Winter Quarter 2003
HSTAM 340: MEDIEVAL WOMEN
MTWThF 09:30-10:20
SAVERY HALL 239
 
Go Back to the Syllabus

 

Ermengard of Narbonne
to Louis VII of France
(1173)


The following letter is from RHGF 16:158-59 (Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et de la France). It is translated below by Frederic L. Cheyette, and appears in his excellent Ermengard of Narbonne and the World of the Troubadours, Cornell University Press, (Ithaca and London: 2001). I've also included the containing paragraph of Cheyette's commentary. (pp. 268-9)


Reverentissimo domino Ludovico, Dei gratiâ Francorum Regi illustrissimo, Ermingardis Narbonensium vicecomitissa, ejus fidelis et humilis femina, salutem et Karoli Regis magnanimitatem. Quia vestræ, serenissime domine, placuit celsitudini, ut ad me ancillam suam visitandam legatum suum magistrum R. et proprias literas delegaret, pergratum habeo, et inde grates innumeras vestræ refero majestati. De hoc verò quod mihi mandastis, ut inimicorum vestrorum consortia fugerem, et in dilectione vestra sicut incœperam perseverarem; nobilitatem vestram indubitanter tenere volo, quoniam cum coronæ vestræ hostibus nec fœdus inii, nec familiaritatem habitura fui: in voto gerens, ut vos sincero affectu diligam, et me ac mea præceptis vestris atque obsequiis pro loco et tempore exhibere studeam. Tolosæ autem negotium protegere et desidero, et, cùm necessarium fuerit, vestris precibus non desistam. Sed si protectionis vestræ dextera arma et scutum apprehenderit, et exsurget in adjutorium Tolosæ, constantiùs et libentiùs sequar vestigia armorum vestrorum. Doleo siquidem non solùm ego, sed et omnes compatriotæ nostri ineffabili tabescunt mœstitiâ, quia partes nostras, quibus Francorum Regum strenuitas insignia contulit libertatis, defectu vestro, ne dicam culpâ, sub alterius dominio, ad quod minimè spectant, devenire videmus. Non vestræ sit molestum altitudini, carissime domine, quia ita audacter vobiscum loqui præsumo; quia quantò coronæ vestræ femina sum specialior, tantò molestiùs fero cùm eam à statûs sui culmine video inclinari. Non enim ad solam Tolosam, sed a omnes partes nostras à Garona usque Rodanum, sicut adversariorum vestrorum est jactantia, obtinendas sentio festinari, ut, membris sub servitute redactis, caput ipsum faciliùs queat labefactari. Assumat ergo virtutem strenuitas vestra, et in brachio forti partes nostras ingrediatur, ut et hostium vestrorum reprimatur audacia, et amicorum spes digna habeat solatia. Sicque fiet, ut tam partium nostrarum prælati quàm principes, qui omnes si audeant vobis cupiunt famulari, cum vestra præsentia et sine ea Tolosam tueantur, et in statum solitum studeant reformare. Rogo itaque, et pro eodem supplicant cæteri, ut ad expensarum gravamen non respiciatis, quia pro una marcha centum recuperabitis, et insuper nomen vestrum, quod apud nos obscuratum est, apud omnes exaltabitis. Si qua de his quæ dicenda sunt prætermittimus, ea magistri R. qui esse nostrum et nostrarum partium novit, relatione addiscetis. Valete, valeant qui vos amant.

Cheyette's translation and commentary below is from the 2004 paperback edition which contains a number of unannounced corrections.


The news that Raymond had aligned himself with Henry sent a tremor through the region. When Louis VII wrote to Ermengard in the hope of detaching her from his enemies, she replied with due reverence and undisguised exasperation:

To the most revered King Louis, by the grace of God most high King of the Franks, Ermengard viscountess of Narbonne, his faithful and humble woman, sends greetings and the courage of Charlemagne. Most high lord! It pleased Your Highness to send Master Rudolph your messenger bearing your letter to me, your handmaiden, from which I received much pleasure and for which I send you immeasurable thanks. Concerning those things you have charged me to do—that I flee the company of your enemies and persevere in the love of you that I have shown from the beginning—I wish Your Nobility to hold as a certainty that I have neither allied myself with the enemies of your crown nor have I shown friendship toward them. In accordance with my vow to prize you with sincere affection and to strive to place myself and my forces at your command as time and place require, I desire to protect you in the affairs of Toulouse and will answer your requests when necessary. But if you would take up the arms of your right hand and the shield of your protection and raise yourself to deal a blow for the aid of Toulouse, more firmly and freely would I follow the path of your armed forces. It is not only I who mourn. All the people of our land are consumed with unspeakable sadness as we see our region, which the vigor of the kings of the Franks adorned with liberty, through your failure—should I not say through your guilt!—now fall to the lordship of another to whom it does not belong. Let not Your Highness be affronted that I dare speak thus to you, most dear lord. For the more I am the special woman of your crown, the greater is my sadness when I see that crown fall from the height of its due state. Not only in Toulouse but in all our region from the Garonne to the Rhone, I see your adversary hurrying to accomplish his boast: that by subjecting the members of your kingdom to servitude he will more easily make its head to totter. Take on your vigor! Bring your strong arm to our region, that the audacity of your enemies may be put down and your friends may be comforted. Do what is necessary so that the prelates and princes of our region—who would want to serve you if they dared—guard Toulouse both when you are there and when you are absent. Strive to restore it to its due condition! I ask and others plead that you give no heed to the cost of doing this, for you will recover a hundred marcs for every one you spend, and your name—which is now but a shadow among us—will be exalted by all. If I pass over other things that should be said, Master Rudolph, whom you know comes from us, will tell you more. Valete, valeant qui vos amant. Farewell. Would that those who love you were strong.

The salutation and closure were thick with irony. Valete meant "be strong" as well as "farewell." And it was the strength of Charlemagne—whom Narbonne's myth had made the city's liberator from the Saracens—that Ermengard thought Louis most needed. The letter may have been penned by a scribe proficient in the epistolary rhetoric of the schools, but the tone of the letter is surely Ermengard's. It sounds the despair she must now have felt. The camp of those who had once been her allies was now a school for children. Raymond Trencavel, Bernard Ato of Nîmes, William of Montpellier, Ramon Berenguer of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer of Provence—all were dead. Their lands were in the hands of untried youngsters or weak or cautious regencies. Of all her allies from the 1140s and 1150s, she alone remained. She had tried the road of peacemaking. But now Raymond had maneuvered himself into a position of dominant power. Her only hope was in a distant, and she knew, quite feckless king. She spoke her hope. But she was not hesitant to imply her fear that it would be in vain. Meanwhile, her only choice was to follow the route of loyalty to Raymond V that the balance of forces in Occitan seemed to demand.


 
end of page markerend of page markerend of page marker