Herbert (880 to 943) was the count of Vermandois and bridges Charlemagne and the Carolingians to the Normans and William the Conqueror. His line is called the Herbertines or the House of Vermandois.
Let’s begin with genealogical tables.
Here is Michael Idomir Allen’s Table 8, which he put together for his translation of Pierre Riché’s The Carolingians. This table offers an overview of the House of Vermandois and the Herbertines:
Charlemagne’s son Pippin died in 810, while his father died in 814, so Pippin did not get any of the empire, which means his line became collateral or less important than Louis’s line, Charlemagne’s surviving son (see him in Bouchard’s table below).
At first glance, one thing strange about Table 8 is that Herbert II appears to marry his niece, but the truth is that Adela was a daughter of Robert from another alliance (see Bouchard’s table, below).
To get an overview, let’s insert Constance Bouchard’s table of kings, dukes and counts (T1), some of whom descend from Charlemagne. Her main point in the entire article at the American Historical Review is to show that new noble families emerged in the Medieval Age, who were not necessarily connect to long family lines.
For us, however, we focus on the Counts of Vermandois:
For the marriages of the children of Herbert II, Constance Bouchard offers:
- Odorannus of Sens “Chronica” 956 p. 96.
- Witger, Genealogia Arnulfi comitis, Monumenta Germaniae Historica 9.303.
- Flodoard, Historia Remensis ecclesiae 4.33 Monumenta Germaniae historica SS [Scriptores] 13.584.
- Idem, Annales 951 p. 132.
- Werner, “Die Nachkommen” in Karl der Grosse, ed. Wolfgang Braunfels, 4:464.
For a discussion of Robert’s marriage to Beatrix and her ancestry, click on Herbert I, Count of Vermandois, and scroll down to the addendum.
BASIC FACTS AND STORIES
Herbert II tricked Charles the Simple (his nickname meaning the Straightforward, not simplistic or simpleton), a descendant of Charlemagne through an all-male line. The trick was to come to a meeting for a parley. But Herbert seized him and held him captive in the citadel at St. Quentin.
Why did Herbert do this? Herbert’s father was assassinated by orders of Baldwin II of Flanders, who descended from the blinded King Bernard of Italy, so maybe Herbert wanted revenge, but vengeance is not enough to explain the count’s behavior.
Riché says he was actually driven by his ambition, desiring to carve out a princedom comparable to those of other leaders. He held a prestigious hostage and could threaten King Ralph of Western Francia. Charles’s wife Eadgifu (married about 920) had borne him a son, the future Louis IV. Charles’s son escaped, rolled in a bundle of fodder. Eadgifu was the daughter of Edward the Elder of England, and she took Louis to exile in England. Henceforth he was known as Louis d’Outremer (from Overseas).
Leaders of the West took advantage of or protested Charles’s imprisonment: Pope John X threatened Herbert with excommunication. Rognvald, chief of the Vikings in the lower Loire, mounted expeditions across the kingdom, while Count Rollo, distant Viking grandfather of William the Conqueror, revolted. The marquis of Neustria (south of Normandy and a royal principality) did nothing to assist Charles.
In 927 Herbert brought out Charles from prison to negotiate a rapprochement with Count Rollo and to intimidate Ralph. However, Charles finished his days in 929 as a prisoner of the citadel of Péronne (Riché).
Herbert struggled with King Ralph to expand his territory, particularly two royal strongholds of Reims and Laon. When the archbishop of Reims died in 925, Herbert had his five-year-old son Hugh elected to the post. He received homage from the archbishop’s vassals. In 928 Herbert captured Laon despite a vigorous defense by Ralph’s queen Emma.
However, the king counterattacked with the help of Hugh, the young marquis of Neustria, who refused to accept Herbert’s expansion. In 931 Ralph took back Reims and installed the monk Artoldus as archbishop. Then Ralph captured Laon. With the mediation of Henry I of Germany, Ralph was reconciled with Herbert in 935 and allowed him to retain much of what he controlled, except Reims and Laon.
Herbert also contended with Louis IV, King of France. A long war of pillage and violence erupted with temporary reconciliations. Herbert paid homage to Louis in 938, but it didn’t last. Then in 942 Hugh the Great (an early Capetian) met with Otto I in the royal palace at Attigny, and Herbert and the men concluded an alliance. Then the conspirators ejected Artoldus from the archbishopric or Reims and reinstalled Herbert’s son Hugh.
Over time Herbert II tried to expand his territory, but his influence deteriorated and his sons divided up his remaining lands. In the eleventh century the county of Vermandois eventually got incorporated by Valois and the countship passed to collateral Capetians.
Herbert II died 23 Feb 943 and was buried at St. Quentin.
Quick summary: He was born about 880. He was Count of Meaux, Soissons, and Vermandois and lay-abbot of Saint Crépin and Saint Médard of Soissons, 900/907-943. He married Adele (or Adelaide), daughter of Robert I, King of West Franks, by his wife Beatrice (Beatrix) of Vermandois, daughter of Herbert I.
Herbert II and Adele had five sons:
1. Eudes (Odo), Count of Vienne and Amiens;
2. Herbert, Count of Troyes and Meaux;
3. Robert, Count of Troyes and Meaux;
4. Albert I, Count of Vermandois; and
5. Hughes, Archbishop of Reims.
Herbert and Adele had two daughters:
1. Adele, who married Arnulf or Arnoul, the Great or the Old, Count / Marquis of Flanders, Count of Artois, Count of Boulogne and Ternois;
2. Ligard (Luitgard and Ledgard, wife of William (Guillaume), Duke of Normandy, and Theobald (Thibaut), Count of Blois and Chartres.
Pippin, Great Grandson of Charlemagne (transition to the House of Vermandois)
HOUSE OF VERMANDOIS
Herbert II, Count of Vermandois
Matthias Becher, Charlemagne, trans. David S. Bachrach (New Haven: Yale UP, 1999, 2003). Christian Bonnet and Christine Descatoire, Les Carolingiens (741-987) (Armand Colin / VUEF, 2001).
Constance B. Bouchard, “The Origins of the French Nobility: A Reassessment.” The American Historical Review vol. 86, no. 1, Feb 1981, 501-32.
—, Those of My Blood: Constructing Noble Families in Medieval Francia (U Penn P 2001)
Jim Bradbury, The Capetians: Kings of France (Continuum, 2007).
Marios Costambeys, Matthew Innes, and Simon MacLean, the Carolingian World (Cambridge UP, 2011).
Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, eds. William W. Kibler and Grover A. Zinn (New York: Garland, 1995).
Pierre Riché, The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe, trans. Michael Idormir Allen (U Penn P, 1993).
Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, 5 volumes (Salt Lake City: Published privately, 2013). (It is worth noting that Richardson does not include Bouchard’s very helpful book in his bibliography.)
—, Plantagenet Ancestry, 2nd ed., 3 volumes, (Salt Lake City: Published privately, 2011). (It is worth noting that Richardson does not include Bouchard’s very helpful book in his bibliography.)