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The Topical Concerns of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britannie: History, Prophecy, Peacemaking, and English Identity in the Twelfth Century

  • Paul Dalton


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1 The quotation concerning Geoffrey of Monmouth's influence comes from Davies, R. R., The Matter of Britain and the Matter of England (Oxford, 1996), 3; and the one about his creativity from Gillingham, John, The English in the Twelfth Century: Imperialism, National Identity and Political Values (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2000), xvi. For the Historia's text, see The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth with Contributions to the Study of Its Place in Early British History, ed. Griscom, Acton and trans. Jones, Robert Ellis (New York, 1929; cited hereafter as HGM); The Historia Regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth I: Bern, Burgerbibliothek, MS. 568, ed. Wright, Neil (Cambridge, 1985; cited hereafter as BMS). For a translation, see Geoffrey, of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain, trans. Thorpe, Lewis (Harmondsworth, 1980; cited hereafter as HKB). Thorpe's translation employed a manuscript printed in HGM. For Geoffrey's life, see Crick, Julia C., “Monmouth, Geoffrey of (d. 1154/5),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004),

2 For the date of composition of the Historia, see Crick, “Monmouth, Geoffrey” (suggesting probable completion by the time Robert, earl of Gloucester, renounced his allegiance to King Stephen in 1138 and availability in some form before 1138); and BMS, xi–xvi. For Stephen's reign, see Davis, R. H. C., King Stephen, 1135–1154, 3rd ed. (London, 1990); King, Edmund, ed., The Anarchy of King Stephen's Reign (Oxford, 1994); Crouch, David, The Reign of King Stephen, 1135–1154 (Harlow, 2000).

3 BMS, vii. See also Davies, Matter of Britain, 7. The secondary literature on the Historia is immense. Important volumes, which collectively refer to much of the article material, include HGM; Tatlock, J. S. P., The Legendary History of Britain: Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae and Its Early Vernacular Versions (Berkeley, 1950); Loomis, Roger Sherman, ed., Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages: A Collaborative History (Oxford, 1959); Hanning, Robert William, The Vision of History in Early Britain: From Gildas to Geoffrey of Monmouth (New York, 1966), 121–76; Leckie, R. William Jr., The Passage of Dominion: Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Periodization of Insular History in the Twelfth Century (Toronto, 1981); BMS; Crick, Julia C., The Historia Regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth IV: Dissemination and Reception in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1991); Blacker, Jean, The Faces of Time: Portrayal of the Past in Old French and Latin Historical Narrative of the Anglo-Norman Regnum (Austin, TX, 1994); Curley, Michael J., Geoffrey of Monmouth (New York, 1994); Arthuriana 8 (1998).

4 Gillingham, The English, 19–39, quotation at 21.

5 Ibid., 19–39.

6 Shichtman, Martin B. and Finke, Laurie A., “Profiting from the Past: History as Symbolic Capital in the Historia Regum Britanniae,” Arthurian Literature 12 (1993): 135; Ingledew, Francis, “The Book of Troy and the Genealogical Construction of History: The Case of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae,” Speculum 69 (1994): 665704; Howlett, D. R., The Celtic Latin Tradition of Biblical Style (Blackrock, Co. Dublin, 1995), 373–75, and The Literary Context of Geoffrey of Monmouth: An Essay on the Fabrication of Sources,” Arthuriana 5 (1995): 2669, 43–54, 64–65; Davies, Matter of Britain, 6–11; Davies, R. R., The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles, 1093–1343 (Oxford, 2000), 3941; Robertson, Kellie, “Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Translation of Insular Historiography,” Arthuriana 8 (1998): 4257; Bell, Kimberly, “Merlin as Historian in Historia Regum Britannie,” Arthuriana 10 (2000): 1425; Faletra, Michael A., “Narrating the Matter of Britain: Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Norman Colonization of Wales,” Chaucer Review 35 (2000): 6085.

7 Blacker, Faces of Time, 78–79, and see 80–84, 96, 99, 163–66. See also the comments on internecine strife, family rivalry, political instability, reconciliation, and peace in Curley, Geoffrey of Monmouth, 10, 16, 20, 22–27, 86–88, 98; the observations on Belinus, Brennius, and Locrinus in Zatta, Jane, “Translating the Historia: The Ideological Transformation of the Historia Regum Britannie in Twelfth-Century Vernacular Chronicles,” Arthuriana 8 (1998): 148–61, 151, 156; the discussion of Arthur's Pentecostal court, Geoffrey's concerns, praise of the Saxons, story of Leir and Cordeilla, and depiction of queens, in Tolhurst, Fiona, “The Britons as Hebrews, Romans, and Normans: Geoffrey of Monmouth's British Epic and Reflections of Empress Matilda,” Arthuriana 8 (1998): 6987, 76, 78–79, 84–85; Fries, Maureen, “The Arthurian Moment: History and Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britannie,” Arthuriana 8 (1998): 8899, 90–91, 94; Otter, Monika, Inventiones: Fiction and Referentiality in Twelfth-Century English Historical Writing (Chapel Hill, NC, 1996), 7576; Wace's Roman de Brut: A History of the British, trans. Weiss, Judith (Exeter, 1999), xvii, xix; Warren, Michelle R., History on the Edge: Excalibur and the Borders of Britain, 1100–1300 (Minneapolis, 2000), 2729, 37–40, 51, 56; Rollo, David, Historical Fabrication, Ethnic Fable and French Romance in Twelfth-Century England (Lexington, 1998), 81105, 123.

