The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance (Studies in Medieval Romance) 1843840413, 9781843840411, 9781846154034

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 1843840413, 9781843840411, 9781846154034

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance

As the point of origin, both real and imagined, of English law and group identity, the Anglo-Saxon past was important in the construction of a post-Conquest English society that was both aware of, and placed great stock in, its Anglo-Saxon heritage; yet its depiction in post-Conquest literature has been very little studied. This book examines a wide range of sources [legal and historiographical as well as literary] in order to reveal a ‘social construction’ of Anglo-Saxon England that held a significant place in the literary and cultural imagination of the post-Conquest English. Using a variety of texts, but the Matter of England romances in particular, the author argues that they show a continued interest in the Anglo-Saxon past, from the localised East Sussex legend of King Alfred that underlies the twelfth-century Proverbs of Alfred, to the institutional interest in the Guy of Warwick narrative exhibited by the community of St Swithun’s Priory in Winchester during the fifteenth century; they are part of a continued cultural remembrance that encompasses chronicles, folk memories, and literature. Dr ROBERT ROUSE teaches in the Department of English, University of Nottingham.

Studies in Medieval Romance ISSN 1479–9308

Series Editors Corinne Saunders Roger Dalrymple

This series aims to provide a forum for critical studies of the medieval romance, a genre that plays a crucial role in literary history, reflects medieval secular concerns, and raises complex questions regarding medieval reading and writing, social structures, human relationships, and the psyche. The scope of the series extends from the early Middle Ages into the Renaissance period, and although its main focus is on English literature, comparative studies are welcomed. Proposals or queries should be sent in the first instance to one of the addresses given below; all submissions will receive prompt and informed consideration. Dr Corinne Saunders, Department of English, University of Durham, Durham, DH1 3AY Boydell & Brewer Limited, PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 3DF

Already published Volume I: The Orient in Chaucer and Medieval Romance, Carol F. Heffernan, 2003 Volume II: Cultural Encounters in the Romance of Medieval England, edited by Corinne Saunders, 2005

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance

ROBERT ALLEN ROUSE

D. S. BREWER

© Robert Allen Rouse 2005 All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner The right of Robert Allen Rouse to be identified as the editor of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

First published 2005 D. S. Brewer, Cambridge

ISBN 1 84384 041 3

D. S. Brewer is an imprint of Boydell & Brewer Ltd PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 3DF, UK and of Boydell & Brewer Inc. 668 Mt Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620, USA website: www.boydell.co.uk

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data Rouse, Robert Allen, 1971– The idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English romance / Robert Allen Rouse. p. cm. – (Studies in medieval romance, ISSN 1479–9308) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1–84384–041–3 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. Romances, English – History and criticism. 2. English literature – Middle English, 1100–1500 – History and criticism. 3. Great Britain – History – Anglo-Saxon period, 449–1066 – Historiography. 4. Literature and history – England – History – To 1500. 5. Anglo-Saxons in literature. 6. England – In literature. I. Title. II. Series. PR327.R68 2005 821'.033093242 – dc22 2004022269

This publication is printed on acid-free paper Printed in Great Britain by Cromwell Press, Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Contents Acknowledgments

vii

1

Anglo-Saxonism: The Remembrance and Re-Imagining of the Anglo-Saxon Past

1

2

Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century

11

3

The Romance of the Anglo-Saxon Past

52

4

The Romance of English Identity

70

5

In his time were gode lawes: Romance and the English Legal Past

93

6

Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes: The Importance of the Anglo-Saxon Past in Late-Medieval Winchester

134

Conclusion

157

Bibliography

161

Index

177

For

Neil and Bernice and Karen

‘. . . love doth hold my hand, and makes me write’.

Acknowledgments

Many different people have influenced the writing of this book – some knowingly and others not so – and it is here that I finally have the chance to thank them for their help, support, friendship, and scholarly fellowship. This book began its life as far from medieval England, in a geographical sense, as it is possible to travel. As a graduate student working at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, I began to formulate some of the central questions that this book addresses: how were the Anglo-Saxons remembered after the conquest, and why? In these initial investigations I was encouraged by two of the most generous and inspiring of teachers, Stephanie Hollis and Michael Wright. It was within Auckland’s community of medieval scholars that I developed my passion for our subject. The majority of the research for the book was a product of my doctoral studies at the University of Bristol, in which I was fortunate enough to receive the generous support of a University of Bristol Scholarship and an ORS award. My doctoral supervisor, Ad Putter, must be thanked for his profound and far-reaching influence upon the study, without which this would have been a very different kind of book. The Department of English and the Centre for Medieval Studies at Bristol provided me with both research facilities and a welcoming community of medieval scholars in which to write. My thanks must go to Elizabeth Archibald, John Burrow, Myra Stokes, and the many other Bristol medievalists who contributed to my wonderful and profitable time there. Of especial note is Cory Rushton, who has taken on the various roles of colleague, scholarly collaborator, travel companion, devil’s advocate, and most importantly, friend. Various sections of this book have stemmed from a number of papers delivered at the Medieval Romance Conferences (Durham 2002 and University College Dublin 2004), the British Branch of the International Arthurian Society (Bristol 2001), the International Medieval Conference at Kalamazoo (2001 and 2002), and the International Medieval Congress at Leeds (2001 and 2003). My thanks are due to the many scholars who posed probing questions and provided profitable leads during these conferences. All writers rely heavily upon their relationship with their publishers, and I owe a great debt to Caroline Palmer, Editorial Director of Boydell & Brewer, who has encouraged me in the writing of this book since a very early stage in its conception. Also to be thanked is Corinne J. Saunders in her role as general editor of the series in which this book finds itself, Studies in Medieval Romance. To the many dear and valued friends that I have made among the medivii

Acknowledgments evalist community I owe my thanks for the way in which they have welcomed me into the community of medieval scholars, both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Finally, I owe the greatest debt of all to Karen Higginson, for whose selfless patience and love I remain eternally grateful.

