Medieval Historical Writing: Britain and Ireland, 500-1500 1107163366, 9781107163362

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Medieval Historical Writing: Britain and Ireland, 500-1500
 1107163366, 9781107163362

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MEDIEVAL HISTORICAL WRITING Britain and Ireland, 500–1500

edited by JENNIFER JAHNER EMILY STEINER AND ELIZABETH M. TYLER

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M E D I E VA L H I S T O R I C A L W R I T I N G

History writing in the Middle Ages did not belong to any particular genre, language or class of texts. Its remit was wide, embracing the events of antiquity; the deeds of saints, rulers, and abbots; archival practices; and contemporary reportage. This volume addresses the challenges presented by medieval historiography by using the diverse methodologies of medieval studies: legal and literary history, art history, religious studies, codicology, the history of the emotions, gender studies, and critical race theory. Spanning one thousand years of historiography in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, the essays map historical thinking across literary genres and expose the rich veins of national mythmaking tapped into by medieval writers. Additionally, they attend to the ways in which medieval histories crossed linguistic and geographical borders. Together, they trace multiple temporalities and productive anachronisms that fuelled some of the most innovative medieval writing. jennifer jahner is Professor of English at the California Institute of Technology. emily steiner is Professor of English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. elizabeth m. tyler is Professor of Medieval Literature at the University of York.

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University Printing House, Cambridge cb2 8bs, United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor, New York, ny 10006, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, vic 3207, Australia 314–321, 3rd Floor, Plot 3, Splendor Forum, Jasola District Centre, New Delhi – 110025, India 79 Anson Road, #06–04/06, Singapore 079906 Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781107163362 doi: 10.1017/9781316681299 © Cambridge University Press 2019 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2019 Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, Elcograf S.p.A. A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data names: Jahner, Jennifer, editor. | Steiner, Emily, editor. | Tyler, E. M. (Elizabeth M.), 1965– editor. title: Medieval Historical Writing : Britain and Ireland, 500–1500 / edited by Jennifer Jahner, Emily Steiner, and Elizabeth M. Tyler. description: Cambridge, United Kingdom, New York, NY : Cambridge University Press, 2019. | Includes bibliographical references and index. identifiers: lccn 2019010368 | isbn 9781107163362 (alk. paper) subjects: lcsh: Middle Ages – Historiography. | Historiography – Great Britain – History – Medieval period, 1066–1485. | Historiography – Ireland – History – Medieval period, 1066–1485. | Historiography – Great Britain – History – Anglo-Saxon period, 449–1066. | Historiography – Ireland – History – Anglo-Saxon period, 449–1066. | Great Britain – Historiography – History – Anglo-Saxon period, 449–1066. | Great Britain – Historiography – History – Medieval period, 1066–1485. | Literature and history – Great Britain – History – Medieval period, 1066–1485. | Literature and history – Great Britain – History – Anglo-Saxon period, 449–1066. Classification: lcc d116 .m375 2019 | ddc 907.2/041–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019010368 isbn 978-1-107-16336-2 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

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Contents

List of Illustrations Notes on Contributors List of Abbreviations

page viii ix xv 1

General Introduction Jennifer Jahner, Emily Steiner, and Elizabeth M. Tyler

part i time

17

1 Gildas

19

Magali Coumert

2 Monastic History and Memory

35

Thomas O’Donnell

3 Apocalypse and/as History

51

Richard K. Emmerson

4 The Brut: Legendary British History

67

Jaclyn Rajsic

5 Genealogies

84

Marie Turner

6 Anglo-Saxon Futures: Writing England’s Ethical Past, Before and After 1066

101

Cynthia Turner Camp

7 Pagan Histories/Pagan Fictions

117

Christine Chism

v

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Contents

vi part ii place

8 Mental Maps: Sense of Place in Medieval British Historical Writing

137 139

Sarah Foot

9 Viking Armies and their Historical Legacy across England’s North–South Divide, c.790–c.1100

157

Paul Gazzoli

10 Cross-Channel Networks of History Writing: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 172 Elizabeth M. Tyler

11 Creating and Curating an Archive: Bury St Edmunds and its Anglo-Saxon Past

192

Kathryn A. Lowe

12 Historical Writing in Medieval Wales

208

Owain Wyn Jones and Huw Pryce

13 Scotland and Anglo-Scottish Border Writing

225

Kate Ash-Irisarri

14 London Histories

244

George Shuffelton

15 History at the Universities: Oxford, Cambridge, and Paris

258

Charles F. Briggs

part iii practice

277

16 The Professional Historians of Medieval Ireland

279

Katharine Simms

17 Gender and the Subjects of History in the Early Middle Ages

299

Clare A. Lees

18 Historical Writing in Medieval Britain: The Case of Matthew Paris

319

Björn Weiler

19 Vernacular Historiography

339

Matthew Fisher

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Contents 20 Tall Tales from the Archive

vii 356

Andrew Prescott

21 History in Print from Caxton to 1543

370

A.S.G. Edwards

part iv genre

387

22 Chronicle and Romance

389

Robert Rouse

23 Forgery as Historiography

404

Alfred Hiatt

24 Hagiography

420

Catherine Sanok

25 Writing in the Tragic Mode

437

Thomas A. Prendergast

26 Crisis and Nation in Fourteenth-Century English Chronicles

450

Andrew Galloway

27 Polemical History and the Wars of the Roses

467

Sarah L. Peverley

Bibliography Index

483 563

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Illustrations

1 Gulbenkian Apocalypse, c.1265–70. Lisbon, Gulbenkian page 60 Museum, L.A. 139, fol. 4r. By permission, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. 2 Gulbenkian Apocalypse, c.1265–70. Lisbon, Gulbenkian 61 Museum, L.A. 139, fol. 6r. By permission, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. 3 Carthusian Miscellany, c.1460–70. London, British Library, 64 v Additional MS 37049, fol. 15 . Photo: British Library Digitised Manuscripts. Public Domain CC Mark 1.0. 4 Carthusian Miscellany, c.1460–70. London, British Library, 65 Additional MS 37049, fol. 13v. Photo: British Library, Digitised Manuscripts. Public Domain CC Mark 1.0. 5 Piers Langtoft, Chronicle, first half of the fourteenth century. 350 Cambridge, CUL, MS Gg.1.1, fol. 328v. Reproduced by kind permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.

viii

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Notes on Contributors

kate ash-irisarri teaches at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on late medieval Scottish literature, with particular interests in historiography, memory, and emotion. charles f. briggs is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Vermont. His recent publications include The Body Broken: Late Medieval and Renaissance Europe, 2nd edn (2019) and, edited with Peter Eardley, A Companion to Giles of Rome (2016), as well as chapters in The Oxford History of Historical Writing, vol. 2, ed. S. Foot and C.F. Robinson (2012) and Historians on Chaucer, ed. S. Rigby and A. Minnis (2014). cynthia turner camp is Associate Professor of English at the University of Georgia, publishing on hagiography, historiography, and monastic culture. She is the author of Anglo-Saxon Saints’ Lives as History Writing in Late Medieval England (2015) and, with Emily Kelley, coeditor of Saints as Intercessors between the Wealthy and the Divine: Art and Hagiography among the Medieval Merchant Classes (forthcoming). christine chism teaches medieval literature and drama at UCLA, and has published on alliterative poetry, late medieval friendship, transculturation between Arabic and Latin Christian treatises and travel narratives, and the Middle English and Arabic Alexander romances. magali coumert is currently Maitre de conférences en histoire médiévale at the University of Western Brittany (Brest, France). She studies the transition between antiquity and the early Middle Ages, including such topics as ethnic identity, origin narratives, laws, uses of the past, ethnography, and manuscripts. a.s.g. edwards is Honorary Professor of Medieval English Manuscripts at the University of Kent, Canterbury. He has written about English manuscripts and texts from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. ix

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x

Notes on Contributors

richard k. emmerson is Visiting Distinguished Professor of Art History at Florida State University and Dean Emeritus of Liberal Arts, Manhattan College. He has published more than fifty articles studying medieval apocalypticism, drama, illustrated manuscripts, and visionary poetry. His most recent book is Apocalypse Illuminated: The Visual Exegesis of Revelation in Medieval Illustrated Manuscripts. A Fellow of the Medieval Academy, in 2009 he received its Award for Excellence in Teaching Medieval Studies. matthew fisher is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. His first book, Scribal Authorship and the Writing of History in Medieval England (2012), examines the entangled work of medieval scribes and the writers of history. He is currently at work on a book about library fires. sarah foot is the Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Oxford. She has published extensively on aspects of the Anglo-Saxon Church, including Veiled Women (2000) and Monastic Life in Anglo-Saxon England (2006); her most recent book was King Æthelstan: The First King of England (2011). She is currently writing a biography of the Venerable Bede commissioned by Princeton University Press. andrew galloway is the James John Professor of Medieval Studies at Cornell University, where he has directed the Medieval Studies Program and chaired the Department of English. His books include The Penn Commentary on Piers Plowman, Volume 1 (2006), Medieval Literature and Culture (2006), The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Culture (2011), and The Cambridge Companion to Piers Plowman (with Andrew Cole, 2014). He has published numerous articles, chapters, and encyclopedia entries on late medieval literature and history writing and their contexts. paul gazzoli received his PhD in 2011 from the Department of AngloSaxon, Norse and Celtic at the University of Cambridge, where he later held a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship. He is currently an EU Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at the Institute for Medieval Research. His work focuses on Scandinavia between the ninth and eleventh centuries, particularly on the Christian mission of St Ansgar (whose saint’s Life he is editing) and the archdiocese of HamburgBremen.

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Notes on Contributors

xi

alfred hiatt is Reader in Medieval English Literature at Queen Mary University of London. His research interests include forgery and its post-medieval reception, spatial representation, and the classical tradition. He is the author of The Making of Medieval Forgeries: False Documents in Fifteenth-century England (2004) and Terra Incognita: Mapping the Antipodes Before 1600 (2008). jennifer jahner is Professor of English at Caltech. Her research focuses on the intersections of literature and law, particularly during the high and later Middle Ages, with additional interests in the histories of pedagogy, poetics, and manuscript study. In addition to various articles and edited collections, she is the author of Literature and Law in the Era of Magna Carta (2019). owain wyn jones is a lecturer at the School of History and Archaeology, Bangor University. He was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge and Jesus College, Oxford before completing his PhD at Bangor in 2014. His research concerns the writing of history, particularly chronicles, in medieval Wales, the definition of national identity, and the role of Cistercian monasteries in medieval Welsh culture. clare a. lees is Director of the Institute of English Studies (IES) and Professor of Medieval Literature at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. For many years she was Professor of Medieval Literature and History of the Language, King’s College London. Her research and teaching interests include Old English; gender and sexuality studies; early medieval religion and culture; and contemporary iterations of early medieval culture. Among other books, edited collections and articles, she edited The Cambridge History of Early Medieval English Literature (2013). kathryn a. lowe is Senior Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Glasgow, where she teaches Old and Middle English, Old Icelandic, history of the English Language, and palaeography. Her publications focus on the development and comprehension of Old English after the Conquest, manuscript studies and text transmission, literacy in the Anglo-Saxon period, and the history of scholarship. She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. thomas o’donnell is Associate Professor of English, Comparative Literature and Medieval Studies at Fordham University. His research

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xii

Notes on Contributors focuses on English, Latin, and French in central medieval England, especially concepts of community in monasteries and the place of English writers in European networks.

sarah l. peverley is Professor of Medieval Literature at the University of Liverpool, AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, and Vice President of the Medieval Chronicle Society. Her current research focuses on literature produced during the Wars of the Roses and the figure of the mermaid in medieval culture. She is Leverhulme Research Fellow for ‘Mermaids of the British Isles’, and she directs The Liverpool Players. thomas a. prendergast is Professor of English at the College of Wooster. His most recent books include Affective Medievalism: Love, Abjection and Discontent (2018) with Stephanie Trigg, Poetical Dust: Poets’ Corner and the Making of Britain (2015), and an edited collection of essays with Jessica Rosenfeld entitled Chaucer and the Subversion of Form (Cambridge University Press, 2018). andrew prescott is Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Glasgow. He trained as a medieval historian at the University of London, where he completed a thesis on the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. He was from 1979 to 2000 a Curator of Manuscripts in the British Library, where he was involved in some of the Library’s first digitisation projects, including ‘Electronic Beowulf’. Andrew was Director of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the University of Sheffield from 2000–7, and has also worked in the University of Wales Lampeter and King’s College London. huw pryce is Professor of Welsh History at Bangor University. He has published widely on medieval Wales and Welsh historiography, interests combined in a current book project on Welsh history writing from the early Middle Ages to the present. jaclyn rajsic is a lecturer in medieval literature in the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London. Her research focuses on royal genealogical rolls and Brut chronicles written in England and France from the twelfth to the early sixteenth century, particularly their representations of legendary British history. She has published on the role of King Arthur in royal genealogies, on continental French receptions of the Prose Brut, and on genealogies and Brut chronicles more widely. She recently co-edited, with Erik Kooper and Dominique

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Notes on Contributors

xiii

Hoche, The Prose Brut and other Late Medieval Chronicles: Books Have their Histories; Essays in Memory of Lister M. Matheson (2016), and is currently completing a monograph entitled History Unrolled: Negotiating the British and English Pasts in Genealogies of England’s Kings, c.1250–c.1550. robert rouse teaches medieval literature, spatial studies, and ecocritical studies at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. He has published widely on medieval romance, sexuality, nationalism, geocritical hermeneutics, Arthurian literature, manuscript medievalisms, and the late medieval English geographical imaginary. He is the co-editor (along with Siân Echard) of the four-volume Encyclopedia of Literature in Medieval Britain (2017). catherine sanok is Associate Professor of English and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Her Life Historical: Exemplarity and Saints’ Lives in Late Medieval England (2007), and New Legends of England: Forms of Community in the Late Middle Ages (2018), which studies the late medieval Lives of British and Anglo-Saxon saints. Her essays on late medieval literary and religious culture have appeared in journals such as Exemplaria, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and Studies in the Age of Chaucer. george shuffelton is Professor of English at Carleton College. He has published work on Chaucer, Gower, Langland, medieval romance, and manuscript circulation. katharine simms, a former senior lecturer in medieval history and Fellow Emerita at Trinity College Dublin, wrote From Kings to Warlords (1987), and Medieval Gaelic Sources (2009), as well as many articles on the society and politics of Gaelic Ireland from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries. emily steiner is Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of two books, Documentary Culture and the Making of Medieval English Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and Reading Piers Plowman (Cambridge University Press, 2013). She has co-edited several collections of essays, The Letter of the Law: Legal Practice and Literary Production in Medieval England (2002) with Candace Barrington, Thinking Historically About Historicism (a special issue of Chaucer Review, 2014), and, with Lynn Ransom, Taxonomies of Knowledge: Information and Order in Medieval Manuscripts (2015).

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xiv

Notes on Contributors

marie turner is an independent scholar and librarian based in Cambridge, England. In addition to her work on genealogical literature, she is currently completing a monograph on medieval historical fictions and an edition of the Old French crusade romance of Saladin. She has published essays on Middle English and Anglo-Norman romance and Piers Plowman. elizabeth m. tyler is Professor of Medieval Literature at the University of York. A co-director of the Centre for Medieval Literature, a Danish Centre of Excellence, she is working with colleagues to develop theoretical models for the study of medieval literature on a European scale. She is the author of England in Europe: English Royal Women and Literary Culture, c.1000–c.1150 (2017) and articles on multilingualism, historical writing, and poetry in early medieval England and its neighbours. bjo¨ rn weiler is Professor of Medieval Political and Cultural History at Aberystwyth University. Having held fellowships at Bergen, Cambridge, Freiburg, and Harvard, he is the editor, with Peter Lambert, of How the Past Was Used: Historical Cultures, c.700– 2000 (2017), and is writing a book on unity, diversity, and the past in Latin Europe, 1100–1300.

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Abbreviations

Unless otherwise noted, biblical citations in the Latin are from the Vulgate Bible, with English translations taken from the Douay-Rheims Bible. AFM Ann. Conn. ASC BL Bodl. B-P20 CCSL CIH CM CUL DEB EETS EHD GA HA

John O’Donovan (ed.), Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, 7 vols. (Dublin: Hodges, Smith, 1856) A.M. Freeman (ed.), Annála Connacht, the Annals of Connacht (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1944) Anglo-Saxon Chronicle British Library Bodleian Library Thomas Jones (ed. and trans.), Brut y tywysogyon or the Chronicle of the Princes, Peniarth MS. 20 Version (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1952) Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina D.A. Binchy (ed.), Corpus iuris Hibernici, 6 vols. (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1978) Matthew Paris, Chronica majora, ed. H.R. Luard, 7 vols., Rolls Series 57 (London: Longman, 1872–84) Cambridge University Library De excidio Britanniae Early English Text Society Dorothy Whitelock (ed.), English Historical Documents, vol. i: c.500–1042, 2nd edn (Oxford University Press, 1979). Thomas Walsingham, Gesta abbatum monasterii Sancti Albani, ed. Henry Thomas Riley, 3 vols., Rolls Series 28, Pt 4 (London: Longmans, 1867–9). Henry of Huntingdon, Historia Anglorum, ed. and trans. D.E. Greenway (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996) xv

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xvi HEA Hist. Angl. HRB

HSC HW1 HW2 MED MGH NLW OED ODNB PL STC

STC Wing

Wells Rev.

List of Abbreviations Bede, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, ed. and trans. B. Colgrave and R.A.B. Mynors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969) Matthew Paris, Historia Anglorum, ed. Frederic Madden, 3 vols., Rolls Series 99 (London: Longman, 1866–9). Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain: An Edition and Translation of De gestis Britonum [Historia Regum Britanniae], ed. Michael D. Reeve, trans. Neil Wright (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2007) Ted Johnson South (ed.), Historia de Sancto Cuthberto: A History of Saint Cuthbert and a Record of his Patrimony, Anglo-Saxon Texts 3 (Woodbridge: D.S. Brewer, 2002). Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. i: c.550–c.1307 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974) Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. ii: c.1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974) Middle English Dictionary Monumenta Germaniae Historica National Library of Wales Oxford English Dictionary Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Patrologia Latina Katharine Pantzer et al. (eds.), A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad 1475–1640, 2nd edn, 3 vols. (London: Bibliographical Society, 1976–91). D.G. Wing (ed.), Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and British America, and of English Books Printed in Other Countries, 1641– 1700, 2nd rev. edn, 3 vols. (New York: Modern Language Association, 1972–98). J. Burke Severs and Albert E. Harting (eds.), A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500, 11 vols. (to date). (New Haven, CT: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1967–).

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General Introduction Jennifer Jahner, Emily Steiner, and Elizabeth M. Tyler

This book spans one thousand years of historical writing and thought in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. It begins, at its early limit, with Gildas (fl. 500–550 ce), whose De excidio Britanniae (The Ruin of Britain) took the demise of the Roman empire as its beginning point for a history of the Britons. It charts, at its outer chronological limit, the transition from manuscript to print and from medieval to Reformation historiography. Like the medieval histories that comprise its subject, this volume seeks to give a shape – or many shapes – to the past. One of the challenges, however, of describing medieval historical writing is the capaciousness of historia as a premodern concept. In the Middle Ages history writing did not belong to any particular genre, language, or class of texts.1 Its remit was wide, embracing the events of biblical and classical antiquity; the deeds of warriors, saints, rulers, and abbots; practices of archival recording and preservation; and acts of contemporary reportage. Equally wide is the remit of contemporary medieval studies, in which many disciplines collaborate on the project of interpreting the medieval past. The twenty-seven chapters in this volume embrace this collaborative ethos as they address the historiography of medieval Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England from a range of disciplinary perspectives, including political and legal history, literary history, art history, religious studies, codicology, the history of emotions, gender studies, and critical race theory. They share an interest not only in what medieval historical texts can reveal about past lived experiences but how these sources functioned as cultural products themselves, intrinsically rhetorical in nature and hence highly mediated in their transmission and interpretation. Contributors map terrains of historical thinking across literary genres, such as romance, travel writing, and elegy. They uncover fictions in the archive, as well as the rich veins of national mythmaking tapped by medieval writers of all stripes. Additionally, the 1

See Given-Wilson, Chronicles: Writing of History, pp. 1–2.

1

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2

jennifer jahner, emily steiner, and elizabeth m. tyler

chapters in this volume attend to the ways in which historical narratives cross linguistic and geographical borders, both insular and continental. They trace institutional lines of affiliation but also affectionate ties between individuals. Above all, they resist teleological readings of medieval historical writing, focusing instead on the multiple temporalities and productive anachronisms that fuelled some of the richest and most innovative writing in the Middle Ages. The medieval past, and medieval efforts to understand and shape the past, constitute a shared field of inquiry across contemporary medieval studies. For medieval writers no less than modern scholars, the question of what defined ‘history’ proved inextricable from the question of who defined history and for what purposes. From the Roman rhetorical tradition, the Middle Ages inherited a definition of historia that carried both ethical and temporal connotations. In the words of the Rhetorica ad Herennium (c.86–82 bce), historia was ‘an account of exploits actually performed, but removed in time from the recollection of our age’ (‘gesta res, sed ab aetatis nostrae memoria remota’).2 Echoed in Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies (c.615–36), this definition would find a prominent place in Bede’s preface to the Ecclesiastical History of the English People (c.731 ce), where he arrays the ‘sayings and doings of the men of old’ (‘priorum gestis siue dictis’) alongside the words of holy scripture as mutually valuable instruments in teaching audiences how to imitate the good and eschew the bad.3 This model of history competed with other ways of organising the past. Isidore, for instance, found it necessary to subdivide history into ‘diaries’, ‘calendars’, and ‘annals’ and to make a further distinction between annals and history, the former recording ‘years that our age has not known’ (‘eorum annorum quos aetas nostra non novit’) and the latter ‘those times that we have seen’ (‘eorum temporum quae vidimus’).4 Nearly six hundred years later, his influential set of distinctions would still resonate for Gervase of Canterbury, writing c.1200, as he attempted to describe the difference between the historian and the chronicler: while ‘each strives towards truth’ (‘uterque veritati intendit’), the historian sets forth events ‘expansively and 2

3 4

It stood in contrast to fabula, which related events ‘neither true nor probable’ (neque veras neque veri similes) and argumentum, which narrated imaginary events in a plausible way. Cicero, Rhetorica ad Herennium, pp. 24–5. See also Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, i.xli–xliv. On the difference between historia, fabula, and argumentum, see Mehtonen, Old Concepts and New Poetics; Ward, ‘“Chronicle” and “History”’, pp. 115–16; Kempshall, Rhetoric, pp. 122–5; Deliyannis (ed.), Historiography, pp. 2–7; and Tyler, England in Europe, pp. 62–5. HEA, pp. 2–3. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, ed. Lindsay, i.xliv.4, pp. 22–5 (translation from Etymologies, ed. Barney et al., p. 67).

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elegantly’ (‘diffuse et eleganter’), while the chronicler proceeds ‘simply and briefly’ (‘simplicter . . . et breviter;). The historian instructs an audience in worthy deeds and mores, while the chronicler ‘reckons’ (‘computat’) the years and months.5 The question of whether history belonged to the distant past or the urgent present, to a style of writing or a form of recording, preoccupied the producers and consumers of historical writing across the whole of the Middle Ages. Their ways of organising and theorising ‘history’ comprise the matter of this volume. Also central to this book, however, are the ways that contemporary scholarship organises and theorises the medieval past. In this way, the volume maintains a dual outlook, seeking to offer a broad survey of major historiographical developments in Britain and Ireland across the Middle Ages, while also re-evaluating our own methodological approaches to these topics. For Clare Lees, for instance, the ability to posit women as producers and consumers of historical writing in the early Middle Ages means shifting our evidential assumptions about the ‘sayings and doings of the men of old’. For Elizabeth Tyler, understanding the genesis of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle means situating it within broadly continental historiographic trends. Richard K. Emmerson argues that the ‘end of time’ fundamentally shapes medieval conceptions of times past, while Magali Coumert shows how the dissolution of the Roman empire deprived Gildas, the ostensible founder of a British historiographical tradition, of his temporal bearings. Taken together, the twenty-seven chapters in this volume reappraise the idea of an ‘insular historiographic tradition’, both by taking an expansive approach to the purview of history writing – its genres, textual forms, and practitioners – and by examining the constructed nature of insularity and its related concept, the ‘nation’. As many authors discuss in this volume, moreover, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and English writers understood the imperatives of history writing differently at different points in time. To speak of ‘an’ insular tradition is thus to overlook both the European context of medieval historiographic production as well as a highly variegated set of practices across England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Indeed, notions of insularity have always travelled closely with the concerns of empire, as the late antique chronicler Paulus Orosius demonstrates in his Seven Books of History Against the Pagans (417 ce). Written as the historiographic complement to Augustine of Hippo’s own monumental feat of Christian scholarship, 5

Gervase of Canterbury, Historical Works, vol. i, p. 87. See also Given-Wilson, Chronicles: Writing of History, p. 1; and Gransden, ‘Prologues’, pp. 137–8.

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jennifer jahner, emily steiner, and elizabeth m. tyler

The City of God Against the Pagans, Orosius’ universal history went on to become the widest circulating history of antiquity in Latin Europe.6 It is perhaps best known for its chorographic mappa mundi, a survey of the rivers, mountains, oceans, and political boundaries of Asia, Africa, and Europe.7 Within this global geography, Britain and Ireland appear as larger islands among a constellation of many smaller ones. As Coumert and Foot discuss elsewhere in this volume, these places resided at the margins of the Roman and post-Roman European landscape, inhabiting a liminal geography that writers from Gildas onwards would alternately lament and celebrate in their own historiographic projects: ‘800 miles long and 200 miles wide’ (‘in longo milia passum dccc, in lato milia cc’), as Orosius describes it, Britain would seem to reside at the edge of the world.8 Beyond it lay an ‘infinite expanse of Ocean’ (‘oceano infinito patet’), populated only by the Orkney Islands and past them ‘Thule’, ‘known to very few men’ (‘uix paucis nota habetur’).9 Ireland he describes in more detail, suggesting that one can see the Galician city of Brigantia (present-day A Coruña) from ‘that promontory where the mouth of the river Scena is found’.10 Though the mouth of the Shannon River provides no actual vantage on Spain, fifth-century traders regularly sailed from there to the port city of Brigantia.11 For Orosius, then, Britain and Ireland constituted distinctive islands, but they were far from isolated ones. Rather, they formed integral parts of the larger networks of trade, pastoral care, intellectual exchange, and military movement that connected continental and insular communities in the late antique and early medieval periods. Orosius serves in this way as an apt figure with which to open a volume of this kind. Though he claimed the Christian Roman empire as his patria, his historical template proved readily adaptable to more local geographies and struggles. By the eleventh century, the Seven Books of History Against the Pagans had seen translation into Old English and Arabic; in the thirteenth and fourteenth 6

See Mortensen, ‘Diffusion of Roman Histories’; and also Borsa et al., ‘Medieval European Literature’, p. 14. 7 Orosius, Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, i.2. On Orosius’ chorography, see Merrills, History and Geography, pp. 70–9. For further discussion in this volume, see Chapter 7, pp. 117 and 124, Chapter 8, pp. 142–7, and Chapter 10, pp. 183–7. 8 Orosius, Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, i.2.77 (for the Latin, see Orosius, Histoires contre les paiens, ed. Arnaud-Lindet, p. 31). 9 Ibid., i.2.78–9. ‘Thule’ could refer perhaps to Iceland or the Shetland or Faroe Islands. See Histoires contre les paiens, p. 31 n. 42 and, for further discussion, Merrills, History and Geography, pp. 95–6. 10 Ibid., i.2.81 (Histoires contre les paiens, p. 32: ‘promunturio, ubi Scenae fluminis ostium est’). 11 See Ó Corráin, ‘Orosius’.

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centuries, versions appeared in French, Aragonese, and Italian.12 Writers from Gildas to Bede to Henry of Huntingdon and Ranulf Higden all drew on his example. For these writers, as for Orosius, history was never either universal or local: it was always both, with the fates of particular places – be they Rome, Britain, London, or a local abbey – bound inextricably with the larger patterning of the divine plan and the larger cultural networks that crisscrossed Latin Europe and beyond. Implicitly, many of these histories prove as well to be contra paganos in the broad sense – that is, they emerge as defences of or apologiae for one’s own locality or belief system against a neighbouring, and perhaps threatening, set of legal, religious, or political differences. As in the case of Orosius, however, such histories also depended on ‘pagan’ antecedents and contemporaries to articulate their own specific vision of the past. As Christine Chism describes in her chapter, the figure of the pagan proved richly productive of historiographical writing from Augustine and Orosius onwards, encompassing both the rhetorical and literary traditions of the classical past and the intellectual and religious traditions of Jewish and Arabic contemporaries. Just as medieval writers used the purviews of the universal and the local to their own ends, so too has medievalist scholarship, from the early modern antiquarians, jurists, and polemicists who combed medieval chronicles for evidence of ancient liberties to the first academic medieval historians of the nineteenth century, like William Stubbs (1825–1901), whose editorial skill and interpretive zeal unfolded a powerfully influential narrative about the origins and development of the English state. In all of these cases, the ways that one delimits ‘medieval history’ play a crucial role in defining the purpose of historical scholarship itself. It was this point that Richard Southern placed at the centre of his 1961 inaugural address as the Chichele Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford. Surveying the previous century of academic medieval history, he suggested that Stubbs and his successors had succeeded in ‘proving to themselves and to the world that history was not an easy study for rich men and that it had a discipline of its own’. But their commitment to the history of institutions came at the ‘cost . . . of those parts of human experience which are not related to public affairs’.13 To enlarge the study of history, Southern admits, risks losing disciplinary specificity; but to confine it risks excluding

12 13

Borsa et al., ‘Medieval European Literature’, p. 14. Southern, ‘Shape and Substance’, p. 99. See also Partner (ed.), Writing Medieval History, pp. xi–xiii.

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‘other fields of experience, some of them very distant in time, that have never been more alive, never more necessary to us’.14 This volume reflects the enlarged ‘fields of experience’ that shape contemporary approaches to medieval historiography. Its contributors come from the fields of literature, history, and art history, a combined perspective that looks to capture some of the disciplinary fluidity of medieval history writing itself. Medieval Britain and Ireland in this way serve as the subject of this book, but also as a methodological case study, showing how different scholarly perspectives can build a cohesive and multifaceted view on a time period and its historical self-understanding. Certain authors and texts thus recur over multiple chapters, but always with a different purview and set of critical investments. Nor does this book seek to replicate the work of Antonia Gransden, whose two-volume Historical Writing in England remains unsurpassed as a survey of chroniclers and biographers writing in England from the early to the late Middle Ages. But if Gransden took a ‘pragmatic, not theoretical’15 approach to her survey of history writing, we have opted for a more theoretical approach to ours, combining an overview of key figures and developments in the historical tradition with an attention to the overarching questions of how medieval writers conceived of the past and how modern scholars, in turn, make use of those efforts. These questions lead contributors beyond the traditional confines of the chronicle – to poetry, art history, and material culture – as well as beyond the bounds of Britain and Ireland, to a European tradition that both enfolded and influenced insular developments. Like Nancy Partner’s Writing Medieval History (2005), this collection takes as axiomatic the notion that historical sources are never ‘transparent passive containers of good and dubious facts’.16 And in keeping with Peter Lambert and Björn Weiler’s How the Past Was Used (2017), it presumes history writing to be always an interested practice, invested in creating ‘useable’ pasts conditioned by place, time, and communal demands. A tacit assumption shared by medieval and modern readers alike is that time moves forward and that historical writing, broadly speaking, follows a path that is unfolding. In practice, however, medieval archives reveal a far more variegated and complex set of textual practices than this linear ideal suggests: medieval historical writing can take the shape of a charter or a chronicle, a romance or a manuscript roundel. It amasses unevenly across a landscape of institutional libraries and national archives. As Marie Turner 14 16

Southern, ‘Shape and Substance’, p. 99. 15 HW1, p. xi. Partner (ed.), Writing Medieval History, pp. xv–xvi.

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shows in her chapter in this volume, even the genealogical roll, a paradigmatically ‘linear’ history, must accommodate all varieties of disruption – whether in the form of conquest and deposition, alternative blood lines and rival claims, or lost and invented pasts. Rather than take linear chronology as the governing structure of this volume, then, we have instead decided to divide the contents according to thematic concepts. The chapters in this volume thus do not proceed ‘in order’ from the earliest to the latest of medieval historiographers – although the contents begin in the sixth century and end in the sixteenth. Instead, we have grouped chapters according to the categories of Time, Place, Practice, and Genre. These headings are neither exclusive nor restrictive: any medieval historical work might be investigated through the lens of its temporal, geographic, generic, and practical investments. But as an alternative to chronological arrangement, this organisation is meant to highlight affinities and relationships across different kinds of historical materials. It aims as well to demonstrate the range of methodologies used by literary scholars, historians, and art historians as we approach our shared field of study.

Time Today medievalists give much thought to periodisation and to the boundaries between disciplines; after all, questions regarding what separates late antiquity from the early Middle Ages, and when and where the Renaissance began, have consequences for the allocation of institutional resources as well as for the ethical identification of the public with the medieval past. Although historians in the Middle Ages did not share our preoccupations about disciplinary boundaries, they were equally interested in periodisation and anxious about the implications of period divisions. For example, following Augustine, universal chroniclers divided the history of the world into seven ages, placing themselves in the sixth, and searching the past and present for apocalyptic signs, which included corruption and heresy in the Church, Mongol incursions in Asia Minor and Eastern Europe, and the dominance of Islam in the Holy Land. Indeed, as Richard Emmerson argues in this volume, apocalyptic writing, though it relies on temporal schemes rejected by modern Western historians, was absolutely inseparable from the medieval ‘secular’ chronicle. Religious difference likewise had temporal consequences. As Chism explains in ‘Pagan Histories/Pagan Fictions’, medieval Christianity could only understand its own identity by periodising the

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jennifer jahner, emily steiner, and elizabeth m. tyler

Christian/pagan and Christian/Jewish divide: people born before Christ who did not anticipate Christian salvation, such as Aristotle and Virgil, and those born after Christ’s death who did not convert to Christianity, such as the Emperor Trajan, would be condemned to hell. But Christian writers’ continuing desire for the culture of classical antiquity compelled them to find historiographical loopholes for their favourite doomed philosophers and rulers, who seemed morally defensible if temporally out of step. The influences of biblical and classical chronologies, as well as the mobility of medieval historical texts across Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, meant that historians in the Middle Ages thought about the division of history, and of historiography, in multiple, simultaneous schemes. For instance, the monastic historian Ranulf Higden, in his influential universal history, the Polychronicon (c.1325–50), explains that his chronicle is divided into seven books to represent the seven Ages of the World, but that one cannot truly understand history without also considering the single geography of the world, the two spiritual states of man (before and after Christ), the three states of religious Law (before the Old Law, the Old Law, and the New Law), the four principal kingdoms, the five modes of living (the first being the natural, ungoverned state, the fifth being Islam), the six ages of human history, the seven types of persons worthy of historical record, and the eight systems of recording time.17 Writers in Britain and Ireland, while embracing universal Christian schemes, had their own insular investments in periodisation, with the meaning of particular dynastic and epochal shifts, such as the withdrawal of Roman forces from Britain and subsequent Scandinavian and Norman invasions, forged according to the complex political and personal affiliations of individual chroniclers. For example, Gildas, writing in a period demarcated by the decay of Roman Britain and the coming of the Germanicspeaking peoples, initiated a trend of periodising the history of the Britons that henceforth would be bound up in ethnic, dynastic, and national identity and would link conquest with the moral character of a people. As Coumert argues, Gildas, writing in a sixth-century Britain that had ‘lost its reference points’, portrayed the Britons as Old Testament Israelites who were divinely punished for their sinfulness but later reformed and divinely saved. Later historians, most notably Geoffrey of Monmouth, redeemed Gildas’s Age of the Britons for a post-Saxon and post-Norman world by relocating this period between the arrival of Trojan exiles to ‘New Troy’ and King Arthur’s 17

Higden, Polychronicon, vol. i, pp. 30–7.

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General Introduction

glorious reign. Likewise, the Norman Conquest of 1066, one of the most important events in modern schematisations of medieval English history, registered unevenly in the historiographic landscape of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. While canonical twelfth-century historians such as Henry of Huntingdon and William of Malmesbury would use the Conquest as an opportunity to renegotiate the relationship between the present and the past, other historians showed different temporal investments. For Welsh chroniclers, as Owain Wyn Jones and Huw Pryce explain, ‘the crucial dividing line’ was not the one separating Anglo-Saxon from Anglo-Norman rule, but the one ‘some five centuries earlier’, when the Britons ceded sovereignty to the Anglo-Saxons.18 Likewise, the historiographic imprint of the viking invasions, Paul Gazzoli suggests, only asserts itself in writing in the wake of the Conquest, when the Scandinavian influence on northern England comes to be expressed in a historical record no longer dominated by the West Saxons. The work of assigning where one epoch ends and another begins is thus always ethically and politically interested, a point emphasised by Cynthia Turner Camp in her chapter exploring the thirteenth- and fourteenthcentury invention of the Anglo-Saxon period as a ‘golden age’ of ethical rule. As Jaclyn Rajsic explains in ‘The Brut: Legendary British History’, the unrivalled success of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s legendary Historia, along with the continuous and sometimes strenuous reworkings of the Historia into what has become known as the Brut tradition, both extended the Age of the Britons and sutured it to the histories of Anglo-Saxon and Norman England. In this way the Brut tradition helped to transform Gildas’s (and Bede’s) sequences of rupture, loss, and conquest into a narrative of continuity.19 Likewise, as Marie Turner argues in ‘Genealogies’, the Brut tradition helped to fuel production of genealogies from the thirteenth century onwards, populating unrecorded centuries of history and establishing, through the genealogical form, ‘continuity in the face of conquest’.20

Place Histories are both products and producers of the places they describe. They conjure origins and delimit boundaries, memorialise the local and aspire to the universal. No ‘place’ is more vexed for a volume of this kind than Britain itself, that island which Gildas situated ‘virtually at the end of the world’ (‘in extreme ferme orbis limite’).21 As Sarah Foot describes in her 18 21

19 See p. 213 below. See Burek, ‘Mending a Broken Chain’. Gildas, Ruin of Britain, pp. 16, 89.

20

Below, p. 100.

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10 jennifer jahner, emily steiner, and elizabeth m. tyler contribution to the volume, Britain’s perceived liminality, its distance from Rome, served as its own centralising form of historiographic orientation for writers such as Bede, William of Malmesbury, and Henry of Huntingdon. As they recited its breadth and length and mapped its interior geographies, these writers also ‘textualis[ed] territory through narrative’, Foot suggests, and in doing so allowed for a more dynamic sense of place to emerge, connected and enlivened through human actions and movement.22 Moreover, as Jones and Pryce remind us in their discussion of medieval Welsh historiography, territorial narratives are never politically neutral, nor is ‘place’ easily reducible to the sovereign territorial unit. Local dioceses, monastic institutions, gentry patrons, and a broader bardic culture all contribute to a Welsh historical tradition that did not accede to the Anglo-Norman boundaries of Wales itself. The genealogies that Turner thus discusses under the heading of ‘Time’ also shape the boundaries of place. In Ireland, as Katharine Simms notes further on in the section on ‘Practice’, the professional historian had to maintain both a compendious knowledge of local dynastic history and an equally adept knowledge of the parallel developments in classical and biblical antiquity. Such ‘synchronisms’ knit local, regional, and personal histories to the broader sweep of global history – a point Thomas O’Donnell also makes in his discussion of monastic memory. Places also demand origin stories. As Kate Ash-Irisarri shows in her discussion of Scottish historiography, border territories are especially generative of historical narrative, with lineages and genealogies supplementing for the uncertainties of legal and political control. More local understandings of place shaped the development of individual archives. Kathryn Lowe details the innovative archival practices developed at Bury St Edmunds as it sought to defend its liberties against enterprising neighbours and rulers. It was likewise in defence of privileges, George Shuffelton shows, that London developed its own civic chronicling tradition, adapting the form of the monastic annal to the patterns of city commerce and governance. But even history written in English, a local language without wider currency, had ties to a broader European tradition characterised by intellectual and population mobility. Elizabeth Tyler makes this argument in the case of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, showing how it ‘was enmeshed in the multilingual fabric of Europe from Ireland to the Bosporus, and . . . alert to the linguistic politics of history writing across Latin Europe’.23 The transitory environments of the universities serve as 22

See p. 142 below.

23

Below, p. 172.

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the focus of Charles Briggs’s chapter, which illuminates the surprising prevalence of historical works, and historical habits of mind, among the scholars of Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge. Gazzoli likewise positions the memory of viking raids and migrations within a broader, ‘decentred’ concept of the North Atlantic, where the meaning of the Scandinavian presence in Britain depended very much on regional and regnal politics and the power of the written record to shape and efface the past.

Practice The category of practice speaks to the myriad ways that chroniclers, copyists, clerks, and printers ‘do’ history. The chapters gathered under this heading thus investigate the habits of thought and action that condition historical writing and its production. For Pierre Bourdieu, the most influential theorist of practice in the twentieth century, history emerges both as a product of cultural practices and as their generative principle. He describes ‘habitus’ as ‘history turned into nature’ and suggests that habitus in turn ‘produces individual and collective practices, and hence history, in accordance with the schemes engendered by history’.24 The seeming circularity of this definition signals the challenge that modern scholars face in untangling the medieval writing of history from the medieval experience of history – each, in Bourdieu’s terms, the product of the other. The contributors to this section approach this problem from a variety of angles. Katharine Simms’s study of the senchaide, or professional historians, of medieval Ireland shows how bardic and ecclesiastical learning interacted over the course of the Middle Ages to produce a highly labile historical tradition, fitted to the glories of kings and saints alike. Clare Lees in turn problematises how gender slips in and out of view in our approaches to Anglo-Saxon historical writing. Examining scribal, authorial, and patronage roles for Anglo-Saxon women, Lees considers how the archive produces the ‘subjects of history’ even as it elides various kinds of gendered practice. In Björn Weiler’s study of the St Albans chronicler Matthew Paris, ‘practice’ becomes a means of resituating an author too often treated in isolation within the institutional and historiographic traditions that shaped his ambitions and the patronage networks that supported his considerable output.

24

Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, pp. 78, 82. For further discussion, see also Spiegel (ed.), Practicing History, pp. 18–26.

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12 jennifer jahner, emily steiner, and elizabeth m. tyler Manuscript practices themselves also complicate how we understand historical and authorial intentions, as Matthew Fisher describes in his discussion of late thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century vernacular historiography. The choice to write history in vernacular languages requires authors to adapt and translate historical methodologies for new audiences, ‘canonising, cannibalising, and digesting earlier histories in order to construct new ones’.25 It is legal practice that in turn provides the focus of Andrew Prescott’s chapter, as he considers the kinds of historical narrative that emerge under the aegis of legal recording. Though the clerks who copied testimonies and writs would not have thought of themselves as ‘historians’, their labours stand at the foundations of our modern historiography of the Middle Ages. This allegiance between scholarly investigation and legal surveillance, Prescott suggests, means that the medieval administrative archive is never ethically neutral. In the final chapter of this section, A.S.G. Edwards examines the changing shape of historical writing as it encounters the novel technology of the printing press. Printing practices altered the scope and purpose of historical writing in England. But so, too, did the long tradition of history writing shape the beginnings of the print trade.

Genre Medieval English writers harboured no doubts that history was valuable and relevant to their readers. In his influential preface, the twelfth-century historian Henry of Huntingdon explains that history offers examples of virtuous behaviour for people to emulate: ‘Where does the grandeur of valiant men shine more brightly, or the wisdom of the prudent, or the discretion of the righteous, or the moderation of the temperate, than in the context of history?’26 For Henry of Huntingdon, a successful history was a lively one, bringing actors to life and pictures to mind in the service of moral instruction. And yet, as Thomas Prendergast explains in his chapter, the value of historiography – exemplifying vice and virtue – linked it to genres that threatened to deform history into fiction. Medieval historians, such as Henry of Huntingdon, recognised that those genres allied with historical writing, such as tragedy (the fall of princes) and comedy (the

25 26

Below, p. 344. HA, pp. 2, 3 (Vbi autem floridius enitescit uirorum fortium magnificentia, prudentium sapientia, iustorum iudicia, temperatorum modestia, quam in rerum contextu gestarum?).

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divine plan of salvation), gave history a purpose and a shape at the same time that they questioned its capacity to tell the truth. Henry further commends history writing on the grounds that ‘History brings the past to view, as if it were present, and enables us to judge the future by picturing it to ourselves.’27 In other words, written narratives about a past that might otherwise vanish from view help us to anticipate a future that would otherwise be unknowable. Which written forms did medieval writers have in mind when they referred to ‘history’, and which texts should modern readers include under the rubric? The contributors to this volume, by casting a wide net for historical genres, explore the many ways in which medieval authors brought the past into view. Texts such as Matthew of Paris’s Chronica majora, discussed by Weiler under the heading of ‘Practice’, or the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, discussed by Tyler under the rubric of ‘Place’, also shape our modern notions of historical writing as, itself, a genre – that is, as an interpretive account of events, told in chronological order, based on earlier authorities as well as eyewitness and documentary accounts. Institutional practices of copying and organising historical materials also create historical genres, as Lowe points out in her study of the outstanding monastic archive of Bury St Edmunds, where scribes continuously rewrote and repurposed Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. So, too, should forged medieval documents be considered a genre of medieval historiography, Alfred Hiatt argues. Insofar as they retroactively attest to founding privileges and grants and condense historical narratives into instrumental forms, forgeries serve as witnesses, if not to real transactions, then to a community’s version of the past. The saint’s Life, an important genre of medieval biography, is another instance of a historiographical genre in which truth claims run counter to modern understandings of ‘true’ history. Hagiographical literature was intertwined with more recognisable histories, such as Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, and extended the reach of those histories by generating ‘knowledge production about the past from an extra-secular or sacred perspective’.28 As Sanok, O’Donnell, and Lees show in this volume, saints’ Lives are critical to tracking the historiographical contributions of medieval female communities. Richard Rouse argues, moreover, that even romances, traditionally viewed as the domain of the literary with tenuous connections to real people, constitute a medieval historical genre by reproducing the structural 27 28

HA, pp. 4, 5 (Historia igitur preterita quasi presentia uisui representat, futura ex preteritis imaginando diiudicat). Sanok, ‘Hagiography’, p. 421 below.

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14 jennifer jahner, emily steiner, and elizabeth m. tyler and ideological work of chronicles. Like monastic chronicles, for example, insular romances perform historiographical work by fixing events to places, and by legitimising aristocratic practices of marriage, inheritance, and fealty. Although the great monastic chronicles of the high Middle Ages still dominate scholarly attention, medieval historical writing proved highly responsive to changes in political and literary culture and thus highly susceptible to generic appropriation and change. As they encountered new material, linguistic, and ideological constraints, writers in turn embraced provisional, inventive, and even radical solutions. The genealogical roll chronicle described by Turner, for example, physically changed the form of historical writing in ways that suited national historiography of the later Middle Ages. Focusing on early fourteenth-century writing, Andrew Galloway shows how the form of the chronicle changed to accommodate not only the concerns of lay audiences but, increasingly, the ambitions of lay authors, eager to record both personal and national events. This pressure on the form of the historical annal only increases over the course of the fifteenth century, with the enormous political instability of the Wars of the Roses, Sarah Peverley argues, causing many historians to abandon the long chronicle in favour of shorter and more malleable forms. By the sixteenth century, as Edwards discusses, medieval historiography in all its capacious complexity – monastic, Arthurian, civic, universal, archival – intermingled with a European print trade and Reformation religious culture that changed yet again the texture of historical practice. From this recasting of medieval historical materials began the work of inventing the ‘medieval past’ as an object of study. Medieval historiography continues to teach its readers that the written word has profound power to shape the meaning of the past. To the extent that this past is still being written and interpreted, its meanings remain open for our present day and the future. In the Middle Ages no less than today, history was a communal and conflictual enterprise, created, disputed, used, and abused, but also central to personal and institutional identities. Across its twenty-seven chapters, this volume attempts to harness some of the restless inventiveness of medieval historical practice as it emerged in spiritual centres, chanceries, universities, and households. These sites do not belong to any one discipline in medieval studies, and the editors have sought in this volume to model an interdisciplinary approach that showcases a variety of scholarly methods. Medieval chroniclers frequently found themselves caught between a desire for completeness and the constraints of space; this volume is no different. We hope that it

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General Introduction

15

brings new readers to the materials of medieval history and, for practised readers, sheds new light on more familiar subjects. It is our hope that by introducing new texts and by asking new questions of canonical ones, these chapters will provoke more scholarship on medieval historical writing, and especially in emergent fields within historical studies, such as gender and sexuality, global studies, critical race studies, ethnic and indigenous studies, environmental history, and the history of material texts. This volume came about through the time and energy of many people. The editors thank above all the marvellous contributors to this volume for their thoughtful and challenging chapters. At Cambridge University Press, we thank Dr Linda Bree for her support for this project from the beginning and Emily Hockley, Victoria Parrin, and Tim Mason for their invaluable help in seeing it through to completion. The anonymous press reader sharpened and improved this volume in myriad ways, and we are grateful. Michal Loren and Maria Kovalchuk, a PhD student in classics at the University of Pennsylvania, lent their scrupulous attention to the quotations in this volume. Daniel Davies, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania and a superb historian of later medieval England, provided meticulous editorial and bibliographical work on the whole book. To all, we owe an immense debt of gratitude.

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part i

Time

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chapter 1

Gildas Magali Coumert

After 431 ce, no written account gives direct evidence of events occurring in the British islands in the fifth and sixth centuries.1 Gildas was the first to break the silence and testify to a world that had lost many of its points of reference. We do not know exactly who Gildas was, or when and where he lived.2 He wrote his De excidio Britanniae (The Ruin of Britain, henceforth DEB)3 in Britain, probably between 500 and 550 ce.4 But he did not want to write the history of Britain after Rome. He needed ‘to say a little about the situation’5 but complained about the loss of documents: ‘I shall do this as well as I can, using not so much literary remains from this country (which, such as they were, are not now available, having been burnt by enemies or removed by our countrymen when they went into exile) as foreign tradition – which, broken up by many gaps, is not sufficiently clear’.6 He dealt quickly with ‘this tearful history, this complaint on the evils of the age’,7 for his historical narrative (Book i) is simply a preliminary to his central purpose: to exhort the kings (Book ii) and the clergy (Book iii) to perform penance. His history is, in effect, a moral sermon that illustrates the necessity of conversion. Perhaps the mysterious cloud that dimmed sun and moon in 536–7 strengthened his resolve 1 2

3

4 6

7

Sharpe, ‘Martyrs and Local Saints’. See Lapidge and Dumville (eds.), Gildas: New Approaches, as well as O’Loughlin, Gildas and the Scriptures, p. 24. On Gildas’s influence on monastic historiography, see O’Donnell, ‘Monastic History and Memory’, p. 35 below. Gildas, Ruin of Britain, ed. and trans. Winterbottom. All references to DEB are from this edition and translation, with the translation cited first by section and page number and Latin cited by page number. Plassmann, ‘Gildas’. 5 ‘pauca de situ . . . dicere’. DEB 2.1, p. 16; p. 89. ‘quantum tamen potuero, non tam ex scriptis patriae scriptorumve monimentis, quippe quae, vel si qua fuerint, aut ignibus hostium exusta aut civium exilii classe longius deportata non compareant, quam transmarina relatione, quae crebris inrupta intercapedinibus non satis claret’. DEB 4.4, p. 17; p. 90. ‘tam flebilis haec querulaque malorum aevi huius historia.’ DEB 37.1, p. 36; p. 105.

19

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to castigate the powerful.8 He alludes to the end of Roman Britain without any precise chronology and reveals the will to break with the present times. His recourse to the Bible portrays the Britons as the Chosen People, castigated by God for its sins. Be that as it may, this unique contemporary report on the demise of Roman Britain constitutes the first history of Britain and would set the pattern for all others that followed.

The End of Roman Britain The Britons were the first Roman citizens forced to live outside of the Western empire and Gildas’s was the first attempt to imagine a world without it. The two provinces of Britannia were part of the Christian Roman empire and their destiny was conceived within its ideological framework. In the fourth century ce, Eusebius of Caesarea (d.339) wrote a Church history and a universal chronicle celebrating both the destiny of Rome and the triumph of Christianity. From the perspective of his ‘ecclesiastical history’, the synchrony between the birth of Jesus and the beginning of the Roman empire proved that the building of the universal empire was commanded by God in order to enable the spread of Christianity.9 Gildas inherits this ideology when he describes his compatriots, the Britons – in Latin, the Britanni – as ‘countrymen’ (‘cives’) (DEB 26.1), or citizens, and refers to Latin as ‘their language’ (‘lingua eius’) (DEB 23.3). He includes Britain in Eusebius’ providential view, describing its conquest by the Romans as the precondition for evangelisation (DEB 5–8), and he uses Rufinus’ Latin translation and continuation of Eusebius’ history to narrate the persecutions conducted under the reign of the emperor Diocletian (DEB 9–10). Yet inclusion in this providential view of the Christian Roman empire became increasingly difficult during the fifth century, with the rise of political and military instability in the western territories. In 410 ce, the sack of Rome by Alaric’s Goths seems to have precluded any optimistic presentation of the destiny of the Western empire. Gildas begins by lamenting ‘a general loss of good, a heaping up of bad’.10 His likely continental contemporaries in Gaul, from Prosper of Aquitaine, in the middle of the fifth century, to Gregory of Tours (d.594), wrote universal histories that progressively shrink to local accounts through lack of 8 10

9 Woods, ‘Mystery Cloud’. Allen, ‘Universal History’, pp. 21–3. ‘commune bonorum dispendium malorumque cumulum’. DEB 1.1, p. 13; p. 87.

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Gildas

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information.11 By contrast, Gildas, from the very beginning, concentrates on his patria, the island of Britain, and the deeds of its inhabitants, the Britons.12 They are the object and audience of his narrative, and their destiny is assumed to be different from that of the Romans. Roman presence on the island is seen as an interlude that has come to an end, for the Roman armies had followed the usurper Maximus to the continent: ‘After that Britain was despoiled of her whole army, her military resources, her governors, brutal as they were, and her sturdy youth, who had followed in the tyrant’s footsteps, never to return home.’13 Gildas then mentions the building of two walls linking the two seas as the last action performed by the Roman legions: Then they said goodbye, meaning never to return. As the Romans went back home, there eagerly emerged from the coracles [boats] that had carried them across the sea-valleys the foul hordes of Scots and Picts, like dark throngs of worms who wriggle out of narrow fissures in the rock when the sun is high and the weather grows warm.14

For Gildas, the Antonine Wall and Hadrian’s Wall were remains of a bygone Roman era for which he details neither emperors nor chronology. His concern is the contemporary battles of the Britons against old enemies, the Scots and the Picts, and new ones, the Saxons. The only fifth-century continental leader named by Gildas is ‘the Roman commander’ Agitius (‘ad Agitium Romanae potestatis virum’), to whom the Britons sent a desperate letter asking for help: ‘The barbarians push us back to the sea, the sea pushes us back to the barbarians.’15 As he is referred to as thrice consul, the unhelpful recipient can be identified as Aëtius, the Roman general whose third consulate lasted from 446 ce to 454 ce.16 By this time, the enemies of the Britons probably included the Saxons as well as the Picts and Scots named by Gildas at this point in his account. After this last attempt, the links between Britain and the continent were 11 12 13

14

15 16

Coumert, Origines des peuples, pp. 284–91. On his definition of ‘British’, see Foot, ‘Mental Maps’, p. 140 below. ‘Exin Britannia omni armato milite, militaribus copiis, rectoribus licet immanibus, ingenti iuventute spoliata, quae comitata vestigiis supra dicti tyranni domum nusquam ultra rediit.’ DEB 14.1, p. 21; p. 93. ‘Valedicunt tamquam ultra non reversuri. Itaque illis ad sua remeantibus emergunt certatim de curucis, quibus sunt trans Tithicam vallem evecti, quasi in alto Titane incalescenteque caumate de artissimis foraminum caverniculis fusci vermiculorum cunei, tetri Scottorum Pictorumque greges.’ DEB 18.3–19.1, p. 23; pp. 94–5. ‘Repellunt barbari ad mare, repellit mare ad barbaros’. DEB 20.1, p. 23; p. 95. For a discussion of the problems involved in this traditional dating of Gildas, see Higham, English Conquest, pp. 118–31. I am not convinced by his proposition of dating Gildas between 479x484.

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broken, and henceforth no continental testimony can fill out Gildas’s vague picture to give a chronological frame to British events.

Lost in Chronology? How should we interpret this imprecision in the chronology? Admittedly, as discussed further below, Gildas’s aim was to emphasise the commonalities between the Britons and the Israelites in order to give meaning to the calamities of his time; for this purpose, he needed only to invoke the succession of events, rather than their dates. But we should not rule out the possibility that Gildas and his audience, cut off from the Roman state, had lost access to their chronological reference points. Each year, the emperor chose eponymous consuls, who gave their name to the forthcoming year. All that was needed was a break in relations with the central administration for dates to become imprecise: as early as 405, in Gaul, one finds a date situated after a consulship, thereby proving the temporary inability to ascertain the identity of the consul for the current year. Such interruptions occurred in Gaul throughout the fifth century. Was the situation not even more critical in Britain? Only a single mutilated and isolated inscription indicates the possible use of this system after 540.17 Alongside this official dating system, believers also sought to establish a Christian era of reference, but different reference dates were proposed. For even if one were to choose a dating system commencing with the creation of the world, which chronological calculations from the Old Testament would one select? Depending on which Latin translation was used, for example, the Incarnation had taken place in the year 5199, or in 3952 after the Creation.18 Nor was there consensus about the length of time between the baptism of Christ – which, according to the Gospel of St Luke, had taken place in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, when Christ was then thirty years old19 – and his death a few months later, or three years later, according to the Gospel of St John. In the fifth- and sixthcentury West these issues were tackled by authors who found it necessary to make choices from the possible chronologies. For example, Eusebius’ Chronicle, which Jerome translated into Latin and extended to 378 ce, dated the Passion to the eighteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, whereas Prosper of Aquitaine, who wrote a chronicle until the events of 455 ce, dated it to the fifteenth year of this reign, when Christ was twenty-eight 17

Knight, ‘Penmachno Revisited’.

18

Mac Carron,‘Bede’.

19

Luke 3:1 and 3:23.

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years old.20 From this date onwards, Prosper correlates the years since the Passion and the dating given by the various eponymous consulships. To what extent could Gildas still make sense of this type of chronology and find his way among its contradictory dates? That consular dating had lost its impetus was evident even to the rest of the empire, for in 537 ce Justinian decreed the use of the regnal years of the emperor as well as the indiction,21 that is to say fifteen-year cycles starting from 312 ce, the use of which had developed since the reign of Constantine.22 Yet this system also posed problems of relative dating, from one cycle to another, and required a firm point of departure. A Christian, however, had to refer to an annual astronomical calculation in order to celebrate the date of Easter, which was calculated using a combination of factors connected to the solar and lunar calendar. Each year the pope published the calculation to be used the following year. But what happened to those who did not receive this information?23 To resolve this problem, Victorius and Dionysius Exiguus composed treatises, respectively in 457 ce and between 525 and 532 ce. These circulated rapidly and reached even the fringe territories of Christianity, including its western isles.24 Yet although the treatises had been disseminated together, they proposed contradictory systems. There is no indication that Gildas had any particular knowledge of issues of computus and chronology, but even if he did have access to specialist works on the subject, the latter indicated the scale of the problem far more than they resolved it. There are two possible interpretations for the hazy chronology in Gildas’s oeuvre. On the one hand, there is always the possibility that he had access to many other written documents than those he mentions, and that he chose to provide only moral and general indications in order to lend greater scope to his message.25 On the other hand, it appears possible that Gildas may have been unable to use the dating systems that had currency in the Mediterranean world, and for which contradictory synchronisms were proposed in specialist works. This theory is supported by the chronological details he provides in paragraph 26.1 of the DEB, which is the focus of all our speculations about the dating of his book: 20 21 22 24 25

Prosper of Aquitaine, Epitoma chronicon, pp. 409–10. Justinian, Novellae 47 in Corpus juris civilis, iii.283. Coumert, Origines des peuples, pp. 268–9. 23 McKitterick, History and Memory, pp. 89–91. Victorius, Cursus Pachalis, and Dionysius Exiguus, Libellus de cyclo magno paschae. See Mac Carron, ‘Bede’. For this sense, see Higham, English Conquest, pp. 118ff.

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magali coumert From then on victory went now to our countrymen, now to their enemies: so that in this people the Lord could make trial (as he tends to) of his latterday Israel to see whether it loves him or not. This lasted right up till the year of the siege of Badon Hill, pretty well the last defeat of the villains, and certainly not the least. That was the year of my birth; as I know, one month of the forty-fourth year since then has already passed.26

Gildas is clearly not averse to chronological precision. To this end he offers the only personal detail that is provided in the text. Given his selfpresentation as spokesman of a divine threat, we can assume that this single piece of personal information is more a sign of his inability to navigate within an inherited – and now very hazy – chronological framework than it is a foregrounding of his own experience. Referring to a personal and relative chronology may have been the only option available to him, given the increasing break with the imperial administration and with continental Christianity.

The Break with the Present-Day Elites Gildas is aware of continental Christian authors up until the fifth century,27 but he displays no particular connection with the continent, which is very surprising, especially with respect to his omission of St Germanus of Auxerre. In chapters 10 and 11 of the DEB, Gildas provides an account of the miracle performed by St Alban of Verulamium. This account is consistent with other contemporary texts, such as the E recension of the Passio Albani, which was probably written in the midfifth century,28 as well as a chapter from the Life of Germanus written by Constantius of Lyons between 460 and 480 ce.29 These two texts relate the martyrdom of Alban, as well as the visit to his tomb by Bishop Germanus of Auxerre. According to Constantius of Lyons, Germanus even made two visits to Britain to combat Pelagianism, a doctrine judged to be deviant in its position on divine grace. This theological divergence is one possible reason for the break between the British Church and the continental Church.30 26

27 29

‘Ex eo tempore nunc cives, nunc hostes, vincebant, ut in ista gente experiretur dominus solito more praesentem Israelem, utrum diligat eum an non: usque ad annum obsessionis Badonici montis, novissimaeque ferme de furciferis non minimae stragis, quique quadragesimus quartus (ut novi) orditur annus mense iam uno emenso, qui et meae nativitatis est.’ DEB 26.1, p. 28; p. 98. On this passage, see George, Gildas’s De Excidio, p. 3; and Breeze, ‘Gildas: Renewed Approaches’. Kerlouégan, De Excidio. 28 Sharpe, ‘Martyrs and Local Saints’, pp. 110–11. Higham, ‘Constantius’. 30 George, Gildas’s De Excidio, pp. 110–26.

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The fact that Gildas does not mention Germanus of Auxerre points to a fundamental difference between him and his continental contemporaries: he is not interested in linking or is not able to link a universal Christian empire centred in Rome with Britain’s present. By contrast, in Gaul, a series of saint-bishops were held up as the heroes of these new and difficult times: Martin of Tours (d.397), Germanus of Auxerre (d.448), Honoratus (d.430) and Hilary of Arles (d.449), and Eucherius of Lyons (d. around 449). These saint-bishops served as a kind of connective tissue between the Roman empire and present-day continental Christianity.31 To be sure, Gildas was not the only Christian scholar who sought to write a history that did not fall within the triumphal narrative of the Roman armies and the construction of the universal Christian empire. Such interrogations already dominated the thoughts of Augustine and Orosius in the first quarter of the fifth century. Likewise, the fifthcentury writer Salvianus, in his De gubernatione Dei, pointed to the Romans’ sins as an explanation for the defeats at the hands of the barbarians.32 Nevertheless, he dedicated his work to the bishop of Geneva, Salonius, thereby highlighting the succour represented by the bishops. Hailing from the Gallo-Roman elites, and running cities that incarnated the heritage of Rome, bishops such as Germanus of Auxerre demonstrated continuity with Christian antiquity. Since the fifth century, they had supplemented these qualities with the embrace of the monastic ideal and most often had lived as ascetics before their promotion to the episcopate. Their successors celebrated these virtues in Lives that adopted the tradition of written works dedicated to martyred saints.33 For instance, in his introduction to his Life of Germanus of Auxerre, Constantius of Lyons addresses Bishop Patientius in the following terms: Now you, most reverend Father in God, desiring to secure for a holy man the fame due to his virtues and to publish the witness of his miracles for all to profit by, have again and again commanded me to preserve both for our own and for future generations, in such language as I can, the life of the holy Bishop Germanus, hitherto shrouded in silence.34

31 32 33 34

Sharpe, ‘Martyrs and Local Saints’, pp. 98–99. Salvian of Marseilles, De gubernatione Dei, iv.54. For more on hagiography in this volume, see Chapter 24. ‘Itaque, papa uenerabilis, dum et sanctum uirum inlustrare uirtutibus suis desideras et profectui omnium mirabilium exempla largiris, imperasti saepissime ut uitam sancti Germani episcopi obumbratam silentio qualicumque stilo uel praesentibus uel posteris traderem.’ Constantius of Lyon, Life of Germanus, p. 112.

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These heroic saint-bishops illustrated the values of both the Christian and Roman elites, despite their ejection from political and military domination. Their lives were models for the following generation of sixth-century saint-bishops, such as Caesarius of Arles (d.543) and Gregory of Tours. While historical exactitude is not the main aim of these miraculous narratives, their inclusion within the precise context of the life of the saint and the fact that they were written only a few years after his death make them a spiritual and historical guide to the transition between antiquity and the Middle Ages. Notably, similar narratives are lacking for Britain at this same time, and Gildas had no insular ecclesiastic to praise. There is no figure akin to a contemporary saint-bishop in Gildas’s narrative, although he does relate the existence of British sainted martyrs, such as Alban, Aaron, and Julius (DEB 10.2), and recalls the saint-bishops who were martyred during the persecutions of Christians in the second century ce – that is to say Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, and Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (DEB 74.1, 75.1). He even recalls the resistance of Bishop Basil of Caesarea against an Arian emperor in the fourth century, but this is to stress the contemporary moral bankruptcy of his compatriots: Which of you under the shock of the tyrants kept rigidly to the rule given by the words of the apostle, a rule that has always been kept in every age by all the holy priests who reject the proposals of men that try to hasten them down the slope of wickedness: ‘One must obey God rather than men?’35

Gildas presents the bishops as being under the sway of tyrants and evokes a clergy that is wealthy enough to buy ordinations abroad (DEB 67),36 for whom he suggests conversion to an ascetic life. The clergy as a whole is accused of collaborating with depraved lay elites: ‘O you are enemies of God and not priests, veterans in evil and not bishops, traitors and not successors to the holy apostles or ministers of Christ.’37 The collaboration between the leaders of the Church and new lay elites distinct from the imperial authorities was common across the kingdoms that succeeded Rome. In Gaul, this was evident in the meeting of councils under the authority of Gothic, Burgundian, and Frankish barbarian kings 35

36 37

‘Quis ex vobis apostolici sermonis regulam, quae ab omnibus semper sanctis sacerdotibus quibusque temporibus extantibus humanam suggestionem, praecipitanter ad nequitiam festinantem, recutientibus servata est, in concussione tyrannorum indirupte custodivit, hoc modo dicens: “oboedire oportet magis deo quam hominibus”.’ DEB 75.3, p. 60; p. 125. Sharpe, ‘Martyrs and Local Saints’, p. 82 n. 33. ‘O inimici dei et non sacerdotes, veterani malorum et non pontifices, traditores et non sanctorum apostolorum successores et non Christi ministri.’ DEB 108.3, p. 77; p. 140.

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27

(respectively, in Arles in 506, in Epaone in 517, and in Orléans in 511). The Council of Orléans of 549 even made it necessary for the king to give his consent to the election of the bishop by the clergy and the people.38 The Histories of Gregory of Tours, written between 572 and 594, present a genealogy of pastoral power in late antique Gaul.39 They base their chronology on episcopal successions in Tours and Clermont, the continuities of which sustain the transition from the Roman empire to the Christian kingdom of the Franks. Gildas’s recriminations reveal parallel developments in British and continental Christianity, with the continuation of a literate and wealthy high clergy that was capable of playing on distant connections and understanding the subtleties of a complex Latin discourse. These skills made them important partners of the new political powers. At the time when Gildas was writing, however, the main difference lay in the fact that the monastic ideal, which sanctified the power of the continental saint-bishops, had not been assimilated in Britain. In these conditions, the Brittonic bishops were probably too connected with the political authorities to present an atemporal ideal and become the subject of hagiography. Thus, unlike contemporary continental authors, Gildas cannot hinge his moral discourse on the hope emanating from certain local holy men of his time. Gildas cannot count on the bishops to lead their flock to salvation. His writing of the past is not a way to help the present-day elites to set up the future, but to break with their sinful deeds. Only a very small number of believers are set apart as his sources of support (DEB 26.3–4), but the latter do not seem to play an eminent social role.40 As with the continental hagiographies, Gildas’s audience was the literate clergy. Yet this audience also constituted a primary object of criticism in the DEB. This correspondence between audience and content explains the great many allusions to facts that would have been common knowledge, but which could not be denounced directly without overstepping the mark: who was it that ‘ke[pt] quiet about terrible public crimes, but ma[de] much of injuries done to themselves as if it were Christ who suffered them’?41 Some of the meaning of Gildas’s message is thus hidden from us. Driven by the urgency of conversion and his proximity to his audience, Gildas does not seek to make his accusations intelligible to future readers, with the exception of five sovereigns whom he directly takes to task 38 39 41

Council of Orléans in 549, c. 8 in Gaudemet and Basdevant (eds.), Canons des conciles mérovingiens. Reimitz, Frankish Identity, pp. 27–43. 40 George, Gildas’s De Excidio, pp. 79–96. ‘nefanda populi scelera tacentes et suas iniurias quasi Christo irrogatas amplificantes’. DEB 66.3, p. 52; p. 118.

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(Constantine of Dumnonia, Aurelius Caninus, Vortipor of the Demetæ, Cuneglasus, and Magloconus), but about whom he gives very little detail. The parts of Gildas’s discourse that concern tyrants or the clergy therefore cannot be described as history, for their intelligibility does not extend beyond his present. They were written in reaction to the urgent need for conversion, and therefore they sacrifice concern for the future for the sake of the needs of the present.

The Recourse to the Bible The moral bankruptcy of the clergy leaves Gildas and true believers alone in the face of the calamities of their age. Gildas himself describes his narrative in the following terms: ‘this tearful history, this complaint on the evils of the age’.42 His narrative describes an unstable and violent world marked by numerous, generally unsuccessful battles. It also evokes disasters: All the major towns were laid low by the repeated battering of enemy rams; laid low, too, all the inhabitants – church leaders, priests and people alike, as the swords glinted all around and the flames crackled.43

The very few positive figures that emerge include Ambrosius Aurelianus, who is described as a victorious leader: Their leader was Ambrosius Aurelianus, a gentleman who, perhaps alone of the Romans, had survived the shock of this notable storm: certainly his parents, who had worn the purple, were slain in it . . . Under him our people regained their strength, and challenged the victors to battle.44

Yet in the very same paragraph Gildas criticises Ambrosius’ descendants (‘His descendants in our day have become greatly inferior to their grandfather’s excellence’).45 The hope was therefore of short duration and no contemporary king receives praise: ‘Britain has kings, but they are tyrants.’46 42 43

44

45 46

‘tam flebilis haec querulaque malorum aevi huius historia.’ DEB 37.1, p. 36; p. 105. ‘Ita ut cunctae coloniae crebris arietibus omnesque coloni cum praepositis ecclesiae, cum sacerdotibus ac populo, mucronibus undique micantibus ac flammis crepitantibus, simul solo sternerentur.’ DEB 24.3, p. 27; p. 98. ‘[Ambrosius Aurelianus] qui solus forte Romanae gentis tantae tempestatis collisione occisis in eadem parentibus purpura nimirum indutis superfuerat . . . vires capessunt, victores provocantes ad proelium.’ DEB 25.3, p. 28; p. 98. ‘nunc temporibus nostris suboles magnopere avita bonitate degeneravit’. ‘Reges habet Britannia, sed tyrannos.’ DEB 27.1, p. 29; p. 99.

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The failures of the civil and religious elites explain the defeat of the Britons, none of whom can guide the return towards God. Of the five kings individually taken to task, Magloconus is singled out for special treatment, as though he alone had offered (now disappointed) hope: ‘If you had stayed on the good path, how generous a tinder of hope in heaven would blaze up in the hearts of men [who] despaired of [it]?’47 Faced with this desperate prospect, in which the elites have failed in their mission to guide the people to salvation, Gildas can find meaning only through direct recourse to the Bible, which guides his entire interpretation of the situation in Britain. In Nick Higham’s words, ‘Whereas Roman history foregrounded conquest and imperial destiny, the Bible offered a model characterised by successive experiences of brutal assault, devastation and colonisation.’48 This use of the Bible is based on two fundamental a priori assumptions: – The holy scriptures constitute a harmonious whole. Whatever the circumstances in which they were written, they bear a unique and coherent message. – God intervenes in a consistent manner throughout history. His relations with humanity recur and always follow the same laws. Once one had accepted these two notions, one would have a lens through which every other text in the scriptures could be viewed. All of these texts conveyed the same message: sin leads directly to divine punishment (an expression of divine justice) in the form of suffering in this world, but this could be countered by repentance and intercession, at which point God would relent as an expression of divine mercy and restore the situation.49 Point by point, Gildas draws a parallel between the events of his time and those described in the Old Testament. He doesn’t turn to the historical books, for every part of scripture describes the relationship between God and the Israelites. The Britons suffer the same treatment as had the Israelites: their enemies are a curse instigated by God, and they meet with defeat if they are led by bad sovereigns who allow them to become infidels. The Britons are therefore ‘his latter-day Israel’ (‘praesentem Israelem’)50 and the words of the prophets apply to them.51

47 48 49 51

‘O quam profusus spei caelestis fomes desperatorum cordibus, te in bonis permanente, inardesceret!’ DEB 34.3, p. 33; p. 103. See George, Gildas’s De Excidio, pp. 67–70. Higham, ‘Historical Narrative’, p. 74. See also Chapter 3 below. O’Loughlin, Gildas and the Scriptures, pp. 18–19. 50 DEB 26.1, p. 28; p. 98. DEB 21.5, p. 25; p. 96.

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The disastrous choice of having the Saxons come over as mercenaries is thereby likened to the bad counsel described by the prophet Isaiah: ‘“the silly princes of Zoan,” as has been said, “giving foolish advice to Pharaoh”’ (Isaiah 19:11).52 Gildas also notes that Vortipor, whom he describes as the ‘tyrant of the Demetæ’ (‘Demetarum tyranne’), ‘with diverse murders and adulteries’ (‘diversis parricidiis et adulteriis’) is a ‘bad son of a good king’ (‘boni regis nequam fili’).53 He can therefore draw a parallel between his destiny and that of Manasseh and the Israelites, whom God threatened: ‘They shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger.’54 The hope contained within this comparison is not made explicit, for Gildas does not relate the final penitence that enabled Manasseh to re-establish the alliance with God.55 As Thomas O’Loughlin’s study has shown, Gildas is reliant on no previous interpretation. He has read the Bible and gradually gleaned elements on which to base his demonstration, seeking every possible parallel with his own time, as ‘a mirror reflecting our own life’.56 He uses various Latin versions of the books of the Bible, but he has also felt free to transform these texts, the fundamental meaning of revelation being more important to him than word-to-word transcription.57 He sticks to the literal, historical meaning of the scriptures and reproduces their order of causes and effects. Recently, Karen George has revealed a technique that is used to construct the very text of the DEB, one that draws it into even closer proximity with the prophetic books.58 The same words are repeated symmetrically both within the different books and across the work as whole, thereby indicating that the text is strongly structured around repetition. Though symmetrical motifs of this kind are found throughout the Bible, such compositional constraints indicate a particular proximity between the DEB and the Book of Lamentations. These describe the defeat of the kingdom of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar and the exile to Babylon. For Gildas, as for his contemporaries, Lamentations was thought to have been authored by the prophet Jeremiah before the disaster occurred:59 ‘I 52 53 54 55 57 58

‘“stulti principes” ut dictum est, “Taneos dantes Pharaoni consilium insipiens”’. DEB 23.2, p. 26; p. 97. DEB 31.1, p. 31; p. 101. ‘eruntque in vastitatem, et in rapinam cunctis adversariis suis: eo quod fecerint malum coram me, et perseveraverint irritantes me’ (2 Kings 21:14–15). O’Loughlin, Gildas and the Scriptures, p. 117. 2 Chronicles 33. 56 ‘veluti speculum quoddam vitae nostrae’. DEB 1.7, p. 14; p. 88. O’Loughlin, Gildas and the Scriptures, pp. 29–51. George, Gildas’s De Excidio, pp. 42–47, 133–85. 59 Gautier, ‘Jérémiades’.

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read how, because of the sins of men, the voice of the holy prophets rose in complaint, especially Jeremiah’s, as he bewailed the ruin of his city in four alphabetic songs.’60 Although the DEB does not reproduce an alphabetically ordered composition, it copies the number of verses of Lamentations as well as the system of symmetrical repetitions in the first two books. For Gildas, then, this is not simply a question of interpreting events through the prism of scripture, but also of endowing his people with a prophetic book to call upon them to convert. He himself became the prophet of his time among sovereigns and priests.

The Competition of Chosen Peoples If Gildas’s biblical presentation gives meaning to the tragic contemporary events by inscribing them in a glorious divine design, it also takes a highly risky gamble in terms of the identity of the Britons.61 If the people do not actually convert, and if the Saxons are not eventually expelled, the future of the Britons will be mortgaged, locked in a disastrous Old Testament narrative.62 Gildas refuses to prepare any legacy for Britons that does not end in conversion and victory, and thus bequeaths to them a negative identity.63 After the progressive expansion of the Saxons’ power on the island, Gildas’s work was read from a new perspective, as different ethnic groups competed to interpret the destiny of Britain. Later readers consulted his work for the few details that it provides on the demise of Roman Britain, but they now redirected its reproaches against the Britons. As it turns out, the latter were not the only ones able to present themselves as a Chosen People. Any conversion might be taken as providential, and the divine choice that was thought to preside over the conversion of pagan peoples might serve the formation of other ethnic identities.64 St Patrick had already described the Scots as ‘a people just now coming to the faith, and which the Lord chose from the ends of the earth’.65 The same idea is also expressed by Pope Gregory the Great (c.540–604) in a letter to Augustine of Canterbury, who led the mission he had sent to the 60 61 62 64 65

‘ob peccata hominum querulas sanctorum prophetarum voces et maxime Hieremiae ruinam civitate suae quadruplici plangentis alphabeto’. DEB 1.4, p. 13; p. 87. For more on the relationship between tragedy and history writing, see Chapter 25 below. Higham, King Arthur, p. 56. 63 Plassmann, ‘Negative Image’. Pohl, ‘Christian and Barbarian Identities’, pp. 21–3. ‘ad plebem nuper venientem ad credulitatem, quam sumpsit Dominus ab extremis terrae’. Patrick, Confessio, c. 38.

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Angles: ‘For I know that almighty God has revealed great miracles through your Beloved in the nation that he wanted to be chosen.’66 Writing the history of the Angles in the eighth century, Bede (d.735) could not overlook such an opportunity to celebrate his people. He therefore emphasises the refusal of British priests to convert the Saxons, thereby celebrating the purer source of Christianity they had received directly from Rome: To other unspeakable crimes, which Gildas their own historian describes in doleful words, was added this crime, that they never preached the faith to the Saxons or Angles who inhabited with them. Nevertheless, God in His goodness did not reject the people whom He foreknew, but He had appointed much worthier heralds of the truth to bring this people to the faith.67

The distinctiveness of the Saxons’ conversion, organised by the pope directly from Rome, feeds into their portrayal as a Chosen People called to the island as though it were a Promised Land where they would receive the faith and establish its dominion in that territory.68 Vanquished in battle, the Britons, it appeared, also lost their privileged status as God’s elect. This apologia of the Angles was also based on Bede’s extraordinary work in drawing up a chronology of the events in Britain. The Northumbrian monk returned to the root of the problem, first establishing firm calculations for the birth and Passion of Christ69 and then using the continental sources, like Isidore of Seville (d.636),70 to reintegrate the island’s events within this framework.71 His historical narrative therefore adopts a number of elements from Gildas to rebuild a chronology: 381. Maximus was made emperor in Britain. He crossed to Gaul and killed Gratianus. 409. Rome was stormed by the Goths, after which Roman rule in Britain ceased.

66 67

68 69 70

‘Scio enim, quia omnipotens Deus per dilectionem tuam in gente quam eligi voluit magna miracula ostendit.’ Letters of Gregory the Great, xi, 36. ‘Qui inter alia inenarrabilium scelerum facta, quae historicus eorum Gildas flebili sermone describit, et hoc addebant, ut numquam genti Saxonum siue Anglorum, secum Brittaniam incolenti, uerbum fidei praedicando committerent. Sed non tamen diuina pietas plebem suam, quam praesciuit, deseruit; quin multo digniores genti memoratae praecones ueritatis, per quos crederet, destinauit.’ HEA, i.22. For the link between this perspective and Bede’s description of the island of Britain, see Chapter 8, pp. 142–3 below. Mac Carron, ‘Bede’, pp. 304–7, but also McKitterick, History and Memory, p. 92. Allen, ‘Universal History’, pp. 32–5. 71 Merrills, History and Geography, pp. 229–39.

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430. Palladius was sent by Pope Celestinus to be the first bishop of the Irish Christians. 449. Marcianus and Valentinianus ruled as co-emperors for seven years. In their time the English came to Britain on the invitation of the Britons.72

But Bede gathers information in order to transform Gildas’s sermon into a charge against the Britons, whom he presents as fainthearted infidels and bad Christians: in particular, cruelty and hatred of the truth and love of lying increased so that if anyone appeared to be milder than the rest and somewhat more inclined to the truth, the rest, without consideration, rained execrations and missiles upon him as if he had been an enemy of Britain. Not only were laymen guilty of these offences but even the Lord’s own flock and their pastors.73

How was this unfavourable portrait to be countered? The reaction of the British authors of the Middle Ages shows the extent to which Gildas’s aims were quickly seen as obsolete and negative.74 To counteract Bede’s narrative and its re-enactment by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and William of Malmesbury, the supporters of the Britons strove, in the Historia Britonum and the Annales Cambriae, to supplement Gildas by putting forward a chronology as well as a new hero. Gildas’s text was ambiguous: it celebrated a victory at Mount Badon without explaining how the Britons had apparently fought with such distinction, and established a very vague link with Ambrosius Aurelianus.75 This left a gap where King Arthur could be inserted.

Conclusion If Gildas writes as a historian in the first half of the DEB, he does so with a very precise purpose: to demonstrate that the parallel between the Britons 72

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74 75

‘Anno ccclxxxi Maximus in Britannia creatus imperator in Galliam transiit et Gratianum interfecit. Anno ccccviiii Roma a Gothis fracta, ex quo tempore Romani in Brittania regnare cessarunt. Anno ccccxxx Palladius ad Scottos in Christum credentes a Caeslestino papa primus mittitur episcopus. Anno ccccxlviiii Marcianus cum Ualentiniano imperium suscipiens vii annis tenuit, quorum tempore Angli a Brettonibus accersiti Brittaniam adierunt.’ HEA, v.24. ‘adcelerauit, crudelitas praecipue et odium ueritatis amorque mendacii, ita ut, si quis eorum mitior et ueritati aliquatenus propior uideretur, in hunc quasi Brittaniae subuersorem omnium odia telaque sine repectu contorquerentur. Et non solum haec saeculares uiri sed etiam ipse grex Domini eiusque pastores egerunt.’ HEA, i.14.2. Plassmann, ‘Negative Image’. Higham, King Arthur, pp. 57–8. For discussion of the development of the Brut tradition from these beginnings, see Chapters 4 and 12 below.

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and Israel foreshadows their imminent annihilation, should they not convert. In a world that has lost its reference points, the model of the Old Testament enables Gildas to offer a new interpretation of events. The Britons, he argues, are the Israelites of his age, punished for their infidelity towards God and called upon, through their succession of defeats, to convert wholeheartedly. These exhortations are formulated with urgency and are based merely on an overarching vision of the island’s past, without chronological precision, heroes, or any aim other than immediate conversion. Gildas’s vision of the past could not provide responses to later interrogations, in a world where the links between the island and the rest of the world had been re-established. Gildas provides only very partial details of the events in Britain during the fifth and sixth centuries. Conversely, he bears crucial witness to the difficulty involved in constructing a history that falls outside the triumphal narrative of the Roman legions and Christianity, as well as in making sense of the political and military upheavals of his time. Isolated among hostile and pagan barbarians – the Picts, Scots, and Saxons – the Britons could hope for victory only through faith and fidelity to God. Yet the conversion of their enemies opened up a new rivalry. The position of the Chosen People was claimed by others and, despite its primacy, Gildas’s narrative was rivalled by other interpretations of providence, thereby necessitating the creation of a chronology and a salvational hero.

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chapter 2

Monastic History and Memory1 Thomas O’Donnell

The historian monk, expert at recording the past because he was so detached from the present, embodies one of the most popular stereotypes of medieval history writing.2 The enduring link between history writing and monasticism in Britain and Ireland can be traced as far back as De excidio Britanniae, or The Ruin of Britain, the early sixth-century account of the collapse of Romano-British power by Gildas, conventionally known as the earliest native history from Britain. In addition to The Ruin of Britain, Gildas wrote texts on monastic discipline, and his high medieval biographers identify him as a monk and reformer. Gildas’s reputation and the surviving fragments of his work project an image of a thoroughly monastic historian. But the example of Gildas also reveals the problems with the type of the historian monk. Gildas’s putative monasticism is not entirely relevant to what he wrote: his monastic career likely postdated The Ruin of Britain, and the book addressed the kings, warriors, and civic authorities of sub-Roman Britain as well as monks and nuns. The generic status of The Ruin of Britain is also open to question, because the book is a polemic whose references to early British events are as oblique as they are biased.3 Similar objections concerning social context and genre can be raised about almost all the medieval historians we now consider ‘monastic’: their compositions do not always conform to typical historical genres; they frequently addressed secular, as well as monastic, audiences; and many led lives that fell short of medieval or modern monastic ideals. Just how then 1

2 3

A version of this chapter appears as ‘Monastic History-Writing and Memory in Britain and Ireland: A Methodological Reassessment’ in New Medieval Literatures 19 (2019), 43–88. I would like to thank Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, Nicholas L. Paul, Lauren Mancia, the participants in the University of Pennsylvania Medieval-Renaissance Seminar, and this volume’s editors for their advice for completing this chapter. All errors are my own. Southern, ‘Sense of the Past’. Kerlouégan, De Excidio, pp. 4–5, 30–69; Lapidge and Dumville (eds.), Gildas: New Approaches. On Gildas, see also Chapter 1 above.

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does monastic life relate to history, and how does it relate to the literary forms used by nuns and monks? This chapter explores these questions by situating its discussion of monastic history writing within a discussion of practices of commemoration by monks and nuns in Ireland and Britain. This focus offers a practical means to explore the wide range of writing about the past by nuns and monks rather than an attempt to define ‘monastic history’ with a rigour that the concept cannot sustain. Whether understood as a learned technique of memorisation (a so-called ‘art of memory’) or as a reference to the corpus of stories that nuns and monks preserved for themselves and their neighbours, memory was a fundamental category of medieval monastic thought and practice.4 By taking memory as its topic, rather than history per se, this chapter looks at images of the past in a range of text-types that includes letters, lais, and semi-mythological prose and poetry, as well as chronicles, res gestae, cartularies, and saints’ Lives. Keeping such genres on the table as possible forms of monastic memory allows us to consider the shapes actually assumed by monastic narratives about the past, as reflected in the contents of monastic book collections. There were many nuns and monks who sought self-understanding through supposedly secular narrative types like romance and chansons de geste.5 The variety of forms used by nuns and monks to memorialise the past is matched by the complexity with which they interwove these different texttypes. The various parts of monastic memorial works could appeal to the distinct needs of individual members of the community. Gregory the Great (c.540–604) observed that different members of a community must be addressed in different ways according to their different capacities, and monastic rules and commentaries consistently repeated his advice.6 Community concerns are also evident in the production of monastic histories as well as in their consumption: collaboration was the rule in monasteries rather than the exception.7 This level of textual complexity renders generic labels unusually arbitrary. The following discussion therefore proceeds by grouping texts together by their shared memorial focus 4

5

6 7

For differences between the art of memory and social memory, see Paul and Yeager (eds.), Remembering the Crusades, pp. 5–11. For the term’s ambiguity, see Lauwers, Mémoire des ancêtres, pp. 125–6. James G. Clark, Benedictines, pp. 212–30; Christopher Cannon, ‘Monastic Productions’, pp. 324–9; Remensnyder, Remembering Kings Past, pp. 150–211. Andrew Taylor, Textual Situations, pp. 76–136, deals at length with the varied contents of London, BL, MS Harley 978, which was owned by a monk of Reading. Gregory the Great, Règle pastorale, vol. ii. pp. 258–67. Smaragdus, Commentary, p. 145. Guenée, Histoire et culture, pp. 49–50.

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(personal, universal, or local) rather than by strictly defined genres. Despite claims that one sort of memory predominated in monastic writing – for instance, the universal over the personal – nuns and monks trafficked in many types of memory.8 They also mingled them. Monastic memory’s many intersecting perspectives kept nuns and monks aware of the different kinds of time they inhabited: cyclical liturgical time, local and world history, salvation history, the time of a single life. Finally, this chapter foregrounds the variety of monastic ideals and the diversity of social structures prevailing in different communities across the period. The generally heterogeneous monastic settlements of the early Middle Ages (including clas churches and minsters) are as much a part of its story as the relatively homogeneous communities of a later age (although these communities were more homogeneous in theory than in practice, as we will see). A major theme will be the shifting relations between the putatively closed world of the monastery and the secular world outside it. Thanks to monastic education, power, and stability, the memories of nuns and monks were never just their own. Other medieval people – secular clergy, kings, queens, townspeople, and aristocrats – were always among their informants and their addressees, and they could be their models and their imitators. Monastic history complicates, rather than exemplifies, the relation of genre to social status and practice.

Monasticism and Memory Monks and nuns are distinguished from other religious by their agreement to lead lives of poverty, chastity, and obedience, usually at a fixed location. Nuns and monks did not always meet these requirements in identical ways – when they met them at all. Later medieval monks and nuns frequently rejected earlier practices as ‘contrary to the Rule’ or adopted new practices that would have scandalised their predecessors. But even at a single time, different interpretations of monasticism flourished simultaneously, and despite the success of Rules like Benedict’s (535x550) or Augustine’s (c.423) in providing general norms, repeated efforts at regularisation (usually called ‘reforms’) failed to homogenise monastic practice.

8

For claims that monasticism produced a narrow range of genres, see Chenu, ‘Theology’; Southern, ‘Hugh of St Victor’ and ‘Sense of the Past’; Leclercq, Love of Learning, pp. 155–66; Clanchy, From Memory, pp. 100–1, 146–7; Ingledew, ‘Book of Troy’. Coleman, Ancient and Medieval, pp. 117–227, argues that monastics lacked a sense of the past and flattened historical difference. For a critical response, see Cubitt, ‘Monastic Memory’.

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Monasticism arrived in Britain and Ireland by the fifth century at the latest.9 Although the image of a predominantly monastic ‘Celtic church’ must be discarded, monks and nuns played important roles in British and Irish, and then Anglo-Saxon and Pictish, churches. The insular churches saw a range of monastic practice, from truly ascetic individuals like David, Columbanus, or Æthelthryth, to those who led their lives like aristocrats or secular clerks. For instance, Edith of Wilton wore expensive clothing and kept exotic pets, and Asser of St David’s held two West Saxon minsters and the jurisdiction of Exeter in happy plurality.10 Distinctions between early monastic communities and their secular and clerical neighbours varied considerably. Many early insular monastic communities were internally heterogeneous: they could comprise married individuals and their families as well as celibate religious and other clergy, with distinctions made for teachers, students, administrators, labourers, celebrants, and priests. Poverty was not always strictly observed: some religious individuals might retain claims to property belonging to them personally or to their kin – and frequently the headship of the monastic church itself was a family prerogative.11 Mixed, open communities gave way only gradually to the more homogeneous, socially exclusive institutions of the later Middle Ages. English churches accepted Benedict’s Rule as an arbiter of monastic status only in the tenth century (and even then, not everywhere). Regularisation arrived in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland later still.12 With greater regulation, distinctions between monks and clerics that had seemed less clear or less important in an earlier age gained new significance.13 Insular monks and nuns (like monks and nuns everywhere) were never completely cut off from secular people or the world. In the early period, diversity within the monastic settlement, the easy movement between positions of secular and ecclesiastical power, and the importance of monks and nuns for teaching and evangelisation kept the monastic 9 10 11

12

13

Dumville, ‘Origins and Early History’; Herren, ‘Mission and Monasticism’; Sharpe, ‘Martyrs and Local Saints,’ pp. 100–2, 133–6; Macquarrie, ‘Early Christian Religious Houses’; Blair, Church, pp. 80–3. Hollis, ‘St Edith’; Blair, Church, pp. 324–5. In addition to the works cited above, see Hughes, ‘Church in Irish Society’; Sharpe, ‘Some Problems’; Etchingham, Church Organisation; Charles-Edwards, Wales and the Britons, pp. 185–7, 602–24; Cowley, Monastic Order; and Foot, Monastic Life. Blair, Church, pp. 341–67. Benedictine and Augustinian communities were established in Wales and Scotland in the eleventh century. See Cowley, Monastic Order, pp. 270–1; and G.W.S. Barrow, ‘Scottish Rulers’. For the complex chronology of Benedictine monasticism in eleventh- and twelfthcentury Ireland, see Ó Riain-Raedel, ‘Irish Benedictine Monasteries’; Ó Clabaigh, ‘Benedictines’; and Bhreathnach, ‘Benedictine Influence’. Sharpe, ‘Some Problems’, pp. 260–3; Blair, Church, pp. 80–3; Flanagan, Transformation, pp. 118–68; Hall, Women and the Church, pp. 159–90; John Reuben Davies, ‘Aspects of Church Reform’.

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precinct highly permeable. In the later period, greater stability and specialised study distinguished the monastic order more clearly from other clergy, even as the arrival of new religious orders, like the Cistercians or the Carthusians, heightened the perception of diversity within monasticism itself. But the bonds between the monastic and secular worlds were not snapped so much as reconfigured around mutual relations of patronage, prayer, hospitality, and almsgiving, not to mention the lordship communities exercised in their local contexts. Like monasticism, ‘memory’ is a term with varied meanings in medieval contexts. Ancient and medieval teachers encouraged students to memorise certain ideas, images, and words out of authoritative texts in order to furnish their mental landscape and build up the shared memory of an educated class. Monastic teachers adapted these methods for their own ends.14 This educated ‘art of memory’ overlapped with social memory, a modern term for the collective reservoir of knowledge that helps define a group or reflects that group’s role in society, such as a nation’s foundational myths, information about family relationships, expertise in farming, the melody of a popular song, or the rituals of the liturgy.15 Such memories could be conveyed orally as well as in writing. Monastic communities played an important role in preserving the collective memories of their society. Finally, there were the individual memories that naturally belonged to each person, thanks to their own lived experience. Written historical narratives existed at the intersection of these different forms of memory, alongside the painting, sculpture, textiles, and music that also presented aesthetic opportunities for memorialisation in monastic communities.16 Monks and nuns across Europe early gained an important role as historians alongside literate bishops, courtiers, and other clerks. Early monastic histories from early medieval Ireland and Britain include the Chronicle of Ireland and the eighth-century Libellus of local hagiography from the women’s community of Barking.17 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which 14 15

16 17

Carruthers, Book of Memory; Carruthers, Craft of Thought, pp. 7–59, 77–115; Coleman, Ancient and Medieval. Fundamental texts in an extensive literature are Halbwachs, On Collective Memory; and Fentress and Wickham, Social Memory. For the social memory of medieval monasteries, see McKitterick, History and Memory; Geary, Phantoms of Remembrance; Remensnyder, Remembering Kings Past; and van Houts, Memory and Gender. For later medieval historiography, see Given-Wilson, Chronicles: Writing of History, pp. 57–65. van Houts, Memory and Gender, pp. 93–120. According to Charles-Edwards, the surviving Chronicle reflects a text begun at Iona in the sixth century but continued at Brega until 911. Charles-Edwards (ed.), Chronicle of Ireland, vol. i, pp. 7–8. For the (lost) Barking Libellus, see HEA, iv.7–10.