8 The “British hope” dates from at least as early as ca. 940 in Welsh literature.

9 The Historia's popularity is a vast subject and beyond the scope of this article. As Julia Crick has noted in a detailed study of the dissemination and reception of the Historia in the later middle ages, “Geoffrey's History touched on many themes and the appeal of his work doubtless has complex explanations. He provided the unique connected account of this period, creating history out of prehistory; he illustrated, at a time when England was threatened with civil war, the effects of strong and unified kingship; and he met current popular taste for romance, toponymic legend, prophecy, and magic” (Crick, The Historia IV, 8–9). See also Davies, The First English Empire, 31–41; Griffin, M. E., “Cadwaladr, Arthur, and Brutus in the Wigmore Manuscript,” Speculum 16 (1941): 113–20; Keeler, Laura, “The Historia Regum Britanniae and Four Medieval Chroniclers,” Speculum 21 (1946): 2437; The Prophetia Merlini of Geoffrey of Monmouth: A Fifteenth-Century English Commentary, ed. Eckhardt, Caroline D. (Cambridge, MA, 1982), 25, 14; James P. Carley, “Arthur in English History,” and Vale, Juliet, “Arthur in English Society,” in The Arthur of the English: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval English Life and Literature, ed. Barron, W. R. J. (Cardiff, 2001), 48, 5051, 187–88, 289 n. 29.

10 Gillingham, The English, 97–109, 123–44, quotation at 123.

11 See Crick, “Monmouth, Geoffrey.”

12 Hollister, C. Warren, Henry I, ed. and compl. Frost, Amanda Clark (New Haven, CT, 2001), 276–79, 308–18, 323–24, 463–64, 478, and Monarchy, Magnates and Institutions in the Anglo-Norman World (London, 1986), 145–69; of Malmesbury, William, Historia Novella: The Contemporary History, ed. King, Edmund and trans. K. R. Potter (Oxford, 1998), xxxviixlii (cited hereafter as HN); King, Edmund, “Stephen of Blois, Count of Mortain and Boulogne,” English Historical Review 115 (2000): 271–96, 289–91.

13 HN, 10–11.

14 Brut Y Tywysogyon; or, The Chronicle of the Princes: Red Book of Hergest Version, ed. and trans. Jones, Thomas (Cardiff, 1955), 104–9; Hollister, Henry I, 282.

15 Curley, Geoffrey of Monmouth, 69.

16 Green, Judith A., “David I and Henry I,” Scottish Historical Review 75 (1996): 119, 9–10, 15–19; G. W. S. Barrow, “The Scots and the North of England,” in King, The Anarchy, 231–53.

17 Davis, King Stephen, 12.

18 For the troubles of 1135–38, see n. 16 above; Davis, King Stephen, 12–33; Crouch, The Reign of King Stephen, 50–83; Davies, R. R., The Age of Conquest: Wales, 1063–1415 (Oxford, 1991), 4551; Gillingham, The English, 32–39.

19 The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, ed. and trans. Chibnall, Marjorie, 6 vols. (Oxford, 1969–80), 6:494–95 (cited hereafter as OV).

20 Liber Eliensis, ed. Blake, E. O., Camden Society, 3rd ser., 92 (London, 1962), 286–87, 294–99. Gillingham supported Blake's conjecture that it was Nigel who authorized preparations for an armed rising during 1136 or 1137 (Gillingham, The English, 135–37). But there is little or nothing to indicate Nigel's disloyalty to King Stephen before 1139, and it is possible to interpret his administrative and political role during 1136–38 as indicating that he was taking on the mantle of his uncle Bishop Roger as justiciar, an observation I owe to Edmund King. See also Thomas, Hugh M., The English and the Normans: Ethnic Hostility, Assimilation, and Identity, 1066–c.1220 (Oxford, 2003), 6465. Nigel and Alexander were both relatives of Roger, bishop of Salisbury, and had studied together at Laon (Kealey, Edward J., Roger of Salisbury: Viceroy of England [Berkeley, 1972], 4850).

21 OV, 6:516–23; and see The Chronicle of John of Worcester, vol. 3, ed. and trans. McGurk, Patrick (Oxford, 1998), 242–55; Gesta Stephani, ed. and trans. Potter, K. R. and Davis, R. H. C. (Oxford, 1976), 5671 (cited hereafter as GS).

