend authenticity to the whole affair.” (Pg238) Haines does not stop there: he justifies his claim that the Fieschi Letter was not written by Manuele on the grounds that the style of writing does not seem to be consistent with the profession of Manuele Fieschi – a papal notary.

Part of Haines’s argument is linguistic in nature, and we will come back to that in later posts. We will also come back to the question of whether or not the Letter may have been part of an attempt to sanctify Edward II. For the moment, lets focus on the underlying question: is Fieschi Letter the work of Manuele Fieschi? Is it plausibly the work of a papal notary?

Firstly, it must be said that most historians looking at this issue do not question that Manuele Fieschi was the true author of the Letter. For example, Seymour Phillips in his 2010 biography Edward II believed that Fiecshi wrote the Letter, but was deceived in doing so by an impostor claiming to be Edward II. Mark Ormrod does not question the authorship in his 2011 biography Edward III. So, Haines is in the distinct minority in this respect, but it raises an interesting and important question nevertheless.

Over the last few months, a British sollicitor, historian and genealogist called Kevin McKenzie (see here for his contribution to the fascinating book May We Be Britons: a History of the McKenzies) has become a contributor to our crowd-researching project. He has made some extremely valuable contributions, one of which clearly demonstrating some of the advantages of the crowd-researching approach – the people involved can bring insights from other professions, not just history. In his daily life, Kevin is a sollicitor, and it was as a legal professional that he noticed something important about the Fieschi Letter: it has a definite ‘lawyerly’ sound to it. There is something ‘sollicitor-like’ to the way it is written. As Kevin wrote:

I see that the letter begins with the opening words:  “In the name of the Lord, Amen” and that its concluding words make clear that it was a draft prepared with the intention of having affixed to it the seal of Manuele Fieschi.  The affixation of a seal to a document appears to me to have been the equivalent at the time of swearing a document.  Compare for instance the affixation of the seals of the homagers to the 1296 Ragman Roll* as evidence of their oath of allegiance to Edward I.

This seems to me therefore to be tantamount to a document intended to be sworn by the possessor of the seal referred to in the document’s concluding paragraph UNDER OATH – and given the opening words of the letter, the affixation of Manuele Fieschi’s seal to it would have been tantamount also to blasphemy if he as the sealer of the letter was uncertain as to its contents or knew its contents to be definitely or possibly untrue.

And on the subject of circumspect lawyerly language, the use of the bare simple words “your father” and the bald unadorned “he” and “him” when referring to Edward II – rather than, say, “King Edward your father” or “His Highness your father” or “His Highness” etc seems to have been an obvious legal means of avoiding the diplomatic embarassment and potential grave offence of using the wrong mode of address when referring to the oddity (without legal precedent at the time) of a king who had abdicated/been deposed – and to make matters even more horrendously complicated, in doing so addressing a king who was the son of that deposed king during the lifetime of the deposed king!  These words therefore surely indicate that the writer used this term “your father” (without more) deliberately for this precise reason.  They therefore surely support the genuineness of the letter.

medieval-scribe
From an illuminated medieval manuscript: a notary drawing his signum tabellionis at the bottom of a legal document (perhaps an instrumentum). The signum tabellionis was the individual mark as a notary, identifying him, and was a frequent alternative to affixing a seal. In the top left the first letter of the document is also highly elaborate. This, too, could identify the individual notary or scribe, as Elena Corbellini has already discussed in her analysis of the Fieschi Letter.

And so we have a modern day lawyer appreciating the lawyerly skill with which the Fieschi Letter was composed, and noting that it is essentially a formal declaration, or testimony, made under holy oath – ‘In the name of the Lord’.

This aspect of the Letter was first noticed three years ago by Stefano Castagneto, whom readers have met in the last two posts. As a regular reader of medieval legal documents, and in particular those written by Genoese notaries, he immediately commented that the Fieschi Letter had tell-tale signs throughout it that it was, in fact, written by a notary, and that it is both a letter and, at the same time, a legal declaration, an instrumentum, as these notary-written legal documents were known. The proof of this is in the formal composition of the Letter. A quick explanation for readers who, like me before beginning this research, don’t really know what this means. Formal composition is the way a document is made up, what parts form it, and in what order. For example, an essay may have a ‘tripartite’ (three-part) composition, with introduction, discussion and conclusion. Letters, particularly formal letters, have headers, addressee, sender, salutation, main body, complimentary closing, signature, and so forth. Legal documents have their own, often complex, formal compositions. So, what about the Fieschi Letter? How is it constructed, and is this composition appropriate for the time, and for what it claims to be: the letter of a papal notary to an English king, containing testimony of extraordinary events?

Elena Corbellini invited Stefano Castagneto to analyse the formal composition of the Fieschi Letter, and the next two posts will concern just that.

Ivan Fowler.