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entailed contributions from the court, secular households, and episcopal entourages, as well as monasteries, reflects the social mix of insular historiographic activity much better.18 On the continent, the burden of memorial writing increasingly shifted onto cowled shoulders, perhaps because of a partial eclipse of secular literacies during the tenth century.19 Eventually ideas about the superiority of monastic memory over secular historians began to be felt across the Channel. The eleventh-century Anglo-Danish dynasts Emma of Normandy (d.1052) and Edith of Wessex (d.1075) turned to Flemish monks for biographies of their royal husbands.20 The emphasis of monastic education on grammar and rhetoric facilitated monastic dominance in the field of memory-keeping, because these were the two arts that offered the necessary skills for producing written memorial texts.21 By contrast, the learning of university-trained friars was more often deflected into theology and philosophy.22 The perceived stability of monastic settlements and the solidity of their buildings, which could keep documents safe and dry, also recommended them as institutions for preserving memories for generations.23 Finally, monastic memorialisation was also prized for its connection to salvific prayer. The imposition of the Benedictine Rule in tenth-century England was motivated at least in part by a desire to harness a superior power of prayer for the West Saxon dynasty.24 The memories preserved by nuns and monks reflected pre-existing social connections, but they were also used to create them where none existed before. Commemoration of the dead was a principal means of creating monastic confraternities (which could include both religious and lay communities and individuals).25 In the development of monastic historical writing in the central and later Middle Ages, women’s communities played an ambiguous role.26 Before 18 19 21 22 23

24 25 26

Surviving versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle range in date from 891 (the oldest part of Manuscript A) to the 1150s (the last entries in Manuscript E). See Chapter 10 below. Geary, Phantoms of Remembrance, pp. 48–80. 20 Tyler, ‘Crossing Conquests’. James G. Clark, Benedictines, pp. 203–30. A notable exception appears in Ireland, where mendicants actively collected local historical material. See Scott, ‘Latin Learning’. Clanchy, From Memory, pp. 154–7, 168; Christopher Cannon, ‘Monastic Productions,’ pp. 319–25. Less permanent building styles and the greater freedom of movement of the religious from early medieval Ireland, Wales, and Scotland probably contributed to the loss of much material from these areas. See Sims-Williams, ‘Uses of Writing’. Julia Barrow, ‘Ideology’. Lauwers, Mémoire des ancêtres; Wollasch, ‘Mittelalterliche Lebensform’; Chibnall, World of Orderic Vitalis, pp. 67–70. Irish and English women’s communities have seen the most attention, e.g. Bitel, Land of Women, pp.167–203; Hall, Women and the Church, pp. 63–95; Foot, Veiled Women; and Sally Thompson, Women Religious. For literary perspectives see Nancy Bradley Warren, Spiritual

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the tenth and eleventh centuries, the oral traditions of families and communities depended on the memory of women, and it stands to reason that nuns would have been leaders in historical composition, too.27 Yet nuns wrote very little conventional history in medieval Britain and Ireland. Beyond the Libellus already mentioned, there is only the thirteenthcentury Chronicle of the nuns of Delapré.28 The list can be extended by taking saints’ Lives, custumals, cartularies, and liturgies into account. Women’s monastic history would then include the Barking Lives of Edward the Confessor (after 1163) and Saint Catherine of Alexandria (c.1200), the Life of Saint Audrey by Marie (c.1200), the Ordinale and Customary of Barking (1404), and the many record books of women’s institutions.29 The Lais of Marie (fl. 1180s) present a more interesting case: despite their pretence to commemorate the deeds of famous Breton kings and their possible attribution to a religious woman, they are seldom considered specimens of ‘monastic history’. Perhaps they should be. More frequently, women’s leadership was shown through their patronage of outof-house authors. Sometimes authors worked with material that female patrons had already collected and organised for them. Both Wilton and Barking commissioned Lives of their patron saints based on their own archives and testimony from Goscelin of Saint-Bertin (c.1035–1107).30 In other cases, vowed women seemed to have less direct control.31

Personal Memories Personal histories, which monks and nuns had carried into the cloister with them and which continued after their professions, constituted a fundamental category of monastic memory. Nuns and monks across the Middle Ages were taught to look for evidence of both sin and grace in their own lives, and they were supposed to share their reflections with each other to ‘bear one

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Economies; Wogan-Browne, Saints’ Lives, pp. 19–56; and Cartwright, Feminine Sanctity, pp. 176–208. Erler, Women, Reading, and Piety emphasises the interconnection between lay and religious women readers. Geary, Phantoms of Remembrance, pp. 48–80; van Houts, Memory and Gender, pp. 65–92; Innes, ‘Keeping it in the Family’; and Chapter 17 below. Ricketts (ed.), Three Anglo-Norman Chronicles, pp. 20–7. G.R.C. Davis, Medieval Cartularies; Sally Thompson, Women Religious, pp. 1–15; Bugyis, ‘Female Monastic Cantors’. Van Houts, Memory and Gender, pp. 41–62; O’Donnell, ‘Authors and Patrons’; O’Donnell et al., ‘European Literature’. For instance, there is no evidence that Nicholas Trevet shaped his Anglo-Norman Chronicle according to instructions from his dedicatee, Edward I’s daughter Mary, who was living at Amesbury. For further discussion, see Chapter 19 below, p. 354.

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another’s burdens’ and to ‘rejoice with them that rejoice and weep with them that weep’ (Galatians 6:2, Romans 12:15).32 Many of the stories remembered in written monastic histories depended on the oral exchanges between members of the same house.33 Mediated versions of personal reminiscence can be glimpsed in many works across the period: from Stephanus’ Life of Wilfrid (c.720), through the Life of Christina of Markyate (after 1155), to the reportage of Thomas Walsingham (c.1340–c.1422).34 Personal memories were also part of the meditation at the heart of individual monastic study and group liturgical performance. For much of the Middle Ages meditation meant thoughtfully applying the Bible’s language to one’s own individual experience. Meditation was a meeting place for individual memory, social memory, and the art of memory, and it could form the basis of a wholesale reinvention of the self.35 John Cassian’s Conferences (c.426) instructed monks to adopt ‘the dispositions of the psalms’ and ‘to treat them in [their] profound compunction of heart not as if they were composed by the prophet but as if they were [their] own utterances and [their] own prayer’.36 That is, in repeating the words of scripture, monks and nuns were supposed to look for the ways the Bible prophetically described their own feelings and experiences. Comparing personal memories to scriptural models enabled the penitent to re-evaluate her past conduct according to biblical standards. In addition, meditation encouraged individuals to see their experiences as particular manifestations of a general pattern, typologically foretold. Liturgy imposed on monks and nuns a double historical vision that simultaneously fixed them in their personal experiences and propelled them into the transcendent time of salvation history. The transformation of the personal past into exemplum and its fusion with biblical language had particular representational effects: for instance, it favoured edifying stories. Additionally, these processes could reduce memories to the barest outlines, presenting clear morals but cheating audiences of many circumstantial features. Such is certainly the case with 32

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‘alter alterius onera portate’; ‘gaudere cum gaudentibus flere cum flentibus’. Bede, In epistolas VII, p. 222; Smaragdus, Crown of Monks, pp. 43–4, 99–100; Baldwin of Ford, Spiritual Tractates, vol. ii, iv, pp. 88–190. Vanderputten (ed.), Understanding Monastic Practices. Stephanus, Life of Bishop Wilfrid; Talbot (ed.), Life of Christina of Markyate; Walsingham, St Albans Chronicle. For what follows, see Robertson, Lectio Divina, pp. 72–103; and Cochelin, ‘When Monks were the Book’. Cassian, Conferences, trans. Ramsey, p. 384; ‘psalmorum adfectus in se recipiens . . . ut eos non tamquam a propheta conpositos, sed uelut a se editos quasi orationem propriam profunda cordis conpunctione’ – Conférences. ed. Pichery, viii–xvii, p.92. Cf. Benedict’s similar advice in de Vogüé and Neufville (eds.), Règle de Saint Benoît, vol. ii, pp. 534–6.

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the autobiographical sections of Mirror of Charity (1142–3) and Spiritual Friendship (1164x1166) by the Cistercian Aelred of Rievaulx. These two works attempt to explain the role of love in monastic life, and Aelred illustrates his arguments with accounts of his own life and friends.37 Although Aelred’s gifts as a writer make his personal history highly memorable, the individuality of the men Aelred aimed to commemorate, compounded as they are of scriptural reminiscence and doctrinal agenda, passes out of view. In fact, Aelred has so thoroughly subjected the memory of his friends to their ethical function that there still remains some doubt about the actual roles these men played in Aelred’s own spiritual development. By contrast, Aelred’s fictional characters, such as the impetuous novice of the Mirror or the bumptious Walter in Spiritual Friendship, are wonderfully individualised, perhaps for the very reason that they have not been subjected to the same scriptural mediation (notwithstanding Walter’s probable inspiration in Aelred’s colleague Walter Daniel). The adaptation of scriptural language to describe past thoughts and behaviour might distort a writer’s depiction of the past. Such was the charge Heloise levelled at Peter Abelard when he fashioned his life story into the Letter of Consolation for a Friend (c.1132). Abelard had used the life of Jerome as a model and closed the work with a reflection on the Lord’s Prayer.38 Heloise allowed that Abelard ‘did indeed carry out the promise you made your friend at the beginning [of that letter], that he would think his own troubles insignificant or nothing in comparison with your own’, but that in doing so he had left out important details – especially concerning her.39 Above all, he had omitted her cogent arguments against their marriage and his own seductive musical charm.40 Heloise’s corrections would have pulled Abelard’s self-depiction away from the sort of exemplary narrative and scriptural reinvention monastic meditation encouraged, because they would have prioritised the anecdotal, rather than transcendent, features of Abelard’s experience. Nor were these details exactly edifying. By insisting on the irreducibility of personal experience to scripture or lesson, Heloise punches through a central plank in monastic memorial practice that was as relevant to insular contexts as it was to the continent.41 37 38 39 40

De spiritali amicitia, 3.119–27 and De speculo caritatis, i.34.98–114 in Aelred of Rievaulx, Opera omnia. For English, see Spiritual Friendship, pp. 121–4, and Mirror of Charity, pp. 147–59. Bynum, ‘Twelfth Century’, p. 96. ‘Complesti reuera . . . quod in exordio eius amico promisisti, ut uidelicet in comparatione tuarum suas molestias nullas uel paruas reputaret.’ Luscombe and Radice (eds.), Letter Collection, 2.2.122–3. Ibid., 2.10.132–3, 2.13.136–7. 41 Georgianna, ‘In Any Corner of Heaven’.

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Heloise’s objection also makes explicit the connection between standard forms of monastic reminiscence and what we would recognise as fiction. The typically meditative approach of monastic reading seems to have made monks and nuns remarkably open to imaginative engagements with the past. This may explain the intense interest of monastic communities in chansons de geste, romance, and short-form fiction like lais. Romances and other kinds of fiction are sometimes seen as a form of purely secular entertainment and their circulation within the monastery as an aberration or slackening of monastic discipline.42 Yet vernacular fictions drew on forms of self-reflection and symbolic composition that tracked monastic developments precisely.43 Geoff Rector has pointed out the dependence of romance writers on the same forms of psalmodic language to articulate and develop emotional expression as well as the culture of ‘leisure’ (otium) that bound the earliest readers and writers of romance to monks and nuns.44 The Cistercians are sometimes credited with infusing the monastic experience with the spirit of romance, but the monastic spirit permeated romance and chansons de geste already.

Memories of the World Monks and nuns were also interested in the past of the whole world. In practice, world or universal history consisted in collating the separate histories of different kingdoms, such as the Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, and Franks; local history could be inserted among these.45 The great sweep of world history was conveniently represented in large-format chronicles, written in continuous prose or as annals, but such knowledge appeared in other contexts, too: for example, in Goscelin of Saint-Bertin’s references to pagan precedent in his letter to Eve of Wilton (c.1083) or in biblical commentaries, like the eleventhcentury Apocalypse Commentary by Berengaudus.46 Like personal commemoration, the monastic cultivation of world historical knowledge was partly shaped by liturgical practice.47 The correct celebration of the Christian year depended on a method of calendrical 42 43 44 45 46 47

Andrew Taylor, Textual Situations, pp. 132–6. On romance, see also Chapter 22 below. Otter, Inventiones; Stein, Reality Fictions. Rector, ‘Marie de France’; Rector, ‘En sa chambre’. Cf. Leclercq, ‘Otium Monasticum’. Goetz, ‘Concept of Time’. Goscelin of Saint-Bertin, Book of Encouragement and Consolation, pp. 85–8; Guenée, Histoire et culture, pp. 30–1; and Chapter 3 below, pp. 57–62. Guenée, Histoire et culture, pp. 51–2, 147–65.

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calculation called the computus. This science combined elements that we would recognise as technical (such as the length of the lunar year or the path of the sun’s ecliptic) with spiritual knowledge about the world’s origins. In its furthest stage of development, it comprised a Christian theology of time. Officials at both male and female monasteries needed to possess familiarity with computistic principles in order to plan the services of the year. Their training would often include instruction in a basic chronicle of world history, which would be presented as an expression of the divine will. To accompany his computus treatise called On the Reckoning of Time (725), Bede included an epitome of the universal chronicle of Eusebius, as revised by Jerome, which Bede then divided according to Augustine’s six-age scheme of world history. Bede suggested that world history was simply the largest and most complex expression of providence, as natural as the movements of the sun and stars. Bede’s popular system, which had roots in earlier Irish computus, was adopted by seculars and monastics alike.48 During the central Middle Ages, greater expertise in computation led to the production of revised chronicles. While he was living as an anchorite in Mainz, the Irish monk Marianus Scotus created a new world Chronicle (c.1082) focusing on biblical, imperial, and Irish history, with new dates assigned according to his calculations. Marianus’ Chronicle formed the basis for the Worcester Chronicle (c.1141). This, in turn, became the model for chronicles used across southern England.49 Into Marianus’ imperial mould the Worcester monks poured information of particular interest to them from English, Norman, Frankish, Flemish, and Welsh sources. R.W. Southern characterised the Worcester enterprise as an attempt ‘to fit the facts of English history into a universal chronology’, but the monks’ further additions to the manuscript of a description of the holy places of Jerusalem and a full-page Crucifixion scene hint at more complex motives.50 As both Paul Hayward and Anne Lawrence-Mathers have argued, the Worcester Chronicle made it possible for readers to situate themselves at once in their community, in the world, and in salvation history.51 Through the Worcester monks’ revisions, Bede’s and Marianus’ essentially doctrinal vision of world history as a demonstration of divine order could become a responsive tool for monastic meditation. Just so, the 48 49 51

Bede, Reckoning of Time, pp. 353–66, xxii–xxvi. For other schemes, see de Ghellinck, L’essor de la littérature latine, pp. 317–18. John of Worcester, Chronicle, pp. xxi–lxv. 50 Southern, ‘Sense of the Past’, p. 73. Hayward (ed.), Winchcombe and Coverntry Chronicles, vol. i, pp. 37–55, 60–1, 72–3; LawrenceMathers, ‘John of Worcester’, p. 273.

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Worcester Chronicle lingers on visions, portents, and miracles to an extent that its models had eschewed. During the later Middle Ages, maps could accompany world chronicles. The thirteenth-century monk of St Albans Matthew Paris produced many maps in the course of his varied historiographical career.52 Paris’s maps of Britain are best known, but he also created an elaborate, multipage diagram at the head of his world historical Greater Chronicles (1240–59), laying out in pictorial form the pilgrim route from London to the Holy Land via Italy. Daniel Connolly has pointed out that readers can use Paris’s map as a double for the experience of pilgrimage itself, by moving carefully point by point up and down the page and pondering the historical details Paris has added to the margins.53 As with the Worcester monks’ revision of Marianus’ Chronicle, Paris’s collation of the itinerary and chronicle weds knowledge of world history to personal meditation. Paris’s map travels further along the path of giving a spatial dimension to historical memory than even the Worcester monks, however, by filling up the space between England and the Holy Land with new stories and dramatising pilgrimage’s practical difficulties. Later medieval authors, such as Ranulf Higden in his Polychronicon (1344), continued the pursuit of world history, albeit for more humanistic and less devotional ends.54 The Polychronicon demonstrates the continuous reimagination of inherited memorial culture in monasteries and affirms their enduring importance as foyers of intellectual change.55

Memories of the Neighbourhood: Local and Regional Histories Monasteries are perhaps most famous today as centres for commemorating people and events of local or regional significance. Such memories, of wider interest than autobiographical notices but more narrowly focused than universal chronicles, show monks and nuns at their most intellectually and artistically agile. Unlike concepts of self and the world, which were données of monastic formation, the creation and reception of local and regional memories forced writers to define a monastery’s social and geographical setting for themselves. The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis (1110x1115–1142), an English-born monk living in Normandy, envisions the local community of his home monastery of Saint-Évroul in

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Connolly, Maps of Matthew Paris. 53 Ibid., pp. 50–89; Chapter 18 below, pp. 329–30. Steiner, ‘Compendious Genres’, pp. 76–80. 55 Cf. James G. Clark, Monastic Renaissance.

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several ways. The History began an account of Saint-Évroul that focused on its founders and subsequent leaders as well as on major donors to the house, but very soon Orderic turns to events from Norman, and then Anglo-Norman, history. Forays into the Crusades, changes in monastic life, and events in other regions (notably southern Italy) follow. Modern readers might view these sections as digressions, but insofar as the monastery’s wealth, relic collection, and personnel were connected to these places or events, they constituted Saint-Évroul’s local history. Orderic book-ended these local memories with both personal and world historical memories. The last book ends with an autobiographical epilogue (moulded from the same biblical, liturgical, and patristic language Aelred and Abelard would use), and he prefaced the whole History with Lives of Christ and the Apostles and regnal accounts of the emperors of Rome, the kings of the Franks, and the popes. Orderic thus defined his local community differently at different points, and evidently he could not finish his account of local memory without articulating its connections both to the world and to himself.56 Memories of the neighbourhood permeated a much wider range of work than chronicles like the Ecclesiastical History. Liturgy, again, is important here. Depending on the festival, the assembled religious might hear stories about the life of their patron, the foundation of their house, or the origins of one of their principal relics.57 Margot Fassler has noted that the responsibility for providing texts for the Divine Office and for maintaining house histories frequently coincided.58 Memories of local events also intrude on biblical commentaries: William of Malmesbury’s commentary On Lamentations (1130x1135) used the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians to argue that the Norman invasion was divine retribution for English sin.59 Hagiographies also inscribed local memories, especially when saints had biographical connections with the monastic church or where they were physically present in the form of relics.60 Saints were also a part of the 56

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Chibnall, World of Orderic Vitalis, pp. 177–180; Hingst, Written World; Roach, ‘Material and Visual’; O’Donnell, ‘Meanders’. For monastic involvement in local and regional chronicles more generally, see van Houts, Local and Regional Chronicles, pp. 17–20, 27–33. Fassler, ‘Liturgical Framework’. For further examples, see Boynton, Shaping a Monastic Identity, pp. 184–229; Fassler, Virgin of Chartres; and Bugyis, Kraebel, and Fassler (eds.), Medieval Cantors. Fassler, ‘Liturgical Framework’, pp. 168–9. Eadmer, Symeon of Durham, and William of Malmesbury all served in this office. William of Malmesbury, On Lamentations, pp. 122–5. Rollason, Saints and Relics, pp. 196–202; Charles-Edwards, ‘Érlam’; Ó Riain, ‘Irish Saints’ Cults’; Clancy, ‘Big Man’; Chapter 24 below.

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history of the whole world, and ‘universal saints’ attracted fervid commemoration. The ninth-century Martyrology of Tallaght generally keeps ‘Roman’ and ‘Irish’ saints apart, but Ælfric of Eynsham’s late tenthcentury collection of lives mixes local and universal saints together.61 In high medieval Britain, communities’ demands for high quality texts commemorating local saints inspired historiographic revivals. After a period of relative quiet, Rhygyfarch’s Life of David (1095) and Lifris’s Life of Cadog (c.1100) mark a new departure for Welsh history writing.62 Meanwhile, across the border, a revival whose earliest stirrings appear in the works of Goscelin of Saint-Bertin and his Flemish compatriot Folcard (d.1085) was getting underway in England. Soon afterward, Turgot’s Life of Margaret (1100x1107) became the first Scottish saint’s Life to survive since the eighth century.63 It has become customary to see English saints’ Lives as responses to a Norman threat to specifically English monastic practices, yet the Welsh and Scottish parallels suggest a broader, more complicated phenomenon at work, in which non-Benedictine individuals played a large part.64 Perhaps the most prominent form of local history writing in monasteries was the cartulary. This was a collection of documents recording a community’s right to certain properties and privileges, whether through copies of charters or through simple memoranda noting conveyance. Cartularies frequently included narrative as well as documents. Cartularies contributed to a community’s liturgy by clarifying the monastery’s duty to pray for particular benefactors, but their administrative characters had a spiritual value of their own. Jocelin of Brakelond reported around 1202 that his abbot Samson consulted the survey of Bury’s possessions and rights called the Kalendar ‘almost every day, as though it were a mirror where he could contemplate the face of his own probity’.65 With such tools, Samson theoretically freed the monks in his charge to pursue 61 62

63 64

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Best and Lawlor (eds.), Martyrology of Tallaght; Ælfric, Lives of the Saints I, vol. i, pp. 2–3. John Reuben Davies, ‘Saints of South Wales’, pp. 380–95; Rhygyfarch, ‘Life of St David’; WadeEvans (ed.), ‘Vita sancti Cadoci’; Brooke, The Church and the Welsh Border, pp. 70–94; and Chapter 12 below. Fraser, ‘Hagiography’, p. 106; Macquarrie, Saints of Scotland, pp. 1–14, 236–7. Rhygyfarch belonged to the clas church of Llanbadarn and fathered a son, Sulien ap Rhygyfarch; Lifris has been identified as the son of Bishop Herewald of Glamorgan and belonged to the clas church of Llancarfan (Brooke, The Church and the Welsh Border, p. 73); Turgot wrote Margaret’s Life for the saint’s daughter, Queen Edith-Matilda. Later in the twelfth century, Cistercians, like Aelred of Rievaulx and Jocelin of Furness, took the lead in writing Scottish saints’ Lives. For Jocelin’s sources for a Life of Kentigern, some of which must date to the mid-twelfth century, see Birkett, Saints’ Lives, pp. 85–113, 171–99. R.H.C. Davis (ed.), Kalendar; ‘librum fere cotidie inspexit, tanquam ibi consideraret uultum probitatis sue in speculo’ (Jocelin of Brakelond, Chronicle, p. 29).

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their vocation without anxiety over worldly goods – rich in possessions, they were ‘poor in spirit’.66 The mixed composition of early monastic communities facilitated the preservation of memories of more than ecclesiastical interest: the midtenth-century Exeter Book of Old English poetry probably owes its origins to a church community,67 and we have twelfth-century scribes at Clonmacnoise and Oughaval to thank for the monuments of Irish mythological history found in the Book of the Dun Cow and the Book of Leinster, respectively. As Katharine Simms discusses in this volume, however, the regularisation of monastic discipline in Ireland after the twelfth century saw a shift towards greater secular patronage of Irish senchaide.68 Outside Ireland, later medieval communities continued to record memories, too, and their works frequently betray the interests of secular outsiders, whether chroniclers wrote in opposition to their neighbours or out of a desire to please and flatter them. Welsh Cistercians, for instance, played a key role in preserving local Welsh history and literature: the Margam Annals completed after 1232 are an important source for twelfthand thirteenth-century Glamorgan, and Strata Florida was the central player in the compilation and circulation of Brut y Tywysogion.69 The openness of later medieval monks and nuns to books of all kinds proved critical to the survival of much material from the earlier period, especially from Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.70 As late as 1461, the monks of Dunfermline were exposed to early medieval Irish origin narratives similar to those found in the Book of Leinster when they set to revising Walter Bower’s Scotichronicon (1447), which was itself a revision of John of Fordun’s fourteenth-century Chronicles of the Scottish People.71 Monks’ and nuns’ self-conscious curation of earlier archives affected their compositional habits. These could be cumulative and echoic, producing works with multiple historical layers. In the 1390s at St Albans, Thomas Walsingham’s Deeds of the Abbots revised a 1255 work by Matthew Paris that had been, in turn, a reworking of a twelfth-century record associated with a certain Adam the Cellarer.72 Marginal notes in the Book of the Dun Cow and the Book of Leinster advertised their debts to 66 68 69 70 71 72

Constable, Reformation, pp. 148–50. 67 Gameson, ‘Origin of the Exeter Book’. See Chapter 16, pp. 289–91. David H. Williams, Welsh Cistercians, vol. i, pp. 161–3; Chapter 12 below. Sims-Williams, ‘Uses of Writing’; Huws, Medieval Welsh Manuscripts, pp. 1–9. Royan with Broun, ‘Versions of Scottish Nationhood’, p. 173; Goldstein, Matter of Scotland, pp. 104–32. GA, vol. i, pp. 3–4 n. 2.

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a lost monastic compilation known as the Book of Drumsnat,73 while Owain Wyn Jones and Huw Pryce discuss the complex layering at work in Brut y Tywysogion.74 Far from encouraging a flat or antiquated style, the depth of monastic archives could foster an acute sense of modernity. When Clemence of Barking reworked an older French text of the Life of Saint Catherine for her community around 1200, she noted that although the older version had been ‘well presented according to the standards of the time’, nowadays a fickle public demanded a sleeker style.75 For other authors, the time for their works had not come but they could be confident that their efforts would eventually bear fruit. About a century before Clemence, in 1095, Hemming of Worcester hoped his cartulary would be useful to a future officer of the monastery who could claim alienated properties from the king ‘when he should find that the time is right’.76 Hemming’s expectation of future revision makes it clear that the monastery’s archival activities constituted an ongoing, deliberate process: nuns and monks were creatively reworking the past even when they only admitted to passive reception and transmission.77 This cross-generational creative intensity, which was at the heart of monastic memorial activity, is worth emphasising. The political value of monastic historical writing has become something of a cliché in the scholarship, as this or that unacknowledged contemporary issue is adduced as the ‘real’ reason for this or that composition. But historical writing constituted for monks and nuns a field of inquiry steeped in philosophical significance and personal meaning in addition to being vessels for moral education and political and economic self-defence. History and other forms of memorialisation furnished monks and nuns with occasions to explore sticky ethical, political, and metaphysical problems and provided the occasion for reimagining current political configurations in the elevated terms of the past.78 This intellectual and artistic complexity, which overlaps with but does not map directly onto the cultural and social networks of monastic writers from all periods, deserves more emphasis than approaches merely grounded in political and social history usually allow. 73 75 76 77 78

Herbert, ‘Crossing Boundaries’. 74 Chapter 12 below. ‘Sulunc le tens bien ordené’. Clemence of Barking, Life of St. Catherine, p. 2, line 36. ‘dum tempus aptum invenerit’. Hemming of Worcester, Hemingi chartularium, p. 283. Geary, Phantoms of Remembrance; Chapter 11 below. The philosophical content of history was a legacy of classical historians. For a sensitive account of one monastic author, see Sønnesyn, William of Malmesbury. For histories’ use to define ethnic and national identities, see Hen and Innes (eds.), Uses of the Past.

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chapter 3

Apocalypse and/as History Richard K. Emmerson

Although we think of history and apocalypse as opposite in many ways, history focusing on past deeds and apocalypse on events prophesied for the future, the medieval conception of history – especially universal history – understands it as extending from Creation to Doomsday. It is to be viewed sub specie aeternitatis as confirming God’s providential control of human affairs not only in the past, but also in the present and future as events unfold before the certain, perhaps imminent, return of Christ in glory. On the one hand, history to medieval Christians has a profound teleological trajectory progressing inevitably towards the Last Days and culminating at the Last Judgement. On the other hand, just as history looks forward to the future, so apocalypticism examines the past to elucidate the full scope of ‘salvation history’, which is outlined in scripture, revealed in ecclesiastical and political history, and manifest in recent affairs. It is firmly grounded in human action as well as supernatural events. Its all-encompassing apocalyptic structure is set forth in the Apocalypse of John (Book of Revelation), in which Christ identifies himself as both Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8, 21:6, 22:13), the beginning and end of time. Apocalyptic prophecy thus shaped ‘the outline of historical thought for several centuries’, as Richard Southern emphasises, becoming during the central Middle Ages ‘the chief inspiration of all historical thinking’.1 Failure to recognise the close association of history and apocalypse has meant that an important aspect of medieval historical thinking has been overlooked, creating a lacuna in surveys of post-Conquest English medieval historiography.2 This oversight may be due to a strict notion of history that focuses primarily on monastic chronicles or on narratives tracing the emergence of national religious and political themes. Even surveys taking an ecumenical approach to historical writing and acknowledging the 1 2

Southern, ‘History as Prophecy’, p. 49. See, for example, Gransden’s otherwise comprehensive Historical Writing.

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difficulty of distinguishing it ‘from hagiography, from collections of legal or administrative documents with linking and interpretive commentary, or from romance’ do not include history embedded in apocalyptic texts.3 More surprisingly, a recent study of scriptural influence on medieval historical thinking, which emphasises how ‘the Bible was essential for understanding the past, present, and future in the medieval period’, quickly dismisses prophetic history.4 The present study, after providing an overview of the apocalyptic structure of universal history, begins to address this lacuna in discussions of English historiography. It is a large topic deserving in-depth analysis supported by many examples. This brief chapter, however, can only hint at the range of evidence by focusing on two quite different illustrated English manuscripts that intertwine history and prophecy and use images to direct the reader-viewer’s understanding of the integration of past, present, and future in universal history.

Structures of Medieval Universal History Medieval exegetes and historians, drawing on early Church writers such as Eusebius, Jerome, Augustine, and Orosius, structured universal history primarily in four ways, each based on Christian interpretations of scripture. The most basic structure distinguished Synagoga and Ecclesia, the Jewish ‘past’ and Christian ‘present’, often symbolised by a blindfolded Synagoga holding law tables juxtaposed to a crowned Ecclesia holding a chalice. This two-part division informing typological history, exegesis, and imagery is encapsulated by the Christian Bible in the Old and New Testaments, Genesis detailing the beginning of history and Revelation its culmination. This radical division of universal history was inserted into historical accounts through the anno domini dating system introduced in the sixth-century Easter table of Dionysius Exiguus and popularised by Bede (c.673–735).5 It informs late medieval illustrated didactic works such as Biblia pauperum and Speculum humanae salvationis manuscripts, which highlight the life of Christ and other New Testament events by picturing their Old Testament prophetic types, often concluding with the Last Judgement. The two dispensations were further elaborated by a second historical structure based on the Pauline notion of Three Laws. The Old Testament 3 4 5

Martin and Thomson, ‘History and History Books’, p. 397. Jennifer A. Harris, ‘Bible and Meaning of History’, pp. 85, 95. Declercq, Anno Domini, pp. 97–130, 169–79. On visual typology see Emmerson, ‘Figura’.

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was divided ante legem and sub lege by the Law given to Moses, those living before the Ten Commandments following a natural law written on their hearts (Romans 2:14–16).6 The New Testament then records the law of grace, sub gratia, to continue until the end of time. This tripartite structure of history was outlined by Isidore of Seville in his influential Etymologiae (c.630).7 It informs much monastic exegesis and history and influences medieval cultural works. For example, the impressive Latin music drama from the Bavarian abbey of Tegernsee, the Ludus de Antichristo (c.1155–60), begins with the sung processions of the three great peoples representing the three ‘laws’ in historical order: Gentilitas enters with the king of Babylon, Synagoga with the Jews, and Ecclesia with Justice and Mercy followed by the pope and the Roman emperor. They provide the historical context for the dramatic events of the Last Days, when the Last World Emperor gives up his crown on Golgotha and Antichrist gains authority until a sudden crash of thunder brings his rule to an end as all await Christ’s return.8 This tripartite historical structure thus also culminates in apocalypse. A third organisation of history is based on the prophecies of the Book of Daniel. This Hebrew apocalypse pseudonymously attributed to the prophet Daniel is set during the Babylonian Captivity (sixth century bce) but was written much later, probably under the rule of the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes (167–164 bce) who is charged with desecrating the temple in Jerusalem, the apocalyptic ‘abomination of desolation’ (‘abominatio desolationis’) (Daniel 9:27; cf. Matthew 24:15). It records two visions (Daniel 2 and 7) understood to prophesy the history of four great ‘kingdoms’. Jerome, whose commentary on Daniel was exceptionally influential throughout the Middle Ages, interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of a great statue composed of four metals (Daniel 2) as follows: the gold head symbolises Babylon, the silver breast and arms the Medes and Persians, the brass belly and thighs the Macedonians and Alexander the Great’s successors, and the iron legs Rome.9 The statue stands precariously on feet of iron and clay because ‘in these last days there is nothing more feeble [than Rome], since we require the assistance of barbarian tribes both in our civil wars and against foreign nations’.10 Jerome also identifies the 6 7 8 9 10

See Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, i–ii, q. 91, a. 2. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, vi.xvii.16 (for translation, see Etymologies, ed. Barney et al., p. 144). Emmerson, Antichrist, pp. 166–72. On Jerome’s theory of the four empires and eschatology, see Courtray, Prophete des temps derniers, pp. 391–437. Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel, p. 32. ‘Ita et in fine rerum nihil imbecillius, quando et in bellis ciuilibus et aduersum diuersas nationes aliarum gentium barbararum indigemus auxilio’ – Commentariorum in Danielem, 1.2, p. 795.

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four visionary beasts of Daniel 7 as the same kingdoms.11 Medieval interpretations of the four kingdoms not only trace their reigns in chronological order, but also emphasise their sequence as following a geographic movement from east to west, a providential translatio imperii leading to a Christian Roman empire expected to endure until the Last Days.12 Rome was thus identified as the power restraining Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:6).13 Finally, symbolised by the little horn of Daniel 7:8, Antichrist will supplant the fourth beast and its followers and appear at the end of time to be destroyed by Christ’s return in glory.14 Similarly, the statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is annihilated by the rock hurling from heaven (Daniel 2:44–5), which symbolises Christ.15 This four-part outline of political history thus also culminates in the apocalyptic destruction of earthly power. The fourth and most influential medieval historiographic model is based on an analogy with the six days of Creation week, which were interpreted to represent Six Ages (aetates) of history to be followed by a seventh ‘sabbath age’. The scheme was authoritatively set forth by Augustine, who at the conclusion of his City of God briefly outlines the ages, explaining how the first five are measured by generations rather than years and divide history from Adam until Christ’s first advent: the first age lasts from Adam to the Flood, the second from the Flood to Abraham, the third from Abraham to David, the fourth from David to the Babylonian exile, and the fifth until ‘the coming of Christ in the flesh’ (‘usque ad Christi carnalem natiuitatem’). Augustine then comments: ‘We are now in the sixth epoch, but that cannot be measured by the number of generations, because it is said, “It is not for you to know the dates: the Father has decided those by his own authority.”’16 Augustine opposed the notion that each age would encompass a literal thousand years, but despite his admonitions the Six Ages were often linked to the belief that the world would last six millennia, each age comprising a thousand years, the day–age analogy buttressed by scripture: ‘one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a 11 13

14 16

Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel, pp. 72–6. 12 Chenu, ‘Theology’, pp. 185–7. For example, Adso of Montier-en-Der, whose Libellus de Antichristo (c.950) is extant in various recensions in more than 170 manuscripts, assures the Frankish Queen Gerberga that Antichrist will not come as long as the Roman empire endures through the kings of the Franks (p. 93). Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel, pp. 77–82. 15 Ibid., p. 32. Augustine, City of God, p. 1091. ‘Sexta nunc agitur nullo generationum numero metienda propter id quod dictum est: Non est uestrum scire tempora, quae Pater posuit in sua potestate.’ De civitate Dei, 22.30, pp. 865–6. On the theory of the ages, see Luneau, L’histoire du salut, esp. on Augustine, pp. 285–356. Later versions of the Six Ages sometimes begin the Fourth Age with Moses and the Fifth with the prophets.

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thousand years as one day’ (unus dies apud Dominum sicut mille anni, et mille anni sicut dies unus) (2 Peter 3:8; cf. Psalm 89:4). Thus Bede, three centuries after Augustine, warned those who believed the world would last 6,000 years: ‘No one should pay heed to those who speculate that the existence of this world was determined from the beginning at 6,000 years.’17 Opposing those who set dates for Christ’s return and naively treated contemporary events as signs of the end, early Christian and Carolingian exegesis spiritualised Revelation as an allegory of the Church and eschewed its historical interpretation. One of the most important Carolingian commentators, Haimo of Auxerre (d.c.875), insists that Revelation contains nothing historical and that prophecy does not follow the order of history, for example.18 Nevertheless, Bede, whose work repeatedly blends history and exegesis, introduced a historical perspective in his early Apocalypse commentary (c.703–9), drawing on the Six Ages to interpret the seven trumpets: ‘The previous six trumpets, which are likened to the ages of this world, announced the varying courses of the Church’s wars. But the seventh, announcing the eternal sabbath, indicates the victory and the supreme rule of the true king.’19 Later Bede’s influential De temporum ratione (c.725), extant in some 250 manuscripts, significantly elaborates Augustine’s brief outline of the Six Ages, dating each from Creation according to the annus mundi system and enhancing biblical with ancient and more recent history. His universal chronicle often points forward, arguing typologically, for example, that Solomon’s temple ‘was finished in seven years, and dedicated in the seventh month of the eighth year, as a symbol of the totality of time in which the Church of Christ, which is made perfect in the future, is built up in this world’.20 He dates the birth of Christ to annus mundi 3952, following the ‘Hebrew Truth’ of the Masoretic text rather than the influential Eusebian chronicle translated by Jerome and based on the Greek Septuagint.21 Bede places the beginning of the new 17 18

19

20

21

Bede, Reckoning of Time, p. 239. ‘Neque enim ullatenus sunt audiendi, qui suspicantur huius saeculi statum sex milium annorum ab initio fuisse definitum’ – De temporum ratione, p. 536. Haimo of Auxerre, Expositionis in Apocalypsin: ‘In hac autem revelatione nihil historicum est accipiendum’ (938); ‘prophetia non servat ordinem historiae; quod si faceret, iam non prophetia sed historia esset’ (1009–10). Bede, Commentary on Revelation, p. 187. ‘Sex tubae priores saeculi praesentis aetatibus conparatae uarios bellorum ecclesiae denuntiauere concursus, septima uero sabbati aeterni nuntia uictoriam tantum et imperium ueri regis indicat’ – Explanatio Apocalypsis, 2.18, p. 383. Bede, Reckoning of Time, p. 172. ‘Quod in figuram uniuersi temporis, quo in hoc saeculo Christi aedificatur ecclesia quae in futuro perficitur, VII annis perfecit et septimo octaui anni mense dedicauit’ – De temporum ratione, 66, p. 476. On the significance of various annus mundi calculations, see Landes, ‘Lest the Millennium’.

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era in the forty-second year of Caesar Augustus during the Pax Romana, when ‘Jesus Christ, the Son of God, hallowed the Sixth Age of the world by His coming.’22 After tracing the Sixth Age to his own time and place – to the death of Abbot Ceolfrid – Bede then shifts into the prophetic future, describing ‘The Remainder of the Sixth Age’.23 Always orthodox, he emphasises that its end cannot be calculated but identifies two clear signs of doomsday, the conversion of the Jews and the reign of Antichrist.24 The close association of universal history and apocalyptic expectation continued in later medieval histories. Matthew Paris’s Chronica majora (c.1240–53), structured according to the Six Ages, details each by synthesising biblical, ancient, and legendary history, adding an apocalyptic perspective at various points. For example, while the Third Age discusses Abraham, the Trojan War, and the arrival of Brutus in Albion, and the Fourth recounts David, Romulus and Remus, and King Lear, Matthew precedes the Fifth Age with a long Sibylline prophecy that concludes with Antichrist, Gog and Magog, and the Last Judgement.25 The account of Daniel’s Four Kingdoms, with a focus on Alexander the Great, then follows during the Fifth Age, which ends with the birth of Christ dated according to the Eusebius/Jerome chronology to annus mundi 5199. In the important autograph manuscript now in Cambridge (Corpus Christi College, MS 26), a drawing of the Nativity depicts Mary reclining next to Jesus attended by an ox and ass (fol. 15v).26 Placed in the lower margin, this simple iconic scene marks the Sixth Age introduced by a decorated initial ‘A’ followed by a rubric, ‘De nativitate domini nostri Jesu Christi’ (fol. 15v). Matthew Paris contextualises Christ’s birth in terms of ancient, biblical, and legendary history by dating it within the reigns of Augustus in Rome, Herod in Judea, and Cymbeline in Britain. Citing the ‘fiat lux’ of Creation (Genesis 1:3), Matthew explains how Christ’s birth illuminates the world at the beginning of the Sixth Age. Below the drawing he then adds two lines of verse dating the Annunciation ‘ab origine mundi’, which are followed by three lines prophesying Antichrist’s arrival in 1250.27 These verses encapsulate the entire span of salvation history, the opening of the Sixth Age bringing to mind both the beginning of history 22 23 24 25 26 27

Bede, Reckoning of Time, p. 195. ‘Iesus Christus filius Dei sextum mundi aetatem suo consecrauit aduentu’ – De temporum ratione, 66, p. 495. Bede, Reckoning of Time, p. 239. ‘De reliquis Sexta Aetatis’ is the title of chap. 67 of De temporum ratione, p. 535. Bede, Reckoning of Time, p. 241. On Bede’s eschatology, see Darby, End of Time. CM, vol. i, pp. 42–52. On Matthew Paris, see also Chapter 18 below. See Suzanne Lewis, Art of Matthew Paris, pp. 102–3, fig. 56. ‘Cum fuerint anni transacti mille ducenti / Et quinquaginta post partum Virginis almae / Tunc antichristus nascetur demone plenus.’ CM, vol. i, p. 81 n. 1.

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and its imminent apocalyptic end. The newborn Christ is thus understood as Alpha and Omega. As Michael I. Allen notes, the Six Ages became ‘virtually an obligatory feature in subsequent medieval efforts to chart human history’.28 The popularisation of the structure is evident in vernacular verse chronicles based on the Six Ages, such as the early fourteenth-century Cursor mundi, which concludes with the life of Antichrist and Fifteen Signs of Doomsday.29 Similarly, late medieval English mystery cycles begin with Creation, represent the first five ages by staging plays on Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham and Isaac, Moses, and the prophets, then focus on Christ and the beginning of the Sixth Age, and conclude with Doomsday. The Chester Cycle culminates with two unique plays that exemplify the widespread belief that the Sixth Age extends from Christ to Antichrist. The ‘Prophets of Antichrist’ includes Daniel’s prophecy of the Four Kingdoms, prophesies the conversion of the Jews by Enoch and Elijah, and enumerates the Fifteen Signs of Doomsday. The ‘Coming of Antichrist’ then stages the false Christ’s deceits, miracles, tyranny, and death.30 Such historical structures were pervasive in both learned and popular texts and show how the Six Ages, like the Two Dispensations, Three Laws, and Four Kingdoms, were integral features of medieval universal history. Each structure, furthermore, is inherently apocalyptic, organising and tracing history as it moves inexorably towards the Last Days, Antichrist’s rule, and finally Christ’s return at Doomsday. What is often not recognised, however, is how more explicitly apocalyptic texts in turn integrate, modify, and expand these historical structures. The remainder of this chapter will examine ways in which apocalyptic texts embed history in their interpretations of Revelation and the prophetic future. Although many examples could be cited, the focus will be on two illustrated manuscripts because they provide compelling visual evidence of the ways in which historical structures are central to apocalyptic discourse.

Apocalypse and History: Berengaudus An important historicised commentary on Revelation that has received little attention in studies of medieval exegesis and history is the Expositio super septem visiones libri Apocalypsis of Berengaudus.31 His identity is 28 30 31

Allen, ‘Universal History’, p. 38. 29 Emmerson, Antichrist, pp. 160–1. Ibid., pp. 180–7; Emmerson, ‘Nowe ys common’. On the commentary’s characteristics see Emmerson, Apocalypse Illuminated, pp. 112–16.

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uncertain, but he was likely a Benedictine writing towards the end of the eleventh century and, based on the number of his early manuscripts deriving from English monastic libraries, was probably English.32 His exegesis is primarily ecclesiological and prophetic, but it also detects many historical patterns in visionary symbols and numbers. The opening of the first four seals (Revelation 6:1–8), for example, inspires a lengthy discussion of Old Testament history and expands on the traditional Three Laws by explaining how the first seal refers to those before the Flood, the second the patriarchs between the Flood and the Law, the third the doctors of the Law, and the fourth the doctors of the Church.33 The four angels restraining the winds (Revelation 7:1) recall the Four Kingdoms of Daniel, which Berengaudus designates as Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome.34 The brief silence in heaven when the seventh seal is opened (Revelation 8:1) is the Pax Romana at Christ’s nativity, ended by Nero’s persecution.35 The seven horns of the Lamb (Revelation 5:6) represent God’s elect, historically those before the Flood, those after the Flood, those under the law, the prophets, Jews believing in Christ, gentiles (i.e. the Christian elect), and finally those born at the end of the world who will battle Antichrist.36 In contrast, the seven heads of the Dragon that harasses the Woman clothed in the sun (Revelation 12) enumerate historical opponents of God’s chosen, beginning with sinners before the Flood and concluding with Antichrist.37 The commentary of Berengaudus is important because it accompanies a large group of illustrated Apocalypses produced in England during the third quarter of the thirteenth century.38 Many of these manuscripts place about ninety large rectangular miniatures depicting apocalyptic scenes above selections from Revelation and Berengaudus. Two related manuscripts probably made in London, the Gulbenkian Apocalypse (Lisbon, Museu Gulbenkian, L.A. 139; c.1265–70) and slightly later Abingdon Apocalypse (London, BL, Additional MS 42555; c.1270–5), devote miniatures to both the biblical and commentary texts.39 Gulbenkian, for example, includes a large cycle of 152 miniatures, almost doubling the usual number because it alternates illustrations of the biblical text with scenes based on the commentary.40 They particularly contrast Ecclesia and 32 33 36 38 39 40

See Morgan, ‘Illustrated Apocalypses’, pp. 5, 19 nn. 18–19. Berengaudus, Expositio, cols. 812–38. 34 Ibid., col. 842. 35 Ibid., col. 848. Ibid., col. 809. 37 Ibid., col. 876. Suzanne Lewis, ‘Exegesis’. For the Anglo-French Apocalypse tradition, see Emmerson and Lewis, ‘Census’; and Emmerson, Apocalypse Illuminated, pp. 111–60. On Gulbenkian, see Emmerson and Lewis, ‘Census’, p. 383, no. 62; on Abingdon, ibid., 387, no. 71. Facsimile in Morgan et al. (eds.), Apocalipsis Gulbenkian.

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Synagoga, the fundamental distinction of medieval universal history. The commentary miniature depicting the book with the seven seals, for example, explicitly answers the central apocalyptic question: ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to loose the seals thereof’ (‘Quis est dignus aperire librum, et solvere signacula eius?’) (Revelation 5:2). In the biblical text, one of the Twenty-Four Elders answers (Revelation 5:5), but the miniature (fol. 4r; Figure 1) instead shows a patriarch offering the book to the Lamb, thus visualising the exegetical commonplace that identified the sealed book as the Old Testament that, when opened, reveals the New Testament. On the left the Lamb, its identity established by a cruciform nimbus, bleeds into a chalice held by the crowned Ecclesia. Gripping a banner mirroring that held by the Lamb, she is enthroned against a brilliant gold background and within a Gothic church. To the right of a man holding a scroll and looking towards a bearded man wearing a Jew’s cap, the blindfolded Synagoga, seated in a domed temple and holding a broken lance, lets the tables of Law slip from her right hand.41 The scene effectively contrasts Ecclesia and Synagoga through sets of parallel symbols: crown and blindfold, upright and broken banners, chalice and tables of Law, large towered church and narrow domed temple. In another image further explicating the vision of the Lamb (Revelation 5:6) the Gulbenkian Apocalypse continues to link apocalyptic prophecy and history. The significance of the seven horns of the Lamb holding the sealed book is interpreted by a complex miniature with eight compartments (fol. 6r; Figure 2).42 The large scene on the left depicts the present Sixth Age in which a group of religious worship before an altar with a crucifix, chalice, and icon of the Virgin and Child. The foundation of this worship is underscored by the adjoining upper scene representing the beginning of the Sixth Age. It depicts the resurrected Christ with cruciform nimbus holding Ecclesia’s banner of victory and the Agnus Dei, thereby alluding to the earlier miniature (Figure 1). The ‘New Adam’ is contrasted with the naked Adam on the right. He stands next to a tree and is watched by bearded men representing the First Age. The Second Age is next signified by Noah’s ark floating on the Flood waters, followed by the Third Age represented by the building of the Temple. In the lower left the prophets of the Fourth Age hold a banner inscribed ‘Agnus Dei’, recalling the symbol held by the resurrected Christ above. They look towards the next compartment, which depicts Berengaudus’ identification of the Lamb’s fifth horn with Jews who believe in Christ by showing John baptising Jesus. The larger final compartment on 41

Suzanne Lewis, ‘Commentary Illustrations’, pp. 115–17.

42

Ibid., pp. 104, 107–8.

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Figure 1 Commentary illustration for Revelation 5:2: Ecclesia and Lamb, book with seals, and Synagoga. Gulbenkian Apocalypse, c.1265–70. Lisbon, Gulbenkian Museum, L.A. 139, fol. 4r.

the lower right then shifts to the end of the Sixth Age, where bishops preach against Antichrist and his converts. Standing on a hill and straddling hell’s mouth, he is about to be destroyed by ‘the spirit of Christ’s mouth’ (‘spiritu oris sui’) (2 Thessalonians 2:8), represented by winds emanating from four

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Figure 2 Commentary illustration for vision of the Lamb (Revelation 5:6): Religious worship at altar and Resurrection; Six Ages of History; and Antichrist. Gulbenkian Apocalypse, c.1265–70. Lisbon, Gulbenkian Museum, L.A. 139, fol. 6r.

heads above Antichrist.43 This apocalyptic visualisation of the Six Ages emphasises salvation history through worship, the resurrected Christ, 43

On Antichrist’s death, see Emmerson, Antichrist, pp. 37–9.

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prophetic scroll, baptised Christ, and bishops preaching against Antichrist. Other Gulbenkian miniatures similarly interpret apocalyptic scenes in the context of universal history.

Apocalypse as History: Pseudo-Methodius, Revelations A very different yet influential treatment of universal history is outlined in the Revelations pseudonymously attributed to Saint Methodius of Olympus (martyred c.311). It was written in Syriac c.692, perhaps in reaction to the building of the Dome of the Rock, and was soon translated into Greek (c.700) and Latin (c.720).44 Tracing history from Adam and Eve to the release of Gog and Magog, the reign of the Last World Emperor, the rule of Antichrist, and the Last Judgement, it provides ‘a sweeping narrative and a meditation on the course of human history’.45 Its structure, however, does not follow the Six Ages, as has been claimed, but a scheme of seven millennia.46 It places the Flood, for example, at the end of the second millennium and notably neither dates nor discusses the birth of Christ. The text focuses on early Old Testament, Hellenistic, and Byzantine history, recounting Cain’s murder of Abel, the building of Babylon, the Babylonian and Medo-Persian kingdoms, Alexander the Great’s enclosing of Gog and Magog behind gates in the Caucasus mountains, and the legendary origins of Byzantium.47 Responding to the rise of Islam, it refers to the invasions of the ‘sons of Ishmael’ twice. Early in its outline of Old Testament history Gideon defeats the Ishmaelites, but they return during the seventh millennium as God’s judgement on sinful Christianity. Their violent reign, described in brutal detail, continues until ‘the king of the Greeks, that is, of the Romans will spring upon them in great anger’.48 The Latin text became very popular during the Middle Ages and is extant in long and short versions in more than 200 manuscripts.49 The short Latin text deletes much of the original’s account of the time between the first and second Ishmaelite invasions, thus reducing the role of Alexander the Great and the Byzantine prominence of the original and 44 45 46 47 48 49

Reinink, ‘Ps.-Methodius’, pp. 182–5; Grifoni, ‘New Witness’, p. 455. Pseudo-Methodius, Apocalypse, p. xiii. Garstad edits and translates the Greek and Latin texts. Bunt, ‘Middle English Translations’, p. 132. Alexander, Byzantine Apocalyptic Tradition, pp. 13–51. Pseudo-Methodius, Apocalypse, pp. 127, 129 (‘Et exiliet super eos rex Grecorum, sive Romanorum, in furore magno’, pp. 126, 128). See the lists in Laureys and Verhelst, ‘Pseudo-Methodius’. On the two recensions of the long version, see Gantner, ‘Hoffnung in der Apokalypse?’, pp. 528–36. On the short version, see Richard Matthew Pollard, ‘One Other on Another’, pp. 33–5.

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moving cursorily from Old Testament to recent history and eschatology. The short version was particularly popular in England, where it was recognised as both history and prophecy.50 For example, Matthew Paris, discussing the generations of Adam at the beginning of his Chronica majora, cites it as ‘Methodorus martyr’ and as inspired by the Holy Spirit.51 It is also included in several English prophetic anthologies, where selections are interspersed with prophetic and historical texts. A fifteenth-century Latin manuscript at the University of Notre Dame, for instance, places it among various prophecies, an English chronicle ranging from Noah to 1412, and an excerpt from Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica.52 Three Middle English versions of Revelations are extant in verse and prose, all based on the short Latin text.53 One of the prose versions is included in a miscellany of devotional, historical, hagiographic, and eschatological texts produced in a Carthusian house in northern England c.1460–70 (BL, Additional 37049).54 Above the text in lightly framed horizontal compartments are twenty-three drawings illustrating the twelve pages (fols. 11r–16v) inscribing Pseudo-Methodius.55 These represent the three broad subjects highlighted in its introduction, a concise description of universal history: ‘it tretys of þe begynyng of þe warld & of þe endyng, & also of þinges þat has fallen & sal falle’ (fol. 11r). Opening scenes depict the creation of Eve from Adam’s side, the expulsion from Paradise and Cain’s murder of Abel (fol. 11r), the city Seth builds next to Paradise and the Flood (fol. 11v), Noah and his family kneeling in prayer, the Tower of Babel, and the invention of astronomy by Noah’s son Jonitus (fol. 12r). The drawings conclude with eschatological subjects introduced by a scene of revelry (Figure 3). Above the first line stating ‘it is in þe ende of þe warld’ (fol. 15v), men and women feast and marry ‘as it was in þe dayes of Noe’ (Matthew 24:37), thus linking the end of the world to its destruction by the Flood shown earlier (fol. 11v). Gog and Magog are then depicted as giant cannibals and armies marching through mountains, the inscription stating ‘Gog & Magog cometh 50 51 52 53

54 55

Twomey, ‘Revelationes’, p. 381 n. 9, adds five to the forty-eight English manuscripts listed by Laureys and Verhelst, ‘Pseudo-Methodius’. CM, vol. i, p. 3. University of Notre Dame Library, MS 40. See Coote, Prophecy, p. 270. For other English prophetic anthologies including Pseudo-Methodius, see Coote, pp. 242, 244, 247, 267, 269, 279. D’Evelyn, ‘Middle-English Metrical’, which also transcribes the short Latin version; and PseudoMethodius, ‘Bygynnyng of the World’, pp. 94–112. Bunt, ‘Middle English Translations’, pp. 135–42, shows that the two prose versions closely follow the short Latin text. Although it does not discuss Pseudo-Methodius, the best study of the manuscript is Brantley, Reading in the Wilderness. Emmerson, ‘Imagining and Imaging the End’, pp. 171–8.

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Figure 3 Feasting and marrying as in days of Noah; Release of Gog and Magog. Pseudo-Methodius, Revelations. Carthusian Miscellany, c.1460–70. London, British Library, Additional MS 37049, fol. 15v.

oute of the mountes of caspy & eteth mans fleshe & drynketh mans blode’ (fol. 15v). Although the Middle English text, following the short Latin version, does not relate how Alexander enclosed the barbarous peoples, their visual depiction here demonstrates the enduring power of the legend.56 In the next scene (fol. 16r) they are killed, not by the Last World Emperor, who is never shown, but by power streaming down from Christ in heaven. The final three scenes focus on Antichrist. The first (fol. 16r) emphasises his bloody persecution of the faithful. The second (fol. 16v), rather than showing Jews converted by Enoch and Elijah, as detailed by both Latin and Middle English versions, focuses on their execution by Antichrist. The last image (fol. 16v) shows his destruction through supernatural intervention. It suggests that he is killed by the ‘spirit of Christ’s mouth’ (2 Thessalonians 2:8) as an angel pushes him off his throne and a demon pulls him into hell.57 The Last Judgement, not based on the text of Pseudo-Methodius, is pictured next (fol. 17 r). The Carthusian Miscellany illustrations provide a visual exegesis of Pseudo-Methodius, directing the viewer-reader’s attention to specific scenes and shaping response to its apocalyptic history. The images are very selective, highlighting certain textual scenes and eliding others, creating an ideological reading of the historical past and apocalyptic

56

See Anderson, Alexander’s Gate.

57

See Emmerson, ‘Beyond the Apocalypse’, pp. 99–102.

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Figure 4 Crusading scene; peace after defeat of Saracens. Pseudo-Methodius, Revelations. Carthusian Miscellany, c.1460–70. London, British Library, Additional MS 37049, fol. 15r.

future. This is particularly evident in scenes illustrating the millennia between the beginning and ending of history. Eight battle scenes depict wars throughout the fourth, fifth, and sixth millennia, focusing on bloody decapitations, exiles, and various forms of barbarism. This dismal vision of history is stressed not only by the numerous scenes, but also by their prominent size. On three folios the scenes, rather than being framed in the usual two or three smaller compartments, command the upper half of the page (Figure 4). These repetitious combat scenes effectively merge the past war between the Sons of Ishmael and Gideon (fol. 13r) with the present, interpreting the second Ishmaelite invasion in contemporary terms by depicting the Christian armies as crusaders (fols. 13v, 15r; Figure 4). The Middle English text encourages this interpretation in three ways. It repeatedly refers to the Ishmaelites as Saracens; it adds Spain, France, Germany, and Aquitaine to the original list of lands overcome by Saracens; and, most significantly, it advances their attack from the future seventh millennium noted in the original text to ‘þe laste sext þowsand ȝere of þe warld’ (fol. 13v). These changes bring the illustrated Pseudo-Methodius in line with traditional universal history before it describes the ‘pese & gret reste opon erth, swilk as has not bene before’ (fol. 15r). This brief peace is depicted by the men and women in prayer before the walled city on the right (Figure 4), a scene immediately preceding the revelry as in the days of Noah (fol. 15v; Figure 3) that introduces the Last Days.

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Conclusion This chapter has considered how apocalyptic prophecy and history are intertwined in two illustrated manuscripts as well as in more traditional universal histories such as those written by Bede and Matthew Paris. Although the focus has necessarily been on a few English works, many other English and continental examples reflect the profound relationship between apocalypse and history.58 Further studies should recognise, first, that the basic structures of universal history are inherently apocalyptic and, second, that apocalyptic texts often draw on historical structures to set forth their prophetic vision of the future. English illustrated Apocalypses, especially those including the Berengaudus commentary, deserve attention because their visual exegesis can add fresh insights into traditional textual accounts, even suggesting how specific historical events were interpreted by contemporaries. For example, the Douce Apocalypse, probably finished for Prince Edward and Eleanor of Castile before they left on crusade in 1270, shows the armies of Gog and Magog, led by Satan upon his release from the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:7–8), carrying banners emblazoned with the arms of Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and a leader of the baronial army that fought Edward at the Battle of Lewes (1264).59 This visual detail alluding to recent history imbues the prophetic future with contemporary meaning for the royal patrons. It is just one of many examples of how scholarly attention to apocalypse and/as history can help address a historiographic lacuna and enrich our understanding of the complex texture of English medieval history. 58

59

The most important continental Apocalypse commentary systematically tracing Church history from the first century to Doomsday is by Alexander Minorita of Bremen (d.1271), Expositio in Apocalypsim. For illustrated Alexander Apocalypses, see Emmerson, Apocalypse Illuminated, pp. 102–10. Oxford, Bodl., MS Douce 180, p. 87; see Emmerson and Lewis, ‘Census’, pp. 400–1, no. 98. On dating and patronage, see Binski, ‘Illumination and Patronage’. On the Gog and Magog scene, see Morgan, Douce Apocalypse, p. 96; and Emmerson, Apocalypse Illuminated, p. 155, fig. 75.

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chapter 4

The Brut: Legendary British History Jaclyn Rajsic

While my mind was often pondering many things in many ways, my thoughts turned to the history of the kings of Britain, and I was surprised that, among the references to them in the fine works of Gildas and Bede, I had found nothing concerning the kings who lived here before Christ’s Incarnation, and nothing about Arthur and the many others who succeeded after it, even though their deeds were worthy of eternal praise and are proclaimed by many people as if they had been entertainingly and memorably written down.1

Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae (c.1136) changed the course of history writing for centuries and had a profound influence on medieval understandings of the past. The Historia narrates continuously and in succession the reigns of legendary British kings from the conquest of the island by Brutus, great-grandson of Aeneas, up to the death of Cadwallader in 689. Following Brutus, the ancient Britons build cities and cultivate the land, laying the groundwork for what would eventually become the kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons and ultimately the AngloNormans. Cadwallader’s death marks the Britons’ loss of insular power: the British king travels to Rome and the remaining Britons flee to Wales, flipping the switch from British to English dominion over England (‘Loegria’ in the Historia). Before Geoffrey, Gildas’s mid-sixth-century De excidio Britanniae and the Historia Brittonum (c.829–30), composed in Wales, recounted the history of sub-Roman Britain and the advent of the Germanic peoples. In England, Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (c.731) and versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ninth century and later) focused on the deeds 1

‘Cum mecum multa et de multis saepius animo reuoluens in hystoriam regum Britanniae inciderem, in mirum contuli quod infra mentionem quam de eis Gildas et Beda luculento tractatu fecerant nichil de regibus qui ante incarnationem Christi inhabitauerant, nichil etiam de Arturo ceterisque compluribus qui post incarnationem successerunt repperissem, cum et gesta eorum digna aeternitate laudis constarent et a multis populis quasi inscripta iocunde et memoriter praedicentur.’ HRB, pp. 4–5.

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of Roman emperors, Anglo-Saxon rulers, and the English conversion to Christianity. Later, William of Malmesbury’s Gesta regum Anglorum (c.1125) and Henry of Huntingdon’s Historia Anglorum (c.1129–c.1159) followed Bede to record England’s rulership by early English kings and then more recent rulers.2 Geoffrey burst into this tradition with a dramatic new periodisation, which portrayed the ancient Britons as the overlords of the island despite the Roman occupation of the land and well past the immigration of the Germanic peoples from the mid-fifth century. Claiming to translate an ancient British book, and forbidding his contemporaries to write about the Britons because they did not possess that very book, Geoffrey granted the Britons a substantial role in the insular past. His account of King Arthur sits at the heart of his project: in the Historia, Arthur famously defeats the Saxons, rules over the whole of Britain, and conquers several Western European kingdoms, all in the early sixth century, a time when earlier medieval histories gave no space to such a king.3 The Historia, then, both filled a gap in the historical record and rewrote England’s early history by asking when and how insular dominion could be said to pass from the ancient Britons to Anglo-Saxon kings.4 This question would preoccupy England’s writers for centuries to come. Despite criticisms from some twelfth-century writers, the Historia regum Britanniae was an instant success both in and beyond Britain and permanently shaped subsequent literature.5 Over 220 manuscripts of the Historia survive, as many as one third of which may have been written before the end of the twelfth century.6 Geoffrey’s influence stretched well beyond Britain, and beyond the writing of histories: by the end of the thirteenth century, narratives of legendary British history, translated or adapted from the Historia, were readily available in French, English, Welsh, and other 2 3

4 5

6

For Gildas, see Chapter 1 above. See also Chapters 8 (pp. 142–3), 9 (pp. 156–60), and 2 (p. 35). Gildas and Bede do not mention Arthur. However, as Coumert points out in Chapter 1, Gildas’s text ‘left a gap where King Arthur could be inserted’ (p. 33). See further, e.g. Higham, ‘Early Latin Sources’. In pre-Galfridian sources, Arthur is a warrior – the military leader (dux bellorum) of the Historia Brittonum; the ‘valiant Arthur’ (Artur belliger), as Henry of Huntingdon calls him, who wins twelve battles against the Saxons (HA, pp. 98–9). It was Geoffrey of Monmouth who launched King Arthur into fame. See further Leckie, Passage of Dominion; Ingledew, ‘Book of Troy’; and Hanning, Vision of History. Gerald of Wales and William of Newburgh famously criticised Geoffrey’s history: Gerald of Wales, Historical Works, p. 489, and William of Newburgh, History of English Affairs, i.8. See further, e.g. Echard, Arthurian Narrative, chap. 2. HRB, p. vii. See Crick, Summary Catalogue; Crick, ‘Two Newly Located Manuscripts’; and Tahkokallio, ‘Update’. Crick dates 60 Historia texts to the twelfth century, 1 to c.1200, and 18 to the turn of the century (xii/xiii): Dissemination, pp. xi–xvi, and ‘Two Newly Located Manuscripts’, p. 151.

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European languages. The Western European context in which Geoffrey’s work was disseminated demonstrates the considerable extent of the Historia’s impact on medieval understandings of the past across political, geographical, and linguistic borders. This chapter, however, focuses on adaptations of the Historia produced in England, because they engage most fully with the periodisation issues noted above. It pays special attention to the ways in which medieval writers transitioned from Geoffrey’s Historia to accounts of Anglo-Saxon kings given the discrepancies between Galfridian and Bedan timelines. I begin with a brief survey of some of England’s Brut chronicles – that is, historical texts that take Brutus as their starting point, sometimes ending with (or before) Cadwallader but often continuing up to contemporary rulers.7 This provides a context for my discussion of one Brut history in particular: the Prose Brut (c.1300 and later). There are many Brut chronicles, and each warrants attention in its own right; but the Prose Brut stands out for its representation of what R. William Leckie, Jr calls the ‘passage of dominion’ from British to AngloSaxon rulership – the period in English historiography with which Geoffrey’s chronology clashed – and for the sheer number of manuscripts of it that survive: nearly 250 in French and English, plus Latin versions.8 The Prose Brut became the most popular secular vernacular text in late medieval England, second only (in terms of the number of surviving manuscripts) to the Wycliffite Bible. It was the ‘standard historical account of British and English history’ in the late Middle Ages,9 and the first historical text to be printed by William Caxton, in 1480, as the Chronicles of England. Its history continued to appeal to audiences into the early modern period, when printed versions circulated alongside manuscripts.10 All of this attests to the Prose Brut’s importance as a work of English historical literature, and as a key vehicle through which legendary British history was disseminated and read. Scholars often approach this chronicle as a ‘national’ one, given its Anglocentric focus and evidence in manuscripts of English ownership; but the Prose Brut, like Geoffrey’s Historia, also travelled abroad. A few 7

8 10

Some Brut chronicles also include a pre-foundation story of the island before Brutus’ conquest, known as the Albina myth. According to this tale, Albina and her 30 or 33 sisters are set adrift from their homeland and arrive on an uninhabited island, which Albina names ‘Albion’ after herself. The women give birth to the giants which Brutus later defeats. See Johnson, ‘Return to Albion’; Crick and Carley, ‘Constructing Albion’s Past’; and Ruch, Albina and her Sisters, chap. 3. 9 See Matheson, Prose Brut, pp. 37–47. Ibid., p. 9, and see further pp. 1–9. On the printed versions, see Matheson, ‘Printer and Scribe’; Wakelin, ‘Caxton’s Exemplar’; Boffey, Manuscript and Print; and Weijer, ‘Re-Printing or Remaking’. For further on Caxton and printing history, see Chapter 21 below.

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English Prose Brut manuscripts are affiliated with Welsh, Irish, and Scottish owners and readers (some post-medieval), and five of the fiftyplus manuscripts of the Anglo-Norman Prose Brut are continental French copies or were read on the continent.11 Not only was the Anglo-Norman Prose Brut chronicle read across the Channel, but it also played a crucial role in shaping some historical texts written overseas. In France, it was the main source for a whole group of short histories of England’s rulers, juxtaposed with abbreviated histories of the kings of France (often presented with accounts of popes and emperors, too), composed in the early fifteenth century and flourishing in the latter years of the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) (over fifty manuscripts survive, both rolls and books).12 Some of the rolls even came to England and at least two were produced there; we might think of them as ‘English’ responses (written in French) to the Valois take on Lancastrian rulership.13 The French Prose Brut chronicle might be understood as a cross-Channel text in addition to a ‘national’ history. This chapter looks at movements to and from England in the Prose Brut’s account of the past. The role of Cadwallader provides a case study to consider some of the ways in which the Prose Brut chronicle reimagined the transfer from British to English power, first in its original AngloNorman version and then in later versions written in English. Markedly different representations of this controversial period result, as writers looked back to Geoffrey’s Historia to revise the vernacular chronicle, which had itself adapted Geoffrey’s work.14

Brut History in England Following the appearance of the Historia regum Britanniae, records of early insular history established by Gildas, Bede, and others were no longer seen to be enough. Henry of Huntingdon addressed this perceived historiographical gap in his Epistola ad Warinum (‘Letter to Warin’), which appears in versions three to six (of six) of the Historia Anglorum.15 Upon discovering a copy of the Historia regum Britanniae at the abbey of 11 12 13 14 15

John J. Thompson, ‘Middle English Prose Brut’, pp. 256–60; and Marvin, Vernacular History, pp. 173–4, 202, 210–29. See further Rajsic, ‘Reshaping the Prose Brut’. See ibid., pp. 144–9; and Rajsic, History Unrolled, chap. 3. On engagements between Latin and vernacular histories, see Chapter 19 below. HA, pp. lxvi–lxxvii, 558–83. These are the versions ending in 1138, 1146, 1149, and 1154. Robert of Torigni copied a version of Henry’s letter into his own chronicle.

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Bec in northern France in 1139, Henry responded to Warin’s apparent criticism that he had not told the whole history of ‘past events in our native land’ (patrie nostre gesta narrans) in his Historia Anglorum. In the Epistola, Henry explains that he had ‘searched again and again’ when writing his chronicle but ‘was unable to find any report of those times’, i.e. before Julius Caesar, ‘either oral or written’.16 Geoffrey’s Historia changed the game. Henry provides some excerpts (‘excerpta’) from Geoffrey’s ‘great book’ (‘librum grandem’) in his letter – the Epistola runs from Brutus to Cadwallader – but Henry also adapts some of Geoffrey’s episodes and gives his compressed account of the Historia regum Britanniae his own unique twists and shape.17 Short chronicles necessarily modify their source materials through abridgement, since their authors select particular persons and events for inclusion and may recast and elaborate their sources, too. Henry was not alone in his captivation with this ‘great book’. Geoffrey’s Historia inspired the writing and copying of a number of Brut chronicles, which flourished in England in Latin, French, and English throughout the high and late Middle Ages. Two famous and relatively early examples are Wace’s Roman de Brut (c.1155), composed in Normandy but focused on Engleterre and its rulers (several insular manuscripts survive), and Laӡamon’s Brut (late twelfth or early thirteenth century), the first Brut history written in English, composed on the Anglo-Welsh border.18 Both Wace and Laӡamon follow Geoffrey’s lead in narrating the history of the earliest rulers of Britain and England, ending with the death of Cadwallader and the fall of the Britons. Several other chroniclers working in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries went further. Not only did authors translate and adapt the Historia in this period, but they also wrote histories (short and long) that ran from Galfridian kings up to contemporary times.19 This began almost immediately after the Historia regum Britanniae arrived on the scene: Geoffrey’s legendary British history quickly became an essential starting point for many histories of England. 16

17 18

19

HA, pp. 558–9: ‘quod nec uoce nec scripto horum temporum noticiam, sepissime querens, inuenire potui’. The HA relates a bit of Britain’s earliest history (including a brief account of Brutus’ conquest), but not nearly as fully as the HRB. HA, pp. 582–3. See further Wright, ‘Henry of Huntingdon’s Epistola ad Warinum’. See, e.g., Alamichel (ed.), Laӡamon’s Brut; Allen, Roberts, and Weinberg (eds.), Reading Laӡamon’s Brut; Bryan, Collaborative Meaning; Le Saux, Companion to Wace; Le Saux, ‘Reception of the Matter of Britain’; Le Saux (ed.), Text and Tradition; Le Saux, Layamon’s Brut; and Michelle Warren, History on the Edge. See also the discussions of Wace and Laӡamon’s Bruts in Chapters 8 (pp. 152–3) and 5 (pp. 87–8) in this volume. Compare Chapter 12’s discussion of the ‘chronological range’ of the Brut y Tywysogion (below, pp. 213–18), a collection of Middle Welsh chronicles that picks up where Geoffrey’s Historia left off.

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It is important to stress that not all chroniclers writing in this period (or in later centuries) draw on the Historia. But many do, and they do so increasingly as time goes on. Some do so selectively, which suggests their awareness of the chronological issues that Geoffrey’s work poses, yet also shows the strength of the Historia’s influence on medieval views of the past. In the twelfth and first half of the thirteenth century, a range of authors, writing in Latin, turned to the Historia for accounts of the ancient Britons. Alfred of Beverley’s Annales (c.1148–51);20 Ralph Diceto’s late twelfthcentury Opuscula (‘little works’), which includes a short gestis Britonum before an abbreviated history of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman kings;21 the Historia Angliae a Bruto ad primordia regni Stephani regis by Richard of Devizes (also late twelfth century); Gervase of Canterbury’s Gesta regum (c.1200); and the universal chronicles of Roger of Wendover (Flores historiarum, to 1234) and Matthew Paris (Chronica majora, to 1250 and then to 1259), for example, all incorporate British rulers drawn from Geoffrey’s Historia into their larger narratives of England’s monarchs, which continue up to the present day.22 With the possible exception of Geffrei Gaimar, who introduces his Estoire des Engleis (c.1136–7, Havelok to King Henry I) as a sequel to an earlier volume about kings Arthur and Constantine (now lost), the Annales is the earliest known history with Galfridian kings to extend its chronological scope past Geoffrey’s. These examples show how quickly and forcefully Geoffrey’s Historia took hold of the English historical imagination. Although not all of them are, strictly speaking, ‘Bruts’ (universal chronicles begin with the Creation, well before Brutus), to overlook them would be to miss important parts of the picture of the reception and influence of the Historia regum Britanniae. The Historia enabled contemporary English rulers to be seen as the ‘heirs to a dynastic succession which linked them with the heroic civilisation of Troy and bridged the centuries between, passing from conqueror to conqueror whatever their race or origin’.23 Histories of England with some or all of Geoffrey’s legendary British rulers continued to propagate this view, 20 21

22

23

I follow the revised dating of the Annales (the previously accepted date was c.1143) by Slevin, ‘Observations’, pp. 107–12. In some manuscripts a rubric encourages readers to understand the deeds of the Britons, AngloSaxons, Danes, and Normans as components of a single historical narrative: ‘Incipiunt annales de gestis britonum, de gestis saxonum, de gestis Danorum, de gestis normannorum prologus’ (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 313, fol. 60r). Gervase of Canterbury also makes space for a short account of Geoffrey’s Brutus myth in his Mappa mundi, which is mostly a topographical and ecclesiastical description of England. Matthew Paris includes selected British kings in a few of his (short) illustrated histories of England’s rulers. Barron, Le Saux, and Johnson, ‘Dynastic Chronicles’, p. 11.

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giving it fresh force by extending the record past Cadwallader’s death and up to the present day. But the task to combine Geoffrey’s history with established accounts of Anglo-Saxon kings was not necessarily straightforward: authors negotiated between Galfridian and Bedan histories and timelines to varying degrees and in different ways. Alfred of Beverley divided his Annales (Brutus to 1129) into eight books, the first five of which treat the Galfridian past. Yet Alfred only follows Geoffrey up to the reign of British king Careticus, Cadwallader’s great-grandfather in the Historia, during whose time the African king Gormund invades the land and gives it to the AngloSaxons.24 Book vi of the Annales sees the organisation and rulership of the Heptarchy – the seven kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England (a concept derived from the HA) – followed by miniature histories of each kingdom, and subsequent books are devoted to Anglo-Saxon and then to more recent rulers of England. Alfred effectively cuts Geoffrey’s last British kings off from his Annales, moving the fall of the Britons up to an earlier point in time, partly to avoid chronological clashes. Gervase of Canterbury, on the other hand, includes a short history of British rulers from Brutus all the way up to Cadwallader, as in Geoffrey’s Historia, in his abbreviated chronicle. He follows this with an account of the origins of the English (their descent from Woden and Frea), brief geopolitical descriptions of England and its seven kingdoms, miniature histories of Heptarchy rulers, and finally a narrative of England’s monarchs from King Egbert of Wessex (in the ninth century) up to 1210.25 Gervase makes space for Cadwallader and his immediate predecessors, but to do so he mainly separates his British and English histories.26 Interestingly, he makes reference back to a few of Geoffrey’s British kings in his short account of the rulers of Kent. Gervase is well aware of the overlaps between Galfridian and Bedan timelines. To navigate them, he plays with time, moving forwards (Brutus to Cadwallader), then backwards (to Woden and Hengist), and then forwards again (with Anglo-Saxon rulers in focus). He is not alone in doing so. Even when histories are largely organised around kingly succession, they do not always adhere to a strictly chronological structure.27 Most compellingly, 24

25 26 27

Alfred was sceptical of some of Geoffrey’s Historia. Notably, and as critics have pointed out, he expresses his doubts about King Arthur’s authenticity. See, e.g., Matheson, ‘Chronicle Tradition’, pp. 59–60. From 1199 to 1210 the chronicle may have been written by a monk other than Gervase: HW1, p. 253. Gervase of Canterbury, Historical Works, vol. ii, 21–42 (Cadwallader to Egbert). See further Leckie, Passage of Dominion, pp. 93–5 (p. 93 for a passage that Gervase incorporates into his British history from Bede). On geography as an organisational structure in historical works, see Chapter 8 below. See also Chapter 1’s discussion of Gildas’s ‘hazy chronology’ (pp. 23–4).

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Roger of Wendover makes a concentrated effort to knit British and English histories together in his universal chronicle: he crafts a continuous timeline of events, which involves moving back and forth between accounts of the British and English pasts (and drawing selectively on one or both when they overlap).28 Brilliantly, Roger finds ways for the Anglo-Saxons slowly but surely to extend their power during the reigns of British kings, for instance by ruling and establishing kingdoms while King Arthur is fixated on Europe. When Roger reaches Cadwallader, he looks to both Geoffrey and nonGalfridian sources. Competing histories could, the Flores shows, be reconciled. But that reconciliation comes at the expense of one or both histories. A range of approaches to writing the passage of dominion were possible.29 As time went by, increasingly England’s chroniclers assimilated legendary British kings into their own narratives. In fact, Bruts would soon explode onto the scene. The reign of King Edward I (1272/4–1307) saw a flurry of history writing which included the production of an array of Brut and related chronicles, both short and long, many of which are written in French or English, but Latin texts continue to be written, copied, and read. The history commonly attributed to Robert of Gloucester, Piers Langtoft’s Anglo-Norman verse chronicle, the Anglo-Norman Prose Brut chronicle, some codex and roll versions of Li Rei Engletere (usually to Henry III or Edward I), and with some royal genealogical rolls written in Latin (Brutus to Edward I) all continued to join legendary British kings up with Anglo-Saxon and contemporary English rulers.30 More Brut histories followed – notably versions of the Anonymous Short English Metrical Chronicle (Brutus to the accession of King Edward II and later), the Brut DEngletere abrege (Brutus to the death of Edward I), Le petit Bruit (c.1309), John of Canterbury’s Polistorie (Brutus to 1313), Castleford’s Chronicle (c.1327), Robert Mannyng’s Story of England (c.1338), Sir Thomas Gray’s Scalacronica (c.1363), the Anglo-Norman Anonimalle Chronicle (Brutus to 1381), and the first and second versions of John Hardyng’s Chronicle (c.1450s and later) – while universal chronicles – such as Nicholas Trevet’s Les cronicles (early fourteenth century; 28 29

30

See further Rajsic, History Unrolled; and Leckie, Passage of Dominion, pp. 98–100. See Gillingham, ‘Richard of Devizes’, for a fascinating account of Richard’s ‘strikingly original reworking’ (p. 142) of Geoffrey’s Historia, which has (among other things) a newly invented and ‘decisive confrontation between King Arthur and Cerdic of Wessex’ (p. 143) and – remarkably – a new genealogy for Egbert of Wessex which links the British and Wessex bloodlines (see pp. 149–50). The genealogy goes back through Cerdic to a certain Phillida, daughter of Assaracus, a Briton and son of the Galfridian king Eboracus, who famously builds York. See also Chapters 26 and 19 in this volume.

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Creation to the death of Pope John XXII), Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon (c.1344), and the Eulogium historiarum (Creation to 1366) – continued to embed the legendary British past into larger historical and chronological frameworks.31 The eruption of Brut histories in this period was fuelled both by Edward I’s political ambitions to conquer Wales and Scotland and by evolving views of England’s past. The chronicles listed above follow in the footsteps of their twelfth- and thirteenth-century predecessors by bringing Galfridian and Bedan histories together. Interests in British myth were historiographical as well as ideological, and England’s readers and writers shared the much wider, Western European captivation with the Galfridian and Arthurian pasts. But legendary British history became highly ‘politically charged’ in Edward’s time.32 Edward’s officials famously cited British myth to justify the king’s Great Cause for sovereignty over Scotland – Galfridian kings such as Brutus and Arthur gave Edward a precedent to rule over the northern kingdom – and Edward invoked British history to establish his authority in Wales, for instance by taking the ‘traditional crown of King Arthur’, a ‘Welsh treasure’, in a powerful display of his supremacy over the Welsh region.33 Both the English and the Welsh saw the British past as a fundamental part of their own histories in this period, and pedigrees traced the descent of the Welsh princes from ancient British rulers.34 Considered in this context, the use of British myth as a starting point for narratives of England’s history claimed Brutus, Arthur, Cadwallader, and other Galfridian rulers for England and the English, not the Welsh.35 Royal genealogical rolls make this visible in striking displays of England’s imagined royal lineage – the descent of contemporary kings from Noman, Danish, Saxon, and often British predecessors despite ethnic and dynastic change. These sources begin to incorporate Galfridian kings (sometimes selectively) in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, and in the fifteenth legendary British rulers are a characteristic 31

32 33 34 35

These lists capture well-known Brut chronicles as well as some sources that are less widely known, but leave out many Latin chronicles that begin with Brutus, such as an abbreviated history from Brutus to King Edward I (late thirteenth century) sometimes attributed to Walter of Coventry, found in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 175. On late medieval Latin texts drawing on Geoffrey’s Historia, see further Keeler, Late Latin Chroniclers; and Putter, ‘Latin Historiography’. On the Scalacronica, see Chapters 13 (p. 242) and 26 (pp. 462–6) in this volume. Spence, Reimagining History, p. 46 (and see pp. 41–6). Loomis, ‘Arthurian Enthusiast’, p. 114, quoting Powicke, King Henry III, p. 724. For the Great Cause, see Chapter 13 below p. 230. See Pryce, ‘British or Welsh?’, p. 789. For the responses of Welsh historians, see Chapter 12 below.

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part of dozens of royal genealogies disseminated in roll and codex formats.36 Their production was driven by the political conflicts of the Hundred Years’ War and, later, by the competing Lancastrian and Yorkist claims to the throne during the Wars of the Roses (1455–87). Brut chronicles and genealogies were key players in a larger appropriation of Geoffrey’s legendary British history by and for the English and their monarchs. That history was shaped and reshaped to reflect the interests of medieval writers in their own times, both from Brut to Brut and even in texts and manuscripts of particular Bruts, as the Prose Brut chronicle demonstrates.

The Prose Brut Chronicle and the Fall of the Britons The Prose Brut chronicle was written by an anonymous author in insular French around 1300; the Oldest Version ends with the death of King Henry III in 1272. The Prose Brut is perhaps best understood as a family of closely related texts rather than as a single or static text.37 The Oldest Version was brought from 1272 up to 1333 (in insular French) in what are known as the Short and Long Anglo-Norman versions, so called for the length of their (distinctive) continuations to 1333.38 Each version also adapts its source in unique ways. For example, the Oldest Version does not include Merlin’s prophecies – a departure from Geoffrey’s Historia. But the Anglo-Norman Long Version brings Merlin’s prophecies back into the historical record, although it supplies a different version of those prophecies (known as ‘The Prophecy of the Six Kings to Follow John’) and does so at a later point than the Historia.39 The Anglo-Norman Long Version was translated into English in the last quarter of the fourteenth century, thus giving rise to a substantial corpus of English Prose Brut texts (around 180 manuscripts survive). Lister M. Matheson identified four main categories of English Prose Bruts in his pioneering study: the Common Version (to 1333 and later, so named because it survives in the greatest number of manuscripts), translated from the Anglo-Norman Long Version and very close to its French source; the Extended and Abbreviated Versions, each derived from the Common Version; and finally ‘Peculiar 36 37 38

39

See Rajsic, ‘Looking for Arthur’; Rajsic, History Unrolled; and Rajsic, ‘Reshaping the Prose Brut’. For further on genealogies, see also Chapter 5 below. In this sense, the Prose Brut might be compared to the Brut y Tywysogion – see Chapter 12 below. See further Matheson, Prose Brut, pp. 30–7; and Marvin (ed.), Oldest Anglo-Norman Brut, pp. 47–52. A group of Anglo-Norman Short Version manuscripts have a different continuation which runs only to 1332: see Pagan (ed.), Prose Brut to 1332. See Smallwood, ‘Six Kings’; and Marvin, ‘Arthur Authorized’, pp. 90–9.

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Texts and Versions’, which is the category that sees the most variation. Texts in all of these groups saw revisions, extensions, additions, and omissions. The flexibility of the Prose Brut’s history makes it especially appealing for studies of how perceptions of the past and present evolved over time.40 The Prose Brut jumps out from its Brut chronicle contemporaries in several ways. One is its representation of the fall of the Britons and rise of the Anglo-Saxons. Brut chronicles typically derive their accounts of AngloSaxon history, whether directly or indirectly, from the well-known and influential works of William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon. However, the Oldest Prose Brut, and subsequently later versions of the chronicle, instead follow Gaimar’s Estoire for their narratives of the early English past.41 This leads to a highly distinctive account of early history in this chronicle, as is evident, for instance, by the Prose Brut’s inclusion of the Havelok story (a tale set in post-Arthurian Norfolk and Denmark) shortly after King Arthur’s reign, as in the Estoire.42 At the same time, the Oldest Version was generally eager to mitigate the ruptures caused by the Anglo-Saxon and Norman conquests, smoothing the succession between rulers and peoples. The Norman Conquest is hardly a conquest in the Prose Brut, and William’s reign is described in positive terms.43 The Prose Brut’s portrayal of these periods of transition must have been part of its appeal: the chronicle ‘offer[ed] its readers a continuous heritage, so that the descendants of the Norman invaders [might] regard themselves as not only figurative but also actual heirs of Brut and Arthur’.44 This effort to create continuity in England’s history, despite ethnic difference and dynastic change, led to one especially significant alteration to Galfridian history at the shift from British to English power: the Oldest Version omits the episode of Cadwallader, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s last British king.45 The erasure of Cadwallader seems exceptional when compared to many of the Brut chronicles listed above, such as the histories of 40

41 42 43 44 45

Scholars are working to unravel the complexities of the chronicle’s many texts, manuscripts, and early printed editions. See, e.g., the essays collected in Rajsic, Kooper, and Hoche (eds.), Books Have their Histories; Marx and Radulescu (eds.), Readers and Writers; and Warren (ed.) Situating the Middle English Prose Brut. Most recently, see Marvin, Vernacular History. See further Gillingham, ‘Gaimar’; and MacColl, ‘Rhetoric’, pp. 299–304. See, e.g., Marvin, ‘Havelok in the Prose Brut Tradition’, and Moll, ‘Haveloks and Their Reception’. For the Middle English romance (Havelok the Dane), see Chapter 22 in this volume. See further Spence, Reimagining History, pp. 113–15, 123–4; and Marvin, ‘Narrative, Lineage, and Succession’, pp. 212–14. Marvin (ed.), Oldest Anglo-Norman Brut, p. 8 (my emphasis). But see ibid., pp. 8–9: ‘the omission of Cadwallader did not go unremarked: at least some manuscripts of the Anglo-Norman Long Version (and thus the Middle English Brut) simply substitute the

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Robert of Gloucester and Piers Langtoft, which emphasise the fall of the Britons during Cadwallader’s reign.46 However, the Oldest Prose Brut is not alone in leaving Cadwallader out of its account of the passage of dominion. As already noted, Alfred of Beverley did so much earlier (in his Annales), and in the late Middle Ages other histories, such as versions of the Anonymous Short English Metrical Chronicle, may also exclude Cadwallader; but they do so as part of a larger abridgement of legendary British history, which involves careful selection of specific Galfridian kings to evade chronological clashes or to craft a fairly sequential timeline of rulers past to present. In these texts, in other words, Cadwallader is not the only British king to be missing. The Oldest Prose Brut writer’s decision to skip over Cadwallader – but not his immediate predecessors – makes this Brut history stand out from the crowd. With no Cadwallader, the Oldest Version can mask the downfall of the Britons; it can transition from Caduallo (Cadwallader’s father in the Historia) to the Anglo-Saxon king Offa without drawing attention to ethnic change or difference.47 In so doing, it sits in stark contrast to Geoffrey’s Historia and many of its Brut descendants, which stress the Britons’ fall. However, the Oldest Prose Brut’s omission did not go unnoticed. The past was about to be rewritten once again. Over 100 copies of the English chronicle bring the Cadwallader story into the Prose Brut’s historical narrative.48 The episode was worked in at a relatively early stage in the dissemination of the Common Version, which explains why it appears in such a large number of English manuscripts.49 Its original author adapted accounts of the tale found in Geoffrey’s Historia and Wace’s Roman de Brut, but the Historia is the main source. In the

46

47

48 49

name of Cadwallader for that of his grandfather Cadwan, without otherwise altering the account, in what may be an effort to include the famous name in the text’. In the chronicle attributed to Robert of Gloucester, for example, the Britons flee to Wales after Cadwallader dies, while the Saxons develop and rule over England (Robert of Gloucester, Metrical Chronicle, vol. i, p. 372, line 5123). Piers Langtoft is explicit that the Britons lose their inheritance at this time. He even repeats the point when he turns to his Anglo-Saxon narrative, picking the history up after Cadwallader’s death with King Ine of Wessex: Langtoft, Chronicle, vol. i, pp. 262–3, 278–84. See Marvin, ‘Narrative, Lineage, and Succession’, pp. 210–11. The Prose Brut’s Offa is actually the eighth-century king Offa of Mercia, so the chronicle also leaps forward in time to smooth the transition from British to English dominion. On Offa, see Marvin (ed.), Oldest Anglo-Norman Brut, p. 322, n. to lines 2317–24. For manuscript counts, see Lamont, ‘Becoming English’, p. 305 n. 27; and Bryan, ‘The Afterlife of Armoriche’, p. 152 n. 47. Matheson, Prose Brut, pp. 57, 92–3, transcribed the episode from what he believed to be the earliest Common Version group to include the story (to 1377). My discussion of the episode here relies on Matheson’s transcription.

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English Prose Brut, following a harsh famine and a deadly plague, Cadwallader and his ‘folk’ leave their homeland and travel to Brittany, lamenting their loss at sea. Cadwallader invites various peoples who have oppressed the Britons to return to the land while the Britons sail away, including – uniquely and surprisingly – the French! ‘“Turne ageyn ʒe Frensshe men”’, Cadwallader says.50 The last king of the earliest peoples to rule over the land effectively invites the Norman invasion. This inscribes a future dynastic shift into the past, creating a pattern of ethnic transition to be fulfilled later on. The episode depicts the Saxons, meanwhile, sending for their countrymen from Germany. Together, they populate and cultivate the land from Scotland to Cornwall, with the migrants landing in Northumbria. Now in Brittany, Cadwallader expresses a desire to return to his homeland, but an angelic voice instructs him to go to Rome, where he dies. Cadwallader’s cousin and nephew, Yvor and Yvi, take his people to Wales to be the ‘lordes of Britouns’ there, since the Saxons have a firm hold over England at this point.51 The English Prose Brut’s inclusion of the Cadwallader episode results in a dramatically different transition from British to Anglo-Saxon dominion in these 100-plus manuscripts than in Prose Brut texts that omit the tale. Instead of moving from Caduallo to Offa with no explicit markers of those rulers’ ethnicities, English Prose Bruts with the Cadwallader episode throw the spotlight on the fall of the Britons and rise of the Saxons.52 Clearly, a reader saw a gap in the record and took action through writing. But he also went beyond filling gaps. The author of the Prose Brut’s episode makes noticeable changes to Geoffrey’s tale that set this account of the Britons’ loss of power apart from all others. Remarkably, for instance, he creates space for a pseudo-historical queen who is otherwise absent from Galfridian history.53 She appears after Cadwallader arrives in Brittany, during the wave of Germanic settlement that sees the influx of ‘men and wommen wiþoute noumbre’ in Northumbria: And am[on]g oþer companyes grete þat come fro Germanye into þis lond cam þe noble queene þat was called Sexburga with men and wommen wiþoute noumbre and she arryued in þe counte of Northumberlond and toke þe lond of Albanye into Cornewayle for hir and for hir folk ffor þere was noon þat myght lette hem for al was desolate & voyde of folk but it were a fewe pouere Brytouns þat leften in mountaynes & wodes vnto þat tyme. 50 53

Ibid., p. 59. 51 Ibid., pp. 58–61. 52 See also Lamont, Kynde Bloode, p. 282. With the exception of some manuscripts of Geoffrey’s Historia and texts derived from them: see below, p. 80.