22 Wright, Neil, “Geoffrey of Monmouth and Gildas,” Arthurian Literature 2 (1983): 140.

23 Gildas, , The Ruin of Britain and Other Works, ed. and trans. Winterbottom, Michael (London, 1978), esp. 5–6, 17, 20–52; Hanning, The Vision, 44–62, esp. 58–60; Leckie, The Passage, 59–69.

24 Shwartz, Susan M., “The Founding and Self-Betrayal of Britain: An Augustinian Approach to Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae,” Medievalia et Humanistica 10 (1981): 3353, 36.

26 See, e.g., Godden, Malcolm, “Apocalypse and Invasion in Late Anglo-Saxon England,” in From Anglo-Saxon to Early Middle English: Studies Presented to E. G. Stanley, ed. Godden, Malcolm et al. (Oxford, 1994), 130–62, 130, 154–55; Gransden, Antonia, Historical Writing in England, c. 550 to c. 1307 (London, 1974), 137; Hanning, The Vision, 128; Wormald, Patrick, “Archbishop Wulfstan and the Holiness of Society,” in Anglo-Saxon History: Basic Readings, ed. Pelteret, David A. E. (New York, 1999), 191224, reprinted in Wormald, Patrick, Legal Culture in the Early Medieval West: Law as Text, Image and Experience (London, 1999), 225–52, 245; Wormald, Patrick, The Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century (Oxford, 1999), 212, 332–33, 426–27, 450–55, 462–64, 481; Mann, Gareth, “The Development of Wulfstan's Alcuin Manuscript,” in Wulfstan, Archbishop of York: The Proceedings of the Second Alcuin Conference, ed. Townend, Matthew (Turnhout, Belgium, 2004), 235–78, 241–46, 265; Shopkow, Leah, History and Community: Norman Historical Writing in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Washington, DC, 1997), 87; Thomas, The English and the Normans, 21–22, 88–89, 243–46, 252–53, 257–59.

27 HKB, 54, 147, 172–73, 264, 273–74, 280–81; HGM, 221–22, 356–57, 386–87, 505–6, 519–21, 530–32; BMS, 2 (5), 60 (91), 75 (112:5–9), 133–34 (185), 139–40 (195), 144 (203); Roberts, Brynley F., “Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Welsh Historical Tradition,” Nottingham Mediaeval Studies 20 (1976): 2940, 38; Shwartz, “Founding and Self-Betrayal,” 34, 37, 40, 47; Leckie, The Passage, 69; W. R. J. Barron, “Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae,” in Barron, The Arthur of the English, 16; Curley, Geoffrey of Monmouth, 62–64, 94, 106.

28 See The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, ed. and trans. Whitelock, Dorothy et al. (London, 1961), s.a. 1137, 199–200; GS, 76–77, 84–87, 110–15, 138–39, 152–57, 188–91, 212–13.

29 See Crick, “Monmouth, Geoffrey”; BMS, xi; OV, 6:xviii, 380–89.

30 Roberts, “Geoffrey of Monmouth,” 39; and see Gillingham, The English, 19; Crick, “Monmouth, Geoffrey.”

31 HKB, 170–85; HGM, 383–97; BMS, 73 (109)–84 (117:74).

32 HKB, 170; HGM, 383–84; BMS, 73 (109–10).

33 See OV, 6:387–89; Suger, , The Deeds of Louis the Fat, trans. Cusimano, Richard and Moorhead, John (Washington, DC, 1992), 6971; Taylor, Rupert, The Political Prophecy in England (New York, 1911), 1014; Griffiths, Margaret Enid, Early Vaticination in Welsh with English Parallels, ed. Jones, T. Gwynn (Cardiff, 1937), 5860; Tatlock, Legendary History, 28–29, 52, 65, 255–56, 403–21; Eckhardt, The Prophetia Merlini; Crick, Julia, “Geoffrey of Monmouth, Prophecy and History,” Journal of Medieval History 18 (1992): 357–71, and The Historia IV, 85–87; Blacker, Jean, “Where Wace Feared to Tread: Latin Commentaries on Merlin's Prophecies in the Reign of Henry II,” Arthuriana 6 (1996): 36–52, and Hammer's works cited there; Curley, Geoffrey of Monmouth, 50–73.

34 HKB, 171–74; HGM, 384–87; BMS, 74 (111)–76 (113:12).

35 “gold shall be squeezed from the lily-flower [interpreted by Suger as the monastic clergy] … / Those who have their hair waved shall dress in woolen stuffs of many colors [a reference to the long hair and elaborate clothes of aristocrats, which some churchmen regarded as morally depraved] … / The feet of those that bark shall be cut off [an allusion to the hated forest laws]”: HKB, 171–74, quotations at 171–72, 174; HGM, 384–87; BMS, 74 (111)–76 (113:12); Curley, Geoffrey of Monmouth, 66; Barlow, Frank, William Rufus (London, 1983), 102–8; Bartlett, Robert, “Symbolic Meanings of Hair in the Middle Ages,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th ser., 4 (1994): 43–60, 50–52.