The Hunt for the King 29) Two professors discuss the corrections in the Fieschi Letter

[As we continue reading Elena Corbellini and Stefano Castagneto’s conversation regarding the Fieschi Letter, we turn to the subject of the corrections present in the Letter, and what they mean. The gist of the conversation is this: both professors agree that the Fieschi Letter as we know it today is an ‘imitative’ copy of the antigraph. In other words, it was meant to be as close a representation of the antigraph as possible, in all its aspects – including corrections. In an age before photocopiers, this had to be done by hand. However, since fresh human errors would inevitably be made in the copy itself, there had to be a way of distinguishing between corrections and variations already present in the antigraph – and so intentionally recreated in the copy – and any mistakes made in the copying process. Thus, according to Stefano Castagneto, the scribe most likely used expunction marks – dots beneath words – to indicate where the correction was already present in the antigraph, while his own mistakes were struck through. Insertions in the interlinear space may be either reproductions of insertions in the antigraph, or the scribe’s own insertions, we cannot be sure. There is also a brief discussion of the word ‘vacat’ in the right-hand margin, which Castagneto believes simply indicates the absence of the authentification markings that are present for most of the other documents copied into the chartulary. Ed.]

…………….

2. Corrections present in the text: different hypotheses.

During our long conversation on the telephone, Stefano Castagneto and I discussed the part of my analysis of the Fieschi Letter that regards the corrections contained in the manuscript (see ….) which have, until now, been all but ignored by other scholars.

I shall begin with my hypothesis to explain them, and Castagneto’s opinion.

Elena Corbellini – As you read in my analysis, I proposed the hypothesis that the copy of Maguelone (M) [the artefact now known as the ‘Fieschi Letter’ and today preserved in the archives of Montpellier, Ed.] was derived from an antigraph which already contained corrections and possible variants, which were diligently reproduced in M by the copyist, who may also have added some of his own. The antigraph may therefore have been a minuta [draft, Ed.] of the definitive text, therefore a near-final ‘work in progress’, of the kind that were, in those years, often used in place of originals. Such a text may well have been in the hands of Arnaud de Verdale, and copied at his behest into this section of the Maguelone chartulary.

Stefano Castagneto – Absolutely! Why else would the copyist who made M have indicated some cancellations by striking them through, and others with expunction marks [dots beneath the words, Ed.]? I, too, believe that it was in order to distinguish the corrections that were already present in the manuscript from which he was copying, the antigraph, as you call it in your most precise analysis. This is true for the corrections indicated the with expunction marks, in my opinion. On the other hand, the additions made in the interlinear space are due to uncertainty or mistakes on the part of the Maguelone copyist, perhaps caused by unclear writing in the antigraph he was copying from.

EC – In the notes you sent Ivan you wrote: “a distracted copyist, who perhaps sometimes incorrectly read the text he was supposed to reproduce; or then again it may be that someone was dictating the text to the copyist, and that person made mistakes from time to time which were then corrected, which would also explain the corrections and cancellations. For example, at the end of the third line: after the pause, caesura, he wrote et perdidit when he suddenly realised he had forgotten an ibi, and inserted it in the interlinear space, either because his eye had outpaced his hand, or because he then mentally went back over the sentence, following the narration, and noticed the mistake. And when he was ready to start the new line and found himself about to write a long word (ad requisitionem), he realised something was missing to understand the text: exactness, precision, documentation, certainty, the need to leave no room for doubt or false readings of a text’s meaning… these are the first duties of every Notary.”

SC – Yes, I confirm what I wrote. This is the case also for the regine in the interlinear space at l.18, which seems to be another ‘final’ addition: in the sense that the copyist, after writing, reread the line and – considering the evident interest and curiosity the narration presents – noticed that the sense of that phrase did not run clearly in that point, and added that regine (‘to the queen’), almost as though ‘in brackets’. Even if she did not effectively order the assassination herself, she was the queen, and lover of Mortimer for some time. And in a hasty reading, or dictation, it is natural to read continuando (‘continuously’) instead of cum dimidio (‘and a half’) in the closing stages of a letter, as you rightly noted in your analysis. Above all because this was a rhetorical form of the gerund that was in customary use, and is by no means out of place in the closing stages of important and relevant documents.

EC – I find your hypothesis of dictation very interesting. Would distracted or hurried dictation explain, in your opinion, the ‘double reading’ at l.22 fuerat mortuus… decapitatus (‘he died… was decapitated’)? I’m inclined to see that as a variation already present in the antigraph – a text that was a ‘work in progress’, though nearly finished, with some final variations and corrections added. Among other things, this correction implies precise knowledge of what happened: the Earl of Kent was, in fact, decapitated, as befit his lineage and rank, as others indeed were not… drawn and quartered! Could the copyist in Maguelone have known about this decapitation?

