Enemies of Hugh Capet

One of the difficulties of publishing a scholarly book is doubtless the fact that the time-span between research and hitting the market can be several years. This struck me when reading a couple of works from 20 years ago on the Stemma of Cunigunde. I mentioned this remarkable diagram some while back in a blog post.
A plot of it on my website allows you to see more detail. This diagram is the oldest visualization in existence of a genealogy that can be independently documented. The only older genealogical visualization is the Great Stemma, where many of the persons, ranging from David and Solomon to Jesus, are historical figures, but are documented by a single source only, the Jewish and Christian scriptures, and the diagram is not contemporaneous but based on that single source.

The great modern authority on medieval tree diagrams is Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, who published her study, L’Ombre des Ancêtres, in 2000. She rightly gave considerable attention to the Stemma of Cunigunde and its medieval evolution into various new formats.

What I now notice is that her investigation must have been conducted a good decade before her book's publication, because she does not cite the two key studies dating from 1992 and 1994, by Nora Gädeke and Karl Schmid, which advance our knowledge of the Stemma of Cunigunde.

Schmid's study of the Stemma was especially interesting. He instantly recognized that its subject and focus is Cunigunde (at the bottom left), not Charlemagne or any of the figures high up the diagram.

He proposed that the Munich manuscript is a copy, perhaps made decades later, of a document probably drawn up in Metz, where Cunigunde's villainous brother Dietrich II was bishop and no doubt had clerks and a library capable of drawing such a work. Schmid does not opt for a date, though tendentially he suggests this would have been after Cunigunde's coronation as empress in Rome in 1013.

The purpose of his article is to argue that the stemma's core content must go back to a 991 visualization that would have been drawn up by "Carolingian legitimists" in support of Karl, a child, as pretender to the kingship of West Francia in opposition to Hugh Capet (elected 987). Hugh won out and is now regarded as the first king of France, the legitimists lost, and little Karl (the last Carolus in the diagram) simply falls off the face of history. Whether he was killed or lived out a full life as a pitiable might-have-been is unknown. Instead he gains his place in history as the original inspiration for a very remarkable diagram.

The eye-catching festoons at the left and right of the drawing above would have been created to make room to add Cunigunde and the Ottonians to the anti-Capet diagram.

Schmid (Wikipedia entry) bases this ingenious lost-diagram hypothesis on an analysis of errors and non-sequiturs in the graphic arrangement that survives. His article is a most impressive feat of graphic reconstruction, and I think his point of view is convincing. As far as I know, this was the last scholarly thing he wrote. It was published following his 1993 death in a volume that contains his obituary.

From Forum Eeerste Wereldoorlog.nl
He even reaches back a little further, tentatively suggesting that the enemies of Hugh Capet may have found their model in a hypothetical document dating from the 978-984 war between Lothair of West Francia and the Ottonians. Schmid thinks that because the stemma often suppresses the title of "emperor" and because the final central roundel in the drawing above is empty, omitting the name of Louis le Fainéant which should obviously fill it, that ur-ur-diagram might have existed. He conjectures that this could have been a piece of proto-French political propaganda circulated during that conflict to ridicule the proto-Germans' pretensions to be upholding a (First) Reich. That is a sobering millennial thought in this year, when we often have in mind the sombre centenary of a war where elaborate French propaganda, like L'Impérial Semeur at right, so often mocked the Second Reich.

Gädeke, Nora. Zeugnisse bildlicher Darstellung der Nachkommenschaft Heinrichs I. Arbeiten zur Fruhmittelalterforschung 22. De Gruyter, 1992.
Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane. L’Ombre des Ancêtres. Paris: Fayard, 2000.
Schmid, Karl. “Ein verlorenes Stemma Regum Franciae. Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Entstehung und Funktion karolingischer (Bild-)Genealogien in salisch-staufischer Zeit.” Frühmittelalterliche Studien 28 (1994): 196–225. doi:10.1515/9783110242263.196.

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