36 Beginning with “Venedotia shall be red”: HKB, 174–75; HGM, 387–88; BMS, 76 (113:12)–77 (115:20).

37 Michael J. Curley suggested that there may be references to violent political events in Wales (1125 or 1132) and Cornwall (before 1130); that they were used by Geoffrey “as models to project the kind of disorder that would follow the anticipated death of Henry I … [and, as far as Curley could tell] are the last prophecies [in the] Prophecies based on actual events”; and that what follows is truly visionary, relates eventually to the decline of the Norman plantation, seems to be fulfilled by England's troubles during Stephen's civil war, and depicts the end of Norman domination of Britain after Henry II's reign (Curley, Geoffrey of Monmouth, 66–69, 67).

38 Barron, “Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia,” 12.

39 For a suggestion that Geoffrey incorporated a revised version of the Prophecies into the Historia after 1139, see Curley, Geoffrey of Monmouth, 68. But see also Reeve, Michael D., “The Transmission of the Historia Regum Britanniae,” Journal of Medieval Latin 1 (1991): 73117, 107.

40 HKB, 174 (modified); HGM, 387; BMS, 76 (114:14); OV, 6:384–87.

41 For Albany as Scotland, see GS, 54–55.

42 For Walter, see Barrow, G. W. S., The Anglo-Norman Era in Scottish History (Oxford, 1980), 1315, 64–65, 67; and n. 66 below.

43 One as early as ca. 1155: Rigg, A. G., A History of Anglo-Latin Literature, 1066–1422 (Cambridge, 1992), 47. See also Taylor, Political Prophecy, 23; Griffiths, Early Vaticination, 142; Curley, Geoffrey of Monmouth, 65; Faletra, “Narrating the Matter,” 77.

44 HKB, 175; HGM, 387–88; BMS, 76 (114:15).

45 HKB, 175; HGM, 388; BMS, 76 (114:16).

46 Marjorie Chibnall notes that Orderic's version has leus rather than lux and that it differs from Geoffrey’s, “where the word is lynx or linx” (OV, 6:386 and n. 2). The Bern MS gives lux (BMS, 77 [115:18]).

47 HKB, 175 (modified); HGM, 388; BMS, 76–77 (114:17–115:20); OV, 6:386–87. For the interpretation of the “sixth” as Henry II by 1154, see Caroline D. Eckhardt, “The Date of the ‘Prophetia Merlini’ Commentary in MSS. Cotton Claudius B VII and Bibliothèque Nationale Fonds Latin 6233,” Notes and Queries 221, n.s., 23 (1976): 146–47, 147.

48 Gillingham, The English, 33–36, 38, and n. 110, noting that the Anglo-Norman Description of England, which he thought might date to ca. 1140, states “Openly they [the Welsh] go about saying, That in the end they will have it all, By means of Arthur, They will get it [Britain] back.”

49 Gruffudd died “after gathering to their own land [the men of] Gwynedd, who had before been dispersed to various lands by the Normans, after building many churches”: Brut Y Tywysogyon, 116–17. He and his sons were able to “attract men from neighboring lordships … to settle in their kingdom, entice smaller local dynasties … into their orbit, impose a loose hegemony on districts at Gwynedd's frontiers… . It was pardonable exaggeration for chronicler and biographer to hail him [Gruffudd] as ‘head and king and defender and pacifier of all Wales’ and as ‘king of the kings of Wales”’ (Davies, Age of Conquest, 44). Gruffudd had Irish connections, was “essentially a marauder” from 1075 until 1100, appointed David “the Scot” to the previously English-controlled see of Bangor, and was a church builder: ibid., 33, 44, 187–88, quotation at 33. For Gruffudd, see also A Mediaeval Prince of Wales: The Life of Gruffudd ap Cynan, trans. Evans, D. Simon (Llanerch, Wales, 1990), 53, 5883; Lloyd, John Edward, A History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest, 2 vols., 2nd ed. (London, 1912), 2:448, 455, 464–65, 468; Maund, Kari L., ed., Gruffudd ap Cynan: A Collaborative Biography (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1996).

50 OV, 6:386–87.

51 A Mediaeval Prince, 58–59, 58. For the date of the Life, see Nerys Ann Jones, “Historia Gruffud vab Kenan: The First Audience,” in Maund, Gruffudd ap Cynan, 149–56.

52 For Meilyr Brydydd's description of Gruffudd, see Pryce, Huw, “British or Welsh? National Identity in Twelfth-Century Wales,” English Historical Review 116 (2001): 775–801, 787–88; J. E. Caerwyn Williams, “Meilyr Brydydd and Gruffudd ap Cynan,” in Maund, Gruffudd ap Cynan, 165–86, 183–84.

53 Lloyd, History of Wales, 2:470.

54 For Welsh ancestry, see Roberts, “Geoffrey of Monmouth,” 29–35; Davies, Age of Conquest, 16, 78–79; Pryce, “British or Welsh?,” 775–801, esp. 787.