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jaclyn rajsic And fro þat tyme forth losten Brytouns þis lond for alle dayes and þe Englisshe bygonne to regne and departed þe land bytwene hem and they maden many kynges aboute by dyuers parties in þe londe . . .54

It appears that the historical Seaxburh of the Gewisse (i.e. the West Saxons, d.679?) is transformed into a foreign queen who leads her people from Germany to northern England.55 Strikingly, none of the Brut chronicles noted above makes space for this pseudo-historical ruler. The change puts a woman centre stage in the rise of English dominion: Seaxburh participates in a series of migrations and conquests that brings her in line with male founders such as Brutus and Hengist. But as exceptional as she seems, the English Prose Brut’s Seaxburh was not the chronicle’s own invention. It turns out that the writer of the episode ‘adopted’ his Seaxburh from a manuscript of Geoffrey’s Historia; in other words, the Historia continued to influence the Prose Brut long after the vernacular history was written. And Geoffrey’s text saw some changes over time too. Forty-two copies of the Historia regum Britanniae record the arrival in Britain of a most noble queen called Seaxburh (‘nobilissima regina Sexburgis nomine’) at precisely the same point in history as the English Prose Brut, when Germanic peoples land in Northumbria and populate the land from Scotland to Cornwall.56 Yet, the phrase is not visible in edited versions of the Historia, so the connection between the Seaxburhs in the English Prose Brut’s and Historia’s Cadwallader episodes has not yet been made known. Similarly, the Early English Text Society edition of the English Prose Brut chronicle lacks the Cadwallader story, which means that many modern readers of this important historical text will not be aware of Cadwallader’s vital role in the vast majority of English texts and manuscripts that survive.57 All of this reminds us of the importance of consulting texts in their original manuscripts; editions do not necessarily capture the variations found in individual manuscripts of a given source, particularly when that source survives in so many ‘copies’, as with the Prose Brut.58 54 55

56

57 58

Matheson, Prose Brut, p. 60. Historically, there are two Seaxburhs, both Anglo-Saxon queens, both born in England, and contemporaries. The first, the queen of the Gewisse, is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where in 672 she is said to rule for one year after her husband’s death. The second (d.c.700) was the wife of King Eorcenberht of Kent and abbess of Ely (Rollason, ‘Seaxburh’). For the manuscripts, see Crick, Dissemination, pp. 93–4 (p. 93). The earliest manuscripts with the Seaxburh phrase date to the twelfth century, long before the Prose Brut’s Cadwallader episode emerged. See Brie (ed.), Brut, vol. i, p. 102. On English history writing more generally, see Fisher, Scribal Authorship.

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The Prose Brut’s Cadwallader episode offers a fascinating case study, in which one writer noticed that something was missing in the text in front of him and looked to copies of Geoffrey’s Historia and Wace’s Roman de Brut to fill in the blanks. The effect is an account of the transfer of power that brings issues of conquest and foundation more sharply into focus. But when bringing narratives of the British and English pasts together, it is not just the accounts of kings and peoples that must be harmonised. The imagined geographies of ‘Britain’ and ‘England’ must also be negotiated. Broadly speaking, the passage of dominion sees both an ethnic shift (Britons to Saxons) and a geographical one (Britain to England). The Prose Brut chronicle repays attention in this respect too, because it refigures Galfridian geography in its highly interesting version of the very first conquest of the land by the Trojan hero Brutus. And so to conclude this chapter, I look further back into England’s legendary past.

From Britain to England The story of Brutus’ foundation of Britain, with his building of ‘New Troy’ on the Thames (now London), was exceedingly well known in the Middle Ages. In Geoffrey’s Historia, and in the countless chronicles that follow him (Bruts and others), Brutus unequivocally founds and names the whole island (‘insulam Britannia’) and his sons divide Britain into three kingdoms after his death, with Locrin, Brutus’ eldest son and heir, receiving the ‘central part of the island’ (‘mediam partem insulae’).59 In an arresting departure from this established account, the Oldest Prose Brut remaps the foundation of Britain. Brutus no longer conquers and names the whole island, but only a portion of it: Engletere (equivalent to Geoffrey’s Loegria). This very different explanation of England’s first conquest persists in later versions of the chronicle: Brut then had the whole land called Britain, and he had the people called Britons . . . And when Brut had searched the whole length and breadth of the land, he found a land adjoining Britain in the north, and he gave this land to his son Albanac, and after his name he had it called Albany, which is now called Scotland. And Brut found another country towards the west, and that land he gave to Kambor the other son, and he had it called Cambria,

59

HRB, pp. 28–31 (p. 31).

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jaclyn rajsic which is now called Wales . . . [After Brut’s death], with great ceremony, Locrin the son of Brut was crowned king of all the land of Britain.60

British kings are so deeply felt to be the founders and rulers of England that Brutus need no longer conquer and name the whole island. It is common in medieval historical literature to see ‘England’ expand to encompass the whole island (to be equated with Britain or Albion), as when Henry of Huntingdon traces the shifts in terminology for ‘the most celebrated of islands, formerly called Albion, later Britain, and now England’, which stretches the borders of ‘England’ across a large geographical space.61 Brut chronicles contributed to England’s perceived extensibility (an appealing notion in the context of attempts by English kings to rule over the whole island), to the idea that ‘Engelond his a wel god lond’ which ‘from souþe to norþ he is long eiʒt hondred Mile / & tuo hundred mile brod fram est to west’.62 But here in the Prose Brut’s Brutus story ‘Britain’ is England, not the other way around. Both ‘Britain’ and ‘England’ are inherently flexible, imagined spaces: their borders are elastic.63 The Prose Brut’s shrinking of ‘Britain’ anchors Brutus’ lineage to the ‘central part of the island’. It brings Brutus’ kingdom more firmly in line with the territory ruled by the Anglo-Saxons and then by present-day kings of England. This contributes further to the chronicle’s construction of a ‘continuous heritage’ that unites rulers of different ethnicities – British, Saxon, Danish, and Norman – who share governance over England.64 The change is bound up in the chronicle’s larger approach to writing (or rewriting) England’s conquests. Yet, it also reinforces political ideas of England attested by documentary sources around the time when the Oldest Version was composed (the reign of King Edward I). Andrea Ruddick finds that official records written in the early fourteenth century present the kingdom of England as ‘a tangible, discrete territorial entity within the British Isles’, separate from Scotland and Wales (rather than as 60

61

62 63 64

‘Brut fist donqe appeller tute la terre Bretaine, e les genz fist il appeller Brutouns . . . E quant Brut auoit encerche tute la terre de lunge e de le, il troua vne terre ioinaunt a Bretaine en le north, e cele terre dona il a Albanac son fiz, e il la fist appeler Albanie apres son noun, qe ore est appele Escoce. E Brut troua vne autre pais vers le west, e cele terre dona il a Kambor, lautre fiz, e il la fist appeler Kambre, quore est appele Gales . . . [Apres la mort de Brut] feu Locrin le fiz Brut corone oue grant solempnite de tute la terre de Bretaine.’ Marvin (ed.), Oldest Anglo-Norman Brut, pp. 82–3. ‘insularum nobilissima cui quondam Albion nomen fuit, postea uero Britannia, nunc autem Anglia’ (HA, pp. 12–13). On ambiguities between ‘Britain’ and ‘England’ in English historical literature, see esp. MacColl, ‘Meaning of “Britain”’. Robert of Gloucester, Metrical Chronicle, vol. i, p. 1, lines 1, 6–7. Chapter 8 below explores more fully the possibilities for medieval writers to create ‘dynamic spaces’ and to reimagine borders and places. Marvin (ed.), Oldest Anglo-Norman Brut, p. 8.

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the whole island).65 The Prose Brut’s Brutus myth makes ‘Britain’ fit with contemporary conceptions of England – a new take on the Britain/ England alignment. For medieval writers, the past was a site onto which the values and desires of recent times could be inscribed.66 The Galfridian past, however, brought with it additional appeals, along with challenges, of periodisation. Writers reimagined history, geography, and even time as they found creative ways to navigate the overlaps between British and English histories. In the passages considered here, particularly the pivotal Cadwallader episode, readers and writers found opportunities to think through England’s conquests, to reflect on the series of arrivals and the mixing of peoples that shaped England’s history, geography, and (imagined) royal lineage. Such activity was of course not limited to Brut chronicles. Universal histories and royal genealogies, to give just two examples, attest to further experimentation with the Galfridian and Bedan pasts, as Roger’s Flores shows. Universal histories relate events in chronological order: their writers had to tackle periodisation issues head-on, to work out when, how, and to what extent British and Anglo-Saxon kings could share insular power. There were some limits, then, to Geoffrey’s influence on medieval historical literature, despite the impressive extent of his reach across geographical borders and across time, and despite how powerful a hold the Historia had on the medieval historical imagination. But for countless readers and writers, legendary British rulers were a vital part of the British and English pasts, and Brut chronicles played a crucial role in the dissemination and reception of Galfridian history. 65 66

Ruddick, English Identity, esp. pp. 62–7, 97–9 (p. 67); on the ‘messy reality’ (p. 98) of this, see pp. 74–97. Spiegel, Romancing the Past, pp. 2–5.

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chapter 5

Genealogies Marie Turner

In the study of genealogy, in Britain as elsewhere, one immediately runs up against the problem of definition. What do we mean when we discuss genealogy as a term for medieval historical writing, and what kinds of text fall under its contested sign? As a literary genre and material product, genealogies have survived in myriad forms: as scraps of information buried inside longer works or as elaborate narratives in their own right, as simple pedigrees or as complex graphic visualisations. The ubiquity of genealogical thought in medieval historical literature is a double-edged sword. So broad is the investment in genealogy that it can be difficult to disentangle from historiography itself; while genealogy can of course denote a distinct genre or narrative form, it is more often a structure, a favoured practice for the manipulation and organisation of time that undergirds much of the historical writing of the period. Contrary to its early critics, who excluded overtly narrative historical forms, we now recognise the influence of genealogy across historical genres, from annals and chronicles – local, regional, national, and universal; pious and secular; Latin and vernacular; in verse and prose – to family narratives, romances, and other historical fictions. Given this widespread permeation of the historiographical register, the material forms of genealogy are similarly multiple: the roll format is one way that genealogy distinguishes itself visually, but genealogical texts and diagrams are also widely found in codices. In this way, as Matthew Fisher reminds us, genealogy develops an ever more ‘complex and unstable relationship to the historical’,1 making our task in this chapter by turns stringently documentary and fundamentally speculative. The majority of this chapter is concerned with exploring the uses and abuses of genealogy in several key exempla across a spectrum of historiographical genres. Beginning with a short introduction to the critical literature on genealogy in the European Middle Ages, four subsequent 1

Fisher, ‘Genealogy Rewritten’, p. 123.

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sections look to divergent forms of genealogical literature: national chronicle and the Galfridian origins of genealogical history, family and institutional chronicles, and the ‘Matter of England’ group of historical romances. Finally, I touch on material considerations, focusing on the genealogical roll and how its physical structure reinforces the ideological underpinnings of genealogical history. The taxonomy of genealogy presented here is by no means exhaustive, but the following pages offer some perspectives useful for the interpretation of genealogy as both a historiographical tool and material genre.

Critical Orientations As many have shown, secular and vernacular historiography emerges in Western Europe at the same time as the social system of genealogy, a development epitomised in Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae (c.1136) and its vernacular inheritors. However, this is only one of many points of origin for genealogical history in Britain and Ireland. Irish genealogies are some of the earliest known in Europe; surviving Pictish king-lists provided an important source for Bede’s Ecclesiastical History (c.731) and have provoked debate about whether the Picts were a matrilineal society;2 several collections of Anglo-Saxon royal pedigrees and regnal lists survive from as early as the tenth century, including in copies of Asser’s Vita Ælfredi regis Angul Saxonum (893), and in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (late ninth through twelfth centuries).3 The eleventh century sees the emergence of the Tree of Jesse as a common visual motif in stained glass, statuary, and manuscript illustration. Derived from accounts in the Books of Isaiah and Matthew, the Tree of Jesse is the original family tree, depicting Christ’s descent from the kin of David. The biblical tradition of tracing Christ’s genealogy back to the ancient lineages of the prophets and patriarchs is also implemented by Peter of Poitiers in his twelfth-century schoolroom text Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi, reinforcing the idea of a continuous genealogical narrative running from Creation to the beginnings of Christian time, and deploying genealogy as a method for teaching history. In their simplest documentary form, genealogies unfurl a linear narrative of filiation (X genuit Y, Y genuit Z and so forth), but the medieval obsession with genealogy reflects a broader ideological interest in origins, and historians and literary scholars alike have 2 3

D.P. Kirby, Molly Miller, and Nicholas Evans have all written on the early Pictish genealogies. See Sisam, ‘Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies’; and Chapter 16 below, on Irish historiography.

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long identified genealogical literature as a significant site of cultural fantasy, collating concepts such as identity, nobility, lineage, and authority. Since Georges Duby first theorised it in the 1950s, much ink has been spilt on genealogy as an intellectual construct integral to the development of the medieval historical mindset. The turn of the first millennium marks a shift in the organisation of the family whereby horizontal or synchronic kinship groups are replaced by a diachronic system of vertical patrilineage, as both Duby and R. Howard Bloch have shown.4 During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, genealogy created a venue for the legitimisation of familial claims, as property and power became heritable via the synthesis of land and family identity, what Bloch calls the ‘biopolitics of lineage’.5 Through this new focus on ancestry, the rigid structure of agnatic descent transforms into a kind of historical argumentation capable of bestowing authority via a dynastic narrative of noble origins: ‘to be noble . . . [is] to be able to refer to a genealogy’.6 In other words, genealogy has a profound impact on the developing historiographical tradition. As Gabrielle Spiegel argues, genealogy reconfigures ‘history as a series of biographies linked by the principle of hereditary succession’ whereby ‘events stand in filiative relation to one another’.7 Crucially, therefore, past is to present as father is to son, allowing history to be viewed as one continuous movement, time flowing uninterrupted towards a cosmic sea. Ultimately, both Bloch and Spiegel reconceive Duby’s patrilineal model as mental construct, arguing for genealogy as a guiding metaphor for the movement of historical narrative, ‘a symbolic form that governs the very shape and significance of the past’.8 More recently, new multidisciplinary approaches have begun unfixing genealogy from Duby’s rigid metaphors of heredity and continuity, allowing for an expanded view of genealogical method and narrative. Historian David Crouch and anthropologist Anita Guerreau-Jalabert have called for a more rigorously historicised and semantically broad understanding of the concept of lineage.9 Literary critics Raluca Radulescu and Matthew Giancarlo have examined the relationship between genealogy and fictionality,10 and Zrinka Stahuljak proposes a new way of reading genealogy as a metaphor for filiation rooted not in blood but linguistic alliance.11 4 5 7 9 10 11

See Duby, La société; and Bloch, Etymologies and Genealogies. 6 Bloch, Etymologies and Genealogies, p. 70. Duby, ‘Structure of Kinship’, p. 147. 8 Spiegel, Past as Text, p. 105. Ibid. See Crouch, Birth of Nobility; and Guerreau-Jalabert, ‘Désignation des relations’. See Radulescu, ‘Genealogy in Insular Romance’; and Giancarlo, ‘Speculative Genealogies’. Stahuljak, Bloodless Genealogies.

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Taken together, these approaches reveal the complexities of genealogy as a historiographical phenomenon, and invite us to examine it with a wider epistemological lens.

The National Chronicle: Geoffrey’s Historia and its Heirs Without a doubt, the largest arena for the use of genealogy in medieval Britain is the national chronicle. Though early historiographical works, notably Bede’s Historia and the Historia Brittonum (c.829–30), do make reference to important genealogies, by and large – and despite their interest in origins – pre-Conquest national chronicles in the Bedan vein rely on a model of history as providentially ordained rather than genealogically structured. It is Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia that epitomises the move towards a genealogical model for national narrative that will endure through the remainder of the Middle Ages.12 Both a supplement to and critique of Bede, the Historia attempts to yoke the Trojan myth to the Roman Brutus, eponymous founder of Britain, and to combine the later lineages of the Welsh, Anglo-Saxon, and AngloNorman rulers together in a unified genealogical narrative of British kingship. Post-Conquest historical literature is characterised by this kind of genealogical anxiety, as the new Anglo-Norman ruling class sought to overwrite the discontinuities of 1066 and establish a shared lineage with the Anglo-Saxon past, in a political climate wherein vertical lineage and primogeniture were gaining significance. As other contributors to this volume show, Geoffrey’s Historia is a tour de force of genealogical making, fantasising a lineage for Britain that simultaneously anoints the ancient Britons as an imperial power and eases the anxieties of the new AngloNorman aristocratic class. A proliferation of vernacular chronicles followed the Historia’s genealogical model. Wace’s Roman de Brut, completed within two decades of Geoffrey’s own work, authorises its version of history via a lineal rhetoric: Ki vult oïr e vult saveir De rei en rei e d’eir en eir Ki cil furent e dunt vindrent Ki Engleterre primes tindrent, Quels reis i ad en ordre eü, E qui anceis e ki puis fu, 12

On Geoffrey of Monmouth, see Chapters 4, 6, 8, and 12 in the current volume.

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marie turner Maistre Wace l’ad translaté Ki en conte la verité Whoever wishes to hear and to know about the successive kings and their heirs who once upon a time were the rulers of England – who they were, whence they came, what was their sequence, who came earlier and who later – Master Wace has translated it and tells it truthfully.13

As prologue, these lines expose both the matter and the structure of Wace’s undertaking in the Brut, crystallising Spiegel’s vision of history-as-genealogy whereby human time moves in a clear and legible ‘ordre’ and regnal descent (‘rei en rei’) is figured as filiation (‘eir en eir’). Wace returns to these ideas in the Roman de Rou (c.1160), particularly in its preface known as the Chronique ascendante, which sketches out the names and deeds of the Norman dukes in reverse chronological order to Rou, the Danish originator of the Norman dynasty. Geoffrey’s earliest vernacular inheritor is Geffrei Gaimar, whose Estoire des Engleis (c.1136–7) adds yet another dynastic line to the narrative. Gaimar is known for his treatment of Anglo-Danish genealogies:14 the Estoire is the earliest extant witness to the Havelok narrative, a text itself steeped in genealogical intrigue, but the chronicle also contains a scene of conflict and compromise between the Anglo-Saxon king Edmund Ironside and the Danish leader Cnut where the two agree to be freres en lai . . . cum si fussum ambedui frere e d’un pere e d’une mere brothers by adoption [under the law] . . . as if we were two brothers with the same father and the same mother.15

Gaimar’s political fantasy uses genealogical language to imagine a heterogeneous nation unified by a shared past, but it ultimately reifies the multiplicities that are Britain’s true inheritance. The Geoffrey–Gaimar–Wace triad16 initiates a trilingual Brut tradition, entering into the English vernacular first via Laʒamon in his Brut (first half of the thirteenth century) and then Robert Mannyng’s 1338 Chronicle of England (via Piers Langtoft’s Anglo-Norman verse chronicle).17 Its 13 15 16

17

Wace, Roman de Brut, lines 1–8. 14 See Parsons, ‘How Long’. Gaimar, Estoire des Engleis, lines 4339, 4343–4. There is evidence that these texts were seen as interrelated during the medieval period itself. All four surviving copies of the Estoire are prefaced by Wace’s Brut, and his Rou is bound in one instance with the Historia. On Mannyng and Langtoft, see Chapters 19 and 26 in the present volume.

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pinnacle is found in the anonymous Brut chronicles which, extant in over 250 manuscripts, were something of a medieval bestseller and one of the richest sources we have for the study of medieval attitudes to national history. The genealogical concerns at the heart of the Brut tradition are far too complex to fully address here,18 but the manuscript tradition reveals that questions of lineage and succession were an important part of the interpretive methodology of its readership. Genealogical materials appear alongside or in the margins of many Middle English Brut manuscripts. Dublin, Trinity College, MS 505, for example, contains a copy of the Prose Brut prefaced by a variety of genealogical texts including a chronicle from Noah to Edward IV decorated with roundels, and catalogues of biblical and ancient rulers, emperors, and popes,19 and similar material is found in a host of other manuscripts, including London, BL, MS Harley 53, a Lancastrian chronicle; London, BL, MS Cotton Julius B.iii; and London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 99.20 Illustrated copies of the English Brut are also extant in roll format, including Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 546,21 materially emphasising the Brut’s affinity with genealogy and reinforcing the relationship between history and visual descent. Later, this kind of national chronicle is used as a salve against the pain of deep genealogical trauma following the deposition of Richard II in 1399. The houses of Lancaster and York competed to consolidate their claims to the throne through the production and circulation of a new kind of chronicle that unites the early British history of Geoffrey of Monmouth with the recent past, effectively ignoring the disrupted lineage caused by the Lancastrian usurpation in order to create an unbroken line of descent.22 The grandest examples not only exploit the Galfridian modes of genealogy and prophecy, but also borrow from biblical and universal chronicles such as Peter of Poitiers’ twelfth-century Compendium and Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon (c.1344), situating England’s history within an even wider geographical and theological framework. For these chronicles, the genealogical roll format becomes the fashion if not the norm, emphasising again the visual impact of diagrammatic models of royal descent and the 18

19 20 21 22

See Marvin, ‘Narrative, Lineage, and Succession’; and Matheson, ‘Genealogy and Women’. For a more detailed account of the Brut tradition and its relationship to historical writing, see Chapter 4 above. See Scattergood, ‘Eyes of Memory’. On the manuscript tradition of the Brut in Middle English, see Matheson, Prose Brut. See Rajsic, ‘English Prose Brut Chronicle’. For example, Lydgate’s ‘Kings of England sithen William Conqueror’ and the anonymous verse chronicles of its type. See Mooney, ‘Lydgate’s “Kings of England”’.

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pervasiveness of genealogical anxiety in later medieval England, as well as the continuing popularity of this mode of historical interpretation. It is worth noting that later rolls and chronicles in this vein (including illustrated copies of the Middle English Brut itself) were not only produced for the royal houses, but were also a key component of literary production for gentry and aristocratic families.23 The nobility consumed genealogical literature in all its forms with a hearty appetite and, as explored further in the following section, commissioned their own family chronicles and pedigrees designed to bolster claims to land and prestige, and to establish their participation in the imagined national genealogies first traced by Geoffrey of Monmouth and his heirs.24

Institutional and Family Chronicles A second crucial venue for the use of genealogical themes and methods is the institutional chronicle, a genre largely consisting of monastic histories that track the origins of their houses or orders. Because these texts often evince an interest in the genealogies of their benefactors or in the macrocosmic ‘family’ of their monastic order, I group them here with another genealogical subgenre: the family chronicle. Both rely on the interweaving of dynastic concerns with origin narratives of the ancient past, and both take on archival and legalistic functions.25 Works such as these are particularly well suited for showcasing what might be called the dual orientation of genealogy: always gesturing both outwards towards the larger concerns of the nation and inwards towards the microcosmic world of family and community. Thomas Walsingham’s late fourteenth-century chronicle the Gesta abbatum monasterii Sancti Albani (Deeds of the Abbots of St Albans) derives from one of the oldest and most vital Benedictine centres in England. A continuation of the Gesta abbatum of Matthew Paris, Walsingham’s chronicle is organised bio-chronologically like a genealogy, but instead of laying out regnal or familial lines, each successive section is dedicated to the reign of one of the abbots of St Albans. Rather than dwelling on these leaders as personages, the genealogy is contextualised by legal and local historical interests, turning the text into a ‘narrative cartulary’26 that preserves information on the house from a variety of documentary sources, 23 25 26

Radulescu, Gentry Context. 24 See Meale, ‘Politics of Book Ownership’. Monastic histories of this kind are often referred to as cartulary-chronicles. See Genet, ‘Cartulaires’; and John Taylor, English Historical Literature. Given-Wilson, Chronicles: Writing of History, p. 93.

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including charters, lists of rents and properties, and religious documents.27 Also written in the late fourteenth century, the Chronica monasterii de Melsa (Chronicle of the Monastery of Meaux) by Thomas Burton provides another example of a history with strong institutional-genealogical leanings.28 Beginning with a narrative of the foundation of the abbey, the reader learns how each abbot contributed to the progress of Meaux. As Burton himself describes it, the text is intended to record ‘the gains, the losses and enfeoffments of holdings pertaining to [the abbey], the pleas, proceedings, charges, and other things concerning it; set out by means of the order and times of each of the abbots who successively ruled over it’.29 Alongside this institutional lineage, the chronicle also provides supplementary genealogical data including the pedigrees of several Yorkshire families with ties to the monastery, presumably as a means of strengthening certain land grants and inheritance claims.30 Chronicles like those of St Albans and Meaux are part of a tradition in line with classical imperial biography, and, more visibly, the Liber pontificalis, Bede’s Gesta abbatum, and a number of other Gesta abbatum and Gesta episcoporum of the early medieval period.31 Such texts seek to create an ideal documentary version of the past in order to preserve institutional rights in an unknowable future. In this way, they are both inherently memorial32 and also ‘defensive’,33 characterised by an interest in protecting their houses from threats as varied as war, papal taxation, and disputation with rival institutions both monastic and lay. This dual purpose is accomplished through recourse to communal memory construed as a genealogy of origins. The case of Wigmore Abbey is slightly different: maintaining a greater focus on patronage, the chronicle inhabits a kind of middle ground between institutional and family genealogies. Between the midthirteenth and mid-fifteenth centuries, the monks of Wigmore produced at least four texts narrating the deeds of their founders and benefactors, the distinguished Mortimer family of Marcher barons. One of these histories, 27 28 29

30 32 33

See Chapter 11 below. This is the English Cistercian Monastery near Beverley in the East Riding of Yorkshire, not the French diocese of the same name. ‘perquisitionibus, amissionibus, et infeodationibus tenementorum eidem pertinentium, placitis, processibus, onerationibus, et aliis ipsum concernentibus; distincta per vices et tempora singulorum abbatum, seriatim et successive eidem praesidentium’. Burton, Chronica monasterii de Melsa, vol. i, sig. A1. HW2, p. 370 n. 180. 31 See Sot, Gesta episcoporum. See Given-Wilson, Chronicles: Writing of History, p. 91. Jamroziak, ‘Genealogy in Monastic Chronicles’, p. 121.

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compiled in the late fourteenth century and later printed by Dugdale as Fundationis et fundatorum historia,34 has a distinct genealogical focus. The manuscript opens with an account of the foundation of Wigmore itself, but quickly expands to encompass a variety of genealogical formats. First, the reader encounters a ‘pseudo-Brut’35 followed by lists of the kings of Scotland, the dukes of Cornwall, and the kings and princes of ‘South Wallie’ through Llywelyn ap Iorworth, whose daughter Gwladys occasions a lengthy digression foreshadowing Mortimer claims in Wales. This is followed by the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy and a diagrammatic rendering of the kings of England from Brutus to Richard II presented in blue and red roundels. Finally, the chronicle proper begins, narrating the Mortimer family’s presence in England from their arrival with William the Conqueror. Significantly, this section opens with one of the great genealogical cruxes of English history: the celibate Edward the Confessor’s promise of the crown to William, Harold’s attempted usurpation, and the restoration of William’s inheritance. As is often the case with documents such as these, the main function of the chronicle is found in the glorification of the Mortimer name and presentation of the family as the rightful heirs to the English crown. The Wigmore chronicle is only one of a significant number of Latin, Anglo-Norman, and Middle English genealogies of English noble and gentry families that survived the Middle Ages, but they have received little scholarly attention despite their value as examples of how individuals sought to assert their own relationship to history. As the Mortimer histories demonstrate, family genealogies often originated in the registers and cartulary-chronicles of the religious houses they patronised, and as such are concerned with the establishment of property ownership and other such practical purposes. Similarly, letters are another significant source of family genealogies: the Paston letters include a missive from a member of the well-known Norfolk family to Edward IV appealing to the family’s ancient descent as a means of defending a land claim,36 and John Spence cites a similar document from John Plaiz to Edward III.37 Beyond such practical concerns, the dynastic self-consciousness of the nobility led to a desire to reach as far back into the past as possible in order to place famous figures among the family’s ancestors – a tactic borrowed 34 35 37

Dugdale (ed.) Monasticon Anglicanum, vol. vi, pp. 348–55. The Fundatorum historia is extant in a single manuscript, Chicago, University of Chicago, MS 224. See Griffin, ‘Wigmore Manuscript’. Given-Wilson, ‘Mortimer Family’, p. 70. 36 See Norman Davis (ed.), Paston Letters. Spence, Reimagining History, p. 143.

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from the national mythos.38 In the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the nobility often used genealogy as a way of demonstrating their connections, however specious, to royal blood, with some even producing pedigree rolls showing their family lines presented side-by-side with regnal descent. Such examples include the Percy and Talbot rolls,39 the Clare family pedigree roll (London, College of Arms 3/16), and Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 98, a Brut chronicle which also depicts genealogical material relating to several prominent families, including the earls of March.40 Of particular interest is the Rous Roll,41 a late fifteenthcentury armorial chronicle commissioned by the lords of Warwick, now extant in both an English and a Latin version (London, BL, MS Additional 48976, and London, College of Arms, Warwick Roll, respectively). The text is ‘baronial propaganda’42 celebrating the deeds of the Warwickshire earls, including an extensive genealogy that connects them to a variety of luminaries, including the romance hero Guy of Warwick. The English version also contains more than 150 painted coats of arms, revealing the relationship between genealogy and heraldry in legitimising claims of nobility.43 Finally, many family genealogies also share much with the bombastic historiographical mode of the Brut. A particularly good example of this is the Anglo-Norman Mohun Chronicle, written in the mid-fourteenth century for the Mohuns of Somerset who, like the Mortimers, are said to have arrived in England at the time of the Conquest. The Chronicle is perhaps most notable for the unique version of the Albine myth that forms part of its Brutish opening, but the prologue also promises histories of the emperors, popes, archbishops of Canterbury, and kings of England and France in addition to the story of the Mohun family and their accomplishments.44 Unfortunately, the unique manuscript (London, BL, MS Additional 62929) is fragmentary, breaking off in the middle of its account of the popes, and what portions of the family history survive are preserved only through transcripts by later antiquaries. Despite these losses, the prologue 38 39

40 41 42 44

Radulescu discusses this model in Gentry Context, especially pp. 54–70. These are Oxford, Bodl., Bodley Roll 5, and London, BL, MS Cotton Julius B.iv, respectively. On the Percy genealogies, see Holford, ‘Family, Lineage and Society’; Tscherpel, ‘Political Function of History’; and Edwards, ‘Verse Chronicle’. These and other similar rolls are briefly noted in Sutton and Visser-Fuchs, Richard III’s Books. See Tyson, ‘Adam and Eve Roll’. On the Rous Roll, see Liu’s two articles, ‘Building History’ and ‘Romances of Continuity’. Mason, ‘Legends of the Beauchamps’. 43 See Crouch, ‘Historian, Lineage, and Heraldry’. Spence discusses the Mohun family history and several other family chronicles in Anglo-Norman, in Reimagining History. See esp. pp. 141–61.

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itself provides an elegant defence of genealogy rooted in Adam’s desire for knowledge in the face of mortality: Therefore we, who are more frail than Adam ever was, must put into writing the deeds, the sayings, the names, the lines of succession, and the virtues of our kin, and particularly of our ancestors, since because of their good deeds we live and rejoice on earth, and they live and rejoice in heaven – and because many things may be forgotten, with the passage of time, old age, various wars, and sudden changes of lineage, unless they are put in a book by men of religion.45

As one of multiple ‘little chronicles’46 encompassed by the narrative, the history of the Mohun family is implicated in a universal schema that is supported by moral, religious, and legendary contexts. The genealogical language here extends far beyond any workaday functionality, the legal protection of lands or the like; beginning with Adam’s certain knowledge that ‘every living thing must die’,47 genealogical literature becomes a kind of textual talisman protecting against the dangers enumerated in the prologue, against oblivion itself.

Genealogy and Romance: The Matter of England Texts like the Mohun Chronicle, with its integration of family, national, and legendary concerns, reveal genealogy as a transgeneric methodology that connects history with other adjacent literary forms, including epic and romance.48 Like other forms of genealogical literature, romance was brought to Britain from the continent in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, and quickly adapted by the new Norman and Angevin barony to tell tales of insular heroes, in both Anglo-Norman and Middle English. Romances of all stripes engage with genealogy, but the so-called historical romances or Matter of England group make a particularly good example, in part because of their close and contested relationship with history. These ‘romances of English heroes’49 include the stories of Horn, Havelok, Bevis of Hampton, and Guy of Warwick in both Anglo-Norman 45

46 48 49

‘Donques nous, que sumus plus frellez qe Adam ne fust, dussoms mettre en escrit les featz, les ditz, les nouns, les successions, et les bons mours de noz amis, et nomeement de noz fondours, qe de lour biens vivoms et joioms en terre, et els de ceo [vivent] et joient en ciel, et pur ceo qe moltz des choses fussent obliez par cours de longtenps, par grande age, par diverses gueres, et par sodeine mutacions des lignages, sanz ceo qu’els ne soient par gent de religion mis en livere.’ Spence (ed.), ‘Mohun Chronicle’, pp. 170–1. Ibid., p. 173. 47 Ibid., p. 171. For a further discussion of romance and its relationship to historical writing, see Chapter 22 below. See Crane, Insular Romance.

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and Middle English, the Anglo-Norman Fouke le Fitz Waryn and Waldef, and the Middle English Athelston romance. Because of their origin in baronial self-fashioning, historical romances are sometimes categorised as a type of household history, written with the co-operation or patronage of an aristocratic family, though this is something of a simplification. These texts explore complex questions of regional and national identity, often against a pre-Conquest backdrop, a project derived from a desire to establish the inheritance of Anglo-Norman England as cultural continuity rather than conquest.50 Genealogy is more than a narrative motif in insular romance: it is integral to the development of the genre itself, and functions as a guiding principle that structures the texts’ relationship to the past. For the Matter of England romances, historical interest is always genealogical interest, and the form is characterised by adherence to the doctrine of patriarchal primogeniture as laid out by Duby and Bloch. Boeve and Bevis confront the problem of the female heir; in the Lai d’Haveloc and Havelok the Dane, the hero must discover his true identity as the son of the Danish king in order to reclaim both his own throne and that of England; the titular hero of Fouke le Fitz Waryn is driven by the desire to win back his ancestral lands from the scurrilous King John; perhaps most visceral is the political plot of Athelston, which includes multiple marriages and pregnancies, culminating in a horrific image of violent abortion and lost succession. Through this genealogical anxiety, historical romance constitutes a fictionalised space for the negotiation of such politically charged questions as lineage, property, and kingship, and it is in this context that we can best understand why they have been called ‘ancestral’, roman gé né alogique,51 or, more recently, ‘childish’ – not in the sense of banality or simplicity, but insofar as these texts are ‘almost always, in some manner, thoughts on a child’.52 Two examples provide two differing perspectives on the genealogical investment of insular romance. The Anglo-Norman Fouke le Fitz Waryn follows a family history model, recalling the Mohun Chronicle in its layering of family politics with Brut legend and Conquest history. The story of a Marcher lord who turns outlaw after being disinherited by an unscrupulous king, Fouke is unique in its connection to documentable events: between 1201 and 1203, the minor Shropshire baron Fulk Fitz Warin III staged an armed rebellion against King John after the monarch refused to acknowledge his hereditary lordship over the office of castellan of 50 51

See Rouse, Idea of Anglo-Saxon England; and Chapter 6 below. Legge, Anglo-Norman Literature. 52 Giancarlo, ‘Speculative Genealogies’, p. 355.

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Whittington on the Shropshire/Powys border. The opening sequence of the romance narrativises the genealogy of the Fitz Waryn family from the Conquest through the thirteenth century, supported by a Galfridian prophecy that both establishes their claim to Whittington and looks back past the Conquest to Brutus’ original founding of Britain. The bilingual Horn triad, though also interested in the recovery of lost inheritance, embodies a different kind of genealogical desire. The romance exists in three divergent texts: the Anglo-Norman Romance of Horn (c.1170s) and the Middle English King Horn (thirteenth century) and Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild (fourteenth century). The story is that of a young nobleman who is exiled from his homeland after the death of his father and, after achieving hero status, successfully conquers his enemies and regains his patrimony. In the process, he wins the love of a king’s daughter, adding a second kingdom to his inheritance. The hero’s land is the stage on which this romance of historical continuity plays out, and the later Horn Childe sharpens this into an appeal to national identity by connecting Horn’s England to that of the audience: Stories ʒe may lere Of our elders þat were Whilom in þis lond.53

The Romance of Horn even grants the text itself a genealogy of sorts. In the opening lines, the poet Thomas invokes a lost romance of Horn’s father Aalof,54 giving his own work a literary pedigree it otherwise lacks, while a second branch of this family tree is found in the final laisse, where Thomas introduces yet another phantom romance: that of Horn’s son Hadermod. Hadermod, we learn, takes up the mantle of his father to conquer and rule Africa, a tale Thomas’s own son Wilmot is born to tell since he, we are told, inherits (‘retendra’) both his skill and his tale from his father. Thomas again emphasises the genealogical focus of the narrative: the ultimate result of Horn’s adventures is the birth of his son, who will keep the narrative moving forward.55 Simultaneously, Thomas’s own son Wilmot is anointed as the inheritor of his poetic enterprise, suggesting that the ideology of primogeniture and ethical inheritance that governs the hero also shapes the processes of romance composition. 53 54

55

Mills (ed.), Horn Childe, lines 4–6 (emphasis mine). No Aalof romance survives, but Waldef does allude to a geste of Aalof, placing him in its pantheon of heroes – see Holden (ed.), Roman de Waldef. See also Mills’s scepticism about Thomas’s Aalof in Mills (ed.), Horn Childe; and Weiss, ‘Thomas and the Earl’, pp. 7–9. As with the Aalof romance, no known version of the Hadermod tale exists.

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Materiality: The Genealogical Roll In this final section, I shift from considering genealogy as a narrative strategy to a material practice, with a particular focus on the genealogical chronicle roll. As we have seen, chronicles that include biblical, British, and early English ancestors present an imagined history that asks readers to view present-day rulers as the rightful heirs to the likes of Edward the Confessor, Arthur, Brutus – even Adam and Eve. A key component to the success of this project is the roll format, which stresses continuity and allows a history of (repeated) rupture to appear as one of smooth ideological succession. At the close of the twelfth century, the roll format was in extensive use for the presentation of biblical history in Peter of Poitiers’ Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi, but there is no evidence that rolls had ever been used for chronicles of the kings of England or any other secular genealogy in Europe before the final quarter of the thirteenth century. This does not, however, necessarily suggest that the preference for the roll form emergent at this time is incidental or unexamined. As a material format for national history, the genealogical roll offers four distinct advantages. First, the vertical momentum of the roll mimics the movement of succession and allows for the presentation of history as genealogy. Second, the roll format conveys a sense of authority: materials kept on rolls, including Chancery and other legal documents, had prestige and power, and the harnessing of the format for genealogical chronicles grants them the same patina of authority, and contributes to their presentation as official histories. Third, rolls could be read from top to bottom, one section at a time. As an early aid for the teaching of history, they lend themselves to a kind of breezy didacticism; the minimal use of text and development of a visual programme serve the reader as a crib sheet, making history easier to digest and memorise.56 Finally, unlike the codex, rolls have fewer material bounds placed on their continuation, and are easily extended in order to supplement the historical narrative with recent events. This extensibility also has an ideological function: royal chronicles, as we have seen, are often deeply invested in forging connections to the legendary past. If we assume that the roll was already perceived as an older technology by medieval culture,57 the choice of format may be read as both a theoretical nod to the authority of antiquity and a material practice of continuity. So, a royal chronicle written on a roll may therefore be seen as 56 57

The opposite of this is also true: the layout allows multiple chronologies to unfurl simultaneously, meaning we can read not only up and down, but also backward and side to side. See Clanchy, From Memory, esp. p. 141.

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increasing the prestige of the English monarchy by capitalising on this lack of temporal limitation, giving the impression that it originated in the deep and remote past, and that it may extend forward into an equally distant future.58 Equally as important as the physical support is the rich graphic apparatus that distinguishes the genealogical roll. Unlike most other types of manuscript illustration and illumination, it can be argued that the genealogical diagrams are the primary content of these objects, with the explanatory text occupying a subordinate role. This is made clear in rolls such as London, BL, MSS Royal 14 B V, where the arrangement of the text is dictated and even bisected by the lines of the diagram, which was drawn first. The extreme care taken in both the design and execution of the genealogical diagram, as well as the prioritising of image over text, are suggestive of their perceived ideological value: rendered visually, the royal dynasty functions as a ‘diagrammatic backbone’ of English history.59 Like the roll format itself, the graphic apparatus is derived from biblical histories and is first used for secular national chronicles in the thirteenth century. The historian Matthew Paris60 appears to have been responsible for the earliest secular genealogical diagrams;61 accompanying his Chronica majora (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MSS 26 and 16) are full-page spreads depicting a genealogy of the kings of England from Alfred. Matthew’s visual innovation is crucial: each king appears in the genealogy twice, once in a small roundel alongside his family members, and once in a larger medallion in the central line of succession. This system allows for a doubled interpretation of history, whereby the line of succession is individuated as its own narrative at the same time as it becomes a fiction of filiation, connecting each king to his successor as if they were father and son. The model gained popularity across Europe, leading to a boom in the production of pedigrees and genealogical chronicle rolls over the next few centuries. In England, illustrated chronicle rolls survive in large numbers, including forty extant genealogical rolls produced between the reign of Henry III and the death of Henry V in 1422 alone.62 But it is the fifteenth century that sees the pinnacle of the vogue for genealogical rolls; Alison 58

59 61

Genealogical chronicles also exist in a hybrid form sometimes called the ‘roll-codex’, wherein the text and apparatus are adapted to the book. While occasionally such examples are the result of users reconfiguring existing rolls, some manuscripts originate in this format. See de la Mare’s description (Catalogue, pp. 80–5) of Oxford, Bodl., MS Lyell 33. Sutton and Visser-Fuchs, Richard III’s Books, p. 135. 60 See Chapter 18 below. See Suzanne Lewis, Art of Matthew Paris. 62 De Laborderie, ‘First Manuals’.

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Allan has identified what she calls a ‘genealogy industry’ beginning in the reign of Henry VI (1422–61, 1469–71), reflecting both the internecine strife of the Wars of the Roses and England’s imperial claims to the thrones of Spain and France.63 A significant number of English genealogies are extant from this period, including more than thirty pedigrees produced for Edward IV after his ascension in 1461.64 The scholarly consensus is that these rolls served a primarily propagandistic function as the houses of Lancaster and York deployed them in support of their individual claims to the throne. Philadelphia, Free Library, Lewis E20 and London, BL, MS Harley 7353 are two particularly ornate examples of Yorkist rolls. The Philadelphia roll is heavily illuminated, including an extensive programme of heraldic imagery, while Harley 7353 contains a typological life of Edward IV, including a genealogy of the kings of England since Henry III in the form of a Tree of Jesse. The culmination in this case is of course not Christ but Edward himself, whose legitimacy is proven despite the attempts of the usurping Lancastrians to literally chop off the branch from which he descends. It is hardly possible to summarise in this brief chapter the deep significance of genealogy to the practice of history in medieval Britain. However, as I hope the present survey has demonstrated, the ubiquity of genealogy reflects a broader concern with origins and an ever-increasing desire to participate in the production of history for a nation whose past is characterised by discontinuity. The utility of genealogy then derives from its position at several significant interpretive junctions: of history and fiction, of continuity and rupture, of theory and practice.65 I conclude with one final example. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Library, MS Roll 1066 is a Yorkist chronicle produced after the accession of Edward IV in 1461. About two thirds of the way down, a line appears in the right margin beginning with Rollo, the founding ancestor of the Norman ruling house. This line, marked out in red, tracks the genealogy of the dukes of Normandy and eventually joins the main line of succession at the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066. At the appropriate moment, nearly two hundred years and four feet after it has begun, Rollo’s line precipitously abandons the margin to bring itself into conjunction with the blue line of Anglo-Saxon rule. Where the two meet, a mandorla appears containing a full-body portrait of William the Conqueror, and something happens which is very curious indeed: the coloured dynastic lines are 63 65

See Allan, ‘Yorkist Propaganda’. 64 See Kennedy, Chronicles, pp. 2676–7 and 2889–90. Stein also makes this last point in ‘Making History English’.

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replaced by a single branch in gold leaf. The text is silent on William’s claims to the throne, but the visual argument is clear as he is shown to knit together the Norman and Anglo-Saxon lines in an act of historical alchemy. I have come to read this moment as a representation of genealogy’s overwhelming desire for continuity in the face of conquest, the political fiction at the heart of the genealogical project.

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chapter 6

Anglo-Saxon Futures: Writing England’s Ethical Past, Before and After 1066 Cynthia Turner Camp

My title poses a periodisation paradox. How can one talk about an AngloSaxon future when, after 1066, the Anglo-Saxons were decisively past? Who are these ‘Anglo-Saxons’, given that the term only came into common usage in the sixteenth century?1 I argue that, for late medieval writers, preConquest England is both a coherent historical period and a paradigm of England’s political and religious potential.2 As a historical period, it shares continuities with the late medieval present through a common culture, religion, and geography. But it remains historiographically ‘past’, as later writers imagine it to be cut off from the present by the events of 1066. The arbitrary division that closes off past from present renders it an object of study to be analysed, manipulated, and glorified; it turns the past into an object of the present’s desire. Those writing about Anglo-Saxon England frequently depicted it as a perfected age from which the present was separated by time and by debased morals – an age the present should aspire to regain. That drive to regain the past, to return to these lost glories, pushes the historical narrative towards a desired future. The inclination to periodise and the impulse to imagine a more beneficent future thereby go hand in hand. Although several influential critics have argued that post-Conquest writers had little interest in, or little sympathy with, their pre-Conquest predecessors, later medieval writers were in fact deeply invested in the early English past.3 As Sarah Foot details elsewhere in this volume, ‘Britain’ and ‘England’ (and therefore ‘British’ and ‘English’) were not stable concepts, although from the tenth century ‘England’ commonly referenced the 1 2 3

Reynolds, ‘What Do We Mean by “Anglo-Saxon”’; Yorke, ‘Political and Ethnic Identity’. On the political implications of such periodisation, see Kathleen Davis, ‘Periodization’. Frantzen and Niles, ‘Anglo-Saxonism and Medievalism’, p. 7; Scragg, ‘Introduction’, p. 7; Niles, Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, esp. pp. 7, 19–20, 23, 26–7. Hilton, Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, begins with the sixteenth century.

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kingdom and ‘English’ its subjects.4 With the rise of British histories after the twelfth century, ‘Britain’ came to reference a period in the kingdom’s prehistory in addition to functioning as a geopolitical descriptor.5 Whether producing chronicle, romance, or hagiography, writers envisioned the fifth century through 1066 as a coherent epoch (or series of related periods) in the kingdom’s history. Although they acknowledged the fluctuating regnal borders of the seventh and eighth centuries, the Norse incursions in the ninth and tenth centuries, and the lordship of Cnut and his sons,6 these writers nevertheless homogenised these political shifts and waves of invasion under a notion of English singularity. This drive to unify the kingdom’s inhabitants rhetorically also made the term ‘English’ proscriptive as well as descriptive, when used, for example, to ostracise foreigners or (as I discuss below) to invoke a certain cluster of ideologically freighted values. Later writers therefore understood this period’s people to have enjoyed a common identity and to have been united by faith and eventually fealty to a single king, while the Norman Conquest was often seen as decisively reconfiguring England’s social, political, and religious fabric. The beginning of this period was subject to revision and debate, thanks to Geoffrey of Monmouth, as were early English moral and political traits. Nevertheless, Bede’s Ecclesiastical History modelled a laudatory form of historical Englishness that chroniclers could deploy to envision England’s blessed past. That tendency to look backward in order to look forward is characteristic of historiography generally. Medieval history writing engaged the future in many ways, ranging from eschatology to prophecy, but here I am concerned with the way writers shape or anticipate upcoming events by selectively narrating the past and by crafting historical characters as imitable figures.7 History is inherently edifying, as many chronicle prefaces from Bede onwards claim; writers therefore develop their narratives to be in part a series of exempla through which the attentive reader can envision a more amenable future. They craft the machinations of tyrants and the wisdom of benevolent rulers to be examples to eschew or imitate, models from which the reader can learn prudence and politique behaviour.8 Moreover, all history writing is shaped by some expectation of things to come. Because history is never a simple record of past events but always the 4 5 7 8

See Chapter 8 below; and also R.R. Davies, ‘Peoples of Britain I’, pp. 16–19, and ‘Peoples of Britain II’, pp. 6–14. MacColl, ‘Meaning of “Britain”’. 6 See further Chapters 8 and 9 below. On apocalyptic modes of thought, see Chapter 3 above. Sønnesyn, William of Malmesbury; Koselleck, Futures Past, pp. 26–31.

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selective organisation of past events into a narrative that the present finds comprehensible or useful, those emplotment decisions expose implicit presumptions about the future.9 As Reinhart Koselleck pithily puts it, one ‘construct[s] history from the modalities of memory and hope’, for written history embeds expectations about the future. Derived from experiences of the past, these expectations inform the present-day interpretation of that past.10 This mode of historical futurity, the desired future embedded in the way the past is recrafted, underpins the fundamental narrative decisions every writer makes. To write an Anglo-Saxon future, then, was to imagine a future England that partook of the same wise kingship, devotional glories, pastoral attention, and just governance that characterised the Anglo-Saxon period. Of course, those characteristics were enhanced, even invented, by later writers engaged in producing the past they needed to model the future they wanted. In the following pages, I trace the different ways such AngloSaxon futures were depicted in the Middle Ages, from Bede to the early sixteenth century. While each generation built upon the imagined past it inherited, each also grappled with historiographic challenges distinctive to its own day. In each age, however, the idea of Anglo-Saxon England, however it was (re)conceived, became a blueprint for a desired future.

Bede, Alfred, and the gens Anglorum The idea of the Anglo-Saxons originated with Bede; even in his writings, however, the concept signals an ethical aspiration for the island’s inhabitants rather than a coherent political entity. His Ecclesiastical History of the English People (c.731) narrates the growth of Christianity throughout seventh- and early eighth-century Britain. Inspired in part by Eusebius’ fourth-century Ecclesiastical History, Bede writes a providential history: history as manifestation of God’s will and the narrative of salvation playing out upon the earthly plane, only partially visible from the human perspective but moving inexorably towards the divinely mandated End of Times.11 Bede’s history presents the diverse peoples who settled Britain from the continent in the fifth century (whom Bede identifies as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) as blessed, given a prestigious place in salvation history. Even while narrating this shifting political array of kingdoms and allegiances, 9 10 11

See further de Certeau, Writing of History, esp. pp. 1–113; and Koselleck, Futures Past. Koselleck, Futures Past, p. 258. Bittner, ‘Augustine’s Philosophy’; Davidse, ‘Sense of History’; Chapter 3 above, pp. 52–7.

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Bede imagines these peoples as a singular gens. He uses the phrase gens Anglorum, ‘English people’, to construct a people pastorally unified in the eyes of God and under the archbishop of Canterbury, regardless of kingdom or original ethnicity. Those who were in accord with Rome and the archbishop of Canterbury, including the Irish-founded communities after the 664 Synod of Whitby, can be included in this favoured gens. Those who were not, such as those Britons who refused Augustine’s governance or the Ionans who clung to their old ways after the Synod of Whitby, are not. So, when the British leader Cadwallon ravaged northern England, Bede, who perceived Cadwallon to be merely nominally Christian, claimed that he ‘mean[t] to wipe out the whole English nation from the land of Britain’.12 Such terminological usage distinguishes the gens Anglorum from the island’s other inhabitants, here the Britons who did not respect Canterbury’s authority. Bede’s use of ‘Angle’ as a unifying metonym rather than ‘Saxon’ (the generic term used by continental writers) derived partly from the famous story about Gregory the Great and the beautiful slave boys and partly from his own ethnicity as a Northumbrian Angle.13 While Bede’s vision of the gens Anglorum is not as consistent as some have argued, he nevertheless bequeathed to subsequent readers the concept of a coherent English people.14 The gens Anglorum was, however, neither a political nor spiritual reality in conversion-era England; the term signals instead a desired state for the converted Germanic peoples. As the Ecclesiastical History explains, the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were being constantly conquered and reconfigured, and Bede never hints that a single king governing the gens Anglorum would be desirable, or even thinkable.15 Rather, Bede’s 734 letter to Egbert, archbishop of York, belies his history’s idealised ecclesiastical picture. That letter, in which Bede urges Egbert ‘to attend to the restoration in your days of the ecclesiastical condition of our race’,16 details the avarice and neglect of current Northumbrian prelates and monasteries and urges their reform. The Letter’s pastoral focus provides one way to understand Bede’s use of the holy gens Anglorum as past ideal rather than contemporary fact: his history operates partly as a series of 12 13 14 15 16

‘totum genus Anglorum Brittaniae finibus erasurum se esse deliberans.’ HE, pp. 204–6. Wormald, ‘Bretwaldas’; Wormald, ‘Venerable Bede’; Foot, ‘Making of Angelcynn’. Rowley, Old English Version, pp. 57–64, offers the most thorough study of Bede’s use of the phrase gens Anglorum and related terms for gentes. Yorke, ‘Political and Ethnic Identity’. Bede, ‘Letter of Bede to Egbert’, p. 739; ‘in diebus uestris statum nostrae gentis ecclesiasticum . . . instaurare curetis’ – Bede, ‘Epistola Bede ad Egbertum Episcopum’, p. 412.

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corrective examples for concerns like those expressed in the Letter. For instance, the Letter’s exhortation that Bishop Egbert appoint priests to travel around his bishopric ‘who may devote themselves to preaching the word of God in the various villages and . . . to performing the rites of holy baptism’ is mirrored in the Ecclesiastical History’s story about Bishop Aidan, who walks instead of rides in his travels so he could better minister to the laity.17 In Bede’s day of the early eighth century, the spiritual promise of the imagined gens Anglorum is realised only in the past, halcyon days of Oswald and Edwin, Aidan and Cuthbert, and in a potential future attained by embracing the models Bede’s history supplies. The imagined future of a unified gens Anglorum was revisited from the ninth century as the Angelcynn, the term used for the king’s subjects during Alfred the Great’s reign. Alfred’s educational programme for the AngloSaxon elite, including royally sponsored translations from Latin into Old English, provided a coherent sense of ‘Englishness’ partially indebted to Bede.18 While the term Angelcynn (literally, ‘English peoples’) was often used to differentiate the contemporary English from neighbouring gentes,19 the term did not necessarily reflect current or permanent political loyalties.20 In historically minded writings, rather, the Angelcynn is presented as having obtained in the past and thus offers an ideal for the immediate future. In the Preface to his translation of Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Care, for instance, Alfred recalls ‘what wise men there formerly were throughout England’, imagining a now-lost, unitary, and ethically admirable past for Angelcynn, in which (Alfred continues) kings ruled wisely under divine instruction, ensured peace and justice in their kingdoms, and prospered in war.21 This retrospection points to a desired future: if the present English would translate ancient sapiential texts, they could reverse contemporary decay and return wise learning to Angelcynn. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC), too, despite its wide textual variation, uniformly imagines the Angelcynn as unified through the lordship bond 17

18 19 20 21

Bede, ‘Letter of Bede to Egbert’, p. 737; ‘qui in singulis uiculis praedicando Dei uerbo . . . ac . . . peragendis sacri baptismatis officiis . . . insistant’ – Bede, ‘Epistola Bede ad Egbertum Episcopum’, p. 408; HE, pp. 226–8. See further Davidse, ‘Sense of History’, pp. 657–8, 667–70. Foot, ‘Making of Angelcynn’. See also Wormald, ‘Engla Lond’; and Pratt, Political Thought, pp. 105–7, 115–29. Kathleen Davis, ‘National Writing’, p. 619; Foot, ‘Making of Angelcynn’, p. 28; Pratt, Political Thought, p. 107. Foot, ‘Making of Angelcynn’, pp. 34, 45–9; Molyneaux, Formation of the English Kingdom, pp. 201–9. ‘hwelce wiotan iu wæron giond Angelcynn’ – Alfred, preface to Cura pastoralis, in Sweet (ed.), Gregory’s Pastoral Care, vol. i, pp. 2–3; see further Kathleen Davis, ‘National Writing’, pp. 619–24.

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between the king and his people.22 Because of its secular focus on the exercise of kingship rather than a pastoral concern for English souls, the ASC does not participate in Bede’s providential model of history. Nevertheless, by borrowing the concept of the Angelcynn from those earlier providential uses and by employing the annal form, which anticipates the future through the ever-advancing sequence of dates, the ASC gestures towards unity to come: it hints that ‘the Anglecynn have had multiple early histories, but will have one future, together’.23 The idea of ‘Anglo-Saxon England’ was a spiritual and eventually political desire since the time of Bede, an aspiration modelled on a providential understanding of the past and latent with nationalising potential.

Norman Writers and English History The date 1066 need not have become a historical watershed. The events following the Battle of Hastings were no more traumatic than Cnut’s 1016 conquest, and in the 1070s William’s reign may have looked no more permanent than Danish rule had been. Continuities in law and religious practice, as well as language and local bureaucracy, have been masked by the historiographic insistence, medieval and modern, that England after 1066 differed from England before.24 That sense of change found expression in the narratives of twelfth-century historians who developed a coherent chronology of pre-Conquest and early post-Conquest events.25 Henry of Huntingdon provided the pervasive idea of the Heptarchy; John of Worcester synthesised continental history with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle into a complete chronology of England’s place in world history; William of Malmesbury preserved near-lost stories of kings and saints within a compelling ethical interpretation of England’s history. Behind these major figures stand others, like Symeon of Durham, Eadmer of Canterbury, and Geffrei Gaimar, who also sought to make sense of present troubles by looking to England’s past. These Norman historians wrote primarily in the first half of the twelfth century, a moment when English and Norman identities were highly labile. Although earlier scholars imagined these writers as preserving their 22

23 24 25

Bredehoft, Textual Histories; Sheppard, Families of the King. On the ASC, see further Chapter 10 below, which provides an international corrective to the typically nationalistic strand of criticism in which the current chapter participates. Foot, ‘Making of Angelcynn’, 36. Kathleen Davis, ‘Periodization’; Treharne, Living Through Conquest. Southern, ‘Sense of the Past’.

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Anglo-Saxon heritage from Norman ravages, it now seems clear that these identities were not universal, widespread, or stable, certainly not across the kingdom and perhaps not even within specific communities or individuals. Twelfth-century England instead saw rapid, nonlinear shifts in cultural identities, such that the seemingly straightforward terms ‘English’ and ‘Norman’ are unstable signifiers of heritage.26 As a result, even when historians imagine they are recovering the Anglo-Saxon past, as William of Malmesbury does in his History of the English Kings,27 they are also constituting a novel form of Englishness. This new matrix of English identities has roots in pre-Conquest England but anticipates a different English future, one that can incorporate the francophone landowning classes into the kingdom’s history. This historical construction of new English ambitions is visible in the most fanciful (to modern eyes) of these early Norman histories, Geffrei Gaimar’s Estoire des Engleis (History of the English). Written in the 1130s for the Lincolnshire landowning FitzGilberts, the Estoire is a poetic narrative of English history through William Rufus’s reign, beginning in the extant manuscript witnesses with Hengist and Horsa (Gaimar had prefaced his Estoire with a now-lost history of the Britons). The Estoire ennobles both Anglo-Saxons and Danes by relating their exploits through a French poetic style that lauds martial prowess and honourable noble action. It anticipates later romances in its praise of debonereté, franchise, and gentilesce; its use of octosyllabic couplets and brief forays into amour courtois; and, most importantly, its idealisation of the English past as aspirational goal rather than a factually precise depiction of the island’s past.28 Gaimar, for example, describes Edgar as ‘noble-minded and high-born’, characterises Edmund Ironside as ‘bold as a leopard’ and ‘extremely wise’, and lovingly describes the preparations for Edmund’s single combat with Cnut.29 These formal alterations to his received narratives thereby recreate the AngloSaxons as glorious ancestors who could be embraced by twelfth-century francophones refining new English identities to accompany their English landholdings.30 26 27 28 29 30

Gillingham, English in the Twelfth Century; Short, ‘Tam Angli quam Franci’; Hugh M. Thomas, English and Normans; Ashe, Fiction and History. William of Malmesbury, Gesta regum Anglorum, ed. and trans. Mynors et al., vol. i, p. 14. Press, ‘Precocious Courtesy’, p. 269. On Gaimar, see also Chapter 4, p. 72, and Chapter 10, p. 190, in this volume. ‘francs estait e debonaire’; ‘hardement semblout lepart’; ‘mult sagement’. Gaimar, Estoire des Engleis, lines 3576, 4348, 4351, 4257–95. Ashe, Fiction and History, pp. 94–7 and passim.

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Gaimar, focusing on lordship and military endeavours, can uninhibitedly praise his newly chivalric Anglo-Saxon predecessors. However, the Latin historians – notably, Henry of Huntingdon, William of Malmesbury, and John of Worcester – write within a providential understanding of historical change, so are ambivalent about the English. They must (on the one hand) portray the pre-Conquest English as corrupt: because God allowed the trauma of 1066, the English must have deserved the punishment. Henry of Huntingdon develops this interpretation through his ‘five plagues’ of invaders sent ‘as God’s avengers and goads’ to chastise the island’s inhabitants because ‘in the process of time, all goodness so withered away in them, that no other nation was their equal for treachery and wickedness’.31 Yet (on the other hand) these Latin writers also imagine Anglo-Saxon England as holy and admirable. As Henry explains in that same passage, ‘In the primitive church in England, religion had shone illustriously, so that kings and queens, ealdormen and bishops, had sought either the monastic life or exile.’32 Here, Henry is influenced by Bede as well as post-Conquest legends of Anglo-Saxon saints, many of them penned c.1075–1150 by professional hagiographers like Goscelin and Folcard of Saint-Bertin, that largely predated these Latin chronicles. Hagiography inevitably portrayed Anglo-Saxon England as filled with saintly rulers and virtuous virgins because of generic expectations (and the Norman abbots’ desires to claim these saints), thereby influencing the Latin historians’ understanding of England’s religious history.33 Constructed within the arc of providential historiography and under the influence of Norman hagiography, this English ‘primitive church’ provides the norm from which later generations fall and that contemporary readers, chronicles imply, should regain. These historians’ narrative oscillations create a progressive image of English ethical change. The English had fallen from early spiritual heights; yet, having suffered through Danish depredations, they enjoyed the peaceable reigns of later kings like Edgar. This providential model of punishment and redemption, especially as voiced by Henry, allows readers to imagine a prosperous English future. If the Normans, savage, brutal, and 31

32 33

‘Quinque . . . plagas’; ‘Dei uindices et stimuli’; ‘Processu uero temporum adeo omnis uirtus in eis emarcuit, ut gentem nullam prodicione et nequitia sibi parem esse permitterent’. HA, pp. 14–15, 274–5. ‘In primitiua Anglie ecclesia religio clarissime splenduit, ita ut reges et regine, duces et episcopi, uel monachatum uel exilium, ut premonstrauimus, appeterent.’ HA, pp. 274–5. Ridyard, Royal Saints; Lapidge and Love, ‘Latin Hagiography’. On hagiography, see also Chapter 24 below.

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rapacious, as Henry insists,34 are another plague, then the English can enjoy future tranquility if they embrace a more devout lifestyle. A beneficent future for England is possible, Henry hints, but only if the English heed the past’s examples.

The Problem of Brutus These early twelfth-century chroniclers’ somewhat positive portrayal of the Anglo-Saxons was challenged by Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of the Britons. Geoffrey’s Saxons are ravaging marauders, not honourable rulers easily converted, and this view of the Anglo-Saxon past disrupted the pre-Galfridian chroniclers’ periodisation of Anglo-Saxon history as well as the imagined holiness of the conversion-era Saxons.35 Whereas all earlier writers dated the adventus Saxonum (the arrival of the Saxons) to Hengist and Horsa’s arrival in 449, and nearly all identified 1066 as the end of the era,36 Geoffrey denied 449 as the start of Saxon supremacy. Rather, as Jaclyn Rajsic explains in this volume, Geoffrey offers a dramatic new periodisation for the early medieval period. Reclaiming for the Britons the years 449–689, formerly belonging to English lordship, Geoffrey introduces a new problem: when did primary power pass from Britons to Saxons? This question of the ‘passage of dominion’ becomes critical in the medieval historiography of the Anglo-Saxons.37 Similarly altered is ethical identity. Gone is the pre-Galfridian writers’ sense of the early Anglo-Saxons’ worth. Geoffrey’s Saxons are instead perfidious wasters, duplicitous backstabbers, and dastardly barbarians.38 The treachery of the pagan Saxons is demonstrated in the ‘Night of the Long Knives’,39 and the Christian Saxons are little better. The Augustinian conversion is only notable for leading to the slaughter of the Bangor monks, and Bede’s holy King Edwin becomes a savage slayer of innocent Britons.40 Geoffrey of Monmouth thereby renders conversion-era England a disputed period in insular history. Were the Saxons Geoffrey’s savage invaders or Bede’s holy kings? Does the Gregorian mission transform 34 35 36 37 39

HA, p. 403. By ‘pre-Galfridian’ I indicate those writers whose chronicles do not make substantive use of HRB, even if they were writing contemporary with or slightly after its production. E.g. HA, pp. 78, 384; William of Malmesbury, Gesta regum Anglorum, ed. Hardy, vol. i, pp. 16, 422–4; John of Worcester, Chronicle, p. 410. 38 Leckie, Passage of Dominion. See also Chapter 4 above. Niles, ‘Wasteland of Loegria’. 40 HRB, pp. 135–7. HRB, pp. 259–61, 265.

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heathen intruders into God-fearing rulers, or are the Christian Saxons actually wolves in sheep’s clothing? These historiographic issues plagued later writers. Some (notably the early Anglo-Norman prose chroniclers) emphasise Anglo-Saxon history at the expense of British history; others (like Laʒamon, Wace, the Prose Brut compilers, and Piers Langtoft in the first half of his Chronicle) followed Geoffrey’s depiction of the faithless Saxons; others yet (ranging from The Castleford Chronicle to the Flores historiarum to Nicholas Trevet’s Cronicles) portray the Anglo-Saxons as admirable and honourable, even when they follow Geoffrey’s influential periodising schema.41 Although the 500 years of Anglo-Saxon rule frequently take less narrative space than the extensive British history that precedes it, the post-Arthurian era bears significant weight for these writers’ vision of England’s potential. Those who imagine a British future engage in a melancholy of loss that anticipates a prophesied yet never imminent British rule.42 Those who desire an Anglo-Saxon future, on the other hand, urge readers to effect ethical change by emulating the virtues of a holy Anglo-Saxon past (as I discuss below). The early fourteenth-century Middle English chronicles illustrate how post-Galfridian writers could narrate the conversion of the Saxons and their subsequent political expansion within a dramatic arc, anchored by stories of Gormund, Cadwallo, and Cadwallader, inherited from Geoffrey.43 This interlacing structure establishes a divinely ordained passage of dominion, as the progressively ennobled Anglo-Saxons ‘toke þe lond þorgh godes heste [through God’s command]’44, in Robert Mannyng’s words, from the increasingly dissolute Britons. For Robert of Gloucester too, the island’s future had always been English. Although he states that the island was named England only after Cadwallader departs, Robert calls the land ‘Engelond’ consistently from line one.45 His passage of dominion narrative is accordingly balanced: relating the conversion of the English alongside the gradual military defeat of the Britons, his sympathies lie with the Anglo-Saxons and their holy, peaceable kings like Oswald and Oswy.46 Robert recasts Cadwallader’s final speech to read not as a lament for a powerful people’s demise, but as divine punishment for 41 42 43 44 45 46

Spence, Reimagining History, pp. 46–65. Ingham, Sovereign Fantasies, pp. 53–4. Some versions of the Brut sought to minimise this narrative of loss by omitting conquered British kings like Cadwallader; see Chapter 4 above. For Anglo-Norman examples, see Spence, Reimagining History, pp. 63, 76–7. Mannyng, Chronicle, line 15913. See also The Castleford Chronicle (discussed below). Robert of Gloucester, Metrical Chronicle, vol. i, lines 5144–5. See also Chapter 19 below, pp. 345–8. Ibid., lines 4597–5119 (the death of Arthur to the demise of Cadwallader). By my count, Robert spends only 50 more lines on the British storyline.

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British sins: ‘Ac þoru þe miʒte of ihesu crist we beþ ybroʒt to grounde / Þat we wraþþede euermo & nou we it abbeþ yfounde’ (But through the might of Jesus Christ we are brought to ground. We never ceased to anger him and now we are brought to confusion).47 This understanding of the island’s destiny allows him to model an ideal English future proleptically on this Anglo-Saxon past.48 Despite the popularity of Geoffrey’s history, therefore, many writers recycled the earlier chroniclers’ providential historiography to imagine Anglo-Saxon governance as divinely approved and the conversion-era Saxons as blessed by God.

The Anglo-Saxon Mythos in Late Medieval England ‘History in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries was seen as powerful and appropriable’, as Matthew Fisher discusses elsewhere in this volume, such that vernacular writers were free to appropriate the English past according to their and their audience’s intellectual investments.49 Working within this narratively flexible tradition, many Middle English writers assigned to an idealised Anglo-Saxon England traits to which late medieval communities aspired. John Niles has recently remarked upon ‘how casually the Anglo-Saxon past is treated’ in late medieval accounts, suggesting that those writers ‘never speak of it with precision’.50 Yet these writers’ casual treatment of historical details does not mean they had no regard for their pre-Conquest predecessors. Rather, such historical vagueness allowed late medieval writers to craft a remarkably coherent ethical understanding of the pre-Conquest past as an era of religious transcendence, wise governance, and legislative integrity.51 This mythos of the ‘holy, just Anglo-Saxons’ derives less from historical factuality than from the grafting of desirable spiritual and political traits, coated with a sheen of historical plausibility, onto a temporal framework received (often impressionistically) from earlier, Latin writers. This concept was widespread in vernacular writings, whatever the genre and wherever created. Saints’ Lives from Marie’s Vie seinte Audree to Matthew Paris’s Estoire de seint Aedward le rei to the Middle English South English Legendary cast pre-Conquest England as a ‘golden age’ of political success and spiritual perfection.52 Romances and chronicles fashion this golden age similarly. For instance, the exordium to the 47 49 51 52

Ibid., lines 5066–7. 48 Sarah Mitchell, ‘Kings, Constitution and Crisis’. Chapter 19 below, p. 351. 50 Niles, Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 23. On the latter, see Rouse, Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, pp. 93–133. Camp, Anglo-Saxon Saints’ Lives; Katherine J. Lewis, ‘Anglo-Saxon Saints’ Lives’.

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Lincolnshire romance Havelok the Dane praises the reign of King ‘Athelwold’ as a time when ‘was Engelond at hayse’ (at ease): there ‘were gode lawes / He dede maken an ful wel holden’ (‘were good laws that he made and upheld fully’) and ‘Ricthwise men he louede alle, / And oueral made hem for to calle’ (‘he loved all just men and summoned them above all’).53 Nicolas Trevet’s tale of Constance crafts a parallel conception of the Anglo-Saxon past to position England within Christian history.54 Drawing upon Gregory the Great’s pun, the early fourteenth-century Yorkshire Castleford Chronicle describes post-conversion England as the ‘launde of angells’: Þai tok baptem and bicom wise, Nane þar to strife on oþer to rise. Pes þai vsede, and gode acorde, Amanges þam baʒ in dede and worde. Þai trauaild yern and tilde þe feldes, Þat large frutes to þam yeldes; Castells þai raisede in þe contres, And reedifide þe cites.55 They were baptised and became wise, and none rose in hostility against another. They enjoyed peace and concord among themselves in both word and deed. They worked eagerly and ploughed the fields so that they would yield plentiful harvests; they built castles in the countryside and rebuilt the cities.

Although this emphasis on spiritual, architectural, and agricultural productivity differs in detail from Havelok’s focus on just governance, the two texts offer ethically complementary visions of Anglo-Saxon England. Outside saints’ Lives the Anglo-Saxons are typically depicted as falling from such ethical heights, but the providential historiography of decline and renewal allows writers to imagine this golden age as recoverable. In the ‘Matter of England’ romances especially, this historiographic pattern complements narratives of exile and return, as in Havelok, where the eponymous hero eventually returns lawful rule to England.56 The poet of the late fourteenth-century Athelston similarly transforms his quasi-historical exile-and-return plot into a story of ethical renewal, imagining England’s perfectability.57 The Anglo-Saxon mythos is broadly consistent across 53 54 56 57

Smithers (ed.), Havelok, lines 59, 28–9, 37–8. See also Chapter 22 below. Spence, Reimagining History, pp. 98–103. 55 Eckhardt (ed.), lines 27385, 27399–406. Rouse, Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, pp. 100–5. Treharne, ‘Romanticizing the Past’, pp. 18–21.

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Middle English writings, notwithstanding texts’ varied historical agendas and often local uses. While this homogeneous vision stems partly from shared sources, it also reveals a widespread understanding of the Anglo-Saxon past as a corrective for England’s moral problems. Athelston’s failings and conversion, for instance, speak to needed changes under Richard II, and Robert of Gloucester uses his Anglo-Saxon kings for similar political commentary.58 When the late fifteenth-century merchant-chronicler Robert Fabyan laments that ‘Then [the early Saxon monks] plyed no thynge that was worldly / but gaue them to prechynge and techynge . . . and ouer that they were so voyde of couetyze that they receyuyd no possessions’, his critique of contemporary monastic acquisitiveness implicitly urges a return to early English pastoral care and monastic poverty.59 The prologue to the 1516 Kalendre of the New Legende of England, a collection of English, primarily Anglo-Saxon, saints’ Lives, expresses this renovative desire forcefully: And veryly if there were nowe in thyse dayes the hygh Charyte & perfyte loue to almyghty god & to oure neyghboure þat was in theyse blessyd seyntes or at leest a desyre therto with loue of Iustyce & zele of þe comon welthe & lyke desyre to brynge þe people to good lyfe with hole truste & sure faythe in our lord as was in theyse blessyd men & women. It wolde renewe þe face of this worlde and brynge a newe lyghte amonge the people / as it dyd in the tyme of þe sayd gloryous seyntys.60

For the Kalendre’s compiler, the perfections of the English past can transform the future, ‘renewe þe face of this worlde’, but only if readers replicate ‘nowe in thyse dayes’ the virtues that early English saints embraced. Urging his readers to imitation, the prologue writer provides a transformative vision of England’s spiritual potential as understood through its historic performance. The strength of the Anglo-Saxon mythos is most evident in John Hardyng’s mid-fifteenth-century Chronicle. In his poem’s different recensions, Hardyng attempts various interventions in Wars of the Roses politics; these interventions include adapting the popular Fürstenspiegel or ‘mirror for princes’ tradition to his chronicle, using both direct address and paradigmatic modelling to urge England’s leaders to wise, lawful governance.61 The Chronicle is famously pro-British, especially pro58 59 60 61

Sarah Mitchell, ‘Kings, Constitution and Crisis’. Fabyan, Newe Cronycles, fol. lxxv (sig. i.vi.v). On Fabyan, see also Chapter 14, pp. 256–7, Chapter 21, pp. 378–81, and Chapter 24, p. 433, in this volume. Kalendre, fol. 2v (unsigned). Riddy, ‘John Hardyng’s Chronicle’; Peverley, ‘Dynasty and Division’, 150–1. See further Chapters 23 and 27 below.

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Arthur, yet Hardyng’s Anglo-Saxons model a just and holy governance not readily available to his Britons. His early English rulers thereby offer England a more beneficent future than can the praised yet divisive British. In Hardyng’s ‘passage of dominion’ section and into the heart of his Anglo-Saxon narrative, a distinct set of admirable royal traits emerges that the Britons rarely achieve: upholding the law, supporting the Church, and maintaining domestic concord. Their failure as productive exemplars emerges explicitly in the two laments Hardyng voices during the passage of dominion section. In the final lament, addressed in the second recension to Richard of York and his sons, Hardyng makes Cadwallader a negative example for ‘not kepyng lawe ne peace / Sufferyng debates, and common warrys acheue’.62 The sorrowful apostrophe earlier directed to ‘Carreis’ (Kareticus) clarifies how the Britons failed: The cause was of thy disheriteson And of thy realmes desolacion That with lawe and peaceble constitucion Might haue been saued, with greate consolacion And the churche preserued, in greate prosperacion The Christen faith, in thy lande distroyed That with the peace, shuld haue be kept vnnoyed.63

The demise of Christianity and the absence of justice destroyed any chance for peace in the realm. The qualities the Britons cannot sustain, however, characterise Hardyng’s Christian Anglo-Saxon rulers. Alfred founds Oxford the ‘chrysten fayth [to] mayntayne’, its clerics ‘The kyng also, to comforte and counsayle’; Edward the Elder unites England under his sole rule ‘to voyde [reject] all varyaunce / Discorde and warre’ in the land; and Æthelstan ‘was euer more iust & trewe / To God his faith, and to churches deuocion’.64 Edgar, too, endows monasteries and governs ‘in his dome wyse,’ ‘The common weale, aboue all thyng preferred, / Which euery prince, shuld se wer wel obserued’.65 These Anglo-Saxon kings modelled exactly those behaviours that Hardyng urged the Yorkist family to heed. Although Lucius founded the first British bishoprics and Arthur is beyond compare, Hardyng’s other British kings do not govern through Christian virtue, and few enjoy peaceful reigns. Rather, the ‘golden age’ idea sways even the pro-British Hardyng to model a just, devout future for the English commonweal on Anglo-Saxon kings. 62 63 64

Hardyng, Chronicle of Jhon Hardyng in Metre, fol. xcviv (sig. m.viiiv). Ibid., fols. lxxxiv–lxxxiir (sig. l.iv–l.iir) Ibid., fols. cxv (sig. o.viv), cxiiv (sig. o.viiiv), cxivv (sig. p.iiv). 65 Ibid., fol. cxviv (sig. p.iiiiv).

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Although Hardyng has often been denigrated as a historian, he writes from the nexus of ‘expectation and experience’ that ‘simultaneously constitute[s] history and its cognition . . . by producing the inner relation between past and future’.66 Negotiating the political instabilities of the 1450s and early 1460s, Hardyng explicitly and unabashedly deploys history writing’s anticipatory features to encourage England towards more responsible governance. His chronicle also demonstrates how different pasts can activate different possible futures, within a single text and across the landscape of medieval historical writing.

Beyond Medieval This aspirational use of the Anglo-Saxon era was not a strictly medieval phenomenon. On the contrary, the struggle to shape the future – in England, the United States, and beyond – has long been a struggle to define the pre-Conquest past. In the sixteenth century, reformist polemicists like John Bale rejected ‘popish’ Anglo-Saxon beliefs in favour of an apostolic Christianity brought by Joseph of Arimathea,67 while Catholic apologists like Thomas Stapleton argued for a papal, Roman origin for England in Gregory the Great’s missionary work.68 The confessional divide did not create a clear-cut historiographic split, however; Archbishop Matthew Parker, for instance, attempted to find precedent for aspects of the Elizabethan Settlement in Old English sermons, as each party strove to appropriate England’s religious history for its own spiritual ends.69 This desire to justify moral and political decisions through a selectively remembered Anglo-Saxon past has persisted into the present day. Whiggish historical narratives, underpinned by a fanciful Anglo-Saxon past, helped shape American legal and political thought from colonial beginnings. Later, in the hands of Thomas Jefferson, John Randolph, and Henry Longfellow, the supposedly noble and rugged Anglo-Saxons again stood as a moral restorative.70 As John Kemble put it in the introduction to his edition of Beowulf, ‘these echoes from the deserted temples of the past, if listened to in a sober and understanding spirit, bring with 66 68 69 70

Koselleck, Futures Past, p. 258. 67 Bale, Actes of Englysh Votaryes. Stapleton, Fortresse of the Faith. Benedict Scott Robinson, ‘“Darke Speech”’; Page, ‘The Sixteenth-Century Reception’; Michael Murphy, ‘Religious Polemics’. Hauer, ‘Thomas Jefferson’; Mora and Gómez-Calderón, ‘Study of Old English’; Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny.

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them matter both strengthening and purifying the heart’.71 Such a belief in an Anglo-Saxon revitalising energy, coupled with nineteenth-century presumptions about race and ethnicity, transformed easily into a racialised American exceptionalism that drove the discourse of both slavery and expansionism.72 In the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, white supremacists, especially those with ethnonationalist leanings, continue to build upon this heritage, seeking to restore Western culture to an Anglo-Saxon ethnic purity that never existed.73 As Patrick Geary observes, ‘the history of Europe over a millennium ago is anything but academic’,74 making an understanding of how the Anglo-Saxon past has been formed and deformed, from Bede’s day to today, ever more critical. 71 72 73 74

Kemble (ed.), Beowulf, p. xxxii. Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny; Kramer, ‘Empires’; Mora and Gómez-Calderón, ‘Study of Old English’; Kaufmann, ‘American Exceptionalism’, 447–9. See also Geary, Myth of Nations. Schlatter, Aryan Cowboys, pp. 46–51 and passim; Dockray-Miller, ‘Old English’. Geary, Myth of Nations, p. 7.

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chapter 7

Pagan Histories/Pagan Fictions Christine Chism

This chapter discusses the role of pagans and other non-Christians in medieval Christian historiography and in the Christian historical imaginary from late antiquity through the fifteenth century. As we will see, medieval pagans function as pagans only relative to Christian histories and identities. The label of pagan conscripts non-Christians (or insufficient Christians) into a historical telos, anchored by the Incarnation and tending towards a triumphant Christian eschatology. Augustine’s influential The City of God Against the Pagans (c.426 ce) discouraged the production of providential secular Christian histories by separating the city of God from the city of humanity; he maintained that the mysterious hand of God could never be discerned in human history.1 However, the City of God also opened the way for histories of the Christian mission itself, that is, the triumphal history of the Church. Augustine’s collaborator and associate, Orosius, wrote his universal history Seven Histories Against the Pagans (c.417) in order to contrast the adversities of the pagan past with the happy futures of Christian regimes. So powerful was this model of historiography that many Christian written histories of the first millennium of the Common Era, drawing from Augustine and Orosius, could be characterised as agonistic ‘histories against the pagans.’ Because Christian history is traditionally divided into distinct stages revolving around the Incarnation, the term pagan drafts non-Christians into a particular temporal relationship with Christianity, sorting them into three main categories: (1) virtuous pagans of antiquity who antedate the Incarnation; (2) ignorant pagans to whom the light of Christianity needs to be conveyed and whose future conversion is anticipated; and (3) presentday ‘pagans’ within, between, and outside of Latin and Eastern Christendoms, whose refusal to convert in the light of Christian witness can be construed as stubbornness or wickedness. How each group of 1

Markus, Saeculum, pp. 1–71.

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pagans is represented in medieval history and romance depends on those temporal relationships. To be called pagan is to be offered a place in history either as a convertible resource or as an abject entity; indeed, pagan histories and fictions are often driven by a logic of ‘convert-or-die’. As discussed below, Christian historiographers strove to consign nonChristian groups to the past, aligning present non-Christians with recidivism and shearing away possible futures. Calling someone a pagan paraded one’s own Christianity as a form of modernity, enlightenment, and historical exceptionalism. Like its companion epithets, Saracen and infidel, pagan is a label that attempts to normalise and universalise Christianity. However, to define a pagan as ‘other’ invokes feelings not only of hatred and triumphalism but also of loss. To cut off pagans from a Christian telos is to protect Christendom at the cost of impoverishing it. This sense of loss or waste in medieval writings about pagans leads to complex reattachments of mourning, admiration, and desire. Pagans, Saracens, and Jews are never simply abandoned: instead they are solicited, translated, and reassimilated – often incompletely, and with a lingering potential for reversion. Pagans are overtly damned in order to be covertly ‘saved’. This chapter begins with the idea that pagan-ness in medieval writing performs a politics of historical othering, but it argues further that many narratives engaging in such confessional border-keeping are beset by contradictory responses of loss and mourning for pagan people, virtues, and cultures. Disputes about pagan salvation extend throughout the entire medieval period, driving controversies about the Limbo of the Patriarchs and giving rise to extra-doctrinal propositions of salvation by special revelation or as a gift of God as a reward for virtue. Pagans are saved in less literal ways as well: as cultural authorities, as potential warriors for Christ who were tragically lost, and as poetic forebears so generous in their gifts that they engendered new economies of debt. Thus beloved Virgil haunts Dante’s Inferno (c.1309) and darkens Dante’s poetic seizure of his classical literary antecedents. The would-be genocidal eleventh-century poem The Song of Roland cannot bear to kill the gallant Saracen Margariz. The Sowdane of Babylon’s Charlemagne, seeking to foster two orphaned Saracen infant giants, is devastated when they die of malnournishment. One notorious romance hero, Richard I in Richard Coer de Lyon (early fourteenth century), in order to regain his health, eats Saracen hostages in lieu of pork, thereby reversing abjection and absorbing the restorative other. These ‘salvational’ acts are sometimes driven by a sense of historical belatedness and cultural debt. The intimately hostile relationship of Judaism and Christianity is a vivid instance: Christianity claimed that its

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New Law superseded a Judaism it characterised as Old Law, even as it drew upon its authority. Christian theologians subsequently developed a typological arsenal for managing the Hebrew Torah and Tanakh and directing them towards Christian destinations. However, the very supersessional drives that allowed Christian exegetes to distance themselves from those scriptures also rendered Judaism impossible to manage and ‘digest’ fully. Linguistically, the Hebrew scriptures claim an authenticity that subsequent translations into Latin and various vernaculars renegotiate. Similarly, Christian exegetes attempted to separate the ‘Jewish’ literal senses from the ‘Christian’ spiritual senses (allegorical, typological, and eschatological). In these interpretive schemes, Christian writers continually invoke ‘virtual Jews’, reproducible phanstasms that meld with other nonChristians, their historical specificities obscured so that they could be more easily condemned.2 Jews were shoved into the past as witnesses to Old Testament scriptural truth and denied a place in the ‘New Law’, in order to demonstrate their inferiority to Christians. Yet these strategies only intensified Christian dependence on their ideas of Judaism:3 Passover haunts Eucharist; the Jewish Messiah of an earthly kingdom of social justice calls into question Christian deferrals of justice to the afterlife. Moreover, even as Christian regimes experimented with policies of toleration, expulsion, and violent suppression, Judaism persisted, and Jews continued to interpret their own scriptures and histories.4 The inconclusiveness of these processes of supersession and othering informs Christian fantasies not only of Jews but also of noble pagans and Saracens, who can also be manoeuvred into functioning as ‘witnesses’ to Christian truth.5 Fantasies of noble pagans (such as Aristotle), Jews (such as the Patriarchs, and the first-century historian Josephus), and Saracens (such as the twelfth-century sultan Saladin) also acknowledge cultural debt. Christian writers studied classical, Jewish, and Islamic science, philosophy, historiography, and poetry in order to get a purchase on their own history and expand their visions of the world. As a result, non-Christian writings became resources that created communities of feeling and scholarship in Christian societies. For this reason, medieval histories of pagans grant Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Muslims enormous cultural power over Christian self-definition and self-articulation, whether the pagans function as revered authorities or perfidious adversaries. 2 4 5

Tomasch, ‘Postcolonial Chaucer’. 3 Kruger, Spectral Jew. Baumgarten, Practicing Piety; Ephraim Kanarfogel, Intellectual History. Cohen, Living Letters; Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism; Langmuir, History, Religion, and Anti-Semitism.

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Pagans and Neighbours All this cultural management aside, the word ‘pagan’ had very humble origins. The word pagan derives from pagus (village, rural district, the countryside), and was associated in antiquity with rural preservation of the old religions, in contrast to the Christianity practised in towns and cities throughout the Mediterranean. Gerald of Wales deployed this etymology in his Topography of Ireland (1187), where he characterises the Irish people as insufficiently Christian because indelibly rural.6 Some modern scholars speculate that the Christian use of pagan for non-Christians also connotes civilian in the sense of noncombatant – someone not enrolled in the army of Christ.7 From the fourth century on, Christian writers used it, along with hellêne (Greek), eidôlatrês (idolater), atheoi (godless), polytheos (polytheist), and ektos (outsider) to designate those not of their faith.8 However, the ancient Greeks and Romans would not have called themselves pagans, nor would the vikings, Saxons, Slavs, Jews, Mongols, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Cathars, and the hundreds of confessionally obscure non-Christians to whom the term pagan would later be applied by medieval English writers. For convenience I use the word pagan to retain the portmanteau function of the word and to avoid continually listing all the different groups to which it can refer. The countryside origins of the term pagan suggest not historical sequence, supersession, or translation, but rather a more complex, spatial relationship of besideness. Just as the countryside neighbours and surrounds the city, so pagans neighboured and surrounded Christians; as a result, neighbours become associated with both hospitality and hostility in Christian philosophy and theology.9 Such neighbourly contiguity, or what Eve Sedgwick calls ‘disruptive intimacy’, invites us to attend to moments where what is between Christians and pagans – what they share – disrupts assumptions about relations between pagans and Christians.10 Recently, for example, Christopher P. Jones has shifted the scholarly focus on late antique Christianity, from the boundaries separating ‘Pagans’ and ‘Christians’ to the ways in which such categories interpenetrate.11 The interpenetration most cogent for historical and literary writing in England is that of sympathetic imaginative projection: the capacity of 6 7 9 11

Gerald of Wales, History and Topography of Ireland, pp. 100–2. 8 Christopher P. Jones, Between Pagan and Christian, p. 5 n. 7. Ibid., pp. 3–5. Žižek, Santner, and Reinhard, Neighbor. 10 Sedgwick, Touching Feeling, p. 8. Christopher P. Jones, Between Pagan and Christian, p. 7.

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writers to use pagan times and spaces as ways to contemplate the world outside Christian borders and to redefine Christian experience accordingly. This sympathy for the pagan and willingness to explore pagan cultures on their own terms is not a betrayal of Christian truth but rather a way of coming to grips both with confessional alterity and the urgencies reshaping Christianity itself. In this light, pagans become desirable because they reach out not only to wider worlds but also, and often uncomfortably, to Christian hearts. The rest of this chapter focuses on three ways in which pagans living beside Christians become objects of Christian desire. These pagans are desired for three reasons: for their virtue, their learning, and their beauty. These three qualities galvanise efforts to save them, whether through conversion, through the preservation of their words and works, through the appropriation of their goods, or through even stranger forms of assimilation.

Three Reasons for Loving Pagans 1. Aesthetic/Affective: The Problem of Loving Dido In the Confessions, Augustine famously renounces his pre-conversion attachments to the Dido of Virgil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Heroides. In the grip of his new regime of Christian self-regulation and exploration, Augustine channels into Dido all that was both alluring and fatally distracting in pagan Greek and Roman culture. His theatrical rejection of the powerful but despairing Carthaginian queen recapitulates Aeneas’s own abandonment of her. The empire Augustine leaves Dido in order to found is Christian, immense, and historiographically transformative, witnessed both in the redirecting of his life to God-centred pursuits, and in a new model of human history he proposes. Augustine’s extreme rejection of pagan cultures informed subsequent medieval writings in surprising ways, its very immoderation, for example, provoking narrative empathy with Dido.12 Medieval writers knew that the historical Dido, as witnessed by Justin (c. second century ce), Macrobius (early fifth century ce), and Augustine himself, could never have met Aeneas, and they attempted to find a new historical place for the African queen, as Marilynn Desmond has shown.13 This historicising of Dido complicated her legacy. To take two twelfthcentury examples, John of Salisbury’s Policraticus (c.1159) uneasily 12

Hahn, ‘Don’t Cry For Me’.

13

Desmond, Reading Dido.

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incorporates Dido into a historical outline of the Ages of Man; by contrast, the Norman writer of the Roman d’Eneas (c.1160), patronised by Henry II, drafts Dido’s love into the service of a larger colonialising narrative, which ends with a Normanised Lavine.14 As a common topic of schoolroom rhetorical exercises Dido also held a formal appeal, which extended to medieval historical writing. Medieval histories are replete with classical forms and tropes, from epic catalogues, eclogues, and loci amoeni, to rhetorical inspiration before battles, and visionary journeys into the heavens (e.g. Cicero’s Dream of Scipio via Macrobius’ commentary), and into the underworld (e.g. Virgil’s Aeneid). Virgil and Ovid each have immense medieval historiographical afterlives.15 When medieval writers adapt these classical forms they produce new ones and new modes of literary experience. Loving Dido paved the way for literary experiments in subjective voice (driven by the experience of abandonment) and in political critique (driven by the experiences of injustice and the betrayal of loyalty). And by refusing to give up Dido, writers such as Chaucer (c.1340–1400) could repurpose the Aeneid’s classical authority to critique such matters as the imperialist imperatives that drove Aeneas; or the honour cultures that foreground warrior competitions at the expense of civil life; or the nationalisation of eros that enables Aeneas to sacrifice physical human love for imperial service and servitude.16 2. Ethics: The Problem of Pagan Virtue At the heart of medieval Christianity’s construction of the pagan was the problem of pagan virtue, a problem rooted in classical philosophy and accentuated by a theology that restricts the highest moral goodness to Christians alone. Augustine’s City of God, which deeply influenced medieval treatments of pagans, is a polemical book written at a polemical time, after the defeat of Christian Rome by the Visigoths in 410 ce, and in response to detractors who blamed the defeat on Rome’s imperial Christianisation, Augustine’s text forbad its readers to presume to discern God’s hand in history, urging them instead to invest in the kingdom of Christ in heaven rather than any Christian imperium on earth. The first ten books of the City of God criticise pagan religion and pagan philosophy, disassociating classical Greek and Roman culture from virtue; even models 14 15 16

Ibid. For Virgil, see Baswell, Virgil in Medieval England. For Ovid, see Clark, Coulson, and McKinley (eds.), Ovid in the Middle Ages. Fradenburg, Sacrifice Your Love.

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of chastity, such as Lucretia (d.c.510 bce), and of probity, such as Cato (95–46 bce), possess only apparent virtue and are actually moved by pride.17 Yet subsequent medieval scholars, from Alcuin, Peter Abelard, John of Salisbury, and Thomas Aquinas, to Roger Bacon, Geoffrey Chaucer, and William Langland, worked to counter Augustine’s excoriation of pagan virtue. In fact, in Troilus and Criseyde and The Knight’s Tale, Chaucer goes out of his way to explore pagan worlds from the inside, treating pagan ethical dilemmas sympathetically on their own terms.18 Chivalry was a particularly effective engine for the transculturation of pagan virtue in Christian Britain. For example, the Nine Worthies provided a model of chivalric virtue that knit Christian exemplary heroes to heroes from Christendom’s chief cultural predecessors: pagan Greece and Rome, and biblical Judaism. The Nine Worthies (three pagans, three Christians, and three Jews) first appeared in Jacques de Longuyon’s Vows of the Peacock (c.1312), and then moved through other chivalric histories, particularly Middle English alliterative ones, such as The Parliament of the Three Ages (c.1370) and the alliterative Morte Arthure (c.1400). Although frequently arranged to demonstrate the politics of cultural supersession, the main work of the historical Nine Worthies is inclusivity – sometimes exemplifying chivalric virtue across time, and sometimes proving that all the mighty fall together: pagans, Christians, and Jews alike. The great romances of antiquity in Anglo-Norman and Middle English elucidate the pagan worlds in which chivalric virtue shone. The long reach of the matter of Troy into aristocratic genealogies across Latin Christendom points to a larger medieval fascination with the virtues of Hector, Aeneas, Troilus, and other Trojan and Greek heroes. The matter of Greece proliferated into Middle English historiography via Alexander the Great romances, classical histories of Alexander, and the Letter of Alexander to Aristotle and wisdom texts of the Secretum secretorum traditions.19 The Anglo-Saxon Letter of Alexander to Aristotle, which accompanies Beowulf and The Wonders of the East in London, BL, Cotton MS Vitellius A. xv (c.1000), effectively Saxonises the Greek hero, recounting Alexander’s campaigns against Porus in India both as a discovery of wonders and a test of his thanes’ loyalty. It represents Alexander sympathetically as a good leader, mindful of his followers, whose prophesied death is lamented by all his companions; though 17 19

18 Marenbon, Pagans and Philosophers. Ibid., pp. 213–34. Cary, Medieval Alexander; Stoneman, Alexander the Great; Billows, Before and After Alexander the Great.