SC – It was probably already present in the antigraph. In fact, there are expunction marks beneath the words. I completely agree that this is an ‘imitative’ copy, a copy that was designed to be a ‘photocopy’ of the original text, which was certainly a minuta (draft). And that it was in the possession of Bishop Verdale is absolutely plausible, for the reasons you wrote in your analysis, and given the situation delineated by the papal letters you examined. It may have been used in the negotiations of the period, just as other copies of documents perhaps were. It was precisely the papal legates [like Verdale, Ed.], and the officers and curates sent to them as messengers, who held copies of documents of this nature, which they received in order to present them, make declarations, or even just to hint at their contents, during discussions with the person they were sent to negotiate with. [In this case, the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV, Ed.] And they carried out these negotiations following orders given, mostly verbally, making use of their discretion, judgement, exploiting opportunities. This is where the true ability of a negotiator lay, in their savoir faire. These men had to be as trusted, as close to and trusted as possible, by those who sent them. [in this case, the Pope, Ed.] And so it is plausible that, according to how the negotiations were proceeding, they would use a given document in discussions, or decide not to; or they might hint at a given document, allude to it… on the basis of how the mission was going… As for how the negotiations actually went… it’s very unlikely that precise, certain texts exist: what we can do is compare the documents produced by the various stakeholders involved, and their intentions, (it seems to me above all the goals of the Pope and his court in Avignon…) in order to gain a better impression… And the fact that the addressee is missing may also be a case of prudence.

EC- And so it was missing in the antigraph. And speaking of ‘missing’, what do you make of that vacat in the right-hand margin? Does it indicate the absence of the addressee, the existence of another copy in the same collection, or the absence of the recognovi [the authentification markings, Ed.] which are in the same position in the other documents?

SC- To me the latter explanation seems the most likely: the authentification is missing.

 

[Castagneto’s final suggestion is to carefully examine and compare all the documents from the period of Verdale’s negotiation with the Emperor (autumn/winter 1338-9) produced by all the stakeholders in the negotiations: the Pope, Edward III, the Emperor, the King of France and the Bardi and Peruzzi banking houses, who were the financiers of all sides in the conflict. This is precisely what the Auramala Project will do. Ivan Fowler]

 

The Hunt for the King 26) The hand-made corrections present in the Fieschi Letter

[Today we continue with Elena Corbellini’s exhaustive analysis of the Fieschi Letter. Elena takes a close look at the hand-made corrections in the text, and concludes that the Fieschi Letter as we know it today is most likely the copy of a preparatory draft probably made just before the definitive, official ‘original’ of the Letter was written. In order to keep these concepts clear in our minds, let’s label the three different versions of the Fieschi Letter we now believe existed:

1) Draft (minuta) made as preparation for the writing out of the definitive, official document (in the analysis below this is referred to as a, or antigraph);

2) Definitive, official version of the document, bearing the author’s seal, signum tabellionis or other form of authentification;

3) Copy made from the preparatory draft (this is the document now preserved in the archives of Montpellier, the Fieschi Letter as we know it today, in the analysis below this is referred to as M for Maguelone).

Does this conclusion fit in with our Verdale Hypothesis (see here and here)? While it may seem strange to us today that a draft could have been used for weighty diplomatic purposes, we know for a fact that drafts were widely used in this way at the time, and specifically we know that this was happening at the papal court. As Corbellini explains in the next post in the series (following this post, in which the corrections themselves are analysed) the definitive and official originals of documents were extremely precious, and to be kept safe at all costs. As we shall see, this was an era in which messengers were regularly waylaid and imprisoned, and robbed of all they were carrying, including letters.

This section of the Analysis is quite long, so I have broken it into two parts. What follows is the first part of Elena’s text: Ed.]

A. I believe that, at this point in the analysis of the Fieschi Letter, it is necessary to insert some observations concerning an element that, neglected by Germain in his transcription, has never since been taken into consideration by scholars. If I am not wrong it has been mentioned only (in a note) by Cuttino and Lyman in their transcription (1)

The element in question is the corrections visible in the text of the Letter. In my opinion these, when interpreted and related to relevant data from the examination of the Chartulary, to the historical context (see our next post, coming soon), and to the structural and formal characteristics of the Letter (2) lead to the following hypotheses:

a) The corrections may indicate that the Fieschi Letter is a copy made from a preparatory draft (minuta) of the original.

b) This makes it ever more likely that the draft in question was taken to Maguelone by Bishop Arnaud de Verdale, and copied, by mistake or on purpose, among the papers pertaining to one of his new aquisitions (see here).

c) This, in the light of information concerning the use of drafts of papal letters starting in the year 1338 (see our next post, coming soon) recalls the possibility that the Fieschi Letter was one of the documents mentioned in the complicated and cryptic letter from Pope Benedict XII to Arnaud de Verdale during the latter’s delicate diplomatic mission at the court of Emperor Ludwig IV (see here).

——————

B. In this section I transcribe and put into context the corrections in the text, with references to the lines of the manuscript (corresponding to our transcription of the Fieschi Letter), with photographs as kindly authorized by the Archives Départementales de l’Hérault, Montpellier. I have tried to keep it concise, but this is only possible up to a certain point, as it is important to include every step in the analysis so that other scholars can criticise, make objections, and give suggestions. Readers who find what follows tedious can skip it, and wait for the next post in the series, which will be published soon.

I will use the following abbreviations:

M = Maguelone copy

a = antigraph (the text the Maguelone copy was made from)

CL = Cuttino and Lyman’s transcription.

1. line 7 :(et duxerunt ipsum in castro Chilongurda, et alii fuerunt alibi ad loca diversa et) – ibi – written in the interlinear space, with an insertion mark ( perdidit // r.8: coronam ad requisicionem multorum.)