55 A Mediaeval Prince, 69, 82; Williams, “Meilyr Brydydd,” 186.

56 Roberts, “Geoffrey of Monmouth,” 39; Armes Prydein: The Prophecy of Britain from the Book of Taliesin, ed. Williams, Ifor and trans. Bromwich, Rachel (Dublin, 1982), xiixx, xxxv–xxxvi, 2–15; Curley, Geoffrey of Monmouth, 62, 71–72, 115; and see Gillingham, The English, 25. There are similarities between the Brut chronicle's description of Cadwaladr of Gwynedd and his brother Owain in 1136–37 and the description of Cadwaladr and Cynan in the Armes Prydein and in Meilyr's elegy of Gruffudd ap Cynan. Compare Brut Y Tywysogyon, 112–19, 126–31, 136–49, 158–59, with Armes Prydein, 13, and Williams, “Meilyr Brydydd,” 186. Tatlock, Legendary History, 255, noted the significance of the name of Cadwaladr, son of Gruffudd, in relation to the passage about Cadwaladr in the Prophecies but felt that “nothing messianic is probably intended”; but see also ibid., 256.

57 Roberts, “Geoffrey of Monmouth,” 39.

58 Ibid., 35; Curley, Michael J., “A New Edition of John of Cornwall's Prophetia Merlini,” Speculum 57 (1982): 245–46, and Geoffrey of Monmouth, 71–72. It has been suggested that Cadwaladr has been confused with his father, Cadwallo(n), and with Caedwalla, king of Wessex (d. 689). The British Cadwaladr's subjects were engaged in civil war, suffered famine, and were forced into exile overseas, after which the nearly deserted island was reoccupied by the Saxons. Cadwaladr secured the help of King Alan of Brittany to restore British power in Britain, but he was told by an angelic voice that God did not want this to happen until the time Merlin had prophesied (HKB, 280–82; HGM, 530–34; BMS, 144 [202]–146 [205]). This led Curley to ask if we are to assume that the Cadwaladr and Conan referred to in the Prophecies will return from the dead to play the role of redeemers, and what Arthur's role was intended to be (Curley, Geoffrey of Monmouth, 72, and see 99).

59 For Conan III (duke 1112–1148), see Everard, J. A., Brittany and the Angevins: Province and Empire, 1158–1203 (Cambridge, 2000), xv, 10, 15, 21, 29–31, 121. Geoffrey referred again to the restoration of British sovereignty by an alliance of Scots, Welsh, Cornishmen, and Bretons led by a Cadwaladr and a Conan in his Vita Merlini (1148–55) and stated there that Conan would arrive in his chariot from Brittany and that Cadwaladr was a leader of the Welsh (Life of Merlin: Geoffrey of Monmouth Vita Merlini, ed. and trans. Basil Clarke [Cardiff, 1973], 104–5).

60 Southern, R. W., “Aspects of the European Tradition of Historical Writing: 3. History as Prophecy,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., 22 (1972): 159–80, 160, 168.

61 Curley, “A New Edition,” 228.

62 Crick, “Geoffrey of Monmouth,” 363.

63 For Henry's visit to Bec and the manuscript of the Historia he saw there, see Wright, Neil, “The Place of Henry of Huntingdon's Epistola ad Warinum in the Text-History of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britannie: A Preliminary Investigation,” in France and the British Isles in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. Jondorf, Gillian and Dumville, David N. (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1991), 71113. Like Archdeacon Walter, who Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed provided him with the book written in British on which the Historia is based, Henry was an archdeacon of Lincoln diocese, and Henry and Geoffrey shared a literary patron in Alexander, bishop of Lincoln. It is unclear how the Historia came to Bec, but it may have been via Robert of Gloucester or Waleran of Meulan, who appear as dedicatees of the Historia and had close links with Bec. For further discussion, see Howlett, “Literary Context,” 53–54; Brooke, C. N. L., The Church and the Welsh Border in the Central Middle Ages, ed. Dumville, David N. and Brooke, C. N. L. (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1986), 43 and n. 103; Dumville, David N., “An Early Text of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae and the Circulation of Some Latin Histories in Twelfth-Century Normandy,” Arthurian Literature 4 (1985): 2326; Wright, “The Place,” 88–89. The copy Henry saw may not have contained the Prophecies: see Wright, “The Place,” 77; Eckhardt, Caroline D., “The Prophetia Merlini of Geoffrey of Monmouth: Latin Manuscript Copies,” Manuscripta 26 (1982): 167–76, 169 n. 6, 170.

64 For the Westminster council, see Councils & Synods, with Other Documents Relating to the English Church, A.D. 871–1204, ed. Whitelock, Dorothy et al. , 2 vols. (Oxford, 1981), 2:768–79; The Life of Christina of Markyate: A Twelfth-Century Recluse, ed. and trans. Talbot, C. H. (Oxford, 1959), 162–63. See also Henry, Archdeacon of Huntingdon, Historia Anglorum: The History of the English People, ed. and trans. Greenway, Diana (Oxford, 1996), lv (cited hereafter as HH). The English delegation to the Lateran Council would have been chosen by the royal court (Life of Christina, 160–61). Henry probably represented Bishop Alexander, but whether or not this was in an official capacity is uncertain. I am grateful to Edmund King for advice on the selection of the English delegation.