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Alexander himself rejoices that despite his early death his virtue can stand before the ages. The Anglo-Saxon translation of Orosius’ Seven Books of History Against the Pagans (c.416–17), by contrast, follows Orosius in judging Alexander harshly as a megalomaniac tyrant proudly consuming all he touches, and adds the voyages of Ohthere and Wulfstan to the geographical section of Orosius’ description of the world in order to place Anglo-Saxon history at the centre.20 What matters is not whether Alexander is celebrated or condemned, but that he is treated at all: the ongoing medieval fascination with pagan virtue made medieval Christianity legible to itself. 3. Epistemology: The Utility of ‘Pagan’ Knowledge Production Pagan epistemologies shaped a great deal of Christian writing about history, including historiographical methodologies themselves. Early Christian historiographers such as Eusebius gave Christianity an imperial destiny by allying its fortunes with those of Christianised Rome, while universal historians such as Orosius interlaced Christian telos with those of the four great empires of Babylon, Macedon, Carthage, and Rome.21 The ideology of the translatio imperii et studii (transfer of rule and learning) helped to contain historical narratives that encompassed the destiny of many peoples within a Latin Christian framework. However, even such agonistic histories drew frequently from preChristian and non-Christian sources. Notably, many historical works otherwise intent on Christian triumphalist accounts of the deeds, events, and the fates of peoples, will suddenly pause to give general information taken from pre-Christian writings (classical, Celtic, Saxon, etc.). For instance, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Arthur halts his Scottish campaigns in the Historia regum Britanniae (c.1136) to discourse on the marvellous properties of British lakes. Similarly, Chaucer tarries to line up planetary conjunctions with rainstorms in Troilus and Criseyde. Medieval historical writing and literature about past events make use of pagan knowledge in a range of forms: Aristotelian philosophy, Ptolemaic astronomy, Aristotle’s and Pliny’s natural science, and Islamic exact sciences and astrology. Showcasing the knowledge coming into England from classical antiquity and Islamic Iberia allowed authors to flaunt an epistemological 20 21

Gilles, ‘Territorial Interpolations’; Huber, ‘Medieval Alexander Bibliographies’; Khalaf, ‘Old English Alexander’s Letter to Aristotle’. Hanning, Vision of History.

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cosmopolitanism: a community of learning that crosses regional and temporal borders. The influence of Aristotelian thought on English universities is only one strand of the massive Greek and Arabic transculturation that accelerated with the twelfth-century expansions into Christian–Muslim contact zones, such as the Islamic ta’ifa kingdoms of al-Andalus, Sicily, and the Levant,22 and Latin Christian–Eastern Christian contact zones, such as Byzantium, the Outremer kingdoms, and Asia.23 Throughout the thirteenth century, recently translated Greek and Arabic texts galvanised newly formed universities throughout Europe.24 One of the most ardent thirteenth-century English seekers after this pagan knowledge was Roger Bacon (c.1219–92). Bacon is generally not regarded as a historian, but Book iv of his Opus Maius, on geography, is nonetheless preoccupied with the historical structure of faiths according to six progressive stages: from Hebrews, Chaldeans, Christians, Muslims, Mongols, and Idolators, to the last and worst, Antichrist. Bacon argues that the major religions of the world themselves were generated by planetary conjunctions with Jupiter: Jews with Saturn, Saracens with Venus, Christianity with Mercury, Mongols with Mars, etc. Book iv also proposes a massive historical intervention, the Christian conversion of the world through pagan science.25 In Bacon’s reading of history, knowledge is literally power: knowledge of how celestial influences work to impel events and change hearts in all the regions of the world might allow the Latin Church to dominate, just as it enabled the Mongol conquest of Asia and, before that, the success of Islam. The stakes for the future are even greater – to equip Christianity against Antichrist, whose conversion of the world will depend exactly on the confluence of words, will, and celestial influences. Translation was key to this effort, particularly because Bacon was operating in a knowledge economy where Arabs, Persians, Jews, Turks, and Mongols already held monopolies. Making such scientific and philosophical works available to Latin Christendom entailed a well-supported translation programme, with particular mastery in the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek (which Bacon shows to be in a lamentable state) but also Arabic, Persian, Turkic, and Mongolian. Ostensibly, once Christian scholars acquired sufficient mathematical, geometrical, astronomical, and geographical knowledge, they would be able to chart the world, and then 22 23 24

Catlos, Muslims. Harris, Holmes, and Russell (eds.), Byzantines, Latins, and Turks; Conder, Latin Kingdom; Mallette, Kingdom of Sicily. Burnett, Arabic into Latin; Marenbon, Pagans and Philosophers. 25 Power, Roger Bacon.

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determine precisely the celestial influences at any given location or time. Crucial to Bacon’s theory is the idea that words have power, and, when timed correctly to coincide with advantageous and scientifically predictable celestial alignments, can change the world. According to this theory, the translation of non-Christian Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew texts into Latin becomes a kind of arms race: only after having digested pagan knowledge will Christians be empowered to convert the world. Conversion rather than violence was Bacon’s focus because, like many other medieval thinkers, he was troubled by the urgencies that underlie discussions of pagan ethics and aesthetics. He also saw in pagan love, virtue, and knowledge the underlying challenge of pagan salvation.

Saving Pagans The idea of pagan salvation is intimately tied to pagan time and space: are those to be saved living or dead; did they live and die before, during (but in a different part of the world), or after the Incarnation?26 The spectacle of damnation for all of those who existed in the vast stretches of time before the Incarnation was unbearable to many medieval thinkers, particularly those sufficiently historically minded to assess how long those stretches were.27 Some relief was provided by various doctrines. For example, the idea of a postmortem rescue for the virtuous believers of the Old Testament (rescued during Christ’s Harrowing of Hell), was conceived as early as the writings of Peter in the New Testament. The development of the doctrine of Purgatory (c.1160–80)28 and the controversies about Limbo (whether for the Old Testament patriarchs or for unbaptised infants) also provided some latitude for pagans implicated by the doctrine of original sin. Many scholars could not imagine damnation for the virtuous pagan philosophers, including Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, whose works became central to medieval Christian thought. Similarly troubling were other good men in the scriptures, such as Job, who lived before the Incarnation and were not Jewish, but were nonetheless faithful to God. The Book of the Apple, originally written in Arabic in the tenth century and translated into Persian, Hebrew, and thence to Latin in 1255 by Manfred of Sicily, shows the respect in which Aristotle was held. Circulating in 26 27

See Marenbon, Pagans and Philosophers, pp. 73–108; Colish, ‘Virtuous Pagan’; Whatley, ‘Piers Plowman’; Vitto, Virtuous Pagan; Grady, Representing Righteous Heathens. Grady, Representing Righteous Heathens, p. 8. 28 Le Goff, Birth of Purgatory.

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hundreds of manuscripts from the thirteenth century to the Renaissance, The Book of the Apple recounts the death of Aristotle by means of a deathbed dialogue about the higher life of the rational soul; it also cleans up Aristotle’s thirteenth-century image by disavowing his problematic concept of the eternity of the world. The Apple’s attempt to recuperate Aristotle was not isolated. Medieval writers as diverse as Abelard, John of Salisbury, Thomas Aquinas, Hugh of St Victor, and Thomas Bradwardine rationalised some version of pagan salvation. Indeed, the modern scholar John Marenbon asserts that medieval belief in some form of pagan salvation was a practical norm rather than a theological exception. Marenbon analyses two theories by which salvation could be rationalised: (1) implied faith, in which the pagan was perfectly virtuous and fundamentally monotheistic, lacking only knowledge of the Incarnation, with the result that God might save them mercifully through his grace rather than through their special merits; and (2) special revelation, in which God reveals the truth of the Incarnation secretly to whom he pleases, regardless of their position in space and time.29 These theories haunt the historical and literary texts preoccupied with the universal damnation of pagans. Dante, for example, with stunning inconsistency, damns Virgil but saves Statius and Cato. In terms of English writing, the Beowulf-poet, dilating upon ancestral pagan values of good leadership and service to one’s people, allows the universal damnation of his ancient Geats, Danes, Swedes, and Wylfings to recede from the poem’s horizon, except for a single moment, during Grendel’s reign of terror, where he underscores the wretchedness of the Danish state. Similarly, Chaucer situates his pagan Troilus’s postmortem destination within his own pagan universe rather than subjecting him to a Christian hell. At the end of Troilus and Criseyde (mid-1380s), Troilus’s soul flies up to the eighth sphere and eventually goes wherever Minos directs him (v.1826–7), but only after celebrating heaven in Criseyde’s arms (iii.1321–3). Another flashpoint is the tale of the Roman emperor Trajan’s (c.53–117 ce) postmortem salvation, sparked by the tears of the sixth-century pope Gregory I upon reading about Trajan’s commitment to justice.30 This story circulated in the Golden Legend (c.1260) and erupts with Trajan himself into Passus 11 of Piers Plowman B (c.1370–90). However, the poem that most dramatically stages the dialogic confrontation with history that pagan salvation provoked is the late fourteenth- or early fifteenth29 30

Marenbon, Pagans and Philosophers, pp. 63–6, 90–4. Grady, Representing Righteous Heathens, pp. 1–44.

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century alliterative work St Erkenwald, where the Anglo-Saxon foundation of St Paul’s Cathedral by the seventh-century Bishop Erkenwald is interrupted by the accidental exhumation of a pagan judge.31 His miraculously preserved corpse provokes controversy because it looks like the body of a saint, and the bishop hastens to the tomb, where the corpse briefly revives and tells his story: he was a virtuous judge within ancient London, and God rewarded him for his probity by preserving his body after death. Yet he is not actually saved; his soul still suffers in hell. Bishop Erkenwald is so moved by his lamentable state that he sheds tears on the corpse in an empathetic baptism; and God seals the miracle by taking the soul to heaven, while the body falls to dust below. This poem, like Dante’s Divine Comedy, manages to have it both ways, maintaining the damning power of original sin, while opening an empathetic loophole. The contrast between St Erkenwald and Roger Bacon’s Opus maius underscores the temporal span and ideological complexity of the economies of give and take, seizure and reverence, activated by the need to ‘save’ pagans. Where Bacon works to assimilate knowledge of the pagan world and place it in the service of mass conversion, St Erkenwald brings about a small-scale and deeply affective conversion, one that also salutes a civil justice that reaches across confessional borders.

Dealing with Pagans in English Historiography: Beauty, Wisdom, Virtue British historiography’s pagan problems are not essentially different from those of Mediterranean and continental histories of the classical and medieval periods. For example, Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History (c.731), follows the postAugustinian writers who chart the fall of nations and peoples through master narratives of the triumph of the Church. By contrast, his predecessor Gildas (c.500–70) instantiates for Britain the kinds of providential and prophetic histories laid out in the biblical book of Jeremiah, while drawing upon the triumphalism of the early Church historian Eusebius (260/5–339/40).32 Like many Latin, Francophone, Germanic, and Romance writers, British writers such as Geoffrey of Monmouth co-opt Virgil’s Aeneid and construct historical genealogies while blending them with local traditions. British historiography is one self-exceptionalising endpoint (among many) of the complex historiographical legacies of its predecessors and neighbours. 31 32

For discussion of St Erkenwald, see also Chapter 14 below, p. 246. On Gildas, see Chapter 1 above.

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The allure of pagans – and the urgencies set into motion by the idea of pagan salvation or damnation – reshape early British historiography in the writings of Bede, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gerald of Wales, and Laӡamon (c.1190). These historians construct a proto-colonial telos for British history through the implanting of rightful rulers in an uncivilised land, rulers variously portrayed as the Christianised Anglo-Saxons, the ancient Britons, or the Normans.33 In doing so, they foreground a sense of British exceptionalism, sometimes to the point of xenophobia. The history of one people – the Anglo-Saxons or the British or the Norman English – provides the dominant arc in each history, and the myriad other peoples encountered, whether pagan or Christian – vikings, Cornish, Irish, Picts, AngloSaxons, Welsh, Scots, Frisians, etc. – will only promote, compromise, or distract from that narrative and whatever national telos is attached to it. However, when pagans enter into British historiography, their proximity and neighbourliness question as well as ratify English Christian exceptionalism. Even the most threatening pagans in these texts, which are informed by the larger pagan discourses discussed above, are frequently described as beautiful, strong, wise, and full of redemptive potential. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, for instance, finds in pagans an opportunity for Christian victory. It shuttles between, on the one hand, a few unregenerate pagans, such as Penda, king of Mercia, who represents pagan canniness, obduracy, and ferocity, and, on the other hand, many tractable pagans who are wells of unrealised Christianity. To take another example from Bede, St Gregory’s famous slave-market encounter with Anglo-Saxon pagan boys, the slave boys’ angelic fairness underscores their national destiny. Gregory asks the boys question after question, turning their every answer into a prophecy of their conversion. Interpretation becomes destination as Bede’s British pagans feed the slow progress towards Christianity’s triumph in Britain that is the overarching trope of Bede’s history. Bede’s text, however, is troubled by neighbours more threatening than these pagans: the native British Christians already dwelling in Britain, whose practices have diverged from papal norms. These native Christians assume the mantle of pagan stubbornness and otherness. For sections of Bede’s narrative, in a bizarre ethical reversal, virtuous pagans are instrumentalised to clear the land of retrograde Cuthbertian Christians, anticipating the pagans’ future conversion into good Christians. The dramatic 33

On Galfridian history, see Chapter 4 above; on the appropriations of the Anglo-Saxon past, see Chapter 6 above.

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efficacy of pagan conversion in England is thus counterpointed by awareness of Christianity’s internal divisions, and the Church’s tactics for overcoming them. By contrast, Gerald of Wales at the end of the twelfth century characterises the Irish as irremediable pagans, but suggests strangely that they both do and do not need remediating. In this description, Gerald repurposes a variety of classical ethnographic traditions – Ciceronian as well as Augustinian and early Christian – in order to develop a strikingly conflicted picture of Irish life.34 Throughout his Topographia Hibernica (c.1187), Gerald calls attention to the improper Christian practices of the Irish, but at the same time he suggests that they become pagan by virtue of their countrification, which at once strengthens and beautifies them, and downgrades them to primitive. Gerald fulminates on the disjunction between their natural virtues and their cultural retrogression: ‘although they are fully endowed with natural gifts, their external characteristics of beard and dress, and internal cultivation of the mind, are so barbarous that they cannot be said to have any culture’.35 These Irish barbarians, literally barbaric with immoderate beards,36 use very little wool in their clothes, and their trousers are indistinguishable from their boots. They ride without saddles or spurs, go naked and unarmed into battle, have fabulous aim for throwing, live on beasts and like beasts, and cling to their woods and pastures. Their willed devolution is enacted even in their processes of childrearing. However, this primitive nurturing profits rather than harms the Irish, as Gerald notes: They are not put in cradles, or swathed, nor are their tender limbs helped by frequent baths or formed by any useful art. The midwives do not use hot water to raise the nose, or press down the face, or lengthen the legs. Unaided nature according to her own judgment arranges and disposes without the help of any art the limbs that she has produced. As if to prove what she [nature] can do by herself she continually shapes and moulds, until she finally forms and finishes them in their full strength with beautiful upright bodies and handsome and well-complexioned faces.37 34 35

36 37

Khanmohamadi, In Light of Another’s Word, pp. 11–56. Gerald of Wales, History and Topography of Ireland, pp. 100–2; ‘licet ad plenum naturae dotibus excolantur, barbarus tamen tam barbarum quam vestium, necnon et mentium cultus, eos nimirum reddit incultos’ – Topographia Hibernica, p. 150. Bartlett, ‘Symbolic Meanings of Hair’. Gerald of Wales, History and Topography of Ireland, p. 100; ‘Non in cunabulis aptantur; non fasciis alligantur; non frequentibus in balneis tenera membra vel foventur, vel artis juvamine componuntur. Non enim obstetrices aquae calentis beneficio vel nares erigunt, vel faciem deprimunt, vel tibias extendunt. Sola natura quos edidit artus, praeter artis cujuslibet adminicula, pro sui arbitrio et componit et disponit. Tanquam itaque probans quid per se valeat, fingere non cessat et figurare,

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Nature’s handiwork in the Irish weighs against Gerald’s civilising imperatives; the aesthetic allure of the beautiful upright bodies offsets the clothes, beards, and rural pursuits that Gerald deplores. It suggests that perhaps the Irish do not need the civilising process of English colonialism after all. They hover uncannily in the space demarcating civilised Christians from unregenerate pagans. Similarly contradictory language informs both Geoffrey of Monmouth’s and Laӡamon’s pagan Saxons, who are at once worthy and treacherous. This ambivalence towards pagan Saxons reflects, among other things, British desire for or aversion to miscegenation with pagan peoples. Laӡamon’s account of the first Saxon foothold in Britain particularly emphasises the practical wisdom of the Saxon leader, Hengist. Vortigern has employed the Saxons as mercenaries, but he refuses to give British land to a pagan. Hengist pleads only for as much land as he could cover with a single thong of ox-hide. Vortigern, seeing no harm in that, agrees. Hengist wastes no time; ‘Hengist had a wise man who well knew of craft who took the hide and laid it on a board and whet his shears as if he would shear. Of the hide he carved a thing, very small and very long . . . as a thread of twine.’38 With this slender thread of hide, Hengist encompasses a great deal of land, and anachronistically builds on it a Norman mott and bailey fortress. This incident in Laӡamon thus gestures forward to the Norman Conquest and both signals the permanence of Hengist’s foundation (it becomes Thongcaster and then the future city of Lancaster) and aligns him with the eventual conquerors of his own people. The same incident in Geoffrey, Wace, and Laӡamon also gestures backward, to Dido’s foundation of Carthage in Virgil’s Aeneid, with the same canny thong trick: Hengist is a second Dido. The asynchronicities and hybridities of this foundational moment momentarily offset the polarisation of Christian and pagan, and the colonising telos of British, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman occupations of Britain. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain goes farther than merely expressing contradictory language. At the end of a xenophobic account of the centuries-long British struggle to flush the pagan Saxon colonists from England’s shores, Geoffrey suddenly reverses course to speculate about a different kind of politics. He describes a moment of

38

quousque in robur perfectum, pucherrimis et proceris corporibus, congruis et coloratissimis vultibus, homines istos provehat et producat’ – Topographia Hibernica, p. 150. ‘Hengest hadd ane wisne man: þat wel couþe ode crafte./ He nam þeos bole hude: and a borde laide./ þar of he makede ane þwang: swiþe small and swiþe lang . . . bot ase hit were a twined þred.’ Laӡamon, Brut, ed. Madden, ii.170.

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détente between Edwin, king of the Saxons, and Cadwallo, the king of the Britons, friends and foster brothers, who contemplate a lasting peace that might have averted the Britons’ loss of their homeland. Their incipient alliance is destroyed by an extraordinary intervention by Brian, Cadwallo’s nephew, who has physically nurtured Cadwallo with his own flesh, and figuratively drives him from within. Weeping onto Cadwallo’s face, Brian reminds Cadwallo of the traditional enmity between the British and the Saxons and the history of Saxon treachery. In this scene, Brian removes all of Geoffrey’s ambiguities while seriously underplaying the close relationships fostered between Saxon and British families, such as Cadwallo’s. In fact, the two peoples are more proximate than ever before, and some of the Saxons have even adapted to British ways and are no longer pagan. Brian’s tears on Cadwallo’s face recall Gregory’s tears for Trajan, but, rather than reconciling pagan and Christian, Saxon and Britain, they reinstate an implacable enmity between Briton and Saxon that will result in British defeat. Geoffrey’s text thus demands reconsideration of the very premises of cultural polarisation between Christian and pagan that drive his narrative. His translators and followers – even Laӡamon who execrates the Saxons at every opportunity – embrace those complexities, the ethical, aesthetic, and redemptive desirables, which are inextricable from pagan wickedness and which stand between pagan and Christian. Ultimately, as in the other early British histories, the question of the pagan makes visible the politics of Christianisation and national destiny. It also clarifies the costs of a colonial violence that results in the destruction of natural resources, infrastructure, and inhabitants, through constant warring. In Geoffrey, Britain is completely depopulated by military overreach multiple times, a devastation so profound that in his last work, the Vita Merlini, he depicts Merlin’s prophetic sister, Ganieda, as expelling the future Normans from Britain – ‘Normans, depart!’ (Iteque Neustrenses!, line 1511) – for the damage their settlement will cause.39 Pagan history, informed by pagan fiction, implicates Christian historiography in ways that are difficult to ignore. In Bede and Gerald, Geoffrey and Laӡamon, what stands between pagans and Christians are pagans themselves, unable to be wholly rejected thanks to their potential for future conversion. The writers of these histories are writing in their own presents about unknown futures in which they themselves may turn out to be the pagan forbears of some emergent people. By keeping the pagans close, next to, and between, 39

Geoffrey of Monmouth, Vita Merlini, p. 116.

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perhaps they are acknowledging the vulnerability of inscribing themselves into a historical telos whose ends cannot be seen or controlled.

Histories of their Own: Decentring Christian Perspectives If pagans functioned so contradictorily in the most influential AngloSaxon and early Norman British historiographies, it is not surprising that there is no set pattern for the ways in which later British writers capitalise on pagan histories and fictions. Both exemplary pagans and execrable ones populate subsequent Brut histories, crusading romances, geographies and itineraries, and even hagiographies. Even Saracens could be noble: for example, thirteenth-century apocryphal hagiographies transformed St Thomas Becket’s (c.1119–70) mother into a Saracen princess who is converted to Christianity by Gilbert Becket’s willingness to die on crusade.40 She travels to England in a near martyrdom of her own, suffering scorn and ridicule on the way, culminating in a death-like faint at her London destination – all of which re-enacts Christ’s Passion and presages the future martyrdom of her son Thomas. Thus, in this version of Becket’s life, England’s national saint springs from both Norman and Saracen stock. The most formidably noble Saracen, the sultan Saladin (1137–93), embodies chivalry, generosity, and intelligence across a range of historical and romance texts, as a counterpoint to the orgulous, immoderate, and maniacal Saracens of Middle English romances such as The King of Tars, Ferumbras, and The Sowdane of Babylon. The Middle English Floris and Blancheflour (c.1250) ameliorates the anti-Muslim ferocity of its French and Spanish sources. Its sultan, while dictatorial, remains noble and generous, and the romantic conversion of the Saracen Floris is enacted not as a manifest cultural destiny but rather as an ambiguous afterthought at the romance’s end. In the face of this ethical, aesthetic, and epistemological pagan variety, thirteenth- and fourteenth-century histories, geographies, itineraries, and ethnographies sometimes move beyond Christian-centrism towards more dialogic histories of encounter and transculturation. Christendom itself becomes usefully estrangeable, as Shirin Khanmohamadi has argued, ‘in light of another’s word’.41 In a variety of narratives showcasing Mediterranean, Asian, and African encounters, pagans and sectarian Christians begin to speak back to Latin Christian interlocutors, articulating their own histories and perspectives, and resituating Latin Christendom 40

Brown, Legend of Thomas Becket.

41

Khanmohamadi, In Light of Another’s Word.

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within much larger horizons. Figures such as William of Rubruck (c.1220–93), Jean de Joinville (c.1224–1317), Marco Polo (1254–1324), and John Mandeville (c.1357/71), in Khanmohamadi’s analysis, create worlds where the non-Christians are troubled by misbelief, but Christians are even worse off through their misbehaviour. William of Rubruck, a Franciscan missionary to the thirteenth-century Mongol court who visited England, is more disturbed by the religious practices of the Nestorian Christians in Asia than those of Mongke Khan, though he is also frustrated by how much of his preaching is lost in translation. Jean de Joinville’s sojourn in Syria teaches him a respect for the knowledge, practices, and piety of his Muslim associates. Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant and world traveller who claimed to have served Kubalai Khan for decades, recounts surprisingly non-partisan histories of Mongol conquests, at one point villainising the Christian king Nayan and heroising Kubalai Khan. His narrative’s interest in the sheer diversity of Asian locations, stories, products, and practices decentres Christianity as one religion in a world of many beliefs and diverse histories.42 The narrative that is most obviously to be identified as English in character, however, is that of John Mandeville, who probably never existed nor travelled to the places he recounted, functioning less as an author than as a narrator-character, a more English-friendly Marco Polo, who in fact draws upon Marco Polo’s narrative as one of his many sources. He states he is a knight from St Albans who has travelled the world and served the sultan in Egypt for decades. The Mandeville-author spends the first half of the book detailing the doctrinal and ritual differences between Latin Christianity and a host of other Christianities both near and distant, including Greeks, Jacobite Syrians, Georgians, Armenians, ‘belted ones’ (probably Copts), Nubians, Nestorians, and Indian Christians of Saint Thomas.43 After his account reaches the Holy Land he shifts focus to the differences between Latin Christianity and the monotheisms related to it lineally and supersessionally. He describes several confessions of Judaism and Islam, explicating Islam as recuperable, while demonising Judaism relentlessly in marked contrast to his tolerant attitude towards virtually every other confession on earth. The last part of the book is occupied by the fearful differences and sudden strange homologies between Latin Christianity and the manifold non-Christian paganisms to be encountered in the larger Asiatic world. All of these confessional comparisons have 42 43

Gaunt, Marco Polo’s Devisement, pp. 113–44. Higgins (ed. and trans.), Book of John Mandeville, pp. 73–5.

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justifiably preoccupied scholars interested in framing the text with the crusading agonisms with which it begins. As a result, the Mandevilleauthor has been subjected to a thorough mapping of attitudes of tolerance or intolerance. However, neither the confessional comparatives nor the crusading frame exhausts the range of the Travels – and particularly of its second, Asian part. In fact, to focus only on confession and Christian ideology in Mandeville is to miss a large-scale investigation into comparative worlding, and the power of narrative forms to convey it. Mandeville and other later writers begin to move away from historiographies of Christian ‘loss’ of pagans and the underhanded strategies for saving them, and towards contemporaneous pagans and what they might gain from them. Their pagans control larger economies from which medieval Christians would like to profit and which will impel the great fifteenth- and sixteenth-century imperialisms to come. In the course of these narratives, ‘pagan’ and its equivalents become more cosmopolitan, while Latin Christendom acknowledges that it is not the only confession that matters, becoming one Christianity among many on the rural outskirts of distant and illustrious empires, where pagans write histories of their own. These narratives problematise the power of Christian writers to (1) consign pagans to the past by claiming to supersede them; (2) write them into histories of translation as moments of transition towards Latin Christian destinations; and (3) simply denigrate them on ethical and cultural grounds. Instead they open towards more decentred histories that can account not only for violence but also for the connections between cultural neighbours, and the economies of exchange that bind across difference. In these texts, what exists between pagan and Christian can further nuance the politics of exceptionalism that had formerly driven English historiography, instigating new encyclopedic universal histories, more dialogic ethnographic descriptions, or, in reaction, even fiercer colonial retrenchments. In these ways, the pagan histories and fictions of the later British Middle Ages inform the politics of global historiography even today.44 44

I am deeply grateful to the editors, to Matthew Fisher, and to the anonymous reader for Cambridge University Press for their cogent and generous help with this chapter.

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part ii

Place

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chapter 8

Mental Maps: Sense of Place in Medieval British Historical Writing1 Sarah Foot

The eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon world map condensed into vivid visual representation the mental geography of the early medieval English.2 Oriented with East at the top, it placed Jerusalem at the centre of the known world, and Rome at the centre of Europe, whereas the islands of Britain and Ireland lay in the bottom left-hand corner, to the northwest of the holy places at the map’s heart.3 Here we find cartographical depiction of the pervasive view of the shape of Christendom and the place that Britain occupied within it during the early Middle Ages. From the time of Gildas, writers in Britain had portrayed their own land as lying ‘virtually at the end of the world’ (‘in extremo ferme orbis limite’), surrounded by the ocean.4 Elsewhere in Europe, others shared the same perception. The Roman historian Solinus saw the coast of Gaul as marking the edge of the known world (‘finis orbis’), and thus depicted Britain as ‘almost another world’ (‘paene orbis alterius’).5 Pope Gregory the Great once described the English as ‘living in a corner of the world’ (‘gens Anglorum in angulo mundi posita’), adopting a view that persisted in later centuries.6 Writing between 1016 and 1018, the bishop of Merseburg, Thietmar, declared: ‘I have heard that the English are so called from their angelic, i.e. beautiful, appearance, or else because they are situated on an angle of this earth’ (‘quod in angulo istius terrae siti sunt’).7 1

2 3 4 5

6 7

This chapter was completed before the publication of Nicole Guenther Discenza, Inhabited Spaces: Anglo-Saxon Constructions of Place; Discenza’s book raises many of the same issues covered by this chapter and sheds important new light on Anglo-Saxon conceptions of the universe. London, BL, Cotton MS Tiberius B. v (vol. 1, fol. 56v); probably created at Canterbury, the map dates from the second quarter of the eleventh century. Lavezzo, Angels on the Edge, p. 28. Gildas, Ruin of Britain, 3, p. 16 (translation p. 89). On Gildas, see Chapter 1 above. Solinus, Collectanea rerum memorabilium, 22.1, pp. 99–100: ‘Finis erat orbis ora Gallici litoris, nisi Britannia insula non qualibet amplitudine nomen paene orbis alterius mereretrur.’ See Margaret Bridges, ‘Of Myths and Maps’, p. 70. Gregory the Great, Registrum epistolarum, viii.29; cf. Richter, ‘Bede’s Angli’, p. 103. Quoted by Howe, ‘Angle on this Earth’, p. 3.

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This chapter asks how this pervasive sense of liminality, of existing at the periphery of a Christian world whose core lay far away, affected the ways in which historians writing in Britain before the mid-twelfth century conceived and represented space in their writing about the past. It will primarily explore the ways in which historians imagined the island of Britain and (after its creation in the later Anglo-Saxon period) the kingdom of England. Consequently, it will focus largely on historical works that addressed themselves to wide geographical spaces and to long chronologies. The ideas represented by Britannia and the identity of the ‘Britons’ (‘Brettones’) were not of course static during this period. Our earliest writers knew Britannia as a province of the Roman empire, although in fact Roman authority never extended over the whole land mass and seldom stretched farther north than Hadrian’s Wall.8 In the centuries following the sudden withdrawal of Roman troops in 409, the southwestern portion of Britain (excluding the area now called Wales)9 was settled by groups of Germanic peoples, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and others, who were only brought into a single kingdom in the tenth century. That kingdom was twice conquered in the eleventh century, first by Danes, and then by Normans, whose kings identified themselves as rulers of the ‘English’, a term whose referent could clearly encompass multiple ethnicities.10 Although the majority of the authors that we shall discuss lived in the island of Britain, only Gildas identified himself with the ‘British’. Bede, writing in the first half of the eighth century, was a Northumbrian by birth and a member of the wider imagined community of the gens Anglorum (the English people); he thus belonged to the ethnic group that had displaced the native British inhabitants during the migration period, whereas most of our twelfth-century historians were of mixed English and Norman parentage. Geoffrey’s identity remains the most uncertain; he identified himself as Monemutensis, that is, from the town of Monmouth, which lay on the 8

9

10

Under Agricola in ad 84, a Roman army did, briefly, get as far as the Moray Firth, but Hadrian’s Wall marked the effective boundary from c.120. After the end of Roman rule, this northern part of Britain was occupied in the west by Irish (confusingly called Scotti in Latin sources), and in the east and north by Picts (Picti, literally, painted people); cf. HEA, i.12, pp. 40–1. The name of the modern country Wales (in Middle English also Walys, Walis) comes from the Old English Wealas (plural of Wealh), a word frequently used to denote the Britons collectively, and hence their lands (see further below). Wales was not a single unified polity in medieval Britain, but rather consisted of several independent kingdoms, later ruled by princes. Only in the thirteenth century was it possible to talk of Wales as an entity, over which Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd ruled before its conquest by Edward I. For detailed discussion of this issue, see OED, sv ‘Welsh’; also Wendy Davies, Wales in the Early Middle Ages; and Charles-Edwards, ‘Language and Society’, particularly pp. 711–15. Cf. Foot, ‘Making of Angelcynn’, pp. 47–8.

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banks of the River Wye, just inside the area that Geoffrey called ‘Cambria’ in the legendary topography of his Historia regum Britanniae. Geoffrey has variously been identified as Breton (i.e. from the province in northwestern France), Cornish, Welsh, or Norman, whereas his self-description emphasised the plurality of identities available in the border area of Monmouth.11 Scholars have recently begun to show an interest in reconceptualising how space and place help in the understanding of human cultures, reflecting a ‘spatial turn’ in the humanities, similar to the ‘linguistic turn’ of the late twentieth century.12 We may differentiate between space and place if, following de Certeau, we see place as essentially stable and non-temporal (locations where one pauses), whereas spaces are dynamic, associated with movement, direction, speed, and time.13 Space is thus a more abstract concept than place; while spaces have areas and volume, ‘places have space between them’.14 Britain could be depicted by its historians as an abstract network, a place empty of humanity awaiting colonisation (and civilisation) by the peoples who would then stamp their own identity on its shores,15 as one could argue that from different perspectives both Bede and particularly Geoffrey of Monmouth sought to do.16 Yet, the narratives of medieval historians writing in the British Isles also served to link separate places together, providing ‘geographies of action’ as they traversed and organised place; every story, de Certeau argued, ‘is a spatial practice’.17 Thus Bede’s narrative of the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon peoples to Christianity resembles a travelogue of Britain; as he recounted the spread of the faith first by Roman missionaries who travelled from the southeastern tip of Britain up the east coast to Northumbria, and then by Irish-trained monks, whose work led them from north to south, Bede created the imagined space of Christian Britain by taking the reader on a spatial journey.18 In self-conscious imitation of Bede, both William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon used geography as one of the organising principles of their work, and shared Bede’s mechanism of using 11 12 13 15 16

17 18

Michelle Warren, ‘Making Contact’, p. 117; Michelle Warren, History on the Edge, p. 25. For more on Geoffrey of Monmouth, see Chapters 4 and 12 in this volume. Scheil, ‘Space and Place’, pp. 197–8; Cresswell, Place, pp. 1–3. De Certeau, Practice of Everyday Life, pp. 115–16. 14 Cresswell, Place, p. 15. For discussion of the civilising consequences of Brutus’ colonisation, see Gillingham, ‘Context and Purposes’, pp. 105–10. For discussion of whether Bede did portray ‘Albion’ as an empty space, awaiting settlement, see Howe, ‘Landscape of Anglo-Saxon England’, pp. 92–3; also see further below. Geoffrey of Monmouth contended that before the arrival of Brutus and his Trojan followers, the island of Albion was empty, occupied only by twenty-four giants (HRB, 21, p. 13). De Certeau, Practice of Everyday Life, p. 115. See further James Campbell, ‘Bede’s Words for Places’, 109–16.

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travel as a narrative device. As we shall see, these historians created geographically imagined maps of the spaces in which events occurred through their authors’ recitation of place-names and descriptions orienting the reader from place to place.19 Early medieval historians derived their understanding of geography primarily from such works as Pliny’s Natural History, which employed a relative sense of space, describing places in relation to one another.20 Consider, for example, the geographical opening of Orosius’ Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, which depicted the world as a series of connections between named places, making its geography into an ‘imagined journey in which places exist in networks of contiguity rather than in relation to an abstract system of measurement and orientation’.21 Rome maintained an enduring influence, not just as the centre of a world in which Britain always remained to some extent peripheral, but also as the source for enduring ideas about geography. Those ideas arose of course originally against the background of the Roman assertion of colonial authority over a dependent British province; as adopted by later medieval writers, they conveyed subtly different ideas about hegemony. The texts considered here tended to reflect a biological model of spatial imagination in which corridors of communication linked a network of places (nodes), and the boundaries that demarcated territory, or separated one realm from another, remained fluid and mutable.22 In textualising territory through narrative, our writers sought to remake the places that had to Roman writers appeared at the edges of the world into spaces central to a different worldview; the act of mapping space in writing did more than describe static perceptions of geography, it created dynamic spaces, geographies where actions might be performed.

‘An island in the ocean to the north west’ In the third section of the prologue to his rhetorical polemic De excidio Britanniae (On the Ruin of Britain) the fifth- or sixth-century British writer Gildas provided a ‘verbal map’ of Britain in which he situated the island in relation to the rest of the known world, while making it clear that his own perspective encompassed all Britannia, not just a northern region.23 19 21 22 23

Stodnick, ‘What (and Where)’, at p. 90. 20 Lozovsky, Earth is our Book, pp. 10–16. Stodnick, ‘What (and Where)’, p. 98; Lozovsky, Earth is our Book, pp. 71–5; also the full analysis of the geographical introduction given by Merrills, History and Geography, pp. 64–99. M.L. Smith, ‘Territories’, pp. 28–35. Wright, ‘Gildas’s Geographical Perspective’, p. 100; contra Miller, ‘Bede’s Use of Gildas’. The chronology of Gildas’s life remains confused and contested: Kerlouégan, ‘Gildas’.

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The island of Britain lies virtually at the end of the world, towards the west and north-west. Poised in the divine scales that (we are told) weigh the whole earth, it stretches from the south-west towards the northern pole. It has a length of eight hundred miles, a width of two hundred: leaving out of account the various large headlands that jut out between the curving ocean bays. It is fortified on all sides by a vast and more or less uncrossable ring of sea, apart from the straits on the south where one can cross to Belgic Gaul.24

We find a similar perspective (and a number of direct verbal echoes of Gildas) in the geographical opening that Bede supplied to his Historia ecclesiastica which he completed towards the end of his life, c.731: ‘Britain, once called Albion, is an island of the ocean and lies to the north-west, being opposite Germany, Gaul and Spain, which form the greater part of Europe, although at a considerable distance from them. It extends 800 miles to the north, and is 200 miles broad, save only where several promontories stretch out further and, counting these, the whole circuit of the coast line covers 4,875 miles. To the south lies Belgic Gaul.’25 Both writers drew on Pliny’s description of Britain in his Natural History as an island opposite the mouth of the Rhine,26 and they each made reference to Solinus,27 and to the similar geographical introduction that prefaced Orosius’ Histories Against the Pagans.28 For all those authors, writing from the perspective of Rome, Britain naturally lay to the northwest. Orosius, indeed, constructed his world history in a movement from east to west, which left Britain both at the edge of the physical world and at the end of the processes of history and salvation.29 But from the viewpoint of the northern or western portions of Roman Britain, or from Bede’s Jarrow, it seems more peculiar to do so, even bearing in mind the Christian framework that underpinned such a perspective. For Bede, it made sense to locate his homeland at the periphery of a world centred on Rome, the 24

25

26 27 28 29

Gildas, Ruin of Britain, 3.1, p. 16; p. 89. ‘Brittania insula in extremo ferme orbis limite circium occidentemque versus divina, ut dicitur, statera terrae totius ponderatrice librata ad Africo boriali propensius tensa axi, octingentorum in longo milium, ducentorum in lato spatium, exceptis diversorum prolixioribus promontoriorum tractibus . . . ut ita dicam, intransmeabili undique circulo absque meridianae freto plagae, quo ad Galliam Belgicam navigatur.’ HEA, i.1, pp. 14–15. ‘Brittania Oceani insula, cui quondam Albion nomen fuit, inter septentrionem et occidentem locata est, Germaniae Galliae Hispaniae, maximis Europae partibus, multo interuallo aduersa. Quae per milia passuum dccc in boream longa, latitudinis habet milia cc, exceptis dumtaxat prolixioribus diuersorum promontoriorum tractibus, quibus efficitur ut circuitus eius quadragies octies lxxv milia conpleat. Habet a meridie Galliam Belgicam.’ See Merrills, History and Geography, pp. 249–50. Pliny, Natural History, vol. ii, iv.16, pp. 196–7. Solinus, Collectanea rerum memorabilium, 22.10, p. 102. Orosius, Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, i.75–6. Bridges, ‘Of Myths and Maps’, p. 71; Foys, ‘Virtual Reality’, p. 4.

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former imperial capital and now the centre of Western Christendom.30 His sense that Britain was peripheral to the rest of the world would prove remarkably persistent in later centuries.31 Northern manuscript recensions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle created in the mid-eleventh century from earlier compilations of West Saxon, Mercian and northern annals, incorporated some of Bede’s geographical conspectus of Britain to create a preface for the sequence of entries ordered by incarnational year that constituted the body of the text. The focus of that preface lay not, however, on the place of Britain in a wider world, but rather on the size and composition of the island, particularly the identity and places of origin of the peoples of northern Britain: Britons (from ‘Armenia’, misconstruing Bede’s Armoricano, i.e. Brittany), Picts (from ‘the south, from Scythia’), and Scots (from Ireland).32 Writing c.1136, Geoffrey of Monmouth also drew on Bede’s geographical preface by opening his History of the Kings of Britain with an account of Britain ‘the best of islands’, locating the island ‘in the Western Ocean, between Gaul and Ireland’.33 Geoffrey’s Britain was, however, empty of population (bar a few giants) at the start of his narrative, a virgin territory waiting to be settled by Brutus as a second Troy; to that end, its abundance of fish in the rivers and deer in the forests made it the more alluring, a place worthy of possession and colonisation.34 His hegemonic view of the past represents the island as ideally governed under a single ruler from sea to sea, and thus accentuates the recurring wounds caused by its past divisions.35 Geoffrey’s contemporary, Henry of Huntingdon, drew so closely on Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica in his Historia Anglorum (the first version of which he completed in the early 1130s) that as much as a quarter of his text consisted of direct quotation from Bede; to create his own geographical introduction he did, however, rework Bede’s words in a different order.36 Instead of beginning, as had Bede, with the location of Britain in the ocean, Henry opened his first chapter with the statement: ‘Britain, then, is the most blessed of islands, rich in crops and trees, with plentiful streams and woodlands, delightful for its hunting30 32 33 34 35 36

Howe, ‘Rome’, p. 151. 31 Bridges, ‘Of Myths and Maps’, p. 72. The same preface appears in the manuscripts known as D, E, and F: ASC MS D, p. 1; ASC MS E, p. 3; ASC MS F, pp. 1–2. HRB, 5, p. 2. The Brutus story appeared also in the Historia Brittonum, attributed to Nennius: British History, 10, pp. 19, 60; and in ASC MS F, p. 2. HRB, 21, p. 13; Michelle Warren, History on the Edge, pp. 3–4, 30–8; Howe, Writing the Map, p. 143. Michelle Warren, History on the Edge, pp. 38–43. Greenway, ‘Henry of Huntingdon and Bede’, p. 43.

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grounds of wildfowl and game, and teeming with many different kinds of land, sea and river birds.’37 Only in chapter 2 did he explain the island’s geographical situation, using the terms taken from Bede that we have previously encountered: ‘This, the most celebrated of islands, formerly called Albion, later Britain, and now England, is situated in the north-west. It is 800 miles long and 200 broad, except where it is stretched out further by its many promontories.’38 Henry’s prioritisation of the description of Britain’s qualities as a ‘locus amoenus’ over its location within a wider geographical frame points to the different intention behind his history; this was not ecclesiastical history like Bede’s, but an account of the rise and fall of the dynasties that ruled the regnum of Anglia.39 He thus tended to conflate the identities of ‘England’ and ‘Britain’, showing an overt patriotic pride in his country.40 While Bede’s opening placed Britain within a geography of salvation, Henry’s emphasis on the charms and amenities of the island (and its consequent wealth) helped to explain why that realm looked so attractive to successive secular powers. Since he wrote not only after the unification of the separate Anglo-Saxon kingdoms into one, but after the Normans had incorporated Britain into a wider, cross-Channel realm, we might not have expected Henry to follow Bede in locating Britain as if from the perspective of Rome. Yet he did not do so blindly, but situated the island within a subtly different mental map of his own. Where Bede had identified Britain’s neighbours as ‘Germany, Gaul and Spain, which form the greater part of Europe’, Henry noted that Germany and Denmark (Dacia) lay to Britain’s east, and Ireland to the west. Like Bede, he located Belgic Gaul to the south, but Henry divided that province into two: Ponthieu and Normandy (‘Normannia’), ‘where the Normans, a new but extremely powerful people, are now settled’ (‘ubi modo Normanni, gens noua sed ualidissima, degunt’).41 Henry occupied not only a larger world than had Bede, but one where political and military successes served overtly to shape and reshape territories and regions. His Britain still lay at an edge, but one that was far from peripheral, having itself acquired the status of centre. 37

38

39 40

‘Britannia igitur beatissima est insularum, fecunda frugibus et arboribus, copiosa riuis et nemoribus, iocunda uolucrum et ferarum uenatibus, ferax auium multi et diuersi generis, terra et mari et fluuiis.’ HA, i.1, pp. 10–11. ‘Hec autem insularum nobilissima cui quondam Albion nomen fuit, postea uero Britannia, nunc autem Anglia, inter septentrionem et occidentem sita est. Octingentis milibus longa, et ducentis milibus lata, exceptis dumtaxat prolixioribus diuersorum promuntoriorum tractibus.’ HA, i.2, pp. 12–14. Greenway, ‘Henry of Huntingdon and Bede’, p. 50. HA, p. lx; see also Gillingham, ‘Twelfth-Century Revival’, p. 127. 41 HA, i.2, pp. 12–13.

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Not all early medieval British historical writers followed the wellestablished example of Orosius in beginning their historical works with a geographical introduction, however. The earliest West Saxon manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle known as A (and manuscript G which descended from it) eschewed geography in favour of a genealogical preface that traced the lineage of the West Saxon dynasty from Cerdic to Alfred.42 When, in the later tenth century, Æthelweard wrote a Latin epitome of the vernacular Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he also rejected place as his starting point, preferring to begin his first book with temporal reflections, echoing both Genesis and the Gospel of St John: ‘The first book begins. In its opening it contains the beginning of the world.’43 At the point of Britain’s first mention in his narrative – on its invasion in 46 ce by the Emperor Claudius – Æthelweard had little to say about its geographical location, noting only that the emperor had been attracted by the ‘rich fields’ of the island (‘arva pinguia’), and that he conquered not just the mainland but the Orkneys as far as Thule, ‘the ultimate island’ (‘usque ad ultimam Tylem’).44 Æthelweard displayed more interest in identifying the places from which the Germanic settlers in Britain came than in defining the island’s precise geographical location, but in his reworking of Bede’s careful ethnogenesis, he tended to treat the continental tribes as a single entity.45 He attributed to a group called the Angles responsibility for renaming the country where they had settled: ‘And so Britain is now called England (‘Anglia’), taking the name of the victors.’46 In the early twelfth century, William of Malmesbury made significant use of Bede’s Historia in both his Gesta regum Anglorum and Gesta pontificum Anglorum; although he began neither with a description of the island of Britain and its location in a wider frame, William organised both works topographically and used place (and travel between places) as a key mechanism in constructing his narrative.47 For William, as for Bede, Rome occupied a central place in his world, one that helped to explain England’s position within a wider frame, as well as a locus for the promotion of Christian values.48 The Anglo-Norman writer Orderic Vitalis provides an interesting comparator case to our other historians, all of 42 43 44 46 47

ASC MS A, pp. 1–2. On the Chronicle, see also Chapter 10 below. ‘Incipit liber primus. Exordio sui continent principium mundi’. Æthelweard, Chronicle, i.1; cf. Genesis 1:1 and John 1: 1. Æthelweard, Chronicle, i.1, p. 4. 45 Ibid., p. lvi; S.J. Harris, Race and Ethnicity, p. 140. ‘Ideoque Brittannia nunc Anglia appellatur, assumens nomen uictorum.’ Æthelweard, Chronicle, i.4, p. 9; Harris, Race and Ethnicity, p. 140. On Æthelweard, see also Chapters 10 and 17 below. Gransden, ‘Prologues’, p. 76. 48 Hicks, ‘Comings and Goings’, pp. 47–9.

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whom dwelt in Britain. Of mixed Anglo-French birth (his father, from Orléans, was French, his mother English), he spent the first ten years of his life in Shrewsbury, close to the Welsh marches, before his parents gave him to the Norman monastery of St Evroult at the age of ten, where he spent the rest of his life. He identified himself always as Vitalis the Englishman (using the name he had been given in religion); the name by which we know him, Orderic, was that of the priest in Shrewsbury who had baptised him.49 Orderic chose not to begin his Historia ecclesiastica with a conventional geographical preface, perhaps, as Amanda Hingst has argued, because he wanted to emphasise the ways in which the Normans had disrupted the continuities of classical geography, or because his chronicle began as the history of a single monastic house, for which a life of Christ introducing the Christian world through its saviour, rather than its landscape, proved more suitable.50 A geographical introduction threatened potentially to shape a reader’s expectations of the spatial frame that would bound the ensuing narrative, whether it would cover the whole sweep of the known world (as in Orosius) or would focus on a narrower frame. Orderic, who encompassed his vision in the phrase ‘the state of the world is driven by change’,51 threw off the preconditions that limited his predecessors to tell the diverse historical and spatial stories of his work, ‘without restricting himself to one view, one scale or even one world’.52

‘Britain once called Albion’ When Bede delineated the space in which the narrative of his Historia would play out, he located the island Britannia in the Ocean (thus at the circumference of the world), and stated that it had once been called ‘Albion’, using its archaic Greek name, derived from Pliny’s Natural History.53 Both the ancient name and the oceanic location served to emphasise Britain’s distance from the rest of the inhabited world, giving the place a sense of timelessness before it came to play its part in the divine plan. Free of the ethnic associations of Britain (the dwelling place of the Brettones), Albion presented a more neutral label, a blank slate of Britain’s prehistory. Onto this Bede might map the history of the different peoples who would come to dwell on its shores, and the bringing of the Gospel to 49 50 51 52 53

Chibnall, World of Orderic Vitalis, p. 3. Hingst, Written World, p. 21; cf. Hicks, ‘Comings and Goings’, p. 42. ‘et mundi status uariabiliter agitator.’ Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History, viii.24, iv.290–1. Hingst, Written World, p. 41. HEA, i.1, pp. 14–15; Merrills, History and Geography, p. 255.

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those who dwelt ‘at the uttermost part of the earth’ (‘usque ad ultimum terrae’), in fulfilment of Christ’s final injunction to his apostles.54 Yet, after this single reference at the start of Book i, Bede never used the term Albion again in his History, not even in his account of St Alban (Albanus), the early British martyr.55 Alban’s name might allude to the white (alba) clothes worn by the newly baptised, but it more obviously echoes the island name Albion, of which Mark Laynesmith has suggested we might imagine Alban as titular saint.56 Although Albion was not employed by other English writers in Bede’s day,57 the Irish had a noun Alba (or Albu) that denoted much the same as Albion, namely the island of Britain, and was used thus until the conquest of Pictland by Cinaed mac Alpin caused Alba in the late ninth century to acquire a more specific meaning of North Britain.58 In English circles, the term Albion acquired new life from the tenth century onwards as a valuable concept by which to describe the island of Britain in changing political circumstances. Some have seen the word as little more than a synonym for Britain (rather than for England) and thus attributed little significance to it, paying more attention to the enduring rhetoric of Britannia.59 But Julia Crick has rightly noted that its use for claiming of dominion over the whole island of Britain represented no idle ambition.60 After King Æthelstan of Wessex (r.924–39) had conquered the previously independent kingdom of Northumbria in 927 and thus acquired direct authority over all the Anglo-Saxon peoples of Britain, he went on to receive the submission of the rulers of other parts of Britain (Wales, Bamburgh, and the Scots).61 Scribes at his court responsible for drafting his diplomas (documents granting land or privilege) began soon thereafter to look for new royal styles to convey the extent of his authority, referring not only to his kingship over all the English, but his ‘elevation by the right hand of the Almighty to the throne of the whole kingdom of Britain’.62 On occasion he was also termed ‘governor of all Albion’ (‘totius Albionis gubernator’), thus 54 56 57

58 59 60 62

Acts 1: 8; see Foot, Bede’s Church, pp. 10–11. 55 HEA, i.7, pp. 28–35. Wood, ‘Levison and St Alban’, pp. 178–9; Laynesmith, ‘Translating St Alban’. Aldhelm, Boniface, and Alcuin all ignored the possibilities suggested by Albion, although the late ninth-century Old English translator of Bede did repeat the statement made in Bede’s first chapter that Albion was the old name for Britain: Crick, ‘Edgar’, p. 166. O’Rahilly, Early Irish History, p. 386; Crick, ‘Edgar’, p. 168; see also Woolf, From Pictland to Alba, pp. 125–6. Wormald, Making of English Law, p. 445; John, Orbis Britanniae, pp. 1–63. Crick, ‘Edgar’, p. 163. 61 Foot, Æthelstan, pp. 19–20. Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters (hereafter S), nos. 412–13, 416–17, 418a, 418–19, 422. For discussion of the significance of claims to rulership over Britain, see Foot, Æthelstan, pp. 212–16.

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staking claim to an imperial hegemony over the whole island of Britain, including all the lesser kings and princes therein.63 His nephew Edgar (r.957/9–975) employed a similar imperial rhetoric asserting his authority over Albion via the royal styles deployed in charters; saints’ Lives written during his reign echoed that language and used Albion to refer both to the secular realm that Edgar governed but also to the spiritual authority exercised particularly by Dunstan as archbishop. Use of the term Albion, Crick has shown, became a means of asserting the ecclesiastical authority over the whole island accorded to the metropolitan archbishop of Canterbury, and thus another way of reinforcing the claims made for the king.64 Given the currency that Albion held in the tenth century as both a geographical and political term, we might have anticipated its resurgence after 1066, yet – despite their admiration for the writings of the Venerable Bede – neither William of Malmesbury nor Henry of Huntingdon deployed the term in their histories of the English, except when quoting the first chapter of Bede (or in direct citation of pre-Conquest documents).65 Geoffrey of Monmouth referred to Britain at the arrival of Brutus as Albion, his topographical description of the island’s aboriginal state helping to mark out the land as worthy of possession;66 for Geoffrey, the change of name from Albion to Britannia sealed the conqueror’s possession of the land, effacing the memory of its past by fusing Brutus’ genealogy with the new landscape.67 Orderic Vitalis, however, used Albion repeatedly (on twenty-six occasions) in his History to denote the land ruled by the Anglo-Norman kings. We might hear in this some echoes of the Anglo-French monk’s sense of his own identity and perhaps his desire to distance himself from the Normans among whom he lived but from whom he clearly felt distinct. As Hingst has argued, Orderic ‘found in Albion a means of reconciling disjointed history through the medium of place’.68 Primeval Albion had no particular ethnic associations: it was (as for Geoffrey of Monmouth) a place without people; not the homeland of the Britons or the Anglo-Saxons, it represented a place that could ‘simultaneously and successively be home to many different gentes’.69 The kingdom of which William gained control on Harold’s death, if called Albion, could be seen as no longer a kingdom of the English (and thus their 63 65 66 67 69

S 411, 437; Foot, Æthelstan, pp. 213–15. 64 Crick, ‘Edgar’, pp. 163–6. Ibid., p. 167; William did not use Albion in his Life of St Dunstan, either. HRB, 21, p. 13; Crick, ‘Edgar’, p. 169; Hingst, Written World, p. 55. Warren, History on the Edge, pp. 35–6. 68 Hingst, Written World, p. 53. Crick, ‘Edgar’, p. 167.

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possession), but a place that had existed before the Anglo-Saxons came to its shores. William’s coronation as ruler of Albion thus represented not a rupture with the English past, but continuity with the island’s primordial past.70 Albion proved to have an enduring place in the spatial imagination of British historians, serving useful ideological and political ends at different times, for all of which the antiquity of the place-name proved valuable.

‘Angelcynn’, ‘Engla lond’, Anglia In using the Latin labels Britannia and Albion, the inhabitants of early medieval Britain did not coin their own name for their oceanic island, but followed earlier Greek and Roman practice. Yet we should not assume that they lacked the imagination to devise names to describe the spaces they occupied. Thanks to Bede’s significant interest in toponomy, we know a good deal not only about the names he gave to kingdoms (e.g. ‘prouincia Merciorum’, or ‘Nordanhymbrorum prouincia’)71 but also to individual sites (of greater and lesser significance), and about the organisation of lordship and local administration based on central places.72 Our focus here, however, is on the wider canvas on which early medieval British historiography was mapped and on the efforts of visual imagination that historians demanded of their readers. The narratives included in Bede’s History require us to follow in our mind’s eye the verbal maps that he depicted in words; he leads the reader through the historical landscape of the past until, at the end of Book v, we join him in the present time and place from which he was writing.73 We may thus, as Diane Speed has suggested, read Bede’s accounts of the conversion of the separate English kingdoms as a travel narrative, starting at the southeastern tip of Kent and moving systematically up the east coast to Northumbria. His monastic narrative voice serves to ‘knit’ the individual kingdoms ‘together in a unified vision’.74 Other factors as well as conversion helped to create a semblance of unity among the English people (gens Anglorum), including their shared language, their distinctiveness from the British and other peoples in Britain, and the common history that Bede narrated for them, even if they remained, in governmental terms, disparate.75 In articulating their difference from the earlier British inhabitants of the island, the Germanic colonisers elected, in what Bryan Ward-Perkins has aptly called 70 71 72 74

Hingst, Written World, p. 63. HEA, preface, pp. 4–7; James Campbell, ‘Bede’s reges and principes’, pp. 86–7. James Campbell, ‘Bede’s Words for Places’, pp. 109–16. 73 Speed, ‘Bede’s Mapping’, p. 15. Ibid., p. 19. 75 Foot, ‘Making of Angelcynn’, pp. 38–41.

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an ‘act of supreme arrogance’, to describe the Britons in Old English as wealas, or foreigners in their own land.76 The term ‘wealh’ meant not only foreigner but also slave; in using the word of the British (and thus particularly of the inhabitants from whom the region Wales was named) the dominant Anglo-Saxons thus asserted their clear sense of their own superiority.77 While no genuine political unity existed among the Anglo-Saxons of Bede’s day, the vision that he created proved valuable in helping King Alfred’s contemporaries in the late ninth century to imagine a community of the English (the Angelcynn, ‘English kind’), namely the Christian, nonDanish populace subject to Alfred’s rule; that noun could also be used to denote the space that this people occupied. Thus in the Preface that he wrote to his translation of Gregory the Great’s Cura pastoralis, Alfred remarked how there had once been men of learning throughout ‘the English race’ (‘giond Angelcynn’), although these were in his own day sadly lacking.78 Manuscripts of the Chronicle variously used Angelcynn to denote place, not people; sometimes scribes linked it with the noun lond (land) as under the years 787, 836, 866, and 1001 in manuscript A, but it occurs also standing alone to denote the whole country: for example in manuscript D for the years 975 and 986.79 A geographical concept of Angle-land, or ‘England’, may thus have predated its political existence.80 In the annals of the Chronicle for the 890s, depicting Alfred’s final battles with the Danes, Jacqueline Stodnick has argued that the annalist skilfully used a geographical imagination to map the landscape of these engagements by means of reference to orientation, distance, and area. He hereby created a map of Alfred’s realm as a geographical entity, demonstrating a clear sense of the relationship between places; in Stodnick’s words the chronicler wrote England, ‘even before it had an address in the form of a separate name’.81 The coining of that separate name came more slowly after the unification of all the Anglo-Saxon peoples in Britain than did the invention of fresh royal styles to denote the kingship of those who wielded such 76 77 78 79 80 81

Ward-Perkins, ‘Why Did the Anglo-Saxons’, p. 514. Tolkien, ‘English and Welsh’, pp. 1–4, 23–9; Charles-Edwards, ‘Language and Society’, pp. 730–3; Ward-Perkins, ‘Why Did the Anglo-Saxons’, pp. 530–1. Alfred, preface to Cura pastoralis, in Sweet (ed.), Gregory’s Pastoral Care, vol. i, p. 2; Foot, ‘Making of Angelcynn’, pp. 30–1. ASC MS A, pp. 39, 43, 47, 79; ASC MS D, pp. 47, 48. See also Dictionary of Old English, s.v. ‘angelcynn’. Reynolds, ‘What Do We Mean by “Anglo-Saxon”’, p. 398. Stodnick, ‘What (and Where)’, p. 104.

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political power. When a scribe at Æthelstan’s court tried to encompass the magnitude of the events in Northumbria in 927 that concluded with the submission at Eamont, he talked of ‘ista perfecta Saxonia’ (‘this Saxon-land made whole’), showing a keen awareness of the need for a word to describe the new political geography, even if his term failed to reflect contemporary moods.82 It was as Engla-lond that the united English realm came to be known in the early eleventh century, when, as Patrick Wormald showed, it was used to denote the space we still call England.83 The Danish king, Cnut, legislated as ealles englalandes cyning, issuing law for eall Englaland; the A manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle described the same king’s return ‘to Engla lande’ in the year 1031, and in a terse entry conveyed the fact of William’s winning of ‘Ængla land’ in 1066.84 King Edward the Confessor was described as Engla lands cyngc in a charter granting privileges to Horton Abbey in 1061, while the homilist Ælfric wrote of the persecution that came to ‘engla lande’ in the days of the martyr Alban.85 The first historian to use the Latin noun Anglia was Æthelweard, whose declaration that in his day ‘Britain is now called Anglia’ we have already encountered.86 Only after the Conquest did Anglia become the standard noun for England in Latin, used by William I in his charters and deployed as a geographical (rather than a political) term by historians such as Henry of Huntingdon and William of Malmesbury. Henry explained at the start of his Historia Anglorum that this most celebrated of islands had formerly been called Albion, later Britain, and was now Anglia.87 Wace, in translating Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Latin History of the Kings of Britain into French c.1155, described his narrative as concerning the successive kings who held Engleterre in the earliest times.88 His Engleterre clearly denoted a definable place – in Laura Ashe’s words, a ‘francophone, aristocratic and royal, conquered kingdom’ – one whose identity persisted regardless of the names it might be given.89 Yet when Laʒamon translated Wace into Middle English c.1200, he declared that he would write about ‘the noble English, what they were called, and whence they came, who first possessed the land of the English’. He thus, 82 84 85 87 88

Foot, Æthelstan, p. 26. 83 Wormald, Legal Culture, p. 371. See the prologues to I Cnut and II Cnut in Liebermann (ed.), Gesetze der Angelsachsen, vol. i, pp. 273, 309; ASC MS A, s.a. 1031, p. 81, s.a. 1066, p. 83. S 1032; Ælfric, Lives of the Saints, vol. i, pp. 414–15. 86 Æthelweard, Chronicle, i.4, p. 9. HA, i.2, pp. 12–13. For William’s geographical use of Anglia, see Thomson, William of Malmesbury, 121. 3, pp. 95–6. Wace, Roman de Brut, line 4, p. 2. 89 Ashe, ‘Language’, p. 384.

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Ashe argued, saw England less as a real object than as ‘an idea, an accretion of shared experience, law, statehood, culture and legislation’, plus ‘the acquiescence of a linguistic community to the force of that idea’.90 In the aftermath of England’s absorption into a wider Norman realm, depictions of it as a place became politically (and linguistically) charged.

Home At the end of the prologue to his Commentary on the Song of Songs, in a passage in which he made an apology for his extensive use of authors such as Pliny and Isidore when providing information about natural history, Bede explained that he did so ‘mindful of the ignorance that befalls me and my people as a result of having been born and bred far outside the world, that is on an island in the ocean, so that we cannot know about the things that go on in the first part of the world (I mean places like Arabia and India, Judaea and Egypt) except through the writings of those who have lived there’.91 As we have seen, Bede was not alone among medieval British historians in conceiving and depicting his homeland as remote from the rest of the known world. Even after its absorption into a wider, Norman empire, Britain remained in some respects a liminal place, separated from its nearest neighbours by the ocean and far distant in travelling time from the ecclesiastical centres of Rome or Jerusalem.92 While many of the authors whose writings we have explored dwelt on Britain’s attractiveness and the wealth of its natural resources, we should note the realism that characterised most of these descriptions. Bede’s portrayal of Britain, for example, while touching on its charms, lacks the paradisal idealisation found in his description of the portion of the afterlife dedicated to those who had died virtuous, but had not yet attained heaven, which he gave in recounting the vision of Dryhthelm; the grandeur of that ideal landscape contrasts sharply with the mundane world of 90

91

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‘þet he wolde of Engle: þa æðelæn tellen. / wat heo ihoten weoren; & wonene heo comen. / þa Englene londe ærest ahten.’ Laӡamon, Brut, ed. Brook and Leslie, vol. i, p. 2, lines 8–10; Ashe, ‘Language’, pp. 384–5. Bede, On the Song of Songs, pp. 28–9. ‘Feci namque hoc non arrogantiae studendo sed meae meorumque imperitiae consulendo qui longius extra orbem, hoc est in insula maris oceani, nati et nutriti ea quae in primis orbins partibus Arabiae dico et India Iudaea et Aegypto geruntur non nisi per eorum qui his interfuere scripta nosse ualemus.’ Bede, In cantica canticorum, prologue, lines 508–13, p. 180. Hicks, ‘Comings and Goings’, p. 41.

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Britannia.93 Britain inspired the affection of its historians, but they knew that for all of them it was only a temporary home; the place where life’s journey would end was in the eternal home with Christ.94 In focusing our attention on the ways in which the island was imagined and represented, we have not paid any attention to discussion of local and particular places. Bede revealed curiously little about his own home, the monastery of Wearmouth and Jarrow, and indeed arguably concealed from his readers the prominence that it probably enjoyed in his day, thanks to its proximity to the heartland of the Northumbrian kingdom. Ian Wood has argued that Bede’s account makes the place where he spent most of his life, and indeed its immediate locality, appear more marginal than it was in reality, using his monastic detachment from the world to deracinate himself from the mundane circumstances of his surroundings.95 Other monastic historians, such as William of Malmesbury, proved more willing to express their enthusiasm for their own locations. William devoted the fifth and final book of his Gesta pontificum to consideration of his own monastery at Malmesbury (and the career of its first abbot), saying, ‘I have now made my visitation of the bishoprics throughout the length and breadth of England (Anglia) and, as though after a long period of foreign travel, I am coming home, to keep my promise concerning our blessed father, Aldhelm.’96 Henry of Huntingdon interpolated a passage of detailed local description in his account of Danish military activity in the year 1010, describing the strongholds past which the River Ouse flows (Buckingham, Bedford, and Huntingdon). The last of these (his own home town, where his father had been archdeacon before him) he declared far superior to the other two, for the splendour of its site and its beauty, its proximity to the marshes and access to an abundance of wild beasts and fish.97 The authors of so-called cartulary-chronicles (such as those produced at Abingdon or Ely) fused the preservation of records relating to their institutions’ lands and properties with narratives of the history of the community, thus creating histories of a place as much as of an institution.98 Those texts preserved the memory of each community’s benefactors, those who had given land or wealth to the Church in return for prayer for the good of their own souls. Donors and recipients shared the 93 94 96

97

HEA, v.12, pp. 492–3; Merrills, History and Geography, p. 271. Howe, ‘Looking for Home’, p. 49. 95 Wood, ‘Bede’s Jarrow’. William of Malmesbury, Gesta pontificum, pp. 498–9. ‘Totius Angliae, quaquauersum porrigitur, episcopatibus circuitis, sicut post longam peregrinationem domum reuertor, ut de beatissimo patre nostro Adelmo pollicitum exsequar meum.’ HA, vi.6, pp. 348–9. 98 Hudson, ‘Abbey of Abingdon’; Chibnall, ‘Charter and Chronicle’.

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understanding that the material possessions enjoyed by the monks or nuns in life were never either their own, absolute possessions, nor the site of their true home. Everything on earth remained transitory (as the introductory proems to many charters averred); to give land to a monastery was ultimately to return it to God (often via the person of the saint to whom a house was dedicated).99 This widespread awareness of the evanescence of earthly existence finds expression in a famous passage included by King Alfred in his introduction to his version of Augustine’s Soliloquia, deploying a metaphor of house-building. The king articulated here a vivid sense of the place at which an earthly life is played out within a temporal frame, set against the mental compass of an eternity, conceived both in time and space. Nor is it any wonder that a man should work with such materials, both in transporting them and in building with them; but every man, when he has built a hamlet on land leased to him by his lord and with his lord’s help, likes to stay there some time, and go hunting, fowling and fishing; and to employ himself in every way on that leased land both on sea and land, until the time when he shall deserve bookland and a perpetual inheritance through his lord’s kindness. May the bounteous benefactor, who rules both these temporary habitations as well as those eternal abodes, so grant! May He who created both and rules over both grant that I be fit for both: both to be useful here and to arrive there.100

Over the course of the period covered by this chapter, the political structures of the islands of Britain changed considerably as a result of migration and conquest by non-native peoples. Those who dwelt in the islands adopted various strategies for explaining these new political geographies and for locating themselves in wider spaces that related them to their immediate neighbours, but also to the rest of the Western world. Exploration of the chorographies by which they mapped the landscape of the past and of their own present in writing, has shown us shifting ways in which those who inhabited the part that came to be called 99 100

Howe, ‘Looking for Home’, p. 160. Keynes and Lapidge (trans.), Alfred the Great, p. 139. ‘Nis it nan wundor þeah man swilc ontimber gewirce, and eac on þa(re) lade and eac on þære bytlinge; ac ælcne man lyst, siððan he ænig cotlyf on his hlafordes læne myd his fultume getimbred hæfð, þæt he hine mote hwilum þar-on gerestan, and huntigan, and fuglian, and fiscian, and his on gehwilce wisan to þere lænan tilian, ægþær ge on se ge on lande, oð þone fyrst þe he bocland and æce yrfe þurh his hlafordes miltse geearnige. swa gedo se weliga gifola, se ðe egðer wilt ge þissa lænena stoclife ge þara ecena hama. Se ðe ægþer gescop and ægðeres wilt, forgife me þæt me ægðrum onhagige: ge her nytwyrde ot beonne, ge huru þider to cumane’. Carnicelli (ed.), King Alfred’s Version of St. Augustine’s Soliloquies, lines 4–12, p. 48.

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Anglia perceived these islands, and the relationships they made between the places found within. Writers in early medieval Britain thus created mental maps that encompassed not only the shape of their own world (and their place within it),101 but also helped them to imagine that of the world to come. 101

See Roy, ‘Shape of the World’.

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chapter 9

Viking Armies and their Historical Legacy across England’s North–South Divide, c.790–c.1100 Paul Gazzoli

Vikings and the Viking Age The idea of ‘the Vikings’ as a people or a civilisation is a modern construct, or at least, a term of convenience. A viking with a lowercase v is someone engaged in a specific profession, namely raiding or piracy: Latin sources regularly describe vikings as pirati. This designation often spilled over into mercenary work when some bands of vikings found that they could make good money by providing protection against other vikings. Although the word viking carried no ethnic connotation, the vikings that appeared in Western Europe from the late eighth century onwards were generally from Scandinavia or, as time progressed, from Scandinavian colonies in Britain and Ireland. Consequently, ethnic terms such as Northmen and Danes were also regularly used to describe them (and were fairly generic: a ‘Dane’ was not necessarily someone from Denmark), as was the religious term pagan/heathen (although many vikings converted to Christianity once outside of Scandinavia). The word ‘viking’ is also used as a term for the polities in Britain and Ireland that came to be dominated by viking armies and their descendants – e.g. ‘viking York’ or ‘viking Dublin’ – although this is more of a modern convenience rather than a reflection of medieval practice. The ‘Viking Age’ itself is not easily defined. Accounts of it traditionally begin with the entry for the year 793 in manuscripts D and E of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Her wæron reðe forebecna cumene ofer Norðhymbra land, 7 þæt folc earmlic bregdon, þæt wæron ormete þodenas 7 ligrescas, 7 fyrenne dracan wæron gesewene on þam lifte fleogende. Þam tacnum sona fyligde mycel hunger, 7 litel æfter þam, þæs ilcan geares on .vi. idus Ianuarii, earmlice hæþenra manna hergunc adilegode Godes cyrican in Lindisfarnaee þurh hreaflac 7 mansliht. 7 Sicga forðferde on .viii. Kalendas Martius. 157

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paul gazzoli In this year dire portents appeared over Northumbria and sorely frightened the people. They consisted of immense whirlwinds and flashes of lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the air. A great famine immediately followed those signs, and a little after that in the same year, on 8 June, the ravages of heathen men miserably destroyed God’s church on Lindisfarne, with plunder and slaughter. And Sicga died on 22 February.1

But this was not even the first recorded raid, which was in 789 in Dorset.2 There may well have been some raids that preceded these but have gone unrecorded. Gregory of Tours records a Danish raid on the Frankish kingdom in the early sixth century,3 but this does not seem to have unleashed a wave of further activity. At the other temporal extreme, later generations of Danish and Norwegian kings had not forgotten the claims of their ancestors to various parts of Britain and Ireland; there even seems to have been a Danish attack on England as late as 1138.4 This chapter begins at the very end of the eighth century, when viking raids first provoked a written response in the form of annals and letters, and moves through the ‘second Viking Age’, when the kings of Denmark, Sweyn Forkbeard and his son Cnut the Great, took a leading role in campaigning in, and ultimately subduing, England. It concludes by examining the legacy of their ‘North Sea Empire’ in the several decades following Cnut’s death in 1035. I examine not only how the English responded to viking attacks, but also how Scandinavian culture shaped and contributed to the historical tradition in England. This influence becomes more apparent when we look away from the sources that have been traditionally considered central to Anglo-Saxon history and concentrate instead on texts that emerged later, especially in the North, where levels of Scandinavian settlement were higher and the historical tradition of the West Saxon dynasty farther away. Just as Old Norse linguistic impact on English is not easily documentable until the Middle English period (as the written vernacular in late Anglo-Saxon England was specifically West Saxon), so signs of Scandinavian cultural influence on the historical tradition only begin to emerge in written texts after 1066.5

1 2 3 4 5

ASC MS D, p. 17; ASC MS E, p. 42; EHD, p. 167. On the ASC, see also Chapter 10 below. The year 787 (=789), ASC MS D, p. 16; ASC MS E, p. 41. Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum, iii.3, p. 99. Continuatio Gemblacensis to Sigebert of Gembloux, s.a. 1138. Siegbert of Gembloux, Chronicle, p. 386; Heebøll-Holm, ‘When the Lamb Attacked’, p. 48. On the linguistic influence of Old Norse on Middle English, see Dance, Words Derived from Old Norse as well as the ongoing Gersum Project, www.gersum.org (accessed 22 August 2018).

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Contemporary Written Responses to Viking Attacks However unexpected and shocking the attack on Lindisfarne seems to have been to contemporaries such as Alcuin of York, Anglo-Saxon writers were extremely well prepared for it historiographically: it fit perfectly into the paradigm established through Anglo-Saxon readings of the British writer Gildas, which, as Coumert shows in Chapter 1, left the British tarred with the guilt of their ultimate failure to defeat and convert the Saxon invaders. Bede was thus able to present Gildas’s text in a way that clearly cast the Anglo-Saxon invasions as punishment for the failures and sinfulness of the Britons, with the result that God transferred his favour to a new chosen people.6 An educated Anglo-Saxon could hardly have avoided using this framework to understand the Scandinavian raids and invasions. Alcuin responded immediately to news of the raid on Lindisfarne with a series of letters urging the monks of Lindisfarne and nearby WearmouthJarrow as well as Northumbrian kings and nobles to moral and spiritual rectitude.7 To Archbishop Æthelheard of Canterbury, he specifically invoked Bede’s understanding of Gildas: Legitur vero in libro Gildi Brettonum sapientissimi, quod idem ipsi Brettones propter rapinas et avaritiam principum, propter iniquitatem et iniustitiam iudicum, propter desidiam et pigritiam praedicationis episcoporum, propter luxoriam et malos mores populi patriam perdiderunt. We read in the book of Gildas, most learned of the Britons, that the Britons themselves lost their fatherland because of the greedy pillaging of their leaders, the injustice of their judges, the slackness in preaching of their bishops and the luxury and wicked ways of the people.8

Alcuin’s use of this framework was no mere literary conceit. The fear that the English could lose Britain just as the British had lost it also surfaces in Alcuin’s letters to King Æthelræd of Northumbria and to the people of Kent (in the latter of which he also invokes Gildas by name),9 and was clearly a very real concern to Alcuin. Around a hundred years later, King Alfred also urged his contemporaries towards reform and learning10 (which he sought to facilitate by having important books translated into English), and although he made no 6 7 8 9 10

HEA, i.15.3, p. 53; i.22.2, p. 69. On the dates of Gildas’s life and text, see the summary of the debate in Kerlouégan, ‘Gildas’. See also Chapter 1 above, pp. 19–22. Alcuin, Epistolae, Letters 16–22, pp. 42–60. Ibid., Letter 17, p. 47; Alcuin, Life and Letters, p. 62. Alcuin, Epistolae, Letter 16, pp. 42–3; Letter 129, p. 192. Alfred drew heavily on Carolingian example. See Wickham, Medieval Europe, pp. 87–9.

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specific reference to Gildas or to Bede’s reading of him, there are strong hints of this tradition in his feeling that the lack of Christian knowledge in England had led to the downfall of many of the Christian kingdoms to viking armies: me com suiðe oft on gemynd, hwelce wutan gio wæron . . . & hu gesæliglica tida þa wæron geond Angelcynn; & hu þa kyningas þe ðone anwald hæfdon ðæs folces Gode & his ærendwrecum hisumedon; & hu hi ægðer ge hiora sibbe ge hiora sido ge hiora anwald innanbordes gehioldon, & eac ut hiora oeðel rymdon; & hu him ða speow ægðer ge mid wige ge mid wisdome . . . Geðenc hwelc witu us þa becomon for ðisse worulde, þa þa we hit nohwæðer ne selfe ne lufedon ne eac oðrum monnum ne lifdon [lærdan]. very often it has come to my mind what men of learning there were formerly . . . and how there were happy times then throughout England; and how the kings, who had authority over this people, obeyed God and his messengers; and how they not only maintained their peace, morality and authority at home but also extended their territory outside; and how they succeeded both in warfare and in wisdom . . . Remember what punishments befell us in this world when we ourselves did not cherish learning nor transmit it to other men.11

King Alfred’s biographer, the Welsh monk Asser, although he naturally approved of Alfred’s support of learning, did not cast the viking attacks as a result of the decline of the monastic life in England, but more prosaically as a cause of it.12 Nor did he place his work within the Bede–Gildas tradition, or even make any mention of Gildas.13 But as Asser was a Welshman and writing primarily for a Welsh audience,14 there would have been little point in engaging with the Anglo-Saxons’ justification of their own past conquest of Britain (which would hardly have endeared the text to Welsh readers). The reformers of Edgar’s time strengthened the link between piety and political success,15 a link which would be further strengthened throughout Æthelred’s reign and connected specifically to the idea of penance. Although this reformist argument was far from entirely the consequence of viking raids, which were gaining intensity again at the end of the tenth 11 12 13

14

Alfred, Preface to Cura pastoralis, in Sweet (ed.), Gregory’s Pastoral Care, pp. 2–4; Keynes and Lapidge (trans.), Alfred the Great, pp. 124–5. Asser, Life of King Alfred, pp. 80–1. Although Charles-Edwards, Wales and the Britons, p. 464, conjectures that ‘Asser’s own fondness for the simile of a ship finding its way to its harbour as a marker of major textual divisions may derive from Gildas.’ Keynes and Lapidge (trans.), Alfred the Great, p. 56. 15 Roach, Æthelred, p. 153.

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century, they played an important part in it. Amongst the flurry of literary activity in England at the end of the tenth century, the prolific homilist Ælfric of Eynsham, in his De oratione Moysi (On the Prayer of Moses), attributed viking attacks to the English turning against the monastic life: Hu wæs hit ða siððan ða þa man towearp munuc-lif and godes biggengas to bysmore hæfde buton þæt us com to cwealm and hunger and siððan hæðen here us heafde to bysmre. How was it then afterward when men rejected monastic life and held God’s services in contempt, but that pestilence and hunger came to us, and afterward the heathen army had us in reproach?16

Ælfric also wrote to Bishop Wulfsige III of Sherborne sometime between 993 and 995 informing him that the bishops had decided that the mass contra paganos (‘against the pagans’) should be sung every Wednesday in every minster, and that every priest should do the same in his church; the text implores God ‘ut gentem paganam quam pro peccatis nostris super nos cognoscimus preualere, te miserante sentiamus cessare’ (‘that through your mercy we might experience relief from the pagan people, which we know prevail over us for our sins’).17 The most famous expression of the idea that viking attacks resulted from the victims’ sins is to be found in Archbishop Wulfstan II of York’s famous Sermo Lupi ad Anglos (The Sermon of the Wolf to the English): An þeodwita wæs on Brytta tidum, Gildas hatte, se awrat be heora misdædum, hu hy mid heora synnum swa oferlice swyþe God gegræmedan þæt he let æt nyhstan Engla here heora eard gewinnan and Brytta dugeþe fordon mid ealle . . . Þurh fulne eac folces gælsan and þurh oferfylla and mænigfealde synna heora eard hy forworhtan and selfe hy forwurdan. There was a chronicler called Gildas in the time of the Britons who wrote about their misdeeds, how they by their sins angered God so excessively that at last he allowed the army of Englishmen to conquer their homeland to destroy entirely the seasoned strength of the Britons . . . by the foul pride of

16 17

De oratione Moysi, lines 152–5, in Ælfric, Lives of the Saints, vol. i, pp. 294–5. For an overview of the literature of this period, see Roach, Æthelred, pp. 162–7. Roach, Æthelred, pp. 157, 273. For Ælfric’s letter, see Whitelock, Brett, and Brooke (eds. and trans.), Councils and Synods, no. 40, p. 226. For the mass, see Orchard (ed.), Leofric Missal, vol. ii, 341–2 (my translation).

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paul gazzoli the people and by gluttony and by manifold sins they destroyed their native land and themselves perished.18

Wulfstan seems to have written this sermon and subsequently revised it into several versions in the period 1009–12, when viking attacks were particularly vicious and nearly constant, and the archbishop of Canterbury himself was killed.19 That Wulfstan could suggest moral reform as a response in such trying times underscores that his approach to the problem was part of a deeply engrained tradition. It would have sounded reasonable to contemporary ears, and above all, was heartfelt. None of these penitential themes surfaces in regard to Scandinavians in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.20 Aside from the portentous note quoted at the beginning of this chapter, the annals for the late eighth and earlier ninth centuries depict Scandinavian raiders as only one type of combatant amongst many; until the mid-ninth century, one finds far more attention devoted to battles between different English rulers, or between English and British rulers. This entry, moreover, cannot be contemporary, and probably dates to the tenth century at the earliest:21 the recollection of 793 as a year of catastrophe and portents would have seemed appropriate in the second half of the tenth century when the newly arrived West Saxon dynasty was establishing its power north of the Humber; similar portents, mentioned only in D, preceded Æthelstan’s acceptance as king in Northumbria in 927: ‘Her oðeowdon fyrena leoman on norðdæle þære lyfte’ (‘In this year appeared fiery lights in the northern quarter of the sky’).22 This entry serves to bracket off the period of viking kings in Northumbria as an era that had come to an end.23 Scandinavian adversaries – normally described as Danes or heathens, or identified by the names of the leader(s) of the army in question – begin to form a far more prominent element of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as we draw nearer to Alfred’s reign, as the defeat of these enemies is portrayed as 18 19 20 21

22 23

Wulfstan, Sermo Lupi ad Anglos, pp. 65–6; Crossley-Holland (ed. and trans.), Anglo-Saxon World, p. 299. Roach, Æthelred, p. 281. There are hints of sin as a cause of the Norman Conquest, however. See ASC MS D, year 1066, p. 80. The entry only appears in manuscripts D and E of the ASC, which represent the so-called ‘Northern Recension’. Although it must have drawn on lost sets of northern annals, the Northern Recension itself could only have come into existence at some point not only after the compilation of the Alfredian core in the 890s, but also after the ASC had been exported to the North and it was possible to continue a West Saxon dynastic chronicle there (on the ASC as a West Saxon dynastic chronicle, see Chapter 10 below), either at some point after 927 when Æthelstan took York, or after the expulsion of the last viking king, Eric, in 954. ASC MS D, year 926 (=927), p. 41; EHD, p. 200. Although after Æthelstan’s death, viking kings again ruled in Northumbria intermittently until 954.

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one of Alfred’s central achievements. The contrast between English Christian and Danish heathen continues even after the baptism of figures such as King Guthrum of East Anglia and serves to help paint West Saxon expansion into East Anglia, Mercia, and Northumbria as campaigns of liberation. The use of ethnic terms in these territories was complex: the polities under Scandinavian leadership were often simply referred to by the names of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (Northumbria, East Anglia), and even ‘Danes’ could be portrayed as being liberated from the oppression of the ‘Northmen’ by English kings.24 Later, Scandinavian terminology was also fossilised in ways of discussing these regions: even in 1013 (nearly a century and a half after the settlement of Northumbria under Halfdan in 876), the inhabitants of the area north of Watling Street could be described with the term regularly used for Scandinavian armies, here.25 But not even in Æthelred’s reign and its aftermath does the idea of raids or conquest as punishment for sin come through in the Chronicle: here defeats are more prosaically ascribed to poor leadership, cowardice, and treachery.26 The Scandinavian presence in England remained a prominent issue for the Chronicle in the eleventh century, in no small part because it was central to events in England at the time, but also due to the Chronicle’s focus on the West Saxon dynasty: the dynasty of Sweyn and Cnut had become a very serious rival, and an opportunity to stress the fact that the kings of the West Saxon line were legitimate (gecynd) was rarely passed up.27

Remembering Raids and Conquest in the North of England I will now leave behind the more well-trodden ground in order to examine responses to raiding and conquest from northern England, where Scandinavian settlement exerted its greatest influence. Political circumstances here were different: the Anglo-Saxon kings of the West Saxon house never did have any effective control north of the Tees, and Yorkshire, from which the viking kings of York had only finally been driven out in 954, was relatively loosely integrated. The West Saxon 24 26 27

MSS ABCD, year 942 (ASC MS D, p. 41). 25 MSS CDE, year 1013 (ASC MS D, p. 58). E.g. MSS CDE, year 1016 (ASC MS D, p. 62). E.g. on the restoration of Æthelred in 1014, see MSS CDE, year 1014 (ASC MS D, p. 59); on the accession of Edward the Confessor in 1042, MSS CD, year 1042 (ASC MS D, p. 66; and on the possibility of the accession of Edgar the Ætheling in 1066, ASC MS D, p. 80, year 1066. It is interesting in this regard that the Chronicle prefaces its discussion of the fall of the Northumbrian kingdom with the remark that the Northumbrians had chosen an illegitimate (ungecynd) king: see ASC MS D, p. 26, year 867.

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historical tradition was thus considerably weaker in the North, and Scandinavian culture was imprinted much more strongly in the traditions that would surface in the written material produced there from the late eleventh century onwards. Examining this material can help us see another dimension of Scandinavian influence on historical writing in England. Perhaps the richest vein to mine is the historiographical work done at Durham from the end of the eleventh century onwards. Although historically speaking it is less valuable as a source for events, it furnishes an example of how a religious house in England incorporated viking raids and conquest into its own history and identity. Some of this material may ultimately derive, at least in part, from records kept by the Community of St Cuthbert, who, in the second half of the ninth century, left their traditional seat at Lindisfarne and embarked on a series of wanderings, absorbing other Northumbrian bishoprics and religious houses as they took up residence at Norham, Crayke, Chester-le-Street, and finally Durham in 995. These wanderings have generally been viewed as part and parcel of the disruption caused by the Scandinavian raids, but this view does not entirely fit with the monks’ itinerary, which took them from Lindisfarne, a site next door to the Northumbrian royal centre of Bamburgh, to Crayke, which was only about 15 miles north of the AngloScandinavian political centre of York, in the late ninth century.28 In other words, quarrels with the native Northumbrian rulers (who are recorded as robbing St Cuthbert’s community of property)29 may have had as much to do with the community’s decision to be based elsewhere as any viking threat, and the ‘wanderings’ have also been reinterpreted as the community maintaining control of its far-flung properties.30 Indeed, Crayke’s closeness to York might even suggest that there was a period in which the community found political accommodation with Scandinavian rulers an easier and more attractive prospect than dealing with English rulers in the rest of Northumbria. The contents of some of the earliest historical material produced at Durham certainly suggest co-operation with Scandinavian rulers. From this perspective, the historical writing of that community shows a more nuanced reaction to raiding and settlement than elsewhere in England, as explored more fully below. It had been traditionally held that the curious text Historia de Sancto Cuthberto was originally written in the mid-tenth century.31 But although 28 30 31

Aird, St Cuthbert, pp. 34–7. 29 HSC, chap. 10, p. 50. Hadley, Vikings in England, pp. 196–9; Rollason, ‘Wanderings’, p. 50. On the link between history and hagiography in the religious communities of northern England, see Chapter 17 below.

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there is some evidence of the continuity of literacy and scribal practice in the tenth-century Community of Cuthbert, it seems to have been mainly in English and not always at the highest level,32 albeit a sufficiently high level for notices in English to be kept in the margins of the community’s important books recording various donations of land. A full-scale Latin work from the historiographical desert that is tenth-century northern England thus seems highly implausible, and the text’s most recent editor has convincingly argued that the text must be from the later eleventh century – thus confirming the earlier view of Michael Lapidge that it was produced after the Norman Conquest, most likely as part of the boom in historiographical production that took place at Durham following the settlement of Benedictines there under Bishop William of St-Calais (r.1080–96).33 The monks of this period strove to document the Community’s earlier history, its rights and privileges, with the Historia probably being one of the earliest stages in this process. David Woodman has compared the Historia very convincingly to the boom in charter forgeries among other houses in England to protect their property and rights in the wake of the Norman Conquest.34 Landownership is a prominent issue in the text, to the point that Symeon of Durham described it as a ‘cartulary’:35 those rulers who treat St Cuthbert well are shown to be rewarded and those who rob him are shown to be punished – a message that Durham would be anxious to send out in the uncertainty following the arrival of the Normans. The fact that the text is post-Conquest does not mean that it could not have drawn on some earlier lost written sources; but as all the surviving documents relating to landownership by the Community of Cuthbert are short marginal notations in Old English,36 it seems impossible that the actual Latin text of the Historia was in any significant way excerpted from lost Latin writings: if anything, we have to imagine that it would have been expanded from brief Old English notations such as we have. But more likely still it 32

33 34 35 36

Although the Lindisfarne Gospels contain English glosses in the ‘fine tenth-century hand’ of Aldred, provost of Chester-le-Street in 970, two marginal scribbles in two Gospel books, one of which reads ‘Boge messepreost god preost, Aldred god biscop’ (‘Boge mass-priest good priest, Aldred good bishop’), dating from sometime between c.946 and c.968, suggest lower standards of literacy (Rollason, Northumbria, pp. 146–8). HSC, pp. 25–36; Lapidge and Dumville (eds.), Annals of St. Neots, pp. xcvi–xcvii, cv; Rollason, Northumbria, p. 285. Woodman (ed.), Charters, pp. 324–6. On cartularies and the role of landownership in hagiographic texts, cf. Chapter 2 above, pp. 48–9. On monastic record-keeping, see also Chapters 11 and 23 below. Woodman (ed.), Charters, nos. 18–20, pp. 352–8; see also ibid., pp. 301–2, 316–23.

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was a way of recording traditional lands and privileges of the community, particularly those for which the Benedictines of Durham could find no written evidence, and thus drew on oral tradition – that was, as I will argue, influenced by elements ultimately drawn from Scandinavian culture. The Historia thus offers unique insight into how an English religious community conceived of the Scandinavian impact on its own history and identity. The beginning of the text is a brief summary of Cuthbert’s life and how various incidents in it led to properties being given to him. This is followed with accounts of the gifts of various Northumbrian kings to the Community after his death, up to the last two Anglo-Saxon kings of Northumbria, Osberht and Ælle, who are said to have stolen St Cuthbert’s land and consequently to have been punished by the attack of the Scandinavian army, which defeated them and settled the land under their King Halfdan, who was in turn punished for his actions against St Cuthbert. Thus far, this all fits in with the trends laid out earlier in this chapter: viking attacks as a punishment for the neglect or harm of monastic foundations. The Historia’s account, however, does not focus, as Alcuin’s letters to the Lindisfarne Community do, on correcting any practices found to be wayward in their own religious lives, but rather on the punishment of secular rulers for deeds against the Community. With the following chapter, we enter into different territory. In this episode, we read about an apparition of St Cuthbert to Abbot Eadred in which the saint orders him: ‘Vade . . . ad exercitum Danorum, et dic eis ut si uolunt mihi obedientes esse, ostendant tibi emtitium quendam puerum cuiusdam uidue nomine Guthred filium Hardecnut’ (‘Go . . . to the army of the Danes, and tell them that if they wish to be obedient to me, they should show you a certain young man named Guthred son of Hardacnut, the slave of a certain widow’) and after having purchased him, ‘duc eum ante totam multitudinem ut eum regem eligant . . . duc eum cum toto exercitu super montem qui uocatur Oswigesdune et ibi pone in brachio eius dextero armillam auream, et sic eum omnes regem constituant’ (‘lead him before the whole multitude so that they may elect him king, and . . . lead him with the whole army upon the hill which is called Oswigesdune and there place on his right arm a golden armlet, and thus they shall all constitute him king’).37 The abbot duly obeys, and it all comes to pass as Cuthbert has promised. Guthred gives the community a generous grant of land: ‘totam terram inter Tinam et Wyrram’ (‘all the land between the Tyne and the Wear’).38 In other words, he creates the origins of County 37

HSC, chap. 13, pp. 52–3.

38

Ibid.

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Durham, and both he and his army swear over the body of St Cuthbert ‘pacem et fidelitatem donec uiuerent, et hoc iusiurandum bene seruauerunt’ (‘peace and fidelity as long as they might live, and this oath they faithfully observed’).39 The interweaving of pagan or Scandinavian motifs (such as the armlet), and English and/or Christian motifs in this episode has featured in discussions either of the conversion of the Scandinavian settlers of the area, or of the formation of new political arrangements north of the Humber.40 I would note, however, that as the text dates to the eleventh century it is too distant from those events to provide evidence for them. This passage, however, usefully illuminates the ways in which the Viking Age past was understood in the late eleventh century in the North of England. It is notable that the Durham writer does not present the Community of Cuthbert as some zealous guardian of an uncorrupted English past, unpolluted by the influence of Scandinavian pagans. Rather, the episode serves as almost a figurative baptism for the Scandinavian past of the North, which, by the eleventh century, was deeply engrained in language and culture. The fact that a writer in Durham, where English rather than Scandinavian political power seems to have endured, and where there is little archaeological sign of Scandinavian settlement, should be interested in such a mingling is all the more interesting. This history was clearly seen to be relevant to Durham’s institutional history and identity and linked to the grant of its territorial heartland between the Tyne and the Wear. It is noteworthy, too, that such an important grant is attributed to a Scandinavian king about whom little is known (although the Historia goes on to recount other positive stories about him) rather than to a more historically secure Anglo-Saxon one. The Anglo-Saxon past is, however, represented by the location on a hill named after the great seventh-century king Oswiu, who by the end of his reign controlled both Northumbrian kingdoms, Bernicia and Deira. If this chapter of the Historia blends together the Northumbrian and Scandinavian past, the following ones add the later English kingdom into the mix by turning to Alfred the Great, who sees a vision of St Cuthbert promising to help him to overcome his enemies. These chapters shift the Historia’s focus from the strictly local and northern to the Wessex dynasty of kings, another important component of the text’s historiographical selfidentification. In other words, there is not an opposition between English 39 40

Ibid. E.g. Abrams, ‘Conversion of the Danelaw’, pp. 37–8; Hadley, Vikings in England, p. 40.

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and Scandinavian or between northern and southern; the only difference is between the friends and enemies of St Cuthbert.

