Herbert I was a great-great-grandson of Charlemagne, and his daughter Beatrix married Robert I, grandfather of Hugh Capet, the namesake of the Capetian dynasty.
Herbert I is a vital bridge between the Carolingians and the Capetians. His lineage is known as the Herbertines or House of Vermandois.
Let’s start off 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).
Allen names Herbert’s wife Adela (Adele). Here is his Table 4:
Note Robert II, the Pious. It is his line that this series tracks down to the Plantagenets.
Let’s insert a genealogical table from historian W. L. Warren’s superb biography of Henry II, the first Plantagenet, to understand where we’re headed in this series:
On the left are the Capetian kings. Henry of Anjou is the same as King Henry II.
Let’s return to the main subject of this post (Herbert) and insert Medievalist Prof. (emeritus) 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 connected to long family lines.
For us, however, we focus on the Counts of Vermandois, who are indeed connected to Charlemagne:
Herbert I had two children: Beatrix and Herbert II. Beatrix married Robert I, and they are the parents of Hugh the Great, the father of Hugh Capet, the namesake of the Capetians.
BASIC FACTS AND STORIES
Unfortunately, Herbert is not as famous as some of his ancestors or descendants, so historians don’t cover his life thoroughly (or I haven’t found one who does).
Here are a few facts at least, which are important to us.
Herbert I was born about 850. He was Count of Vermandois with Saint Quentin and Péronne and lay-abbot of Saint Quentin, about 896-900/906. He was also Count of Soissons and lay-abbot of Saint Crépin before 898 to 900/906.
The County of Vermandois was originally a Roman civitas that was split into two parts, one centered on the towns of Saint Quentin and Péronne. It is this part that is called the region of Vermandois and lies in the northeast of France, south of Flanders. It was crossed by Roman roads and became of great economic and strategic value. As this genealogical tables show, it was ruled by direct descendants of Charlemagne, notably Herbert II (next), so the county had extra luster. However, Louis the Pious, Charlemagne’s son, settled his three sons so that they controlled the entire empire
Herbert I and his unidentified wife had one son Herbert II, Count of Meaux, Soissons, and Vermandois;
As Allen’s Tables 4 and 8 show, Herbert I had a daughter named Beatrix or Beatrice who married Robert I, King of West Franks.
Herbert I also had an unidentified daughter, who married Udo (Eudes), Count of Wetterau.
In 896 Herbert killed Raul (Ralph), brother of Count Baldwin II. Assassination was done more often in those days.
Herbert was murdered 11 June between 900 and 907. (Riché says it happened in 907 but then he says on another page of his history that it happened in 900.)
ADDENDUM: DISCUSSION OF SOURCES
Medievalist and Professor (emeritus) Constance Bouchard shows that Beatrix was a daughter of Heribert (Herbert) I and married Robert I. Prof. Bouchard emailed me recently (Nov 2017), and said she has not changed her mind on that family link, which is well attested, in her studied view.
In her article in American Historical Review, she writes this about that line:
When Hugh Capet replaced the last French Carolingian, Louis V, all contemporaries agreed that Hugh was not of the blood of Charlemagne; but his grandmother mother Beatrix was the daughter of the count of Vermandois, a descendant in the direct male line from Charlemagne … confirmed by modern scholars.” (p. 525)
Here is Contance Bouchard’s note 22, p. 198, for the documents supporting Herbert’s descent from Charlemagne:
Regino of Pruem, Chronicon 818, p. 73; Annales Bertiniani 834, p. 15; Alberic de Trois-Fontaines, Chronica 937; MGH SS 23:761. See Werner, “Untersuchen zur Fruezeit des franzoesischen Fuerstentums” Die Welt als Geschichte 20 (1960) pp. 87-115.
In her book Those of My Blood, she cites these primary sources for the line from Herbert I – Beatrix – Hugh the Great – Hugh Capet:
Here is Prof. Bouchard’s note 69 on page 201 about this lineage:
See Hugh’s letter of 931, in which he mentioned his mother Beatrix; “Hugonis magni charta”; RHGF [Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France] 9:719. She was the daughter of count of Vermandois; see the “Chronicon Sithiensis,” ibid., p. 77; the “Historia Francorum Senonensis.” MGH SS [Monumenta Germaniae historica Scriptores] 9:366; and Orderic Vitalis, Historia ecclesiastica 7.1, 4:345. …
Click on the onsite links, next, to see the sources. I scanned them from the online original and inserted them into this website for easy access.
1. Hugh the Great’s Letter (charter)
That primary source–written on the authority of Hugh himself–says that Hugh’s parents are as follows: Rotbert (Robert) is his father (genetor, genetoris), and Beatrix is his mother (genetrix, genetricis), and both are his parents (parens, parentum).