65 Hexham, Richard of, De Gestis Regis Stephani et de Bello Standardii, in Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I, ed. Howlett, Richard, 4 vols., Rolls Series (London, 1884–89), 3:167–72; Hexham, John of, Historia Regum, in Symeonis Monachi Opera Omnia, ed. Arnold, Thomas, 2 vols., Rolls Series (London, 1882–85), 2:297–98; Gransden, Historical Writing, 217–18.

66 McGurk, Chronicle of John of Worcester, 262–63; HH, 716–17; OV, 2:350–51; Anderson, Alan O., Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers, A.D. 500 to 1286 (Stamford, UK, 1991), 203 and n. 4; Williams, Ann, The English and the Norman Conquest (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1995), 28. I owe this interpretation of the depositions to Edmund King. For the Fitz Alans, see n. 42 above and Frederick Suppe, C., Military Institutions on the Welsh Marches: Shropshire, A.D. 1066–1300 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1994), esp. 78–79, 96–97; Bartlett, Robert, England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075–1225 (Oxford, 2000), 81; Hollister, Henry I, 58; The Cartulary of Shrewsbury Abbey, ed. Rees, Una, 2 vols. (Aberystwyth, Wales, 1975), 1:xv, 34, 42, 45; 2:258–59, 262. William or his father founded Haughmond Abbey, which was patronized in the 1140s by Cadwaladr of Gwynedd (Knowles, David and Hadcock, R. Neville, Medieval Religious Houses England and Wales [London, 1971], 159; OV, 6:542 n. 2; The Cartulary of Haughmond Abbey, ed. Una Rees [Cardiff, 1985], no. 784).

67 Whitelock et al., Councils & Synods, 2:769.

68 On Theobald, see Saltman, Avrom, Theobald Archbishop of Canterbury (London, 1956), 12, 33–36, 39–41, 137–38; Edmund King, “Introduction,” in King, The Anarchy, 20, 24, 29–35.

69 Scholz, B. W., “The Canonization of Edward the Confessor,” Speculum 36 (1961): 3860, 38–49; The Life of King Edward Who Rests at Westminster, ed. and trans. Barlow, Frank, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1992), 157–62.

70 See Barlow, Life of King Edward, 6–7, 18–21, 155; Malmesbury, William of, Gesta Regvm Anglorvm: The History of the English Kings, ed. and trans. Mynors, R. A. B. et al. , 2 vols. (Oxford, 1998–99), 1:348–49 (cited hereafter as GR); Hudson, John, “Administration, Family and Perceptions of the Past in Late Twelfth-Century England: Richard FitzNigel and the Dialogue of the Exchequer,” in The Perception of the Past in Twelfth-Century Europe, ed. Magdalino, Paul (London, 1992), 9497; O’Brien, Bruce R., God's Peace and King's Peace: The Laws of Edward the Confessor (Philadelphia, 1999), 1718, 25–26, 194–95.

71 Scholz, “The Canonization,” 39, 40 n. 9.

72 Public Record Office (London), MS E 164/20 (Godstow Cartulary), fols. 15v–16r, 19r–v; English Episcopal Acta I: Lincoln, 1067–1185, ed. Smith, David M. (Oxford, 1980), nos. 33–34; Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, 1066–1154, ed. Davis, H. W. C. et al. , 4 vols. (Oxford, 1913–69), 3:no. 366; The English Register of Godstow Nunnery, near Oxford, Written about 1450, pt. i, ed. Clark, Andrew, Early English Text Society 129 (London, 1905), 2830, 212, 321, 644–45.

73 Life of Christina, 162–65. Geoffrey was subsequently recalled.

74 I hope to discuss this more fully in the future.

75 Alexander's strategy involved asserting and extending the immunity and sanctuary rights of religious houses, encouraging their endowment with lands in dispute between secular lords, and using them to forge cooperative and pacificatory links between such lords (Dalton, Paul, “Churchmen and the Promotion of Peace in King Stephen's Reign,” Viator 31 [2000]: 79119, 94–109). Bec was well placed to facilitate such a strategy, being connected with barons on opposite sides in the civil war. See Morgan, Marjorie, The English Lands of the Abbey of Bec (Oxford, 1968), 913, 21–22, 139–41, 150; Chibnall, Marjorie, “The Empress Matilda and Bec-Hellouin,” Anglo-Norman Studies 10 (1987): 3548; Vaughn, Sally N., The Abbey of Bec and the Anglo-Norman State, 1034–1136 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1981), 2, 9–60, 64, 67, 117–28, 135–37, and Anselm of Bec and Robert of Meulan: The Innocence of the Dove and the Wisdom of the Serpent (Berkeley, 1987), esp. 7172. See also Potter, Julie, “The Benefactors of Bec and the Politics of Priories,” Anglo-Norman Studies 21 (1998): 175–92, esp. 186.