Correction 1

Observations: the space between the abbreviation et and the following word (perdidit) is much greater than usual. At times in M the conjunction is even tied to the following word. One therefore has the impression that ibi was not forgotten by the scribe, but that space was left in which to insert a correction that was already present in a. This is a crucial moment in the story told by the Letter: the capture of Edward II and of his companions, the dispersion of some of them in various places, the imprisonment of the King in Kenilworth. The insertion of ibi (‘here‘) makes it plain that Kenilworth is the place where the abdication took place, practically immediately, and by force. This correction therefore gives the reader important information.

From the syntax and style point of view, one may note how here begins a series of instances of ibi in the text, outlining in rapid succession the events connected with Edward II’s downfall and the rise of his son…

In a insertion of ibi may have been to correct where the word had simply been forgotten, or the deliberate insertion of a decisive adverb. The latter hypothesis seems the most likely. Therefore, it is not the correction of an error but is a variant.

2. From line 15: ( Videntes dicti milites qui venerant ad interficiendum ipsum quod sic recesserat, line16: dubitantes indignationem regine ymo periculum )  – there follows, struck through once, Regni (or Regine? Regium? [being struck through it is difficult to tell the exact word, Ed.]) substituted after with personarum (deliberarunt istum predictum, end of line 16….)

Correction 2

Observations: If one cannot exclude a mistake by the scribe in M, facilitated by the presence just before of regine (too near, however) or a mistake made in a for the same reason, in this case too one might imagine a variant. Is the reference to danger for the kingdom (regni) or for the people (personarum)…? We are in the most dramatic phase of the escape story: the soldiers sent to kill the ex-king discover that he has fled. Their first thought is of the queen’s (regine) indignation (thereby explicitly implying that they had come to kill Edward II on her orders). Their second though is of the danger that could come of it – but for whom? First was written Regni or Regine (or Regium, according to CL), it was then struck through (the choice of the scribe? Or was it struck through also in a?) and substituted with with personarum. This second term is all inclusive, but perhaps above all it refers to them, the people charged with the ex-king’s murder, who had let their victim get away. Therefore, they make amends as the Letter describes…

3. beginning line18 ( ut cor) pus patris vestri maliciose the word regine is in the interlinear space, with an insertion mark below, but also another marking before regine – lower case and abbreviation after maliciose –er? Maliciositer? (Presentarunt et ut corpus regis dictus porterius in Glocesta(ri) fuit sepultus).

Correction 3

Observations: The would-be assassins trick the queen by presenting her the body and heart of the dead guard in place of the ex-king, to be buried in his stead at Gloucester. This seems to be a case of correcting an omission (or did the scribe re-read it and correct it?) Once again here the importance of the queen is reiterated, and the fact that proof that the assassination had been carried out was supposed to have been presented to her.

4. line 22 (secrete fuit per annum cum dimidio postea audito quod comes Cancii ) (above there is a faint marking – ‘01′, more recently made with pencil, perhaps ) fuerat mortuus – ‘he had died’ – expunction dots beneath – (quia dixerat eum- // line 23: vivere ) fuerat decapitatus – ‘he had been decapitated’ – (ascendit unam navem…)

Correction 4

Observations: the reference is to the execution of the Earl of Kent (comes Cancii), the half-brother of Edward II, executed by Roger Mortimer because he claimed that Edward II was still alive. Indeed, the Earl of Kent was decapitated.

Here one preceding legitimate form (legitimate according to the meaning and the standards of the Latin of the time) is expunged, and in the following line is substituted, following the motivation for the execution (quia dixerat eum vivere… because he said he (Edward II) was alive) with a more precise form. This seems to be a true substitution as variant. I would exclude it being the choice of the scribe who wrote M. The fact that a more generic verb (die) substituted with a more precise verb (decapitated), makes me think that the substitution must have been made in the course of the composition of a by the original author (by choice, therefore, not error).

5. line 31 (secrete tenuit honorifice ultra XV dies. Finaliter post tractatus diversos consideratis) – omnibus – in the interlinear space with insertion mark below – (… or is it sibi?..) – (recepta/ r.32 licencia …).

Correction 5

Observations: The passage refers to Edward II’s sojourn at the papal court at Avignon. Consideratis omnibus (all things considered) is a typical expression in notarial language of the time, which probably came automatically to the author. Strange that the second part of a set-phrase like this should have been forgotten. But it is possible. Unless originally it was not omnibus but sibi, therefore linked to recepta licentia, meaning therefore ‘he received leave (to go) for himself ‘. In that case, however, should it be read post tractatus diversos consideratos, meaning ‘after considering various courses’? Given the writing and the abbreviations, both hypotheses seem possible. In both cases, however, it is plain that a contained corrections, and was probably not easy to read.

6. line 37: (milasci (or milasti) in quo heremitorio stetit per duos annos) continuando – with expunction dots beneath, afterwards substituted with cum dimidio (et quia dicto…)

Correction 6

Observation: The king remains at the sanctuary near Melazzo/Mulazzo for two and a half years. This could be a true reading error of the scribe looking at a, given that it is indeed possible to mistake cumdimidio with continuando, and the latter is by no means a nonsensical reading. On the other hand, there is no reason to exclude that this mistake was not already present in a, and merely reproduced in M by the scribe.