viii

Anglo-Saxonism

1 Anglo-Saxonism: The Remembrance and Re-Imagining of the Anglo-Saxon Past

T

HE Norman Conquest brought about the assimilation of England into the burgeoning Norman Empire and the destruction of a ruling elite, producing what some scholars have viewed as a cultural watershed. John Gillingham has written that ‘the devastating experience of 1066 had meant that the correspondence between a kingdom and a people, a community of tradition, custom, law and descent . . . no longer applied in England’.1 The extent to which this ‘community of tradition, custom, law and descent’ was displaced under Norman rule is a much-debated issue, but the conquest is generally agreed to have been the end of what we now call Anglo-Saxon England. This is not to say, however, that Anglo-Saxon England ceased to be vital as a cultural construct in post-conquest England. The remembrance and re-imagining of Anglo-Saxon England in the post-conquest period is part of an ongoing cultural process that began from the first moment that William stood among the slain Anglo-Saxon nobles after the battle of Hastings. The focus of this study is the remembrance of Anglo-Saxon England in the literature of post-conquest England and its appropriation for various social and ideological purposes. In the post-conquest representation of the pre-conquest English past the Anglo-Saxon era is characterised by two distinct periods: the period of the arrival of the pagan Saxons,2 and the period of the Christianised Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. This study is concerned with the representation of the later period. Central to my approach to this process of remembrance are two concepts 1

2

John Gillingham, ‘Henry of Huntingdon and the Twelfth-Century Revival of the English Nation’, ed. Simon Forde, Lesley Johnson and Alan V. Murray, Leeds Texts and Monographs, 14 (Leeds: Leeds Studies in English, 1995), pp. 75–102 (p. 128). The post-conquest representation of the invading pagan Saxons in such texts as Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Brittaniae and Laamon’s Brut has been the subject of much scholarly interest, which has examined the religious and onomastic transformation of the Saxons into the English. For a discussion of this debate, see I. J. Kirby, ‘Angles and Saxons in Laamon’s Brut’, Studia Neophilologica, 36 (1964), 51–62; N. Wright, ‘Angles and Saxons in Laamon’s Brut: A Reassessment’, in The Text and Tradition of La amon’s ‘Brut’, ed. F. Le Saux (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994), pp. 171–82; and Carole Weinberg, ‘Victor and Victim: A View of the Anglo-Saxon Past in Laamon’s Brut’, in Literary Appropriations of the Anglo-Saxons from the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Century, ed. Donald Scragg and Carole Weinberg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 22–38.

1

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance that call for further explanation: Anglo-Saxonism, and the idea of Anglo-Saxon England. Allen Frantzen and John Niles define Anglo-Saxonism as both a cultural process and the critical methodology utilised to understand and describe this process: The term Anglo-Saxonism is used here to denote the process through which a self-conscious national and racial identity first came into being among the early peoples of the region that we now call England and how, over time, through both scholarly and popular promptings, that identity was transformed into an originary myth available to a wide range of political and social interests.3

Frantzen and Niles trace the use of the term ‘Anglo-Saxonism’ from its first appearance in scholarly discourse in 1981, when Reginald Horsman used the term to discuss American racialism in the form of mid-nineteenth-century assertions of the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon ‘race’.4 The use of AngloSaxonism in a medieval context was developed in Hugh A. MacDougall’s Racial Myth in English History.5 MacDougall, in discussing the competition between the rival Trojan and Teutonic origin myths in Britain, defined Anglo-Saxonism as a discourse of power, in which the Anglo-Saxon past was utilised to represent the political and social needs of various communities in post-conquest England. These initial publications were followed over the next ten years by a number of important studies. Carl T. Berkhout and Milton McC. Gatch’s Anglo-Saxon Scholarship: The First Three Centuries, Clare A. Simmons’ Reversing the Conquest, and Allen Frantzen’s influential Desire for Origins have all made important contributions to the further development of this nascent field.6 However, up until the early 1990s, this scholarly interest had been primarily concentrated upon the discussion of early modern and Victorian Anglo-Saxonism. This situation changed in 1997 with the publication of the most influential contribution to the field thus far. Allen Frantzen and John Niles, in their Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity, presented a collection of papers that illustrate a number of differing approaches to the understanding of Anglo-Saxonism. Stemming from a conference on AngloSaxonism held at Berkeley in 1994, this volume marked the beginning of a 3

4 5 6

Allen Frantzen and John D. Niles, ‘Anglo-Saxonism and Medievalism’, in Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity, ed. Allen Frantzen and John D. Niles (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997), pp. 1–14 (p. 1). Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981). Hugh A. MacDougall, Racial Myth in English History: Trojans, Teutons, and Anglo-Saxons (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1982). Carl T. Berkhout and Milton McC. Gatch (eds), Anglo-Saxon Scholarship: The First Three Centuries (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982); Clare A. Simmons, Reversing the Conquest: History and Myth in Nineteenth-Century British Literature (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990); Allen Frantzen, Desire for Origins: New Language, Old English, and Teaching the Tradition (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990).

2

Anglo-Saxonism serious intention to formalise the study of Anglo-Saxon England as a cultural construction. The studies contained in this volume extend the definition of Anglo-Saxonism to include the generation of ‘a self-conscious national and racial identity’ amongst the Anglo-Saxons themselves, and established the framework for a continuous history of Anglo-Saxon England as a concept – as an idea. This approach to the understanding of the medieval past, in terms of how that past has been historically and culturally constructed, is part of the wider critical mode of medievalism. Frantzen and Niles construct their notion of Anglo-Saxonism by means of a comparison with the discipline of medievalism. Medievalism, concerns itself with the study of the reception of the Middle Ages in the post-medieval period.7 In their discussion of medievalism, Frantzen and Niles make certain criticisms in regard to the treatment of both Anglo-Saxon studies and Anglo-Saxonists themselves by the dominant scholars working in the area.8 They consider the field of medievalism to be remiss in the lack of critical attention that it has paid to Anglo-Saxon England: The virtual exclusion of Anglo-Saxon England from . . . these volumes . . . deserves notice as evidence of one aspect of medievalism itself: namely, the struggle of scholars to allow competing voices from the past to be heard. The conception of the Middle Ages as something that begins in about the year 1200 . . . is something that Anglo-Saxonists have long had to contend with, seeing that Anglo-Saxon England is clearly part of whatever we mean by Medieval England.9

In the context of their criticism of the temporal range of medievalism, Frantzen and Niles attempt to define Anglo-Saxonism as a field of research that accommodates a study of later representations of Anglo-Saxon England in parallel to medievalism. Niles argues that one key tenet of this Anglo-Saxonism is the observation that Anglo-Saxon England is, in his view, a rhetorical trope. When most scholars think of the past, they imagine a concrete thing, a real historical past about which facts can be determined through painstaking historical research.10 But in reality, what they are in search of is the logos of the past,

7

Studies in Medievalism, initially edited by Leslie J. Workman, and more recently by T. A. Shippey, has been chiefly responsible for establishing and defining the field of medievalism since its inception in 1979. 8 Frantzen and Niles, p. 10. 9 Ibid., p. 11. This essentially post-conquest construction of the medieval (especially in regard to England) is paralleled by the construction of the medieval English past outside of the academy. The ‘marginal’ nature of Anglo-Saxon studies in both the academy and in popular conceptions of English history is discussed by T. A. Shippey in ‘The Undeveloped Image: Anglo-Saxon in Popular Consciousness from Turner to Tolkien’, in Literary Appropriations of the Anglo-Saxons, pp. 215–36. 10 John D. Niles, ‘Appropriations: A Concept of Culture’, in Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity, ed. Allen Frantzen and John D. Niles (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997), pp. 202–28 (p. 208).