For the online source Hugonis magni charta, go to this link:
Once there, click on volume 9. Use the PDF format, and find page 791 of the document (about p. 871 in PDF format).
Now who is Beatrix’s father or brother?
2. Chronique de l’Abbaye de St.-Pierre-le-Vif de Sens
That primary source says Robert married the (unnamed) sister of Herbert (II) and she gave birth (natus est) to Hugh the Great (Hugo Magnus). Remember, every researcher agrees that Herbert II is the son of Herbert I, so … since Robert married Herbert II’s sister, she is also the offspring of Herbert I. Hugh the Great said his own mother’s name was Beatrix.
For the online Chronicon Sancti Petri Vivi, click on this link (if it goes dead, do a google search on key terms):
Go to the PDF format. Find pages at the very bottom of p. 329 (341 in PDF format) and at the top of 331 (or 343 in PDF format).
If that link dies, go here and click on the link at footnote 15 (Geoffroy de Courlon):
According to that link, written in French, there are actually three authors of Chronicon: Ordannus (c. 985-1046), Geoffroy of Courlon (d. end of thirteenth century), and Clarius who lived at the Abbey at the beginning of the 12th century and was writing it right up to 1224.
3. Historia Francorum Senonensis
Beatrix Sister of Herbert II m Robert Hist Franc Sens
That primary source says Robert married the (unnamed) sister of Herbert (II), and Hugo Magnus or Hugh the Great is the son of Robert. Herbert II descends from Herbert I, and Herbert I descends from Charlemagne.
For the online source Historia Francorum Senonensis, go to the next link:
Once there, click on the link, and find page 857, col. 1, first full paragraph (beginning with Secundo), a little below center of that paragraph. It says Robert married the sister (soror) of Herbert II.
4. Chronicon Sithiensis
Beatrix son Hugh is Nephew of Herbert II Chronicon Sith
That (onsite) primary source says Hugo Magnus or Hugh the Great is the nephew (nepos) of Herbert (II). This means that the mother of Hugh, Beatrix, was Herbert II’s sister, and he was the son of Herbert I, a descendant of Charlemagne. Footnote (a) says Beatrix was the the sister of Herbert II (Heribert) and was married to Robert.
To see the online source Chronicon Sithiensis, click on this link:
Once there, click on volume 9. Use the PDF format, and find page 77 of the document (about p. 223 in PDF format).
5. As to Orderic Vitalis (d. c. 1144), all he does is add a few tidbits about Herbert II, count of Péronne, (in Marjorie Chibnall’s print edition, not Forester’s online version from 1852) and Hugh the Great and Hugh Capet. Herbert II is related to Hugh the Great and Robert had Hugh the Great. The latter is the father of Hugh Capet. Nothing contradicts the first four sources.
Analysis of the First Four Sources
One can dispute with these documents because the Medieval authors lived after the people in question (about from us back to Pres. Lincoln or closer / later). However, the farther one goes back in time, the sparser the documents get, with few exceptions. (Even some Medieval aristocrats did not leave behind wills.) So when we find positive evidence so close to the events in question, we must not dismiss them out of hand. They may have had their own sources.
Moreover, the family passages in these Medieval documents were offhand and matter-of-fact; the authors did not turn the family connections into a big deal, nor are the authors polemical about the connections. In fact, the Carolingians were dying out or had already died out when these documents were written. It would not have been to Hugh the Great’s or the early Capetians’ advantage to say he or they were Carolingians–at the very beginning of their dynasty. In other words, the authors were not “fudging” the facts just to burnish Hugh’s and Beatrix’s ancestry.
In fact, one of these sources says that Herbert (II) was a terrible traitor who unjustly imprisoned Charles the Simple, a Carolingian. How eager were these Medieval authors to connect Hugh the Great to a traitor? Not very eager at all, one can imagine.
On the flip side, we must not listen to arguments from silence, e.g. this document should have named so-and-so, but it does not (silence), so let’s reject the family connection. Any researcher knows that names are left out of records all the time. This happens even in American families, who lived much more recently than those in the Medieval Age!
In any case, those links above are positive evidence of the Herbert I – Beatrix (m. Robert) – Hugh the Great connection. A short time lag does not automatically cancel out the reliability of sources.
What about the claim that later Medieval authors depended on a defective earlier source? Literary dependence is very difficult to prove. Communication was not fast like the worldwide web is, and manuscripts took a long time to write by hand and at great expense. The authors may have had their own (reliable) sources.
As for a possible defective earlier source, that defect must also be proven, which is difficult to do in the Medieval Age for these short chronicles, barring nothing egregious and blatant. These documents linked above do not seem defective at all in the matter of Herbert II’s sister marrying Robert and Hugh the Great being Herbert’s nephew. On the contrary, they seem very, very strong, notably because they pop up at different times and different places.
