Today I look at another object that is discussed in Neil MacGregor’s book The History of the World in 100 Objects. The object is pictured above. It looks like a broken plate but it is in fact a crystal depicting a noteable biblical scene. This scene deals with the universal issue of Justice of wrong being made right. 
The story goes that one day Susanna, wife of a wealthy merchant was bathing in a nearby river. Some men happened upon her and seeing her naked were entranced by her beauty. They approached her and demanded she have sex with them. She protested and her cries attracted the household servants who saw the men handling Susanna in a rough manner. 
The men were exposed and angry, if not a little frustrated. They pulled away from Susanna and alleged that they had caught her committing adultery with another man. This was a serious allegation from elderly and respected gentlemen. Susanna’s husband was most upset and ordered that his wife stand trial. 
Susanna protested her innocence but in her heart knew her fate was sealed as women were rarely exonerated through such trials. She received no sympathy from her husband. She faced certain death by stoning. 
Then arrived Daniel. He wished to question the gentlemen. Only one question each. He asked them separately under what tree did they find Susanna committing adultery? Each man gave a different answer and the deceit was exposed. Susanna was pardoned and the two men sentenced to death by stoning. 
To the left of the middle of the crystal you can see the men on the ground as others hurl stones at them. 
Who commissioned this crystal and why?
The crystal is an exquisite piece of work. Carved from a single crystal it relates the biblical story in eight separate scenes. The crystal is incredibly tough and cannot be chiselled, so the images were made over several painstaking months of grinding the crystal with sand. Inscribed on the crystal in Latin is “King Lothair caused me to be made”
The time is about 860 and we are in Western Europe. Many decades earlier Charlemagne, King of The Franks had created an impressive empire covering most of Western Europe. It stretched from northern Italy and covered modern France and Germany. 
At the time our crystal was made, Charlemagne had long died and his empire was in tatters. It had broken into essentially three parts. To the west was a kingdom situated where modern day France is located. To the east another large kingdom where Germany is now found and between them a smaller kingdom of Lotharingia belonging to King Lothair.  
King Lothair faced many challenges. Firstly, his uncles to either side were constantly threatening to overrun his kingdom and seize his land. Secondly, and more relevantly to our story of the crystal, King Lothair had difficulty conceiving a son to his wife,Theutberga. In fact, she bore him no children at all. No son, no heir. No heir, no kingdom. 
So King Lothair was faced with a problem not far removed from the one faced by Henry VIII some seven centuries later. 
As happens in human affairs, King Lothair had married the “wrong” woman. At the time of his wedding he had a long and enduring relationship with his mistress Waldrada who had borne him a son and a daughter. He wanted to divorce Theutberga and marry Waldrada. 
King Lothair needed a divorce in a Catholic Europe that did not readily accede to such requests. So he ordered his two bishops to annul the marriage on the grounds that Theutberga had committed incest with her brother. 
The bishops were equal to the task and managed to extract a confession from the Queen, no doubt through torture. But the wronged “Susanna” in our story appealed to the Pope who after a brief investigation exonerated her. 
We do not know the precise circumstances of the making of the crystal other than it was commissioned by King Lothair at the time of his unsuccessful royal divorce. Perhaps it was a peace offering to his wife. 
Interestingly, in the centre of the crystal there is an inscription beginning “Lotharius Rex…..” and meaning “King Lothair sits in judgment.” 
And this is the appeal of the crystal to me. It portrays the King sitting as a judge. It depicts a leader acting contrary to his own personal agenda and favouring the interests of justice, protecting the innocent that he himself perfected. It depicts the rule of law which all good leaders should uphold. 
The Lothair Crystal is perhaps the first depiction of the rule of law in continental Europe.  
Our own legal system has its origins as a King’s court where subjects appeared seeking equity and justice. Some of these historical origins remain with “Her Majesty’s Judges” and “Queen’s Counsel”
And what happened to King Lothair and his kingdom Lotharingia?
The King died in 869 without an heir. His greedy uncles to the east and west divided his land between themselves. All that remains of Lotharingia today, is Lorraine, which up until the Second World War was bitterly fought over by France to the west and Germany to the east.