[I wish to add an observation to what Elena Corbellini has written in this last case. The mere fact that the castle/town referred to in the text is spelled ‘milasci’, an orthography that has no corresponding examples in documents of any historical period, and therefore implies a mistake either in a or in M, further confirms that the document the scribe was copying from was itself difficult to read, and may well have contained mistakes. From the observations on this series of corrections, indeed, Elena Corbellini goes on to conclude, in the next post, that the Fieschi Letter we know today was indeed copied from a preparatory draft (minuta) and not a definitive, official original. Ed.]

———————-

(1) Where is Edward II? G. P. Cuttino and Thomas W. Lyman, Speculum Vol. 53, No. 3 (Jul., 1978), pp. 522-544

(2) Indications of the addressee, date and place of writing are missing from the Fieschi Letter. I believe that the place of writing is indicated by the fact that venit – meaning ‘he came’ – is used only for Avinionem – Avignon, while movement toward other places is indicated with different verbs such as ivit (‘he went’), intravit (‘he entered’), perresit (‘he proceeded/went on’), ecc, indicating that the document was written in Avignon. Could it have been written by a papal notary of his own accord, with the pope knowing nothing of it? It seems rather unlikely. I suggested some time ago that the formal analysis of the composition of the text, above and beyond the signature, could confirm the profession of the author. This analysis has been performed by Prof. Castagneto, and will be posted shortly on this blog, translated as always by Ivan Fowler.

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.

The Hunt for the King 24) The Fieschi Letter was part of Bishop Arnauld de Verdale’s “personal archive”

Today we continue with Elena Corbellini’s formal analysis of the Fieschi Letter and, particularly, of the chartulary in which it was found. In order to proceed better with this analysis, Elena made a week-long visit to Montpellier and the surrounding area, including Maguelone, the medieval cathedral town to which the chartulary belonged. She had the chance to meet the very friendly and helpful staff of Hérault archives, and gather more of the many details necessary to interpret the document and its collocation. Here is what Elena wrote after this visit:

1. A note on my visit to Montpellier.

In March I visited Montpellier and Maguelone and over the course of one week I was able to read a number of documents of the Cartulaire at the Archives départementales de l’Hérault, and at long last gain a greater understanding of the structure and the characteristics of this remarkable collection, about which catalogues and published articles give often imprecise and sometimes contradictory indications.

I found two doctoral theses of same years ago, which however related to problems in dating or highly specific documents, and so were not useful for our ends. Contacts at the University of Montpellier confirmed that there are no recent studies in France concerning the chartulary, much less the Fieschi Letter.

On the other hand, some works by local historians (even older than the doctoral theses, alas), proved very interesting, including three large and dense volumes by Fabrège (Histoire de Maguelone, 1900) as well as those works by Germain that can still be found. More recent studies do not seem to exist, but it must be said that the Bibliothèque della Société d’Archéologie, adjacent to the Musée Languedocien in the Jacques Coeur building, is practically a high security zone. I left my name and an application to gain access in a future visit.

On the other hand, at the Archives dell’Hérault in the Pierresvives centre, which Ivan Fowler had already visited two years ago, the staff was extremely kind. They gave us permission to reproduce our photographs of the manuscript and scanned the Fieschi Letter for me, so that we are now able to include a good quality photograph of it.(inserire foto )

I shall now attempt to edit and summarise my notes and observations from many hours spent at the Pierresvives archives poring over the six enormous volumes of the chartulary, and relate what I found to the Fieschi Letter.

2. Important update on the collocation of the Fieschi Letter in the Maguelone chartulary

As described previously, the examination of the few surrounding documents supplied to me in photographic form by Ivan after his brief expedition to Montpellier had already allowed me to state that the Fieschi Letter is to be found in the Maguelone Chartulary, among documents relating to Corconne (and not Cournonterrail, as I had read in Seymour Phillips (2010). I wondered if this could be due to chance, or if there was some link between Corconne and people/events related to our research. No help came from the difficult examination of Roquette and Villemagne : when they undertook the work of transribing the chartulary they chose to exclude documents relating to the barony of Sauve, the very region of Corconne. And there are only 800 documents in their transcription, by comparison with roughly 2,500 in the chartulary itself. (1)

In the Hérault archives, as indicated by the works on local history that I was able to consult, and confirmed by direct examination of the documents, I found an inequivocable link: the castle of Corconne (Corcona) was purchased together with other castles of the barony of Sauve for the prince-bishopric of Maguelone by Arnaud de Verdale. (2)

Indeed, Register A, containing the Fieschi Letter, and Register B, preserve documents dated from the late 12th century up to approximately 1350 (not in chronological order) from those areas purchased by Verdale, and which were collected and transcribed first of all by his order. These documents (the acquisitions by purchase or by donation to the prince-bishop, the various relations concerning the management of fiefs, letters to and from the Pope and local lords, the installments of canons, etc, etc) constitute a sort of personal archive of Bishop Verdale within the general archive of Maguelone. Direct examination of Register A allows me to state furthermore that that the group of documents pertaining to Corconne, where the Fieschi Letter is collocated, is quite conspicuous and compact, with few insertions. It consists of documents 88 (c.69r) to 130 (c.92r-v), dating from the years 1176 to 1347, though I repeat they are not ordered chronologically. (3) Verdale, a professor of jurisprudence and a man of decisive character, had even threatened with excomunication whosoever failed to deliver to him documents relevant to Maguelone, or failed to transcribe such documents rigorously de verbo ad verbum. (3) It is therefore legitimate to imagine that he paid particular attention to the ordering and transcription of the acts that concerned the lands he himself had purchased for the prince-bishopric.