3

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance real events that can be imagined as having produced the historical artefacts and textual sources that remain as primary historical evidence. Niles argues, however, that a more useful way of considering the past is to see it for what it truly is, as a creation of language. Some readers, myself included, may well consider this post-structuralist view of the nature of history (and of the text) to be extreme in its emphasis on the ‘textuality’ of history. By downplaying the ‘sense of the real’ that is at the centre of positivist criticism, Niles is risking the marginalisation of Anglo-Saxonism as a discipline. A more useful approach is to acknowledge that both positivist and deconstructionist paradigms have valid points to make in terms of understanding how texts, and indeed the past, work. 11 Niles goes on to argue that the realisation that Anglo-Saxon England is a construction of language – an idea, not a thing – makes it possible to begin to come to terms with the true power of the past. Some ideas, owing to their flexible applicability, are more enduring than mere things, and this allows us to examine how a particular idea has developed over the centuries since the Anglo-Saxon period ended. Niles observes that: It is this rhetorical trope to which I would like to call attention, for recognising it as a trope leads to the discovery that as far as present-day people are concerned, Anglo-Saxon England is nothing other than what it has been perceived to be by historically grounded human beings, from the time of the Anglo-Saxons to the present moment. It is an idea, not a thing.12

Niles is at pains to emphasise that by calling Anglo-Saxon England an idea, he is in no way denying its influence: ‘the power of ideas – their reality, in a sense that medieval philosophy understood – should never be underestimated’.13 Ideas, however, are extremely mutable. In the last fifty years our understanding – our idea – of Anglo-Saxon England has been shaped and reshaped by numerous discoveries, scholarly arguments and reinterpreted texts. In a similar fashion, notions of what Anglo-Saxon England was, and what it stood for, have changed continuously over the past thousand years. These changes, or as Niles terms them, appropriations, are part of a cultural process that continues to this day. That Anglo-Saxon England is essentially an idea is a useful concept, and one that can be reconciled with a positivist understanding of the past: ideas are, after all, most often anchored in a sense of a physical reality. Texts are ultimately based upon ‘the “real” [that] can be said to exist independently of our representations of it’.14 The fascination is in the construction of the past within the text, and the processes and discourses that are encoded within this

11 For a survey of the constructionalist vs deconstructionalist approaches to history, see Alan

Munslow, Deconstructing History (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), pp. 18–26. 12 Niles, p. 209. 13 Ibid., p. 209. 14 Patrick Joyce, ‘History and Postmodernism’, Past and Present, 133 (1991), 204–9 (p. 208).

4

Anglo-Saxonism construction. This process is the attraction for Niles: ‘If Anglo-Saxon England is not out there but in here, as a feature of consciousness, then the process by which an idea of such magnitude came into being is worth knowing about.’15 The realisation that there is such a process at work in the construction of the Anglo-Saxon past is an important one in attempting to understand how perceptions of the past are produced. Niles describes this process of continual appropriation thus: Could a full history of Anglo-Saxonism be written, it would read as the story of a series of appropriations of greater or lesser magnitude. In such a narrative, what would be of significance would not be Anglo-Saxon England ‘as it was’, whatever that lost object of desire may have been. Instead, it would be the idea of Anglo-Saxon England, as that idea had been formed, transformed, consigned to oblivion, or reconceived anew during each successive era since the time of the Anglo-Saxons themselves. Like the idea of Greece, which has been reconstituted again and again to serve various ideological interests, the idea of early England has survived triumphantly because, like any symbolic construction, it has been able to convey forcefully a wide range of social meanings. 16

This concept of a continual refashioning of what Anglo-Saxon England represents lies at the heart of my approach. Through an examination of the representation of Anglo-Saxon England in a selection of Middle English literary texts, I demonstrate how the idea of Anglo-Saxon England was constructed and perceived by post-conquest society. Where my approach differs from that of Frantzen and Niles, however, is in the definition of appropriation. For the past is not simply created by language in an entirely subjective manner, as Niles contends: rather, the past is constructed on the basis of memories, places, events, and people that have left an imprint upon the reality of the present. That names and places remain relatively unchanged in post-conquest England suggests a more complex process of appropriation than the one suggested by Niles. The nature of this process, and the importance of names, places, and traditions, are some of the issues that I will examine. Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity does not attempt to cover the field of Anglo-Saxonism in a systematic way. It is necessarily a selective volume, whose stated goal is to ‘stimulate thought in certain finite directions, not to address every relevant issue’.17 These directions exclude a number of areas of interest that may be considered to be important to the study of Anglo-Saxonism. The study of King Alfred’s medieval reputation, for example, has been left largely untouched,18 as is the significant develop-

15 16 17 18

Niles, p. 209. Ibid., p. 208. Frantzen and Niles, p. 10. Simon Keynes has sought to redress this neglect by providing an invaluable overview of Alfred’s

5

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance ment of Anglo-Saxonism in the British colonial sphere during the nineteenth century. There is furthermore a surprising silence regarding the Middle English period. Until recently, Christine Franzen’s The Tremulous Hand of Worcester: A Study of Old English in the Thirteenth Century stood as one of the few studies to have considered the role of the Anglo-Saxon past in Middle English literary culture.19 Franzen examines the revival in the use of Old English manuscripts under Bishop Wulfstan in the twelfth century, and attempts to come to terms with the reasons for this revival. Although not specifically a study of the cultural reasons underlying this expression of interest in the Anglo-Saxon past, Franzen is aware of the implications of this phenomenon, and highlights the importance of further research in this area.20 A more recent volume of essays has further addressed the lack of attention paid to the Middle English period. Stemming from a conference held at the University of Manchester in 1995, Literary Appropriations of the Anglo-Saxons from the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Century represents a substantial addition to the corpus of studies of Anglo-Saxonism in post-conquest England. Donald Scragg introduces the essays by noting that ‘Although there has been much scholarly interest in recent decades in the agendas of antiquarians, linguists, and political and ecclesiastical historians writing about this period, those of creative artists have been largely ignored.’21 This collection seeks to address this lack, including twelve essays that range from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries. The lack of studies of Anglo-Saxonism in the post-conquest Middle Ages is also addressed by the collection, despite Scragg’s contention that ‘few of the authors of the Middle Ages had an interest in the Anglo-Saxon period’.22 Four of the twelve essays address the question of the remembrance of the Anglo-Saxon past within Middle English literary culture: Carole Weinberg examines Laamon’s view of the Anglo-Saxons, Sarah Mitchell addresses the remembrance of the pre-conquest past in Robert of Gloucester’s Chronicle, Jill Frederick discusses the connection between Anglo-Saxon saints and post-conquest English identity in the South English Legendary, and John Frankis considers the development of the legend of King Ælle from Bede to Chaucer.23 However, despite these studies, there remains much to be said about the