Cnut the Great, Scandinavian Culture, and its Influence on English Historical Writing The last gift recorded in the HSC is that of Cnut, who seems to have continued his predecessors’ generosity towards the Community of Cuthbert and is recorded elsewhere to have made a barefoot pilgrimage from Garmundsway to Durham, a distance of around 5 miles.41 Although the Historia’s mention of Cnut is just a brief record of a donation, his influence is more present than is immediately obvious. Indeed, the text may reflect not only an English reaction to Scandinavian presence in England, but also the role of Scandinavian culture in shaping the memory of the period. I would like to consider a specific word used both by the Historia to describe the ninth-century invaders as well as by Scandinavian poets, composing in the same century, to describe Cnut. At their earliest appearances in the Historia, the Scandinavians (who are usually called Danes, or Dani) are referred to as Scaldingi.42 The meaning of this term has been debated by scholars: Woolf, among others, has seen in it a contemporary term referring to Scandinavians who arrived in England via the River Scheldt in modern Belgium (in Latin Scaldis).43 However, the lateness of the first evidence, namely the Historia itself, would call this meaning into question.44 I would suggest finding another explanation for the term, rooted in the later legends of the Scandinavian conquest of Northumbria in Old Norse literature, and particularly in the skaldic poetry associated with Cnut. The word Skjǫldungr is associated in Old Norse literature with the earliest kings of the Danes, and the poets of Cnut’s court in turn associated it with him. The related term Scyldingas in Old English appears only in Beowulf; and although the scholarly consensus tends towards an earlier dating for the composition of the poem, the fact that its only surviving manuscript dates from the early eleventh century shows that Scyldingas 41 42 44

Symeon of Durham, Libellus de exordio, iii.8, pp. 166–8; HSC, p. 114; Aird, St Cuthbert, p. 51. HSC, chap. 7, p. 48; chap. 11, p. 50; chap. 12, p. 50. 43 Woolf, Pictland to Alba, p. 72. It was on these grounds that Stevenson rejected it even though he believed the Historia was midtenth-century in date. Asser, Life of King Alfred, p. 218 n. 1. The connection was first proposed in the nineteenth century and appears in Lappenberg, Geschichte von England, vol. i, p. 212, and subsequently in Steenstrup, Normannerne, vol. ii, p. 178.

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would have been familiar to eleventh-century audiences in England, and not only to those who understood Old Norse.45 It is therefore not so difficult to imagine that the term would have reached the ears of those responsible for crafting the HSC. Cnut’s poets not only refer to Cnut as a Skjǫldungr but also link his conquest of England to those of ninth-century Scandinavians north of the Humber – precisely the context in which the Historia uses the word Scaldingi.46 Sigvatr Þórðarson’s Knútdrápa reads: Ok Ellu bak, at, lét, hinns sat, Ívarr ara, Jórvík, skorit. And Ívarr, who resided at York, had Ælla’s back cut with an eagle.47

While Hallvarðr háreksblesi addresses Cnut in the following manner: Ullar lézt við Ellu ættleifð ok mǫ´ reifðir sverðmans snyrtiherðir sundviggs flota bundit. [Cnut, you,] warrior, bound your fleet to the inheritance of Ælla and gave joy to the raven.48

Both of these stanzas frame Cnut’s conquest of England in terms of the previous Scandinavian conquest of Northumbria, attributed here to Ingvar, or Ívarr the Boneless (although he is not mentioned in the Historia, his brother Ubba is; and the prominence accorded to the Northumbrian king Ælla is also reflected in the Historia).49 As Roberta 45

46

47 48 49

Proposed dates for the poem have ranged from the late seventh through the early eleventh century, with the most scholarly consensus settling on the eighth or early ninth century, while the manuscript has been dated to the later reign of Æthelred or perhaps sometime after Cnut’s accession. See Jack, ‘Beowulf’; and Scragg, ‘Beowulf Manuscript’. On the date of the poem, see the contributions to Chase (ed.), Dating of Beowulf, particularly Kiernan, ‘Eleventh-Century Origin’, which suggests the manuscript dates to after 1016, p. 10; Page, ‘Audience of Beowulf ’; and Frank, ‘Skaldic Verse’, which discusses the Scaldingi at p. 127. Cnut is referred to as Skjǫldungr in Þórðr Kolbeinsson’s Eiríksdrápa, 13, in Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas, vol. i, p. 507, and directly addressed as such in Óttarr svarti’s Knútsdrápa, 10, in Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas, vol. i, p. 779. Sigvatr Þórðarson, Knútsdrápa, 1, in Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas, vol. i, p. 651. Hallvarðr háreksblesi, Knútsdrápa, 3, in Jónsson (ed.), Norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning, vol. i, p. 293. Ingvar appears in the ASC as well as probably being identical with the Ímar in Irish annals; Abbo of Fleury’s Passio sancti Eadmundi of c.986, pp. 71–2, is the first to mention Ubba, who by the twelfth century had become the standard literary viking figure. See Bartlett, ‘Viking Hiatus’, p. 17. The fact that Ubba appears in the HSC could be another argument for it postdating (at least) Abbo’s text.

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Frank has noted, these verses have the effect of legitimating Cnut’s conquests by anchoring them in English history.50 But the link could have worked the other way as well, allowing the inhabitants of England, and especially those who were descended from the ninth-century settlers, to identify with Cnut and his followers through local historical tradition, binding the ‘new’ Danes with those in England who could claim a ‘Danish’ identity through their familial or regional background into a shared past. Townend has noted that Sigvatr’s Knútsdrápa shows ‘pronounced Old English influence in its language’,51 and Russell Poole has suggested that Óttar svarti’s Knútsdrápa (one of the occasions mentioned above where Cnut is addressed as Skjǫldungr) was specifically designed for ‘a mixed English-Scandinavian milieu’.52 Roberta Frank has suggested that the identification of Cnut as a Skjǫldungr was connected to this desire to link him to the ninth-century Scaldingi, but she did so on the evidence of the Historia (which she held, according to the traditional dating, to be a mid-tenth-century text). I suggest that the direction of influence was the other way around: that it was in Cnut’s reign that the ninth-century conquests of Northumbria first became attributed to the Skjǫldungar, as part of both Cnut’s desire to establish his own rule within the terms of English history, and the desire of his subjects (perhaps particularly those of Scandinavian descent) to identify with their new ruler. This identification of the two then entered the general consciousness and eventually appeared in the Historia, and may have even contributed to the interest in the subject matter of Beowulf (discussing, as it does, the Scyldingas) and spurred the copying of the only surviving manuscript. Nor is the Historia the only place where such influences surface after the Norman Conquest: one could also point to Geffrei Gaimar’s early twelfthcentury Estoire des Engleis, which drew on both the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the oral tradition of Lincolnshire,53 where the Danes were said to have been in Britain since the time of Constantine.54 This text probably reflects a view developed by those in England of Scandinavian ancestry to explain their origins, which would only have been aided by the presence of powerful Danish kings such as Cnut to serve as examples and to generate further legitimacy for the idea of Danish authority in England. Just as the 50 51 52 53 54

Frank, ‘King Cnut’, pp. 110–13. Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas, vol. i, p. 650.; cf. Frank, ‘King Cnut’, p. 108. Poole, ‘Ó ttarr svarti’, p. 459; cf. Townend, ‘Contextualising the Knútsdrápur’, p. 175. Thanks to Caitlin Ellis for this reference. Gaimar, Estoire des Engleis, pp. ix–xvi. Cf. Chapter 10 below, p. 190. Gaimar, Estoire des Engleis, lines 37–54, p. 4. For more on the Estoire, see Chapter 5 above.

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linguistic influence of Old Norse is much more readily detectable in Middle English than in Old English55 (which, as a written language, was established before Old Norse would have had time to make much impact, and was governed by West Saxon norms), so stories originating from Scandinavian culture and influence first really make their presence felt in post-Conquest texts.

Conclusion Some twentieth-century historians have argued that the vikings’ reputation was unfairly tarnished by monks who exaggerated their numbers and cruelty due to their willingness to target ecclesiastical institutions.56 And yet, as we have seen, vikings, rather than being merely passive victims of English (or, more generally, European) historiography, were capable of contributing to it, albeit not in a direct way. The impact of the viking raids and conquests on English history writing was not simply an English reaction to a Scandinavian threat; it also involved assimilating Scandinavian cultural contributions which eventually surfaced in English literary culture. The earliest contemporary response – Alcuin’s – to the first viking raids on England was firmly within the tradition of Gildas and Bede: they were a punishment for sin and a moral threat that demanded reform. This attitude also formed Alfred’s response. In the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, as raiding acquired a renewed vigour, we find prominent voices reflecting the same idea, notably those of Ælfric and Wulfstan. But this theme was not universal – it is notably absent from Asser and from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. By the time the period of viking raids, conquest, and settlement had receded into the past, it became an important element of identity, and not just for those English of Scandinavian descent, but also for others, including religious communities who might be expected to avoid an association of their past with pagan invaders. It also provided Cnut with a means to identity himself with English history – something that created a connection that functioned in both directions. 55

Cf. note 5.

56

See the discussion in Wormald, ‘Viking Studies’.

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chapter 10

Cross-Channel Networks of History Writing: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Elizabeth M. Tyler

When considered within a European context, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is paradoxical. On the one hand, its distinctive use of the vernacular as a language of history writing cuts the Chronicle off from circulating on the continent, where the use of Latin for history writing ensured that texts and the narratives they contained crossed political and linguistic boundaries. The impact of the vernacularity of the Chronicle is witnessed by the German imperial historian Sigebert of Gembloux (c.1028–1112), whose monumental Latin chronicle attempted to cover the parallel histories of the major polities and peoples of the Roman empire and Europe from 381 to Sigebert’s own time. His ambitious scope was thwarted by the absence of sources for English history from the death of Bede in 735 until the AngloSaxon Chronicle was systematically translated into Latin after the Norman Conquest. As he wrote in frustration: ‘Abhinc regnum Anglorum annotare supersedeo, quia hystorias maiorum, quas sequar, non habeo’ (‘From this point, I leave out the kingdom of the English, because I do not have the histories of the leading men which I might follow’).1 On the other hand, the Chronicle is deeply embedded within cross-Channel networks of history writing, which fundamentally shaped both the form and content of English history writing from the reign of Alfred to the Conquest. As we will see, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was enmeshed in the multilingual fabric of Europe from Ireland to the Bosporus, and it was alert to the linguistic politics of history writing across Latin Europe. This chapter opens up the European horizons of the Chronicle by attending to form, including language choice, within the social networks of its production and reception.2 This approach entails stepping outside the boundaries of the nationalising literary history which has dominated literary studies of the Chronicle and which the vernacularity of the 1

Sigebert of Gembloux, Chronica, s.a. 735; Goetz, ‘Universality’, p. 253.

2

Levine, Forms.

172

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Chronicle might seem to invite. As Pauline Stafford has shown, however, it is not until the account of Æthelred’s reign (978–1016), written after his defeat by the Danish king Cnut, that we find the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle preoccupied with Englishness.3 As we shall see, this preoccupation was particular to a conquest situation and does not continue to define the Chronicle in the reign of Edward the Confessor, which is strikingly international in its writing of history. This chapter argues that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s models for history were European and imperial rather than national. To see the Chronicle from this perspective means putting to one side comparative literary history, with its assumption that different linguistic traditions are separate and interaction between them can largely be understood in terms of source and influence. It also means embracing the concept of entangled history or histoire croisée, which has been an important theoretical underpinning for global history, with its emphases on social networks and the need to turn away from space defined as conventional containers, especially, as in the case of the Chronicle, the nation.4 This chapter will look at the Chronicle within a wider European space, with deliberately undefined boundaries, in northwest Eurasia. Europe, so conceptualised, was a place where Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, and Jewish religious worldviews met, and which participated in cultural networks which crossed Asia and North Africa; the hallmark of this framework is linguistic, ethnic, religious, and political diversity.5 Three key moments in the history of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle will be our focus: its inception in the court of Alfred the Great (d.899); the translation of the Chronicle into Latin by Ealdorman Æthelweard (d.998?) at the behest of his cousin, the Abbess Matilda (d.1011) of Essen in Ottonian Germany; and the copying together of the Old English Orosius and the Chronicle in the mid-eleventh century to make an ambitious vernacular universal chronicle for Edward the Confessor. Throughout, careful attention will be paid to the international networks of people involved in producing the Chronicle and the active decisions made about language (when to write in English, when to translate into Latin, and even when to sprinkle that Latin with Greek). Our main interest will lie with the connections of the Chronicle to East and West Francia, what we now think of as France and Germany, but an eye will also be kept on the insular, Welsh and Irish, contexts. The chapter will conclude by looking ahead, 3 4 5

Stafford, ‘Identity’, pp. 30–5. For an introduction to global history, see Conrad, What is Global History, esp. pp. 37–61, 115–40. Borsa et al., ‘Medieval European Literature’, pp. 13–17.

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briefly, to post-Conquest translations of the Chronicle into Latin and French, which attest to the remarkable authority the vernacular had in England as a vehicle for historical veracity.

The Multilingual Beginnings The Chronicle was begun in the early 890s, when the ‘common stock’, covering the period 60 bce to 890/892 ce, was produced in the court of Alfred the Great, as part of a programme for the promotion of learning in the vernacular. Although scholars call it the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, from its inception it was written to support the interests of the West Saxon dynasty, well before there was a politically united England. By the 890s Wessex had expanded at the expense of other southern English kingdoms, while the northern and far eastern kingdoms had fallen to the vikings, who were themselves a threat to Wessex. Until the end of the tenth century and the beginning of the eleventh century, the Chronicle was much more engaged with the separate kingdoms of England, especially Wessex, than with England even though the term Angelcynn (the English) is occasionally used.6 Although it is written in English, the Chronicle itself, and what was written at the time about the scholars at Alfred’s court, reveal it to be indebted to a wider Western European tradition of historical writing. The similarities between the Latin Royal Frankish Annals and the AngloSaxon Chronicle are illustrative of the way the vernacular English Chronicle participates in a wider Latinate historiographical culture, which itself stretched back to antiquity. The Royal Frankish Annals, which recount the rise of the Carolingians and cover the years 741–829, resemble the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, both of them ‘official histories’ written by clerics at court and distributed from there.7 Also, like the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, they continued after the production of a ‘common stock’, with different versions circulating, most notably, after the divisions of the Carolingian empire: those focused on the West Frankish kingdom (known as the Annals of Saint-Bertin) and those focused on the East Frankish kingdom (Annals of Fulda).8 Close ties between the West Saxons and the West 6

7

8

Keynes and Lapidge (trans.), Alfred the Great, pp. 39–43; Keynes, ‘Manuscripts’, pp. 537–40; Jorgensen, ‘Reading the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, pp. 11–14; and Stafford, ‘Identity’, pp. 32–4, 37–9, 49–50. Scharer, ‘Continental Annal-Writing’, esp. p. 162; Brooks, ‘Why is the Chronicle About Kings’, pp. 45–6, 47; and Burgess and Kulikowski, Mosaics of Time, pp. 208, 253. On Carolingian historical writing, see Innes and McKitterick, ‘Writing of History’. McKitterick, History and Memory, pp. 19–20, 101–19; McKitterick, Charlemagne, pp. 31–56.

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Frankish court and Church make it likely, as Anton Scharer argues, that a Carolingian historical compilation that included the Royal Frankish Annals was known in Alfred’s court.9 Alfred the Great’s father, Æthelwulf (d.858), and his brother, Æthelbald (d.860), both married Judith (d.c.870), sister of Charles the Bald (d.877), king of the West Franks and later Carolingian emperor. As a child, Alfred had himself twice visited Charles’s court. He may even have met the famous Archbishop Hincmar, author, from 861–82, of a continuation of the Royal Frankish Annals, who married his father and Judith in Verberie. The Royal Frankish Annals for 855 and 856 themselves provide details about Æthelwulf’s journey to Rome during which he crossed Charles’s kingdom, a journey that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle also records, though more tersely.10 Asser’s Life of King Alfred, meanwhile, tells us that the young ætheling accompanied his father on this trip.11 Some thirty years later, in 887, Archbishop Fulco of Reims sent, as an advisor to Alfred, Grimbald of Saint-Bertin, who may have known Hincmar’s continuation of the Royal Frankish Annals.12 Being part of a shared Latinate historiographical culture does not, however, render the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle slavish or even derivative with regard to its models, including the prestigious Carolingian ones. Although a Roman-derived annal form stands at the base of both the Frankish and Anglo-Saxon annals, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a complete stand-alone history, stretching back to Caesar’s conquest of Britain, while the Royal Frankish Annals and their continuations were expected to be read as part of compilations of historical writing about the Franks. Choice of language also distinguishes the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle from its continental models. The use of the English vernacular cannot be characterised, however, as straightforwardly nationalising, in the sense of asserting an established political and cultural identity that extended through England, or in the sense of asserting an English identity in the face of Carolingian dominance.13 First, its use was part of a hegemonic West Saxon move to claim dominion over much of southern England, while the West Saxons were also casting an eye further north into the areas under Scandinavian rule. This view of English is very clearly articulated in geographical terms in the famous Preface to the Old English translation of Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Care: Alfred surveys England south and 9 10 11 13

Scharer, ‘Continental Annal-Writing’, pp. 165–6. Annals of Saint-Bertin, s.a. 855 and 856; ASC MS A, s.a. 855–8. Asser, Life of King Alfred, chap. 11. 12 Parkes, ‘Palaeography’, pp. 161–8. For an excellent discussion of the Chronicle and English identity, see Stafford, ‘Identity’.

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north of the Thames and then across the Humber – far beyond the limits of his rule. The importance of dominion over other kingdoms of England to the West Saxon story is very clear within the Chronicle itself in the way, for instance, origin legends recording the arrival of a small number of ships led by men who would found new dynasties are included in the Chronicle only for Wessex and those kingdoms that had already been conquered by the West Saxons.14 Second, the presence of Grimbald in Alfred’s court encourages us to consider who made the decision to use English and what perspectives they might have brought. For example, both Asser and the Preface celebrate the international nature of the king’s advisors, who included, alongside Grimbald, John the Saxon, from East Francia, and Asser himself, from Wales. Meanwhile, the Chronicle itself, in its annal for 891, acknowledges the presence of three Irishmen, Dub Sláine, Mac Bethad, and Máel Inmain, in Alfred’s court just as the ‘common stock’ was being produced.15 Alfred’s argument for English, moreover, bears striking resemblance to the case that Otfrid of Weissenburg made between 863 and 871 for his German verse version of the Bible, the Evangelienbuch. Grimbald and John the Saxon were well placed to know about the Evangelienbuch as well as the Old Saxon version of the life of Christ, the Heliand. A copy of the Heliand was known in late ninth-century England and the text was copied in England in the second half of the tenth century, as we shall discuss further later. Like Alfred in the Preface, Otfrid saw Greek and Latin as vernaculars in their use to translate the Bible, and argued from there that German, the language of the Franks, imperial successors to the Romans, was fitting for the Bible.16 The parallel between Otfrid and Alfred’s own reference to a translatio imperii et studii from Greece to England, alerts us to the way that Alfred was following imperial, rather than national, models in using written English to create the Angelcynn out of the once independent kingdoms of England. Alfred’s ambitious and radical decision to pursue a vernacular educational programme in English, including the production of the Chronicle, was made and forwarded by a group of advisors from across Latin Europe and it served the purposes of an expanding West Saxon kingship. The decision to use English was taken by a multilingual and 14 15 16

ASC MS A, s.a. 449, 477, 495, 501, 514. Yorke, ‘Anglo-Saxon Origin Legends’, pp. 16–17. Alfred, Preface to Cura pastoralis, in Sweet (ed.), Gregory’s Pastoral Care; Asser, Life of King Alfred, chap. 77; ASC MS A, s.a. 891. Otfrid, Evangelienbuch: see the prefatory addresses to King Louis the German, Archbishop Liutbert of Mainz, and Bishop Solomon of Constance, and the final address to Hartmut and Werinbert, monks of Saint-Gall. Godden, ‘Prologues and Epilogues’.

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multiethnic group that had a long chronological and wide geographical view – looking back to Greece and Rome and across to the Carolingian empire. It is worth noting that, while Old High German and Old Saxon were written vernaculars in the early Middle Ages, they were decidedly not languages of history writing, which in both East and West Francia was firmly pursued in Latin. So while there is a Carolingian context for Alfred’s ideology of the vernacular, his court moved well beyond that in producing the Chronicle in English. The presence of Asser and the three Irishmen in Alfred’s court also reminds us of the insular context of the Chronicle’s vernacular. Like the English, the Irish, from the time of their conversion, wrote in the vernacular, alongside using Latin more extensively, and they are likely to have played a role in the early stages of the writing of English at the turn of the seventh century.17 When we move into the ninth century, we find the Irish also cultivating vernacular annals.18 By contrast, the Welsh kept history in Latin – as Asser, who had read the Historia Brittonum, an earlier ninthcentury text written in Gwynedd, North Wales, knew well. The Welsh use of Latin for history writing, rather than the vernacular, which they hardly cultivated as a written language in the early Middle Ages, relates directly to their sense of themselves as a Roman people, who had been a part of the Roman empire and shared, like the Franks, Roman descent from Troy.19 Asser’s central presence in Alfred’s court, and his close proximity to the Chronicle, sections of which he translated into Latin for inclusion in his Life of King Alfred shortly after their production, illustrates just how knowledgeable the West Saxon court was about the linguistic politics of the most current developments in historical writing, continental and insular. Like the Irish, they asserted their identity as a non-Roman people by writing in the vernacular, but that choice of language can only be interpreted if we realise how conscious they were of the wider context.

Writing History between Wessex and Saxony In the late tenth century, sometime between 978 and 988, Æthelweard (d.998?), ealdorman of southwestern England and powerful figure in the reign of the then still young King Æthelweard, produced a Latin version of 17 18 19

Crick, ‘Art of Writing’, pp. 50–4, 56–9, 71–2. Ní Mhaonaigh, ‘Légend hÉrenn’, pp. 87–90. For further discussion, see also Chapter 16 below. Keynes and Lapidge (trans), Alfred the Great, p. 229 n. 6, p. 232 n. 20; Lapidge, Anglo-Saxon Library, p. 239; Coumert, Origines des peuples, pp. 441–59; Charles-Edwards, Wales and the Britons, pp. 437–66; and Tyler, ‘Trojans’. See also Chapter 12 below.

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the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle at the behest of his distant cousin, Abbess Matilda of Essen (d.1011). They were related through common descent from Alfred’s father King Æthelwulf. Æthelweard traced his lineage back to Æthelbald, Alfred’s older brother, while Matilda was the granddaughter of Edith, who was herself the granddaughter of Alfred. Edith, a West Saxon princess, was the first wife of the emperor Otto I. This marriage was part of a number of links which drew Ottonian Germany and Anglo-Saxon England close together in the tenth century.20 After Edith’s death, her son Liudolf, who was Matilda’s father, rebelled against Otto I, who was subsequently succeeded by Otto II, his son by his second wife Adelheid, although he did reconcile with Liudolf. Essen was one of the leading Ottonian imperial nunneries, alongside the more famous Quedlinburg and Gandersheim, as well as other foundations. These nunneries are well known for their high standards of learning and for their important roles as keepers of dynastic memory, through prayer and through history writing.21 In Chapter 17 of this volume, Clare Lees opens up the close relationship between Æthelweard and Matilda as an example of the important role female patronage had on the production of historical writing in AngloSaxon England. The relationship between these two distant cousins also reveals that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, despite its vernacularity, continued in the tenth century to be shaped by wider European developments and contributed to them as well. As will become clearer below, Matilda had a significant impact on the form, content, and language of Æthelweard’s Chronicle, and Æthelweard will emerge as well informed about the literary culture of Ottonian Germany in general and Essen in particular.22 Æthelweard’s text is more than a translation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle into Latin.23 He shaped his text so that it could participate more broadly in Ottonian history writing, which was Matilda’s desire. His responsiveness to the Ottonian situation highlights the role of women in creating cultural links across Europe, the result of marriages between ruling dynasties.24 The prologues to each of the four books of Æthelweard’s Chronicle tell us that he and Matilda exchanged letters, instigated by her request for information about their shared West Saxon 20 21 22 23 24

The key essay is Leyser, ‘Ottonians and Wessex’; see also more recently, Insley, ‘Germanic Personal Names’; Bihrer, ‘Tenth-Century Reich’; and Foot, ‘Dynastic Strategies’. Leyser, ‘Saxon Nunneries’; van Houts, ‘Women and the Writing of History’; van Houts, Memory and Gender, pp. 65–92; Bodarwé, Sanctimoniales litteratae. Jezierski, ‘Aethelweardus Redivivus’, p. 162, makes a similar point. Ibid.; Gretsch, ‘Historiography’, pp. 216–37. Bell, ‘Medieval Women Book Owners’; McCash, Cultural Production; and Tyler, England in Europe, esp. pp. 11–14.

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ancestors, stemming from Edith’s marriage to Otto I.25 She made this request for information at a very particular point in the history of her family. Her brother, Otto, duke of Swabia and Bavaria, had just died in 982, without heirs, bringing an end to the male line of descent from Edith. Edith’s marriage to Otto I in 930 brought his young dynasty prestigious connections to the West Saxons, the oldest ruling house in Europe, who traced their origins back to the fifth century. Matilda sought to memorialise that connection, as it threatened to die out.26 Æthelweard’s response both focused on their shared genealogy, which he dealt with extensively, and emphasised wider connections between the Anglo-Saxons and the Saxons. For example, he carefully crafts his account of the Adventus Saxonum, the migration of Germanic settlers to Britain in the fifth century, in order to emphasise the North Sea and Baltic origins of the AngloSaxons, drawing them closer to the Saxons.27 He generally uses the term Angli throughout for the Anglo-Saxons, to distinguish them from the Saxons, and in line with general continental terminology for the AngloSaxons. And yet, at key points in his account, when the kings Æthelred, Edgar, and Alfred are praised, Æthelweard refers to them as Saxones, emphasising the shared Saxon origins of the two dynasties.28 Turning to form, it has frequently been suggested though not definitively proven that Æthelweard may have modelled his Chronicle on Widukind of Corvey’s Deeds of the Saxons, written for Matilda, abbess of Quedlinburg, in 968, and that Matilda of Essen was the source of the ealdorman’s knowledge of this text.29 Although no manuscript of Widukind’s text survives either from Anglo-Saxon England or from Essen, there are striking affinities between the two texts, each of which is divided into books prefaced by prologues addressed to its patron. Like Widukind, Æthelweard produced narrative history, transforming the original Old English annals. Such a connection, whether direct or indirect, situates Æthelweard’s text amidst the shared, and at times competitive, duty of the Ottonian royal nunneries to preserve dynastic memory, which is also witnessed by Hrotsvit of Gandersheim’s long poem, the Gesta 25 26 27 28 29

Æthelweard, Chronicle, pp. 1–2, 15, 26, 34. Æthelweard, Chronicle, p. xiii n. 2; van Houts, ‘Women and the Writing of History’ pp. 65–6; Bodarwé, Sanctimoniales litteratae, p. 221; Gretsch, ‘Historiography’, p. 212. Æthelweard, Chronicle, pp. 2, 33, 38–9. See Ashley, ‘Lay Intellectual’, pp. 233–4. Molyneaux, ‘Angli and Saxones’, pp. 215–21. James Campbell, ‘England, France, Flanders and Germany’, p. 257; van Houts, ‘Women and the Writing of History’, pp. 64–5; Ashley, ‘Lay Intellectual’, pp. 244–5; Gretsch, ‘Historiography’, pp. 224–5; Molyneaux, ‘Angli and Saxones’, pp. 219–20; for doubts about Æthelweard’s direct knowledge of Widukind, see Jezierski, ‘Aethelweardus Redivivus’, pp. 169–71.

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Ottonis, on the deeds of Otto I, written before 968, at the request of her abbess Gerberga, as well as by Widukind’s Deeds. From this perspective, Æthelweard’s Chronicle must be placed in the context of both Anglo-Saxon and Ottonian history writing.30 The Ottonian context also bears on Æthelweard’s choice to produce his version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in Latin. If Matilda had just wanted information about her West Saxon family, it would have sufficed to send her the Chronicle in English. Old English and Old Saxon were closely related and mutually intelligible, and Essen was distinctive among the Ottonian nunneries for its cultivation of written Old Saxon.31 Æthelweard himself may have been aware too of the proximity of these two languages. As we saw earlier, the ninth-century Old Saxon poem the Heliand circulated in England. In Æthelweard’s own time, the poem was copied by an Anglo-Saxon scribe, and the Genesis poem, including part of the Old Saxon Genesis poem, which was transliterated into Old English as Genesis B, was also copied into Oxford, Bodl., MS Junius 11. Æthelweard, later patron of the homilist and biblical translator Ælfric of Eynsham, may well have been especially interested in Old English biblical poetry. It is worth noting in this regard that he donated a Latin manuscript, London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 149, to an unknown monastery. This manuscript, which contained Bede’s In apocalypsin and Augustine’s De adulterinis coniugiis had been copied by the same scribe as the Exeter Book (Exeter, Cathedral Library, MS 3501, fols. 8–130) of Old English poetry.32 There is much speculation here. It is important, however, to situate Æthelweard’s Chronicle within the vernacular literary ties between England and Germany, because, in doing so, we see that Æthelweard’s use of Latin reflects his knowledge that Latin was the expected language of history writing in Germany, even if the AngloSaxon Chronicle would have been readable.33 The strong presence of Greek words, particularly for ships and naval battles, transliterated into Latin letters, in Æthelweard’s Chronicle has fascinated readers since Campbell drew attention to this distinctive lexicon in his 1962 edition, driving home the point that Æthelweard was alert to the languages of Europe. In part this showy use of Greek reflects the norms of the so-called ‘hermeneutic’ Latin which flourished in the tenth century. 30 31

32

Van Houts, ‘Women and the Writing of History’, pp. 54–61; and Bodarwé, Sanctimoniales litteratae, p. 346. Tiefenbach, ‘Volkssprache im Frauenstift Essen’; Lutz, ‘Æthelweard’s Chronicon’, pp. 177–8 (pace van Houts, ‘Women and the Writing of History,’ pp. 62–3, esp n. 41; and Bodarwé, Sanctimoniales litteratae, pp. 280–1 n. 304). 33 Gretsch, ‘Ælfric’, p. 135. Lutz, ‘Æthelweard’s Chronicon’, pp. 177–8.

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This Latin drew on glossaries and on an obscure style which stretched back to Aldhelm in the seventh century.34 Æthelweard, although a layman, was probably educated at New Minster Winchester, where this kind of Latinity, including the use of Greek words, was cultivated. But as Michael Lapidge has recently shown, using Æthelweard’s Chronicle as well as other texts, the Greek known in Winchester cannot be solely understood as deriving from glosses and reveals the presence of a Greekspeaker in this Anglo-Saxon capital. Æthelweard’s Greek vocabulary includes contemporary Greek, with his naval language being paralleled in tenth-century Byzantine military treatises. His spelling, meanwhile, reflects contemporary Greek pronunciation. Æthelweard’s use of Greek is not, however, only about Winchester, but points to his particular knowledge of how Essen signalled its place within German–Greek ties.35 The Ottonian dynasty was keen to make and display connections to the Byzantine empire as a way of projecting and securing their own imperial dignity. This is evident across culture and politics, most obviously in the marriage of Otto II to Theophano, a Byzantine princess, in 972.36 Of all the royal nunneries, it was particularly at Essen that writing in Greek was cultivated, as far as we can tell, not only from surviving manuscripts but also from inscriptions on precious metal objects, for which the Essen treasury remains renowned to this day. This interest in Greek predates Theophano’s marriage. Earlier in the tenth century, Abbess Hädwig signed her name in Greek on the title page of a now-lost Fulda manuscript, and her memorial verses contain a sprinkling of Greek words. The Greek names among the canonesses of Essen in the late tenth century may refer to women who came to Germany with Theophano. Greek, often included in the liturgy in specific limited ways throughout Latin Europe, was more extensively used at Essen, especially during the abbacy of Matilda. The spectacular Matilda cross – made in gold and enamel and depicting Matilda with her brother – contains inscriptions in Greek, while an inscription on the now-lost Marsus reliquary, of which Matilda was a patron, included Greek.37 34

35 36 37

Æthelweard, Chronicle, pp. xlvi–xlvii; Lapidge, ‘Hermeneutic Style’, pp. 85–90; Lapidge, ‘Byzantium’, p. 392. For a recent discussion of the value of the term ‘hermeneutic’ applied to Latin style, see Stephenson and Thornbury (eds.), Latinity and Identity, pp. 7–9. Lapidge, ‘Byzantium’, pp. 394–9; Gretsch, ‘Historiography’, pp. 238–44 (which also addresses those who have doubted Æthelweard’s authorship of the Chronicle). Davids (ed.), Empress Theophano, provides a useful introduction to these connections, with particular relevance to this current chapter. Bodarwé, Sanctimoniales litteratae, pp. 192–5; Kahsnitz, ‘Gospel Book of Svanhild’, pp. 126–7.

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These instances of Greek do not indicate real Greek knowledge at Essen. Indeed, the extensive mistakes in the Greek indicate that the contrary was the case. However, this use of Greek reveals very clearly the abbey’s – and its abbess’s – self-understanding and self-presentation, as learned, imperial, and connected across Europe.38 Æthelweard’s language suggests that he was well aware of the symbolic value of Greek at Essen and more widely in the Ottonian realm. His Chronicle proves that history writing in the tenth century was connected to, rather than cut off from, continental history writing, and was part of social networks that stretched from the North Sea to the Bosporus. Æthelweard, just like the canonesses of Essen, used Greek, clumsily in both instances, to signal their sense of belonging to a world far bigger than their own polities, be that England or Ottonian Germany.

Putting England into Universal History Turning to the eleventh century and the end of Anglo-Saxon England, we find the Chronicle fully implicated in the political conflict of Edward the Confessor’s reign, which ultimately left the country vulnerable to the Norman Conquest.39 Edward returned from Normandy and northern France, where he had lived for twenty-five years, to reign from 1042 until his death in early 1066. His rule was a restoration of the ancient West Saxon dynasty after the Danish conquest and the reigns of Cnut and his sons, Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut. The period between Cnut’s death in 1035 and Edward’s accession was one of complex succession politics, which bred dangerous factionalism, resulting most violently in the death of Alfred, Edward’s brother. Chief players in that factionalism were Queen Emma, a Norman princess, who had sons by the vanquished King Æthelred (Alfred and Edward), Cnut (Harthacnut), and the overmighty Earl Godwine of Wessex and Earl Leofric of Mercia. Both men had risen to power under Cnut, and neither initially supported Edward’s claim to the throne. Once Edward succeeded to the throne, they both had much ground to make up in commending themselves to the new king. It has long been recognised that the E version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle supported Godwine’s cause, while Stephen Baxter has recently demonstrated that the C version supports Leofric’s cause and it is becoming clearer that the D version, associated with the courtly archbishops of 38 39

Bodarwé, Sanctimoniales litteratae, p. 195. This section draws on Tyler, ‘Writing Universal History’, where a fuller discussion and more extensive references can be found.

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York with Worcester, aimed to steer a course between the two versions.40 These affiliations bring C, D, and E into the heart of the English court. While these versions of the Chronicle are urgently focused on contemporary English politics, they also participate innovatively in the lively historiographical culture of eleventh-century Latin Europe. Indeed, that engagement with Europe, so evident on a formal level, rather than a preoccupation with Englishness, becomes itself part of their political discourse. A case in point is the C version of the Chronicle, which is found in BL, MS Tiberius B.i, where it is compiled together with the Old English Orosius. The aim of the compilation was to create an ambitious universal chronicle, expressing an imperial vision of Edward’s rule, which would promote Earl Leofric to the king. Orosius’ late antique Latin history, Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, was the most widely circulating history of antiquity before the twelfth century, and in this it helped to create Latin Europe, by providing it with a shared view of the past. The wide dissemination of Orosius’ text includes a tenth-century Arabic translation, the Kitāb Hurūshiyūsh, a translation from a copy of the Latin text given to the caliph of Cordoba, ‘Abd al-Rahmān (d.961), by the Byzantine Emperor Romanos II (c.963).41 Furthermore, in recounting how the Babylonian empire was succeeded by the Macedonian, which was succeeded by the Carthaginian, which was succeeded by the Roman, Orosius presented Latin Europe with the powerful political concept of translatio imperii which would be deployed by subsequent rulers in the early medieval West, including the Carolingians, the Salian Germans, and the West Saxons. Indeed, as Francis Leneghan has argued, the early tenth-century West Saxon dynasty was quick to see the potential of the Old English Orosius, including its additions of reference to Alfred the Great, as a way to fashion their expanding hegemony in England as the successor of the collapsed Carolingian empire.42 Manuscript layout illustrates that although OE Orosius was copied earlier in the eleventh century, it was very deliberately combined with the Menologium, Maxims II, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle when they were added c.1045. The poems and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle follow the unusual layout of the Orosius, even though it is awkward for these later texts.43 The 40 41 42 43

Baxter, ‘MS. C’, pp. 1189–94, 1215–23; Stafford, ‘Archbishop Ealdred’; Keynes, ‘Manuscripts’, pp. 546–8. Mortensen, ‘Diffusion of Roman Histories’, pp. 101–8; Borsa et al., ‘Medieval European Literature’, pp. 13–15; Sahner, ‘From Augustine to Islam’. Kempshall, Rhetoric, pp. 64–79; Leneghan, ‘Translatio Imperii’. ASC MS C, pp. xx–xxxviii, xl.

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unity of the manuscript has already been explicitly appreciated by scholars. Katherine O’Brien O’Keefe insightfully describes it as a ‘book of histories’; Fred C. Robinson argues for the poems as crafted into a prologue for C; and most recently Kazutomo Karasawa sees Menologium and Maxims II as a bridge between the Old English Orosius and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which itself contains poetry.44 By using poetry to bridge the Orosius and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the compiler extends the mixed, prosimetric form of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to the whole of the Tiberius B.i manuscript. Moreover, both the Menologium and Maxims II focus on kingship, ensuring that the vision of history offered in Tiberius B.i as a whole celebrates the West Saxon dynasty. This is precisely the purpose of the poems within the Chronicle, from the first one, celebrating the 937 West Saxon victory at Brunanburh, to the elegiac poem marking the death of Edward the Confessor in 1066.45 Both the Old English Orosius and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle determine the form of Tiberius B.i. Although the unity of Tiberius B.i has been seen, it has not, however, been placed in its wider European intellectual context. On a very basic level, simply bringing together the Chronicle with the Orosius created a universal chronicle which combines the history of antiquity with biblical history and continues up to the eleventh century. Tiberius B.i thus incorporates Anglo-Saxon history into the triple universality which Hans-Werner Goetz associates with German universal chronicles: of divine providence, of time, and of geography.46 These are qualities of Orosius’ History both in Latin and in English which are extended to the telling of Anglo-Saxon history in Tiberius B.i. Like other eleventh- and twelfth-century universal chronicles, such as those by Hermann of Reichenau (1013–54), Marianus Scotus (1028–82/3), and Sigebert of Gembloux (c.1028–1112), the perspective of Tiberius B.i narrows from the universal to the local as the chronicle becomes more contemporary.47 For these imperial writers, the local is the impressive German empire under the Salian dynasty. Such impressiveness might seem to evade our vernacular universal chronicle, culminating as it does with the small kingdom of England. But, taken as a whole, Tiberius B.i displays decidedly imperial pretensions for the English king. It thus participates in the translatio imperii which Goetz characterises as a central impetus to universal history writing. 44 45 46

Fred C. Robinson, ‘Old English Literature’, pp. 27–8; ASC MS C, pp. xx, xxii–xxiii, xlii–xliii, l; Karasawa (ed. and trans.), Calendar, pp. 10–15. Fred C. Robinson, ‘Old English Literature ’, pp. 27–8; Bredehoft, Textual Histories, pp. 71–118. Goetz, ‘Universality’, p. 248. 47 Goetz, ‘Universality’; Goetz, ‘Concept of Time’.

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Tiberius B.i is not a de novo composition of universal history (like Hermann, Marianus, and Sigebert); rather it achieves a universal history by combining the Old English Orosius with West Saxon dynastic history. But in doing this, the compilation was very much at the forefront of historical writing, rather than being a weak vernacular echo of its European counterpart. It is in the eleventh century that Orosius’ Latin History first begins to be combined with other texts in order to bring its account more closely up to the present day.48 In this regard, Tiberius B.i shares some traits with Brussels, Bibliothèque royale, MS 5424–25. This is an eleventh-century Gembloux manuscript containing Orosius’ work followed by Frechulf of Lisieux’s universal chronicle, a Carolingian work which extended up to 607. At Gembloux, these two texts were copied separately and then bound together during the abbacy of Olbert (1012–48). This compilation was then used by Sigebert when he made his universal chronicle later in the century.49 But the Brussels manuscript is a much cruder compilation than Tiberius B.i: it simply combines two universal histories and includes a very substantial chronological overlap between the two. Furthermore, the Brussels manuscript does not reproduce Tiberius B.i’s efforts to use layout to visually integrate Orosius and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The contrast between the two manuscripts can help us see what is at stake in Tiberius B.i, and how it, very ambitiously, uses both the Menologium and Maxims II to theorise universal history. The overlap between Old English Orosius and the Chronicle, with Orosius ending in 410 ce and the Chronicle beginning in 60 bce, mirrors Orosius’ own narrative strategy. Orosius’ History combines narratives of one empire overlapping with and succeeding the previous in a steady translatio imperii from East to West, from Babylon, to Macedonia, to Carthage to Rome. Thus the copying together of the Old English Orosius and the Chronicle shows not only Roman history being related to Anglo-Saxon history, but Anglo-Saxon history being situated within an understanding of the succession of empires within providential history. By chronologically overlapping his account of Britain and England with that of the Roman empire, the compiler of Tiberius B.i perpetuated Orosius’ own method of telling intermingled or interwoven history (we might even say entangled, if we want to use our own theoretical language, although the theory itself is

48 49

Mortensen, ‘Diffusion of Roman Histories’, pp. 119–65; Mortensen, ‘Working with Ancient Roman History’, pp. 416–18. See Allen’s editorial remarks in Frechulf, Histories, vol. ii, pp. 124–31.

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ancient, not new). The compiler grasped Orosius’ project on a conceptual level. The ways in which the Menologium and Maxims II fuse the Old English Orosius and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle clarify the imperialising vision of Tiberius B.i and its close connection to German imperial history writing. Both Menologium and Maxims II articulate a link between Rome, ecclesiastical and secular, and Anglo-Saxon England, and figure the West Saxon dynasty itself as imperial – an ideology which is not central to the AngloSaxon Chronicle, but which was advantageous to Leofric in promoting himself to Edward. Apart from Christ and the Apostles, all the saints remembered in the Menologium are Roman, with Augustine of Canterbury and Gregory the Great folding England into the Roman Church. England is imagined as imperial: English is represented as the language of Britain, rather than of England (line 14); Gregory and Augustine are apostles of Britain, again rather than of England (lines 40, 98, 104); and, in a view that is hegemonic and imperialising, the rule of the king of the Saxons is not contained within England but spreads out to other parts of Britain (line 230). (As we can see, English literary culture has long conflated England and Britain.) The choice of the Menologium as part of the Chronicle’s poetic prologue in Tiberius B.i thus ties England into the Roman world of the Orosius before the Chronicle even begins. The opening of Maxims II continues the Roman theme but switches into a secular space. The poem begins with what initially seems a well-known Old English poetic topos, Roman ruins as the work of giants: Cyning sceal rice healdan. Ceastra beoð feorran gesyne, orðanc enta geweorc, þa þe on þysse eorðan syndon, (lines 1–3) wrætlic weallstana geweorc. A king must rule a kingdom. Cities are seen from afar, the ingenious work of giants, those that are on this earth, the wondrous work of wall stones.

But there is a subtle difference here. Unlike in The Ruin, Beowulf, or the Wanderer, for example, the stone-built cities (ceastra) are not ruined but still present in a landscape, ruled by kings. Like the Goths who ruled Rome at the end of the Old English Orosius, English kings also inhabit a Roman space, rather than a Roman ruin. This is a figure of continuity or translatio imperii rather than of destruction, hiatus, and a new order. Returning to the Menologium we find that its treatment of time shows further how in touch it was with German developments and how bold it

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was in expressing them in English. The 231 lines of the Menologium commemorate the immoveable feasts of the Christian year which are fitted into an annual cycle beginning in January and marked by the solar calendar as well as including moveable feasts, chiefly Easter. On one level, the Menologium, in its own efforts to fit different kinds of time together, simply reduces the sense of a clash between the dating systems of the Orosius and the Chronicle. The Old English Orosius keeps the secular Roman dating system of Orosius’ History, while the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle uses the explicitly Christian ad dating system.50 More importantly, the inclusion of the Menologium foregrounds, rather than reduces, issues of time and dating and in so doing illustrates further Tiberius B.i’s connections to German imperial chronicles. Hermann, Marianus, and Sigebert all, famously and influentially, addressed problems of dating and the calendar in their histories.51 The Menologium adds an exciting theoretical level of thinking about time and the keeping of history to Tiberius B.i. In taking us back to Hermann, Marianus, and Sigebert, its inclusion should also make us reflect, however, on when Tiberius was produced. Its relationship with German imperial writing is close, but it is not simply derivative. It was either contemporary with or earlier than Hermann’s work, and earlier than Marianus and Sigebert. Tiberius B.i emerges not as shadowing continental developments but as confidently participating from England in wider European development; this participation is made possible by closely interconnected dynastic and ecclesiastical networks. Edward himself cultivated close ties with Salian Germany.52 He maintained Cnut’s practice of bringing clerics to England from Lotharingia, the western reach of the German empire. These men arrived as royal chaplains with a number finding preferment as bishops; thus we find imperial clerics at the heart of Edward’s court and close to the king himself.53 Meanwhile, Edward’s half-sister, Gunnhild, daughter of Emma and Cnut, had married the future emperor, Henry III. They had a daughter who became abbess of Quedlinburg and Gandersheim. Gunnhild died before Henry became emperor but the Life of King 50

51 52 53

Fred C. Robinson, ‘Old English Literature’, pp. 27–8; Howe, Old English Catalogue Poems, pp. 73–86, 154–63; Head, ‘Perpetual History’; and Karasawa (ed. and trans.), Calendar, pp. 5–15, 33–44, 52–4. Verbist, Duelling with the Past. Fuller discussion of the links between Germany and England in the mid-eleventh century can be found in Tyler, ‘German Imperial Bishops’, pp. 185–90. Keynes, ‘Giso’ and ‘Regenbald’.

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Edward, begun in 1065, remembers Henry III as a kinsman.54 These links are well known and historians have been interested in the careers of these bishops, but by calling these prelates Lotharingians, as AngloSaxon scholarship does (no doubt a continuing consequence of the two world wars), we have not properly engaged with the significance of their presence in England. The literary consequences of their presence have also been neglected, even though the copying of the wonderful and much celebrated Cambridge Songs, Latin poems collected in the court of Henry III, in a mid-eleventh-century St Augustine’s manuscript (Cambridge, CUL, MS Gg 5.35) makes evident the attractiveness of German imperial literature and the desire of Anglo-Saxon clerics to display their literary connections to Germany.55 The form of Tiberius B.i is another outcome of those imperial connections. It would, however, be a gross simplification to represent Tiberius B.i as merely a reflex of developments in German imperial history writing. Stepping outside the Chronicle to look at another text, the Encomium Emmae reginae, with which Tiberius B.i was in close dialogue, enables us to build up models in which eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon history writing is thoroughly entangled with that of both West and East Francia. The Encomium is a Latin text produced in 1042, just three years before Tiberius B.i. Where Tiberius B.i celebrates the restoration of the West Saxon dynasty, the Encomium had tried to persuade the same factional court who were the audience of the Tiberius compilation to get behind the Anglo-Danish dynasty. It used classicising Latin to represent Cnut as a second Aeneas, whose conquest of England inaugurated a North Sea empire. It was very transparent in these aims, setting out in the preface that its author would do for Emma what Virgil did for Octavian, the first Roman emperor; that is, it would create a compelling origin legend. Imperial kingship is obviously at stake here. The imperial associations of Latin also come into play as it bridged the clashing vernacular historiographical cultures of the English and the Danes. The Chronicle was a West Saxon dynastic chronicle, not a chronicle of England; accordingly, it had largely excluded Cnut and his sons from its annals, while oral skaldic verse was triumphalist in its celebration of Cnut’s victories over the English. In creating an imperial vision that combined Dane and Anglo-Saxon, the Encomiast, a Flemish monk from Saint-Bertin, drew on the latest trends in classicism that emanated from Reims (in whose 54 55

Barlow (ed.), Life of King Edward, 1.1; Tyler, England in Europe, pp. 219–20. Tyler, ‘German Imperial Bishops’.

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archdiocese Saint-Bertin lay). Fascinatingly, this classicism had yet to find on the continent the lay patronage it would enjoy in the twelfth century. The close relationship between the Encomium and Tiberius B.i suggests that one of the reasons lay audiences in England were receptive to classicism so early was their knowledge of Roman antiquity, enabled by such translations as the Old English Orosius. That the Encomium was meant to do political work in a court that was not Latinate, and that English translations of Latin texts facilitated this role for Latin, alerts us to strategies for making Latin texts work in the vernacular and reminds us that the absence of a binary between Latin and English was an impetus to literary innovation.56 The political work that the Encomium attempted to do was answered by Tiberius B.i which commended Leofric to Edward by offering him an attractive vision of imperial kingship which rivalled the Encomium. The rivalry between these two texts reminds us that intellectual ambition and cosmopolitanism had become actively displayed features of English history writing which had political value. We have every reason to believe that Edward, target of the Encomium, who styled himself as basileus and whom the Life of King Edward would, a generation later, attempt to present as ruling over a Virgilian golden age, would have appreciated the imperial kingship of Tiberius B.i. Indeed, imperial rhetoric, which had been cultivated, in the tenth century, by King Æthelstan and especially by King Edgar, intensifies in Edward’s reign.57 With Tiberius B.i, Leofric does not simply commend himself to the king by offering a version of the Chronicle which puts him, rather than Godwine, in the best light; he also promotes an attractive vision of imperial Christian kingship.

Conclusion Tiberius B.i responds to the political vision of the Encomium by using the resources of English to offer an imperial vision of English kingship articulated within a vernacular historiographical culture specifically promoted by the West Saxon dynasty, but also informed by new trends in German imperial history writing. In so doing, it opens up to view the remarkable authority of the vernacular as a language of history in England, an 56 57

Tyler, England in Europe, pp. 20–134; Tyler, ‘Writing Universal History’, esp. pp. 70–6, 79–80. John, Orbis Britanniae, pp. 1–63; Barlow, Edward, pp. 135–7; R.R. Davies, First English Empire, pp. 8–10, 36–8; Crick, ‘Edgar’, pp. 158–70; Leneghan, ‘Translatio Imperii’, pp. 669–73.

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authority enhanced by its international horizons.58 The Norman Conquest would soon transmit that vernacular authority beyond the bounds of English as it became a major contribution of English to European history writing in the twelfth century. The various post-Conquest translations of the Chronicle into Latin (including F and the Chronica imperfecta) and the efforts William of Malmesbury, John of Worcester, and Henry of Huntingdon made to transfer the knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon past contained in the Chronicle into Latin all highlight its acceptance as a reliable account of the past.59 Although William himself was dismayed that history writing in England had for centuries been pursued in a barbarian tongue and he saw himself as rescuing the Anglo-Saxon past from the oblivion that English threatened, he did not doubt the value of the Chronicle.60 We should not take this acceptance of vernacular historiographical authority by twelfth-century history writers for granted. It would have surprised French or German writers in the twelfth century when major doubts were raised about the capacity of written French or German to convey truth, especially historical truth.61 It has long been recognised that French-speakers’ post-Conquest encounter with English as a written language was a major (though far from the only) catalyst for French (langue d’oil) becoming a written language.62 Within that encounter between French and English, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle played a very specific role. It is no accident that the first written French history was produced in England and that it was about the Anglo-Saxon past, and indeed that it was a translation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Gaimar’s Estoire des Engleis, written by 1137 by an Anglo-Norman cleric, was indebted to a radical decision made almost 250 years earlier, in Alfred’s court, to use English for the writing of history. Gaimar himself celebrates Alfred’s use of English for history writing (lines 2327–36, 3447–54) and heavily emphasises his own use of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (lines 6467–82).63 Gaimar was a pioneer in bringing the Anglo-Saxon confidence in the historical veracity of the vernacular to French. The manuscript context of the two earliest copies of the Estoire makes this point clearly (Durham, Cathedral Library, MS C. IV. 27 and Lincoln, Cathedral Library, MS 104 (A.4.12)). Both contain, 58 59 60 61 62 63

For a differing view of the authority of Old English see, Treharne, ‘Authority of English’. Dumville, ‘Annalistic Writing’, pp. 44–9. William of Malmesbury, Gesta regum Anglorum, ed. Mynors et al., Book i, Prologue. D.H. Green, Medieval Listening and Reading, pp. 237–69. Short, ‘Patrons and Polyglots’, pp. 230–2; Tyler, ‘Old English to Old French’. Short, ‘Gaimar’s Epilogue’, pp. 327–33.

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alongside the Estoire, Jordan Fantosme’s partly eyewitness Chronicle of the conflict between Henry II and his rebellious son Henry and the king of Scotland, written in 1174, and Wace’s Roman de Brut, finished by c.1155.64 From this perspective, the vernacular Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was no insular cul-de-sac but rather would be fundamental to the development of both history writing and romance in French.65,66 64 65 66

See Short’s discussion of the manuscripts in his edition of Gaimar’s Estoire, pp. xvii. For a study of history writing in French in England, see Damian-Grint, New Historians. The research for this article was supported by the Centre for Medieval Literature, funded by the Danish National Research Foundation, and located at the University of Southern Denmark and the University of York (project number DNRF 102).

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chapter 11

Creating and Curating an Archive: Bury St Edmunds and its Anglo-Saxon Past Kathryn A. Lowe

Every archive tells a story, one that is just as much an act of self-conscious creation as are the more obviously constructed forms of historical writing, such as chronicles, and one equally responsive to contemporary pressures and events. The history of an archive is therefore the mediated history of its recording institution or office, and its development both shapes and is shaped by it. In this chapter, I show how the Benedictine monastery of Bury St Edmunds created and curated its pre-Conquest archive in response to challenges to its power from rival institutions, the Crown, and rioting citizens. Such a case study highlights the invention and resourcefulness of those charged with presenting and preserving their documents to counter these and similar threats.1

The Pre-Conquest Archive: Introduction While the origins of the abbey are disputed, it is clear that reform during the reign of Cnut (d.1035) led to the transformation of a secular minster into an enormously wealthy Benedictine community. The abbey’s success and influence rested squarely on a series of extraordinary privileges allegedly granted to it by kings Cnut and Edward the Confessor in the eleventh century, and confirmed by subsequent kings throughout the Middle Ages.2 1 2

For complementary discussion of historical narratives in administrative and institutional public records, see Chapter 20 below. I am currently completing an edition of the pre-Conquest charters from Bury St Edmunds and St Benet at Holme with Sarah Foot as part of the Anglo-Saxon Charters series (Oxford University Press; British Academy/Royal Historical Society). Responsibility for the volume is two-fold; I am producing the editions and translations themselves with material relating to the history of the archive, manuscripts, and language, and Prof. Foot is writing the commentaries together with the history of the foundation and its donors. For recent work on the immediate post-Conquest environment of the abbey, see Licence (ed.), Bury St Edmunds and the Norman Conquest, including an article by Foot (‘The Abbey’s Armoury of Charters’) based on the above. Antonia Gransden has published two volumes of her History of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds: 1182–1256 and 1257–1301.

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These privileges amounted to the right of jurisdiction throughout most of western Suffolk, freedom from episcopal control, and practical exemption from royal taxation. The Anglo-Saxon archive of Bury St Edmunds as a whole is distinctive in two ways: first, it is unparalleled in its vernacular bias, and second, a very large number of its surviving manuscripts contain copies of one or more of the abbey’s fifty or so pre-Conquest charters. Some contextualisation is necessary in order fully to appreciate these features. Of the 1,500 or so charters dating or purporting to date from the Anglo-Saxon period, as classified in Peter Sawyer’s catalogue, over two thirds may be classified as royal diplomas or grants of privileges, written in (or largely in) Latin.3 By contrast, only around 15 per cent of Bury’s pre-Conquest charters fall into that category, and a number of these are bilingual, preserving their texts in both Latin and vernacular versions. Vernacular writs disproportionately make up about a third of the total (compared with around 7 per cent of charters across all archives), alongside an outstanding collection of Old English wills, which comprises more than 40 per cent of the archive. This last statistic bears witness to the unusual preponderance of lay benefactors in Bury’s early history. As we shall see, this wealth of vernacular material created particular difficulties for the foundation’s copyists in later centuries, when knowledge of Old English fell into desuetude.

Cartularies and Registers An archive, of course, comprises not just a series of original charters in favour of an institution but also their later collection, arrangement, and transcription into manuscript volumes. Such a volume is technically known as a cartulary, distinct from a register, which contains a preponderance of other text types (such as rentals, accounts of legal proceedings, correspondence, etc.). This distinction, useful though it may be to modern scholars, seems not to have obtained in the Middle Ages, when compilers cheerfully conflated these (and other) categories under the umbrella term of registrum. Trevor Foulds complains that the designation ‘register’ was indiscriminately used by antiquaries of the seventeenth century to apply both to cartularies and registers proper, but it appears that the conflation (if that is what it is) substantially predates this period.4 Thus, in the case of Bury St Edmunds, the earliest surviving general cartulary from the abbey, the early thirteenthcentury Cambridge, CUL, MS Mm. 4.19, was referred to as the ‘niger 3

See Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters.

4

Foulds, ‘Medieval Cartularies’.

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registrum’, the Black Register, in medieval times. In what follows, I refer to manuscripts by the descriptive title given to them by contemporary users. In his seminal catalogue of medieval cartularies of Great Britain, G.R.C. Davis subdivided cartularies further into different types: general cartularies; special cartularies (such as those pertaining to a particular office, or place); cartularies of rights and privileges (often for use in disputes); chronicle-cartularies (incorporating narrative material); and the distinct category of cartularies added to Gospel books and other important works.5 Bury St Edmunds is remarkable for the sheer number of record books surviving from all of these classes.6 The earliest cartulary proper surviving from the abbey is the Black Register, mentioned above, dating to the beginning of the thirteenth century. However, there are several earlier examples of the Gospel-book type. A further three cartularies containing copies of Anglo-Saxon material date from the thirteenth century, six from the fourteenth, and five more from the fifteenth. In addition, two of the fifteenth-century cartularies are very large two-volume productions, and each part contains copies of pre-Conquest charters.7 This represents, of course, only a small proportion of the impressive total of thirty-nine medieval cartularies and registers surviving from Bury St Edmunds, substantially more than from any other English religious house.8 This figure excludes those record books known to have been lost from the abbey, which may have numbered as many as forty-five more.9 While, then, Bury is unusual in terms of the number of record books surviving from the archive, general surveys of cartulary production and use suggest that the foundation used and engaged with its archive in ways broadly typical of religious houses up and down the country.10

5

6 7 8 9 10

G.R.C. Davis, Medieval Cartularies, pp. xii–xiii. This work has been revised and reprinted as Davis, Medieval Cartularies of Great Britain and Ireland, rev. Breay, Harrison, and Smith. For chroniclecartularies elsewhere with bibliography, see Chapter 8 above, pp. 154–5. Bury’s archival material as a whole is catalogued and discussed by Thomson (ed.), Archives. I exclude one fifteenth-century manuscript, which contains Bury material on its flyleaf, from the count. Douglas (ed.), Feudal Documents, p. xix; Thomson, Archives, p. 5. For the broader significance of the narrative, spiritual, and memorial dimensions of the cartulary, see Chapter 2 above, pp. 48–9. Thomson (ed.), Archives, p. 6. For cartularies and record books in general, see Foulds, ‘Medieval Cartularies’; G.R.C. Davis, Medieval Cartularies; Walker, ‘Organization of Material’; Ramsay, ‘Archive Books’; Clanchy, From Memory, pp. 147–86 and, more specifically, pp. 103–6. An interesting continental perspective is provided in Geary, Phantoms of Remembrance, pp. 81–114; and, for France, Bouchard, ‘Monastic Cartularies’. Bouchard’s comments do not reflect the situation in England.

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Creating the Archive Of the pre-Conquest charters in Bury’s archive, one is of outstanding importance. It is S 980, a bilingual grant of privileges by King Cnut (1016–35), including exemption from episcopal jurisdiction and the payment of geld. It was forged in the late eleventh century and survives as a handsome single sheet.11 It additionally survives in over thirty copies from before the end of the fifteenth century along with a very large number of antiquarian transcripts, making it the most frequently copied of all AngloSaxon charters from any foundation. The story of S 980 and its different manuscript versions is essentially the story of Bury’s archive.12 Mention of Cnut’s charter first appears at the climax to a lengthy dispute (begun in the 1070s) with Bishop Herfast of East Anglia (d.1084), the first of Bury’s inveterate enemies. Herfast had wished to move his episcopal seat to Bury, a direct threat to the position of its abbot, Baldwin (d.1097). The oral testimony of witnesses asserting Bury’s freedom from episcopal jurisdiction fell on deaf ears, and the matter was only resolved in Bury’s favour at a court case in Winchester in 1081. The bilingual writ recording the outcome, a product of the Bury scriptorium, explains that Baldwin was able to counter the weasel words of Herfast with solid documentary evidence in the form of charters of Edward the Confessor and Cnut, brandished almost certainly with the ink still wet on them. Created to be savoured by an internal audience, the overtly partial and highly stylised Old English version, which differs markedly in tone from the Latin, reads: The bishop told his story very skilfully (if it had been true), but everyone considered it vacuous and vain [OE: ‘idel & unnyt’] because he had neither writings nor witness [OE: ‘gewritu ne gewitnesse’; Latin: ‘sed scriptis et testimoniis omnimodo vacuum’, ‘completely lacking in documents and witnesses’] . . . Abbot Baldwin explained very clearly that it was fifty-three years since monks had arrived at their glorious home and in all that time the monastery and the heads of the monastery had never been subject to claims or contention [OE: ‘uncwid & uncrafod’] from any of Bishop Arfast’s predecessors, and the monks had received their office from whatever bishop best suited them at the direction of the abbot. After he had explained all this, he then produced King Cnut’s charter and that of Edward the glorious king. From those it was clear that the kings exempted the holy place and granted every freedom from the control of all bishops and laymen [OE: ‘fram ealra biscopa & fram ealra woruldmanna andwealde’; Latin: ‘ab omni 11 12

Charters are here referred to by their standard ‘S’ numbers as set out in Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters. On forgery more generally, see Chapter 23 below. For a history of this text, see Lowe, ‘Bury St Edmunds’.

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kathryn a. lowe dominatione omnium episcoporum comitatus illius’, ‘from all control of all bishops of that shire’].13

S 980 is certainly the Cnut charter referred to here, along with S 1045, another bilingual grant of privileges in the name of Edward the Confessor, seemingly also invented for the purpose. The story is retold and embellished further (with unflattering detail about Herfast) in Herman’s Miracles of St Edmund, composed about a decade later, in which the bishop is punished by the saint himself for his outrages against the monastery with an eye injury.14 He thereupon confesses his calumny, but, having been cured by Abbot Baldwin, wickedly renews his suit. Unable to voice his lies in court, again through the action of the saint, his failure to argue his suit permits the abbey’s privileges to be read and the liberty declared.15 These charters had certainly repaid the time invested in their creation, and it was also fortunate that there was a gap only of sixty or so years between the purported date of the grant and the act of forgery, making the result much more credible. At much the same time, St Augustine’s abbey in Canterbury was obliged to forge considerably older documents, including the privilege of none other than St Augustine, the resulting effort being criticised at various junctures in its history for not being, in Alfred Hiatt’s understated phrase, ‘sufficiently antique’.16

Copying the Archive: Civic Unrest, Greedy Kings, and John of Northwold Attempts to challenge the privileges granted to Bury were evident as early as the late twelfth century. In the 1180s and 1190s, for instance, Abbot Samson (d.1211) moved quickly to counter the claims of London merchants that their exemption from market tolls across England, granted to them by 13

14 16

‘se biscop tealde ful gerædelice his tale gif hit soð wære ac heo wæs eallum mannum geþuht idel & unnyt forþi þe he næfde/ naþor ne gewritu ne gewitnesse. Se abbod Baldwine . . . tealde ful swutelice þat ða/ wæs agan ðreo & fiftig geara siððan munecas þone eþelan ham gesohton. & on eallan þam fyrste þat mynster & þæs mynstres ealdras wæron æfre un cwid & un crafod/ fram eallum Arfæstes biscopes forgenglan. & þa munecas underfengon had of swa hwilcon biscope swa him betst gelicode be heora abbodes dihte. Siððan he þis eall/ geteald hæfde þa brohte he forð Cnutes Kynges gewrit & Eadwardes þæs wulderfullan Kynges. On þam wæs geswutelad þæt ða Kyngas gefreodon þa halgan stowe & æcne/ freodom sealdon fram ealra biscopa & fram ealra woruldmanna andwealde’. Bates (ed.), Regesta regum Anglo-Normannorum, p. 207; translation mine. Licence (ed.), Herman the Archdeacon, chap. 27. 15 Ibid., p. 78. Hiatt, Medieval Forgeries, p. 53. Hiatt continues by describing Thomas Elmham’s response by facsimile, pp. 52–7. See also Chapter 23 below, p. 412 and pp. 415–16.

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Henry II, included Bury by default.17 His fear was that the Bury burgesses would demand similar rights. The contemporary chronicle of Jocelin of Brakelond, monk of the foundation, reports Samson’s response to the merchants, in which he trumped a later charter by citing an earlier one, reminding them that St Edward had granted the abbey ‘toll and team and all royal rights [iura regalia] before the Conquest of England’, rendering the borough of Bury exempt from Henry’s quittance.18 The phrase ‘iura regalia’ allows us to identify the charter referred to as S 1046, likely forged at the same time as S 980 and S 1045. The Latin version of this bilingual charter (probably the original on which the vernacular was based) appears in a large number of manuscripts from the abbey, with the key phrase highlighted by a forest of manicules, nota marks, and underlinings in many of the copies. While scholars have charted a general move towards self-governance by boroughs in the thirteenth century, Bury seems an exception. M.D. Lobel’s study of the origins of Bury’s borough describes its faltering development during the period, attributing its lack of success to strong opposition from the foundation, vigilant of its rights.19 She outlines a series of early spats between the borough and the convent, demonstrating that the underlying issue was entirely economic: the borough, increasingly pressed by royal demands for money, worked towards ending a whole series of dues levied by the convent; the foundation responded repressively against this attack on their income. The mood for revolt was exacerbated by the Second Barons’ War in 1263, and the following year saw the first of several bouts of civic unrest (with others reported in 1292 and 1305) during which monks collecting tolls were assaulted and abused, workmen repairing the fabric of the abbey stoned, the monks variously confined to the abbey or its senior officials prevented from entering the town, and the cemetery gates broken down by rioters.20 It was almost certainly the 1264 uprising that prompted the making of the most comprehensive cartulary in the archive by its immensely capable abbot, John of Northwold (d.1301). The Northwold Register has since been lost (although it survived into the fifteenth century), but its contents can 17 18 19 20

See further Gottfried, Bury St Edmunds, pp. 215–16. ‘tollum et themum et omnia iura regalia . . . ante conquestum Anglie’. Jocelin of Brakelond, Chronicle, pp. 75–6. See G.H. Martin, ‘English Borough’, and references there cited. Lobel, Borough of Bury St Edmund’s, pp. 118–70. On these and the 1327 riots, see Goodwin, Abbey of St Edmundsbury, pp. 47–62; Gottfried, Bury St. Edmunds, pp. 215–36; and Lobel, ‘Detailed Account’.

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largely be reconstructed from references to it in other archival books from the abbey.21 It contained copies of essentially all of the pre-Conquest charters in favour of the foundation, along with a series of papal bulls, later royal charters, and considerable material concerning the abbot’s liberties. It seems that the manuscript was almost immediately copied (with slightly rearranged order) in the surviving Sacrist’s Register (Cambridge, CUL, MS Ff. 2. 33), which in turn gave rise to the contemporary White Register (London, BL, MS Additional 14847). As Foulds has shown, a threat or crisis of some kind is generally the trigger for the compilation of a cartulary.22 To that extent, then, the production of the Northwold Register and its copies is not unusual, but even so represents a considerable achievement because of the challenging nature of its earliest texts. As noted above, Bury’s pre-Conquest endowment unusually derived principally from the generosity of lay donors who remembered the foundation in their vernacular wills, rather than from estates granted by (Latin) royal diploma. Later, these wills proved difficult both to read and to understand. The only surviving cartulary containing copies of charters dating from before this period, the Black Register of the early thirteenth century, demonstrates that copying these texts was not a challenge to which many could rise. This otherwise fine production, written in a classy bookhand, shows no familiarity with Anglo-Saxon letter-forms in its copy of S 507 (fols. 83v–5r), a grant of privileges by King Edmund, dated 945. Both the names in the witness-list and the vernacular boundary clause cause the scribe no end of difficulties, resulting in awkwardly shaped representations of insular graphs. After this initial attempt, the scribe simply leaves gaps for others to fill in the Old English vernacular. By comparison, the pre-Conquest texts presented in the later (mid-thirteenth-century) Sacrist’s Register are semi-modernised in terms of phonology and morphology, but generally retain their Old English lexis and syntactic constructions. Each charter was fronted by a rubric summarising the grant, a useful addition in a period when Old English presented a significant challenge to comprehension. Thus the abbey secured accessible copies of its pre-Conquest charters in a single volume at a point before the archives were reorganised.

21 22

On this manuscript, see Lowe, ‘Anglo-Saxon Contents’. For the post-Conquest contents, see Thomson (ed.), Archives, p. 7. Foulds, ‘Medieval Cartularies’, p. 29.

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The Archive in Action: Bury and the Quo Warranto Proceedings The charters that John of Northwold held in his archive proved their value during Edward I’s reign (1272–1307). In the final quarter of the thirteenth century, Edward launched the Quo Warranto proceedings, at which privilege holders were obliged to show some form of proof that they had a right to their liberties and franchises.23 Antonia Gransden charts some of Northwold’s frequent efforts to protect the privileges of manors in Suffolk, which included recourse to Domesday Book, and to key charters, including the Anglo-Saxon privileges.24 The plea record actually quotes directly from S 980: ‘And he showed the charter of King Cnut in which is specified that “omnia jura quarumcum[que] causarum in villis que monasterio adjacent & que adiciendae sunt” should remain with them.’25 Generally speaking, as Sutherland explains, a royal charter ‘was a stronghold of defence for the liberty-holder during the Quo Warranto campaign’,26 but the issue, argued in court, centred around whether the vague wording of these ancient privileges could really be said to relate to specific franchises. This impasse frequently led to adjournment. This stonewalling may have been what led Northwold in 1290 to petition the king that his privileges be allowed in the Exchequer in order to secure the judicial profits of the liberty. At that point, we learn from the account surviving in Bury’s late thirteenth-century White Register (fols. 54v–5r), charters were read out in Parliament in support of the abbot’s petition.27 First was read the charter of Cnut (with its opening invocation quoted, ‘In nomine poliarchis’), then two vernacular charters of Edward the Confessor (one wonders what was made of those!), with a notably imprecise summary of their contents: one including sententia (perhaps to be understood as ‘confirmation’, although more likely deliberately vague), and the second, with a seal appended in an embroidered silk pouch (‘in opere de serico facto et brudato’), concerning the grant of the jurisdiction.28 The abbot continued by reciting further charters, of Henry I and II, both quoted in part in the narrative, and one of 23 24 25

26 27 28

For a detailed account of these proceedings, see Sutherland, Quo Warranto. For the making of chronicles in London in response to the same threat, see Chapter 14 below, p. 250. Gransden, History of the Abbey, vol. ii, p. 57. ‘Et praefert cartam Knuti Regis in qua continetur quod “omnia jura quarumcum[que] causarum in villis que monasterio adjacent & que adiciendae sunt” eis remaneant’. Illingworth (ed.), Placita de Quo Warranto, p. 733. Sutherland, Quo Warranto, p. 111. This is discussed by Gransden, History of the Abbey, vol. ii, pp. 58–9, supplemented here by Latin quotations from the manuscript. This is likely to be a reference to S 1084, which still survives in single-sheet form, though now without its seal.

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Edward I himself confirming charters of Henry I and John. This part of the account ends with the flourish ‘there was no need to show any other charters because these were the best’.29 These spirited attempts, among those of other franchise holders, eventually resulted in Edward I allowing charters of liberties in the Exchequer which had been allowed in or prior to 1234; later ones would need to be shown and reviewed at the Exchequer where charters couched in general terms would not be accepted.30 This was a very important concession. Decades later, we see this event reframed as a narrative of triumph against royal greed, with the martyred saint himself appearing before the king to warn against infringements on the abbey’s liberties: the rubric ‘How St Edmund terrified King Edward because he had taken the freedom of the church into his own hand’31 gives an indication of the temper of the account, described appropriately as ‘highly coloured’ by Gransden.32

Refocusing the Archive According to the accounts of these disputes, John of Northwold appears to have produced the actual charters themselves in court. After 1315, however, it seems that the value as evidence of originals (or purported originals) to the abbey lessens with the advent of Inspeximus charters, which quoted the full wording of the charters within the confirmations of successive monarchs. Although this innovation appears to have been instigated by Henry III in 1227, the earliest surviving example from Bury dates to 1315, with eight subsequent confirmations to 1516. Included from the beginning was the ubiquitous S 980 (in both Old English and Latin versions) along with S 1045, Edward the Confessor’s grant of privileges (in its vernacular version only), and four other vernacular writs of the Confessor relating to various liberties. These were bundled with later confirmations and further grants of liberties, with the fullest form of the resulting Inspeximus achieved in 1400.33 The charters were also enrolled in the Chancery and (to 1413) in the Exchequer, providing a further safeguard against loss or destruction. 29 30 31

32 33

Gransden, History of the Abbey, vol. ii, p. 58; London, BL, MS Additional 14847, fol. 55r: ‘De aliis autem cartis ibidem ostendum non fuerit necesse quia iste sunt meliores.’ Sutherland, Quo Warranto, pp. 120–1. ‘Quomodo Sanctus Edmundus terruit regem Edwardum, eo quod libertatem ecclesiæ in manu sua ceperat’ – Arnold (ed.), Memorials of St Edmund’s Abbey, vol. ii, p. 365; translation mine. The account is from the Bury version of the Nova legenda, c.1370. Ibid.; Gransden, History of the Abbey, vol. ii, p. 59. These are discussed in detail in Lowe, ‘Exchequer’.

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Although one might imagine that the single-sheet originals of these charters would need to be produced again when they were freshly confirmed, it seems instead that the new Inspeximus charter was simply drawn up using the previous one (and the texts contained within it) as its model.34 Most copying activity at the foundation involving pre-Conquest charters in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries consists of transmitting the texts of various iterations of these Inspeximus charters without recourse to the single sheets themselves. In this way, the development of the Inspeximus charter reduces the reliance placed on the key single sheets as forms of evidence to outside parties.

Recording the Archive: The Riot of 1326 and the List of Benefactors From 1315, then, the abbey was potentially less vulnerable to loss of or damage to their original charters of liberties. It was probably just as well: growing hostility from the town towards the abbey culminated in the fullscale riot of 1327 and led to its sacking.35 Monks were imprisoned in town, the abbot kidnapped, horses rustled, wine drunk, and gold and silverware looted as the rioters ransacked the monastery. The lively contemporary account of the riot, the Depredatio abbatiae, reports the plunderers taking charters which held no financial value for them, but which they knew constituted the source of the abbey’s wealth: They broke down the gates and doors of the storeroom and pulled out the taps from the flasks and poured out the beer and totally wasted it and carried off whatever they could. Then, once they had entered the cloister, they broke into the book-chests [cistulas], that is desks [caroles], and small cupboards [armoriola], and carried off books and likewise everything found in them . . . Next entering the prior’s room, they bore off a chalice, gold and silver, vessels and valuables with them . . . [The narrative continues with report of the kidnap and incarceration of the prior and the third prior.] They broke into the sacristy and shattered the strongboxes and everything that was locked, they stole gold and silver, books, registers, and silver vessels and drank immeasurable amounts of wine. They took away the sacrist’s registers and documents and charters, and a horse worth 10 l . . . [They continued through the infirmary, taking everything of value, and pestering the sick; the following day they imprisoned another nine monks.] Afterwards, they entered the treasury of the church, and from there they stole gold and silver, florins and valuables, many silver vessels and precious 34

Ibid., p. 18.

35

On this and the earlier riots, see note 20 above.

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kathryn a. lowe stones, kings’ charters, papal bulls, and took off other documents relating to the privileges with them.36

Just a few years later, the monk Walter Pinchbeck (fl. 1330–9), likely responsible for the Depredatio himself, itemises the materials lost during the riot in his register, which allegedly included three charters of Cnut, four of Harthacnut, and one charter of Edward the Confessor.37 Nothing from the archives supports the loss of any Cnut or Harthacnut charters, let alone a total of seven of them. Indeed, this is indicated by the Pinchbeck Register itself, which includes a muchexpanded version of the benefactors’ list of donors to the abbey from an earlier version. This major undertaking summarises the grants to the abbey and includes reference to lost charters: there is no mention here of the Cnut and Harthacnut cache.

The Organisation of the Archive Time and again in the archive we see scribes returning to the Northwold Register, rather than to the single sheets, as the source for their copies of or references to pre-Conquest material. Indeed, the descriptions of the surviving charters in the Pinchbeck Register’s benefactors’ list mentioned above derive from the rubrics to the charters in Northwold, and uniquely quote the opening line of each of the pre-Conquest charters from that source (or its copy in the Sacrist’s Register). Together the Pinchbeck and Northwold Registers mediated access to the archive through the use of their summarising rubrics and convenient format. While Bury scribes demonstrably seem to have had no interest in consulting the originals of the texts they copied, doing so would have been difficult in any case because of the lack of order in the archive. This was rectified between 1378 and 1381 by John of Lakenheath (at that point Keeper of the Barony, later abbot), when the foundation’s charters were 36

37

‘Portas et ostia subcellariæ fregerunt, et clipsedras de doleis extraxerunt, et cervisiam effuderunt et totaliter perdiderunt, et quicquid poterant asportaverunt. Deinde claustrum ingressi, cistulas, id est caroles, et armoriola fregerunt, et libros ac omnia in eis inventa similiter asportaverunt. Postea cameram prioris intrantes, unum calicem, aurum et argentum, vasa et jocalia secum tulerunt . . . Sacristiam fregerunt, cistas et omnia clausa diruperunt, aurum et argentum, libros, registra, et vasa argentea sustulerunt, et vinum ultra modum consumperunt. Registra et munimenta et cartasa sacristiæ, et unum equum pretio .x. librarum abduxerunt . . . Postea ingressi sunt thesauriam ecclesiæ, et inde aurum et argentum, florenos et jocalia, multa vasa argentea et lapides pretiosos, cartas regum, paparum bullas, et alia munimenta libertatum secum abstulerunt.’ Arnold (ed.), Memorials of St Edmund’s Abbey, vol. ii, pp. 330–1; translation mine. Hervey (ed.), Pinchbeck Register, vol. i, p. 150.

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press-marked.38 The charters were divided into three broad types: papal bulls, royal charters, and a very large group of ‘abbot’s charters’, those manors administered by the abbot. All the charters seem to have been stored in the vestry in large chests (cophina or cophinus sg.) with boxes or drawers (cista or cistum sg.) dividing them further; examples survive from Durham, Ely, and Norwich, although the terminology varies from archive to archive.39 Charters were press-marked with a letter followed by a number. Several surviving single sheets still have their pressmarks on their dorses. At the same time, John of Lakenheath compiled what amounts to a finding-list of the charters in his register (London, BL, MS Harley 743).40 His prologue is revealing both of his intentions and the reasons for the work: Seeing that our monastery was destroyed by robbers and fire, and the registers of the abbots and other muniments were stolen stealthily without return – the thin ears of corn behind the backs of the reapers had hardly remained from such an abundant harvest of evidence for the church – I, Brother John Lakenheath, have somehow arranged from various registers a kind of calendar. In it, I have laid out in alphabetical order the names of certain manors about which I have discovered any documentary evidence, in order that the evidence may more openly be accessible to future generations, that within and beyond their liberty, the abbot and convent may have the power to proclaim their royal rights and other liberties more confidently [infra libertatem et extra iura regalia ceterasque libertates Abbas et Conuentus uendicatum securius ualeant].41

The resulting index, which stretches from fols. 3v–51r of the present compilation, is a hotchpotch of detail, in which evidences for each manor are supplied together with details of press-marks, or else provided with a folio reference to a later copy. Around a dozen separate cartularies are mentioned within the index as a whole. Not infrequently for the early vernacular grants Lakenheath is content simply to refer readers to the summary information contained in the Pinchbeck benefactors’ list rather 38 39 40 41

See further Thomson (ed.), Archives, pp. 25–33. Ibid., p. 31. For the system at Lincoln cathedral, see Foulds, ‘Medieval Cartularies’, pp. 18–19. Thomson (ed.), Archives, p. 25. Text and translation by Dunning, ‘John Lakenheath’s Rearrangement’, p. 67. ‘Quoniam monasterio nostro predonibus et igne destructo Registrisque Abbatum ac aliis munimentis sine restitucione furtiue sublatis ex tam habundanti segete euidenciarum ecclesie uix remanserant spice tenues post terga metencium Ego Frater Iohannes de Lakyngheth’ ex Registris diuersis kalendarium quoddam utcumque composui. In quo nomina quarumdan uillarum de quibus euidencias aliquas reperi secundum ordinem alphabeti seriatim digessi? quo posteris euidencie apercius pateant? quibus infra liberatem et extra iura regalia ceterasque libertates Abbas et Conuentus uendicatum securius ualeant.’

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than to the single sheet or to full copies elsewhere, suggesting a lack of sustained effort to identify these charters systematically. Even where the press-mark was known, scribes continued to reach for a handy cartulary copy rather than rifle through the chests looking for the original. The rubric to the fifteenth-century copy of S 995 in the first volume of the mammoth Cellarer’s Register provides an example (Cambridge, CUL, MS Gg. 4.4, fol. 95v): ‘Moreover, the charter of the said king Harthacnut is kept in the vestiary among the kings’ charters, chest A, press-marked [supertitulato figura carte] A 3, a copy of which is included in the John of Northwold Register, fol. 30 and in the Red Register of the Treasury, fol. 68, 69, and in the Black Register of the Vestry, fol. 87, 88, 89f.’ Despite this level of precision in identifying the whereabouts of the single sheet, textual evidence demonstrates that the scribe copied from the Black Register.

Imitating the Archive The information derived from the Lakenheath Register, imperfect though it was, was used and reworked by later compilers. In the second quarter of the fifteenth century, an extraordinary series of cartularies relating to individual (or small groups of) abbot’s manors was produced during the reign of William Curteys (d.1446). Seven of these survive, but as many as twenty-five might originally have been produced.42 The cartularies present the evidences for the early history of manors using the summary in Lakenheath, but augmented by copies of the early donations. Two manuscripts include texts of Anglo-Saxon charters, copied in a semi-imitative hand that mimics the script of the original;43 one of these is immediately followed by a further copy of the same text, ‘in modern script’, (‘secundum scripturam modernam’) (London, BL, Additional MS 45951, fol. 1v). This implies that even this sanitised Anglo-Saxonesque script was likely to cause problems to readers. One might ask why the scribe went to the considerable effort of producing a facsimile copy of a text that he essentially acknowledged was difficult to read, but the very point of it was to advertise the antiquity of the grant by the use of this olde-worlde script, rendered comprehensible (unlike the single sheet itself) by a rubric that provided all that was needful to know. My findings here chime with those of Julia Crick, whose important work on archaising script in the Anglo-Saxon 42 43

Thomson (ed.), Archives, p 38. For this most interesting phenomenon in general, see Lucas, ‘Scribal Imitation’.

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period itself allows her to conclude, ‘Imitative script certainly demonstrates the importance of archives not just as a textual resource, but also as a scribal resource. It serves as a reminder of the visual importance of the written word.’44 Two aspects of the Anglo-Saxon material appear to have made transmission of their contents problematic. The challenge of the vernacular was rendered more difficult still when the text was copied from the original script. The foundation seems in fact to have relied on what amounts to specialists to decode these texts: in the thirteenth century, this was the scribe or scribes responsible for the Northwold Register; in the fifteenth it was those set to transcribe documents in semi-imitative style – always, it seems, with some reliance on an intermediate source to help them understand the contents of what they were reproducing.

Reinventing the Archive By the fifteenth century, then, through the combined efforts of John of Northwold in the thirteenth century, Walter Pinchbeck and John of Lakenheath in the fourteenth, and latterly William Curteys, the ancient contents of Bury’s archive had finally been rendered useable and its most valuable muniments safeguarded. Nevertheless, threats continued during this later period, including challenges to Bury’s exempt jurisdiction by the influential bishop of Norwich, William Alnwick (r.1426–36), and the archbishop of Canterbury, Henry Chichele (r.1414–43). Both Chichele and Alnwick, a member of the royal council and keeper of the Privy Seal, were powerful enemies. They met their match in Abbot Curteys, who responded in a highly imaginative way. These disputes are catalogued in the two-volume register that bears Curteys’s name, produced between 1429 and 1436. Into the first part of the register (London, BL, MS Additional 14848) are copied the AngloSaxon charters key to confounding Bury’s enemies, again copied in semi-imitative form. What follows is a tour de force, a translation of these charters into rhyme royal, almost certainly by the Bury monk John Lydgate. I have argued elsewhere that Lydgate was commissioned by Curteys to produce these verses, perhaps for presentation to the poet’s patron, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, on the occasion of his 44

Crick, ‘Script’, pp. 28–9.

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admission to the confraternity of the abbey during the young King Henry VI’s visit to Bury in 1433–4.45 Lydgate demonstrably works from Latin versions of these texts, which differ in wording from the vernacular texts. He also includes a verse translation of S 1068 at the end of S 1045, probably mistaking it for a continuation of that charter; it does not appear in the charter texts themselves, which precede each of the poems. A translation of the Latin is as follows: Edward, by the grace of God King of the English, sends greetings to Bishop Ælfric and all the nobles in the south and north. I desire you to be informed that I have granted the monastery of St Edmund to Abbot Ufi with everything that pertains to it, either in lands or with regard to special jurisdiction [in iure regali], as fully as anyone previously held it. And I wish that the liberty that King Cnut and afterwards King Harthacnut, my brother, granted to that same monastery be always unchanged, and in particular I totally prohibit that any of the bishops should claim the monastery of St Edmund for themselves in any way.46

Lydgate disposes of this neatly and with a degree of additional emphasis and extra specificity helpful to the monastery: And I Kyng Edward send helthe and welfare to al my barons of the northe and southe, make yow knowe, & list nat for to spare, this is my wyl confermyd by my mouthe; to Bisshop Alfryk I wyl this thyng be couthe that this fraunchyse by me rehersyd thus stonde in his strengthe to Abbot Uvyvs. Withe al thynges that be pertynent, rentys, londis, and in especial within ther boundys aboute hem adjacent, and al the lawes that callyd be royal, that they stonde hole, nat interupt at al, as Knut dide, and Hardecanut my brother confermyd it first; I wyl it be noon other. And specially oo thyng I diffende that no bisshop be hardy in noo wyse to take upon hym the chirche to offende nor to tatempte ageyns ther fraunchyse, but that ther fredam whiche I do here devyse 45 46

See further Lowe, ‘Poetry of Privilege’. Hiatt also discusses these texts in Medieval Forgeries, pp. 57–62. The Latin version of this charter is printed by Harmer (ed.), Anglo-Saxon Writs, pp. 153–4.

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stonde incorupt and hooly undevyded, as my predecessours and I have provyded.47

This extraordinary set of poems, doubtless commissioned by Curteys in his position both as abbot and known admirer of the poet, reworks and presents afresh the charters central to Bury’s continued wealth in a form both suitable for, and understandable by, a courtly audience. At a stroke, Curteys widens these charters’ potential range and influence by associating them with the poet whose patrons included both Gloucester and the king. Through consistency of language, metre, and style, the charters are capable for the first time of being read together as a powerful, coherent narrative, a story thereby made greater than the sum of its carefully curated parts. In it, the voices of a procession of monarchs are orchestrated to proclaim and assert the ancient liberty and freedom of St Edmund’s Abbey, created, achieved, and maintained through its archive. 47

The poems are edited by Arnold (ed.), Memorials of St Edmund’s Abbey, pp. 215–37 (although the versification of the Henry charter is omitted). The quotation is on p. 231, corrected against the manuscript (fol. 252r).

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chapter 12

Historical Writing in Medieval Wales Owain Wyn Jones and Huw Pryce

A variety of texts survive from medieval Wales that conform to genres of history writing elsewhere in Europe. Down to the thirteenth century, these texts appear to have been usually composed in Latin; thereafter Welsh was increasingly used. As elsewhere, this shift towards the vernacular reflected a need to cater for the demands of lay listeners and readers, whose patronage was essential to sustaining a distinctive tradition of Welsh historical writing in the two centuries or so after Edward I’s conquest of Wales in 1282–4. This chapter will focus especially on narrative texts largely comprising annals, chronicles, and histories composed from the twelfth century onwards.1 One prominent theme of this writing was the conceptualisation of Welsh history as a continuation of British history, the origins of which were traced to classical antiquity. However, that continuation was linked to a profound sense of loss, as the British ancestors of the Welsh had been forced to relinquish their sovereignty over Britain to the invading AngloSaxons. This preoccupation with the Britons and the island of Britain probably helps to explain why, although several works gave close attention to Welsh events, no histories of Wales itself were written in the Middle Ages, as these would have been tantamount to an admission of defeat. Moreover, the theme of loss continued to resonate in a politically fragmented Wales shaped to a considerable extent by the experience of conquest from the late eleventh century onwards. Edward I’s defeat of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (d.1282), prince of Gwynedd (northwest Wales), whom the English Crown had recognised as Prince of Wales in 1267, marked the culmination of two centuries of foreign conquest, beginning shortly after the Norman Conquest of England, and the final extinction of 1

For discussions, bibliographies, and editions of Welsh chronicles, see Welsh Chronicles Research Group, http://croniclau.bangor.ac.uk (last accessed 3 August 2016), as well as Guy et al. (eds.), Chronicles of Medieval Wales.

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native rule. Despite several unsuccessful risings against English authority in Wales, most notably that led in the early fifteenth century by Owain Glyndw ˆ r (d.1415), Wales remained a conquered land for the rest of the Middle Ages, being divided between the royal Principality of Wales in the northwest and southwest and about forty marcher lordships.2

Historical Culture in Medieval Wales The political background just outlined provides one context for understanding the significance of the historical texts discussed in this chapter. Another is the wider historical culture to which those texts belonged. This culture was transmitted in the vernacular both orally and in a variety of written genres that may be categorised as both ‘literature’ and ‘history’.3 According to Gerald of Wales, Welsh poets and reciters memorised genealogies preserved in books in Welsh, and later medieval bardic grammars declare that poets were required to master ‘stories’ (ystoryaeu), which probably corresponded to ‘the History of the notable Acts of the kings & princes of this land of Bruttaen and Cambria’, listed as one of the ‘three memories’ of poets in early modern texts.4 The widely travelled court poet Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr (fl. c.1155–95), whose work is notable for its allusions to the early British and Welsh past, may have done more to sustain a historical culture in medieval Wales than his near contemporary, the clerical author of the Latin Life of the northern Welsh king Gruffudd ap Cynan (d.1137).5 This wider historical culture, reflected in the eulogies of court poets, prose tales, the index of bardic learning known as The Triads of the Island of Britain, and genealogies and dynastic naming patterns, forms an essential backdrop to the present discussion. Most notably, it serves to underline some key concepts in medieval Welsh understandings of the past, also attested in Latin sources from Gildas’s De excidio Britanniae (On the Ruin of Britain) onwards, above all the Britons’ loss of the undivided sovereignty of the island of Britain to the Saxons, and the hopes for its eventual recovery given expression in a powerful tradition of political prophecy, attested from the tenth century onwards and thought by poets to have been 2 3 4 5

The best account of medieval Welsh history in this period remains R.R. Davies, Conquest, Coexistence, and Change (reissued as The Age of Conquest). See, e.g., Sims-Williams, ‘Some Functions’. Gerald of Wales, Descriptio Kambriae, i.3, pp. 167–8; Roberts, ‘Ystoria’. Bromwich, ‘Cyfeiriadau Traddodiadol a Chwedlonol y Gogynfeirdd’; Russell (ed. and trans.), Vita Griffini.

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finally fulfilled with the accession of the partly Welsh Henry VII – portrayed as the messianic ‘son of prophecy’ (‘mab darogan’) – to the throne of England in 1485.6

Geoffrey of Monmouth and his Contemporaries The pervasiveness of the identification with an early British past, which presented the Welsh as the heirs of a once powerful people, the Britons, helps to explain a fundamental aspect of medieval Welsh historical writing, namely its enthusiastic embrace of Geoffrey of Monmouth (d.1154/5), rightly described as ‘the most influential writer of Welsh history in the Middle Ages’.7 Geoffrey’s relationship to Wales is uncertain, as is his view of the Welsh. While it has been argued that he belonged to a settler family, possibly of Breton origin, he describes himself as ‘an abashed Briton’ (‘pudibundus Brito’), which taken with the epithet Monemutensis could equally well suggest Welsh ethnicity.8 What is certain is that he sought the patronage of the powerful marcher lord, Robert (d.1147), earl of Gloucester and lord of Glamorgan. This places him firmly in the orbit of the Anglo-Norman world, as does his association with Oxford, and this was probably the milieu for which his hugely popular history of the British kings was intended.9 However, his Historia regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) or De gestis Britonum (On the Deeds of the Britons) (c.1138) was indebted to Welsh sources and proved highly popular in Wales, where it provided the first extended narrative of early British history since the Historia Brittonum, on which it drew in part, notably as the earliest source to endow the Britons with Trojan origins.10 In his prologue, Geoffrey recounted his surprise at how little had been written about the kings of Britain by Gildas and Bede, and how he had been able to remedy this defect after ‘Walter archdeacon of Oxford . . . brought me a very old book in the British tongue, which set out in excellent style a continuous narrative of all their deeds from the first king of the Britons, Brutus, down to Cadualadrus [Cadwaladr], son of Caduallo 6 7 8 9 10

Jankulak, Geoffrey of Monmouth, pp. 20, 29–30; Gruffydd Aled Williams, ‘Bardic Road to Bosworth’. For further discussion of Gildas, see Chapters 1 and 8 above. Roberts, ‘Ystoriaeu brenhinedd Ynys Brydeyn’, p. 220. For further discussion in this volume, see Chapter 4, Chapter 6, pp. 109–11, and Chapter 8, pp. 140–1. HRB, p. 143 nn. 12–24. Jankulak, Geoffrey of Monmouth, pp. 10–12; HRB, pp. ix, 4–5, 143, 248–9. Jankulak, Geoffrey of Monmouth, pp. 39–40. For the Historia Brittonum, see Chapter 1, p. 33, and Chapter 16, p. 283, in this volume.