Therefore, the fact that the Fieschi Letter is to be found precisely among the documents of this ‘personal archive’ should indicate that Arnaud de Verdale was the person in possession of the Letter, and it was he who brought it to Maguelone when he became bishop in 1339. Therefore, the document was most probably transcribed into Register A in either 1339 or soon afterwards. In any case, in the light of these results, the thesis put forward from Germain’s time onwards, right up until the most recent English studies, that the transcription must have occured during the re-ordering of the chartulary at the time of Bishop Gaucelm de Deux (1368), is highly improbable, and therefore also the idea that the Letter itself may have been written at that time, as some have asserted.

Did the Fieschi Letter come to be among the documents relating to Corconne by mistake, and was then ‘automatically’ copied into the register along with the others? Or was it Verdale’s intention to have it transcribed there, both to preserve it and hide it at the same time? Personally I prefer the latter hypothesis.

  1. Roquette and Villemagne had chosen chronological order for their transcription, following the dominant criteria at their time for historical reconstruction. Chronological order, however, disrupts the ordering of the documents into separate registers. Perhaps they had set aside the documents relating to Verdale for a later volume. In fact, they transcribed documents up to the year 1336, and then the project came to a halt due to the death of the Abbot Roquette.
  2. Some of these acquisition, such as the largest, Montferrand, were probably re-purchases: it seems in fact that the barony of Sauve had already been assigned to the prince-bishops of Maguelone by Philip IV of France in 1293. However the exact history of these places in that era, though certainly interesting, would be too complicated to outline here.
  3. Some acts and documents concerning these places, and indeed Arnaud de Verdale, are naturally also found in other registers. Redacted and/or transcribed later.
  4. See our posts of 28/11/14, 19/12/14 and 07/02/15 for a description of the type of codex (‘chartulary’) and for the way it was constructed: these observations were made before my visit to Montpellier, but have been largely confirmed.

Kathryn Warner in Italy for King Edward II

The Auramala Project recently had the very great pleasure of hosting Kathryn Warner, distinguished Edward II biographer, in Pavia. Kathryn was in Italy for a week in late September (see Kathryn Warner’s own posts on the subject here). She first visited Vercelli and Turin with Gianna Baucero and Associazione Chesterton of Vercelli, the city of which Manuele Fieschi became bishop. On the afternoon of Saturday, September 19th, Kathryn gave a hugely successful and well received talk at the Seminar of Vercelli, in the presence of the current Archbishop, Marco Arnolfo. (Since I’m terrible at taking photos, most of those that follow come directly from the Associazione Chesterton page!)

Kathryn Warner (centre) with Archbishop Marco Arnolfo and Gianna Baucero of Associazione Chesterton

We then met Kathryn at – where else? – Sant’Alberto di Butrio, the abbey where, according to Manuele Fieschi’s celebrated letter, Edward II lived out his days in prayer and contemplation. It was an extremely moving moment to meet Kathryn there.

 Me meeting Kathryn in front of the tomb at Sant’Alberto di Butrio, said to be that of Edward II.

From left to right, myself, Gianna Baucero and Kathryn Warner.

Kathryn stayed in Pavia for four days, visiting the sites and, most importantly, discussing the evidence for and against the story told in the Fieschi Letter. The biggest day on the agenda was Tuesday 22nd, when we had a very important focus group that lasted three hours in which Fieschi expert Mario Traxino, Auramala Project researcher Elena Corbellini, Kathryn Warner and I all analysed in depth the documents and evidence brought to light so far by the Auramala Project, and our conclusions thus far. Kathryn was extremely informative and encouraging, and we feel that our research has proven quite worthy to stand beside other contributions on the same subject. Of course, what we have managed to publish so far on this blog is just a fraction of the total work done so far!

After the focus group, Kathryn gave a talk in the Salone Teresiano of the University Library of Pavia. Kathryn was introduced and presented to Pavia’s university-oriented public by Professor Renata Crotti, renowned historian of the University of Pavia. It was a memorable occasion, and as usual with Pavian audiences, question time went on for more than forty minutes. When the library closed, debate shifted to Loft 10, in Piazza Cavagneria, where it continued in English, French and German, thanks to Kathryn’s formidable linguistic skills.