19 20

21 22 23

posthumous career (‘The Cult of King Alfred the Great’, Anglo-Saxon England, 28 (1999), 225–356). Christine Franzen, The Tremulous Hand of Worcester: A Study of Old English in the Thirteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991). The complex situation surrounding the continued use of Old English in the post-conquest period is addressed in Rewriting Old English in the Twelfth Century, ed. Mary Swan and Elaine M. Treharne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). Donald Scragg, ‘Introduction – The Anglo-Saxons: Fact and Fiction’, in Literary Appropriations of the Anglo-Saxons from the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Century, pp. 1–21 (p. 1). Ibid., p. 7. Weinberg, ‘Victor and Victim’, pp. 22–38; Sarah Mitchell, ‘Kings, Constitution and Crisis: “Robert of Gloucester” and the Anglo-Saxon Remedy’, pp. 39–56; Jill Frederick, ‘The South English Legendary: Anglo-Saxon Saints and National Identity’, pp. 57–73; John Frankis, ‘King

6

Anglo-Saxonism remembrance of the Anglo-Saxon past in medieval England. Frantzen and Niles note the relative lack of scholarship dealing with the Middle English period. Like Scragg, they conjecture that the explanation for this lies in the fact that later-medieval England was not interested in the Anglo-Saxons: Prior to the Renaissance, the Anglo-Saxon period had rested in relative obscurity thanks in part to the influence of one historian with important Norman ties, Geoffrey of Monmouth. In his Historia Regum Brittaniae Geoffrey systematically distorted and effaced Anglo-Saxon history, characterizing the English as little more than a band of cutthroats and intruders who had interrupted the providential flow of history from the ancient British past to a new glorious age that was soon to unfold . . . But by the time of the Renaissance, new versions of the past had begun to paint the Anglo-Saxons in a better light.24

We may wonder, however, whether the Anglo-Saxon past was indeed depicted in these terms during the period between the conquest and the Renaissance rediscovery of the Anglo-Saxon past. Was the Galfridian image of this ‘band of cutthroats and intruders’ as dominant as Frantzen and Niles suggest, or were there other, more sympathetic Anglo-Saxon pasts being remembered during these years? What Frantzen and Niles have described, in effect, is a cultural Dark Age in the history of the depiction of the Anglo-Saxon past. As medievalists we are well used to dealing with conceptions and misconceptions of notional dark ages. We are also, and I think rightly so, suspicious of claims of cultural interruption and caesurae. An important concern of this study is to question the extent to which the Anglo-Saxon past was condemned to ‘relative obscurity’ during the Middle English period. Many different aspects of Anglo-Saxon England were appropriated in the centuries after that conquest. Certain aspects of this cultural appropriation, such as the continuing currency of the Anglo-Saxon saints’ cults25 and the influence of the Anglo-Saxon law codes on Norman and Angevin lawmaking,26 have received a good deal of attention in recent years. The focus of this study of post-conquest Anglo-Saxonism will be towards literary texts. Many of these texts exist on the margins of the medieval canon, and as

Ælle and the Conversion of the English: The Development of a Legend from Bede to Chaucer’, pp. 74–92. 24 Frantzen and Niles, p. 7. 25 The issue of the continued currency of Anglo-Saxon saints’ cults in the post-conquest period has seen much attention over the past few decades. For one such recent treatment, see Paul Anthony Hayward, ‘Translation-Narratives in Post-Conquest Hagiography and English Resistance to the Norman Conquest’, Anglo-Norman Studies, 21 (1999), 67–93. 26 Patrick Wormald discusses the influence of Old English law-codes on the development of English law in his The Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century, 2 vols (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999).

7

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance such, may allow insights into the many and varied constructions of the past that were present, often simultaneously, in medieval England. It might seem, to the student of Middle English literature, that Donald Scragg’s assertion that ‘few of the authors of the Middle Ages had an interest in the Anglo-Saxon period’ is indeed true. The major canonical Middle English authors do seem much more preoccupied with classical or Arthurian pasts than with the pre-conquest past of their own island. However, when we look beyond these authors into the realms of more popular literature of the period, we find an extensive and enduring interest in the deeds and actions of the figures of England’s Anglo-Saxon past. Chapter 2 introduces a number of the themes that will be important in this book. A study of the cultural and ideological context of the Proverbs of Alfred, this chapter examines the way in which this early Middle English collection of sententiae reconstructs the Anglo-Saxon world of King Alfred. Often overlooked as a mere collection of proverbial wisdom, the text can also be regarded as an expression of the social ideology of a re-imagined Anglo-Saxon society. Furthermore, the Proverbs is located in a highly specific geographical context, raising questions regarding the connection between places and narratives that will prove to be important in understanding the way that the Anglo-Saxon past is materialised in Middle English literary culture. The text’s explicit connection with Seaford in East Sussex illuminates not only the development of the text, but also provides a concrete social and geographical context for its origin and contemporary reception. The importance of the personal names found in the Proverbs elicits a contextual reading that is suggestive of the text’s contemporary relevance to the late-twelfth-century milieu of its production. The use of memorable historical places and names to construct the Anglo-Saxon past is a literary strategy that is also utilised by the Matter of England romances of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. These romances, set within a less concrete construction of the pre-conquest English past, are expressions of a later-medieval Anglo-Saxonism that stands at a further remove from the past of the Proverbs, although they make use of many of the same modes of representation. Chapter 3 examines the function of the Matter of England romances as historical narratives, and investigates how these narratives operated alongside the dominant medieval historiographical mode of the chronicle. The integration of romances such as Guy of Warwick into the chronicle record is revealing of how their contemporary audiences understood these representations of the Anglo-Saxon past. As in the Proverbs, geographic and toponymic details play an important role in these texts. The heroes of the Matter of England romances are intimately associated with place: Guy with Warwick, Beues with Hamtoun, and Havelock with Lincoln (and the Danelaw). The relationship between places and the past, both within the text and without it, becomes an important theme in this study. As Diane Speed has 8