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[Cadwallon].’11 There is no evidence for the existence of the ‘very old book’, and Geoffrey’s claim to have translated it into Latin was a literary device intended to lend authenticity to the work’s vivid and dramatic account of wars, civil discord, and betrayal. True, while the Historia depicted the kings of the Britons in unparalleled detail and recounted their heroic exploits, such as King Arthur’s conquest of Norway, Denmark, and Gaul, it ended by portraying the Welsh as a barbarous people, given over to constant civil and external wars, who had ‘declined from the nobility of the Britons’ and had never recovered their dominion over the island after finally losing it to the Saxons in the seventh century.12 However, as we have seen, barbarism aside, that view had much in common with how the Welsh saw their history, as did the notion of the Britons’ once glorious past, which Geoffrey’s colourful narrative claimed to have unveiled after it had languished in unmerited obscurity. Small wonder, then, that by the early thirteenth century Geoffrey’s Historia became the first historical work to be translated into Welsh, and that in its vernacular guise as Brut y brenhinedd (The History of the Kings) it became the cornerstone of Welsh historiography, its popularity attested by the survival of some twenty-five medieval manuscript copies.13 At the end of his Historia Geoffrey declared of the period after Cadwaladr’s death in Rome in 689: ‘The Welsh kings who succeeded one another from then on I leave as subject-matter to my contemporary Carado[g] of Llancarfan, and the Saxon kings to William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon.’14 Here, Geoffrey indicated his awareness, not only of major Anglo-Norman historians of his day, but also of an important strand of Latin historical writing in twelfth-century Wales that was independent of him. Caradog was a professional hagiographer at the church of Llancarfan in Glamorgan whose works included Lives of St Cadog, St Gildas, and St Cyngar as well as quite possibly the Book of Llandaf (Liber Landavensis), a compilation of early charters, papal bulls, saints’ Lives, and other texts pertaining to the Church’s (alleged) history commissioned by Bishop Urban of Llandaf (1107–34) to lend historical 11

12 13 14

‘optulit Walterus Oxenefordensis archidiaconus . . . quendam Britannici sermonis librum uetustissimum qui a Bruto primo rege Britonum usque ad Cadualadrum filium Caduallonis actus omnium continue et ex ordine perpulcris orationibus proponebat’. HRB, pp. 4–5 (our translation). Ibid., pp. 204–9, 280–1. Listed in Thomas Jones, ‘Historical Writing’, p. 431; for over forty further copies of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, see ibid., pp. 432–3. ‘Reges autem eorum qui ab illo tempore in Gualiis successerunt Karadoco Lancarbanensi contemporaneo meo in materia scribendi permitto, reges uero Saxonum Willelmo Malmesberiensi et Henrico Huntendonensi.’ HRB, pp. 280–1.

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justification to his claims for extensive diocesan boundaries and episcopal estates.15 This was but one, albeit particularly conspicuous, instance of the stimulus given to Welsh historical writing by the ecclesiastical reorganisation that accompanied, and was partly caused by, Norman conquest and settlement in south Wales from the late eleventh century onwards. The same is true of the collection of Welsh saints’ Lives assembled, it seems, for St Peter’s Abbey, Gloucester, and extant in a manuscript (London, BL, MS Vespasian A.XIV) of the later twelfth century, usually attributed to the priories of Brecon or Monmouth.16 However, while Norman conquest helped to stimulate the writing of hagiography and ecclesiastical history in twelfth-century Wales, this was not a one-way process: as with the interest in the Anglo-Saxon past shown by churchmen in Anglo-Norman England, the composition of such works depended on co-operation between conquerors and conquered. In part, then, historical writing in twelfth-century Wales may be explained in terms both of Welsh vindication of tradition in the face of conquest and of appropriation by foreign ecclesiastics curious about the saints of Welsh churches they had acquired. Another factor was the continuation or, perhaps more accurately, revival of pre-Norman Latin learning, including hagiography, in Wales. An important part was played by native ecclesiastical dynasties. Caradog of Llancarfan belonged to one of these. So did Rhygyfarch ap Sulien (d.1099), whose surviving works include a Life of St David that drew on earlier sources at St Davids.17 It has been argued that his brother, Daniel ap Sulien (d.1127), was responsible for a remarkably full chronicle for the years 1100–27 composed at the church of Llanbadarn Fawr in Ceredigion (west Wales), a text perceptible in Brut y Tywysogion, Welsh translations (and adaptations) of a lost Latin chronicle that terminated in the later thirteenth century.18 The ability to compose dramatic Latin narrative, enlivened by the use of direct speech, is similarly revealed in the anonymous Vita Griffini filii Conani (Life of Gruffudd ap Cynan), the only extant medieval biography of a medieval Welsh ruler, composed after Gruffudd’s death in 1137.19 What is lacking, though, by comparison with William of Malmesbury or Henry of Huntingdon in Anglo-Norman England, are attempts to 15 16 17 18 19

Davies, The Book of Llandaf, pp. 132–42. Wade-Evans (ed.), Vitae sanctorum Britanniae; Hughes, Celtic Britain, pp. 53–66. Chadwick, ‘Intellectual Life’; Rhygyfarch, ‘Life of St David’. Stephenson, ‘“Resurgence” of Powys’, 183–9; Owain Wyn Jones, ‘Brut y Tywysogion’. See also Stephenson, ‘Welsh Chronicles’ Accounts’, pp. 54–7. Russell (ed. and trans), Vita Griffini.

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create histories linking pre-Conquest past to post-Conquest present. This was probably because in Wales the crucial dividing line was seen to have come, not with the earliest Norman conquests, but with the Britons’ loss of their sovereignty over Britain to the Anglo-Saxons some five centuries earlier, an interpretation which in turn could be taken to imply that the history of the Britons’ successors in Wales was something of an anti-climax. It is telling that, as we shall see, the closest we come to an attempt to create a continuous history linking British past and Welsh present occurred only by the later thirteenth century, possibly in response to a growing sense of Wales as a territorial entity fostered by the hegemonic ambitions of the powerful princes of Gwynedd, namely the composition of Brut y Tywysogion (usually translated The Chronicle of the Princes, though perhaps The History of the Princes is more accurate), which related events from the late seventh century onwards and was presented as a continuation of Geoffrey’s Historia.20 Until the creation of that chronicle, narratives consisted of annals and chronicles, and fall into two broad categories. The first, and more widely attested, are texts that continued the annals kept at St Davids from the late eighth century (with subsequent incorporation of annals covering 453–858 from a north Welsh chronicle, quite possibly written at the church of Abergele, as well as retrospective additions from an Irish chronicle at Clonmacnoise of notices back to the mid-fifth century).21 These include the annals kept continuously at St Davids to 1288 and those down to 1286 that were copied shortly afterwards at Neath Abbey; in the late thirteenth century both of these were prefaced with accounts of the Six Ages of the World designed to give them greater chronological depth and to proclaim their credentials as universal Christian history.22 However, the Neath annals clearly incorporate material from other Cistercian houses, including Cwm-hir and Whitland, as well as Waverley, and thus point to a growth in annal writing, facilitated by the expanding network of Cistercian houses filiated to Whitland which were patronised by Welsh princes from the later twelfth century.23 This view is supported by what can be deduced of the annals utilised by the lost Latin chronicle, which underlies Brut y Tywysogion, compiled at Strata Florida 20 21 22

23

Cf. J. Beverley Smith, Sense of History, 8; Davies, ‘The Identity of “Wales”’. Charles-Edwards, Wales and the Britons, pp. 350–1; Guy, ‘Welsh Historical Texts’, pp. 22, 26–45. We thank Ben Guy for giving us sight of this article in advance of publication. Caroline Brett, ‘Prefaces’. For editions of these chronicles, prepared by Gough-Cooper, see http:// croniclau.bangor.ac.uk/editions.php.en (last accessed 3 August 2016). On the Six Ages of the World, see also Chapter 3 above, pp. 54–7. Hughes, Celtic Britain, pp. 67–85; Stephenson, ‘Chronicler of Cwm-hir Abbey’.

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Abbey in Ceredigion (another daughter house of Whitland), and the detailed annals for 1190–1266 known as the Cronica de Wallia, probably compiled at Whitland itself.24 The second category consists of annals compiled at Margam Abbey and other churches patronised by marcher lords in Glamorgan: these are based on English annals and often open their accounts in 1066 with the death of Edward the Confessor and William I’s conquest of England, focusing on their immediate locality only after Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd led attacks on Glamorgan in the 1230s.25

Brut y Tywysogion (The History of the Princes) The lost Latin chronicle compiled at Strata Florida by the later thirteenth century is the text that lies behind the three surviving Middle Welsh chronicles, known collectively as Brut y Tywysogion.26 These are best thought of as a vernacular extension to the first category of annalistic writing discussed above, although one version of this Welsh chronicle, Brenhinedd y Saesson (The Kings of the English), indicates an innovative willingness to combine this more nativist tradition of historical writing with the second, more Anglo-Norman strand.27 Brut y Tywysogion’s influence on the narrative of medieval Welsh history is formative, and as the fullest and most detailed medieval chronicle its testimony formed the backbone of standard accounts of medieval Wales from the early modern period to J.E. Lloyd’s work in the early twentieth century.28 The Brut, as befitting its importance, is a complex family of texts, which imperfectly illustrates a tradition of historical writing from the early Middle Ages to the early modern period. The shift of the chronicle account from one centre of record to another over the course of several centuries, the changes in tone, content, and political sympathy within the narrative, and the combination of numerous sources into a chronicle translated from Latin into Welsh several times, all illustrate the cultural, political, and linguistic dynamics of medieval Wales as well as the ability of the historical writing of the period to capture these complexities. 24 25 26

27 28

Below, pp. 217–18, 220–1; Crick, ‘The Power and the Glory’. Hughes, Celtic Britain, p. 82 n. 81; Patterson, ‘Author’. Jones (ed.), Brut y tywysogyon, Peniarth MS. 20; Jones (ed. and trans.) Brut y tywysogyon or the Chronicle of the Princes, Peniarth MS. 20 Version (hereafter B-P20); Jones (ed. and trans.), Brut y tywysogyon or the Chronicle of the Princes, Red Book of Hergest version; Jones (ed. and trans.), Brenhinedd y Saesson. J. Beverley Smith, ‘Historical Writing’. B-P20, pp. xiv–xvii; Smith and Smith, ‘Wales’, pp. 310–11; Lloyd, History of Wales.

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Brut y Tywysogion cannot be thought of as a single, coherent chronicle. Quite apart from the survival of three different Middle Welsh versions, which were probably translated from different versions of the Latin Strata Florida chronicle, it is also increasingly apparent that the chronicle itself is composed of several distinct sections. The opinion of Thomas Jones, who produced the impressive standard editions of Brut y Tywysogion, was that the chronicle was the product of considerable literary embellishment and expansion of sparer annalistic sources by a thirteenth-century compiler at Strata Florida.29 However more recent analysis has revealed that the more elaborate literary and stylistic qualities of the text can often be attributed to earlier periods of compilation, as in the case of the fullest section of the chronicle, the years 1100–27. This section has been interpreted as a coherent work of twelfth-century historical writing.30 The encomia and elaborate obituaries which occur throughout the chronicle, previously seen as evidence for the literary influence of a thirteenth-century compiler, have more recently been interpreted as aspects of near-contemporary annalistic writing.31 A typical example of the more elaborate literary style of parts of the Brut is the encomium of Maelgwn, son of the Lord Rhys of Deheubarth, in 1187: And then Maelgwn ap Rhys, the shield and bulwark of all Wales, ravaged the town of Tenby and burned it. He was of brightest fame and beloved by all, and comely of face, though he was of a modestly sized body; harsh towards his enemies . . . like to a lion was he in his actions, and like a lion’s whelp roaring in chase; the man who frequently slew the Flemings and who drove them to flight many a time.32

While the literary character of the account might be thought typical of later embellishment, the inconsistency of the chronicle’s attitude towards Maelgwn is an argument against this. Praised fulsomely at several instances before 1198, afterwards the chronicle’s depiction of Maelgwn is harsh, with 29 31 32

Thomas Jones, ‘Historical Writing’, p. 25. 30 See above, n. 17. B-P20, p. xliii; Stephenson, ‘“Resurgence” of Powys’, pp. 184, 187; Stephenson, ‘Welsh Chronicles’ Accounts’, pp. 52–5. ‘Ac yna Maelgwn vab Rys taryan a chydernyt holl Gymry a diffeithyawd dinas Dinbych ac ay llosges. Ef a oed egluraf o glot a charedic gan bawb a thec y wyneb, kyt bei kymedrawl o gorff; garw wrth y elynyon . . . kyffelib oed y lew yn y weithredoed ac megys keneu llew yn chwyrnu yn y helua; y gwr a ladawd y Flandryswyr yn vynych ac ay gyrrawd ar ffo lawer gweith.’ The text is from Jones (ed.), Brut y tywysogyon, Peniarth MS. 20, p. 131, the translation from B-P20, p. 73 (we have modernised the punctuation and capitalised). In the ‘Red Book of Hergest’ version Maelgwn is called the shield of ‘Deheu’ (the South) – Jones (ed. and trans.), Brut, Red Book, p. 170. Brenhinedd y Saesson contains a shorter notice which nevertheless indicates that the full encomium was present in the original Latin text – Jones (ed.), Brenhinedd y Saesson, pp. 186, 327.

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consistent favour being shown to the descendants of his brother, Gruffudd, his rival in the chaotic succession to the Lord Rhys, who died in 1197.33 If a later compiler was expanding the chronicle’s account with praise of Maelgwn, it is difficult to explain why this would change in 1198. Instead, it seems that the attitude of the monks of Strata Florida, and therefore of the chronicle’s author, towards Maelgwn must have shifted in the years immediately after the death of the Lord Rhys. Indeed, the allusion to lions in Maelgwn’s encomium suggests that it was written at a time when the succession to Rhys was a current political question, evoking Genesis 49, where Jacob bestows particular praise on his son Judah, comparing him to both a lion and a lion’s whelp, after saying ‘your brothers shall praise you . . . your father’s sons shall bow down before you’ (‘te laudabant fratres tui . . . adorabunt te filii patris tui’).34 Even in its literary allusions, this elaborate encomium can be read as a product of particular historical circumstances.35 There are therefore several ways to discuss and approach Brut y Tywysogion. The now-lost Latin chronicle is partially observable through the surviving Welsh versions that share it as an exemplar. These Middle Welsh chronicles can themselves be seen as separate compositions in their own right. It is also possible, though difficult, to explore the sources which lay behind the Latin common text on the basis of what is shared between the three Welsh versions. The chronological range of these texts is essential to understanding the way they were conceived as histories. All three Welsh versions of Brut y Tywysogion open with the death of Cadwaladr, the termination point of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia, and from this it is clear that both they and the Latin chronicle from which they derive were conceived of as a continuation of Galfridian history. The exact date of composition of the Latin chronicle is difficult to pinpoint, but can with reasonable certainty be placed in the second half of the thirteenth century. However, while it is sometimes assumed that Brut y Tywysogion comes to an end with the death of Llywelyn the Last in December 1282, the actual termination date is far more uncertain.36 While the Red Book of Hergest version ends in that year, as did the original Peniarth 20 version, both 33 34 35 36

For harsh treatment of Maelgwn and praise of Gruffudd and his sons, see B-P20, pp. 80–4. Genesis 49:8–9. For a discussion of rhetoric in both the Welsh and Latin chronicles in a similar period, see Henley, ‘Rhetoric’. Jones (ed.), Brut Peniarth 20, p. xxxvi; Roberts, ‘Astudiaeth destunol’, p. xcii; J. Beverley Smith, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, pp. 587–8; Patricia Williams (ed.), Historical Texts, pp. xxv, xxix.

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finished well before the Edwardian conquest itself.37 Other versions and continuations of the chronicle end in 1200, 1332, and 1461, and now-lost versions of the work used by Humphrey Lhuyd and David Powel in the sixteenth century ended in 1270.38 The account of the Edwardian conquest found in some of these versions is clearly retrospective. This undermining of 1282 as the termination point of the shared Latin chronicle raises questions about whether the Latin Brut y Tywysogion should be seen as a historiographical response to the Edwardian conquest, or rather as a chronicle which was substantially complete before the conquest and which terminated in the late thirteenth century for other reasons. While Brut y Tywysogion can be seen as an impressive monument of thirteenth-century historical writing, it is best understood as a composite work which, in its different stages, exemplifies different periods of Welsh chronicle writing.39 Its initial stages are closely dependent on ninth- to eleventh-century annalistic writing, principally at St Davids.40 In the eleventh and twelfth century it shows signs of the efflorescence of historical writing in the wake of the Norman incursions and strong links with the ecclesiastical and literary centre of Llanbadarn Fawr. By the thirteenth century, it is clearly the product of a Welsh Cistercian monastery, and its narrative betrays not only the prominent role of that monastic order in the politics of the Welsh princes, but more specifically the close association of this particular monastery, Strata Florida, with particular dynasts of the royal house of Deheubarth.41 The political role of Cistercian houses such as Strata Florida is clear from the early thirteenth century. In 1212, King John ordered Falkes de Bréauté to destroy or lay waste the abbey of Strata Florida for lending support to the Welsh.42 Throughout the subsequent century, such monasteries served as repositories of donations and burial places for the Welsh princes, important meeting places, such as at Strata Florida in 1238, and as sources of political support.43 The last is most notably exemplified by the letter written to Pope Gregory X in support of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1275 by the abbots of most of the Welsh Cistercian houses, orchestrated at Strata 37 38 39 41

42

As noted by Thomas Jones, ‘Historical Writing’, pp. 23–4; and Roberts, ‘Testunau Hanes’, p. 296. B-P20, pp. xiv–xvi; Llwyd, Cronica Walliae, pp. 16, 19–23, 218. Cf. Lloyd, ‘Welsh Chronicles’, pp. 382–5. 40 See above, p. 213. For the close identification of the chronicler with the descendants of Gruffudd, son of the Lord Rhys, see the chronicle s.a. 1221 and 1222, where the author sides with Rhys Ieuanc over his cousin, Maelgwn. The chronicle becomes more sympathetic to Maelgwn and his descendants in periods when they had control over the abbey’s territory, observable in 1231 and 1233. B-P20, pp. 98–9, 102–3. Hardy (ed.), Rotuli litterarum, vol. i, p. 122 (August 1212). 43 B-P20, p. 104.

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Florida.44 The historical writing undertaken at such centres is inseparable from this prominent political role, although the narrative of the chronicle reflects the internal divisions of the Welsh body politic as well as a general support for the political causes of the princes.

The Welsh Historical Continuum The subsequent development and use of Brut y Tywysogion in the period after the Edwardian conquest indicates the continuing adaptability of the Welsh historical tradition. It is from the mid-fourteenth century that we first see manuscripts that combine the chronicle with Welsh translations of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia and Ystoria Dared, a Middle Welsh translation of De excidio Troiae historia, a (probably) sixth-century history of the Trojan War attributed to Dares Phrygius.45 That Brut y Tywysogion begins with the death of Cadwaladr, the end-point of Geoffrey’s work, indicates that it was conceived of as part of a historical narrative in which Galfridian history had assumed a central place. This is also apparent in the prefaces affixed to the two thirteenth-century Latin chronicles known as the Breviate and Cottonian chronicles, which both place the chronicles in a framework of world history but with substantial material taken from Geoffrey’s Historia.46 Together these make clear the central place assumed by Geoffrey’s history in ideas of the Welsh past by the late thirteenth century and its influence on the chronicle tradition.47 The direct literary influence of his work on the substance of these chronicles is, however, quite limited, with only one direct reference to Galfridian history in Brut y Tywysogion after the opening section.48 The combination of Galfridian history and Welsh chronicle writing which led towards the combination of these works into a continuous narrative was therefore indicative of the establishment of an authoritative account of the Welsh past, rather than the subsumption of one genre of history writing by the other. This account 44 45 46 47

48

Haddan and Stubbs (eds.), Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents, vol. i, pp. 498–9; J. Beverley Smith, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. pp. 377–82. Owens, ‘Y fersiynau Cymraeg’; Meister (ed.), De excidio Troiae historia; Faivre d’Arcier, Histoire et géographie; Fulton, ‘Troy Story’. More so in the case of the Cottonian than the Breviate chronicle: Caroline Brett, ‘Prefaces’, pp. 70–3. Geoffrey’s Historia was also adapted to sustain narratives of English history in the various versions of the Brut chronicle. By contrast, while they adapted Geoffrey to some extent, especially from the late thirteenth century Scottish historians challenged his account by deriving the Scots from an eponymous Scota. See Chapters 4 and 13 in this volume. B-P20, p. 226; Jones (ed.), Brut, Red Book, p. 268; Jones (ed.), Brenhinedd y Saesson, p. 256.

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drew both on a long-standing native annalistic tradition as well as a literature of pan-European significance that placed the Welsh within a framework of descent from the heroes of the classical past. The native annalistic tradition shares many features in common with chronicle writing across Europe, and Geoffrey’s history itself had deep roots in Welsh pseudo-history. This combined history, therefore, powerfully illustrates the distinctive place of Welsh historical writing within a wider European tradition. Several manuscripts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries contain what can be termed the Welsh Historical Continuum. This is the appearance of a Welsh version of Geoffrey’s Historia bookended by, on the one side, Brut y Tywysogion, and, on the other, by the Welsh translation of Dares Phrygius, Ystoria Dared.49 The effect of combining these three works in sequence was to create a continuous historical narrative which related first the Trojan War, then the foundation of Britain by Trojan exiles followed by their loss of sovereignty over the island, and then the subsequent history of these Britons as the Welsh from the seventh century to the thirteenth. The oldest and most widespread version of this Continuum can be termed the ‘Red Book of Hergest’ version.50 Other manuscripts containing the ‘Red Book’ version of Ystoria Dared, Brut y Brenhinedd, or Brut y Tywysogion are likely to go back to a common archetype, datable to the first half of the fourteenth century, which contained the full Continuum of three texts in sequence, and it has been suggested that the translation of the two texts supplementary to Brut y Brenhinedd may have been undertaken especially for inclusion in this.51 The Welsh Historical Continuum occurs in a number of manuscripts of different provenances and in different versions, and is best approached through particular manuscripts. The earliest complete surviving version of the Continuum dates to the second half of the fourteenth century. Mostyn 116 (Aberystwyth, NLW, 3035B) contains, in order, Ystoria Dared, Brut y Brenhinedd, and Brut y Tywysogion, the last of these with its end wanting. 49

50

51

Those containing all three texts are: Aberystwyth, NLW, MS 3035B (Mostyn 116); Oxford, Bodl., Jesus College MS 111 (Llyfr Coch Hergest); Aberystwyth, NLW, Peniarth MS 19; London, BL, MS Cotton Cleopatra B. v; Aberystwyth, NLW, MS 7006D (Llyfr Du Basing); and Oxford, Bodl., Jesus College MS 141. This last contains a reworking of these three texts by Gutun Owain datable to 1471xc.1500. The name should not be taken to imply that the text of the Red Book of Hergest (Oxford, Bodl., Jesus College MS 111) is in any way archetypal or authoritative, but merely reflects the term usually applied to these versions of Brut y Brenhinedd and Brut y Tywysogion. Roberts, ‘Red Book of Hergest’, pp. 157–9; Owens, ‘Y fersiynau Cymraeg’, pp. xxvii–xxxiv; Poppe, ‘Matter of Troy’, pp. 260–1.

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Most manuscripts of this ‘Red Book of Hergest’ version of the Continuum have associations with central south Wales, much like the great book that lends its name to this version. What is interesting about Mostyn 116 is that there are several indications that it is from north Wales, or at least that it was in north Wales in the fifteenth century.52 Another manuscript containing fragmentary copies of the same versions of Ystoria Dared and Brut y Brenhinedd was also written by the same scribe, and like some other fragmentary manuscripts may have contained the full Continuum when complete.53 The works contained in this triad of texts can be associated with different parts of Wales. Brut y Tywysogion in its thirteenth-century form is a product of Strata Florida in Ceredigion. The ‘Red Book’ version of Brut y Brenhinedd present here was compiled from two thirteenth-century versions, one of which first survives in a manuscript (Aberystwyth, NLW, MS Llanstephan 1) that was probably produced at another Cistercian house, Valle Crucis in northern Powys, the other of which occurs in manuscripts which can be associated with north Wales (Dingestow Court; Mostyn 117).54 However, most of the manuscripts of this version of the complete Continuum have a south Welsh provenance. What is clear is that the Welsh Historical Continuum found in Mostyn 116 was the end result of several axes of transmission of historical material that crossed Wales. These were undoubtedly dependent on links between Welsh Cistercian houses, given the fact that most of these manuscripts themselves seem to be products of Cistercian monasteries. In the late fourteenth century and into the fifteenth, manuscripts of the Red Book version are apparent both in north and south Wales, underlining the importance of these networks in the spread of historical material as well as its composition. But in the fourteenth century it also becomes apparent that these manuscripts were increasingly produced on behalf of the native gentry class who had survived the Edwardian conquest, the uchelwyr. The involvement of these men with the intellectual endeavours of Cistercian monasteries is difficult to measure before the conquest, although it is extremely likely that they formed part of the audience for the first vernacular translations of Geoffrey’s Historia by the early thirteenth century. There are strong signs of their involvement with these monastic institutions in the 52 53 54

Huws, Repertory; Aberystwyth, NLW, MS 3035B. London, BL, Additional MS 19709; Huws, Repertory, labels this scribe X92. Huws, Medieval Welsh Manuscripts, pp. 53, 179; Russell, ‘Orthography’; Huws, Repertory; Aberystwyth, NLW, MS 5266B (Brut Dingestow), NLW 3036B (Mostyn 117).

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decades after the conquest, such as the inscribed stones of Valle Crucis or the connections between the patrons of Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch (The White Book of Rhydderch), an important compendium of Welsh court poetry, and Strata Florida.55

Audience and Politics The historical narrative most fully represented in the Welsh Historical Continuum had, by the fourteenth century, become the standard account of the Welsh past. The process of its acceptance was one with roots as far back as the mid-twelfth century, when the influence of Geoffrey’s work on the genealogical sections of Historia Griffini filii Conani is perceptible.56 However, it was the combination of Galfridian material with the Welsh chronicle narratives of Brut y Tywysogion, themselves the result of close links between the native princes and Cistercian monasteries, which cemented this Galfridian interpretation of the British past as an unavoidable precursor to the Welsh present. Political manifestations of these ideas about the past are occasionally apparent in the late thirteenth century, for example in the reply of the Welsh to Archbishop Peckham’s peace proposals in 1282, which justifies Llywelyn ap Gruffudd’s position, and that of Wales in relation to the English king, with reference to the division of Britain between Locrinus, Camber, and Albanactus after the death of Brutus in Geoffrey’s history.57 Though this was the only time that Galfridian material was used to justify the prince’s political activities, the appeal to it in a time of crisis is indicative of how firm a part of the Welsh historical consciousness this narrative had become. The fact that this was the reply of both the prince and his council, Llywelyn’s personal response having made no reference to Brutus or Camber, may imply that the royal counsellors better represented the audience for these histories than did the prince himself.58 That the audience for this material was widespread, and that its implications were political, is further evinced after the conquest in Archbishop Peckham’s own writings. In June 1284, he issued injunctions for the clergy 55 56 57 58

Gresham, Medieval Stone Carving, pp. 79–84, 89, 94–6, 113–16, 137–41, 182–8; Huws, Medieval Welsh Manuscripts, pp. 252–4. Thornton, ‘Genealogy’, pp. 86–7. Pryce (ed.), Acts of Welsh Rulers; J. Beverley Smith, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, pp. 542–5; J. Beverley Smith, Sense of History, pp. 14–15. J. Beverley Smith, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, p. 326, where the influence of the men in attendance on the prince is emphasised.

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of the diocese of St Asaph reminding them of their responsibility to reconcile Welsh and English, and specifically warned against Welsh tales of their glorious descent from the Trojans.59 At the same time as this discouragement there were deliberate attempts by Edward I to appropriate the British inheritance of the Welsh and use it as an instrument of his own power, for example the purported discovery of the body of Magnus Maximus at Caernarfon in 1283, and indeed the entire structure of the castle there, its imperial eagles and banded masonry intended to echo and to appropriate the inheritance that the Welsh claimed as historical equals of the Romans.60 The actual engagement of Welsh readers with these histories is usually more difficult to perceive than are acts of political propaganda, but a remarkable colophon in Philadelphia, Library Company of Philadelphia, MS 8680, at fol. 68v, contains a rare description of the relationship between scribe and patron and their mutual understanding of such works. This late fourteenth-century manuscript contains the first two of the three texts of the Red Book version of the Historical Continuum, and after the end of Brut y Brenhinedd the scribe notes that Hywel Fychan ap Hywel Goch of Buellt wrote this entire manuscript . . . at the request and command of his master, none other than Hopcyn son of Tomos son of Einion . . . And in their opinion, the least praiseworthy of those princes who ruled above are Gwrtheyrn [Vortigern] and Medrawd [Modred]. Since because of their treachery and deceit and counsel the most excellent princes were ruined, men whose descendants have lamented after them since that day until this – those who suffer pain and subjection and exile in their native land.61

The close relationship between scribe and patron demonstrated in this colophon extends to interpretation of the works themselves, indicating that both the producers and commissioners of these manuscripts saw these 59 60

61

Glanmor Williams, Welsh Church, p. 41; Martin (ed.), Registrum epistolarum, vol. ii. pp. 737–43. R.R. Davies, Conquest, Coexistence, and Change, p. 360; A.J. Taylor, Welsh Castles, pp. 77–9; Wheatley, ‘Caernarfon Castle’. Luard (ed.), Flores historiarum, vol. iii, p. 59, relates the discovery of the grave of Maximus, father of the noble Constantine. Historia Brittonum had earlier referred to a tomb of Constantine there: Faral (ed.), Légende Arthurienne, vol. iii, p. 19 (c. 25); Nennius, British History, p. 65. ‘Y llyuyr h6n a yscriuenn6ys howel vychan uab howel goch o uuellt yn ll6yr . . . o arch a gorchymun y vaester, nyt amgen hopkyn uab thomas uab eina6n . . . Ac o’e barn 6ynt, anuolyannussaf o’r ty6yssogyon uchot y llywyassant, g6rtheyrn a medra6t. Kanys oc eu brat 6ynt a’e t6yll ac eu kyghor uynt y distry6yt y tywyssogyon arbennickaf, yr hynn a g6yna6d eu hetiuedyon g6edy 6ynt yr hynny hyd hedi6. Y rei yssyd yn godef poen ac achenoctit ac alltuded yn eu ganedic dayar.’ Philadelphia, Library Company of Philadelphia, MS 8680, fol. 68v; cited in Roberts, ‘Un o lawysgrifau’, p. 227.

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histories as a means of explaining the social and political problems of postConquest Wales. Despite the active political significance of such historical works, the compilation of chronicles like Brut y Tywysogion and its relatives did not flourish after the Edwardian conquest. While the late thirteenth century also sees a decline in monastic chronicle writing in England, this is explicable within a specific Welsh context.62 As has been argued, the close relationship between native Welsh rulers and Cistercian monasteries was one of the main reasons for the production of chronicles with a strong focus on native politics, most characteristically Brut y Tywysogion through most of the thirteenth century and the Breviate Chronicle in the 1250s and 1260s.63 With the defeat and disappearance of the princely ruling class in the late thirteenth century, the spur to this historical activity was removed. The Edwardian conquest can therefore be seen as an event that fundamentally undermined the creation of Welsh historical writing, despite the fact that the century after it saw an efflorescence in its translation, collection, and transmission. This is well illustrated by the continuation to Brut y Tywysogion in the Peniarth 20 manuscript. Compiled at Valle Crucis, a monastery known to have been very active in the production and translation of historical writing, the continuation runs to 1332, recording events in Wales, the monastery’s immediate locality, and the affairs of the English Crown and nobility.64 Considerable interest is shown in events involving members of the marcher aristocracy, for example the Despenser War of 1321–2, and there are notices concerning the bishops of St Asaph and obituaries of prominent local uchelwyr. But it is clear that the strong link between local affairs and a broader political struggle, so characteristic of the chronicle in earlier periods, is gone. The political situation was utterly transformed, and the attempt to adapt Brut y Tywysogion to this was only partially successful. While the continued vibrancy of the chronicle tradition can be questioned, the interlinking of contemporary politics and the legendary past is observable in the years around the revolt of Owain Glyndw ˆ r, the ideology of which draws frequently from the Galfridian historical traditions of Brut y Brenhinedd. This is seen both in Glyndw ˆ r’s diplomatic correspondence, for example in his letter to Robert III of Scotland (1401), where Robert plays Albanactus to Glyndw ˆ r’s Camber, and in Glyndw ˆ r’s own activities, 62 63 64

Roberts, ‘Testunau hanes’, p. 297; cf. HW1, pp. 332–3. Stephenson, ‘Chronicler of Cwm-hir Abbey’. Jones (ed.), Brut y tywysogyon, Peniarth MS. 20, pp. 230–8; B-P20, pp. 122–7; Charles-Edwards and Charles-Edwards, ‘Continuation’; Stephenson, ‘Continuation Re-visited’.

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notably his consultation with Hopcyn ap Tomos, described as a master of brut (history and prophecy) in 1403.65 Hopcyn was the patron of Hywel Fychan mentioned in the Philadelphia colophon, as well as being the patron of the Red Book of Hergest which also contained the Welsh Historical Continuum. It is worth noting that a praise poem to Owain Glyndw ˆ r by Gruffudd Llwyd related the contemporary status of the Welsh to this legendary history in a way strikingly similar to Hywel Fychan’s colophon.66 The poet, the patron, the scribe, and the prince were all similarly influenced by an established view of the Welsh past. The same is true of two concise Welsh accounts of Glyndw ˆ r’s rising composed in the fifteenth century. The fullest of these concludes a short chronicle that opens with the Creation of Adam in 5199 bce, followed by the coming of Brutus to Britain in 1230 bce, which originally terminated in 1321 and was later extended to 1422;67 the other occurs in continuations, to 1461, of versions of Brenhinedd y Saesson in the hand of the poet and genealogist Gutun Owain (fl. c.1451–c.1500).68 The brevity of these accounts in turn throws into relief the continuing dominance of the master narrative, established earlier in the Middle Ages, that focused primarily on the Welsh from their ancient British origins to the final years of princely rule in the late thirteenth century. Indeed, despite criticisms of its Galfridian component, this narrative continued to influence understandings of Welsh history until the Victorian period.69 65 66 67

68 69

Adam of Usk, Chronicle, pp. 148–50. Gruffudd Llwyd, Gwaith Gruffudd Llwyd a’r Llygliwiaid Eraill, pp. 146–7. The extended versions are extant only in early modern manuscripts, e.g. Aberystwyth, NLW, MS Peniarth 135, pp. 49–65, whose annals for 1400–15 are edited and translated in Livingston and Bollard (eds.), Owain Glyndw ˆ r: A Casebook, pp. 172–5. Jones (ed.), Brenhinedd y Saesson, pp. 274–5; Phillips, ‘When Did Owain Glyndw ˆ r Die?’, pp. 69, 76–7. Roberts (ed.), Brut y brenhinedd, pp. 55–74; Pryce, ‘Medieval Welsh History’, pp. 2–4, 8–9.

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chapter 13

Scotland and Anglo-Scottish Border Writing Kate Ash-Irisarri

‘Christ! He is not a Scot who is not pleased with this work.’1 Thus Walter Bower declares in his famous colophon at the end of his mid-fifteenthcentury Scotichronicon. Bower’s claim suggests that Scottish historical writing might be understood as a way of engaging a sense of identity: his history should appeal to those who consider themselves Scots, and the material contained in his chronicle should pertain to matters of interest to Scots. This chapter examines Scottish historical writing from c.500 to c.1500, asking which materials were selected, and which were deliberately reshaped, and where continuities lie in the cultural role of Scottish historiography. From at least the tenth century to the fifteenth, Scottish historical writing is concerned with matters of lineage, identity, and origin, with the purpose of fostering a rhetoric of commonality cultivated by both chroniclers and poets. This chapter does not offer a comprehensive account of Scottish historiography, but rather seeks to establish what can be understood as Scottish and Anglo-Scottish historiographical production, its major phases and concerns. This will be done first by examining the origins of Scotland and Scottish historiography followed by a survey of the major productions of later medieval historical writing in Scotland, which pays attention to the ways in which later writers reworked and extended earlier material. The third section will examine the writings concerned with Anglo-Scottish relations produced at the border between the two countries. It is only by understanding how writers sought to construct Scotland’s past that we can explore fruitfully the complicated intersections of the many border crossings – geographic, linguistic, and cultural – in Scottish and Anglo-Scottish historiography.

1

‘[Non] Scotus est Christe cui liber non placet iste.’ Bower, Scotichronicon, vol. viii, pp. 340, 341 (my translation).

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Naming and Origins The languages of Scotland before the eleventh century comprised Pictish (a Brythonic language closely related to Welsh),2 Gaelic, Old Norse (in the Scandinavian territories of Orkney and Shetland), and Latin. From the eleventh century, Scots and French (or Anglo-Norman) must be added to this list. Historical writing, broadly defined, is recorded in all of these languages, though primarily in Latin, Scots, and Gaelic. Bede famously described this varied linguistic situation in his eighth-century Ecclesiastical History of the English People At the present time, there are five languages in Britain . . . all devoted to seeking out and setting forth one and the same kind of wisdom, namely the knowledge of sublime truth and of true sublimity. These are the English, British, Irish [Scottorum], Pictish, as well as the Latin languages; through the study of the scriptures, Latin is in general use among them all.3

The lands that made up the later kingdom of Scotland were once separately ruled by the Britons and the Picts, while the Gaels occupied a minor part of northern Britain. There were three important kingdoms among the Britons living north of Hadrian’s Wall: Gododdin (on the east coast into Lothian and around the Firth of Forth); Strathclyde (round the firth and river valley of the Clyde); and Rheged (a principality in the west). The Picts occupied most of the land north of the Forth and Clyde. The people who eventually gave their name to Scotland, the Scoti or Goídil (Gaels), were emigrants from Ireland who settled along the western British coastline. The most famous settlement, Dál Riata, stretched from the Ardnamurchan peninsula to Arran, and possibly as far as the Isle of Bute, and was established by Fergus Mór mac Erc (d. c. 506), king of Dalriada who, in the early sixth century, moved his power base from Antrim to Argyll. The Irish territories of Dalriada continued to be ruled from Scotland until the middle of the seventh century, and the Scoti retained strong links to the north of Ireland to the extent that much of their early written history survives in Irish rather than Scottish texts. The Western and Northern Isles remained under Norse control: the Hebrides were not 2

3

While there are no surviving written Pictish documents, place-names and the orthography of the Pictish King-List and the Chronicles of the Kings of Alba (discussed below) attest to original material written in a Pictish-language context. On the status of the Pictish language, see Forsyth, ‘Pictish Language’, pp. 1444–6; Forsyth, Language in Pictland; Fraser, From Caledonia to Pictland. ‘Haec in praesenti . . . quinque gentium linguis unam eandemque summae ueritatis et uerae sublimitatis scientiam scrutatur et confitetur, Anglorum uidelicet Brettonum Scottorum Pictorum et Latinorum, quae meditatione scripturarum ceteris omnibus est facta communis.’ HEA, pp. 16–17.

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officially conceded until the Treaty of Perth (1266), and Orkney and Shetland did not become part of Scotland until 1468–9. In the mid-ninth century, it seems that the Pictish kingdoms and those of the Scoti merged, though quite how, when, and why this happened is not clear. What we can be confident of is that, by the tenth century, the inhabitants of what had been the Pictish kingdom spoke Gaelic rather than Pictish. A king-list from the first half of the thirteenth century attributes this unification to Cinead mac Ailpín, an assumption that is adopted by later chronicles. In his Chronica gentis Scotorum (c.1385), John of Fordun narrates how God granted that it should come to pass that Kenneth should be the first of all the kings to take the whole of the north-western end of Albion under his sole sovereignty, thus happily welding the two kingdoms into one.4

While Cinead mac Ailpín is no longer considered the agent of the ‘union’, this historicising of his role in consolidating a Gaelic kingdom suggests a campaign by later writers to identify Scotland with a Gaelic ruler. In the twelfth century Scotia still referred primarily to the kingdom’s eastmidlands heartlands and, while royal authority extended across a broader area, its influence was perhaps patchy. By the thirteenth century, however, Scottish writers referred to the regnum Scotiae (kingdom of the Scots), suggesting a changing definition of Scotland. Referring to Galloway as being in ‘the western part of Scotland’, the early thirteenth-century Chronicle of Melrose provides the earliest example of the term ‘Scotland’ to include the land south of the Forth to the Tweed and Solway.5 The material evidence of historical writing in Scotland prior to the thirteenth century, and particularly before the tenth century, is frustratingly sparse; much of it survives in what are claimed as Irish chronicles, such as the twelfth-century Chronicum Scotorum, demonstrating the linguistic and cultural ties between the Gáidhealtachd (Gaelic-speaking regions) and Ireland that remained strong until the seventeenth century. Two early identifiably Scottish texts survive: the Iona Chronicle, an annalistic compilation in Latin from the sixth to the eighth century, and the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, a brief Latin text covering the ninth to twelfth centuries that survives in the fourteenth-century miscellany 4

5

John of Fordun,Chronicle, i.139. ‘Sic quidem Deo concedente factum est, ut, totum sub circio finem Albionis in monarchiam omnium regum primus suscipiens, unum feliciter regnum compegerit e duobus’ – Chronica, p. 151. Broun and Harrison (eds.), Melrose, p. 46. ‘In occidentali parte scocie que Galewia dicitur’. London, BL, MS Faustina B. IX, fol. 33v.

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Poppleton Manuscript.6 The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba focuses on the early struggles in the combined kingdom of the Picts and Scots, making clear that, from the beginning, historical writing played a central role in defining Scottish literature across its myriad peoples. Latin and Gaelic annals and king-lists were being written from at least the tenth century, and the eleventh century witnessed a flourishing of genealogy in both languages, possibly deriving from the praise poetry fundamental to Gaelic culture. For example, the Prophecy of Berchán contains a king-list of Alba (the early name for Scotland) from the ninth to the eleventh century, and Duan Albanach (Song of the Scots), written during the reign of Mael Coluim (Malcolm) III (1058–1093), is a verse compilation drawing on early kinglists. Duan Albanach survives in the eleventh-century Lebor Bretnach, which largely comprises a translation of the Welsh Historia Brittonum. While the work has been attributed to the Irish poet Gilla Cóemáinn (fl. 1071), Thomas Owen Clancy has argued that the Lebor is of Scottish provenance, given its extensive material concerning Scotland.7 In many ways we might describe material such as the Lebor Bretnach as border texts, tracing the cultural connections and literary borrowings between Ireland and Scotland. Duan Albanach is a praise poem recounting the kings of Scots from the time Albanus arrived in Alba to the reign of Mael Coluim III. The beginning of the poem recounts how It was Albanus who took [it] with his host (he was the distinguished son of Isiocón, brother of Bríutus without betrayal) from whom Alba of the many boats is named. Bríutus banished his brisk brother across the fierce English channel; Bríutus took splendid Alba as far as the conspicuous peak of Fodudhán.8

The poem thus begins with a reference to the legendary founding of Alba following the Brut tradition, which popularised the myth that the Britons were descended from the Trojans through Brutus, the grandson of Aeneas, who divided Britain between his three sons, giving England to his first son, Locrinus, Scotland to Albanactus, and Wales to his youngest son, 6 7 8

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS Lat. 4126; Cowan, ‘Scottish Chronicle’. Clancy, ‘“Nennian” recension’. ‘Albanus ro ghabh lia shlógh, / mac sein oirdherc Isiocón, / bráthair is Bríutus gan brath / ó ráitear Alba eathrach. | Ro ionnarb a bhráthair bras / Bríotus tar Muir nIcht n-amhnas; / ro gabh Bríotus Albain áin / go rinn fiadhnach Fotudáin’ (lines 5–12). Jackson (ed.), ‘Duan Albanach’, pp. 128–9.

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Camber.9 On the death of the three sons, it was assumed that all of the lands passed to the descendants of Locrinus.10 Here, however, Duan Albanach suggests that Albanactus is the brother of Brutus who is usurped by the eponymous founder of Britain. The poem then traces a narrative of the subsequent conquest of Alba first by the Picts and then by the Gaels; it ends with an image of conquest and assimilation between the Picts and the Scoti and the reign of Mael Coluim III who follows in the footsteps of his ancestors: Fifty-two kings, hear, to the son of Donnchadh of princely visage, of the seed of Erc the nobly pure, from the east took Alba, ye learned ones.11

Duan Albanach is concerned with establishing a lineage of rulership and, by extension, a community that presumably owed allegiance to that line of rulers. It is a narrative that tries to determine the ways in which knowledge of the past can be used in the present, securing as it does an originary moment for the legitimate settlement of Alba through legendary history and a subsequent narrative of reconciliation of Pictish and Gaelic lines that speaks to the concerns of the twelfth century far more than the tenth. Origin myths and king-lists are ways of establishing identity. Crucially, they are ways of articulating commonality because they trace a ruler or a people back to a single point of foundation. The earliest identified Pictish king-list was compiled before the 840s; it was extended through the midninth century, adding more than forty kings, beginning with Cruithne (the Gaelic word for ‘Picts’) and his seven sons, suggesting a Gaelic effort to consolidate the lineages of the two dominant peoples of Scotland. The king-lists of the tenth and eleventh centuries viewed the Pictish and Gaelic lineages as running parallel to each other, denoting the separate rulers of each territory prior to the reign of Cinead mac Ailpín. The twelfth century, however, saw a proliferation of foundation myth texts that would become significant for the writing of history in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. This may have contributed to a further shift in the thirteenth century when, rather than viewing the Pictish and Dalriadic king-lists as running parallel, Scottish king-lists began presenting them as running in a single succession, meaning that the twenty-three kings of Dál Riata were then followed by the sixty kings of the Picts and so on through Cinead mac 9 11

10 For further discussion of the Brut tradition, see Chapters 4 and 12 above. HRB, pp. 23–6. ‘Dá rígh for chaogad, cluine, / go mac Donnchaidh dhreachruire / do shíol Erc ardghlain an-oir / gabhsad Albain, a éolaigh’ (lines 105–8). Jackson (ed.), ‘Duan Albanach’, pp. 132–3.

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Ailpín’s successors. By the time John Balliol (r.1292–6, d.1314) succeeded to the throne this meant that Scottish king-lists were tracing 112 kings stretching over nearly two thousand years.12 This list was subsequently used as a source for the major historical writing from the late thirteenth through the fifteenth century as evidence of the antiquity of the Scots and their settlement in the northern parts of the British Isles. This emphasis on genealogy is not unique to Scottish historical writing – as Chapter 5 in this volume clearly demonstrates – but its use across early Gaelic material as well as later Latin and the Scots vernacular attests to its value and longevity across the diverse cultures of medieval Scotland. The Brut tradition that begins the Duan Albanach was well known in Scotland, and Trojan narratives were extensively drawn on by a range of writers for a variety of purposes; Robert II (r.1371–90), for example, proclaimed the Trojan ancestry of the Stewarts, and both Barbour and Wyntoun utilise the British origin legend.13 The legend, however, became a politically charged and contested narrative of origins from the late thirteenth century due to its use by the English as a way of seeking political hegemony over its northern neighbour. During the late thirteenth century and into the early fourteenth, the highly politicised use of the Brutus legend by the English prompted the Scots to draw on a competing myth of origins to counter the English claims. It also prompted historical writing that elaborated annalistic chronicles and king-lists into substantial narratives of Scotland’s place in the world.

Late Medieval Chronicles and the Problem of ‘National’ History In 1286, Alexander III died suddenly, leaving only his three-year-old granddaughter as his heir. Margaret, the ‘maid of Norway’, perished at sea crossing to her kingdom, and Scotland was faced with a succession crisis that precipitated not only the outbreak of war with England, but also the threat of civil war within Scotland. Following Margaret’s death, several challengers made a bid for the Scottish throne in a period known as the Great Cause. Two major claimants emerged from at least twelve contenders: John Balliol and Robert Bruce, earl of Annandale (Robert I’s grandfather). Edward I of England was appointed arbiter in the matter of the Scottish succession and favoured Balliol’s claim to the crown, though he prevented him from ruling over an independent kingdom. It was at this 12 13

Broun, ‘Birth of Scottish History’, p. 13. Boardman, ‘Late Medieval Scotland’, p. 53, 60; Wingfield, Trojan Legend, pp. 18–19.

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point that Edward I pressed his own claim to overlordship of Scotland, primarily through a reliance on the Brutus myth. He dethroned Balliol in 1296 and, despite a strong resistance led by William Wallace and Andrew Murray, the defeat at the Battle of Falkirk (1298) and Wallace’s capture and execution (1305) began a period of consistent conflict known as the Wars of Independence, which lasted until 1357. The most substantial extant texts of medieval Scottish historical writing were produced between the 1270s and 1500, leading up to and in consequence of the Wars of Independence, suggesting, as Andrew Galloway proposes more broadly in Chapter 26 of this volume, that much later medieval history writing was prompted by social, economic, and political concerns. Many of the Scottish texts appear to have been drawn up either as part of, or as a later response to, the ‘appeal to history’ which, as Jaclyn Rajsic shows in her discussion of the Brut tradition in Chapter 4, saw Edward I very consciously using historiography to support his claim to overlordship of Scotland by collecting information relating to the rulership of Scotland held in English monasteries. The Scottish writings comprise lengthy Latin chronicles and Scots-language verse histories and historiographical romances. The earliest detectable continuous narrative of Scottish history (as opposed to annalistic material) was probably composed in the 1260s by Richard Vairement, who came to Scotland with Marie de Coucy when she married Alexander II in 1239. Vairement was a secular canon at St Andrews between 1239 and 1251. His Latin history of the Scots from their origins to the accession of Mael Coluim III was based partly on Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae, as well as on a collection of at least three texts recounting the Scota myth, the legend of the Stone of Scone, and a king-list which claimed the parallel existence of Scottish and Pictish kings. Vairement’s material, it seems, was then consolidated and extended by an anonymous ‘synthesiser’ in Gesta annalia I to provide a more comprehensive account of Scotland’s past up to 1285, with a particular concern for the history of Mael Coluim’s wife, St Margaret of Scotland, her ancestors and descendants. During the fourteenth century, a separate chronicle (known as Gesta annalia II) was appended to Gesta annalia I, which extended the history to 1363, along with the addition of material specifically relating to the Scottish claims to independence that were presented to the papal curia in 1301 to contest Edward I’s claims, and the famous Declaration of Arbroath (1320). John of Fordun’s Latin Chronica gentis Scotorum, composed around 1385, appears to combine Vairement’s material and Gesta annalia I with seemingly little alteration or addition except for

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the inclusion of a royal genealogy acquired from Walter Wardlar, bishop of Glasgow. The Chronica narrates the Scottish origins in Greece and Egypt before telling of the Picts and Scots through to David I (r.1124–53). Fordun’s Chronica was substantially added to by Walter Bower in his Scotichronicon compiled in the 1440s, which extends Fordun’s text to the murder of James I by his magnates (1437). Written at the request of Sir David Stewart, laird of Rosyth, and composed during the minority of James II (r.1437–60), Bower’s text reflects on the state of Scotland as a sovereign kingdom and the need for effective governance. In its antiEnglish stance, Edward I becomes an example of a tyrannical king. Bower’s Scotichronicon was possibly the most widely read learned Scottish work of the Middle Ages. Its popularity is attested by the survival of six full-text manuscripts and four abbreviations, most notably the Liber pluscardensis (c.1460), which rewrote Bower’s text into a coherent narrative of Scottish history and was subsequently translated into French in 1519 for John, duke of Albany, and the Brevis chronica, which focused on Scottish origins and the succession of kings.14 The earliest surviving Older Scots vernacular literature is John Barbour’s Bruce (c.1375). Barbour, who was archdeacon of Aberdeen from 1357 to 1395, refers to the Bruce as a ‘romanys’, and the poem traces the role of Robert the Bruce (Robert I) in the Wars of Independence from the death of Alexander III in 1286 to Bruce’s own death in 1329. Barbour’s poem was particularly influential in the writing of subsequent vernacular history as well as being popular enough to be mentioned by Bower as a source of historical information in Scotichronicon. Andrew of Wyntoun (c.1350– c.1422), prior of St Serf’s in Lochleven, drew inspiration from Barbour in the composition of his metrical Scots Original Chronicle, which also contains material not found in other sources. Composed for Sir John Wemyss, constable of St Andrews, the Original Chronicle (c.1420) narrates the history of the world and Scotland’s place in it from the world’s origins (hence Original) to 1408. Book 6, in particular, is concerned with English and Scottish ‘storyis’ and contains the first Scots-language reference to Macbeth. Wyntoun’s text survives in nine manuscripts, suggesting that it was second only to Bower’s Scotichronicon in popularity. Barbour’s Bruce was emulated in style a century following its composition in Hary’s Wallace (c.1475), one of the first books to be printed in Scotland. Modelled on romance and hagiography, and drawing on Fordun and Wyntoun for accounts of Wallace’s life, the eulogistic Wallace focuses primarily on his 14

Ash-Irisarri, ‘Walter Bower’, pp. 328–30; Drexler, ‘Extant Abridgements’.

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noble deeds to ‘reskew’ Scotland from English aggression.15 Vehemently anti-English, Hary’s text sketches out Wallace’s genealogy before inciting hatred of the English through accounts of atrocities in Scotland in their attempt to deny the kingdom its independence. In the depiction of his execution in Book 12, Wallace is hailed as a ‘martyr’ whose regret is that ‘part Inglismen I slew / In my quarell, me thocht nocht halff enew’.16 If the earliest historical writing in Scotland concerned itself with origins and lineage as a form of praise and commemoration, it also went some way to establishing an understanding of the kingdom’s separateness from the southern part of the British Isles that the later medieval chronicles privilege as a marker of independence. Until relatively recently, scholarly opinion has assumed that the writing of what might be considered national history – that which attempted to construct and promote a common identity that could be identified with the nation of Scotland, and which attested to its sovereignty – did not emerge until the fourteenth century and the Wars of Independence. Dauvit Broun’s work, in particular, has demonstrated that the aftermath of the war between England and Scotland might not have been the catalyst for this proliferation of historical writing focused on the distinct origins and sovereignty of the Scots. Instead, Broun argues, the 1290s, just prior to the Wars of Independence, were a crucial point for Scottish historical writing in which challenges to Scottish sovereignty presented such a significant threat to the existence of the kingdom that the issue of Scotland’s antiquity became a potent political tool.17 Alice Taylor has also argued that the mid-thirteenth-century Dunfermline Chronicle, which may have served as a source for Fordun, can be seen as part of a propaganda production of historical writing in late thirteenthcentury Scotland. Taylor suggests that the chronicle, compiled during the reign of Alexander III (1249–86), was produced as part of the effort to secure the formal rights of coronation of the Scottish monarchs as Christian kings.18 The insistence on the separate origins of the Scots became particularly pressing in the late thirteenth century when Edward undertook his ‘appeal to history’ and pressed his own claim to Scotland in response to Pope Boniface VIII’s bull Scimus fili (1299), which requested that the English send documents proving the rights they asserted. The basis of Edward I’s claim to Scotland in 1301 was drawn from the Brut tradition, with Edward making a case for the land of Scotland reverting back to Locrinus’ 15 18

Hary, Wallace, 1.38. 16 Ibid., 12.1279, 1385–6. Alice Taylor, ‘Dunfermline Compilation’, p. 2.

17

Broun, ‘Birth of Scottish History’, p. 14.

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descendants after the death of Albanactus. Edward’s claims to Scotland prompted a consolidation of Scottish historical writing that sought to counter this claim by bringing to the fore their own myth of origin: Scota. Appearing in embryonic form in the tenth century, and certainly circulating since the twelfth, the Scota myth traced the lineage of the Scots back to a founding Egyptian mother, Scota, who settled the northern parts of the British Isles with her Greek husband, Gaythelos, before the English Brutus drove the giants from Britain.19 The Scota myth was used to support the Scottish cause at the papal curia in 1301 and an extended version of the narrative is to be found in chapters 8 to 17 of Fordun’s Chronica. In the Scotichronicon, Walter Bower narrates that it was Scota who reached and settled Ireland with her sons, while the Scots ‘gain additional lustre from the fact that they [were] sprung from the stock of the kings of Athens [Gaythelos’s line]’ as well as from the matrilineal line of Scota.20 In 1320, the Declaration of Arbroath also sought to locate Scottish origins in this legendary history and use would be made of it in the 1540s when Henry VIII sought to coerce the Scottish government into a betrothal between Henry’s son, Edward, and the young Scottish queen, Mary, in a period known as the ‘Rough Wooing’ (1544–50). Clearly, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were periods of major historiographical production concerned with writing about Scotland, its origins and identity, and its relations with England, and yet it is possible to see that this period draws on and seeks to emphasise a tradition of historical writing that began much earlier. As such, an altogether more complicated trajectory for the writing of Scottish history emerges.21 While the major historiographical works of the period demonstrate a significant engagement with narrating Scottish history from its mythical origins, what also becomes evident is an awareness of what it means to write historiography. This can already be seen in the use of the Scota myth to make political claims about sovereignty, and it has prompted R. James Goldstein to propose that during the later Middle Ages, Scottish writers engaged in a ‘war of historiography’ that began with Edward I’s mobilisation of historical writings to serve his political agenda and witnessed the shaping and manipulating of the written record for particular purposes.22 19 20 21 22

William Matthews, ‘Egyptians in Scotland’. ‘Cedet igitur ad gloriam Scotorum quod processerunt de stemate regio Atheniense.’ Bower, Scotichronicon, vol. v, pp. 294–5. For fuller treatments of the subject, see Broun, Scottish Independence; and Broun, ‘Rethinking Scottish Origins’. Goldstein, Matter of Scotland, pp. 57–103.

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While Scotichronicon, for example, can be seen as an anti-English, Scotcentred narrative, this is not the only way in which Bower’s history might be understood. The Scota myth and its underlying concerns over territorial sovereignty might still have been pressing issues in the mid-fifteenth century, but Bower’s narrative here also betrays deeper anxieties about ambition and internal struggles for power (Gaythelos’s ambitions in Greece), and the necessity of good rulership. Scotichronicon was written during the minority of James II when government was in the hands of the Douglases, as well as the Crichtons and Livingstons who had achieved a sudden rise to power and, as The Buke of the Howlat (1449) comments, had fallen just as quickly. Scotichronicon’s preoccupation with kingship, then, is perhaps not surprising in the wake of one of many Scottish minorities, but this concern is mediated through an earlier genealogical narrative, a strategy that enables Bower to promote communal cohesion by fostering a collective memory of the Scottish people that is realised in an ancient royal lineage.23 Continuing the tradition of abbreviated works, the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries also witnessed the compilation of shorter chronicles, such as the Scottis Originale, the Chronicle of the Scots, and the St Andrews Chronicle, which present highly derivative condensations of the Latin tradition of Scottish history and demonstrate a return to brief annalistic compilations in some cases. Kathleen Daly and Edward Donald Kennedy argue that the vernacular histories written between the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) and the Battle of Flodden (1513) address Scotland’s auld alliance with France and relationship with its traditional enemy, England, in ways that appealed to a broader readership.24

Towards a Rhetoric of History Reworking historical narrative is not a practice unique to Scotland, or to the fifteenth century, although it does illuminate how Scottish historical writers viewed their task of writing history. In its broadest sense, history in the Middle Ages was studied as part of the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric), and thus to understand how and why history was written in the Middle Ages requires a recognition that the principles of composition would have been well known to anyone who had received an education 23 24

For the production of collective memory as a feature of monastic history writing, see Chapter 2 above. See Embree, Kennedy, and Daly (eds.), Short Scottish Prose Chronicles, pp. 19–27.

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based in classical rhetoric, understood as an art of persuasion designed to teach (docere), move (movere), and please (delectare).25 Rather than providing the bare information as impartial record, historical narrative was constructed for a variety of purposes at any given time. In addition to the chronicle tradition in Scotland, many literary texts call into question what a contemporary reader might understand as history. As Goldstein notes, if we view medieval writers as adhering to the principles of rhetorical narrative, then we must accept habits of medieval epistemology that justified introducing a mixture of truth (historia), fable (fabula, i.e. something that could not have happened), and fiction (fictio, i.e. what plausibly might have happened).26 The vernacular verse histories of Wyntoun, Barbour, and Hary illustrate this point. In the opening to the Bruce, Barbour writes Storys to rede ar delatibill Suppos that thai be nocht bot fabill, Than suld storys that suthfast wer And thai war said on gud maner Have doubill pleasance in heryng. The first plesance is the carpyng, And the tother the suthfastnes That schawys the thing rycht as it wes, And suth thyngis that ar likand Till mannys heryng ar plesand.27

The Bruce is both historical narrative and a ‘romanys’ (1.446), a tale of heroic deeds. As Bower had achieved in his colophon to Scotichronicon, with which this chapter began, Barbour makes the case that storytelling gives pleasure: the story’s purpose is to delight. Yet, immediately following this is the qualification that truthful (‘suthfast’) stories that are told well are doubly pleasurable because of their subject matter as well as their form. The key word here is ‘suthfast’, which should be interpreted as meaning something like ‘verisimilar’ rather than true. This distinction is important because it enables Barbour to construct a narrative that is authentic and credible but that is not determined by objective truth.28 Thus, in narrating the life of Bruce in a poem ultimately supporting the Stewart dynasty, Barbour’s main concern appears to be the affirmation of the importance of male succession and the stability of the kingdom. In order to achieve this, 25 27 28

Kempshall, Rhetoric, p. 6. 26 Goldstein, Matter of Scotland, p. 3. Barbour, Bruce, 1.1–10. Van Heijnsbergen has written a chapter on the rhetorical strategies of the Bruce, which covers more ground than is possible in this chapter: see ‘Scripting the National Past’.

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he presents a heavily condensed version of the political complexities of the Great Cause (in particular, Bruce’s initial reluctance to commit to the national cause), and he deliberately conflates two Robert Bruces (Robert I and his grandfather) in the scene in which Edward I offers to elect Robert Bruce (the grandfather) as his vassal king. In refusing, Bruce (Robert I) states that he will only hold the ‘kynryk’ as ‘myn eldris forouth me / Held it in freyast reawté’, unlike John Balliol who assents to Edward’s terms of fealty.29 Significantly, in the Bruce Barbour makes no mention of William Wallace, who acted as regent for Balliol, and therefore conveniently glosses over the sticking point of Bruce staging a coup against a legitimate Scottish king. The story of the Bruce itself might be considered a foundation legend in its narration of the origins of the Bruce dynasty and its emphasis on the community of the realm, a defining – if contested – feature of Scottish historical writing.30 Its influence on later medieval Scottish historical writing is significant: Bower and other fifteenth-century chroniclers borrow from, or refer to, Barbour’s text and it certainly acted as a model for Hary’s Wallace. This is particularly evident when Bower skips over narrating the Battle of Bannockburn – unusual perhaps for such a nationalistic chronicle – pointing his readers instead to the book Barbour composed: ‘Master John Barbour . . . has made the case adequately in our mother tongue.’31 Wyntoun, who often prefers the inclusion of anecdotal, rather than documentary, information, cites the ‘Brwsis buk’ and repeats Barbour’s opening lines in his prologue to the Original Chronicle: ‘storyis to heire ar dilectable, / Suppose þat sum be nocht bot fable’.32 It is probably safe to assume that Wyntoun expected his audience to recognise the quotation. What can be ascertained here is that Scottish writers are keen to demonstrate that they are operating within a tradition of historiography that assumes an audience already familiar to some extent with the stories being narrated and who might be able to mentally create a network of historical narratives relating to Scotland. If Barbour omitted discussion of William Wallace’s involvement in the Wars of Independence, Wyntoun provides the earliest source for a number of episodes and, almost a century later, another poet sought to redress the balance, even adopting episodes from Barbour’s account of Bruce’s exploits and assigning them to Wallace. Written midway through James III’s reign 29 31 32

Barbour, Bruce, 1.158, 163–4. 30 G.W.S. Barrow, Robert the Bruce, pp. 292–311. ‘magister Johannes Barberii . . . in lingua nostra materna . . . satis . . . peroravit’. Bower, Scotichronicon, vi.318–19. Andrew of Wyntoun, Original Chronicle, vol. i, pp. 4, 31–2.

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(1460–88), Hary’s Wallace (c.1475) provides an equivocal reading of Brucean kingship in his portrayal of the events of the 1290s through to Wallace’s execution by Edward I in 1306. While Hary does not challenge Bruce’s right to succeed to the kingdom, he proposes that Wallace was the greater hero: Bot Bruce was knawin weyll ayr of this kynrik; For he had rycht we call no man him lik. Bot Wallce thris this kynrik conquest haile, In Ingland fer socht battail on that rik.

(2.356–9)

Hary’s poem is commemorative and seeks to establish Wallace as the ‘reskew of Scotland’ (1.38). At the same time, it is also a text that demonstrates an awareness of its position as historical composition and, as such, follows the models of its predecessors, including intentionally deploying historiographic tropes in his more fictional context through inclusions such as claiming as his source for the Wallace a ‘Latyne buk’ by ‘Maister Jhone Blayr’ (5.540, 533). For example, Hary provides a genealogy of Wallace at the beginning of the poem, calling to mind the legitimating strategies of early Scottish king-lists and contemporary chronicles. He strongly intimates throughout that Wallace’s mission is divinely sanctioned, an approach which aligns the narrative with Bower’s repeated insistences on God’s support for the Scottish cause in Scotichronicon. Hary also makes use of the blurred boundaries between historia, fabula, and fictio, incorporating dream narratives and shifting events to create a coherent story that is not only pleasurable but also to be understood as true to the spirit of Wallace’s campaign. One instance of fictio that Hary uses to patriotic effect is in his narrative of a meeting between Wallace and Bruce in Book 11. In the meeting, Wallace accuses Bruce of being ‘contrar thin awin’ people. When Bruce expresses remorse and vows ‘contrar Scottis agayn I sall nocht be’ the two are reconciled (11.594, 608). While we can be fairly sure this meeting did not take place, it is an event plausible within the narrative and chronology of the text. It is also a necessary incident for the Wallace because it allows Hary to manoeuvre Bruce into a position whereby he takes up the Scottish cause. Here Hary demonstrates that historical writing, adhering to rhetorical principles of verisimilitude, enabled writers to make sense of the past and harness its instructive possibilities in the present. This strategy is also evident at the beginning of the Wallace, where instead of indicating that ‘suthfast’ stories are pleasurable and carry moral

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weight, as Barbour and Wyntoun do, Hary argues that there is a moral obligation to read a certain type of history: Our antecessowris that we suld of reide And hald in mynde thar nobille worthi deid, We lat ourslide throw verray sleuthfulnes, And castis us evir till uthir besynes. Till honour ennymyis is our haile entent: It has beyne seyne in thir tymys bywent. Our ald ennemys cummyn of Saxonys blud, That nevyr yeit to Scotland wald do gud.

(1.1–8)

Matthew McDiarmid argues that, in writing these lines, Hary was directly criticising James III’s policy of pro-English marriage alliances, which had provoked renewed anxiety regarding Scottish independence. James was an active peacemaker and in 1474 pursued a deeply unpopular marriage alliance between his son and the youngest daughter of Edward IV.33 That Hary locates Scotland’s ‘ald ennemys’ firmly in England, allows him to accuse James of honouring those who previously sought to subject Scotland to their rule. Here, Hary uses history as a political tool, but he also hints at other ways in which historical writing might function; his invective suggests that there was a rigid division between England and Scotland, one that was not only geographic and political but also ethnic. As with the use made of genealogy, Hary’s use of ‘our antecessowris’ assumes a reader who will recognise, and relate to, the shared heritage being described. It might be considered a device to inculcate what could be understood as patriotism, similar to the Scotichronicon’s colophon: ‘Christ! He is not a Scot who is not pleased with this work.’ As a way of narrating this division, Hary includes detailed descriptions of the Scots’ raids into England, such as the ravaging of Northallerton and besieging of York. Where the early Gaelic historical writing had indicated a shared culture and site of exchange across the border with Ireland, what becomes apparent in later Scots narratives such as the Wallace is an assertion of the Scottish border with England as a site of conflict. In this way, geography becomes an important locus in Scottish and Anglo-Scottish historical writing, serving as an ‘organising principle’, to use Sarah Foot’s formulation elsewhere in this volume, that enriches our understanding of how space and place exerted a significant influence over medieval writers.34

33

McDiarmid (ed.), Hary’s Wallace, vol. i, p. xv.

34

See Chapter 8 above, p. 141.

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The Anglo-Scottish Border The Anglo-Scottish border region – commonly referred to as ‘the Marches’ – gave rise to continued debates between the English and the Scots and, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, several attempts were made to fix a definite boundary between the two kingdoms. The thirteenth-century Chronicle of Melrose recounts how, in 1190, William I (the ‘Lion’) of Scotland ‘gave ten thousand marks of gold and silver’ to Richard I so that he ‘might recover his dignities, liberties, and honours, which he had possessed’. William also hoped to ‘obtain possession of Berwick and Roxburgh, which king Henry [II] had detained from him by violence for sixteen years’.35 Melrose attests to the fact that the lands of the AngloScottish border were often in a state of flux, shifting from English to Scottish control (and vice versa) as English and Scottish kings sought to consolidate their power. This situation has significant implications for questions of identity in these regions; for, if a settlement frequently changed hands, did the people immediately affected by such a fluctuation consider themselves to be English or Scottish? By the midfifteenth century, Walter Bower was referring not only to an area called confinibus marchiarum (the neighbourhood of the borders), but was identifying the people who occupied that land as Marchiani (Borderers), indicating an ideological and cultural, as well as geographic and symbolic division, between this area and that of the rest of both England and Scotland.36 What constitutes an Anglo-Scottish border text is, however, still a matter for debate. How far north into Scotland and south into England does one go? Melrose acts as a particularly interesting case in the ways in which historical writers identified themselves and their location as Scottish. The annalistic chronicle was begun at a similar time to the founding of the abbey of Melrose by David I in 1136. In the first fifty years of its compilation, the chronicle indicates that the monks regarded themselves as English. However, in their stratigraphic analysis of the manuscript, Dauvit Broun and Julian Harrison have identified a sustained effort in the 1250s to furnish the chronicle with a complete account of the king of Scots, which reflected a shift towards the monks 35

36

Broun and Harrison (eds.), Melrose, pp. 26–7. ‘Anno. m.c.xc. Willelmus Rex Scotorum dedit Ricardo Regi Anglorum x milia marcas auri et argenti propter dignitates et libertates ac honores suos quos habuit ante guerram et pro Berewic et Rochesburh quas Henricus Rex per xvi annos uiolenter detinuit.’ London, BL, MS Faustina B. IX, fol. 25r (author’s translation). Bower, Scotichronicon, vol. vi, p. 310, vol. vii, p. 283.

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identifying as Scots.37 The Chronicle of Melrose might thus be understood as a border text reflecting the shifting identities of the inhabitants of the lands as people came into contact with each other. But could the same be claimed for Walter of Guisborough’s late thirteenth-century chronicle? Written in North Yorkshire, it perhaps would be considered too far south of the Solway–Tweed line, but there are significant Scottish connections to its place of composition: the Bruces were the founders and patrons of Guisborough Priory. If we think more broadly about Anglo-Scottish historical writing than geographic location, then Piers Langtoft’s chronicle deserves some discussion here. While a canon at Bridlington (Yorkshire), Langtoft wrote an Anglo-Norman verse chronicle covering material from Brutus to 1307. Demonstrating English loyalist and vehemently anti-Scottish sympathies, Langtoft tells of how the Scots ‘annihilated by burning’ the monasteries of Hexham and Lanercost and how ‘commonalty of Scotland . . . promises . . . to destroy England without having pity’.38 He even describes William Wallace as making a living from robbery in stark contrast to Hary’s fifteenth-century portrait.39 The work survives in at least fifteen manuscripts and was translated into English by Robert Mannyng of Brunne (c.1275–c.1338).40 It seems that the text was particularly popular in Yorkshire; copies are known to have been owned by the Augustinian canons of North Ferriby and Bolton, and also by the vicar of Adlingfleet.41 Similarly, the Furness chronicler also strongly favoured Edward I, whom it considered to be the bulwark against Scottish border raids. The Furness chronicle originally ended in 1275 but appears to have been restarted in 1289, possibly acting as a testament to Edward I’s appeal to history in relation to his dealings with the Scots. The chronicle was not continued after 1298. Indeed, for many northern English chronicles, the late thirteenth century (and what seemed like an English victory over the Scots) marked the end of historical writing in terms of major sources that have survived, in stark contrast to the increase in the production of Scottish histories.42 37 38

39 40 41

Broun and Harrison (eds.), Melrose, p. 10. ‘De Hexhilesham et Lanercost, ennentiz par arsouns . . . La commune d’Escoz se leve à cele fez / Et promette et vouwe à Deu en trinitez / Engleterre destrure saunz aver pitez.’ Langtoft, Chronicle, vol. ii, pp. 236, 300. For a more detailed discussion of both Walter of Guisborough and Piers Langtoft’s chronicles, see HW1, pp. 470–86. On Langtoft and Mannyng, see also Chapters 19 and 26 below. See Legge, ‘List of Langtoft Manuscripts’, p. 480. 42 HW1, p. 443.

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One chronicle that disrupts this is Sir Thomas Gray’s Scalacronica, an Anglo-Norman chronicle by a secular writer that was composed whilst Gray was a prisoner in Edinburgh Castle between 1353 and 1355. Presumably he made use of the material available to him during this time. Indeed, in recounting the history of the Scottish kings, Scalacronica assumes that their Irish identity is separate from the Pictish settlers, cognisant with the earliest historical writing extant in Scotland. He also notes that ‘there was never anything so difficult as fixing the right lineage of [the kings of Scotland]’.43 Given Gray’s position as constable of Norham, it might be expected that his chronicle would contain the type of antiScottish invective that characterises Langtoft’s work and the Lanercost Chronicle, but Scalacronica is, for the most part, far more measured in its detailing of Anglo-Scottish relations. While Gray does not hesitate to include instances of what he sees to be the Scots’ barbarity – his account of Wallace’s murder of Hugh de Cressingham is a particularly gruesome example – his sympathies seem very much to lie with the safety and stability of the border lands, which he did not see being protected by the English kings either. Like the fourteenth-century Lanercost Chronicle, which condemns Edward II’s failure to defend the north against the Scots, Scalacronica laments that Edward left his Marches in ‘graunt tribulacioun’ (‘great tribulation’) and ‘hardly troubled himself any more about Scotland, since through apathy, he had lost as much as his father had gained, and also all the fortresses in his English Marches.’44 What becomes clear is that, particularly from the thirteenth century, historical writers on both sides of the border relied on narratives of the past and that, for some of this time, both Scottish and Anglo-Scottish border historians engaged in what might be considered a politics of historical writing. Yet, there was also a good deal of exchange taking place across the Anglo-Scottish border, unsurprisingly given the levels of cross-border landholding before 1323. This exchange clearly extended to texts, as the Poppleton Manuscript (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS Lat. 4126) illustrates. Poppleton was compiled by, or for, Robert of Poppleton, prior of Hulne (near Alnwick) in the 1350s. Edward J. Cowan states that the manuscript’s contents derive largely from the library of the Austin friars of York. The exception to this is the 43

44

‘nestoit vnqes tiel difficoulte qi enserroit lour roys de droit lingue’. Gray, Scalacronica, pp. 16–17. For a discussion of Gray as a border historian, see Ash, ‘Friend or Foe?’; and Chapter 26 below, pp. 462–5. ‘Le Roy Dengleter ne se entremist geris plus rien deuers Escoce, tanqe il auoit perdu par peresce, tanqe soun pier auoit conquys, et auxi tot plain dez forteresses dedens sez Marchis Dengleter.’ Gray, Scalacronica, pp. 78–9.

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collection of texts, unique to this manuscript, that are concerned with Scotland; these include a Pictish king-list, a chronicle of the kings of Scots, and a foundation legend of St Andrews.45 From the earliest surviving historical writing in Scotland it is possible to see a concern with lineage, identity, and origins. This is not to say that articulations of these were understood in the same terms between the tenth and fifteenth centuries; rather, they trace a rhetoric of commonality through the period and beyond. Historical writing in Scotland continued well into the sixteenth century, with Bower’s Scotichronicon being the main source for John Mair’s pro-union Historia (1521) and Hector Boece’s Scotorum historia (1526).46 In their attempts to shape and recast Scottish history in king-lists, chronicles, and chivalric biographies, Scottish writers demonstrate a self-consciousness of their role in cultivating a communal Scottish memory through a shared imagining of its past. In rooting this history in the deep past, they also seek to establish an identity that, because it always has been present, is assured future continuity. While the major historiographical productions of late medieval Scotland seem to indicate that this construction of a distinctly Scottish identity was the result of Anglo-Scottish political tensions, the existence of the structures of this Scottish narrative prior to the end of the thirteenth century shows how Scottish writers were already shaping historical narratives around these ideas before the Great Cause and the Wars of Independence. To what extent we might determine these texts to be concerned with ‘national’ identity remains a difficult issue. In Scotichronicon, Bower emphasises regnum, gens, and patria over nacio, which does not assume a dominant force in Scottish historiographical writing until Boece’s sixteenth-century Scotorum historia. Similarly, while the Scottish borders were often sites of conflict and division, the writing of the period also points to their position as spaces of contact and exchange, both politically and culturally. Indeed, at times, the many Scottish borders (or certainly the divisions they represented) were integral to the historical imaginations of writers on both sides of the divide.47 45 46

47

Cowan, ‘Scottish Chronicle’. I am grateful to Robert MacLean (Glasgow) for his help in sourcing this article. The sixteenth-century chronicles are beyond the scope of this chapter, but the main material is worth listing here: John Mair, Historia maioris Britanniae (1521); Hector Boece, Scotorum historia (1526; repr. 1574); Bellenden’s translation of Boece (1530s); George Buchanan, Rerum Scoticarum historia (1582); John Leslie’s continuation of Boece (1570), translated by James Dalrymple (1578); Robert Lindesay of Piscottie’s continuation of Bellenden (1577–9). I am grateful to Mark Bruce for his comments and suggestions; any remaining errors are my own.

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chapter 14

London Histories George Shuffelton

Myth and Nation (500–1189 ce) After William the Conqueror’s victory at Hastings in 1066, a delegation including ‘all the chief men of London’ submitted to him.1 In the account given in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, this act of submission is followed immediately by William’s coronation at Westminster, with the implication that it provided him the necessary legitimacy to be crowned. The citizens of London stand in for all English subjects, a pattern repeated in subsequent histories. This account also looks back to prior accounts that gave London special symbolic importance, such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s account of King Alfred’s reconquest of the city in 886: ‘That same year King Alfred occupied London; and all the English people that were not under subjection to the Danes submitted to him.’2 The Domesday Book of 1086 is perhaps the most famous historical accounting produced by the upheaval of the Norman Conquest – an attempt to go back twenty years and pin down property rights at the moment before William’s arrival. But Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), written a generation later, is the Domesday Book’s correlative as an imaginative work of no less ambition and even greater influence.3 Written in the late 1130s, Geoffrey’s Historia reshaped (and fabricated) a new British history. The Trojan exile Brutus conquers the island of Albion, names the island Britain after himself, and in his first act of civilising authority founds a city called Troia Nova (New Troy) on the banks of the Thames.4 Geoffrey’s account of London’s origin concludes with a vision of its future governance: ‘After 1 2 3 4

ASC MS D, p. 81. ‘Ðy ilcan geare gesette Ælfred cyning Lundenburh, 7 him eall Ængelcyn to gecyrde [þæt] butan Dæniscra manna hæftnede wæs.’ ASC MS D, p. 29; Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, trans. Whitelock, p. 52. On the Historia, see also Chapters 4, 8, and 12 in this volume. HRB, pp. 30–1. On Geoffrey’s fanciful etymology, see John Clark, ‘Trinovantum’.

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Brutus built this city, he gave it to the citizens to live in lawfully, and he gave them a law code with which they might be governed in peace.’5 Here, too, Geoffrey’s legend of Brutus resembles the recent past of the Norman Conquest. In one of his first acts after his coronation, William the Conqueror granted to ‘all the citizens of London, [both] French and English’, all the rights and privileges they had enjoyed previously, ‘as they were in King Edward’s day’.6 The conqueror establishes his own authority by granting the privilege of (relative) autonomy. King William’s charter and Geoffrey’s history both acknowledge the disruption and discontinuity of London’s history. The city’s symbolic importance as the sign of consent between rulers and their citizens means that with each new set of rulers the myth must be recovered, reclaimed, and re-established. Geoffrey’s influence and the influence of this mythic dimension of London’s importance over nearly four centuries of British historiography proved pervasive. In the midst of a hostile contest over the city’s governance in the 1380s, opponents of mayor Nicholas Brembre accused him of plotting to change London’s name back to ‘Parva Troia’ and make himself the duke of Troy – an accusation that only makes sense if it could be seen as somehow possible, since London’s history was filled with similarly unexpected disruptions and refoundings.7 The sense that London had not always been London, and therefore might not always be London, came directly from Geoffrey’s Historia and the many writers who built on his work. The Norman poet Wace’s translation of Geoffrey’s Historia emphasises London’s many discontinuities and renamings, from Troia Nova to Trinovant to Kaer Lud (after a legendary British king Lud), to Ludoin, Londene, and the Londres of its current French-speaking rulers: ‘Through many great acts of destruction wrought by foreigners, who have often possessed the land, often seized it, often lost it, the towns and the regions all now have different names from those their founders gave them.’8

5 6

7 8

‘Postquam igitur praedictus dux praedictam urbem condidit, dedicauit eam ciuibus iure uicturis deditque legem qua pacifice tractarentur.’ HRB, p. 31 (translation mine). ‘Willelm kyng gret . . . ealle þa burhwaru binnan Londone, Frencisce & Englisce, freondlice. & ic kyðe eow þaet ic wylle þaet get beon eallra þaera laga weorðe þe gyt waeran on Eadwurdes daege kynges.’ Robertson (ed. and trans.), Laws of the Kings of England, p. 230. The accusation appears in Knighton’s Chronicon and Walsingham’s Historia Anglicana; see McCall and Rudisill, ‘Parliament of 1386’, 284 n. 25. ‘Par plusurs granz destruiemenz / Que unt fait alienes genz / Ki la terre unt sovent eüe, / Sovent prise, sovent perdue, / Sunt les viles, sunt les contrees / Tutes or altrement nomees / Que li anceisor nes nomerent / Ki premierement les fonderent.’ Wace, Roman de Brut, lines 1239–46.

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St Erkenwald, an alliterative Middle English poem from the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century, puts this unsettling sense of discontinuity at the centre of its plot.9 The poem relates the discovery of a perfectly preserved body buried underneath St Paul’s Cathedral and its reanimation by Bishop Erkenwald. The corpse turns out to be a pagan judge, whose story moves Erkenwald and the assembled Londoners to pity. Erkenwald’s tears fall on the dead justice, who then announces that this has been sufficient to baptise him, and that he is now saved. When the judge stops speaking, his body then crumbles into dust and mould. In its narration, St Erkenwald repeatedly jumps back and forth from the ‘now’ of its narrative to the many pasts of London: ‘Now þat London is neuenyd – hatte þe New Troie – / Þe metropol and þe mayster-toun hit euermore has bene’ (lines 25–6). The poem conceives of history as a complex set of receding viewpoints; this is a fourteenth-century poem set in the seventh century, looking backwards to the fifth and sixth centuries, and featuring a character from almost a thousand years before that. Like most medieval descriptions of the past, the poem is perfectly comfortable with certain kinds of anachronism; the social hierarchy of seventh-century London looks exactly like fourteenth-century London. Likewise, the poem sees London as in some ways continuous and unchanging: ‘a metropolis and a master-town in that time as now’. But at the same time, the poem offers up a London history that is radically discontinuous. With each change of religion, language, and rulers, its past becomes lost or illegible. When Erkenwald arrives at the tomb, the Londoners tell him that ‘We haue oure librarie laitid þes longe seuen dayes /Bot one cronicle of þis kynge con we neuer fynde’ (lines 155–6). Like the letters on the judge’s tomb, the past cannot be read without a divine miracle. And like the ancient judge’s instantly dissolving corpse, even when that past can be rediscovered, it only remains available for a few fleeting moments. This then is one kind of London history, a history that imagines the city as a palimpsest. ‘Sovent prise, sovent perdue’ in Wace’s words; often gained and often lost, founded, named, constructed, surrendered, forgotten, and rediscovered by succeeding waves of conquerors. London itself is imagined as continuous, but that continuity remains invisible or illegible to its inhabitants. Perhaps it is therefore more strictly accurate to say that these accounts of London emphasise a dialectic between the inescapable 9

Peterson (ed.), Saint Erkenwald, pp. 1–15. For further discussion, see also Chapter 7 above, pp. 127–8.

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otherness of the past and its continuing connection to the present. As Monika Otter points out of St Erkenwald, ‘An awareness of historical continuity always presupposes an awareness of discontinuity, and vice versa.’10 The disruption of the Norman Conquest, like the conquests of the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the vikings, and the Danes, meant that London was repeatedly cut off from its past, given the relatively few written sources about London’s history and the fact that many of those were either lost or written in a language that later generations could not read. Nonetheless there remained a strong sense that the city had been continuously occupied, and that if history could not connect the past to the present, myth and miracle could. And for many successive kings, this mythic sense of the city’s past allowed them to re-establish the fiction of consent between governor and governed by using the city as a figural representation of the nation.

Continuity, Figuration, Power (1189–1500 ce) After the Conquest, London grew rich and populous, with approximately 100,000 residents by the end of the thirteenth century. Though most of the population was still contained inside the perimeter marked by the old Roman Walls and the city was modest by continental standards, it was nonetheless approximately twice the size and three times as rich as any other city in the British Isles. The inhabitants were a cosmopolitan mix of native English, Germans, French, Flemish, Italians, and Jews. The city celebrated by William FitzStephen’s Description of London, a brief Latin encomium composed in the 1170s, prospered and acquired key privileges from a succession of royal administrations, including the right to elect its own mayors and aldermen.11 As London grew in importance, it became the nation’s centre of historical writing and archival preservation. In nearby Westminster, the Chancery and the Exchequer produced both the foundational documentary material for much written history (in writs, audits, etc.) and narratives in the form of legal pleas and records of judicial hearings. The Domesday Book was transferred from Winchester to Westminster with the relocation of the Exchequer in the twelfth century, and Greater London became the central repository of royal administrative history as well as the hub of its

10 11

Otter, ‘New Werke’, p. 390. For the text of FitzStephen’s Description, see Stow, Survey of London, vol. ii, pp. 218–19.

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production. London was dotted with archival centres, from the Tower in the east to the Rolls Chapel in Holborn and west to Westminster.12 Alongside the machinery of royal administration, powerful religious institutions preserved their own London histories. Westminster Abbey was its own site of historical production, particularly during the fourteenth century, when abbey monks wrote one of the most important accounts of the turbulent 1380s and 1390s.13 At St Paul’s, a continuation of the Flores historiarum (originally produced by the abbey of St Albans) up to the year 1341 documents events relating to the Cathedral and to the city in considerable detail.14 A resident of the Augustinian priory of St Bartholomew’s wrote a twelfth-century London history in a rather different genre. His Liber fundacionis ecclesie Sancti Bartholomei Londoniarum (c.1185, translated into Middle English c.1400) tells the story of its founder, Rahere (or Rayer), a dissolute lackey at the royal court who converts to a life of devotion.15 After recovering from an illness, Rahere receives a vision from the apostle Bartholomew telling him to found a church in the London suburb of Smithfield. The remainder of the text describes the many miracles witnessed in the church. London butchers, prostitutes, alewives, servants, merchants, and children all receive aid from prayers at the shrine, but so too do Northampton carters, Suffolk carpenters, Sandwich shipmen, and Flemish cloth merchants. The text thus depicts London’s ascendancy as the metropolitan centre of a large number of overlapping networks. This ascendancy was not without humbling setbacks. During the tumultuous reign of King Henry III, many Londoners supported the rebellion led by Simon de Montfort in the 1260s. When the forces led by King Henry’s son Edward eventually destroyed the opposition at the Battle of Evesham in August 1265, these Londoners found their position suddenly precarious. At Michaelmas two months later, the citizens selected their mayor and candidates for royal sheriff in accordance with civic rituals that had been developed over the preceding fifty years. On the next day the candidates processed to Westminster for official approval at the king’s Exchequer. The Londoners’ attempt to carry off this ritual at this tense moment may have been brave, but it resulted in failure: ‘On the morrow of Saint Michael, as the custom is, the Mayor and citizens proceeded to Westminster, to present them to the Barons of the Exchequer; but finding 12 13 14 15

Hallam and Roper, ‘Capital’. See also Chapter 20 below. Hector and Harvey (eds. and trans.), Westminster Chronicle. Printed as the Annales Paulini, in Stubbs (ed.), Chronicles, vol. i, pp. 255–370. Moore (ed.), Book of the Foundation.

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no one there, they returned home. And so, they were not admitted Sheriffs.’16 According to this account by a likely eyewitness named Arnald Fitz Thedmar, the citizens soon discovered why the offices in Westminster had been deserted: the king had declared the citizens his enemies, summoned all of his armed followers to Windsor, and was planning to lay siege to London. ‘Then was all the City in great alarm.’17 The crisis was eventually resolved with a massive fine levied on the citizens, a favourite ploy of displeased kings. But the account that records them is as notable as the events themselves. Composed by one of London’s own merchant elite, Fitz Thedmar’s Latin chronicle is the first recorded history of London written by a Londoner. It survives in a manuscript with the title Liber de antiquis legibus in the collections of the City of London, and extends from 1189 to 1274, although the entries before 1232 are very brief. It resembles a traditional monastic chronicle in the elasticity of its entries, which can be terse accounts of bad weather and natural disasters as well as lengthier narratives of political upheavals. But it differs from monastic chronicles not only in its authorship by a lay merchant, but also in its chronography. Each annual entry begins with the name of the mayor and two sheriffs of London, and thus its year begins on Michaelmas. This effectively puts London’s civic rituals on a par with more commonly used systems for marking the year in medieval chronicles, such as Christmas or the start of each regnal year. The novelty of Fitz Thedmar’s enterprise could be attributed to the increased sense of London’s importance and its citizens’ growing pride in their identity. But we should also recognise the pressures of royal power as an impetus for keeping civic records. Fitz Thedmar clearly pursues multiple specific goals, including preservation of his own precarious position among the city’s elite. As he continues his account of the aftermath of the Battle of Lewes, he explains that some advocated resistance to Henry’s threats of siege, ‘while the discreet men of the City, who always maintained their fealty to his lordship the King – although some part of them, but by compulsion, had given their adherence to the said Earl – would not assent thereto.’18 Fitz Thedmar’s desire to distance his position from others’ 16

17 18

‘In Crastino vero Sancti Michaelis, sicut consuetudo est, Major et Cives perrexerunt apud Westmonasterium ad presentandos illos Baronibus de Scaccario, et, nemine ibidem invento, redierunt ad propria. Et ita ipsi in Vicecomites non sunt admissi.’ Stapleton (ed.), De antiquis legibus liber, p. 77; Riley (trans.), Chronicles of the Mayors, p. 81. ‘Tunc perterrita fuit tota Civitas.’ ‘Set viri discreti de Civitate, qui semper fuerunt ad fidem Domini Regis, licet aliqua pars eorum prebuissent assensum dicto Comiti, sed per coactionem, noluerunt ad hoc assentire.’ Stapleton (ed.), De antiquis legibus liber, p. 77; Riley (trans.), Chronicles of the Mayors, pp. 81–2.

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suggests his vulnerability to accusations from the royalist party and from his fellow citizens.19 His chronicle can be read as an attempt to justify the choices made by the ‘discreet men of the City’, i.e. the ruling merchant class, and to justify their continued power as the stewards of London’s affairs. Fitz Thedmar angrily records how among the privileges lost after 1265 was the right to collect rents on London Bridge, rents that the city fathers had used for the bridge’s maintenance; when these rents were appropriated and given to the queen, the bridge went without repairs.20 London’s citizens naturally felt that they were the best administrators of their own city. Londoners clearly understood that if they wanted to regain their privileges, they had to recall what they were and prove that they had once held them.21 This seems to be the primary motivation for Fitz Thedmar’s chronicle, just as it was for the many monastic houses that used chronicles as an extension of the archival impulse to keep cartularies and other records of legal rights.22 When Henry III died a few years later, Edward I’s Quo warranto investigations forced landowners, institutions, and cities like London to prove their rights in court or lose them, and eventually fixed 3 September 1189 as the limit of human memory, or ‘time out of mind’.23 London chronicles, starting with Fitz Thedmar’s, begin in 1189, not because this was the first year London chose a mayor (royally appointed until 1215), but because by this legal standard London did not need to extend its administrative history any further. A generation after Fitz Thedmar, Andrew Horn, a fishmonger and civic official, undertook a massive documentary project inspired by more tense standoffs with angry kings. One of Horn’s works, the Annales Londoniensis, is a continuation of the widely circulated Flores historiarum, recast as a London chronicle. It narrates events from the citizens’ perspective (especially for the years from 1279 to 1307) and starts each entry with the Michaelmas elections of the mayor and sheriffs.24 Horn’s chronicle can be seen as an extension of his elaborate compilation of material related to London’s customs, legal privileges, and internal organisation, a volume known as the Liber custumarum.25 Horn’s project formed a documentary 19 20 21 22 23 25

Arnald’s vulnerability may have also stemmed from his status as a second-generation immigrant of German ancestry; see Stone, ‘Arnold Fitz Thedmar’. Riley (trans.), Chronicles of the Mayors, p. 147. For a fuller account of the struggles to gain and retain privileges from the Crown, see Caroline Barron, London in the Later Middle Ages, pp. 9–42. For a case study of such practices at Bury St Edmunds, see Chapter 11 above. Michael Clanchy, From Memory, p. 152. 24 Stubbs (ed.), Chronicles, vol. i, pp. 3–251. Catto, ‘Andrew Horn’.

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bulwark against the repeated encroachments of Edward I and Edward II.26 Horn left his work to the Guildhall, where it served as an essential resource for civic officials in the following two centuries. The impulse to continue a narrative history of London may not have been widespread in the fourteenth century, although a chronicle in AngloNorman French follows the same structure as Fitz Thedmar’s work (i.e. entries that begin with the mayor and sheriffs for each year) and extends from 1259 to 1343.27 But Horn seems to have had access to London records unavailable or unused by Fitz Thedmar, which suggests that other historical materials relating to the city were in circulation at the time, and clearly other citizens in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries shared this interest in preserving historical records of their city. London, BL, MS Egerton 2885 suggests the missing links that connect the thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century Latin civic chronicles to the Middle English chronicles in the fifteenth century. This manuscript, written and compiled at the very end of the fourteenth century, was likely created for a London fishmonger, given the inclusion of various royal charters, guild ordinances, legal cases involving thirteenth- and fourteenth-century fishmongers, and the regulation of wharves and markets such as Smithfield, Queenhithe, and Billingsgate. As in Horn’s manuscripts, the texts of specific interest to fishmongers are enfolded in a compilation of wider historical interest.28 The manuscript’s first item is a list of mayors and sheriffs beginning at 1189 and ending at the mayoralty of William More (1395–6). And as in the case of the narrative chronicles, the customary rights of the fishmongers and the city are closely connected to a broader interest in the nation. Wedged in between the mayoral list and the ‘statuta antiqua pissenariorum’ is an abbreviated world history describing the Six Ages, Brutus’ conquest of England, and the reigns of English kings down to Richard II. Taken as a whole, the manuscript demonstrates how the impulse to record civic history derived from a need to record legal precedent, and how the history of any one particular London constituency was seen as bound up in an overarching national history of royal authority. In the fifteenth century, London’s citizens began writing histories on an unprecedented scale. More than forty London chronicles, mostly in Middle English but also in Latin and French, survive from the mid26 27 28

Cf. Bahr’s observation (Fragments and Assemblages, p. 20) that ‘London depended for its very survival on continuously shrewd and competent textual management’. Aungier (ed.), Croniques de London. A translation appears in Riley (trans.), Chronicles of the Mayors, pp. 231–91. Debbie Cannon, ‘London Pride’, pp. 191–2.