From left to right, me, Kathryn and Professor Renata Crotti
From left to right, me, Kathryn and Professor Renata Crotti

The day after, Wednesday 23rd, Kathryn and I headed off to Genoa in the early morning for a visit to the archives of the archdiocese of Genoa. Numerous testaments left by the Fieschi Family are to be found there, but we were looking in particular for that of Manuele Fieschi’s nephew, Papiniano. Why? Well, it would take a long time to explain, so I’ll leave that for another post, but it’s a fascinating story.

At one point, I was just about to pass over a sheaf of documents as irrelevant to the search when Kathryn spotted the name of Papiniano, and we thankfully photographed them. Indeed, those were the very documents that revealed to us the name of the notary among whose documents we must now search.

Kathryn and I looking at ancient documents in the Genoa cathedral archive.
Kathryn and I looking at ancient documents in the Genoa cathedral archive.

It was an interesting experience to work with Kathryn for a couple of days on the nitty gritty of history. I was hugely impressed by a number of qualities, that I think the best historians should have. For example, apart from her linguistic skills and flexibility, she is very swift in looking at things analytically and adjusting to circumstances. The Genoese documents we looked at had this oddity: the number ‘3’ was always written back to front, making it look more like the letter ‘E’. It took Kathryn about half a second to spot this and get her eye in, as we scanned document after document. She sought, and very quickly found, the key to the ordering of documents that at first glance seemed put together without rhyme or reason, and was able to dismiss a whole bundle as useless pretty early on. Yes, we did check every single page of it, just to be on the safe side, anyway, but we knew there was no point. Kathryn is also distinguished by her extreme integrity: if it isn’t written in a trustworthy contemporary source, it just didn’t happen. She never lets a ‘might-have’ become a ‘must-have’, and then become a ‘fact’, and she will not tolerate it when other historians do. Either there is a source, or there is not. If there is not, it is hypothesis, and must be called hypothesis. And when it comes to original documents, I can tell you that Kathryn is fast working, efficient, and devastatingly good at finding them, reading them and interpreting them.

Sadly, Kathryn went back home the next day, but we are sure she will come again, and we can’t wait for it! In the meantime, she is giving us a helping hand with some parts of the research, in particular genealogy and the search for Edward II’s descendants, and there will be more on her extremely exciting findings in future posts!

From everybody here at the Auramala Project, a huge thank you to Kathryn for your visit!

Ivan Fowler.

The Hunt for the King 23) the analysis of the Fieschi Letter continues…

Today we continue with Elena Corbellini’s diplomatic analysis of the Fieschi Letter, picking up where we left off, looking at the extrinsic characteristics of the document. We look at one further observation on the letter, and a relative hypothesis, and then comment on the presence of other documents of an intriguingly similar nature to the Fieschi Letter in the same chartulary of Maguelone.

The analysis continues

Observation c) The ‘irregular’ way in which the document was copied was made clear by the compilers of the codex themselves. Almost all of the documents in the chartulary feature a rubrication in the margins beside the beginning of the text, with references to the place and type of recognitio each text represents. I am not sure we can call this a true signum recognitionis, but in any case it seems to be a form of validation, meant to attest to the copy’s conformity to the original it was copied from – just as a ‘commissioner of oaths’ puts their stamp and signature on true copies of original documents today. The rubrication in the margins is, perhaps, in a different hand, and was logically added subsequent to the copying of the documents themselves, in a different coloured ink (see photograph 1). The page bearing the Fieschi Letter bears no such rubrication, and instead in the right margin, towards the top of the page, there is the word vacat, meaning ‘it is missing’, ‘it is vacant’. (see photograph 2).

Example of rubrication. Right hand margin of document 6.
Photograph 1: Example of rubrication. Right hand margin of document 6.
The word 'vacat', right hand margin of the Fieschi Letter page.
Photograph 2: The word ‘vacat’, right hand margin of the Fieschi Letter page.

I nurture some doubts as to the meaning of this word in this context. What is missing? Does it simply mean the date is missing? Or was the original missing? If the latter, it explains why the rubrication is not present: the copy of the Fieschi Letter that we know today could not be authenticated as a true and faithful copy, because it could not be compared with the original, as this was missing – vacat. As we shall consider later in the analysis, this leads us to the intriguing possibility that the Fieschi Letter was actually a copy of a copy.

There is another possible meaning of vacat, of which an example is to be found in the Registrum Magnum of the medieval Comune of Piacenza. Here, the word vacat is broken up into its two syllables, on either end of a vertical line in the margins of some documents (va- line –cat) to indicate when a document had been transcribed twice or more times within the same chartulary by mistake (1). The excess/extra copy might be in the immediate vicinity of the first copy of the document, or elsewhere in the compilation.

If this were the case of the Fieschi Letter, it would be necessary to check every last document contained within the six enormous volumes of the chartulary. Or at least start with those edited by Roquette and Villemagne, who state in the Preface of their enormous undertaking that many of the documents were, in fact, transcribed more than once.

As far as the originals of the documents are concerned, there is no possibility whatsoever to make a comparison, and this is true for the entire chartulary. This is due to the destruction of the ecclesiastical archives of Montpellier in 1566 and the following years, and then again in 1621 and 1623 (3).

………….