Anglo-Saxonism pointed out, the land not only encodes history, but also holds an intimate connection with identity.27 Chapter 4 examines how the Matter of England romances construct a ‘sense of Englishness’ that takes account of the complicated array of regional and supra-national group identities that were present in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. That this Englishness is being constructed in relation to the Anglo-Saxon past is an intriguing element of this process, and is suggestive of the role that this past may have played in the creation of Englishness. Chapter 5 further develops the connection between the Anglo-Saxon period and law that is identified in the chapter on the Proverbs of Alfred. The association between pre-conquest England and English law is found in numerous sources: law-codes, chronicles, and romances. This chapter examines the use of law within the Matter of England romances in the context of what Anthony Musson has identified as the widespread reputation that Anglo-Saxon England had during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries as a ‘golden age’ of English law.28 Law seems to be an important concern of these romances, a point that is made by Susan Crane when she notes ‘the preoccupation with law and custom that characterizes the romances of English heroes’.29 Beginning with a re-reading of Havelok the Dane through a comparative legal lens, the importance of the gode lawes (Havelok the Dane, 28)30 and the corresponding national grith (Havelok the Dane, 61) are analysed in the context of both the romance itself and of the wider reputation of the Anglo-Saxon law. The importance of the correlation between law and security is examined further in a contexualisation of the motif of the safety of the king’s roads. The study of law within the romances also leads back to notions of Englishness: law is one of four categories of ethnic difference (the others being descent, customs, and language) outlined by the ninth-century canonist Regino of Prüm.31 The reliance upon law marks out England, and the English, from their continental and insular neighbours: Havelok constructs an English legal identity against that of the Danes, while in Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild we see England constructed against Wales, traditionally seen as a legal vacuum. Englishness is further defined in these romances through identification with certain legal institutions and characteristics, in particular the oath and trial by combat. The final chapter (Chapter 6) returns once more to the theme of place, and discusses how the Guy of Warwick narrative became an important part of the

27 Diane Speed, ‘The Construction of the Nation in Medieval Romance’, in Readings in Medieval

English Romance, ed. Carol M. Meale (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994), pp. 135–57 (p. 147). 28 Anthony Musson, ‘Appealing to the Past: Perceptions of Law in Late-Medieval England’, in his

Expectations of the Law in the Middle Ages (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2001), pp. 165–79 (p. 178). 29 Susan Crane, Insular Romance: Politics, Faith, and Culture in Anglo-Norman and Middle-English Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), p. 87. 30 Havelok the Dane, ed. G. V. Smithers (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987). 31 Robert Bartlett, The Making of Europe (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993), p. 197.

9

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance urban mythology and geography of Winchester in the late Middle Ages. Drawing on Paul Strohm’s work regarding the narrative nature of urban geographies, the chapter examines the importance of the Guy legend in the construction of Winchester’s material and cultural heritage. An association with the Guy legend seems to have been of particular importance to the community of St Swithun’s in Winchester, who took a determined interest in the memorialisation of the narrative and the preservation of Guy’s arms and armour. This book seeks to examine some of the many and varied constructions of the Anglo-Saxon past that were present in Middle English literary culture, while at the same time emphasising the connections and continuities that exist between these texts. In doing so, this study makes no claims to provide a comprehensive survey of Middle English images of the Anglo-Saxon past, but seeks to identify some of the more significant cultural discourses and literary strategies that are involved in the process of remembering the pre-conquest past. I hope to show that such cultural relicts as names, places, and legal traditions provide a demonstrable engagement with the ‘sense of the real’. The process of re-imagining Anglo-Saxon England is thus more complex than Niles implies: it is shaped not merely by the needs of the present, but also by the persistence of the past, in landscape, place-names, and folk memories. Rather than existing as arbitrarily constructed individual ‘appropriations’, texts such as The Proverbs of Alfred and the Matter of England romances are more usefully understood as part of a wider imaginative remembrance of the Anglo-Saxon period.

10

Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century

2 Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century

T

HE dominant textual mode of history in England during the first half of the twelfth century was that of the monastic chronicle.1 Chroniclers such as William of Malmesbury and John of Worcester constructed a view of the Anglo-Saxon past that played an important social and political function by representing England as a once-virtuous kingdom that had fallen from God’s grace, and which had been healed by Henry I’s marriage to Edith (renamed Matilda after the marriage), niece of Edgar Atheling and grand-niece of Edward the Confessor.2 Henry’s restoration of the ancient line of Wessex lent a weight of genealogical legitimacy to his rule.3 The justification of the Conquest seems to have been one of the major reasons for the Anglo-Norman interest in the pre-Conquest past during the first half of the twelfth century. The politically informed Anglo-Saxon past that had been produced by the chroniclers became for future historians a model of the Anglo-Saxon past. However, this version of the pre-Conquest past was one that was soon challenged. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, whether intended as a parody or not,4 and despite the condemnation and criticism that his text received from other chroniclers, had a dramatic effect upon the conception of the English past after it appeared. From the time of King Stephen, England’s Anglo-Saxon past suffered in comparison with the Arthurian myth. Anxious both to unite his kingdom under a single historical myth and to provide his nation with Trojan descent, Henry II was an active partici1

2

3

4

On the twelfth-century chroniclers and their reconstruction of the Anglo-Saxon past, see James Campbell, ‘Some Twelfth-Century Views of the Anglo-Saxon Past’, in his Essays in Anglo-Saxon History (London: Hambledon, 1986), pp. 209–28. Matilda, daughter of King Malcolm of Scotland and his queen Margaret, sister of Edgar Aetheling, was a woman ‘descended from the stock of King Alfred’ (Orderic Vitalis, The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, ed. Marjorie Chibnall, 6 vols (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969–80), V, pp. 298–9). Orderic saw this marriage back into the Anglo-Saxon royal line as further legitimising Henry’s rule. Thea Summerfield observes that ‘by his marriage to a woman whose “ancestry stretched back to the West Saxon Cerdic” (Marjorie Chibnall, The Empress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the English (London: Blackwell, 1991), p. 7) Henry I . . . established a connection by blood with the old English royal house, and consolidated his own position and that of all future rulers’ (The Matter of Kings’ Lives (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998), p. 181). Valerie Flint (among others) has argued for a parodic reading of Geoffrey’s Historia Regum (‘The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth: Parody and its Purpose’, Speculum, 54.3 (1979), 447–68).