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fifteenth century, and although they each copy much of the same material, none is exactly identical – suggesting that a wide range of scribes compiled them. All followed the same organisational principle established by Fitz Thedmar, beginning each annual entry at Michaelmas with the names of the newly elected mayor and sheriffs. Their scribal transmission evades easy analysis.29 While there may have been some official text that has now been lost, the surviving manuscripts show more signs of wide circulation and cross-pollination.30 And the compilers clearly register the existence of other copies circulating at the same time.31 Some are relatively cheap, possibly even homemade productions, such as London, BL, MS Harley Roll C.viii. Others, like BL, MS Cotton Julius B.ii, are clearly professionally produced copies, with elegant decorated initials. The manuscripts often place the chronicles alongside items of both local and national interest. In BL, MS Harley 565, a London chronicle is preceded by a brief world history from Creation down to 1431 (allegedly copied from a tablet in St Paul’s Cathedral), and is followed by Middle English verses on the victories of Henry V. In London, Lambeth Palace, MS 306, a chronicle appears alongside an abbreviated version of the Middle English Brut, and Lydgate’s ‘Verses on the Kings of England’ (copied as prose). The Middle English Brut is one of the most common travelling partners of the London chronicles, and the two were sometimes simply spliced together, as in Cambridge, Trinity College, MS O.9.1 and London, BL, MS Egerton 650. Evidence suggests that the textual traditions of the London chronicles and the Brut evolved side-by-side, another indication that civic history never became entirely distinct from national history (and that in many cases the two were seen as nearly synonymous).32 As historical narratives, many of the fifteenth-century London chronicles show a strong interest in documentary evidence, including in their entries royal letters, transcripts of parliamentary proceedings, and other official documents. Many also show a careful attention to the kind of 29 30

31

32

The attempt at a stemma by McLaren (London Chronicles, p. 211), demonstrates this complexity. Kingsford, English Historical Literature, pp. 99–112, posited the existence of a ‘Main City Chronicle’, perhaps kept at the Guildhall. Thomas and Thornley treated this hypothesis cautiously, and McLaren rejects it; Thomas and Thornley (eds.), Great Chronicle of London, pp. xxvi–xxix; and McLaren, London Chronicles, pp. 3–24. Cf. the note on fol. 111r at the end of the entry for 1418–19 in the Brut chronicle preserved in London, BL, MS Egerton 650: ‘Here is no more of the sege of Rone [Rouen] and that is be cause we wanted the trewe copy ther of bot who so euer owys this boke may wryte it oute in the henderend of this boke or in the forther end of it whene he gettys the trew copy.’ At a later date the same scribe then copied a London chronicle beginning at this point. HW2, pp. 220–48; Matheson, Prose Brut, pp. 13–15.

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evidence available to them; the writer of London, Guildhall, MS 3313, mentions the French invasion of Naples in 1495 but goes no further, ‘for soo much as the knowlage that I had was by wynd [i.e. gossip] and not by wrytyng Credyble’.33 They include some events of local interest, and as in Fitz Thedmar’s chronicle, they pay attention to the ways in which important privileges were retained or lost. For example, nearly every chronicle includes the city’s efforts in 1407 to destroy illegal fish weirs upstream and downstream on the Thames, ‘by cause they were ayens the cominalte and ffrauncheise off London’.34 They offer trenchant observations about city politics: the chronicle in London, BL, MS Cotton Vitellius A.xvi notes that no mayor relishes finishing a project begun by a previous mayor, because ‘the worship therof is ascrybed vnto the ffynder and to the begynner, and not to thender’.35 Some show a distinct class-based perspective: describing a royal wedding, one chronicler not only discusses the celebrants’ gold and furs, but explains that he knows the exact cost since he talked to the retailers who sold them.36 And some versions include compelling anecdotes of strictly local interest but with real human pathos. The chronicle in Guildhall, MS 3313 tells a story from 1445 of an armourer falsely accused of treason by his own backbiting servant. A day for trial by battle is set at Smithfield, and the armourer is confident of victory, since ‘he was a man of goodly stature & personage, where his adversary was a wrecchid Creature & lytyll of strength & stature’. But the armourer’s neighbours bring him spiced wines to boost his spirits on the day of the battle, and it backfires: the master gets drunk and is then slain by his servant. However, ‘that lorell [rascal] went not long afftyr unpunysshid for he ffyll afftyr unto such Ryot & misrule that he was lastly accused of ffelony & cast ffor the same & so hangid at Tybourn’.37 The fifteenth-century London chronicles thus do indeed feature something like a self-aware class of laypeople, whose increasing literacy and desire to hold onto hard-won privileges made them keen to record their own history. This has been how most scholarship has characterised the chronicles – as a way that Londoners were able to ‘express their civic pride’.38 There is no comparable tradition of city chronicles elsewhere in Britain; for the depth and richness of surviving copies the London chronicles exceed the records of Paris and may only be 33 34 35 36 38

Thomas and Thornley (eds.), Great Chronicle of London, p. 258. London, BL, MS Cotton Julius B.ii; Kingsford (ed.), Chronicles of London, p. 64. Kingsford (ed.), Chronicles of London, p. 188. Thomas and Thornley (eds.), Great Chronicle of London, p. 311. 37 Ibid., pp. 178–9. HW2, p. 222.

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matched by the various chronicles generated by the great towns of Germany.39 But if these London chronicles display civic pride and historical self-consciousness, we can equally find signs that citizens could not imagine a London apart from royal power and national politics, and that these forces completely dominate any sense of the city as an autonomous entity. The places that truly belonged to London – the wharves, markets, Guildhall, city walls, gates, and ditches – receive relatively few mentions in comparison to the parts of the city that represent royal authority: the Fleet and Newgate prisons, the gallows at Tyburn, and the Tower of London. Many entries read as grisly lists of traitors drawn and quartered, or heretics burned, with the other space dedicated to the French campaigns or the century’s bloody dynastic struggles. London’s own business and politics get much less attention. When London Bridge, which was the pride of Londoners like Arnald Fitz Thedmar, is mentioned, it is most often as a site where the heads of traitors were displayed. When Smithfield is mentioned, it is rarely for the markets or the games that were held there, and more often for royal tournaments or the burning of heretics. And when these chronicles mention Cheapside, the commercial thoroughfare of London, it is as the route of royal processions through the city. The figural connection between the city, the nation, and royal power forestalled any sense that London’s fortunes were separate from those of its monarchs or its nation. At many points, the London chronicles refuse to acknowledge directly the ways citizens were involved in national politics. In the accounts of a minor national crisis in 1425, when the land was ruled by the child king Henry VI’s powerful uncles, the Londoners’ motives are obscured. The chronicles relate how immediately after the mayoral election, the mayor and citizens mounted a defence of the city on behalf of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, against a possible incursion by the bishop of Winchester. Violence was avoided, and in many manuscripts the description of this curious event ends here, without any explanation of where this hostility came from, why such an incursion might have taken place, or why the Londoners might have sided with the duke of Gloucester and not the bishop. Only in a few manuscripts, such as BL, MS Cotton Julius B.ii, does the chronicle fill us in on the details. It 39

Gransden notes the brief chronicles that survive from Bristol and Northampton, HW2, p. 222 n. 47. For Paris, see Harding, ‘Medieval Documentary Sources’. On the German tradition, see DuBoulay, ‘German Town Chroniclers’. On the tradition of vernacular historiography more broadly, see Chapter 19 below.

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recounts Bedford’s return from France to settle the dispute, and includes the articles of the dispute as put to the king’s Council. In the course of these articles, we learn more about what was alleged to have happened in London, including Gloucester’s agitation of the Londoners against the bishop in the run-up to the standoff, and his plans to remove the child king from the control of the bishop’s allies in the Tower of London. But despite the strong suggestion of the chronicler’s support for Gloucester, it is the documentary evidence that speaks here – not the chronicle. The motives of the Londoners remain opaque, and the official narration of events forecloses the local perspective that seemed on the verge of being revealed in the chronicle’s account. If in some moments the London chronicles seem to portray their city as a silent partner in various national disputes, in many other moments they depict the citizens as mere spectators. London offered a perfect stage for the display of royal power, used time and time again for coronations, weddings, and celebrations of victories. These elaborate pageants, produced by Londoners, consistently emphasised the city’s subservience to royal authority. In his poem composed for the royal entry of Henry VI after his coronation in Paris in 1433 and preserved in multiple London chronicles, John Lydgate repeatedly describes the city as ‘The Kyngis Chambre’.40 Lydgate’s poem was read by citizens as part of this pageant, and its view of London as something akin to Westminster’s front lawn, the place where England could perform obedience to its king, remains fully in keeping with views expressed throughout the London chronicles. London’s usefulness as a national stage meant that the chronicles continually depict it as a site for negotiating the bond between the rulers and the ruled. In 1460, Edward the earl of March and son of the duke of York had strong support from Londoners as he attempted to overthrow the Lancastrian King Henry VI. He entered London, which had recently refused entry to his Lancastrian opponents, and rallied a crowd of supporters in St John’s Field: And then it was demaunded of the people whethir the seid Henry were worthy to Reygne still; and the people cryed, Nay! Nay! And then they axed, if they wold haue therle of March to be their kyng; and they seid Ye! Ye! Aftyr the which admyssion thus by the Commons assentyd . . . he thankid God and theym.41 40 41

Lydgate, ‘Henry VI’s Triumphal Entry’, line 530. London, BL, MS Cotton Vitellius A.xvi, in Kingsford (ed.), Chronicles of London, pp. 173–4.

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In this account, the assent of the Londoners stands in for the acceptance of the people of the realm at large. The unanimity of the Londoners’ voices is surely a fiction, and the suggestion that they fully represent the commons’ vox populi is even more tendentious. But no other English space, and no other set of English people, could claim to represent the realm so effectively. The long tradition of this synecdoche made this fiction viable, relying on many centuries of London histories back to the account of King Alfred’s capture of London in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.42 And it illustrates the same dialectic that goes back to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account of New Troy: the city’s special status gives it the ability to represent a nation, but that status is entirely dependent on being recognised by its kings – kings who need repeated reminders about London’s privileges. Or, to consider the problem slightly differently, if medieval London histories only very rarely represented the city in something like its real complexity, with its complex internal politics, its dynamic commercial activity, and its divergent voices, that is because the writers of these histories so often needed to represent the city as something else.43 The apotheosis of the London chronicle tradition is the work of Robert Fabyan, draper and alderman (d.1513).44 The chronicle in London, Guildhall, MS 3313, referred to by Kingsford and its editors as The Great Chronicle, cannot be attributed to him with certainty, but internal and external details strongly indicate his involvement in its material from 1485 to 1509 when he was a direct witness to many of the events described.45 This chronicle includes a variety of historical documents as evidence, and cites other texts by way of reference; the writing is rich, detailed, and carefully constructed. Fabyan folded his London chronicle into a larger project, his Newe Cronycles of England and Fraunce. In doing so, he returned the civic chronicle tradition back to the national narratives from which it had never fully separated, as has been seen in its relationship to the Brut tradition. Fabyan’s work became the foundation for two pre-eminently important sixteenth-century texts, Holinshed’s Chronicles and Stow’s Survey of London. Thus the London chronicles remained influential even when 42 43

44 45

McKisack, ‘London and the Succession’. Cf. Hanna’s comments (London Literature, p. xvii) about the ‘master narratives’ that require London to ‘reflect a universal metropolitanism, the very opposite of a resistant and fragmented locality’. McLaren, ‘Fabyan, Robert’. For further on Robert Fabyan, see Chapters 6 and 21 in this volume. For the latest evidence connecting Fabyan to the MS of the Great Chronicle, see Payne, ‘Robert Fabyan’, pp. 164–9.

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changes in literary taste made their form seem old-fashioned, and even when the Reformation and the suppression of various London civic rituals made their world seem almost as distant as the world of the pagan judge in St Erkenwald. The city’s historians had established a sense of continuity that would never be fully lost again.

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chapter 15

History at the Universities: Oxford, Cambridge, and Paris Charles F. Briggs

‘At one time kings kept, in monasteries founded by them, distinguished scribes for the books of the great doctors, and for chronicles, taking as their example the times of the ancient kings.’1 This remark by Thomas Gascoigne, that quintessential late medieval university man, seems to sum up what he and his fellow schoolmen thought of historical writing: it matters, but for the most part monks should write it, monastic libraries should house it, and great men should use it for purposes that are, broadly speaking, political. This, anyway, is how our contemporary scholarly consensus interprets what Gascoigne and his ilk thought of history: it was most definitely not their concern. History, after all, had no place in the so-called ‘division of the sciences’ (divisio scientiarum) worked out in the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and it ‘formed no part of the university curriculum’.2 Thus Bernard Guenée has assured us that clerks ‘were scarcely interested in history’, because ‘having been formed in the schools and universities’, they ‘had never been taught it for its own sake’.3 Likewise, in the estimation of Beryl Smalley, ‘The schoolmen did not write history even in their spare time. Aristotle, their philosopher, gave them no guidance in this field.’4 According to the more recent judgement of Matthew Kempshall, the schoolmen’s Aristotelianism not only gave them no guidance, but: Given the centrality of Aristotle’s teaching to the late medieval university curriculum, and given the centrality of Giles of Rome’s De regimine principum to the late medieval mirror-for-princes genre, the strictures issued against the narrative of particular historical exempla constituting the basis for any properly ‘scientific’ study formed a potent counterweight to any academic appreciation of the scholarly value of the subject.5 1 2 4

Quoted in Given-Wilson, Chronicles: Writing of History, p. 212. John Taylor, English Historical Literature, p. 30. 3 Guenée, Histoire et culture, p. 318. Smalley, Historians, p. 180. 5 Kempshall, Rhetoric, p. 478.

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This is not to say that the schoolmen entirely ignored history, for as Guenée points out, they assigned it some auxiliary value. Nonetheless, because that value was so limited, medieval scholars, bent on the study of logic and a ‘timeless’ theology, confined their historical reading to Peter Comestor’s Historia scholastica (c.1169–73) for the time before Christ and to Martin of Troppau’s Chronicle of Popes and Emperors (1268–77) for the time after Christ, reinforced by references to the Speculum historiale of Vincent of Beauvais.6 Broadly speaking, this negative assessment is correct. History was not taught as an autonomous subject in the medieval universities, and the only work of history that functioned as a ‘set text’ in the curriculum was Comestor’s Historia scholastica in the theology faculties. If, however, one looks more carefully, and in less conspicuous places, one can discern a dim and then increasingly brighter glimmer of historical interest at the universities. But first, a change in perspective is needed. Several assumptions about both the universities and history underlie the negative assessment of history’s place at the universities. The first is that there was some sort of ideal-typical ‘schoolman’, along the lines of Chaucer’s Clerk of Oxford in the Canterbury Tales, whose entire intellectual formation, interest, and output was conditioned by the curriculum, as narrowly defined by university statutes, and whose life and ambition were confined to the precincts of the schools.7 Yet no such ideal type existed, and the universities were more way-stations than destinations, whose members by and large regarded their time at university as preparation for a career beyond it. Connected to this is the tendency to regard the universities as homogeneous institutions, rather than the disparate collections of faculties, colleges, and personnel, both seculars and members of multiple religious orders, monastic and mendicant, that they in fact were. As for the assumptions about history itself, there is, on the one hand, the tendency, discernible in Smalley and Guenée, to look forwards to modern historicist/ positivist historiographical principles, and thereby to regard history’s nondisciplinary status in the medieval universities as evidence of its irrelevance there.8 On the other hand, a predisposition to admire the ‘literary’ qualities of historical writings produced in the renaissances of the twelfth and fifteenth centuries blames the universities and their obsession with 6 8

Guenée, Histoire et culture, pp. 26–7, 33, 107–8. 7 Briggs, ‘Clerk’. For further examples of this attitude, see Smalley, ‘Sallust’, p. 175: ‘The history of historiography centres on its struggle to free itself from the sister disciplines of ethics and rhetoric’; and Swanson, John of Wales, p. 46: ‘He [John of Wales] tells his stories for a moral purpose; he is not acting as a historian and makes no attempt to criticise his material.’

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Aristotle for creating a chilly climate for history among their members during the intervening centuries.9 Yet some of the insights of those who have formed this negative consensus point the way out of this dead end. Guenée, in disparaging the narrow moralising, doctrinal, and homiletic purposes to which Dominicans such as Vincent of Beauvais (d.c.1264) and Nicholas Trevet (d.c.1334) or the anonymous Franciscan compilers of the Gesta Romanorum consigned historiography, and Smalley, in uncovering the classicising bent of several late thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century English friars, in fact identify history’s very utility for university-trained readers.10 For what this audience looked for in history, as Janet Coleman has recognised, was not a ‘factually accurate past’ or an evaluation of ‘the literal events of the past in their own terms’ but rather the past’s ‘present usability, its imitability’ and ‘a moral message that had no historical depth’.11 In other words, what really mattered was the timeless message contained in the language of the texts, rather than a past reality that one could access by means of these texts: ‘History was not an examination of the pastness of the past, but rather an examination of contemporary texts and texts from the past, whose language could tell readers some more general truth about how men live in the world, praising a timeless truth and eschewing vice.’12 When history is viewed in this way, any distinction between it and moral instruction, or between it and classicism largely dissolves. Thus texts which we moderns would classify as classical literature, like Lucan’s Pharsalia, or as collections of moral exempla, like the Franciscan John of Wales’s Communiloquium (c.1265 to c.1269/70) and Breviloquium (before 1265), satisfied the requirements of being historical texts in the eyes of learned medieval readers. Vincent of Beauvais, Nicholas Trevet, and John of Wales (the latter two belonging to Smalley’s ‘classicising friars’) also had very close associations with the universities. Vincent is assumed to have been a student at Paris, and both Trevet and John of Wales studied and taught at Paris and Oxford.13 For Vincent and his team of fellow Dominicans who compiled 9 10 11 13

Southern, ‘Classical Tradition’, pp. 12–14; Southern, Scholastic Humanism, pp. 18–19, 52–4. Guenée, Histoire et culture, pp. 55–8; Smalley, English Friars. Coleman, ‘Uses of the Past,’ pp. 26–7. 12 Ibid., p. 27. For Vincent of Beauvais, see Paulmier-Foucart and Duchenne, Vincent de Beauvais, pp. 15–17. Trevet was at his order’s studium at Oxford from the 1280s to 1307, where he studied and taught theology: John Taylor, English Historical Literature, p. 32; James G. Clark, ‘Trevet, Nicholas’; HW1, pp. 501–7. John of Wales was lector in the Oxford convent in 1259–62, and then a student (from the late 1260s) and the Franciscans’ regent master in theology (1281–3) at Paris: Swanson, John of Wales, pp. 4–14.

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the Speculum historiale (as well as the rest of the Speculum maius), the primary purpose of their enterprise was the educational needs of their confreres studying to be lectors in theology at the Paris studium. Trevet’s interest in classical and Bible history was already apparent in his commentaries on Augustine’s De civitate Dei and Seneca’s Tragedies; and he turned to the writing of history itself during the years 1320–34 when he was lector of the London Black Friars.14 John of Wales also combined an interest in classical history and literature with the educational needs and pastoral and preaching requirements of his fellow Franciscans. Several other English mendicants with university ties demonstrated a keen interest in history. In the first decades of the fourteenth century, two other members of Smalley’s group of classicisers, Thomas Waleys and Robert Holcot, studied theology at Oxford’s Dominican studium, with Holcot also serving as regent master of the order there (1334) and at Cambridge (1334–6). Holcot, whose Moralitates furnished many of the classical exempla which later found their way into the Gesta Romanorum, may also have helped the bishop of Durham, and former Oxford student, Richard Bury, write his Philobiblon, a work packed with allusions to classical history and literature.15 Waleys’s interest in Roman history is especially apparent in his additions to Trevet’s commentary on De civitate Dei, where he repeatedly supplies material from Livy’s Ab urbe condita.16 Beyond Smalley’s classicising group, three Franciscan chroniclers, Thomas of Eccleston, Richard of Durham (aliter Richard de Slikeburn), and Thomas Otterbourne, all had close associations with Oxford, and the historians and Augustinian friars of Lynn, Ralph Marham and John Capgrave, both studied theology at Cambridge.17 Historical and classicising interests are also possibly revealed in the extracts from several Roman authors, including Valerius Maximus, compiled by the Oxford scholar and Franciscan Geoffrey Wighton in the years following the Black Death.18

14 15 17

18

The Cronycles, Historia ab origine mundi ad Christum natum, and Annales sex regum Anglie: James G. Clark, ‘Trevet, Nicholas’. 16 Swanson, ‘Wales, John of’. Tugwell, ‘Waleys, Thomas’. Eccleston pursued studies at Oxford between 1235 and 1253; Durham likely studied there in the late 1200s and acted as an agent in the founding of Balliol College; and Otterbourne was lector of the Oxford Franciscans c.1340 and obtained the doctorate in theology there by 1343: John Taylor, English Historical Literature, pp. 32–3; HW1, pp. 487–90, 494–501. Marham (d. after 1389) wrote a Manipulus chronicorum ab mundi initio usque ad sua tempora: Summerson, ‘Marham, Ralph’; Richard Sharpe, Handlist of Latin Writers, p. 450. Capgrave (d.1464) was a prolific author of saints’ Lives and chronicles, including the Abbreviacion of Cronicles and the Liber de illustribus Henricis: Lucas, ‘Capgrave, John’. In Cambridge, CUL, MS Mm.2.18: James G. Clark, ‘Friars and the Classics,’ p. 149.

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Prior to the later 1300s, the group most closely associated with medieval historical writing, the Black Monks, only produced a single representative of the university-educated historiographer in the prior of the Benedictine house at Evesham, Thomas of Marlborough (d.1236), who after having studied and taught canon law at Paris and Oxford, wrote a history of his abbey. Yet after the establishment of a significant Benedictine presence at Oxford during the early and middle years of the 1300s, several scholarmonks turned their talents to the writing of history.19 In the second half of that century, three Westminster monks who had studied at Gloucester College, Oxford, produced, or contributed to, histories. Richard Cirencester, who studied at Oxford in 1364–5, wrote ‘a historical work delving into the remote past’ called Speculum historiale de gestis regum Angliae, which, though it shows little sign of ‘the learning of the schools or the authorship of a mind which they had helped to form’, does nonetheless suggest some classicising tendencies in its vocabulary.20 Contributing a learned treatise on the English coronation regalia to this historiographical project was the Oxford theologian and fellow Westminster monk William Sudbury, who spent nearly a decade at Gloucester College in the 1370s and 1380s.21 The third monk, Richard Exeter, has been identified by the modern editors of the Westminster Chronicle as the most likely candidate for having composed it. He studied at Oxford for at least one, and possibly for as many as five years in the 1370s, and at his death in 1396/7 he left a library containing three books of history: a copy of Higden’s Polychronicon bound with what was probably Francesco Pipino’s commentary on Marco Polo’s Travels; Guido delle Colonne’s Historia de Troia; and Comestor’s Historia scholastica.22 Another monkstudent at Gloucester College, John Moorlinch of Glastonbury, owned, and likely compiled, the historical anthology and index now found in a manuscript of c.1400.23 Cirencester’s preference for classical vocabulary and the contents of Moorlinch’s book – John of Salisbury’s Policraticus, Solinus’ Collectanea 19

20 21 22 23

The Benedictine colleges at Oxford were Gloucester (founded 1283/98), Durham (1286), and Canterbury (1363): Sheehan, ‘Religious Orders’, pp. 213–20; Highfield, ‘Early Colleges’, p. 233. For estimates of the number of Benedictines studying at Oxford in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, see James G. Clark, Monastic Renaissance, pp. 62–4. On Westminster as a centre of historical writing, see Chapter 14 above, pp. 247–9. Barbara F. Harvey, ‘Monks of Westminster’, pp. 120–6; Hector and Harvey (eds. and trans.), Westminster Chronicle, pp. xxxi–xxxiii. Hector and Harvey (eds. and trans.), Westminster Chronicle, pp. xxxvi–xxxvii. Ibid., pp. xl–xliii. Oxford, Bodl., MS Laud Lat. 4: James G. Clark, Monastic Renaissance, p. 212.

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rerum memorabilium, Eutropius’ Breviarium ab urbe condita, and the Historia adversus paganos of Orosius – alert us to another important feature of Benedictine historical scholarship in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, this being its strongly classicist bent. Nowhere was this brand of scholarship more actively pursued than at St Albans during and shortly after the time of its great historian Thomas Walsingham (c.1340–c.1422). In a number of recent studies, James Clark has presented a convincing case for a ‘renaissance’ of historical and classical studies during these years at St Albans and several other English Benedictine houses. He has also argued that the close ties between these monasteries and the Benedictine colleges at Oxford played a significant role in this cultural efflorescence. Walsingham himself, after all, pursued studies at Oxford, ‘although there is no evidence that he emerged from the university a graduate’, as did several other classicising monk-historians, including the later abbot of St Albans, John Whethamstede (d.1465), the monk of St Augustine’s, Canterbury, Thomas Elmham (d.c.1426), who authored the Liber metricus de Henrico Quinto and Cronica regum nobilium Angliae, and the monk of Bury and author of the Troy Book and Fall of Princes, John Lydgate (d.c.1450).24 Clark’s identification of the close contacts between monastic and university culture towards the end of the Middle Ages cautions us not to make too firm a distinction between a presumed historiographical fertility at the monasteries and a contrasting sterility at the universities.25 And his work, taken together with the evidence of university-educated mendicants’ interest in classicism and history in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, argues against the commonly held assumption of a yawning Aristotelianscholastic gulf between the classicist and historical tastes of intellectuals in the twelfth century and those that were imported from Italy in the middle years of the fifteenth.26 Finally, Clark has connected this flourishing of monastic classical and historical studies with the broader phenomenon ‘of a new enthusiasm for classical and literary studies amongst students and scholars of theology’ at the universities.27 Confronted by Wyclif’s heterodoxy and the attendant Lollard heresy, as well as by the schism in the Church, defenders of orthodoxy, including Walsingham, the Franciscan William Woodford (d.c.1400), the Carmelite Stephen Patrington (who, 24 25 26 27

James G. Clark, Monastic Renaissance, pp. 163–238. See also HW2, pp. 345–55, 371, 471–86. On classicism and historical writing, see Chapter 10 above. See also James G. Clark, ‘Monastic Manuscripts’, pp. 335–52. James G. Clark, ‘Friars and the Classics’, pp. 142–51. James G. Clark, Monastic Renaissance, p. 215.

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Alison McHardy has plausibly suggested, might be the author of the Gesta Henrici Quinti),28 and the bishop of Lincoln and founder of Lincoln College, Oxford, Richard Flemming (d.1431), all looked to historical as well as biblical and classical sources for confirmation of doctrinal arguments and for useful moral exempla and models of eloquent speech when crafting their sermons.29 Although an interest in historical study at the universities can be discerned at the intersection of mendicant and monastic learning, classicism, and concerns for doctrinal purity and pastoral care, the fact remains that most, and probably all, the histories and chronicles so far mentioned were likely not written while their authors were at university. To get a better sense of history’s place at the universities, therefore, it behoves us to consider which historical works or works with historical content could be found in the institutional libraries at the universities and in the book collections of individual university scholars. In a pioneering article published in 1977, Jean-Philippe Genet attempted to determine the historical interests of English university men in the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries by way of reconstructing the occurrence of historical works in their collective (i.e. university and college) and individual libraries, and then submitting the results to statistical analysis.30 His findings, admittedly based on very partial evidence, suggested more than negligible interest on the part of this readership. Historical works constituted 5 per cent of the books in the universities’ institutional libraries: a small but not insignificant representation.31 Furthermore, he determined that in the libraries of the 68 men in his data-set who had studied at either of England’s universities, 7 per cent of their books belonged to the category of history. Most of these scholars (23) were theologians and 15 showed no evidence of having proceeded beyond the arts course.32 In addition, 17 had degrees in law and 7 in medicine. The theologians (at just over 9 per cent) and artists (all from sixteenth-century Oxford, at 12 per cent) also had the highest percentages of history books in their collections.33 In the same article, Genet also determined the occurrence of titles of historical works in the libraries of both the universities and their colleges and of a number of ‘collectivités ecclésiastiques’ (monastic and cathedral 28 29 30 32 33

d.1417. McHardy, ‘Religion’, pp. 142–7. James G. Clark, Monastic Renaissance, pp. 210–17; Catto, ‘Wyclif and Wycliffism’, pp. 197, 206, 260–1. Genet, ‘Essai’. 31 Ibid., p. 553. For a further six, there is no indication of their area of specialisation. Genet, ‘Essai’, pp. 545–50.

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libraries). The most numerous by far was Peter Comestor’s Historia scholastica (96 copies), a hardly surprising finding, given that this was, along with Peter Lombard’s Sentences, a required text of the theology curriculum. Various lives of St Thomas of Canterbury took second place (35 copies), closely followed by various works related to the ‘Troy cycle’ (30), Eusebius’ Historia ecclesiastica (29), Sallust’s Catilina and Jugurtha and Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica (21 and 20), Josephus’ Antiquitates and Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon (both at 16), Lucan’s Pharsalia (15), and Justinus’ Epitome of Pompeius Trogus, Vegetius’ De re militari, Livy’s Ab urbe condita, Martin of Troppau’s Chronicle of the Popes and Emperors, and Valerius Maximus’ Facta et dicta memorabilia (all at 14).34 Since the publication of Genet’s article our knowledge of the holdings of English medieval libraries has been substantially augmented thanks to the appearance of several volumes in the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues series, including, for the purposes of this study, Peter Clarke and Roger Lovatt’s volume on The University and College Libraries of Cambridge. Taking this new evidence as well as other sources not consulted by Genet into account, and excluding the information assembled by Genet which pertained to non-university libraries and the libraries of the sixteenth century, and his category of saints’ Lives, I have updated and expanded his findings.35 Because the libraries of the medieval universities and their colleges were stocked largely with books obtained through the donations and bequests of their founders and current or former members, and by the occasional, but at times considerable, gifts of royal, noble, or ecclesiastical patrons, it makes sense to begin by considering the evidence of their books containing works with historical content. I have identified 82 thirteenth- to fifteenth-century owners and/or donors of such works, who owned/donated a total of 229 items (see Table 1). The clustering of dates suggests that the old scholarly consensus on the schoolmen’s neglect of history other than Comestor’s Historia scholastica indeed applies to the thirteenth century, but cannot be sustained for the remainder of our period. The data in Table 1 show that interest in history was already demonstrable at the universities and among its scholars in the 34 35

Ibid., p. 552. In addition to the material in Clarke (ed.), University and College Libraries, for Cambridge, the information throughout for ownership, donations, and requests, unless signalled otherwise, is found in Powicke, Medieval Books; R. Weiss, ‘Earliest Catalogues’; Mynors, Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Balliol; Ker, Records of All Souls; Courtenay, ‘Fourteenth-Century Booklist’; Humphreys, Friars Libraries; Emden, Biographical Register of Oxford; Emden, Biographical Register of Cambridge. I did not have access to Thomson, The University and College Libraries of Oxford at the time I compiled my information on Oxford.

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charles f. briggs Table 1: Date Clusters of Book Owners/Donors

Time period s. xiii (no other indication of date available) s. xiii/xiv s. xiv1 s. xivmed s. xiv2 s. xiv/xv s. xv1 s. xvmed s. xv2 s. xv (no other indication of date available) TOTALS

Number of Owners/ Donors

Number of Items

1 (1*)

1

2 (2*) 10 (4*) 7 9 (3*) 8 (2*) 11 (4*) 18 (1*) 13 3

2 14 16 28 19 14 96† 37 3

82 (17*)

229

(*) Comestor only. † Includes the 26 items donated by Humphrey of Gloucester to Oxford.

first half of the fourteenth century, that it grew in the fifteenth, and that the middle years of that century saw an enormous influx of donations and bequests to the universities and colleges of historical works. This midcentury bulge resulted in part from more individuals donating, but even more so from the impressively large gifts of the Italian humanist-inspired book collectors Robert Flemming (MA Oxford, BTh Padua), William Gray (MA Oxford), bishop of Ely, and Humphrey, duke of Gloucester to, respectively, Lincoln and Balliol College, and the University Library, Oxford.36 Some other notable owners and donors were John Staveley (d. c.1360; MA, BTh Oxford), who left five historical works to Merton College; Thomas Lexham (d.1382; DCnL Cambridge), who donated four items to Clare Hall; William Rede, bishop of Chichester (d.1385; MA, DTh Oxford), donor of six books of history to Merton and a further two to New College; John Newton (d.1414; BCL and DCL Cambridge), who left nine historical works to Peterhouse; James Goldwell, bishop of Norwich (d.1499; DCCnL Oxford), with his six historical works to All Souls; John Warkworth (MA, BTh Oxford; DTh Cambridge), who gave six books of 36

For Duke Humphrey’s gift, see Anstey (ed.), Epistolae Academicae Oxon., II.179–84, 232–7. For cases of earlier cross-channel networks, in this case with Germany and Scandinavia, see the chapters of Tyler and Gazzoli.

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history to Peterhouse; and Robert Wodelarke (MA, DTh Cambridge), with his nine books of history to St Catherine’s College. It should be noted that most of these men and many of the other owners/donors enjoyed impressive careers beyond the universities as prelates, ecclesiastical and government administrators, diplomats, and close associates of those in power. They were, in short, what Jacques Verger has called gens de savoir, ‘men of learning’, who employed the knowledge and skills obtained from their extensive schooling out in the world of affairs.37 They also moved easily between the universities and the larger world. And even those who did not obtain high office beyond the precincts of the universities played important roles at the universities, as teaching masters, and as founders, masters, and wardens of colleges. One imagines that many did not obtain most of their books of history while at university; but they nonetheless saw fit to give these books to their university colleagues, and did so because, at least in part, they thought their colleagues would find them useful. As in Genet’s study, most (34) of these owners/donors were theologians, followed by a sizeable group of 16 to perhaps as many as 26 arts graduates.38 Only 8 obtained degrees in law (and half of these went on to be bishops), while the graduates in medicine are represented by the single example of Thomas Bloxham, a fellow of Merton in the mid-fifteenth century who gave his college a copy of Roger Waltham’s Compendium morale. The preponderance of theologians (and perhaps too all those canonist bishops) seems in keeping with the close association already observed between the study of history and the demands of pastoral care and preaching. Table 2 lists historical works owned by and donated to six of the Oxford colleges and the Oxford University Library and owned by and donated to Cambridge’s colleges and University Library prior to 1500.39 Like Genet, I found that the Historia scholastica was by far the most common historical work (49 copies). And although my findings confirm the popularity of several of the other works at the top of Genet’s list, in mine the Polychronicon (either 15 or 16 copies), and the Speculum historiale (13 or 14 copies) take second and third place. Again, my findings corroborate Genet’s discovery that the taste for historians of antiquity grew in the course of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, likely owing in part to 37 38 39

Verger, Men of Learning. If the individuals are omitted for whom evidence of ownership is limited to the Historia scholastica, the numbers are: 29 theologians and 10 to 22 arts graduates. This table does not include information about the books owned by the monks John Moorlinch and Richard Exeter.

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Peter Comestor, Historia scholastica Ranulf Higden, Polychronicon Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale John of Wales, Communiloquium Valerius Maximus, Memorabilia Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica Roger Waltham, Compendium morale Bede, Historia ecclesiastica Josephus, De bello Iudaico Josephus, Antiquitates Lucan, Pharsalia Livy, Ab urbe condita Guido delle Colonne, Historia Troiae Sallust, Catilina and Jugurtha John of Salisbury, Policraticus John of Wales, Breviloquium Justinus, Epitome of Pompeius Trogus Plutarch, Lives Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia regum Britanniae Julius Caesar, De bello Gallico Macrobius, Saturnalia

Work 26 11 9

0 1 4 0 0 2 0 1 1 2 0 4 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1

26 (18)* 10 (10) 5 (5) 3 (5) 5 (4) 4 (3) 5 (5) 6 (5) 4 (4) 6 (5) 4 (3) 3 (2) 0 3 (3) 3 (1) 2 (2) 4 (3) 5 (4) 1 2 (2) 1 (1)

3 2

5 1

3 5 6 5 7 5 8 4 7 1 4 4 2 5

Oxford Total

Duke Humphrey

Oxford Colleges†

1 2 (1)

0 3 (2)

8 (4) 6 (1) 4 (3) 5 (2) 2 (1) 4 (2) 0 4 (1) 0 5 (4) 2 (1) 2 (1) 3 (1) 0

23 (11)* 4/5 (4/5) 4/5 (2)

Cambridge Total

Table 2: Frequency of Historical Works at the English Universities

4 4

5 4

11 11 10 10 9 9 8 8 7 6 6 6 5 5

49 15/16 13/14

Both Univs Total

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0 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 26 9 35

2 (2) 1? (1?) 0 0 2 (2) 1 (1) 0 2 (2) 3 (3) 2 (2) 3 (3) 3 (1) 120/1 34 154/5

3 146/7 43 189/90

1 0 2 3 3 3

1/2 1 1 3

2

0 96–8 26 122–4

2 (1) 3 (2) 1 0 0 0

2 2 (1) 2 (1) 0

2 (2)

3 242–5 69 311–14

3 3 3 3 3 3

3/4 3 3 3

4

† Six Oxford Colleges: All Souls, Balliol, Lincoln, Merton, New, Oriel * Numbers of owners supplied in parentheses. Two copies attested (20 total; 12 Oxford [1 from DH], 8 Cambridge): Aelred of Rievaulx, De genealogia regum Anglorum (Oxford and Cambridge); Dares Phrygius, De excidio Troiae historia (DH to Oxford, and Cambridge); Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum (trans. of Ambrogio Traversari; Oxford); Henry of Huntingdon, Historia Anglorum (Oxford and Cambridge); Jean Hautfuney, alphabetical tabula to Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale (Oxford); Ralph Marham, Manipulus chronicorum (Cambridge); Marianus Scotus, Chronicon (Oxford); Richard de Bury, Philobiblon (Oxford and Cambridge); pseudo-Walter Burley, De vita et moribus philosophorum (Oxford and Cambridge); William of Malmesbury, Historia regum (Oxford and Cambridge).

Martin of Troppau, Chronica pontificum et imperatorum Vegetius, De re militari Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae Cassiodorus, Historia tripartita Dionigi da Borgo San Sepolcro, Comm. on Valerius Maximus, Memorabilia Freculf of Lisieux, Chronica Frontinus, Stratagemata Gesta Romanorum Hugh of Fleury, Historia ecclesiastica Suetonius, De vita Caesarum Thomas Waleys, Comm. on De civitate Dei Walter of Chatillon, Alexandreis Total of three or more copies Total of one or two copies TOTAL COPIES

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One copy attested (49 total; 31 Oxford [8 from DH], 18 Cambridge): Annals of English Kings, from Edward III to Henry VI, as well as John and Edward I (Cambridge); Appian, De bellis civilibus, in translation of Pier Candido Decembrio (Oxford); Bede, Gesta abbatum (Cambridge); notes on Benvenuto da Imola’s Lectures on Lucan, Pharsalia (Oxford); Boccaccio, De viris illustribus (Oxford); Boccaccio, De claris mulieribus (Oxford); Brut chronicle (Cambridge); ‘Chronica dicta “scala mundi”’ (DH to Oxford); Cornelius Nepos, De viris illustribus (Oxford); ‘Cronica’ (Oxford); ‘Cronica quedam’ (Cambridge); ‘Cronica in anglis in rotula’ (Cambridge); ‘Cronica qui sic incipit Cornelius’ (Oxford); Dictys Cretensis, Ephemeris belli Troiani (Cambridge); Eulogium historiarum (DH to Oxford); Flores historiarum (Matthew Paris?; DH to Oxford); ‘Genealogia ducum Normannorum’ (Cambridge); Gerald of Wales, Topographia Hibernica (Oxford); Gildas, De excidio Britanniae et conquestu (Oxford, according to Bale); Guillaume of Nangis, Gesta sancti Ludovici et regis Philippi (Cambridge); Haimo of Fleury, De abbreviatione historiarum (Cambridge); Haimo of Halberstadt, Chronicle (Oxford); Helinand of Froidmont, Chronicon (Cambridge); ‘Historie chronicales Anglie, Francie et aliorum regionum’ (Cambridge); John of Hildesheim, Chronica trium regum (Oxford); John Lydgate, Fall of Princes (Cambridge); Jordanes, Historia Gothorum (Oxford); ‘Liber nouus de historiis biblie’ (Oxford); ‘Liber chronicorum’ (Cambridge); Quintus Curtius, Historia Alexandri (Cambridge); Paul the Deacon, Historia Romana (Oxford); Ralph of Diss, Ymagines historiarum (Cambridge); Robert of Chester, Chronica mendosa et ridiculosa Saracenorum (Oxford); ‘Rotula quedam de cronicis’ (Cambridge); extensive list of glosses on Sallust, Catilina and Jugurtha (Oxford); Stephen Eyton, ‘Chronicon de Edwardo secundo Anglorum rege’ (Oxford, according to Bale); Thomas of Elmham, De vita et gesta Henrici V (Oxford); Thomas Rudborne, Breviarium chronicorum (Oxford); alphabetical tabula to Valerius Maximus, Facta et dicta memorabilia (Oxford); ‘Vita Camilli’ (DH to Oxford); ‘Vita Cimonis et Lucilli’ (DH to Oxford); ‘Vita Demetrii’ (DH to Oxford); ‘Vita Marci Antonii’ (DH to Oxford); ‘Vita Romuli’ (DH to Oxford); ‘Vita Willelmi nobilissimi regis Anglorum’ (Oxford, according to Bale); William de Bougavilla, Chronica (Cambridge); William of Malmesbury, Gesta pontificum (Oxford); ‘Abreviacio Willelmi Malmesburiensis ex gestis Haymonis de Imperatoribus’ (Oxford).

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the influence of the ‘new learning’ of Italian humanism, but also to the classicising currents discussed above. Also notable in my findings are the several collections of historical and classical exempla among the most common works, these being the Communiloquium of John of Wales, Valerius Maximus’ Facta et dicta memorabilia, and Roger Waltham’s Compendium morale. The last of these gained an especial following among English scholars, especially in the fifteenth century. Waltham, who was active in the first four decades of the fourteenth century, was a royal clerk, canon of St Paul’s, London, and chancellor of Bishop Antony Bek of Durham. There is no evidence of his ever having studied at university. Nonetheless his authorship of the Compendium morale and his likely ownership of a book (Glasgow, University of Glasgow Library, Hunter MS 231 (U.3.4)), which betrays a special affection for the ancient philosophers Seneca, Aristotle, and Plato, strongly suggest that he shared the intellectual tastes of his universityeducated contemporaries. Like John of Salisbury’s Policraticus and John of Wales’s Breviloquium, the Compendium morale is a kind of ‘mirror of princes’, since its explicit purpose is to exhort princes to practise the virtues and shun vice.40 Like them it does so by narrating dicta and exempla, most of which are drawn from classical and more recent historical sources. The work is divided into thirteen ‘Rubrics’, each devoted to one or more of the virtues necessary for successful and righteous governance. In the rubric on how ‘princes and other rulers and leaders should fear God and honour ecclesiastics’, for example, Waltham tells the story of King John, who was punished by Pope Innocent III for his mistreatment of the English Church.41 In a later rubric devoted to how ‘rulers and their ministers should avoid vices . . . especially those most damaging to the republic, namely pride, ambition for honours . . . ’42, he narrates several exempla, including this one about the Roman emperor Vespasian: the ancients not only did not seek power and lordship but fled from them or accepted them only under compulsion, and then mostly for the good of the republic. As Hegessipus in book 4 and Hugh of Fleury in his Chronicle relates of Vespasian, when he was at the siege of Jerusalem, rumour of the civil wars blazed up, namely that the emperor Otho had been killed and that Galba in the seventh month after he had taken power was similarly killed. 40 41 42

Briggs, ‘Moral Philosophy and Wisdom Literature’, pp. 302–5. ‘Quod principes et omnes presidentes et prefecti timeant deum, personas ecclesiasticas honorent.’ Oxford, Bodl., MS Bodl. 805, fol. vir (translation mine). ‘Quod presidentes in se et in suis ministris caveant a viciis . . . maxime contra reipublice magis nocivis que sunt superbia, honorum ambicio . . . ’ Ibid., fol. viv (translation mine).

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charles f. briggs Then the senior men of the army chose Vespasian, a man vigorous and mature in character and mighty in battle, urging that he take up the imperium. He however chose to refuse and to declare himself unworthy. Then as they insisted and he most persistently resisted, the soldiers surrounded him threatening death with their swords. He, gravely perceiving the hazard and danger that threatened him if he should have continued to avoid it, thus chose unwillingly on account of those imposing, rather than accepting voluntarily, that which others were accustomed to seek; thus when soldiers beset him and generals urged him, did he take on the imperial guardianship rather than the honour.43

At least fifteen copies of Waltham’s Compendium are extant, all of English origin and most from the fifteenth century. The earliest of the ten attested copies with a university provenance is the ‘treatise called Waltham’ (‘tractatus vocatur Waltham’) bequeathed by John Lenne, rector of Kedington, Suffolk, to Clare Hall, Cambridge in 1375.44 The rest of the owners were active in the fifteenth century; one, Thomas Graunt (d.1471), a theologian and fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, and, like Waltham, a canon of St Paul’s, London, compiled an extensive alphabetical index to the Compendium. Lenne’s bequest and Graunt’s index are evidence of two important aspects of how university scholars read and used historical texts: one being the connection they drew between history and moral philosophy, and the other their tendency to reorder historical narratives, breaking up their linear progression into smaller bits rearranged alphabetically or thematically in various kinds of practical aids, whether for study, pastoral care, or giving counsel. The other named text in Lenne’s bequest was a ‘certain treatise on the rule of princes’ (‘quemdam tractatum de regimine principum’). Likely this was a copy of Giles of Rome’s popular mirror for princes De regimine principum, a work whose utility as an aid to the study of moral philosophy (the part of the university arts curriculum which 43

44

‘antiqui non solum non ambiebant potestatem et dominacionem sed fugiebant vel coacti accipiebant et hoc tunc maxime propter reipublice utilitatem, ut narrant Egesippus li. 4. et Hugo Floriacensis in cronicis de Vespasiano, cum esset in obsidione Ierosolomitana civilium bellorum rumor in exercitu convaluit videlicet Othonem imperatorem interfectum et Galbam septimo mense a die assumpte potestatis similiter occisum. Tunc viri veteres milicie elegerunt Vaspasianum [sic] virum strenuum et maturum et moribus validiorem ad preliandum, rogantes ut susciperet imperium. Ille vero cepit abnuere et se indignum asserere. Illi vero instabant et ille resistebat perseverancius reluctantem armati circumsistunt gladiis mortem minantes qui advertens grave discrimen et periculum sibi imminere si ulterius refugisset, ita pocius invitus cepit imponentibus, quam accepit voluntarius quod alii ambire solent, urgebant milites suadebant duces sic que curam plusquam honorem imperialem induit’. Ibid., fol. 143r–v (translation mine). Clarke (ed.), University and College Libraries, p. 710.

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included ethics, economics, and politics) made it a common item in the libraries of the universities and their colleges during the later Middle Ages.45 The combination in several manuscript books of works associated with the study of moral philosophy with those containing historical content suggests a taste for mixing historical exempla with moral philosophical doctrine.46 Additionally, several university-affiliated owners/donors of books with historical content besides Lenne possessed copies of moral philosophical texts.47 The penchant either for creating various kinds of finding aids or for rearranging textual matter either alphabetically or thematically was pioneered during the late twelfth and thirteenth century by the religious, and especially the mendicant orders in their efforts to create practical tools to aid them in teaching, preaching, and assigning penance. Such texts, as well as the related tool of the commentary, became standard tools in the universities during the fourteenth century.48 Several of these tools – the works of John of Wales, Nicholas Trevet, Thomas Waleys, Robert Holcot, and Roger Waltham, with Graunt’s index – have already been mentioned. Others were an alphabetical index to Valerius Maximus, as well as the commentary on that same text which the Augustinian friar and Paris theologian Dionigi da Borgo San Sepolcro compiled c.1340. Both were 45 46

47

48

For this, see Briggs, Giles of Rome, pp. 91–107; and Briggs, ‘Moral Philosophy in England’. Extant manuscripts of English origin/provenance that combine De regimine principum with texts having historical content are London, BL, Royal MS 12.B xxi, Oxford, Balliol Coll., MS 146a, Oxford, Bodl., MS Auct. F.3.2 (all with Vegetius, De re militari); Oxford, Bodl., MS Auct. F.3.3 (with Vegetius, De re militari and the Liber de gestis Alexandri Magni); Cambridge, CUL, MS Kk.2.11 (with John of Wales, Communiloquium); Durham, Cathedral Library, MS B.III.24 (with Roger Waltham, Compendium morale); London, BL, Arundel MS 384 (with Robert Holcot, Moralitates); Oxford, Bodl., MS Laud Misc. 645 (with Guido delle Colonne, Historia Troiae); Oxford, Jesus College, MS 12 (with Jacopo da Cessole, De ludo scaccorum). Cambridge, St John’s College, MS 120 combines extracts from John of Salisbury’s Policraticus with abbreviated material from Aristotle’s Ethics and a Tractatulus de virtutibus moralibus, and Hereford, Cathedral Library, MS O.VI.2, which belonged to John Otteley, a fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge in the 1460s–1470s, combined the Breviloquium and Communiloquium of John of Wales with Engelbert of Admont’s Speculum virututum and an extract from Aristotle’s Politics. Also, in addition to the texts in Lenne’s bequest, there was a book at Syon Abbey that combined alphabetical indexes on De regimine principum and the Policraticus with the text of William of Pagula’s Speculum regis Edwardi III. For these, see Briggs, ‘Giles of Rome, pp. 155–69; and Briggs, ‘Moral Philosophy in England’, pp. 377, 382, 387. They are Alexander Bell (d.1474, to Balliol College), William Burnell (d.c.1304, to Merton College), Robert Flemming (d.1431, to Lincoln College), Thomas Gascoigne (d.1458, to Balliol and Lincoln Colleges), William Gray (d.1478, to Balliol College), John Hurt (d.1476, to Clare Hall and Godshouse, Cambridge), John Newton (d.1414, to Peterhouse), William Rede (d.1385, to Merton College), John Sheppey (d.1360, to Rochester Cathedral), and Robert Wodelarke (d.1490s, to St Catherine’s College). Parkes, ‘Influence of Ordinatio and Compilatio’; Rouse and Rouse, ‘Statim invenire’.

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given by William Gray to Balliol College in the mid-1400s; he likely had obtained them in Italy. Two other copies of Dionigi’s commentary resided in fifteenth-century Oxford, one given to Merton in the mid-1400s by the college’s master, Henry Sever, and the other being among the books given by Duke Humphrey to the University Library. In the donation of 246 books (including six books of history) given to New College, Oxford, by its founder, the royal courtier and bishop of Winchester, William Wykeham, was a copy of the massive alphabetical index to Vincent of Beauvais’s Speculum historiale which Jean Hautfuney, who was King Philip V of France’s procurator at the papal court in Avignon (and later bishop of Avranches), compiled c.1320.49 In the first half of the fifteenth century, the archdeacon of Oxford, ‘magister’ John Southam, gave a second copy of this index to Lincoln College. This chapter has argued that we should not consign the history of historical writing at the medieval universities to the dustbin. True, the universities were not centres for the writing of history. Nonetheless we have seen that many alumni of England’s universities wrote, purchased, and read historical works, and then thought it fitting to donate these works to their university colleagues. It is also true that history was not a taught subject at the medieval universities, but scholars there used historical texts for purposes ranging from the writing of sermons to the study of grammar and rhetoric, moral philosophy, and pastoral theology. Moreover, when they left the precincts of the schools and actively engaged in the affairs of administration and governance, politics, and pastoral care, they clearly appreciated the value of the lessons taught by historical texts. Thus we find some of them making this lore available to their lay counterparts by means of translations. In fourteenth-century France, Simon de Hesdin and Nicolas de Gonesse translated Valerius Maximus, Pierre Bersuire Livy, and Jean de Vignai the Speculum historiale: all had studied at the University of Paris.50 Likewise the consummate university intellectual Nicole Oresme included in his translation of Aristotle’s Politics for King Charles V copious glosses packed with material drawn from classical and biblical history.51 In the last decades of the same century, the Oxford scholar John Trevisa translated Higden’s Polychronicon and Giles of Rome’s De regimine principum for his noble patron, Thomas Lord Berkeley.52 As to what these

49 50 52

Leach (ed.), ‘Wykeham’s Books’; Paulmier-Foucart, ‘Jean Hautfuney’, pp. 19–25. Dembowski, ‘Learned Latin Treatises’; Monfrin, ‘Traducteurs’. 51 Oresme, Politiques. Hanna, ‘Sir Thomas Berkeley’.

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scholars found especially valuable in history, these words of Jean Hautfuney serve as well as any: Because therefore in the Speculum historiale, among many other things which are treated there, are contained the deeds and words of illustrious men by whose example, by the elegance of whose bearing, and by the authority of whose words, and as it were by infinite examples, miracles, and authorities whatsoever vices can be condemned and virtues be recommended, in sermons and in the schools, and whence many efficacious arguments and several solutions to many difficult questions can be obtained . . .53

Thomas Gascoigne, who owned and gave three, and possibly four, books of history to the libraries of Lincoln and Balliol College, would surely have agreed. 53

‘Quoniam igitur in speculo hystoriali inter multa alia que tractantur ibidem continentur gesta et dicta virorum illustrium quorum exemplo gestorum elegancia ac auctoritate dictorum quasi infinitis exemplis miraculis et auctoritatibus possent in sermonibus et in scolis quecumque [vicia] detestari et suaderi virtutes, necnon unde possunt sumi quamplura efficacia argumenta et solutiones nonnulle ad multas difficiles questiones . . . ’ Paulmier-Foucart, ‘Jean Hautfuney’, p. 48.

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part iii

Practice

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chapter 16

The Professional Historians of Medieval Ireland Katharine Simms

Medieval Ireland was unusual in supporting a multitude of paid professional historians or senchaide, graduates of specialist schools where the curriculum combined chronological studies and ecclesiastical history inherited from the early Christian monasteries, with the mythical and genealogical lore of the bardic poets. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the senchaid or historian is that he fulfilled a necessary social function and was rigorously trained and highly paid to do so. He was not a mere court propagandist, although this was indeed an aspect of his trade and may have proved the most financially rewarding one by the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Beginning with the origins of this institution within the system of Old Irish customary law, this chapter will discuss the merging of written prose studies with the verse lore of the poets inside the Church schools, before the expulsion of secular subjects from the ecclesiastical curriculum during the twelfth-century Church reform led to the establishment of independent secular schools in the high Middle Ages, and eventually to their sponsorship by the Anglo-Irish aristocracy for propaganda purposes in the early modern period. What appears to be the original form of the word, senchae, occurs in the earliest Irish law texts. It has been etymologised as ‘old witness’,1 conjuring up a picture of a primitive stage in society when the oldest inhabitants in a village were the indispensable source of information on both the laws and customs traditionally observed in the community and the boundaries and genealogical relationships necessary to establish landownership. By the period of the first written law texts in the vernacular (late seventh to early eighth centuries), senchaid has already become a formal title, ‘a custodian of tradition’, ‘because it is on the lore of the custodians of tradition (senchus na senchad), and the clarification (rellad) of the custodians of tradition that the court relies’.2 1 2

McCone, ‘OIr. senchae’, pp. 8–9. Fergus Kelly, ‘Old Irish Text’, pp. 93–4. See also Simms, ‘Charles Lynegar’, pp. 267–9.

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This development of a special class of ‘old witnesses’ seems to have arisen from the need for a guarantee that they would not only remember things past, but they would tell the truth about them. Honesty ranked with long memory as an essential characteristic of a senchaid.3 In another early European society this might have been considered sufficiently safeguarded by administering an oath on the Gospels, or taking the evidence of a cleric. Early Ireland had inherited from pagan times an order of learned, professional praise-poets4 who rivalled the clergy in esteem, and as with the false verdicts of a king or a judge, false utterances of praise or satire by poets were expected to incur divine punishment.5 Moreover, the business of concocting formal eulogies for kings and nobles required the top rank of poets to have a correct knowledge of their battle careers, their genealogies, the boundaries of their territories, and the dues owed by their subjects.6 Relying on learned poets as ‘old witnesses’ or ‘guardians of tradition’ had the added advantage of extending the reach of memory. The phrase ‘the common memory of two old men’ (‘comcuimhne da tsean’) cited as one of the sources of Irish tradition in the Old Irish prologue to the Senchus Már (Great Tradition, an early eighth-century compendium of customary law),7 probably referred originally simply to the need for contemporary corroboration of one old man’s statement, and more particularly to the Gospel verse: ‘It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true’ (‘Et in lege vestra scriptum est, quia duorum hominum testimonium verum est’).8 However, the phrase was subsequently glossed as ‘Senior hands down to Senior, i.e. master to disciple; and it is this which preserves it to another; i.e. the common memory which the two seniors had.’9 An old poet, with a professional obligation and under a supernatural sanction to utter truth, who passed on his memory to a young apprentice poet similarly dedicated to truthfulness, created a memory preserved by ‘overlapping lifetimes’ which could take its place beside eyewitness testimony in relation to establishing land boundaries.10 In turn that young poet would grow old and pass on the memory of tradition to his own pupils. 3 5 6 7 8 9 10

4 Kelly, ‘Old Irish Text’, pp. 93–4. Rankin, Celts, pp. 271–4. See McLeod, ‘Concept of Law’, pp. 359–60; Ó Cathasaigh, ‘Curse and Satire’; Liam Breatnach, ‘On Satire’; McCone, ‘Tale of Two Ditties’. Dillon (ed.), Lebor na Cert, pp. 120–3. Welsh bards were required to have a similar training: see Chapter 12 above, p. 209. Hancock et al. (ed. and trans.), Ancient Laws of Ireland, vol. i, pp. 30–1; CIH, vol. ii, p. 346: 5. John 8:17, and see Deuteronomy 17:6. ‘Tidnaig sen do sen’.i. maigistar do deisgipal, 7 is eiside ni imacomai do nach ailiu .i. cuimne cumaide do bí ac in da sen’. Plummer, ‘Some Passages’. Ibid.

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Church Schools and the Development of Pseudo-History This felt need to authenticate oral tradition was overtaken by the advent of Christianity and the establishment of Church schools in Ireland. At latest by the second half of the seventh century, the development of a system of writing in the Irish vernacular using the Latin alphabet had begun a process by which the most learned of the native poets, those who might be thought of as ‘custodians of tradition’, became literate. They initiated in turn a fusing of systems described in the law tract Córus Bésgnai (The Ordering of Discipline), as a ‘comúaim n-ecalsa fri túaith’, ‘a sewing together of Church and State’.11 These native literati in the Church schools12 wrote tracts on Irish customary law (omitting such practices as were considered contrary to the Word of God13), genealogies of their kings extending back to include Noah and Adam, ‘son of the living God’ (thus avoiding less acceptable divine ancestry),14 and versions of pagan myths framed to drive home Christian morals.15 In addition, they embraced new concepts of history and the measurement of time derived from late Roman models. St Columbanus, writing c.594, boasted to Pope Gregory I about ‘our teachers . . . the former scholars of Ireland . . . mathematicians most skilled in reckoning chronology’ (‘nostris magistris et Hibernicis antiquis philosophis et sapientissimis componendi calculi computariis’).16 A long-standing Celtic interest in calendars17 was quickened by the seventh-century controversy about the correct date of Easter, and even Church calendars based on the old eighty-four-year cycle began to acquire marginal entries in Latin noting current events of interest, providing the raw material for a more deliberately compiled ‘Chronicle of Ireland’(c.740), incorporating material from Bede’s Chronica maiora. Over time entries in the Irish language became increasingly frequent in this chronicle,18 which came to serve as the lost 11 12 13 14 15

16 17 18

CIH, vol. ii, p. 529: 4; McCone, Pagan Past, pp. 25–6, 83, 145, 158, 244. Charles-Edwards, ‘Context and Uses’. McCone, ‘Dubthach maccu Lugair’, pp. 9, 13–14; McCone, Pagan Past, pp. 90, 92. Doherty, ‘Kingship’, pp. 21–2. Carey, ‘Interrelationships’, pp. 88–9; McCone, Echtrae Chonnlai; McCone, ‘Aided Cheltchair mac Uthechair’; McCone, ‘Tale of Two Ditties’; Ó hUiginn, Marriage. On the concept of ‘virtuous pagans’, see Chapter 7 above, pp. 128–9. Columbanus, Sancti Columbani opera, pp. 6–7. On the monastic computus, see Chapter 1, pp. 23–4, and Chapter 2, p. 45, in this volume. MacNeill, ‘Calendar of Coligny’. See Chapter 10, pp. 175–7, on use of the vernacular in historical writing; and Chapter 2, pp. 39–40, on the Chronicle of Ireland.

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archetype for the majority of annal entries for the early period found in late medieval Irish annal collections.19 The Synchronisms of Eusebius, originally in Greek, were accessible to Western readers in Jerome’s Latin translation and continuation to c.378, the ‘Eusebius-Jerome Chronicle’, versions of which formed an early section of many early medieval monastic chronicles.20 It held the double attraction for Irish scholars of an exact measurement of time and a blending of biblical with secular history. An Irish World Chronicle was developed for the prehistoric period, based on additions to the Synchronisms, cataloguing legendary Irish kings and successive invasions and colonisations by which Ireland was thought to have been populated after Noah’s Flood.21 This history was combined with the biblical genealogies awarded to the ancestors of contemporary Irish kings to create a chronological framework for Irish prehistory into which all subsequent mythical narratives were fitted. In its early Latin form it crossed the Irish Sea and was absorbed into the ninth-century Historia Brittonum (associated with the name of Nennius).22 Not only the ancestry of Irish kings but their language was given a quasi-biblical derivation. Bishop Isidore of Seville (d.636) was very highly thought of in seventh-century Ireland, and his Etymologies were styled the culmen or apex of human knowledge.23 In his discussion of the separation of human languages as punishment for the Tower of Babel, Isidore lists these languages as amounting to seventy-two,24 without mentioning Gaelic. This absence led his Irish admirers to conclude that the Gaelic language was invented subsequent to the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel. Progressive elaborations and the use of Isidore’s method of discovering origins through etymology led them to state that the forerunner of the plain people of Ireland (Féni) was Fénius Farrsaid (‘F. the Persian’?), that he was an inspired entrepreneur who set up a language school by the Tower of Babel and ten years later ‘the school asked him to extract a language out of the many languages such that they only would speak it or anyone who might learn it from them’. 19 20 21 22 23 24

Ó Croinin, ‘Early Irish Annals’; Charles-Edwards, The Chronicle of Ireland, vol. i, pp. 1–2, 23, 44–5. Evans, Present and the Past, pp. 118–26. Morris, ‘Chronicle of Eusebius’; Charles-Edwards (ed.), Chronicle of Ireland, vol. i, pp. 2–3; MacNeill, Celtic Ireland, pp. 25–42, 186–7; Ó Concheanainn, ‘Lebor Gabála in the Book of Lecan’. Dillon (ed. and trans.), ‘Lebor Gabála Érenn’. See, e.g., Nennius, Historia Brittonum 3, pp. 67–70, esp. p. 69: ‘sic mihi periti Scottorum nuntiaverunt’. Herren, ‘Earliest Irish Acquaintance’; Ó Máille, ‘Authorship of the Culmen’. Isidore, Episcopi Etymologiarum, Lib. ix, ‘De gentium vocabvlis’.

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The first speaker assigned to this language was Goídel, who thus gave his name to Goídelic or Gaelic.25 From this comparatively simple beginning the learned poets developed a lively narrative of the origins of the Gaelic-speaking inhabitants of Ireland, which included the employment of Fénius as architect of the Tower of Babel, a meeting between Moses and the early lawgiver of the Irish race, Caí Caínbrethach (‘C. the fair-judging’), the elopement of Nél son of Fénius with Scota, daughter of Pharoah, and the travels of the Gaels through North Africa and Spain to Ireland. This tale was developed as a separate narrative in the long poem Can a mbunadus na nGael (Whence is the Origin of the Gaels?) by the learned poet Máelmura [Fh]othna (of the monastery of St Mura of Fahan, Inishowen, County Donegal, d.887).26 Later it was combined with the biblical genealogies and prehistoric migrations of earlier inhabitants noted in the Synchronisms to form the elaborate Middle Irish compilation Lebor Gábala Érenn or Book of the Taking of Ireland occurring in various recensions in manuscripts from the twelfth to the seventeenth century, and given a spurious intellectual respectability when painstakingly relayed by Geoffrey Keating with queries and criticism in his seventeenth-century Foras Feasa ar Eireann.27 A surprisingly influential origin myth, it became a touchstone of nationalism in seventeenthcentury Ireland, as Sir Henry Piers explained in 1682: you shall meet with one or more antiquaries, as they are termed, that is deducers of their pedigrees, in every great family, who will with as much confidence and assurance, rip up even to Adam, such a person’s progenitors . . . nevertheless they are forced by the way to step into Spain, and then again to touch at Egypt, in both of which places I dare to venture my credit, very little will be found on inquiry, that can sustain their confident deductions. As for England they love it not so well as to honour it with their pedigrees; and yet in all likelihood this island must have been first peopled out of it.28

The same origin myth was recounted in medieval Scotland but there, as the court at Edinburgh became more and more distanced from its Gaelic roots, the role of Ireland as a stopping place on the journey from Egypt was gradually edited out.29 25 26 27 28 29

Ahlqvist, Early Irish Linguist, pp. 47–8. For the later medieval version with accretions, see Calder (ed.), Auraicept na n-Éces. Todd (ed.), Irish Version of the Historia Britonum, pp. 220–7; Scowcroft, ‘Leabhar Gabhála Part I’. Macalister (ed. and trans.), Lebor Gabála Érenn; Comyn and Dinneen (eds.), Foras Feasa ar Éirinn; Scowcroft, ‘Leabhar Gabhála Part II’. Piers, ‘Chorographical Description’, p. 109. Broun, Irish Identity. See also Chapter 13 above, p. 234.

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Fusion of Ecclesiastical and Bardic Learning The learned poet Máelmura [Fh]othna demonstrates in his own person the fusion of secular and ecclesiastical knowledge which shaped senchas, or the historical lore in the vernacular that blossomed in the Church schools of the Middle Irish period (900–1200 ce). His obit in the Annals of Ulster styles him ‘righfiled Erenn’ (‘chief poet of Ireland’), and he is credited with a poem in praise of Flann Sinna, high king of Tara (d.916).30 An early quatrain added in the margin of Annals of Ulster by Hand I calls him a ‘senc[h]aidh amra’, an ‘illustrious historian’,31 while the 1636 comprehensive compilation of earlier annals by the ‘Four Masters’, in addition to calling him ‘file’ and ‘seanchaidh’, gives him the ecclesiastical title of ‘staraidhe’, from the Latin historicus, ‘a historian’.32 This was a noble title. The Old Irish law tract Uraicecht Becc (The Little Primer), which is around ninth century in date and of Munster provenance, lists seven grades of ecclesiastical scholarship in addition to the seven orders of the clergy, stating ‘the man of a fourth of mastership is equal in franchise to an aire désso’ (the lowest rank of the nobility).33 An accompanying gloss identifies this fourth grade from the top as the staraigi or historian, and an approximately eleventh-century commentary adds that in the case of a historian who has been instituted by the king of a great territory, his honour-price and status are advanced to second place from the top, directly after the suí litre or fer léigind, the ‘sage of letters’ (grammarian). He would then enjoy the title of tánaisi suad or ‘deputy sage’ which was otherwise reserved for the biblical scholar, the suí canóine.34 The eleventh-century historian who most closely approximated to this description was the prolific Flann Mainistrech (d.1056), fer léigind or lector of the monastery of Monasterboice in County Louth, ‘great sage of the Irish both in Latin learning and traditional lore’ (‘tiugsháoi na n-Gaoidheal etir leigenn 7 sencus’),35 ‘the Gaels’ author both in literature and history 30 31 32 33 34

35

‘Flann for Érinn hi tig toghaidhi’, Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MSS 23.P.2 (‘The Book of Lecan’), fol. 8v; 23 K 32, p. 207. Mac Airt and Mac Niocaill (eds.), The Annals of Ulster (to A.D. 1131), pp. 342–3 (886/7 ce). AFM, vol. i, pp. 534–7 (884 ce). MacNeill, ‘Ancient Irish Law’, p. 279; Hancock et al. (ed. and trans.), Ancient Laws of Ireland, vol. v, pp. 102–3; CIH, vol. v, p. 1615: 10–11; Liam Breatnach, Companion, p. 316. Hancock et al. (ed. and trans.), Ancient Laws of Ireland, vol. v, pp. 110–11; CIH, vol. v, pp. 1615: 10–11, 1618: 16–24. I am indebted to Professor Liam Breatnach for the opinion that linguistic criteria suggest an approximate eleventh-century date for the commentary to this tract. Hennessy (ed.), Chronicum Scotorum, pp. 241–2 (1056 ce editorial date).

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and poetry and versification’ (‘ughdar Gaidhel, etir léighind 7 tsenchus 7 filidecht 7 airchedal’).36 He wrote historical poems in compliment to the greatest kings of his day, and some of these have been analysed by Eoin MacNeill, who concluded that the history and traditions they contain are the fruit of Flann’s reading of prose records, such as the monastic annals, and lists of past kings which included the number of years each had reigned.37 From the seventh century onwards the ability to write in the vernacular made the use of poetry as a mnemonic to preserve tradition unnecessary. Genealogies began to be written as prose texts, myths and sagas were composed in prose, or in a mixture of prose and verse. Annals were always in prose. Synchronisms and regnal lists seem to have begun as prose, though the learned teaching poets in the Church schools of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, like Flann Mainistrech himself, or Gilla Moduda Ó Caiside (fl. 1143), might then summarise their contents in verse as an aid to memory, a motive that is suggested when a long verse list ends with a short summary, as in the following example: Two Domnalls, three Nialls – not shameful – Aed four times and Colman Suibne, Eochaid, Baedan the vain, Fergus, Fergal, Fogartach, Muircertach – like to raging lions, [were] the kings of (Cenel) Eogain over Ireland.38

Another word used for ‘historian’ in the Old and Middle Irish period, besides senchaid and staraige, was fer coimgne. Literally ‘man of joint knowledge (com + ecnae)’ or ‘man of all-embracing (acquired) knowledge’, it was explained by the learned king-bishop Cormac mac Cuilennáin (d.908) in his Glossary (Sanas Cormaic) as ‘knowledge of every king that reigned at the same time as another’ – in other words, as the science of synchronisms. O’Davoren’s glossary, largely based on the Old Irish law texts, simply equated coimgne with senchas, the lore of

36 37 38

Tigernach, Annals of Tigernach, vol. ii, p. 289 [397] (1056 ce editorial date). MacNeill, ‘Poems by Flann Mainistrech’. Dá Domnall, trí Néill ní nár . Aed fa ceathair is Colmán, Suibni, Eochaid, Báedan baeth . Fergus, Fergal, Fagartach Muircertach; mar leomain luind . rígrad Eogain ós Érind. From the poem Éri ógh-inis na náemh by Gilla Moduda Ó Caiside (1143 ce) in Macalister (ed. and trans.), Lebor Gabála Érenn, vol. v, pp. 558–9. See Murray, ‘Gilla Mo Dutu Úa Caiside’.

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the senchaid.39 A maxim, which may have originated in the law texts, states ‘he is no fili [learned poet] who does not preserve the coimgne’. However, in later times the word lost its precise meaning and became associated with the tales and legends that formed the indispensable background knowledge of every learned poet, and a source of entertainment at court, as one text has it ‘stories and coimgne to be narrated to kings and chieftains viz. three hundred and fifty tales viz. two hundred and fifty major tales and one hundred sub-tales’.40

Predominance of Vernacular Learning in Later Church Schools The tenth to twelfth centuries saw a flood of Irish translations of Latin scriptures, apocrypha, and homiletic material,41 such as would enable a student to acquire a respectable amount of clerical learning without any knowledge of Latin. Presumably this had some relation to the growing number of laymen holding Church office in the tenth and eleventh centuries,42 since there was a legal maxim decreeing that authority in the Church should go only to the learned,43 and it might have been easier for laymen to acquire learning through their own language. For the same period references in the Irish annals to scholars in the Church schools who were qualified in traditional Irish subjects such as customary law (fénechus, breithemnus), traditional history (senchas), or poetry (filidecht) became far more frequent. Qualifications in Latin learning still predominated, but whereas in annal entries from 587 to 899 one can find 176 obits for scholars of Latin learning and only nine for experts in Irish subjects, a preponderance of Latin over Irish of more than 15 to 1, for the period 900 to 1200 one can find 244 references to scholars credited with Latin learning, while for the same period there are 99 references to Irish learning, a preponderance of less than 3 to 1.44 Of course, a number of these scholars are praised for their skills in both Latin and Irish studies, like Flann Mainistrech, the lector of Monasterboice, mentioned above, or Tigernach Ua Brain (d.1088), head of the Church communities of 39 40 41 42 43 44

E.G. Quin et al., Dictionary of the Irish Language, s.v. ‘coimgne’; Meyer (ed.), Sanas Cormaic, p. 31, §363. On O’Davoren’s Glossary, see Liam Breatnach, Companion, pp. 100–59. Mac Cana, Learned Tales, pp. 41, 123–7. Cf. Chapter 12 above, p. 209. Kenney, Sources, pp. 11, 681–3, 688, 732–3. Hughes, Church in Early Irish Society, pp. 245–6, 265. Simms, ‘Changing Patterns’, pp. 163–4. Simms, ‘Literacy’, p. 254 n. 18; Richter, ‘Personnel of Learning’.

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Clonmacnois and Roscommon, and part-compiler of the Annals of Tigernach,45 who was described in the Annals of the Four Masters as ‘suí léighind 7 senchusa’, ‘a paragon of [Latin] learning and history’.46 It should be noted that Tigernach is not called a poet, or ‘sage in poetry’ (‘suí filidechta’). History was now a discipline using written texts, the majority of them in prose. From the twelfth century we have three substantial manuscript anthologies, all of whose contents could be defined under the broad description of senchas or ‘traditional lore’. The earliest, dating about 1100, is the Book of the Dun Cow (Lebor na hUidre, Royal Irish Academy, MS 1229 [23.E.25]), its name an apparent reference to the hide of St Ciarán’s cow, a relic kept at Clonmacnois, with the reputation that whosoever lay on that hide as his deathbed was assured of heaven.47 The principal scribe, Máelmuire mac meic Cuinn na mBocht, belonged to one of the most prominent clerical dynasties in pre-reform Clonmacnois,48 and some of the contents could be seen as appropriate to the staraige or ecclesiastical historian, such as Irish translations, or rather adaptations, of the Sex aetates mundi and the Historia Brittonum of Nennius, the ‘Vision of St Adamnán’, the Amra Choluim Chille or Eulogy of St Columba, the ‘Two Sorrows of the Kingdom of Heaven’, and so on. However, by far the greater portion of the book is taken up with secular heroic tales, set in Ireland’s mythical prehistory,49 containing casual allusions to druids and non-Christian supernatural beings, and including the earliest recorded version of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, the Cattle-Raid of Cooley, an unusually long and elaborate saga which has been seen as a self-conscious Irish response to classical epics such as Virgil’s Aeneid.50 The other two great Irish manuscript miscellanies from this century, Oxford, Bodl., MS Rawlinson B 502 (c.1120) and Dublin, Trinity College, MS 1339 (the Book of Leinster, c.1160), contain a greater proportion of matter relevant to the legal, record-keeping, and propaganda aspects of the 45 46 47 49

50

Tigernach, Annals, vol. ii, p. 312 [420]. AFM, vol. ii, pp. 930–1 (1088 ce). My addition in square brackets. It is not clear whether Tigernach was a lay abbot or in orders. Macalister (ed.), Latin and Irish Lives, p. 24. 48 Kehnel, Clonmacnois, pp. 133–9. Best and Bergin (eds.), Lebor na hUidre: Book of the Dun Cow (LU), pp. xxvii–xxxviii; see also Ó hUiginn (ed.), Lebor na hUidre. The Sex aetates mundi contains the interesting statement that Ham son of Noah was the ancestor of leprechauns and Fomorians (undersea giants): LU, pp. 4–5; Ó Cróinín (ed.), Irish Sex Aetates Mundi, pp. 71, 100, 113, 134 (the prose in this edition blames Seth son of Adam, the poem at the end agrees with LU in blaming Ham). On the Six Ages of the World, see Chapter 3 above, pp. 54–7. Ó hUiginn, ‘Background and Development’, pp. 32–41; O’Rahilly (ed.), Táin Bó Cúailnge: Recension I.

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historians’ profession. Rawlinson B 50251 commences with texts that have a clerical flavour, including Saltair na Rann (the Bible narrative in verse, 7,788 lines), but then passes on to anecdotes and poems on early historic or protohistoric kings and heroes of Leinster, genealogies of the Irish saints, and two Old Irish law tracts: Gúbretha Caratniad (The False Judgements of Caratnia) on exceptions to general rules of law, and Cóic Conara Fugill (The Five Paths of Judgement) on court procedure. The most impressive section contains the earliest copy of Corpus genealogiarum Hiberniae – the amalgamated genealogies of ruling families from all over Ireland. Compiled from written contemporary records since about the seventh century, and periodically updated to the twelfth,52 it is a treasure-trove of names of historically datable individuals. The Book of Leinster provides the same basic corpus of genealogies, but updated to the later twelfth century.53 Like Rawlinson B 502, it displays a major interest in sagas and poems celebrating the heroic past of the province of Leinster, but also has many sagas from the Ulster cycle, including a newer version of the long Táin Bó Cuailgne stylistically reworked.54 Other important texts in this anthology are the Lebor Gabála, or Book of the [Prehistoric] Taking of Ireland, discussed above; a fragment of the recently composed saga, Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaib (The War of the Irish with the Foreigners), which celebrated the career of the Munster high king Brian Bóruma (d.1014) and his defeat of the Norsemen at the Battle of Clontarf;55 the Banshenchas or Lore of Women, a metrical list of famous women beginning with Eve, but concentrating on the wives and mothers of Irish kings;56 and the Dindshenchas or Place-Name Lore, mythical explanations of the origins of Irish place-names.57 It has been argued that this format of a large manuscript miscellany of historical material in prose and verse, revived again in the later Middle Ages, was ultimately based on the lost manuscript anthology, the Psalter of Cashel, often referred to as a source by later scribes, which may have originated in the reign of Brian Bóruma (king over Munster from 976, over Ireland 1002–14).58

51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58

For description and contents of this manuscript, see Ó Cuív, Catalogue, vol. i, pp. 163–200. Full manuscript reproduced in Meyer (ed.), Rawlinson B. 502. Ó Corráin, ‘Creating the Past’; O’Brien (ed.), Corpus genealogiarum Hiberniae. See Simms, Medieval Gaelic Sources, p. 44, for an example of this process. Ó Rahilly (ed.), Táin Bó Cúailnge from the Book of Leinster. Todd (ed.), Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh; Ní Mhaonaigh, ‘Date of Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib’. Dobbs (ed.), ‘Banshenchus’; Ní Bhrolcháin, ‘Manuscript Tradition’. Edward Gwynn (ed.), The Metrical Dindshenchas; E.J. Gwynn, ‘Texts of the Prose Dindshenchas’. Ó Riain, ‘Psalter of Cashel’.

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Twelfth-Century Reform and the Rise of Secular Schools The Book of Leinster has been referred to as ‘the last fling of the learned ecclesiastics of the unreformed Irish church’.59 The same narrowing of intellectual focus that occurred in the Church schools of England and the continent during the twelfth century, giving rise ultimately to independent universities, led to the expulsion of Irish-language scholars and their mixed sacred and secular studies from the Church schools of Ireland, eventually leading to the growth of vernacular studia particularia, each school led by a master who specialised in history, poetry, law, or medicine.60 There was also a major change taking place among Irish poets during the twelfth century. Rather than the profession being dominated by learned poets or filid, who were distinguished by their literacy and scholarship from the oral bards (baird), the unlearned secular praise poets,61 the latter were becoming increasingly literate in the vernacular. The bards’ departure from traditional unrhymed alliterative verse to use rhyming syllabic metres, apparently in imitation of medieval Latin hymns, had found favour with patrons, thus forcing learned poets to use these metres also.62 By the end of the twelfth century, the distinction between bard and file had become blurred, and secular professional praise poets were commonly referred to thereafter by the neutral term fer dána, ‘a man of song’ or ‘a man of poetic gift’.63 In the course of the thirteenth century, some families who had seen themselves as ‘learned poets’ or filid chose the profession of senchaide or ‘guardians of tradition’ rather than the more peripatetic trade of the eulogistic court poets, the fir dána or ‘men of song’. The richest and most influential of these families was the Uí Máelchonaire or O’Mulconrys.64 The earliest recorded member, Néide Ó Máelchonaire, is called a senchaid in the annalistic notice of his death in 1136,65 and Tanaide, author of the poem ‘Tuatha De Donand fo diamair’ in the Book of Leinster’s text of Lebor Gabála,66 was very probably a kinsman, as this distinctive first name recurs in the family thereafter. 59 60 61 62 63 64 66

William O’Sullivan, ‘Notes on the Script’, p. 26. Henry and Marsh-Micheli, ‘Manuscripts and Illuminations’, pp. 792–801; Simms, ‘Brehons’, pp. 56–9; Mac Cana, ‘Rise of the Later Schools’. Breatnach (ed.), Uraicecht na Ríar, pp. 99–100. Ó hAodha, ‘First Middle Irish Metrical Tract’. Murphy, ‘Bards and Filidh’; Simms, ‘Literacy’, pp. 238–42. Walsh, Irish Men of Learning, pp. 34–48. 65 Tigernach, Annals, vol. ii, p. 368 [154] (1136 ce). Best et al. (eds.), Book of Leinster, vol. i, p. 40. See MacAlister (ed. and trans.), Lebor Gabála Érenn, vol. iv, pp. 317, 84.

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At the beginning of the next century, possibly to celebrate the exhumation and enshrinement in 1208 of the bones of the last high king of Ireland, Ruairi Ó Conchobair (d.1198),67 a learned historical poem on the identity and location of the graves of kings at Clonmacnois was composed, attributed in a late manuscript to Conaing Buide (‘the Yellow-haired’) Ó Máelchonaire. Apparently the author primarily intended his composition to glorify the church of Clonmacnois, and expected a financial reward from the monks, but the progress of church reform there meant he was disappointed: Since the day I fashioned this song, the coarb sent me away from Cluain; the abbot took from me what I had made, the account of thy kings, O cemetery! Said the clerics of Cluain; sing not thy songs to us! Sing to themselves at their feasts a poem to the profit of Muiredach’s seed! Therefore I carry the work to Cathal [Crobderg, ‘the Red-Hand’, king of Connacht, d.1224] the descendant of Conchobar, since the clerics of Cluain have refused its profit, its ancient songs.68

Thereafter the annals record the death in 1231 of Duinnín Ó Máelchonaire, ollam of Síl Muiredaig (‘Muiredach’s seed’), the royal kin-group of the Ó Conchobair kings of Connacht, ruled by twelve sub-chieftains whose lands were located in and near the modern County Roscommon. Duinnín was followed in this office by his kinsman Máeleoin Bodar (‘the Deaf’, d.1266) who acquired in 1232 the rich estate of Cluain Bolcáin (near Strokestown, County Roscommon), which became the family’s chief seat.69 The title ollam without qualification should mean chief poet, and in that capacity the Ó Máelchonaire family were to claim the right to inaugurate the kings of Connacht by handing them the ‘rod of kingship’ (‘slat ríge’).70 Members of

67 68

Hennessy and MacCarthy (eds.), Annals of Senat, vol. ii, pp. 230–1 (1198 ce); AFM, vol. iii, pp. 152–3 (1207/8 ce). Ón ló do delbus in dúain . romc[h]uir in comarba a Clúain Do gabh dím a nderna int ab . áirem do rígh, a reilec! Doráidset clérigh Clúana . ná gabh dúin[n]e do dúana Gabh dóib féin agá fledaibh . dán sochair síl Muredaigh! Berim-si an sáethar ár sin . co Cathal húa Conchobuir Ó dho obsat clérigh Clúana . a sochar, a sendúana.

69 70

Best (ed.), ‘Graves of the Kings’, pp. 168–9. Ann. Conn., pp. 40–1, §4; pp. 44–5, §10; pp. 148–9, §21 (1231, 1232, 1266 ce). Dillon (ed.), ‘Inauguration of O’Conor’, pp. 189–90, 197–8. Significantly the poem by Tórna Ó Máelchonaire (d.1468), which accompanies the (originally earlier?) prose inauguration tract in most manuscript copies, describes Ó Máelchonaire simply as the king’s senchaid, ‘historian’, and does not claim the right to physically inaugurate the king, a privilege which had by then passed to the most powerful of Ó Conchobair’s sub-chieftains, Mac Diarmada: ibid., pp. 196, 202; and see Simms, ‘Gabh umad a Fheidhlimid’.

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the family continued to compose learned poems on historical subjects throughout the medieval period, but as fewer and fewer of the reformed monastic communities in Ireland kept annals in the vernacular between 1200 and 1319, these typically ecclesiastical records were taken over and continued by lay historians, in particular the Ó Máelchonaire dynasty, who added material relating to their own kindred, and verse extracts from their learned poems as adornments to the bald prose narrative.71 The Ó Máelchonaire claim to the privilege of inaugurating the kings of Connacht is paralleled by the Mac Firbisig historians, who claimed the right to act as joint inaugurators (with the principal sub-chief) of the Ó Dubda, or O’Dowda kings of Tír Fiachrach (barony of Tireragh, west County Sligo).72 In this case, too, the family were already active in the field of history before the end of vernacular studies in the Church schools. Amlaim Mór (‘the Great’) Mac Firbisig, who died in 1138, was both ollam in history and poetry for all the Uí Fiachrach and abbot-elect of Cong.73 The next annalistic notice of a member of this family recorded the death of Gilla Ísa Mór Mac Firbisig, ollam of the Uí Fiachrach in history, in 1279.74 This historian dynasty remained in possession of that office thereafter into the seventeenth century and the death of the last great professional Irish senchaid, An Dubhaltach Óg Mac Fhirbhisigh (Dudly Ferbisie or McCryushy, as he sometimes called himself) in January 1671.75 Their unbroken continuity in the same profession ensured that the Mac Firbisig family had an unparalleled library, much of which has since been lost, with independent recensions of the Irish genealogical corpus, and their own collections of annals. A particularly interesting volume referred to by An Dubhaltach Óg was the Leabhar Balbh (Dumb Book) of Séamus Mac Firbhisigh, a sixteenth-century collection of historical information concerning current people in power apparently too sensitive to be made public at the time, but recorded for the benefit of future generations.76 An Dubhaltach himself passed on as much as he could of his family’s learning, not only in an enlarged genealogical corpus updated to his own day, including pedigrees for English, Scottish, and Welsh colonists, and exhaustively indexed, but also in transcriptions and translations for the Catholic and Protestant antiquaries, Dr John Lynch and Dr James Ware, and others.77 71 73 75 76 77

O’Dwyer, ‘Annals of Connacht’. 72 O’Donovan (ed.), Genealogies, pp. 440–4. Tigernach, Annals, vol. ii, p. 371 [157] (1138 ce). 74 AFM, vol. iii, pp. 430–1 (1279 ce). Ó Muraíle, Celebrated Antiquary; Walsh, Irish Men of Learning, pp. 80–101. O’Donovan (ed.), Genealogies, pp. 170–1 n. 170. Ó Muraíle (ed.), Great Book, vol. i, pp. 3–9.

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The Fourteenth-Century ‘Renaissance’ of Ecclesiastical Learning Both the Ó Máelchonaire and Mac Firbisig families appear to have originated as learned poets, but other senchaid dynasties in the later Middle Ages were tenants of Church lands, and in some cases inherited manuscripts from the libraries of the earlier unreformed monastic schools. The earliest record of an Ó Duibgennáin (O’Duignan) concerns an archdeacon of the diocese of Kilmore (comprising counties Leitrim and Cavan) who died in 1296. In the first half of the fourteenth century, two of his kinsmen are styled ollam, or ollam in history, to the Conmaicne in south Leitrim.78 However, in the Leitrim area they were outranked by the Ó Cuirnín dynasty who held the title of ollam for all Breifne (diocese of Kilmore) and had skills in poetry, history, and music, although their earliest recorded member was a pious monk who died in 1258.79 The later importance and prestige of the Ó Duibgennáin historians began when one of their number, Fergal Muimnech (‘the Munsterman’), crossed the Shannon and built a church to St Lasair of Kilronan (County Roscommon). There he enjoyed a long career as erenagh or ecclesiastical administrator of the shrine and parish and ollam to the Mac Diarmada chieftains of north Roscommon and the Mac Donnchada chieftains of southern Sligo, while retaining his family’s original title as ollam of Conmaicne. His death notice in the Annals of Ulster awarded him the title ‘ollam na Breifne’ and added a poem: 1. O’Duibhgennain, strong his prowess, To grant this is not a false decision . . . Excellent Abode of ollams and of learned. 2. Fergal was a poet that was not bitter, A historian impartial and a bounteous person, Every comfort is supplied in his house, A perfect ollam and herenagh.80 78 79 80

AFM, vol. iii, pp. 464–5, 528–9, 570–1 (1296, 1323, 1340 ce); Hennessy and MacCarthy (eds.), Annals of Senat, vol. ii, pp. 388–9, 464–5 (1292/6, 1337/40 ce). Ann. Conn., pp. 128–9 (1258 ce); Walsh, Irish Men of Learning, pp. 119–32. O Duibhgennan, tren a tres . A bronnadh nocho breigmes; Calma re conadh a cnes . Adhbha ollamh is éiges. Fergal, fer dana nar’dhaer . Senchaidh muirnech is mac caem; Cach soludh re thur ‘n-a thech . Ollamh ur is oircinnech. Hennessy and MacCarthy (eds.), Annals of Senat, vol. ii, pp. 504–5 (1354/7 ce); Walsh, Irish Men of Learning, pp. 1–12.

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Similarly, the first recorded member of the Ó Sgingin family was an erenagh and chaplain of the parish of Ardcarne in County Roscommon, who died in 1224. A kinsman, Matha Ó Sgingin (d.1289), is described as chief historian of all Ireland (‘airdshenchaidh Erenn’) or more modestly ollam of Cenél Conaill (the Donegal area).81 In 1359 another Ó Sgingin, court historian to Ó Domnaill, king of Tír Conaill, was in possession of Lebor na hUidre, the Book of the Dun Cow from Clonmacnois, when it was handed over to Cathal Óc Ó Conchobair, lord of Sligo, as a ransom for the historian’s son, captured in battle.82 The manuscript was not to be returned to Ó Domnaill until 1470, by which time the lands and office of court historian to the Cenél Conaill had passed to the Ó Cléirig (O’Clery) family, allegedly through the marriage of Ó Sgingin’s daughter to Cormac Ó Cléirig, a student of civil and canon law with the Cistercians at Assaroe Abbey, who promised that the children of the marriage would continue in the profession of history.83 The Uí Chléirig were to become the dominant Irish historians of the early modern period, reinforced by their close association with the Franciscans of Donegal Abbey and Louvain.84 However, the single most influential historian in the fourteenth century may have been Seaán Mór Ó Dubagáin (John O’Dugan the Great, d.1372). His family claimed to be hereditary archivists to the church of Clonmacnois and simultaneously court historians to the Ó Cellaig kings of Uí Maine (east County Galway).85 He was presumably the moving spirit behind the Ó Cellaig chief’s pioneering decision to hold a general feast for all the native learned classes of Ireland at Christmas 1351, an occasion that was to be imitated at intervals by other chieftains over the next three centuries.86 More importantly, the earliest surviving prose compilation of an Ireland-wide genealogical corpus since the twelfth-century reform was written in 1344–5 by a pupil of Seaán Mór with an explicit reference to the book of his ‘great teacher’, Seoán Mór Ó Dubhagáin.87 Updated versions of this corpus reoccur in the great manuscript miscellanies of the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries – the Book of Uí Maine, whose early 81 82 83 84 85 86 87

Ann. Conn., pp. 8–9, §17 (1224 ce); Hennessy and MacCarthy (eds.), Annals of Senat, vol. ii, pp. 370–1 (1285/9 ce); AFM, vol. iii, pp. 208–9, 448–9 (1224, 1289 ce). Best and Bergin (eds.), Lebor na hUidre, pp. x–xi; see Ó hUiginn (ed.), ‘Lebor na hUidre’. O’Donovan (ed.), Genealogies, pp. 72–81; AFM, vol. iv, pp. 774–5; Pender (ed.), ‘O’Clery Book’. Walsh, Ó Cléirigh Family; Cunningham, Annals of the Four Masters; Pádraig Breatnach, Four Masters and their Manuscripts. O’Donovan (ed.), ‘Registry of Clonmacnoise’ p. 456; Kehnel, Clonmacnois, p. 301. Knott, ‘Filidh Éireann go haointeach’; Simms, ‘Guesting and Feasting’ pp. 90–2; O’Sullivan, Hospitality, pp. 114–16. Carney, ‘Ó Cianáin Miscellany’, p. 128.

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pages are in the hand of Ó Dubagáin himself; the Book of Ballymote, compiled by Magnus Ó Duibgennáin; and the Great Book of Lecan, compiled by Gilla Ísa Mór Mac Firbisig, are among the most famous.88 These later medieval ‘great books’ contain material comparable with the twelfth-century miscellanies of the unreformed Church schools – that is, Old and Middle Irish legendary narratives, ecclesiastical and legal material, records of the ancestry of contemporary rulers, their historic territorial claims, and lists of battles fought by their forebears. They refer explicitly in some cases to what is now known as the Book of Leinster, and to lost manuscripts like the Psalter of Cashel, as their source for particular passages.89 This attempt to revive the full panoply of Irish learning as practised in the twelfth-century Church schools coincided with a political and military drive by the Irish chieftains in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries to recreate their former territorial authority and independence, increasing the social value of the senchaide as propagandists.90 Seaán Mór seems to have been a committed supporter of the political recovery of the Gaelic chiefs. Not only did he compose a fiery eulogy for the rebel king of Uí Maine, Tadc Ó Cellaig (d.1316), during the Bruce invasion of Ireland,91 but perhaps near the end of his life, since the work is unfinished, he commenced a long poem minutely enumerating the political divisions throughout Ireland. Giving the names of their hereditary rulers, or the names of new Gaelic families where these had taken over from historic dynasties, but ignoring the extensive territorial authority acquired by the Anglo-Irish, he thus created a blueprint for reconquest.92 A similar but less controversial work was the long poem composed in 1417 by Gilla Ísa Mór Mac Firbisig, compiler of the Great Book of Lecan, enumerating all the landowning families of Uí Fiachrach, with the names of the townlands they occupied, a treasure-trove for the local historian.93 A very different work from the fourteenth century was the saga of the Battle Career of Toirdelbach Ó Briain (d.1306), the Caithréim Thoirdhealbhaigh.94 The work of a school of learned praise-poets rather than historians, it recounts the wars of Ó Briain and his sons against their 88 89 90 91 92 93

Henry and Marsh-Micheli, ‘Manuscripts and Illuminations’, pp. 801–3; Ó Concheanainn, ‘Book of Ballymote’; Walsh, Irish Men of Learning, pp. 102–18. Best et al. (eds.), Book of Leinster, vol. i, pp. xii–xiii; Dillon, ‘Laud Misc. 610’, p. 66. Simms, From Kings to Warlords, pp. 16–20. McManus and Ó Raghallaigh (eds.), Bardic Miscellany, p. 633 no. 453; and see associated poems in same MS, perhaps by same author, ibid., pp. 626–8, nos. 447–8. O’Donovan (ed.), Topographical Poems of John O’Dubhagain; Carney (ed.), Topographical Poems by Seaán Mór Ó Dubhagáin. O’Donovan (ed.), Genealogies, pp. 176–299. 94 O’Grady (ed.), Caithréim Thoirdhealbhaigh.