A fact that I think is very interesting and should be born in mind is evident from three other documents in the chartulary and transcribed by Germain in his 1878 edition of the Fieschi Letter (p.7, note 1). This is the particular care shown by both Arnaud de Verdale and Pope Urban V that all documents pertaining to the diocese of Maguelone or its bishops should be sought out wherever they were, ordered and transcribed with the greatest possible diligence and fidelity to the originals.

Arnaud de Verdale even went so far as to threaten with excommunication whoever unrightfully withheld privilegia, letters, acts, proceedings, or any other documents, failing to consign them by a given peremptory deadline of 10 days. This was in an article of the Synodal Statutes of October 20th, 1339. The same is reiterated in a papal bull of May 15th 1367, and in a letter from Bishop Gaucelm de Deux to Pope Urban V in 1368 in which the compilation of the chartulary is declared to have been scrupulously completed, and all documents faithfully registered word for word (fecit de verbo ad verbum diligenter et fideliter registrari). (2)

Therefore it seems to me quite improbable that something ‘random’ or ‘unchecked’ could have occured in this compilation. Thus, some documents seem to us to be ‘foreign’ to the chartulary, but perhaps this is because we are not aware of certain connections between places and people that would explain their presence. Among those documents which appear foreign, in Register B we find (numbered 429) a text of May 14th 1340 relative to the kidnapping of Nicolinus Fieschi, Genoese ambassador to King Edward III of England (Photograph 3). Pope Benedict XII had launched a bull excommunicating those responsible for the crime.

Document 429 of Register B.
Photograph 3: Document 429 of Register B.

A. Germain also named a “set of important documents concerning the plan to liberate King Jean (II) of France … by means of an incursion into England, a coordinated effort that was backed by King Waldemar (III) of Denmark. Germain found these documents in the archives of Montpellier and published them in 1858 (4).

Though prudent, we cannot deny that there is some ‘kinship’ between these other ‘foreign’ documents and the Fieschi Letter!

……………

Notes:

(1) Il registrum Magnum del Comune di Piacenza, critical edition by E.Falconi and R.Peveri, Milan, 1984, Introd.pp.CXVIII- CXIX.

(2) Documents contained in registers B, F, and A del chartulary, respectively.

(3) M. Gouron, Rèpertoire numérique des Archives Dèpartèmentales … Hèrault, archives ecclésiastiques, Ser.G 1123*, Montpellier, 1970.

(4) A. Germain, Lettre inedite de M.F. , concernant les dernières années du roi d’Angleterre Eduard II, in Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, 1877, vol.21, n.3, pp.282-288.

The Hunt for the King 20) Introduction to the Critical Analysis of the Fieschi Letter

Critical Analysis of the Fieschi Letter

Intoduction

In order to carry out the analysis which will follow over the coming posts, I have compared the general descriptions of the codex containing the Fieschi Letter (1. general characteristics) made by various authors, and verified the information given on the basis of approximately one hundred photographs of the codex made by Ivan at Montpellier. In spite of the thoroughness of the present analysis, some observations may be of a provisional nature, awaiting further research.

Concerning the Fieschi Letter, significant confusion has arisen over the years as a result of differing interpretations, transcriptions, translations, and citations and references made second-hand or even third-hand without specifying on the basis of which particular transcription/translation they were made. Some imprecisions and errors concerning the letter derive from simple material causes, but have been repeated ad lib. and used as the basis for reasoning and hypothesis, which is a risky procedure. One simple example is the identification of Bishop of Maguelonne Arnaud de Verdale as Jean de Verdale in Seymour Phillips (1). Readers can imagine the confusion that can ensue when such errors are repeated, referenced, and then compounded with further small errors which in turn are repeated, referenced…

I quickly realised that if I was to analise the Fieschi Letter correctly I would have to avoid all such confusion by wiping the slate clean, tabula rasa, by putting aside all that has been written on the subject and analysing the letter as an artefact. The physical artefact known today as the Fieschi Letter is the heart of the question, and this artefact must not be confused with what other people have written about it. The only worthwhile observations, hypotheses and, only afterwards, conclusions, are those made starting from the analysis of the Fieschi Letter itself using the consolidated techniques of diplomatics, linguistics and philology. I have integrated and inserted into my analysis suggestions and contributions from other scholars, in particular Stefano Castagneto (SF), and also from Patrick Ball (PB) and Kathryn Warner (KW).

Still today the hypothesis is put forward that the Fieschi Letter is a forgery. This seems to me a way to cut a long (difficult and complex) story – the fate of King Edward II – short with little effort. Indeed, this analysis has proved more time consuming and tiring than I ever imagined.

Elena Corbellini

Plan of the Analysis:

  1. General characteristics of the document
  2. Analysis of the document:
    1. Extrinsic characteristics
    2. Intrinsic characteristics
  3. Analysis of the text:
    1. Language and style
    2. Content

Following on from point 3.2 of the analysis, the Auramala Project blog will publish a biography of the author, Manuele Fieschi. We will then follow the journey of King Edward II, as described in the Fieschi Letter, stop by stop, debating the plausibility of what the Fieschi Letter states and analysing all available evidence that may support or negate the story it tells.

Ready for the journey?

 

(1) Seymour Phillips, Edward II, 2010