11

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance pant in this refashioning of the past. His close association with the discovery of Arthur’s grave at Glastonbury (thus reminding the Welsh that their Arthur was indeed safely dead and buried), and his naming of his first son Arthur (as an English Rex Futurus), lent a royal seal of approval to an English Arthurian history.5 This, then, was the literary state of the Anglo-Saxon past in the mid-twelfth century: a debate that had seen shifts in royal support for differing versions of the past as political expediency demanded. However, the remembrance of the past was not restricted exclusively to monastic literati and royal mythographers. At the same time that the Anglo-Norman monastic chroniclers were producing their Latin histories, the pre-conquest past was being remembered and reinvented in the memory of the English themselves. In the twelfth-century Proverbs of Alfred, we find an example of what James Campbell is referring to when he observes that ‘clearly, by early in Stephen’s reign interest in Anglo-Saxon history extended beyond monasteries, beyond the church and beyond the wish to preserve the memory of a lost world’.6 Seth Lerer, writing of the continuity of English literature after the Conquest, comments that texts such as the Proverbs ‘may be appreciated as creative attempts to reinvent the modes of Old English writing and imagine anew the world of Anglo-Saxon life’.7 The depiction of Anglo-Saxon society found within the poem, while not perhaps reliant upon its author’s imagination to such an extent as Lerer suggests, represents a useful example of how the pre-conquest period was remembered in English during the twelfth century. Ostensibly set in the time of King Alfred of Wessex, the Proverbs dates from the third quarter of the twelfth century.8 It is the nature of the text’s twelfth-century imagining of the Anglo-Saxon past that forms the central concern of this chapter. As one of the earliest surviving Middle English texts, the Proverbs has attracted attention from antiquarians, philologists, and historical linguists. The majority of these studies have been of a linguistic nature, analysing the dialect and historical development of the language within the manuscripts of the text. In this chapter I wish to read the Proverbs in the light of their involvement in the cultural and literary process of remembering and re-creating Anglo-Saxon England. The first five strophes of the text set the scene for the poem, locating it temporally within Alfred’s reign and geographically in the Sussex village of Seaford.9 In the main body of the poem (strophes 6–29) we find the proverbs that give the text its name. The

5

6 7 8 9

James P. Carley, ‘Arthur in English History’, in The Arthur of the English: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval English Life and Literature, ed. W. R. J. Barron (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2001), pp. 47–57 (p. 48). Campbell, p. 211. Seth Lerer, ‘Old English and its Afterlife’, in The Cambridge History of Medieval Literature, ed. David Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 7–34 (p. 10). Olaf Arngart, The Proverbs of Alfred, 2 vols (Lund: Gleerup, 1942–55), II, pp. 55–7. Following André Crépin’s terminology, I have chosen to describe the individual sections of the poem as strophes.

12

Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century majority of past studies have largely passed over this material, pausing only to link particular proverbs to their sources in the Bible or other works of sententiae. These wise sayings lie at the heart of the text, and play a central role in the way it constructs its representation of the Anglo-Saxon past. The Proverbs is actively engaged in constructing an image of a past society – one that embodies the social order and mores of an ideal Christian kingdom. In its construction of an image of Alfred’s time, the Proverbs appropriates the Anglo-Saxon past to represent such an ideal society. The Proverbs is also of interest as a twelfth-century cultural artefact. Through an examination of the literary, historical, and geographical context of the poem, I hope to demonstrate that the Proverbs have much to say about the cultural environment of the late twelfth century. One aspect of the text’s literary provenance is the controversial question of to what extent the text is connected with the historical King Alfred. The scholarly consensus for much of the last century has been decidedly negative regarding this proposition, but more recently there have been renewed suggestions of thematic links between the Proverbs and some of Alfred’s own writings that were known in the twelfth century. Finally, there is the question of how the Proverbs contributed to Alfred’s wider reputation during the Middle Ages. A number of texts, including the Owl and the Nightingale, make mention of Alfred’s reputation as a speaker of wisdom, and the Proverbs seem to have an important inter-textual role within this tradition.

Manuscripts and Scholarship of the Proverbs The Proverbs of Alfred survives in four manuscripts, all of which date from the thirteenth century. The oldest manuscript, Cotton Galba A. XIX (MS C), consists of three surviving folios in which are preserved some 100 or so lines of the text.10 Three extant transcripts provide further evidence of the text as it existed in C: the James, Wanley, and Spelman transcripts. The three other manuscripts of Proverbs are Maidstone Museum A.13 (MS M), Trinity College, Cambridge, B.14.39 (MS T), and Jesus College, Oxford, 29 (MS J).11 The first modern editor of the Proverbs was Thomas Wright, whose edition of the Trinity manuscript text was published in 1841, and between Wright’s edition and that of Olaf Arngart, the Proverbs were re-edited at least six times.12 In 1942 and 1955 Arngart published the two volumes of his 10 These three folios are all that remain of the manuscript that was damaged in the Cotton library fire

of 1731. 11 For a more detailed discussion of the surviving manuscripts of the Proverbs, see Arngart, The

Proverbs of Alfred, I, pp. 11–64. 12 Reliquiae Antiquae, ed. Thomas Wright (London, 1841), pp. 170–88; J. M. Kemble, The Dialogue

of Salomon and Saturn (London: Ælfric Society, 1848); Richard Morris, An Old English Miscellany, EETS OS 49 (London: Trübner, 1872); William Skeat, The Proverbs of Alfred (Oxford: Clarendon, 1907); Edv. Borgström, The Proverbs of Alfred, Re-edited from the Manuscripts with an