76 See Shopkow, History and Community, 212–45.

77 For the dissemination of the text (more than two hundred manuscripts of which still survive) generally, see Crick, Julia C., The Historia Regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth III: A Summary Catalogue of the Manuscripts (Cambridge, 1989), and The Historia IV, 8–12, 196–217.

78 See n. 33 above and Grant, Lindy, Abbot Suger of St-Denis: Church and State in Early Twelfth-Century France (London, 1998), 148–55, 284–86; Dalton, “Churchmen,” 88–91.

79 Tatlock, Legendary History, 210. See also Gransden, Historical Writing, 212; Rollo, Historical Fabrication, 95.

80 Blacker, “Where Wace,” 37, 39–40.

81 Curley, “A New Edition,” esp. 222–31. The date was tentatively suggested by Curley. The bishop who commissioned John's work may have been Bartholomew of Exeter (1161–84) rather than Robert Warelwast (Southern, “Aspects,” 168 n. 20; Crick, “Geoffrey of Monmouth,” 366). For discussion of how much John's work owed to Geoffrey’s, see Blacker, “Where Wace,” 51 n. 36.

82 Blacker, “Where Wace,” 36–52; Blacker, Jean, “‘Ne vuil sun livre translater’: Wace's Omission of Merlin's Prophecies from the Roman de Brut,” in Anglo-Norman Anniversary Essays, ed. Short, I. (London, 1993), 4959; Wace's Roman de Brut, xviii; Wace: The Roman de Rou, ed. Holden, Anthony J. and trans. Burgess, Glyn S. (St. Helier, Jersey Island, 2002), xxix.

83 See n. 9 above.

84 OV, 6:386–89, 387; and see Crick, “Geoffrey of Monmouth,” 363–64, 367.

85 HH, 558–59.

86 For Henry's skepticism, see Shopkow, History and Community, 124, and see 208. Henry made only minor amendments to his HA, but he included an abbreviation of the Historia in his Letter to Warin the Breton, which became one of the components of the HA's book 8 (HH, lxxii, ci–cii; and see Wright, “The Place,” 71–113).

87 For Alexander and Henry, see HH, lvii, 4–7.

88 Partner, Nancy F., Serious Entertainments: The Writing of History in Twelfth-Century England (Chicago, 1977), 22, and see 24–28. See also HH, lix, 14–15, 74–77, 82–83, 88–91, 272–75, 324–27, 338–41, 402–3; Greenway, Diana, “Authority, Convention and Observation in Henry of Huntingdon's Historia Anglorum,” Anglo-Norman Studies 18 (1995): 110.

89 HH, 412–13; Partner, Serious Entertainments, 24.

90 HH, lix. It is possible that Henry's writing was influenced more strongly by the Historia than has been appreciated. Greenway notes that the keynote of the section of his chronicle covering the period 1139–48, written in two stretches, in ca. 1147 and ca. 1149, “is conflict. The poem in c. 12 is a lament in elegiacs on the evils of civil war. … The battle of Lincoln is the high-point of the narrative. … After the battle … everything remains uncertain. When the Empress is driven out of London, Henry exclaims, ‘whatever men may have done was by God's will’ (c. 19). His account of the year 1144 (c. 22) is entirely taken up with God's punishment of the wicked and vainglorious” (Greenway, “Authority,” 113).

91 Roberts, “Geoffrey of Monmouth,” 39.

92 Blacker, “Where Wace,” 42–44, though Blacker noted that the commentary implies that Stephen was the fifth king, which would make Henry II the sixth king, the one whose reign would be followed by that of the redeemer Cadwaladr.

93 Thomas, The English and the Normans, 63, drawing upon the work of O. J. Padel.

94 Blacker, “Where Wace,” 36–52, and “Ne vuil,” 49–59.

95 Wace's Roman de Brut, xix.

96 BMS, xv. But see also Dumville, “An Early Text,” 26–27; and Crick, “Monmouth, Geoffrey,” who believes that the double dedications “almost certainly predate Robert's rift with Stephen's party which dates from 1137.”

97 L’Estoire des Engleis by Geffrei Gaimar, ed. Bell, Alexander, Anglo-Norman Text Society, nos. 14, 16 (Oxford, 1960); Lestorie des Engles solum La Translacion Maistre Geffrei Gaimar, ed. Hardy, Thomas Duffus and Martin, Charles Trice, 2 vols., Rolls Series (London, 1888–89). For discussions of the Estoire, see Short, Ian, “Gaimar's Epilogue and Geoffrey of Monmouth's Liber Vetustissimus,” Speculum 69 (1994): 323–43; Gillingham, The English, 113–22, 233–58; Damian-Grint, Peter, The New Historians of the Twelfth-Century Renaissance (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1999), 4953, 106–8; Rollo, Historical Fabrication, 92–95. For the Fitz Gilberts, see Wall, Valerie A., “Culture and Patronage in Twelfth-Century Hampshire and Lincolnshire,” Anglo-Norman Anonymous 16 (1998): 810. The portion of Gaimar's work covering the period before the Saxon conquests is no longer extant.

