Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 January 2013
By the reigns of Charlemagne's grandsons, the ritual repertoire we have come to associate with the monarchy of the high Middle Ages was well established. Its emergence owed much to competition, first to the eighth century need to affirm a new dynasty, second to rivalry with the Roman Empire in the East, and third to the intrafamilial struggles that exploded in the 830s. For these reasons, the second half of the ninth century provides a wonderful window through which to observe the workings of a specific political culture and, especially, its rituals. Competing entities - Carolingian subkingdoms but also the Republic of Saint Peter - strove for autonomy as well as for the satellization or absorption of one another. At the same time they spoke in the language of power that a now waning Carolingian unity had made uniform. Each entity produced a historiography that argued its ruler’s superiority but at the same time was interested in and informed about its neighbors. Convergent and divergent, the contents of the so-called Annals of Fulda, Annals of Saint Bertin, Liber pontificalis, and papal epistolary registers are quite revelatory. But what exactly do they reveal? Not necessarily what actually happened. I shall not embark on such a difficult quest here, but rather focus on the role of rituals, especially “bad rituals,” in written narratives. Such a focus, I argue, can lead us to tangible realities in ninth-century political culture.