13

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance edition of The Proverbs of Alfred. These two volumes, along with his pamphlet on the sources of the Proverbs, comprise the most substantial study of the text in the last sixty years.13 Arngart’s study of the text concentrates upon the textual variation between the four manuscripts, the language and dialect of the text, and the metrical properties of the poem. This was followed by the publication of a critical edition and translation in 1978.14 Arngart’s first volume of research into the Proverbs consists of a detailed comparative analysis of the extant manuscripts, in order to establish their relationship with each other, and to endeavour to determine the original readings and dialect of the manuscript archetype. The second volume, published after a hiatus of some thirteen years due to the Second World War, is an edition of the four extant manuscripts of the Proverbs.15 While Arngart’s study of the Proverbs remains the authoritative study of the linguistic nature and the genealogy of the text, for the most part it leaves aside questions of the literary and historical context of the poem. It does summarise the themes of the text, but only to the extent of providing a descriptive synopsis of the poem.16 Arngart’s study of the Proverbs represents the culmination of the previous hundred years’ interest in the text. Over the past forty years relatively few articles have addressed the Proverbs. The most recent literary study of the text, and indeed the first to address the text as a cultural record of the twelfth century, is André Crépin’s ‘Mentalités anglaises au temps d’Henri II Plantagenêt d’après les Proverbs of Alfred’.17 Crépin addresses five main issues in his study: (i) the metrical and structural nature of the text; (ii) the basis of the text’s attribution to King Alfred; (iii) the intemporalité, or timelessness, of the gnomic genre; (iv) the thematic content of the text; and (v) the likelihood of the Proverbs being connected to the historical Alfred. While much of Crépin’s article necessarily reiterates previous scholarship, it breaks new critical ground by attempting a contextual reading of the Proverbs in terms of its mid-twelfth-century origin. However, while Crépin highlights the critical possibilities of such a reading, it leaves many of the more interesting avenues of analysis unexplored.

13 14 15

16 17

Introduction, Notes and Glossary (Lund: H. Ohlsson, 1908); A. Brandl and O. Zippel, Mittelenglische Sprach- und Literaturproben, 2nd edn (Berlin: Weidmann, 1927); Joseph Hall, Selections from Early Middle English 1130–1250 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1920). For a more complete account of the editions of the Proverbs, see Arngart, The Proverbs of Alfred, II, pp. 64–8. Olaf Arngart, The Distichs of Cato and the Proverbs of Alfred (Lund: Gleerup, 1952). The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text, ed. and trans. Olaf Arngart (Lund: Gleerup, 1978): this is the edition that I will be quoting from in this chapter. The Proverbs has also been edited in a number of anthologies of Middle English literature, most recently by Elaine Treharne, who edits the text of Jesus College, Oxford MS 29 (MS J) (Old and Middle English: An Anthology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), pp. 358–68). Arngart, The Proverbs of Alfred, II, pp. 1–11. André Crépin, ‘Mentalités anglaises au temps d’Henri II Plantagenêt d’après les Proverbs of Alfred’, Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale, 37 (1994), 49–60.

14

Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century

Language, Structure and Provenance The text of the Proverbs consists of two discrete sections, of differing styles and dates of composition. The first and more substantial section (strophes 1–29) seems to have been composed around the middle of the twelfth century, between 1150 and 1165.18 This section is itself in two distinct parts: the first part (strophes 1 – 5) presents King Alfred presiding over a gathering of the chief men of his kingdom with a view to teaching them how they should live their lives and govern his realm.19 In these opening strophes, Alfred lectures the assembled dignitaries on the importance of learning, piety, honest judicial practice, and the maintenance of the social order. In the second part of the first section (strophes 6–29) Alfred goes on to recount a series of proverbial statements that illustrate the moral code by which he wishes his society to be governed. The second section, a collection of advice presented in the form of parental instruction, follows the first section in two of the four extant manuscripts, and seems to have been composed near the Fens around 1200.20 This additional section is found in both the Cotton and Trinity manuscripts of the Proverbs and seems to represent a separate narrative tradition: for this reason it is excluded from Arngart’s critical edition of the Proverbs. The fusion of these two discrete sections has implications for the history of the Proverbs as a whole, and I will discuss these when addressing the issue of the transmission of the text later in this chapter. The nature of the poetic style of the Proverbs has been a matter for debate among scholars. Arngart sums up the previous work of Schipper, Gropp, Skeat, Borgström, and others thus: The metre is a modification of the advanced type of O.E. alliterative line showing greater freedom of construction and alliteration, extended use of rhyme within the alliterative long line and, in lines which rhyme only but do not alliterate or which use alliteration merely for ornament, a transition to the rhymed couplet. Metrically the closest parallel is Layamon’s Brut.21

Donka Minkova, however, in her recent reassessment of the metre of the Proverbs, questions the notion that the metre found in the text is an ‘advanced type of O.E. alliterative line’: First, no alliterative poem from before the Conquest shows a distribution of alliterating shifts that even vaguely resembles the picture emerging from the 18 The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text, p. 5. 19 The meeting of the King’s Council, known as the witenagemot, was an established part of

Anglo-Saxon royal procedure (Barbara Yorke, ‘Council, King’s’, in The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England, ed. Michael Lapidge et al. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), pp. 124–5). 20 The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text, p. 23. 21 Arngart, The Proverbs of Alfred, II, p. 225.

15

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Proverbs. Second, some of the patterns [of alliteration] found here are unattested in Old English. . . . This is not classical Old English verse. 22

Minkova questions the position of the Proverbs in relation to the history of the development of alliterative metre in Middle English, and argues that the Proverbs can most properly be seen to represent a metrical form that has much in common with the development of prosodic English in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. 23 One of the more intriguing aspects of the Proverbs is that the text positions Alfred’s council in a precise and identifiable location: At Seuorde/ seten þeines manie (1–2).24 From a range of proposed locations, the current consensus is that the Seuorde of the poem is the village of Seaford on the East Sussex coast.25 This identification, which is made by Arngart on the grounds of the rules of alliterative metre, is further supported by the dialectical features of the language. Elements of the vocabulary locate the text within Sussex, for example the inclusion of the word cliure (OE clifor), which in this spelling occurs only in the Proverbs and the Owl and the Nightingale, and is