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own kinsmen and rivals for kingship, but also against the de Clare lords of Thomond, who claimed to be their landlords. It is consciously modelled on the twelfth-century Ó Briain propaganda work, The War of the Gaedil with the Gaill. Unlike most other sagas, its narrative uses an annalistic framework, although embellished with imaginary speeches and interspersed with passages of verse. Recent research has indicated that it was written for patrons who had actually participated in the last of the battles it describes, perhaps originally for the Mac Con Mara family, who were principal vassals of Ó Briain, before being recast in compliment to King Diarmait Ó Briain (d.1364) himself.95 As a result, it contains a wealth of detail concerning persons and place-names, and graphic and largely convincing blow-by-blow descriptions of cattle raids, ambushes, and pitched battles. Interestingly, some of the main characters from this saga reappear in a vernacular ecclesiastical tract, from the same area and about the same period, concerning contemporary miracles attributed to the power of St Senan of Scattery Island in the Shannon estuary, a Church community which still retained much of its pre-reform character, including a coarb (‘heir’ to the founding saint) and culdees (céli Dé or ‘vassals of God’, in the high Middle Ages approximating vicars choral).96 It may be seen as symptomatic of a poetic rather than senchaid background to these two secular and ecclesiastical narratives that they have no legal purpose such as might have been served by Mac Firbisig’s record of the landowning families in his assigned territory. They established fame and prestige. Later family or hagiographical prose texts in the sixteenth century with a more decided connection to senchas such as the Craíbscaíled Clainne Suibne,97 Senchas na mBúrcach,98 or The Life of St Lasair,99 had a more obvious concern with genealogies and the recording of past agreements as to dues and tributes.

Increasing Politicisation of the Senchaid’s Art However, social changes in the fifteenth century already began to affect the role of the senchaid. One was the increasing assimilation of the major Anglo-Irish families into the culture and society of the Gaelic 95 96 97 98

MacNamara, ‘Examination’; Nic Ghiollamhaith, ‘Dynastic Warfare’; Nic Ghiollamhaith, ‘Kings and Vassals’. Plummer (ed.), ‘Miracles of Senan’. Walsh, Leabhar Chlainne Suibhne. See also Simms, Medieval Gaelic Sources, pp. 118–20. 99 O’Reilly (ed.), ‘Seanchus na mBúrcach’. Lucius Gwynn (ed.), ‘Life of St Lasair’.

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aristocracy.100 Another was the spread not only of lay literacy, but of aristocratic interest in Latin and vernacular learning, a pale reflection of Renaissance humanism as it was experienced elsewhere.101 As a result, where in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries manuscript miscellanies were compiled as a resource for the schools of senchas themselves, from the mid-fifteenth century onwards they were compiled under aristocratic patronage, for example the Psalter of Mac Richard Butler (Bodleian Laud Misc. 610), which, along with much miscellaneous ecclesiastical content, sought to recreate the contents of the famous eleventh-century Psalter of Cashel, reproducing extensive archaic genealogies of pre-Norman kings of Munster.102 The Book of the Roches of Fermoy (Royal Irish Academy, MS no. 1134 [23.E.29]) was more obviously concerned to record the territorial claims and prestige of the Roche family themselves in prose tracts and bardic poems, but it was bound together at an early stage with a copy of the Lebor Gabála, the Book of the Taking of Ireland, which became a favourite with Anglo-Irish families, as setting their own invasion and conquest of Ireland on an equal footing, legally and morally, with the earlier invasions of Milesian Celts, Nemedians, and Firbolgs.103 This anxiety to reinterpret history to suit current political needs led to an expansion of the activities and prestige of the Ó Máelchonaire family of Roscommon. In 1433, during a nationwide assembly of the learned classes to feast at the expense of Lady Margaret, daughter of Ó Cerbaill of Ely (County Tipperary) and wife of Ó Conchobair Failge (County Offaly), we are expressly told that ‘Maelyn O Maelconry, one of the cheefe learned of Connaght was the first written in that Roll [of invited guests] and first payed and dieted or sett to super and those of his name after him.’104 Fifteenth-century obits show members of this historian dynasty scattered across Ireland serving both Irish chiefs and Anglo-Irish barons.105 Tórna Ó Máelchonaire (d.1468) revived the practice of addressing praise-poems with historical content to his patrons, and aroused the wrath of a master praise-poet, Tuathal Ó hUicinn, who saw him as a rival for the patronage of Mac Diarmata, chief of Moylurg:

100 102 103 104 105

Simms, ‘Bards and Barons’. 101 Simms, ‘Literacy’, pp. 251–2. Meyer (ed.), ‘Laud Genealogies’. Simms, ‘Bards and Barons’, pp. 190–3. See Best, ‘“Fermoy” copy’. Ann. Conn., pp. 472–3, §2 (1433 ce); O’Donovan (ed.), ‘Annals of Ireland’, pp. 227–8 (1451 ce). See Fitzpatrick, ‘Mairgréag-an-einigh Ó Cearbhaill’, pp. 34–5. Ann. Conn., pp. 444–5, §12; pp. 488–9, §5; pp. 556–7, §16a (1419, 1446, 1471 ce); AFM, vol. iv, pp. 1174–5 (1489 ce).

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It is hard to be told that (mere) seanchaidhs possess my professional acquirements; where wilt thou find any evidence for the pretensions of the man who says so? What prince is there who has not a professional ollamh as well as a seanchaidh?106

There was some justification for Ó hUicinn’s aspersions, in that Tórna’s poems were written in the loose metrical form of óclachas or ‘layman’s mode’ rather than the complex dán dírech metres used by the court poets. However, his son Tórna Óc addressed a historical poem to James fitz Thomas FitzGerald, 9th earl of Desmond (d.1487), which was composed in dán dírech,107 and another son, Maílín mac Tórna, was to be described on his death in 1519 as ollam of Síl Muiredaig, ‘a man full of good fortune and wisdom; who had been chosen by the Fitz Geralds and the Galls [AngloIrish] from all the ollavs of Ireland; who used to get jewels and treasure from all of whom he sought them, and would ill-advisedly give away what he received’.108 However, side by side with this profitable and creative use of ‘history’ as propaganda, the original role of the senchaid as an expert witness in legal cases persisted, and probably formed the bread-and-butter occupation of the less distinguished practitioners of what in Irish parlance was termed the ‘art’ (elada) of history. From the early sixteenth century, we have a chance survival of a brehon law pleading concerning land inheritance, which cites in evidence an eclectic mixture of maxims from Old Irish law tracts and recent charters granted to the plaintiff by the Burke family. But in support of the genealogical right of the plaintiff to inherit, we find that the brehon lawyer boasts that he has the greater number of witnesses and historians (‘d’fiadhnaib 7 tsenchaidhib’) giving evidence in support of his argument, and they are superior to those of the other side in terms of their willingness, honesty, and (property) qualification (‘a n-ais 7 a n-indric 7 a tochus’).109 106

107 108

109

Sealbh ar bhfeadhma is fios doiligh . gur dual súd ag seanchoidhibh; ar gheall daoibh an duine a-dir . cá bhfuighe i laoidh nó i litir? Ollamh re a ceird cia ag nach fuil . ar-aon is ollamh seanchaidh? McKenna (ed.), Aithdioghluim Dána, vol. i, pp. 129–30, vol. ii, p. 78; Simms, ‘Gabh umad a Fheidhlimidh’, pp. 138–9. Hayman (ed.), ‘Geraldines of Desmond’, pp. 214–23. ‘fer lan do rath & d’ecna et fer do toghadur Geraltaig et Goill tar ollomnaib Erenn, fer do gheipedh seóid & maoíne o gac aon fora sireth, et dobheired-sium úadha co hanoirces an ni fogheiped’: Ann. Conn., pp. 636–7, §9 (1519 ce). See Simms, ‘The Geraldines’. CIH, vol. v, p. 1622: 4–5.

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This late law text brings us back to our starting point, the legal and socially useful basis of the Irish senchaid’s profession. It is reassuring to find that amid the accumulation of pseudo-history, narrative entertainment, political propaganda, and poetry that formed a large part of the professional Irish historian’s craft, honesty remained a constant ideal.

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chapter 17

Gender and the Subjects of History in the Early Middle Ages Clare A. Lees

. . . cum etiam sepe fama cuiusque rei, per longa tempora terrarumque spatia, post congesta, diverso modo in aures diversorum perveniet

Earliest Life of Gregory the Great1

(. . . for often the account of any event, which happened long ago and in distant lands, put together afterwards, reaches the ears of different people in different forms)

History is written because events of the past from distant times and places reach different peoples in the present in different ways. So argues this quotation from the anonymously authored Latin Life of Gregory the Great, which dates from the early eighth century and was possibly written by a woman: let’s call her the first woman historian in Britain and Ireland.2 The making of history in the Middle Ages is indeed characterised by its variety, as our anonymous historian notes. Slightly later in the eighth century, Bede describes his saints’ Lives as histories (‘historiis sanctorum’). The comment occurs at the end of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, a work fundamental to modern accounts of early medieval historiographical practices.3 Like Latin history, vernacular history is also delivered in different genres: in Old English, terms for ‘history’ include stær and the Latin loan-word istoria (‘history, story’), cranic (‘chronicle’), and spel (‘story, narrative’).4 What might 1 2

3 4

Colgrave (ed. and trans.), Earliest Life, chap. 16, p. 98. All references are to this edition; translations mine. The comment occurs in the Life’s discussion of the credibility and truth of accounts of the seventhcentury conversion of King Edwin of Northumbria to Christianity. For authorship, see Lees, ‘In Ælfric’s Words’, p. 276, and Watt, ‘Earliest Women’s Writing’, pp. 545–50; Breeze has an essentialist position in ‘Did a Woman’. HEA, v.24, p. 568. See also Thacker, ‘Bede and History’ and for more on hagiography as a genre of historical writing, see Chapter 24 below. Taranu, ‘Senses of the Past’.

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this early medieval awareness of the various genres of historiographical writing (hagiography, history, story, and chronicle) suggest about those who write history, whether anonymously, as is the case for the Earliest Life of Gregory the Great, or as one of the best-known writers of their age, such as Bede? This chapter examines the relationships between those who write history and the histories they write – the subjects of history in both senses – to consider how gender and historiography are intertwined in the early Middle Ages. Anglo-Saxon England does not offer us a tenth-century Hrotsvit with her histories of her nunnery and king, or a twelfth-century Anna Komnene with her history of her father in the Alexiad.5 Nevertheless, the authors, patrons, and audiences of the histories produced in the early Middle Ages in Britain and Ireland are subjects for gender analysis. Accounts of history writing in this period often begin with Gildas, Bede, and the work ascribed to Nennius in the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries respectively, moving on to the anonymous Old English adaptation of Bede’s History and the vernacular annals known as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle written and collaboratively updated from the ninth century on. Similar accounts occur in Chapters 1, 8, and 10 in this volume.6 Recent scholarship has also focused on the eleventh century and the Encomium Emmae reginae (The Encomium of Queen Emma) and the Vita Edwardi regis (Life of Edward the Confessor who rests at Westminster), histories produced under the patronage of two remarkable queens, Emma and Edith. Women’s history stresses their participation in the collaborative production of memory work in early medieval Europe.7 Analysis of those who write history in relation to gender, then, focuses on the dynamics of women’s collaborative authorship, whether produced anonymously or in the form of patron and client relationships, and it also highlights the fact that sole authorship is often associated with male writers and with masculinity. This chapter starts with the Earliest Life of Gregory the Great. As we have seen, this Life was possibly written by a woman, and therefore plausibly the earliest female historian in Britain. Colgrave, editor of the Life, assumed its author was an unknown monk, but anonymity is not necessarily synonymous with masculinity, and the case for authorship by a nun in this dual 5 6 7

Van Houts, ‘Women and the Writing of History’, pp. 53–4. See also her Memory and Gender. Hanning, Vision of History, also remains influential but see too Trilling, ‘Writing of History’. Van Houts, ‘Women and the Writing of History’; see also Tyler, ‘Crossing Conquests’; and Tyler, England in Europe. There is no chapter on women historians in McAvoy and Watt (eds.), History of British Women’s Writing.

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monastery of nuns and monks is well established.8 Moving from the early years of the eighth century to the later years of the tenth, I consider next Æthelweard’s Latin Chronicle. This chronicle is explicitly identified by its author as a history. It is the earliest known English history written by a secular, elite male author for and in collaboration with a female patron and family relation, Abbess Matilda of Essen.9 I conclude with another kind of history, offered by the anonymous Old English poem Widsith. This short heroic poem has been described as a work of Germanic antiquity and as an exercise in poetic ethnography.10 The poem’s evidence for the specifically poetic practice of historiography is also worth consideration. Widsith features an apparent figure of fiction and poet, whose name means ‘far traveller’ or ‘wide travels’. Widsith’s favourite sponsor and patron for his memory work was a woman and queen, Ealhhild. Both Latin Chronicle and Old English poem offer instances of history writing as a collaboration between female patron and male author, whether singer of songs, Widsith, or elite author, Æthelweard. Widsith brings me back to the quotation from the Earliest Life of Gregory the Great with which this chapter began: events of the distant past from different places reach the present in different forms. Whether saint’s Life (Earliest Life of Gregory the Great), chronicle (Chronicle of Æthelweard), or early English poem (Widsith), these histories engage with the shaping and transmission of memories of the so-called migration age of the early Middle Ages. The term designates the fourth to the sixth centuries when those peoples, later to call themselves English, crossed continental Europe to conquer and settle in lands they would later call England. My three histories exemplify the variety and inventiveness of early medieval historiography, the importance of cultural memories such as the migration age in such narratives, and the gendered subject-positions its writers adopt. The analysis also reveals the affective bonds connecting those who make, write, and read history.

History as Hagiography: The Earliest Life of Gregory the Great Of the remarkable group of northern British Lives of saints produced in the centuries after the conversion of Britain and Ireland to Christianity, three have firmly identified authors: Adomnán’s Life of Columba, Bede’s two 8 9 10

See above, note 2. For gender, authorship, and anonymity, see Lees and Overing, ‘Women and the Origins of English Literature’. See Æthelweard, Chronicle, Book i, p. 3, ‘historiographizantes’. See also Niles, ‘Widsith’, and Neidorf, ‘Dating of Widsith’.

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Lives of Cuthbert written in poetry and prose, and Stephen of Ripon’s Life of Wilfrid.11 The other two – the earliest Life of Cuthbert and the Earliest Life of Gregory the Great – are anonymously authored.12 Each is associated with a monastic community and institution: Columba with Iona, the earliest Life of Cuthbert with Lindisfarne, Bede’s Lives with Wearmouth and Jarrow, the Life of Wilfrid with Ripon, and the Earliest Life of Gregory the Great with Whitby. Each community remembered its founding figure or house saint with a hagiography, an aspect of memory-writing explored further by Thomas O’Donnell in Chapter 2 of this volume. The politics of saintly memorialisation are highly charged, however. The cult of St Cuthbert eclipsed that of its founder, St Aidan, and there are grounds for associating its proliferation with Bede and the context of the rival cult and Life of Wilfrid at Ripon.13 With the exception of Whitby and its Life of Gregory, the subjects of these Lives are the men who were the fathers, abbots, and bishops of their single-sex communities. These are house-hagiographies put together by the monks, abbots, and scholars who led their communities and stood at the end of a chain of memory workers and witnesses to their saintly forefathers; they are therefore worthy of their own memorialisation as authors. Whitby, a dual foundation, remembered instead one of the founding figures of the Roman Church, the so-called Apostle of the English Gregory the Great, and included in that memorialisation one of the founding figures of the Northumbrian dynasty, Edwin – the first king of that dynasty to convert to Christianity. The early northern Lives practise history as the veneration of famous men. As praise and as devotional practice, hagiographies are vehicles for sustaining affective ties across communities and across time. Close relationships between monks, especially at the point of the death of the saint, are narrated in the Life of Columba, Bede’s prose Life of Cuthbert, and the Life of Wilfrid.14 There is no extant Life of Hild, first abbess of Whitby, contemporary with those of Columba, Cuthbert, and Wilfrid, and evidence for the veneration and patronage of female saints in this period is less 11

12 13 14

Adomnán of Iona, Life of St Columba. For Bede’s prose Life of Cuthbert, see Colgrave (ed. and trans.), Two Lives of Saint Cuthbert, pp. 141–30; and for the metrical Life, see Bede, Metrische Vita Sancti Cuthberti. See also Stephanus, Life of Bishop Wilfrid. For the earliest, anonymous Life of Cuthbert, see Colgrave (ed.), Two Lives of Saint Cuthbert, pp. 60–139. Thacker, ‘Lindisfarne’. Adomnán, Life of St Columba, iii.21; Colgrave (ed.), Two Lives of Cuthbert, chap. xxxvii (Herefrith’s account of Cuthbert’s death); Wilfrid had previously entrusted to Tatberht a verbal account of his life: see Stephanus, Life of Bishop Wilfrid, chap. lxv.

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well documented. However, similar patterns of affective devotion and memory work are evident in female same-sex and female-led communities.15 The monastic life, female and male, is sustained by the monastic Life; where there is strong evidence for male single-sex communities (Iona, Lindisfarne, and Wearmouth-Jarrow) and male authorship, the emphasis is often on men in the Life itself. Whitby is the only double monastery of women and men in this northern group; the only one produced by a community governed by an abbess; and the only one associated with the Life of a major figure of the Roman Church, rather than a house-saint or founding father. Whitby and its Life are, however, also associated with Northumbrian royal patronage. The Life includes the earliest account of the conversion of Edwin of Northumbria to Christianity and of the translation of his relics to Whitby (chaps. 18–19). Oswiu, royal patron of Whitby, Eanflæd, his wife, and Ælfflæd, Edwin’s daughter and abbess of Whitby after Hild, are also said to be buried there.16 The promotion of Cuthbert has been seen as an effort by Bede to unify the Northumbrian Church after the Synod of Whitby. Given its dual subjects of Northumbria and Rome, Edwin and Gregory, the Earliest Life of Gregory may have fulfilled a similar role for Whitby. The fullest and earliest evidence for the practice of writing hagiographic history within monastic communities that include women, therefore, is the Earliest Life of Gregory the Great, even if this is also one of the two Lives about whose authorship we cannot be confident: the other, the anonymous Life of Cuthbert, was almost certainly produced by a monk at Lindisfarne. If the Life was written by a nun at Whitby, our earliest female historian had considerable ecclesiastical, intellectual, and political ambitions for her work and community. The Life integrates the history of the conversion of Northumbria into a memorialisation of one of the most influential figures of the early medieval Church, Gregory, who had first instigated the conversion of the English in the southern kingdom of Kent. In other words, the Life includes the earliest known accounts of the conversions of Kent and Northumbria. The Life of Gregory was influential in insular as well as continental contexts; it survives uniquely in a late eighth- or early ninth-century continental manuscript, St Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 567.17 Accounts of the conversion of the English and of Gregory’s life were 15 16 17

Watt, ‘Earliest Women’s Writing’, also discusses women’s care for the dead. HEA, iv.26; see also Thacker, ‘Eanflæd’; and Thacker, ‘Ælfflæd’. Thacker, ‘Lindisfarne’ includes a useful introduction to the continental connections of these early British hagiographies.

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available throughout the Anglo-Saxon centuries, surfacing almost immediately in Bede’s History.18 The Life’s miracle of the mass was also particularly influential in the tenth century, and its other posthumous miracle stories address some of the most enduring debates in early medieval theology: the nature of doubt, the afterlife of the noble pagan, the problem of relics, and the eradication of superstition. Women and men feature as subjects of these exempla.19 Twentieth-century critics of the Life of Gregory were not overly interested in its ambition or influence, however. The Life’s apparently idiosyncratic Latin was singled out, as was its wandering narrative structure and self-reflexive mode. As Townsend and Mehan note, however, its style might more productively be thought of as expressing resistance to the kinds of Latinity emanating from the continent.20 A stylistic bid for Northumbrian independence makes sense in light of the Life’s theological and political ambitions, and its scrupulous accounting of witnesses and sources.21 Attention to style, source, audience, and ambition indicate selfawareness rather more than idiosyncrasy. Hallmarks of a writer trained in rhetoric are the Life’s awareness of its genre, the praise of major figures, its sensitivity to issues of transmission, style, and its justification of its avowedly disordered narrative. The account of the conversion of Edwin, for example, interrupts its narration of Gregory’s life. This is a writer who understands the subjects of historiography and has the confidence to experiment and adapt conventions.22 Learned experimentation and adaptation are evident in the account of Gregory’s mission to convert the English. In this celebrated story, Gregory encounters a group of Angles in Rome and declares them angelic. On learning who they are, the name of their king, Ælle, and where they are from, Deira, one of the two kingdoms of Northumbria, Gregory states that God’s praise must be raised, Alleluia, thereby rescuing them from divine wrath or anger, ‘de ira’ (chap. 9, pp. 90–1, chap. 13, pp. 94–7). Depending for its effects on puns that work across Latin and Old English, this earliest version of the story is also the most fully elaborated in its use of 18 19

20 21 22

HEA, ii.1. Bede separates the account of Edwin’s conversion (ii.12) from his narrative of Gregory. For details, see Lees, ‘In Ælfric’s Words’, pp. 276–7, to which should be added the account in Æthelweard’s Chronicle, discussed below. Ælfric used the exempla of the mass indirectly in his homily for Easter Day; see Lockett, Anglo-Saxon Psychologies, pp. 403–7. See Colgrave (ed. and trans.), Earliest Life, pp. 55–6; and Mehan and Townsend, ‘Nation’. Bede also acknowledges witness and sources. See, for example, the prologue to his prose Life of Cuthbert, in Colgrave (ed.), Two Lives of Saint Cuthbert, pp. 142–7. Colgrave’s remarks about structure (Earliest Life, pp. 52–3) do not take into account rhetorical training; see Kempshall, Rhetoric, esp. chaps. 2 and 3.

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etymologies. It also comes with an authorial acknowledgment that there were other versions of the story in circulation. The Life reports, for example, that some say the angelic Angles were fair of face and of form, while others comment instead on their beauty and curly hair (chap. 9, pp. 90–1).23 The Life’s attention to the interpretation of sacred stories, their details and veracity, indicate a learned author, alert to the various routes across time and space by which an event comes to be recorded in a single narrative.24 Indeed, towards the end of the Life is included a reflection on its reception, credibility, and truth (chap. 30, pp. 128–35). The discussion addresses the problem not of multiple but partial or limited sources for Gregory’s life and his miracles. To counter these concerns, our historian avows the universality of the saints, pointing to scripture for her justification. Even the Gospels narrate the life of Christ in different ways, she notes, while Gregory himself argued that all Christians are members of the same mystical body in and of Christ. Miracles reported of one saint may well be true of another; all are common to the memory of the saints and so a miracle reported of one saint may also appear in the Life of another. This particular Life, then, balances the history of one saint with the community of the holy, historical accuracy with universal truth, and history with hagiography. Those who study women’s writing have long argued for its collaborative nature.25 Early northern single-sex religious communities supported the production of the Lives of Columba, Cuthbert, and Wilfrid; these tend to concentrate more or less exclusively on male figures and their relationships, and were authored by male authorities within their communities. The Earliest Life of Gregory addresses female and male subjects in some of its miracle stories. It also refers to Abbess Ælfflæd of Whitby, royal virgin and daughter of Eanflæd, the first Northumbrian to be baptised. Eanflæd was Edwin’s daughter and a queen herself. Ælfflæd and her daughter Eanflæd, who jointly governed Whitby for a time, are associated in the Life with the narrative of Edwin’s conversion and the discovery of his remains later preserved at Whitby, suggesting female interest in and patronage of their royal ancestor (chap. 18, pp.102–3). Ambitious in its politics and theology, 23 24 25

For the postcolonial and racial implications of this story see, for example, Lavezzo, Angels on the Edge, pp. 27–45. A similar reconciliation of different reports of the same event is evident in the account of King Edwin’s conversion (chap. 16). See, for example, Lees and Overing, Double Agents; and Lees and Overing, ‘Women and the Origins of English Literature’.

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the Life firmly articulates its awareness of the practices of historical hagiography, and adapts the individual Life for communal ends. Situated at the intersection of monastic familia and royal family, it has a dual focus on the conversion in Northumbria and on the Roman pope, Gregory the Great, who prompted it. This historian kept it in the family in more ways than one.

Dynastic History: The Chronicle of Æthelweard Ergo prosapia de moderna et de iteratione propinquitatis nostræ in præsenti epistola sine nexilitate exorno, qui et quomodo et unde propinqui, in quantum memoria nostra argumentatur, et sicut docuere parentes . . .26 Therefore, in this present letter I proffer without embellishment and in the reaffirmation of our relationship, our family lineage from modern times, who are our relatives, how and whence, so far as our memory provides proof and our parents taught us . . .

Æthelweard’s Chronicle was most likely put together in the later years of the 980s by the ‘dux’ or ealdorman of southwest England. Æthelweard and his son Æthelmær are best known for their patronage of the homilist Ælfric, indicating the promotion of religious knowledge and practices by this elite West Saxon family.27 As the quotation above from the first epistolary preface demonstrates, the Chronicle is, by contrast, a family history made for modern times (‘moderni’). It takes as its subject the whos, hows, and wheres of Æthelweard’s family (‘qui et quomodo et unde propinqui’),28 recalled just as ‘our parents taught us’ (‘sicut docuere parentes’). Æthelweard’s family includes his immediate audience, reader of the letter and patron of the Chronicle, Abbess Matilda of Essen. The entwining of family and familia in terms of subject and authorship in this history is as evident as it is in the Earliest Life of Gregory the Great; its author, however, is firmly self-identified. The greeting formula in this epistolary preface by Ealdorman Æthelweard, ‘patricius consul Fabius quæstor’ (p. 1), with its doubly punning Latin calque on his Anglo-Saxon name, both noble (‘æthel’, ‘patricius’) and elite guardian (‘weard’, ‘consul’), gives a taste of things to come. The Chronicle is famously learned, showy, and elite to the 26 27 28

Æthelweard, Chronicle, p. 1. All references are to this edition edited by Campbell. Gretsch, ‘Historiography’. This clause is omitted in Campbell’s translation and in its reprint in van Houts, Memory and Gender, pp. 151–2 (Appendix 1).

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point of idiosyncrasy in terms of its Latinity. It is alert to the importance of rhetorical style as a form of display, putting on show the memories of a family worthy of record. Indeed, this preface also registers the different styles of preface and history (the former written in plain prose rather than the more ornate Latin used for the Chronicle itself).29 History narrated from the perspective of the secular elite and informed by the patronage and memory work of a learned female religious community like Matilda’s at Essen is something new in tenth-century England. However, Æthelweard’s modelling of the past as secular, dynastic historiography has important parallels in continental Europe, as Chapter 10 in this volume points out.30 Van Houts argued persuasively that the preservation of dynastic memory is a gendered activity often taken up by an elite female religious on behalf of her noble family.31 Evidence from earlier tenth-century Ottonian religious communities shows that abbesses were expected to perform this kind of memory work, providing an important precedent in Germany for Abbess Matilda’s political use of her family. The later commissioning of the Encomium Emmae by Emma and the Life of Edward the Confessor by Edith points in the same direction.32 Æthelweard’s authorial self-presentation, then, however showy and learned, is shaped by his collaboration with his religious superior and slightly older relative, Abbess Matilda. The first epistolary preface indicates that Æthelweard’s Chronicle is a response to Abbess Matilda’s request to know more about the noble origins of their family, now dispersed in Ottonian Germany (the East Saxons, in Æthelweard’s terms) and in Anglo-Saxon England (the West Saxons, or English, as they also called themselves). These two members of the same elite family share secular, dynastic, and religious interests. Matilda and Æthelweard trace their descent from Alfred the Great in the ninth century; Matilda from Alfred himself, and Æthelweard from Alfred’s elder brother, Æthelred (pp. 1–3). Accordingly, the Chronicle includes genealogies associated with the Alfredian line and rehearses the lives and deaths of noble and religious Anglo-Saxons throughout. Furthermore, the temporal and geographic reach of this particular dynasty takes in the migration age, 29 30

31 32

Winterbottom, ‘Style of Æthelweard’. Such as Paul the Deacon’s History of the Langobards or Widukind’s History of the Saxons, dedicated to an earlier Matilda and abbess, Abbess Matilda of Quedlinberg. See van Houts, ‘Women and the Writing of History’. See van Houts, ‘Women and the Writing of History’; and van Houts, Memory and Gender, pp. 65–92. See Tyler, ‘Crossing Conquests’; and Tyler, England in Europe.

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often known as the adventus Saxonum (the arrival of the Saxons) and the modern times of the tenth century. The Chronicle is bold in its ambition. It adapts passages from Bede’s History and its later Old English version for the earliest centuries (the migration and conversion, broadly speaking) and, for the later ones, uses a version of the vernacular Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.33 Æthelweard’s reworking of these sources audaciously aligns his dynastic interests with Christian world history. His opening flourish is the Creation (Book i, pp. 3–4). Edited highlights of the fifth-century migration to Britain and the sixthcentury conversion to Christianity, the early history of the West Saxons, Alfred and the wars with the Danes in the ninth century, and the reign of Edgar in the tenth follow. A further intimation of the Chronicle’s inventiveness is that it is not annalistic, as is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, but instead divided into four books, a structure reminiscent of Bede’s History and of more contemporary dynastic histories written on the continent.34 Events are narrated by counting the elapse of time (after x years passed, this happened), not itemised entry (in this year, x happened). Each of the Chronicle’s four books also has a prologue or preface. In sum, the Chronicle has a structural formality and temporal rhythm that uses the precedents of Bede’s History and the vernacular chronicle traditions to achieve its dynastic ends. Indeed, in the course of the Chronicle’s adaptation of earlier histories and conventions, the adventus Saxonum, subject of insular writing since Gildas, becomes the ‘adventus Angliae’ (the arrival of the Angles, or English), as Sarah Foot also notes in her Chapter 8 of this volume. The ancestors of Æthelweard and Matilda are retroactively fitted into this origin story of the migration, which is claimed for their modern dynasty.35 Similarly, the story of Gregory’s mission to the English with its angelic Angles is recast. Gone are the puns on Ælle of Northumbria or on the Deirans – in fact neither Northumbria nor Deira are mentioned. These modifications claim for Æthelweard’s tenth-century family of the West Saxon English and his continental Ottonian Saxon relatives those ancestral Angles who had travelled to fight for the British several centuries earlier, settled in the island, and eventually converted to Christianity (Book i, p. 9; Book ii, pp. 16–19). Evident here is Æthelweard’s consciousness of the importance for his modern European family (‘prosapia de moderna’, p. 1) of the history of the Angles and their continental origins. 33 35

See Gretsch, ‘Historiography’. 34 Jezierski, ‘Æthelweardus Redivivus’. Gretsch, ‘Historiography’; Jezierski, ‘Æthelweardus Redivivus’.

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The first epistolary preface also emphasises the imperial dimensions of the Chronicle’s history of invasion, conquest, migration, and conversion. Migration history was quite the mode in late tenth- and early eleventhcentury secular poetry – think of Beowulf or Widsith, as we shall later see – but Æthelweard promises (and delivers) Matilda ‘such wars, such deaths of men and no small wreck of ships on the surge of the ocean’ (‘tot bella, tot cædes uirorum, classiumque periclitationem gurgite oceani non paruam’, p.1), as we might expect to find in traditions of res gestae. These subjects are intended to appeal to the tastes and sensibilities of the warrior and religious elite. Attentive to its immediate audience, Matilda, throughout, the Chronicle is also aware of its wider readership, modelling the relationship between author, patron, and reader in affectively rich, stylistically inventive ways. The epistolary preface and the three other shorter prologues of Books ii–iv are used to establish Æthelweard’s relationship with his readers, Abbess Matilda included: Suscepi desiderii mei epistolam, charissima, uestram, et amplexus animotenus scripta non tantum legi sed etiam condidi in thesauro cordis mei. (p. 1) Most beloved, I have received the letter I desired from you, and having embraced what was written to my soul, not only have I read it, but I have placed it in the treasury of my heart.

These first few lines of the first preface refer to an earlier letter about their family history, now lost, that Æthelweard received from Matilda and that he has placed in the treasury of his heart (‘in thesauro cordis mei’).36 This earlier letter was a response to one from Æthelweard, apparently outlining their shared family history (‘communis prosapiæ’). Æthelweard’s practice of archiving in his heart Matilda’s words may be connected to his assemblage of histories and annals into a purposeful modern account. In Book iv, Æthelweard comments on this practice, saying that he has excerpted ‘ab annili uetustate’ (‘from the ancient annals’, p. 39) for his dynastic history. Excerpting from the archive designates a practice of composing but also reading; history is stored in the heart and in ancient books, and the reader, like the writer, is an editor. Æthelweard’s prologue to Book ii, for example, leaves it to the wise reader (‘prudenti lectori’) to make her own selection of ‘excerpta ab historia tam diuina quam uulgari’’ (‘excerpts from history whether divine or secular’, p. 15). 36

This example of a common enough image is rarely discussed; see more generally, Carruthers, Book of Memory, esp. chap. 7.

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Æthelweard’s prefaces are vehicles for self-expression, a practice often conveyed in terms of amicitia, ‘friendship’.37 Matilda is, however, more than a friend. She is a noble relation and spiritual superior: ‘consobrina’ (‘cousin’) and ‘[d]isertissimæ et ueræ Christi ancillæ’ (‘most eloquent [or perhaps learned] and true handmaid of Christ’, p. 1). In the prologue to Book ii, Matilda is addressed as ‘charissima nostri’ (‘dearest’, ‘my most beloved’, p. 15), just as she was ‘charissima’ in the epistolary preface (p. 1), quoted above; in Books iii and iv she is addressed as ‘omni desiderii mei charissima’ (‘most beloved of all my desire’, p. 26) and ‘omni desiderii mei charissima soror’ (‘most beloved sister of all my desire’, p. 34).38 The collaboration between ealdorman and historian and abbess and patron is expressed in terms of a particularly loving epistolary relationship. The Chronicle certainly celebrates Æthelweard’s affection for Matilda. As Book iv states, it is dedicated to her, spurred by familial love: ‘Tibi ergo hoc opus deuoueo, gratissima, coactus propinquitatis amore’ (‘I dedicate this work to you, dearest one, impelled by family love’, p.39). But Æthelweard also takes into account in this same passage other readers whom he encourages to be similarly loving or charitable: ‘alias caritate suademus cunctos preposita legi’ (‘let us persuade others that the things put before them be read with affection’, p. 39). The relationship between Æthelweard and Matilda, then, is a model for the affective engagement of readers with historiography, and if there is one thing that Æthelweard’s Chronicle is known for, it is his showy Latin with its taste for neologisms, rare vocabulary, and Grecisms; all ways to draw learned readers into the work.39 What binds together these various subjects – author, patron, readers – is love or charitable affection. The writer of the Earliest Life of Gregory the Great made a similar point about the community of saints, arguing that the love of Christ, dwelling in and through all saints, explains how the miracle of one holy person might be just as truthfully reported of another. In the Chronicle, writing and reading history holds together families, friends, and communities separated by distance and time. Distance is certainly on Æthelweard’s mind. In the prologue to Book iii, Æthelweard calibrates his loving affection for his cousin in terms of the mind that travels: ‘In quantum ergo longinquo spatia mens metitur, in tantum charitatis proprius generatur affectus’ (‘The more, therefore, my 37 38 39

See, for example, Classen and Sandidge (eds.), Friendship. The exact repetition is striking: it is worth bearing in mind that the Chronicle is known only from a sixteenth-century printed edition by Henry Savile; see Æthelweard, Chronicle, pp. ix–x. Winterbottom, ‘Style of Æthelweard’.

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mind takes the measure of distant regions, the more the spirit of love is engendered nearby’, p. 26). The capacity of the mind to travel and thereby condense distance has long been associated with shorter Old English poems such as The Wanderer and The Seafarer.40 In thinking of an absent subject, the seafarer’s mind turns over, goes over the sea beyond his breast, ‘min mod-sefa mid mere-flode’ (‘my mind with the sea flood’), for example, only to return more ‘gifre ond grædig’ (‘eager and greedy’).41 Æthelweard’s love for his continental cousin is similarly enhanced by mind-travel. Although this parallel has not been commented upon, that the Chronicle offers evidence for Æthelweard’s knowledge of Old English poetry has.42 His Chronicle also concludes with a re-versioning or reworking into Latin verse of the Old English Chronicle poems about Edgar (the ‘Coronation’ and ‘Death’ of Edgar, p. 55). And Æthelweard’s eye is also caught by the details of the battle at Brunanburh (here ‘Brunandun’, p. 54), subject of another vernacular Chronicle poem.43 Given its subjects of migration, invasion, and conquest, Æthelweard’s dynastic history is much preoccupied with travel across the sea in the form of warfare but, as the example of the travelling mind indicates, to cross the sea is also a metaphor for the practice of history. Æthelweard makes the association between travel across the sea and the subjects of history explicit in the first epistolary preface, with his promise to Matilda to tell of shipwrecks, death, and the migration from the continent to Britain, discussed earlier. In Book i, he lingers on the decking out and weighing of the anchor of the ships of Hengist and Horsa (p. 7) in his account of the ‘adventus Angliae’, and in Book iii he elaborates with Virgilian flourishes on the arrival of the first ships of the Danes (p. 27) in the Alfredian period.44 The Chronicle also has a fondness for using rare Grecisms or Latin terms for ships, first noted by its editor, Campbell. In Book iv, however, Æthelweard offers Matilda an extended simile comparing his writerly achievement in reaching the point in history of the death of his ancestor, Æthelred, to a ship that reaches harbour. This journey through the past is imagined as travel over the ‘turmoil of the waves’ (‘gurgites undarum’, p. 38), a phrase echoing the surge of the ocean in the first epistolary preface

40 41 42 43 44

Clemoes, ‘Mens in absentia cogitans’; Godden, ‘Anglo-Saxons on the Mind’; Lockett, Anglo-Saxon Psychologies, pp. 35–41. The Seafarer, lines 59, 62, in Bjork (ed.), Old English Shorter Poems; my translation. Lutz, ‘Æthelweard’s Chronicon’. For analysis of the Chronicle poems, see Catherine A.M. Clarke, Writing Power, chap. 2. As noted by Winterbottom, ‘Style of Æthelweard’.

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(‘gurgite oceani’), and across a great distance (‘longinqua spatia’), a phrase also used in Æthelweard’s description of the travelling mind, quoted above. The metaphor of writing as a journey across the sea is not particularly unusual; a similar metaphor is used on a couple of occasions in the Earliest Life of Gregory the Great.45 However, Æthelweard takes the metaphor further, imagining himself and Matilda as sailors (‘quasi more nautarum’, p. 38) on the sea of history. As a writerly conceit, travel on the sea associates author and patron as embarked on the same process of journeying through the past; an image for the collaborative authorship of history. Travel as an expression of and vehicle for historiographical practice is more emphatically imagined, however, in the anonymous Old English poem, Widsith.46

History and Poetry: A Traveller’s Tale Swa ic geondferde fela fremdra londa geond ginne grund; godes ond yfles Þær ic cunnade, cnosle bidæled, freomægum feor, folgade wide. Forþon ic mæg singan ond secgan spell, mænan fore mengo in meoduhealle Widsith, lines 50–6.47 hu me cynegode cystum dohten. So I have travelled through many distant lands over the spacious earth, where I have experienced good and ill, deprived of family, far from noble kin, provided service widely. And so I am able to say and sing a story, rehearse it before company in the meadhall, how the high-born treated me to the best of things.

Æthelweard’s interest in the poetic possibilities of writing history is not unique, although his prose style and metrical translations of Old English chronicle poems into Latin are certainly distinctive. In the eighth century, Bede had offered his readers two iterations of the life of Cuthbert in poetry and in prose, and the Earliest Life of Gregory the Great had a strong interest in wordplay and Latin style, as we have seen. Closer in time to Æthelweard’s Chronicle, the Old English version of Orosius’ world history describes the classical historian, Pompeius Trogus, as ‘hæþena scop’ (‘a poet of the heathens’), even though the history itself is composed in 45 46 47

Colgrave (ed. and trans.), Earliest Life, chap. 2, p. 75. For the writing of history as travel writing, see also Chapter 8 above. Widsith, in Krapp and Dobbie (eds.), Exeter Book, pp. 149–53. All references are to this edition; translations mine. See also Hill (ed.), Old English Minor Heroic Poems, pp. 29–33.

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prose.48 Historians as poets: this brief comment offers a glimpse of how Anglo-Saxon culture might accommodate historiography within its own conventions of English poetry. Pompeius, together with Justinus (the historian who wrote the Epitome of Pompeius’ work), make history by singing poetry or songs, the Old English Orosius suggests. Bately argues that this association of classical historian with vernacular poet is a misreading or error, but the underlying association of poet and historian works well with the Old English poetic tradition.49 In Anglo-Saxon poetry, the oral poet or scop – a role imagined for men as the Old English poem Deor also suggests – memorialises the past through the medium of heroic song. If a classical historian can turn Old English poet, the Old English poet may turn historian. Widsith, which explicitly connects travel with history, as the quotation above demonstrates, offers just such a poet, and its anonymous authorship, conventional enough for Old English poetry, enables his representation. In the quotation above, the life and experiences of the eponymous Widsith, a traveller in distant places and among foreign peoples, far from family or kin, are summarised in fulfilment of his role of praise-poet and memory worker in the courts of the world. Widsith is a relatively short Old English poem. Included in the midtenth-century poetic anthology, the Exeter Book, it is usually considered as one of a small group of poems about the legendary heroic or migration age. Other examples are Deor and Waldere, although Beowulf is the fullest expression of such an interest in warfare and military expansion through travel. In terms of genre, Widsith is a catalogue poem. The eponymous poet, Widsith, sings of his encyclopedic knowledge of the past in the form of lists of rulers and the ruled, peoples or tribes visited, and lords and patrons sought. The poem offers an impressive display of the poet’s skill in assembling the legendary past through which he claims to have travelled, however improbable the distances of time and space. As Hill and others have demonstrated, some of Widsith’s knowledge is familiar, available in poems such as Beowulf and its continental, later analogues. Some of it is included in Latin histories by Tacitus, Jordanes, and Paulus Diaconus – historians known to the Anglo-Saxons – or from later, related sources, such

48

49

Bately (ed.), Old English Orosius, Book i, chap. 5, lines 23–5 (my punctuation); see also Taranu, ‘Senses of the Past’, pp. 79–80. For discussion of the Orosius, dates and manuscripts, see Godden, ‘Old English Orosius’; and Leneghan, ‘Translatio Imperii’. Bately (ed.), Old English Orosius, notes to lines 23–5, p. 213; for ms. ‘Sompeius’, read ‘Pompeius’. The Old English translator usually renders Latin ‘poeta’, not ‘historicus’, as ‘scop’.

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as Saxo Grammaticus.50 Widsith, in other words, is an example of how to do history in Old English poetry. History as the practice of praising the great and renowned is a feature of other early medieval histories, as we have seen. The anonymous author of the Earliest Life of Gregory the Great made sense of Gregory’s life for her monastic familia and the royal family of her community. Æthelweard consciously fashioned his authorial self-presentation in the Chronicle in partnership with Matilda, another member of the elite dynasty of the Saxons. Widsith offers us the poet or scop as historian of the peoples – families – and places of the past, a role made possible by royal patronage, including that of one particular queen, Ealhhild. Widsith and its poet-historian are not interested in narrative history, however. Rather, the poem uses the catalogue, a practice of memorialisation, to rehearse the names, peoples, and places of its royal families and heroic tribes. The word-hoard of its scop unlocks, as line 1 puts it, this world of kin and court, inviting the audience to participate in its memory work and join in its song of praise: ‘Widsið maðolade, word-hord onleac, / se þe monna mæst mægþa ofer eorþan, / folca geondferde’ (‘Widsith spoke, unlocked his word-hoard, he who had travelled through most peoples, men, across the earth’, lines 1–3). As an exercise in world history, the poem displays Widsith’s impressive knowledge, stretching the boundaries between fiction and history, invention and plausibility. Alexander and Caesar, the Greeks, the Jews, the Indians and the Egyptians, the Franks, the Frisians, the Goths, the Romans, the Angles, the Danes, the Welsh, for example, not to mention Hnæf, Offa, Ingeld, Theodoric, Eormanric, and Hama: no single person could have visited all these peoples and places, some of which are the stuff of legend rather than fact. But a single poem and a single poet could. Widsith, whose name means something like ‘far traveller’, as proper name, and ‘wide journey’, as noun, is the poem’s fiction for that poet. In a condensation of proper name and noun evident in lines 1–3 and lines 50–6 of the poem, Widsith sings of his travels through distant places practising his art and being rewarded for it. Widsith states that he works with Scilling, who joins him in singing with a clear voice (‘sciran reorde’, line 103). Like the proper name, Widsith, Scilling is attested once as a name, just enough to be considered to be viable.51 However, the more common noun, scilling, refers to a unit of money or ‘shilling’; and scillan, 50 51

Hill’s notes and glossary in Old English Minor Heroic Poems, pp. 29–33, are invaluable; see also her ‘“Widsith” and the Tenth Century’. According to the Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England (Widsith 1, www.pase.ac.uk, accessed 1 October 2016), there is one attested record for the name of Widsith in the form of a reference to the

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the verb, means ‘to resound’. Scilling may be the name of a fellow poet or the name of Widsith’s harp, then, both of which neatly connect the practice of making poetry with the receiving of rewards (‘shillings’), a major theme of this poem. Widsith offers a bit more information about Widsith, scop or poethistorian, than it does about many others including Scilling, however. Describing himself as the best of poets, he claims to have travelled through the ancestral lands of the legendary past, the Angles and the Goths included, working for the greatest of patrons. In what we might call the proem or prologue to the poem (lines 1–9), Widsith is described as a Myrging and is said to travel with Ealhhild, a good or faithful peaceweaver, from the land of the Angles to the court of the notorious Eormanric of the Goths. Offa of the Angles, the great warrior king mentioned several times in the poem (lines 35, 37, 38), is said to have secured the border of the land of the Angles with the Myrgings (lines 41–2). Later (lines 88–108), Widsith claims he was with Eormanric throughout his travels (line 88), although his lord among the Myrgings was Eadgils (lines 93–4). Widsith the Myrging is thereby associated with the ancestral Angles (via Offa) and with the Ostrogoths (via Eormanric).52 The poet also comments that Eormanric treated him well, but that his greatest rewards came from noble Ealhhild, whose praise he sang whenever asked to speak of generous, gold-adorned queens: ‘Hyre lof lengde geond londa fela, / þonne ic be songe secgan scolde / hwær ic under swegle selast wisse / goldhrodene cwen giefe bryttian’ (‘Her praise lengthened throughout many a land when I had to say in a song where under the heavens I knew of the best of gold-adorned queens giving gifts’, lines 99–102). According to Widsith, these songs were themselves praised as the best of songs when he worked the courts with Scilling (lines 106–8). Names matter in Widsith, and Ealhhild is the only woman named. Her description as a ‘dryhtcwen duguþe’ (line 98), a ‘noble queen of the warrior troop’ is similarly unique, although its force, designating her as a leader of elite warriors, is plain enough.53 Ealhhild is also included in the same web of allusions linking the continental Angles and the Goths as our

52 53

epitaph for an Abbot Widsith, in a collection of epigrams and verses made for the eighth-century bishop, Milred. Hill also notes a reference to a Widsith in the Durham Liber vitae (Old English Minor Heroic Poems, p. 102), confirmed by Neidorf, ‘Dating of Widsith’, p. 171. Scilling attests several eighth-century charters as a ‘praefectus’ (Scilling 1, www.pase.ac.uk, accessed 5 October 2016); see also Hill’s discussion of this name (Old English Minor Heroic Poems, p. 97). For the Goths, see Niles, ‘Widsith’; for Offa, see Hill (ed.), Old English Minor Heroic Poems, p. 95. According to the Toronto Dictionary of Old English (www.doe.utoronto.ca, accessed 2 October 2016), ‘dryhtcwen’ is a hapax legomenon.

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poet-historian. Described as an effective peace-weaver (‘fælre freoþuwebbe’, line 6), Ealhhild may have travelled from the court of the Myrgings (associated with Eadgils, Widsith’s lord) to marry Eormanric of the Goths (lines 5–8). If so, the marriage would cement an alliance between the ancestral Angles and the Goths. Ealhhild is also said to be the daughter of Eadwine in line 98. There are two further references to Eadwine (lines 74, 117), who was probably the father of the sixth-century king of the Lombards, Audoin.54 Edwin is also a common Anglo-Saxon name, and the name of Eadgils is also attested from the eighth century on; the poem may want to spark such associations. Ealhhild, however, is not an attested Anglo-Saxon female name (although hild is a common enough name-element). Unlike Offa or Eormanric, nothing else is known of her, other than the possibility that her name might be cognate with Svanhildr, possibly the wife of Eormanric who died for her alleged infidelity in one version of this Scandinavian story.55 Nothing is known about Widsith or Scilling either, as we have already seen, yet all three, Ealhhild, Widsith, and Scilling, are associated with the historical figures of Offa and Eormanric, and with the historical peoples the Angles, the Goths, and the Lombards. Like Widsith, the poet-historian, and Scilling’s resonant song, our noble patron, Ealhhild, hovers between fiction and history. Indeed, Ealhhild, Widsith, and Scilling might be said to condense into figural representation the practice of singing praise songs about the peoples of the past, the ancestors of the Anglo-Saxons included, honouring those who sing them, and celebrating those who support them with their patronage.

Conclusion Widsith is a tenth-century expression of a distant, legendary past that precedes the adventus Saxonum in the fifth and sixth centuries.56 The anonymous poem gives pride of place to a named poet who rehearses for his audience the travelling of his memory through time and space. But the poem also attends to those who supported his work, and the most notable of those was a royal woman, Ealhhild. Historiography is imagined here in terms of a client and patron relationship, where a male poet sings and a noble woman rewards. Æthelweard’s Chronicle is another tenth-century history, this time in Latin, written with his noble relation, spiritual 54 56

Hill (ed.), Old English Minor Heroic Poems, p.81. 55 Ibid., pp. 81–2. I put to one side arguments about the date of the composition of the poem: see Neidorf, ‘Dating of Widsith’; and Weiskott, ‘Metre of Widsith’.

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superior, and patron, Matilda of Essen. It presents the history of the Angles and Saxons from the fifth century to the tenth century as that of the modern family of Matilda and Æthelweard. It demonstrates his loving relationship with his continental cousin, offering an archiving, or editing, of earlier histories and annals relevant to their shared history. Writing archival history establishes relationships that persist over time and conquer distance. Travel images both the content of history and its historiographical practice. Like Æthelweard and Matilda, the fictional poet-historian Widsith and his patron Ealhhild travel on the sea of history. Widsith and Æthelweard’s Chronicle are secular histories in different languages and genres. Widsith is not much interested in the religious past. Æthelweard’s Chronicle is framed in terms of Christian world history, adapts the conventional account of Gregory’s mission to the English, and registers the resting places of royal saints wherever possible. It complements Matilda’s religious authority, in short, but it does not challenge it. By contrast, the earliest of the histories in this chapter, the Life of Gregory the Great, records for posterity the conversion of the Northumbrians in the sixth and early seventh centuries as an expression of the life history of Pope Gregory the Great. If written by a woman, the earliest known woman historian in Britain and Ireland, then this writer had a strong sense of the importance of her work for familia and community in Northumbria and for the Church at Rome. She wished to convey to her readers her sense of responsibility as a historian by noting that her sources are sometimes limited, and she demonstrates how the events of the past from distant places and times reach the present in a variety of ways. The recording of past events for this historian offers, in other words, the possibility of holding together different subjects and audiences: working collaboratively, she also worked anonymously on behalf of her community. When the question of gender is introduced into discussions of historiography, therefore, the subjects of history and its writers, female and male, are brought into different focus. Each of the early medieval works explored in this chapter is inventive, ambitious, idiosyncratic, and uniquely stylish. Each might be said to establish a different threshold for practising history and for understanding those who author it. The Earliest Life of Gregory the Great exemplifies how the life of one holy person might be understood in terms of the wider interests of religious and royal communities, family and familia; its story of the conversion of the English echoes through later histories and accounts; and, while its author is anonymous, that anonymous person may well be a woman. Æthelweard’s Chronicle is the product of a commitment to dynastic

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history made also by his relation and patron; it offers a model of female patronage that became more fully developed in the next generation of royal women, Edith and Emma; and its author presents himself as a learned member of an aristocratic elite, a self-fashioning facilitated by his collaboration with Matilda. The anonymously authored Widsith demonstrates that the traditions of heroic poetry might be used to express a poet’s relationship with his female patron in ways that make possible his recall of past times; its poet-historian, Widsith, and noble queen, Ealhhild, are best understood as inventions, fictions, anchored in the poem and in its poetic history by their names. Anonymous, religious, collaborative, elite, dynastic, poetic, fictional, royal, male, and female: these are the various and diverse authorial positions from which history is practised in Latin and in English, in poetry and in prose, in the early Middle Ages. In sum, there is no singular concept of authorship, more than one language, and more than one genre available to those women and men who practised early English historiography. The variety of ways in which history was written also points to the variety of ways gender interacts with authorship.

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chapter 18

Historical Writing in Medieval Britain: The Case of Matthew Paris Björn Weiler

This chapter uses the English Benedictine monk Matthew Paris (c.1200–59) as a case study to explore several themes at the heart of this volume. It is thus not Matthew who will take centre stage, but the writings attributed to him, and what they reveal about the historical culture of the thirteenth century.1 First, though, a short sketch of who Matthew was and why his oeuvre matters will prove helpful. He ranks as one of the most wide-ranging and prolific writers of history in medieval Britain. A member of the community of St Albans, Matthew composed a world chronicle (the Chronica majora), a history of England (the Historia Anglorum), revisions of both (the Abbreviatio chronicarum, the Flores historiarum, and an as yet unedited chronicle), a history of the abbots of St Albans (the Gesta abbatum), as well as several saints’ Lives (in both Latin and Anglo-Norman), an account of the foundation of St Albans (the Vitae duorum Offarum), a sketch of the life of Stephen Langton, several royal genealogies, maps of the Holy Land and Britain, and an account of the translation of St Alban’s relics (as yet unedited).2 Matthew’s range and scope were unusual. His efforts encompass most aspects of medieval historical culture: universal, national, and communal history. Likewise, his horizons of reporting extended from Norway to Morocco, and from Ireland to Armenia. He remains the chief and often the only source for matters as diverse as the affairs of the Holy Land, the Mongols, or the conflicts between Emperor Frederick II and successive popes. Little is, however, known about Matthew Paris the person. He was probably born around 1200,3 almost certainly died in 1259, and had most 1 2 3

For the concept of ‘historical culture’, see Lambert, ‘What is Historical Culture’; and Weiler, ‘Themes in Historical Culture’. The literature on Matthew Paris is vast. The best introductions remain Vaughan, Matthew Paris; Suzanne Lewis, Art of Matthew Paris; Sansone, Tra cartografia. Though Binski convincingly argues Matthew’s assumed date of birth should be pushed back by at least five and possibly ten years (unpublished paper, delivered at Aberystwyth, 12 October 2017; a revised version will be published as ‘Matthew Paris the Artist’).

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likely never been to Paris. Otherwise, he remains elusive, surfacing neither in the records of the king’s administration, nor in those of his abbey.4 Even so, the absence of evidence for Matthew Paris the person is compensated for by the abundance of evidence for the persona of Matthew Paris the writer. Most of his manuscripts were either autographs or had at least been compiled under his close supervision. They survive largely as originally conceived, and in some instances allow us to trace processes of rewriting and refashioning.5 Matthew was, moreover, anything but self-effacing,6 and frequently portrayed himself as someone personally receiving news.7 He also commented freely on what he reported and in a distinctive authorial voice. Given how central that voice is to the questions underpinning this chapter, it merits sketching out. It is not, however, easily conveyed except in summary. For example, in the entry for 1254 the account of the death of Pope Innocent IV – Matthew’s bête noir – stretched over three distinct but closely linked episodes. The first recorded a vision in which the recently deceased bishop of Lincoln angrily beat the pontiff with his episcopal staff, resulting in Innocent suffering an unbearable pain in his side that did not abate until his death a few weeks later. Matthew continued to report several visions in which a Roman cardinal and Innocent’s successor beheld scenes of posthumous judgement, where both the Virgin and a woman representing the Church accused the late pope before God, resulting in the agitated pontiff being carried off for punishment. The chronicler concluded with the pious hope that Innocent had only been sent to Purgatory. Taken together, these accounts run to nearly 2,000 words.8 Clearly, concision was not the chronicler’s forte. Still, the episodes highlight recurring rhetorical devices and moral themes. The use of vivid imagery, occasionally bordering on the cartoonish, is characteristic of Matthew.9 It also shines light on fundamental moral failings: undue foreign influence, papal corruption, moneylending, and a refusal to take counsel. Indeed, hardly a reference to popes and their officials goes by where he does not heap calumny on the curia for its corruption and venality, and no reference to foreigners where he did not 4 6 7 8 9

Vaughan, Matthew Paris, pp. 1, 19–20. 5 Vaughan, ‘Handwriting’. Vaughan, Matthew Paris, pp. 149–51. CM, vol. iii, pp. 367–8, vol. iv, pp. 644–5, 650–2, vol. v, pp. 231–2, 284–7; Hist Angl., vol. iii, pp. 40–1, 304; GA, vol. i, p. 18; Paris, Lives of Two Offas, pp. 125–6. CM, vol. v, pp. 429–30, 470–2, 491–2. Readers might want to read his Lives of the Two Offas for a taste of just how exuberant and cartoonish Matthew’s narrative could be.

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mention how they had wisely been expelled elsewhere. Matthew’s account of events in early 1257 provides an illustrative example. He begins by recounting how Earl Richard of Cornwall travelled to Germany to be crowned king of the Romans. This trip caused unease at the French court, and Louis IX started traversing the more remote regions of his realm. This episode provides Matthew with an opportunity to list the leading princes of the Capetian kingdom, chief among them the duke of Normandy. Matthew recaps that the king of England was duke by right, as the title had passed to him by descent, while he was king by conquest. ‘For it was said that the blessed Edward, lacking an heir, had bequeathed the realm to William the Bastard, duke of Normandy. Yet it had been asserted that this bequest lacked force, because he made it on his deathbed, and without the common consent of his barons.’10 Similarly, Matthew applauds the Germans for insisting that Richard send home his English entourage (because they did not want to be ruled by foreigners),11 and even Richard’s election was used to malign the papal court: given the curia’s well-known avarice, the Germans did not want to be ruled by a supporter of the pope.12 This type of comment, i.e. the barbed aside that expressed grievances while treating seemingly unrelated matters, is typical of Matthew’s writing. The same approach is evident when Matthew dealt with groups whom he otherwise portrayed as inimical to Christendom. He asserts that norms that in England and Christendom had long been abandoned were upheld even by the enemies of the faith.13 The Mongols, for example, derived part of their strength from killing any foreigner approaching their camps when they held councils, or dealt with matters of importance;14 and when, in 1237, the Byzantines rejected plans for a union with the Latin Church (as they abhorred the curia’s corruption), the decision was made after a Byzantine prelate had reported back to the Greek nobility on his experiences in Rome.15 Matthew’s portrayal of Jews followed a similar pattern.16 On the one hand, he viewed them as part of a conspiracy to weaken Christendom.17 He also drew on the full repertoire of anti-Judaic tropes, reporting accusations 10

11 13 15 16 17

CM, vol. v, pp. 606–7: ‘Dicitur tamen, quod beatus Edwardus, eo quod haerede caruit, regnum legavit Willelmo bastardo duci Normannorum. Sed hoc robore asseritur caruisse, quia hoc fecit inlecto letali et sine barnagii sui communi assensu.’ See also Reader, ‘Norman Conquest’. CM, vol. v, p. 653. 12 CM, vol. v, p. 603. The following summarises Weiler, ‘Matthew Paris and Europe’. 14 CM, vol. iv, p. 388. CM, vol. iii, p. 470. On the subject more generally: Menache, ‘Anglo-Jewry’; Weiss, ‘Juden’. CM, vol. iv, pp. 131–3; Menache, ‘Tartars’.

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of ritual murder at Norwich in 1235, London in 1244, and Lincoln in 1255, or how a certain Abraham placed a statue of the Virgin in his privy to abuse.18 In each case, he approved of the severe punishment subsequently meted out not just to the alleged perpetrators, but also to the local Jewish community as a whole. Indeed, Matthew claimed, even Muslims refused to accept that those who had betrayed Christ were still tolerated among Christians. Because of this, in 1253 Louis IX, acting at the behest of the ‘Saracens’, ordered Jewish communities to be expelled from his realm.19 On the other hand, when, in 1254, the earl of Cornwall demanded a subsidy, Matthew approvingly recorded a speech that he attributed to the ‘high priest’ of the Jews, Elias, in which the Jews begged to be allowed to leave England. Now that the king had extorted all he could from his natural subjects, he had turned to them, who had little left to give. The king should instead approach the pope’s officials and foreign bankers, to whom all that money had been given.20 Like Mongols and Byzantines, for Matthew, Jews constituted a mirror in which to behold the failings of Christians. Matthew’s authorial voice further manifested itself in a tendency to forge neologisms, distinctive grammatical constructions and vocabulary, too numerous to list here.21 In combination with the manuscript context, they make it easy to identify a text as likely written or revised by him. Yet that distinctiveness, and Matthew’s tendency to insert himself directly into a narrative, has lured many modern readers into crediting him with a degree of authorial agency equal to or even greater than their own. With the important exception of Miriam Weiss (who has, however, focused on the Chronica),22 scholars often portray Matthew as unencumbered by convention, or by the pressures of patronage and audience. The following offers a corrective to this approach by focusing on the communal and cultural context within which Matthew operated. Medieval historical writing was, after all, both a social and a cultural practice.23 The image of a lone brother, scribbling away in a corner of the monastic scriptorium, though common in manuscript illustration, never quite 18 19 22 23

CM, vol. iii, pp. 305–6, vol. iv, pp. 377–8, vol. v, pp. 516–19, 114–16. CM, vol. v, pp. 361–2. 20 CM, vol. v, p. 516. 21 Vaughan, Matthew Paris, pp. 126–30. Weiss, ‘Chronica maiora’. I am grateful to Dr Weiss for a copy of her thesis. The book version was published after this chapter had been completed. My approach is informed by Becker’s analysis of artistic production: Art Worlds. I would also like to thank Jessica Coatsworth and Miriam Weiss for making me think in more detail about this issue – even though we probably still disagree as to the extent of Matthew’s agency. On monastic chronicles in the context of monastic memory, see also Chapter 2 above.

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corresponded to what we know of medieval realities.24 Even in a community as large as St Albans (with about a hundred monks in the early thirteenth century),25 life was too well regulated to embark upon the kinds of project that Matthew pursued without the brethren’s backing. Moreover, other people besides Matthew’s fellow monks held stakes in his endeavours, including the abbey’s patrons, Matthew’s informants, and the wider familia of St Albans. What might these people have hoped to receive in return, and how did their expectations help shape Matthew’s writing? To be sure, the evidence is too circumstantial to allow for definite answers: there are no extant letters of dedication or mandates of commission, and as few of Matthew’s works were copied, we can say little about reception. Still, taking into account the community’s involvement forces us to look beyond Matthew, and ask about the place of historical writing within the intellectual culture of St Albans, the role of commemorative expertise in thirteenth-century society, and the interplay between author and community.

Historiography as Communal Enterprise Matthew’s efforts would not have been possible without communal backing. Most immediately, his oeuvre required considerable resources. The manuscripts were lavishly produced, designed both for ease of reading and display. For example, the leaves for Matthew’s universal chronicle, the Chronica majora, and his history of England, the Historia Anglorum, are roughly one and a half times the size of a sheet of A4 paper.26 They were written in clear and legible script, with few abbreviations, normally in two columns of about fifty lines each.27 Similarly, in the Chronica, headings guided readers through the chronology of the events reported, as did marginal illustrations and other visual markers – such as inverted coats of arms or episcopal staffs to denote deaths. Indeed, the lavishness and topical range of Matthew’s illustrations are remarkable.28 The first part of the Cambridge manuscript of the Chronica (Corpus Christi College, MS 26), 24 25 26

27 28

Separate study cells did, of course, exist, but were coveted and a token of prestige: Hardy, Descriptive Catalogue, pp. xxi–xxiii. Weiss, ‘Chronica maiora’, p. 9. The leaves in the Cambridge manuscript of the Chronica Majora (Cambridge, Corpus Christi MS 16 and 26) measure 35.8 × 24.4 cm; those of the revised London version (London, BL, Cotton MS Nero D. v) 37 × 25 cm; and those of the Historia Anglorum (London, BL, Royal Ms 14 C VII) 36 × 24.5 cm. See, for the Chronica Majora, Weiss, ‘Chronica maiora’, pp. 27–39. See Suzanne Lewis, Art of Matthew Paris, pp. 466–93.

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for instance, included images of, among other topics, King Lear and his daughters (fol. 6r), a Nativity (fol. 15v), a depiction of Merlin (fol. 33v), a portrait of King Alfred (fol. 65r), a sketch of two Templars sharing a horse (fol. 110v), a bust of King David I of Scotland (fol. 117v), a scene from Becket’s murder (fol. 132r), and one representing Saladin and King Guy of Jerusalem fighting over the relic of the Holy Cross (fol. 140r). The manuscript is prefaced by a seven-page itinerary from London to the Holy Land, a liturgical calendar, and a diagram of winds, and it concludes with an image of the Virgin and child, an account of St Patrick’s prophecy concerning St David, and a list of Anglo-Saxon royal saints. Matthew’s hagiographical writings are just as lavishly designed. In both the Vitae duorum Offarum and the Life of Edward the Confessor, roughly a third of the page was occupied by scenic panels that followed the text, but also offered narratives of their own. Luxurious design was matched by extravagant length. In its nineteenthcentury edition, the Chronica majora measures nearly a million words, almost four times the size of the text on which it was based, the Flores historiarum by Roger of Wendover, another St Albans monk. The Historia, in turn, comes to c.350,000 words, with the Abbreviatio 75,000 and Matthew’s Flores measuring about 200,000. By contrast, the edition in the same series of the Annals of Dunstable, the longest extant thirteenthcentury English chronicle produced independently of St Albans, measures roughly 135,000 words. Likewise, the frequent interaction between Matthew and prominent visitors suggests that he acted with the support of his brethren. It is similarly doubtful that the outburst of activity during the 1250s would have been possible without communal backing: between c.1250 and 1259, Matthew rewrote and then continued the Chronica majora, completed and continued the Historia Anglorum, in addition to the Abbreviatio chronicarum, the Flores historiarum, an as yet unedited chronicle, continued the Gesta abbatum, and composed the Vitae duorum Offarum, that is, most of his known historiographical output. He could not have done so on his own, and did, in fact, have recourse to assistants, likely provided by his brethren.29 Why were Matthew’s efforts worth the communal investment? For one thing, he provided an up-to-date record of the communal past. The abbey’s self-image rested on its reputed antiquity, the status of its patron saint as the first English martyr, and close association with royal patrons. St Albans was believed to have been founded by King Offa II of Mercia in 793. However, 29

Vaughan, Matthew Paris, pp. 118–19, 215–16.

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that tradition was both invented and disputed: there is no record predating the twelfth century that links St Albans to its reputed founder;30 until the 1150s, Ely claimed possession of the relics of St Alban; and outside St Albans, Offa was remembered chiefly as a murderous tyrant.31 Moreover, the abbey’s knowledge of its history remained incomplete. The identity of Alban’s companion Amphibalus was discovered only in the 1170s, while Matthew himself learned about the reputed exile of the relics of St Alban in Denmark, and their clandestine retrieval by a St Albans monk, from local goldsmiths who had spent several years at the Danish royal court.32 Matthew filled these gaps by updating earlier materials and by creating new ones. His Gesta abbatum revised and continued a history of the abbots of St Albans, written c.1178. The Anglo-Norman Vie of St Alban, the abbey’s patron saint, drew on texts, also produced c.1178, to commemorate the translation of the saint’s relics and the discovery of those of St Amphibalus.33 In the Vitae duorum Offarum, Matthew created a communal origin story centring on the abbey’s reputed founder. He also preserved the abbey’s liturgical and hagiographical foundations by compiling texts relating to the veneration of St Alban (Dublin, Trinity College, MS 177, the ‘Book of St Alban’). In short, Matthew fashioned a comprehensive version of the past that not only refuted the claims of rivals, but also enshrined St Albans’s status as a kind of British monastic vanguard. His writings might also have reflected shifting expectations as to how the past ought to be written. Until the early thirteenth century, most historical narratives produced at St Albans centred on its history and that of its saints.34 Then something began to change. During the first decades of the thirteenth century, St Albans scribes copied Ralph de Diceto’s Abbreviationes chronicarum and Imagines historiarum (BL, MS Royal 13 E vi) and the compilation in BL MS Royal 13 D v, which included William of Malmesbury’s Gesta regum, Gesta pontificum, and Historia novella; Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae; Aelred of Rievaulx’s De genealogia regum Anglorum, as well as genealogies of the kings of France and counts of Flanders, and other texts.35 We also know that Roger of Wendover (about whom more below) based his Flores on the Chronicon of Roger of Howden.36 These materials constituted a veritable compendium 30 31 34 35 36

Hayward, ‘Cult of St Alban’; Crick, ‘Offa’; Crick, ‘St Albans’. 32 Weiler, ‘Monastic Historical Culture’, pp. 106–9. GA, vol. i, pp. 13–18. 33 Ibid., p. 118. Pamela Taylor, ‘Early St Albans’; HW1, p. 375; Paris, Life of St Alban, p. 9. Thomson, Manuscripts from St Albans, vol. i, pp. 20–63. Ibid., vol. i, pp. 70–7. Roger of Wendover, Flores historiarum. On Roger: Staunton, Historians of Angevin England, pp. 51–66.

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of the most important historical narratives of post-Conquest England. They also combined broad geographical horizons of reporting with considerable length. Ralph of Diceto’s was among the earliest universal histories composed (rather than copied) in England.37 Likewise, while clearly focusing on English affairs, nearly 30 per cent of William of Malmesbury’s Gesta regum Anglorum dealt with events occurring outside Britain.38 Taken together, William’s Gesta pontificum, Gesta regum, and Historia novella occupy roughly 1,200 pages of text (excluding commentaries) in their modern editions. Finally, Roger of Howden’s Chronica provides extensive treatment of events in Iberia, Germany, and the Holy Land, and occupies four volumes in the Rolls Series. In short, the kind of history read at thirteenth-century St Albans recorded the affairs of the world at large, and did so in considerable detail. This outlook shaped the domestic production of historical narratives. At some point between 1200 and 1225 (the precise date remains uncertain), Roger of Wendover embarked upon the Flores historiarum, a universal chronicle that would ultimately stretch from the Creation to 1235, and that was subsequently revised and continued in Matthew’s Chronica. There is no critical edition of Roger’s works deserving of that label, but the least truncated of the nineteenth-century redactions runs to four volumes of text and roughly 1,300 pages.39 Its coverage, while expansive, was still more condensed than the Chronica’s. During the later 1220s, at the height of Roger’s writing, most annals amounted to 4,000–6,000 words, as opposed to the 12,000–15,000 words of Matthew’s average entry during the 1250s (when his writing reached its peak). Similarly, Roger’s geographical range was more limited – in fact, many of Matthew’s revisions consisted of adding information about wider European affairs.40 Even so, we can see how St Albans fostered an environment for the production of histories on a monumental scale and in a universal key. This cultural horizon of expectations, in turn, provided the framework within which Matthew was able to operate, and might well have made possible in the first place his own engagement with writing history. Additionally, Matthew’s reputation for recovering past deeds and recording the present could become an incentive for putative patrons. Circumstantial evidence suggests that his talents were used to this end. Paul Binski has pointed out that Matthew’s earliest writings were likely 37 38 39 40

Ibid., pp. 67–81; Weiler, ‘How Unusual’, pp. 218–19. Kersken, Geschichtsschreibung, p. 176 n. 198. See also Thomson, ‘William of Malmesbury’. HW1, pp. 356–79; Roger of Wendover, Flores historiarum. Weiler, ‘How Unusual’, pp. 209–11.

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his hagiographical works, which, in the style of a veritable lending library (Binski’s term), were then dispatched for copying by recipients (which included the queen’s household).41 Likewise, Frederic Madden, the nineteenth-century editor of the Historia Anglorum, speculated that it might initially have been intended for a royal audience. Certainly, a revised programme of illustrations, and shifts in narrative, thematic focus and tone lend force to his suggestion.42 Thus, the manuscript includes a map of Britain and a pictorial representation of the postConquest English kings. The narrative, moreover, starts out with the Norman Conquest, rather than Creation, while new materials introduced refer to English affairs, such as the repeated references to Henry I’s coronation charter and its dissemination;43 Thomas Becket’s return to England in 1170;44 the final days of King John;45 and a revised account of the Earl Marshal’s revolt of 1233–4 (to which we will return).46 The Flores historiarum, in turn, was dispatched to Westminster,47 while Miriam Weiss has proposed that even the Chronica could have been a royal commission.48 Furthermore, we know that several of St Albans’ benefactors took an interest in the past. Matthew owed information about the early history of St Albans to local minters who had been at the Danish court,49 while the Book of St Albans contains information attributed to John Mansel, a leading royal official.50 Furthermore, none other than King Henry III had talked to Matthew Paris about those Anglo-Saxon kings venerated as saints and asked Matthew to include their names in his chronicle.51 Clearly, Matthew’s work reflected the interests of several of his community’s most powerful patrons. In this context, we need to consider what lay patronage and a lay audience might have meant in thirteenth-century England. Patronage need not involve the actual commissioning or receiving of texts: rather, commemorative expertise could be utilised to solicit further gifts, information, or backing.52 Even if not read, manuscripts as objects demonstrated 41 42 43 46 48 50 51 52

Binski, ‘Matthew Paris the Artist’; Paris, History of Saint Edward, pp. 26–7. Hist. Angl., vol. iii, p. xxxii; Weiler, ‘Writing of History’, p. 269. Hist. Angl., vol. i, pp. 176–7, 180–1. 44 Ibid., pp. 359–62. 45 Ibid., pp. 191–3. Ibid., pp. 364–7. 47 Carpenter, ‘Pershore Flores historiarum’. Weiss, ‘Chronica Maiora’, pp. 196–8. 49 Weiler, ‘Historical Writing’, pp. 205–6. Dublin, Trinity College, MS. 177, fol. 22; Vaughan, Matthew Paris, p. 196. CM, vol. v, p. 617. For an excellent case study focusing on mainland Europe in the twelfth century, see Paul, To Follow in their Footsteps. See also Chapter 2 above. It might be worth noting that non-aristocratic lay patronage of historical writing seems to have focused on narratives in Latin: Stone, ‘Arnold Fitz Thedmar’; Mertens, ‘Der Straßburger Ellenhard-Codex’. That is, we should not assume that laypeople, simply by dint of their status, were uninterested in Latin texts.

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commemorative expertise – especially if they were as lavishly fashioned, and as plausibly designed for display, as Matthew’s. As for audience, it pays to remember that reception need not require that a text be consulted directly. Henry Bainton’s concept of literate sociability – though developed in relation to twelfth-century vernacular narratives – might offer a clue as to how the reception of Latin historical writing could have unfolded: the manuscript served as a starting point, as an aide memoire to spur contemplation and discussion.53 Reading and interpretation remained collaborative endeavours. This, in turn, might explain key features in the design of Matthew’s vernacular saints’ Lives, and in his Lives of the Two Offas: the image atop the page summarised the written text, but also created a separate narrative, thus providing a point of entry for debate and instruction. The visual markers in Matthew’s Latin manuscripts, highlighting events of particular significance, might have served a similar purpose. Finally, even those elements that might primarily have benefited a monastic audience could still convey a message to putative lay patrons. The role of manuscripts as an aid for contemplation and devotion by the monks, for instance, made visible and thereby reinforced the religious excellence of the brethren. Likewise, history preserved a record of important events and of the lessons to be drawn from them, to be shared with visitors and patrons in turn, thereby fulfilling a key expectation of monks and clerics: that they both demonstrate religious excellence themselves and that they encourage it in others. Monks communicated with lay patrons simply by doing what monks were meant to do.

Historiography as Devotional Practice Let me elaborate on these observations by focusing on three overlapping issues: the salvific function of history (as an act of moral instruction), its hermeneutic dimension (as a tool with which to unlock meaning), and its role in devotional practices (as a spur to pious contemplation). St Albans served as a repository of memory for those who passed on news, who exhorted Matthew to record their deeds, and who shared with him information about the abbey’s past or about the workings of its saints. Yet writing history was also about teaching moral lessons, and about offering guidance for the future. Matthew’s most explicit statement on the matter occurs in the preface to the Chronica: 53

Bainton, ‘Literate Sociability’.

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the virtuous habits and lives of those who came before us are set down as an example to posterity, while the examples of the wicked are related not so that they might be imitated, but so that they might be avoided. As for earlier prodigies and portents whose appearance presaged famine, death or the other scourges of heavenly vengeance to the faithful, these things are entrusted to memory in writing, therefore, so that if similar events ever come to pass, the faithful will hasten quickly to the remedy of penitence so that they might appease God thereby.54

Knowing the past enabled Matthew and his readers to assess the present. In this sense, writing history was also an act of pastoral care, of ensuring the moral and spiritual well-being of brethren and patrons. Moreover, Matthew’s was often devotional history. The connection with the sacred is encapsulated in an image now attached to the autograph manuscript of the Historia Anglorum (BL, Royal 14 C VII, fol. 6r): about two thirds of the folio are taken up by a tinted and framed image of the Virgin and Child. Below, a prostrate figure, accompanied by a short devotional verse, is identified as Brother Matthew Paris.55 An inscription in Matthew’s hand describes the manuscript as written by him, and requests prayers for his soul and those of his brethren. While the phrasing was conventional, it nonetheless alerts us to the religious dimension of writing about the past. These devotional concerns surface throughout Matthew’s oeuvre. The manuscript design of his Life of Edward the Confessor and the Vitae duorum Offarum point in a similar direction.56 Images spurred readers to emulate, if not the deeds recounted, then at least the pious devotion from which they had sprung. Like concerns seem to have underpinned Matthew’s maps of Britain and the Holy Land. Of the 166 places recorded in the four versions of the former, 147 were monastic sites.57 The geography of the island was a record of its religious landscape, and of the holy men and women whose continuing intercession secured England’s spiritual and political well-being. Similarly, the itinerary of the pilgrimage route to and map of the Holy Land offered both a historical record and a spiritual guide, a means for the 54

55 56 57

‘[Noverint iste] bonam vitam et mores praecedentium ad invitationem subsequentium proponi, malorum verum exempla ut non imitentur, sed ut potius vitentur, describi. Prodigia autem vel portenta praeterita quae famem, vel mortalitatem, vel alia supernae vindictae flagella fidelibus innuunt, ideo memoriae per litteras commendantur, ut si quando similia evenerint, peccatores qui se iram Dei in aliquo incurrisse meminerint, mox ad remedium poenetentiae, per haec Deum placaturi, festinent.’ CM, vol. i, p. 1. Collard, ‘Self-Portrait’. Cynthia Hahn, ‘Limits of Text’; Victoria B. Jordan, ‘Multiple Narratives’. J.B. Mitchell, ‘Matthew Paris Maps’, p. 32. On the maps: P.D.A. Harvey, ‘Maps of Britain’.

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monks to trace the hardships of the journey while contemplating simultaneously the earthly sites of the biblical and Christian past, and the sacral topography of Outremer.58 Matthew’s manuscripts incited pious contemplation, but in doing so, they also encouraged and made visible the spiritual pre-eminence of St Albans. Matthew’s efforts were furthermore embedded in a sacral landscape and recorded sacred time. Its very location established St Albans as part of a topography of the holy.59 The abbey, built around what was believed to have been the site of St Alban’s burial, is situated on a hill overlooking the remains of the old Roman town of Verulamium, where the saint’s martyrdom had commenced. Similarly, in the Vitae duorum Offarum Matthew fashioned the history of the community as echoing that of the saint. The text presents the parallel histories of the entirely fictional Offa I, who had vowed to endow a monastery, and the historical Offa II, who made true his ancestor’s promise. Yet several key stages of the narrative also echo the hagiography of St Alban. In the Life of St Alban, a ray of light identified the saint’s burial place to his contemporaries, and in the Vitae another guided the king who founded the abbey to that same spot. The followers of St Amphibalus had been hacked to pieces before their bodies were put back together by divine intervention, while Offa I vowed to endow an abbey after an unnamed hermit, by force of prayer, managed to reassemble and revive the king’s wife and offspring who had similarly been killed and dismembered. The Life of St Alban was framed as a report that a newly converted Christian vowed to deliver to the pope in Rome, while the Lives of the Two Offas ended with Offa II journeying to Rome to secure papal privileges for his foundation in honour of St Alban. The history of the community thus mirrored was in fact the fulfilment of that of its patron saint.60 It might even be worth speculating whether the Lives served as a hermeneutic tool, that is, as a manual on how to read history. It did, after all, proceed in a series of parallels. Divided into two books, the events of the first foreshadowed those of the second: Offa I promised to endow an abbey, Offa II did; both were disabled at birth, and both became successful rulers; the marriage of the first Offa provided a counterfoil to that of 58

59 60

Weiß, ‘Dynastisch-territoriales Bild’; P.D.A. Harvey, ‘Maps of Palestine’; Sansone, Tra Cartografia; Connolly, ‘Imagined Pilgrimage’. Readers might also want to consult the online edition of Matthew’s map of Outremer: https://medievaldigital.ace.fordham.edu/mapping-projects/oxfordoutremer-map-project (accessed 29 December 2017). On topography and historical writing, see also Chapter 8 above. This summarises Weiler, ‘Monastic Historical Culture’, p. 118.

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the second; and so on. That is, the Lives also showed how to unlock the meaning of events, how they foreshadowed and how they could be utilised to interpret events in the present, thus echoing the statement in Matthew’s preface to the Chronica: a knowledge of history provided moral guidance, and it provided a means with which to prepare for the future.61

Historiography as Lay Instruction Matthew aided the monks and their benefactors in making sense of the world around them, and he recorded the excellence of England’s foremost abbey. These aspects of his writing help illuminate some of his idiosyncrasies, notably his forceful authorial persona, his frequent and forthright commentary, and the geographical range of his reporting. Concerning the first, a key event was the translation of the relic of the Holy Blood at Westminster in 1247, which Matthew attended as one of several St Albans monks. Henry III, Matthew reported, spotted him in the audience and invited him and his companions to dine at court. There, the king requested that Matthew insert in his chronicle an account of what he had observed that day.62 This clearly was not their first encounter: Henry knew Matthew by name, recognised him in the crowd, and was aware of his writing. It was, however, the first time that Matthew recorded any direct interaction with the monarch. It was also, Miriam Weiss suggested, the first time that the persona of Matthew Paris the author, as someone actively intervening in and commenting on the process of reporting, appears in the Chronica.63 The question is how far the two might be connected. Matthew began compiling the Liber additamentorum, an appendix of documents to the Chronica, from 1247 onwards.64 This suggests new contacts, feasibly as a result of royal patronage. We can also observe a marked shift both in the prominence Matthew accorded himself and in his direct access to informants. In fact, the number of individuals identified by the chronicler as having passed on news to him in person increased almost tenfold.65 Informants included royal officials, the king, the king’s 61 62 63

64 65

Ibid., pp. 115–17. See also Otter, ‘Vie des deux Offa’. CM, vol. iv, pp. 644–5. For the context: Vincent, Holy Blood. Weiss, Chronica maiora, pp. 71, 196–7. See, though, CM, vol. ii, p. 564. Greasley, ‘Information Networks’, has similarly pointed to 1246/7 as the likely starting point of Matthew’s composition of the Chronica. Vaughan, Matthew Paris, pp. 17–18. CM, vol. v, pp. 46, 221, 232, 236, 246, 254, 262, 286, 317, 347, 369, 602. To these can probably be added CM, vol. ii, pp. 391, 477, vol. iii, p. 368, where pieces of news were either identified as having reached Matthew some years later, or first contact could have occurred only at a much later stage.

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brother, as well as bishops, envoys, papal officials, pilgrims, and visiting dignitaries.66 Given that Matthew held no office at St Albans, his interaction with high-level visitors and interlocutors was indeed striking. In short, the moment Matthew putatively attracted royal patronage coincided with far greater access to his abbey’s patrons and guests, and his increasing prominence in the Chronica. Taking furthermore into account the fact that most of Matthew’s works were written after 1247, it seems plausible that the king’s interest in Matthew’s activities resulted in even stronger backing from the brethren.67 The royal connection should not, however, be reduced to being merely about patronage. Just as importantly, it testified to the reliability of Matthew’s reporting: the more high-ranking the source, the more trustworthy was deemed to be the information recorded.68 Reliability, in turn, was a matter of concern to an audience far wider than the royal court, insofar as the community’s past was also that of its benefactors. By producing demonstratively truthful history, Matthew verified the memory of his and his abbey’s patrons and dependents and ensured their continuing commemoration. In fact, much of the information he received from patrons was precisely about pious donations, or the greatness of St Albans: the king asked him to record the translation of the Holy Blood, the confessor of Cecilia de Sanford revealed her pious life,69 and local goldsmiths shared previously unknown information about the Danish captivity of St Alban’s relics.70 In combination, a virtuous circle was forged: Matthew’s efforts caught the king’s attention, resulting in access to a wider range of patrons and informants. Those enhanced the reputation of his chronicle, convinced informants to share news, and thereby reinforced the value of his writings to St Albans. This, in turn, permitted others to make use of his efforts, be they leading members of the aristocracy or other monastic houses. Ultimately, therefore, Matthew’s persona as a careful collector of news both was rooted in and amplified his abbey’s standing. Sometimes, though, truthfulness meant conveying an event’s true meaning.71 Matthew’s account of Innocent IV’s posthumous travails, summarised at the beginning of this chapter, provides a case in point. The chronicler could not feasibly have witnessed any of the visions 66 67 69 71

For examples see Vaughan, Matthew Paris, pp. 13–17; Weiler, ‘Historical Writing’, pp. 212–24. Weiss, ‘Chronica maiora’, pp. 196–8. 68 Weiler, ‘Writing of History’, pp. 262–4. CM, vol. v, pp. 235–6. 70 GA, vol. i, pp. 12–18. See also Chapter 2 above. Given-Wilson, Chronicles: Writing of History, chap. 1; Weiler, ‘Writing of History’, pp. 266–7, 272–6.

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recorded. But then, what mattered was that Innocent’s perfidy had been recognised as such by none other than God and the Virgin. The approach differed little from Matthew’s frequent invective against moneylenders, the failure to take counsel, or greedy foreigners. Only once truth had been spelled out could lessons be drawn, and only then could those be communicated. Matthew’s forthright commentary, and the ease with which he inserted moral lessons even when reporting seemingly unrelated matters, made his authorial voice distinctive, but they were rooted in communal norms and expectations. More precisely, Matthew practised a fundamental clerical virtue: admonitio, perhaps best defined as offering judicious reprimand. The concept drew on a range of influences: biblical prophets (forcefully admonishing the mighty), classical Roman concepts of friendship (transgressions and missteps ought to be pointed out), and pastoral care (failing to chastise sinners meant being as guilty as them).72 In Matthew’s writing, it surfaced frequently. For example, Peter des Roches, the bishop of Winchester, otherwise often maligned, redeemed himself not only by his concern for the Holy Land, but also because he publicly admonished the king.73 Bishop Robert Grosseteste of Lincoln was similarly transformed from an inveterate hammer of monks into a praiseworthy prelate once he started reprimanding Innocent IV.74 The practice was also central to the self-portrayal of Matthew Paris the chronicler. Not only did he expect others to intervene with the mighty, but he also did so himself. Matthew thus stressed how in 1250 he had complained to Henry III about the deprivations St Albans had suffered at the hand of royal officials,75 and he recorded how in 1257 he had pleaded on behalf of the University of Oxford.76 Proximity to power entailed a duty to chastise and warn, and to utilise one’s access for the benefit of others. Likewise, the instructive potential of history could be realised only if truth did not remain hidden, and if transgressions were accurately reported. Humans were fallible. Still, if cognisant of their failings, they would be able to make amends, gaining forgiveness in this life and salvation in the next. History, in turn, could teach how to avoid transgressions, but also how to warn about and how to atone for them.

72 73 74 75

Weiler, ‘Clerical admonitio’, pp. 557–9; Cynthia Hahn, ‘Proper Behaviour’. It was an especially important concept in thirteenth-century England: Weiler, Kingship, pp. 159–64; Ambler, Bishops. CM, vol. iii, pp. 241, 244–9, 252–3, 259, 265, 269–70, 475–6, 478, 489–91. CM, vol. iv, pp. 497–501, 599–600, vol. v, pp. 96–8, 109, 186, 400, 403–7, 419. See, for further examples, Vaughan, Matthew Paris, pp. 139–41; and Weiler, ‘Writing History’, pp. 273–4. CM, vol. v, pp. 129–30. 76 Ibid., p. 618.

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The account of the Earl Marshal’s rebellion of 1232–4 in Matthew’s Historia Anglorum may serve as an example. The revolt drew to a close only after the English prelates, led by the newly elected Archbishop Edmund of Canterbury, threatened to excommunicate the king. Henry had to dismiss his chief advisors, and reconcile with Gilbert, the Earl Marshal’s brother and heir.77 In the Historia, the king was portrayed as clearly at fault for relying on untrustworthy counsellors. However, once reprimanded, he listened devoutly, and dismissed his erstwhile favourites.78 Once Henry had been informed of the Earl Marshal’s death, Matthew compared his mourning to David’s over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. The chronicler even inserted a marginal note to highlight Henry’s grief as a token of the king’s exemplary piety. Further, when recounting how Henry took Gilbert back into his favour,79 Matthew added a marginal image, showing the archbishop overseeing the king and earl exchanging the kiss of peace.80 Matthew portrayed Henry as a repentant sinner, who, having offered atonement, became a just and pious king. This transformation was the main focus of Matthew’s reporting. He recorded truthfully what had been (the king’s failings triggered turmoil and unrest) but also outlined what should have been (the king obeyed his bishops) and what should be (the bishops admonished the king).81 He both praised the king when he did right, and chastised him when he went astray. Writing history became itself an act of admonitio, directed as much at a putative secular audience as at Matthew’s fellow clerics, whose duty it was to convey the lessons of history to visitors, dependents, and benefactors. Matthew’s persona as a careful searcher for and fearless speaker of truth, in turn, reinforced both the moral value of his writings, and the moral standing of his abbey. This brings us, finally, to the geographical range of Matthew’s reporting. He was, as we have seen, embedded in a communal framework of engaging with the past that valued a universal outlook. This did not prevent him from going beyond these models,82 but Matthew seems to have been unusual more in the detail with which he reported news, than in what he recorded. He was, for instance, an avid collector of letters, mandates, and charters from across Europe, including some of the earliest surviving accounts of the Mongols, letters by popes, cardinals, masters of the military orders, and the testament of Emperor Frederick II. He even produced 77 80 82

Weiler, Kingship, pp. 11–21. 78 Hist. Angl., vol. ii, pp. 362–7. 79 Ibid., pp. 369–72. BL, Royal MS 14 C vii, fol. 123r. 81 See Kjær, ‘Matthew Paris’, for another important example. Vaughan, Matthew Paris, 34–5; Weiler, ‘How Unusual’, 208–19.

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a separate appendix of documents for the Chronica.83 Yet some of the same materials also reached the houses of Waverley, Dunstable, Winchester, and Melrose in Britain,84 while, in Burgundy, Alberic of Troisfontaines reported some of the same episodes and drew on some of the same sources as Matthew.85 The geographical range of his reporting was also by no means unique. Many of the events that Matthew recorded were referred to in the annals of Dunstable and those of Melrose. Likewise, Alberic was unusually well informed about ecclesiastical disputes in thirteenth-century Llandaff,86 but also had access to news about the Polish and Hungarian royal courts.87 Albert of Stade, in turn, writing in north Germany c.1260, fashioned a pilgrimage guide to Rome and Jerusalem that in many ways resembles Matthew’s,88 and reported on matters as diverse as Valdemar II of Denmark’s invasion of Holstein, the Polish ducal succession,89 the Mongol invasions,90 and the appearance of heretics in Schwäbisch Hall.91 Generally, the first half of the thirteenth century witnessed a flourishing of monumental histories across the Latin West. None of them quite matches the scale of Matthew’s Chronica, but they offered nonetheless extensive treatments. Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum historiale, for instance, runs to 3,793 chapters; Alberic’s Chronicon, in the incomplete MGH edition, covers over 300 folio pages; while we still lack complete, let alone critical editions of Hélinand of Froidmont, Robert of Auxerre, or the Laon World Chronicle – partly because of their considerable length.92 Matthew’s Historia Anglorum also had its counterparts in the regnal histories of Snorri Sturluson, Rodriguez Jimenez de Rada, or Rudolf of Ems, all of them accounts of considerable length, and most combining focus on a particular realm with coverage of Latin Christendom as a whole. In short, Matthew reflected approaches towards writing history in evidence across thirteenth-century Europe.93 Yet several of these wider European developments seem to have passed by Matthew’s English peers. Here, I would like to focus on just two factors that might explain this divergence. First, we should remember that there was a rich twelfth-century tradition of English regnal history in a universal 83

84 87 88 89 92 93

Hilpert, Kaiser- und Papstbriefe, pp. 44–88; Vaughan, Matthew Paris, pp. 135–6; HW1, pp. 363–4. He was not, of course, the first English chronicler to draw on European networks: see also Chapter 10 above. 85 I owe this point to Nathan Greasley. Alberic, Chronica, p. 949. 86 Ibid., p. 926. Ibid., p. 871. Albert of Stade, Annales Stadenses, pp. 332–44. See also Krüger, ‘Stader Itinerar’. 91 Albert of Stade, Annales Stadenses, p. 350. 90 Ibid., p. 367. Ibid., pp. 371–2. Melville, ‘Spätmittelalterliche Geschichtskompendien’. Weiler, ‘Historical Writing’, pp. 225–39.

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key. In size and scope, the works of William of Newburgh, Henry of Huntingdon, William of Malmesbury, or Roger of Howden easily match those of their thirteenth-century mainland successors. There were, of course, shifts in what kind of news was reported, and how it was recorded. Both may explain why, towards the end of the thirteenth century, we witness a revival of universal history in England.94 Outside St Albans, though, the narratives already available might have been deemed sufficient: they offered comprehensive and reputable coverage of both the remote and the recent past in England and beyond. It also bears keeping in mind that even among Matthew’s brethren an interest in historical writing on topics other than the communal past first manifested itself in compiling BL, MS Royal 13 D v, that is, a compendium of existing chronicles and histories. The domestic production of narratives followed later. This, in turn, points to a second factor: communities attached varying levels of importance to fashioning new narratives of the past. Writing history was deemed important at St Albans, but the community was by no means representa