In fact, a close look at those documents reveal that they say the thing in different ways: Hugh is the nephew of Herbert; Robert married the (unnamed) sister of Herbert, and Robert’s son is Hugh; and Robert is the parent of Hugh. If they had depended on each other, they would have been more consistent in identifying who is who and in their wording.
A generous approach: These documents are innocent and reliable until proven otherwise.
A stingy approach: These documents that open up a new line are bad, for a (short) later date is ipso facto dispositive of defects and disqualifying!
The burden of proof is on the naysayers. In other words, they are the ones who must prove these documents are unreliable on the specific family connection.
However, just because different documents written at different times and in different places agree on the same basic, off-hand fact (Herbert II’s sister married Robert, and they had Hugh) does not prove dependence or defects. Maybe each writer of each document had independent and reliable sources, as noted.
And how much better and more secure reliability does one need than Hugh the Great’s Charter (letter) in which he names his parents: Robert and Beatrix?
Genealogist Douglas Richardson (whom I respect) in his Royal Ancestry does not name Beatrix as a daughter of Herbert I or as a sister to Herbert II. He doesn’t mention her at all. However, in a private email to me, Medievalist Prof. Allen says he stands by his research and Beatrix, and so does retired Medievalist Prof. Constance Bouchard in her email, as noted.
Beatrix is the one who opens up the new line—new because Richardson doesn’t include her, though the line has been known from 2001, thanks to Prof. Bouchard’s research (or even known from the Medieval sources, so it is not new!).
Richardson also says that Herbert II’s wife is unnamed, but he says she is still a daughter of Robert I, King of France, a Robertine (or Robertian). Richardson’s research does not go back to Robert I.
In his Royal Ancestry, vol. 5, pp. 484-85, his sources for Herbert I, where he does not name Beatrix, are as follows:
Barthélemy Cartulaire de L’Abbaye de Buicilly (1881): 109; see this link:
Halphen & Poupardin, Chronique des Comtes d’Anjou et des Seigneurs d’Amboise (1913): 247-50 (Genelogiae Comitum Andegavensium);
Erich von Brandenburg, Die Nachkommen Karls des Grossen (1935) vol. 35;
Detlev Schwennicke (ed.) Europäischen Stammtafeln 3 (1) (1984) (sub Vermandois);
H. M. West Winter, Descendants of Charlemagne (800-1400) (1987): vols. 3, VI.3-VI.5;
Settipani and von Kerrerouck, La Préhistoire des Capetiens (1993);
Swager Graf Heribert II (1994);
Tanner, Families, Friends and Allies (2004): 308 (Vermandois pedigree)
What is so surprising about that list is that they are all secondary sources. In fact, studying Richardson’s bibliography reveals that he depends very, very heavily on secondary sources—maybe around 80-90%? Of course the primary sources are fewer than the secondary ones, but let’s hope the latter are right. (Oddly and surprisingly, he does not list Constance Bouchard’s book on Medieval families in his bibliography.)
Further, just because those specific secondary sources listed above do not mention the lineage of Hebert I – Beatrix (m. Robert) – Hugh the Great does not mean they are right. When secondary sources (Richardson’s) and other secondary sources (Bourchard and Allen) compete with each other or do not tell the same story or do not reach the same conclusion, it is best to look at the primary ones and not be stingy. The primary ones are innocent until proven guilty. They look very, very strong and guilt-free.
The primary sources (first and foremost), Bouchard’s and other modern scholars’ authority are good enough for me to open up a new line back to Charlemagne and forward to the Capetians.
Herbert I, a descendant of Charlemagne through all males, is the father of Herbert II and Beatrix; she married Robert, and they had Hugh the Great. Hugh is the father of Hugh Capet, the founder of the Capetian royal dynasty, So a new line linking the Capetians to Charlemagne is solid and well attested.
Pippin, Great-Grandson of Charlemagne (transition to the House of Vermandois)
HOUSE OF VERMANDOIS
Herbert I, Count of Vermandois
Robert I (r. 922-23) (House of Robertines)
Hugh the Great (r. 938-956)
Hugh Capet (r. 987-996)
Robert II (r. 996-1031)
Henri I (r. 1031-60)
Philip I (r. 1059 or 1060-1108)
Louis VI (r. 1108-1037)
Louis VII (r. 1137-1180)
Philip II Augustus (r. 1180-1223)
Louis VIII (r. 1223-1226)
Louis IX, the Saintly King (r. 1226-1270)
Philip III (r. 1270-1285)
Philip IV (r. 1285-1314)
Louis X (r. 1314-1316)
Philip V (r. 1316-1322)
Charles IV (r 1322-1328) (last Capetian king)
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.)
W. L. Warren, Henry II (Berkeley: University of California P, 1973).