98 See n. 48 above; Bell, L’Estoire des Engleis, xii–xiii, xv–xvii; Hardy and Martin, Lestorie des Engles, 2:213–14.

99 Paul Dalton, “Geoffrey Gaimar's Estoire des Engleis, Peacemaking, and the ‘Twelfth-Century Revival of the English Nation,”’ Studies in Philology (forthcoming).

100 The Life of Ailred of Rievaulx by Walter Daniel, ed. and trans. Powicke, F. M. (London, 1950), xxxiiilxviii, 2–64; Williams, The English, 184–86; Wall, Valerie A., “The ‘Speculum’ for Winchester: The Duel in Aelred of Rievaulx's Genealogia Regum Anglorum,” Anglo-Norman Anonymous 14 (1996), 6; Dalton, “Churchmen,” 97–98, 109–19.

101 British Library (London), MS Egerton 3058; Dalton, “Churchmen,” 97–98.

102 Gillingham, The English, 6, 97–109, 123–44, quotations at 6, 100, 137.

103 Freeman, Elizabeth, “Geffrei Gaimar, Vernacular Historiography, and the Assertion of Authority,” Studies in Philology 93 (1996): 188206, quotations at 189, 201, 206. For further support for Gillingham's thesis, see Freeman, Elizabeth, Narratives of a New Order: Cistercian Historical Writing in England, 1150–1220 (Turnhout, Belgium, 2002), 2627, 44.

104 Thomas, The English and the Normans, esp. 57, 65, 75, 78–79, quotation at 57. On the process of Norman integration and assimilation, see also Williams, The English; Marritt, Stephen, “Coincidences of Names, Anglo-Scottish Connections and Anglo-Saxon Society in the Late Eleventh-Century West Country,” Scottish Historical Review 83 (2004): 150–70.

105 For discussion of these depictions, see Gillingham, The English, 129–30; Williams, The English, 185; Thomas, The English and the Normans, 312–13.

106 See Ailred of Rievaulx, Relatio de Standardo, in Howlett, Chronicles of the Reigns, 3:192–95; Thomas, The English and the Normans, 312–13, 315, 324, 327; and Short, Ian, “Tam Angli quam Franci: Self-Definition in Anglo-Norman England,” Anglo-Norman Studies 18 (1995): 153–75, 166.

107 Short, “Tam Angli,” 169–72; Williams, The English, 184–86; Wall, “The ‘Speculum”’; Rollo, Historical Fabrication, 118–21; Dalton, “Churchmen,” 109–18; Thomas, The English and the Normans, 85, and see 86, 140, 144. The Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and Scottish royal houses were closely related through the marriage of Margaret, a descendant of Æthelred II, to Malcolm III; the marriage of their daughter Edith/Matilda to Henry I; and the marriage of one of Henry's illegitimate daughters to Edith/Matilda's brother King Alexander I.

108 Dalton, “Geoffrey Gaimar's Estoire des Engleis.”

109 Marritt, “Coincidences of Names,” esp. 151–52, 162–67.

110 Davies, Matter of Britain, 11, and The First English Empire, 40. See also Roberts, “Geoffrey of Monmouth,” 40; Warren, History on the Edge, 55, 61, 74, 135.

111 The fact that Robert of Gloucester had Welsh kings and soldiers in his army at Lincoln in 1141 does not undermine this argument. The battle occurred after publication of the Prophecies and Historia, and Robert held a frontier earldom and Welsh lordship and had good reasons for seeking Welsh help.

112 For the power of Alexander's family, see Kealey, Roger of Salisbury.

113 For the arrest of the bishops, see Kealey, Roger of Salisbury, 173–89. The other Breton lord involved was Hervey de Léon. For his role and the old hatred of Alexander for Count Alan, see HN, 50–51 n. 123, 54–55. For Alan's relations with Conan, see Everard, Brittany, xv, 29–31.

114 Modern literature on the revival of historical literature in Anglo-Norman England, a phenomenon resulting from a complex interaction of various influences, is extensive. For examples, see the works by Blacker, Damian-Grint, Davies, Gillingham, Gransden, Partner, Rigg, Rollo, Southern, and Thomas cited above; and Southern, R. W., “Aspects of the European Tradition of Historical Writing: 4. The Sense of the Past,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., 23 (1973): 243–63, 243–49; Campbell, James, “Some Twelfth-Century Views of the Anglo-Saxon Past,” in his Essays in Anglo-Saxon History (London, 1986), 209–28.

115 This is not to deny the many significant differences between these works or to suggest that their authors acted in unison. Ailred had a low regard for Arthurian tales, and the Historia's most famous critics, William of Newburgh and Gerald of Wales, wrote for Cistercian patrons (Robertson, “Geoffrey of Monmouth,” 53).

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The Topical Concerns of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britannie: History, Prophecy, Peacemaking, and English Identity in the Twelfth Century

  • Paul Dalton


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