22 Donka Minkova, ‘The Credibility of Pseudo-Alfred: Prosodic Insights into Post-Conquest

Mongrel Meter’, Modern Philology, 94 (1996), 427–54 (p. 433). 23 Minkova agrees broadly with J. P. Oakden’s conclusion that ‘The Proverbs of Alfred are thus

metrically very interesting [as] they represent a stage beyond that reached by The Departing Soul’s Address to the Body. Rhyme is struggling with alliteration, but the latter still holds the upper hand’ (J. P. Oakden, Alliterative Poetry in Middle English: the Dialectical and Metrical Survey (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1930), p. 142). 24 The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text, p. 8. 25 The setting for Alfred’s council is Seuorde in Jesus College MS (J); Siforde in Trinity MS (T); and Sifforde in Cotton MS (C). Arngart discusses the identification of this name, and concludes that the Jesus College manuscript (J) reading of Seuorde is the authentic one. Kemble was the first editor to identify Seuorde with Seaford in East Sussex, suggesting that the Proverbs represent ‘a collection of wise sayings which that prince delivered to his Witena gemot at Seaford’ (p. 255). This identification gained general acceptance with later editors such as Skeat. In 1931 Helen P. South proposed an alternative identification of the setting of the poem, arguing that Sifforde (MS C) was the authentic reading (The Proverbs of Alfred Studied in the Light of the Recently Discovered Maidstone Manuscript (New York: New York University Press, 1931)). She devoted the second chapter of her study of the poem to the identification of Sifforde with the town of Shefford in Berkshire (pp. 25–42). South’s methodology involved an extensive comparative examination of the forms of place-names that are found in historical records. Based on the number of name forms associated with Shefford that correspond to C’s reading of Sifforde, she concluded that this was the authentic reading of the setting of the poem. However, Arngart has demonstrated that South’s argument is unsound as it neglects two important considerations: alliteration and dialect. Arngart asserts that the place-name must alliterate with sete, and this therefore precludes the possibility of the original place-name being Shefford. The rules for Old English alliterative verse preclude [sh] from alliterating with any other sound than [sh]. While this rule was not always strictly observed in the transition from Old English to Middle English, it is followed strictly in the Proverbs. Arngart comments that ‘it is scarcely likely that the poet should have departed from the rule in the opening line, while observing it elsewhere’ (The Proverbs of Alfred, I, p. 18). Arngart notes that Shefford’s derivation from OE Sceapford would produce a [sh] sound, while the archetype reading must have had an initial [s] sound to alliterate with sete. If the C reading Sifforde were to relate to Shefford, it must be a twelfth-century method of spelling that replaces an sc- with an s-. However, Arngart demonstrates that [sh] is usually represented by in C. Therefore, unless the case of Sifforde is an exception to this common practice observed within C, the connection between Sifforde and Shefford must be rejected.

16

Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century present in the dialects of Surrey and Sussex.26 On the basis of the linguistic nature of the manuscripts, Arngart concludes: On the whole then, as far as it can be ascertained, the original dialect of the Proverbs supports the localization of the poem indicated by the mention of Seuorde, Seaford, in the first line.27

Intriguingly, there also exists a historical connection between Alfred and Seaford, which was first pointed out by William Stephenson. The Vita Alfredi states that when Asser first arrived in England he met the king at a royal manor in Sussex, which was called Dene.28 Stephenson identifies this Dene with the villages of East and West Dene – two villages that lie close to Seaford. He argues that it is plausible to imagine that the author of the Proverbs may have known of the connection between Alfred and Dene and therefore placed the scene of Alfred’s speech in a location that had been associated with Alfred in his Vita. However, Stephenson’s explanation of the use of Seaford is problematic. We have no evidence that the author of the Proverbs had read the Vita, and it seems unlikely given the apparent lack of widespread knowledge of the Vita in the medieval period.29 Could the author of the Proverbs have known of this royal connection through a secondary source? While much of the historical detail from the Vita is present in twelfth-century historiographical works such as Simeon of Durham’s Historia Regum, William of Malmesbury’s Gesta Regum Anglorum, and the Chronicon ex Chronicis of John of Worcester, the biographical details concerning Asser and Dene are not present in these later texts. In view of the seemingly limited knowledge of the ‘Asser meeting Alfred at Dene’ episode, it seems unlikely that this would have provided the basis for the relationship between Alfred and Seaford that we find expressed in the Proverbs. A less problematic explanation for the setting of the Proverbs at Seaford would be to ascribe the connection to a local oral tradition that linked Alfred to the area. Memories of Alfred meeting nearby with his court may have been preserved through local tradition and legend for the three hundred years between his reign and the production of the Proverbs. Such a tradition may have had its origins in the royal estates near Seaford. One such estate, Sutton,

26 Arngart discusses the dialectical lexicon of the text in greater detail (The Proverbs of Alfred, II, pp.

62ff). 27 Arngart, The Proverbs of Alfred, II, p. 61. 28 ‘Ibique illum in villa regia, quae dicitur Dene, primitus vidi’ (Asser’s Life of King Alfred, ed. W. H.

Stephenson (Oxford: Clarendon, 1904), p. 64). 29 Antonia Gransden notes that only one medieval writer, Gerald of Wales, mentions Asser’s Vita

Alfredi, and even this example is problematic. Although the influence of the Vita in later texts, such as the Historia Regum attributed to Simeon of Durham, attests that it was known, the extent of this knowledge is uncertain. For a more detailed account of this debate see Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England I: c. 550–c. 1307 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974), p. 47.

17

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance is located within the Seaford parish.30 Located closer to Seaford than East Dene, Alfred’s possession of Sutton strengthens the possibility of a local tradition that associated Alfred with the area. Whatever the rationale may have been for setting the Proverbs in Seaford, it is of interest that the text situates itself in a location that has links to the historical Alfred. I will return to this geographical link later in this chapter when discussing the importance of the setting in an analysis of the possible origin of the text.

The Proverbs as a Representation of Alfred’s England The Proverbs of Alfred depicts Alfred advising his people on how to live their lives and on the tenets of his rule. Despite its pre-conquest milieu, the text is of course a twelfth-century representation of the Anglo-Saxon past. As a text that reconstructs the past, questions arise as to the nature of this representation, and as to the strategies through which this representation is constructed. The Proverbs are comprised of the wise advice with which Alfred instructs the assembled people, and by extension the English community that they represent.31 Inherent in any community is the existence of a social contract: a corpus of rules, rights, and responsibilities that govern how the members of a society interact with each other. The sententiae that make up the bulk of the poem can be understood as representing the social contract of the society that is constructed within the Proverbs. A question worth considering here is whether the image of society represented in the Proverbs is in fact an image of the Anglo-Saxon past at all, or whether it is an ahistorical utopian society (or perhaps it is both). While the relationship between the past as constructed in the text and any real Anglo-Saxon past is at best arguable, the text explicitly identifies the poem as being set within Alfred’s reign. The first five strophes of the Proverbs depict Alfred as delineating the rights and responsibilities of the king and his subjects in a lawful Christian state. As Crépin comments, ‘Ces strophes résument les circonstances du recueil, puis donnent les principes et les structures de la société politique.’32 The political structure and principles of the text construct an imagined society in which the meaning of the sententious proverbs can be understood. The society that is represented in the Proverbs is that of a lost golden age. Often useful as a trope for contrasting current societal woes with the virtues of the past, the motif of a past golden age is found throughout Western literature, and was in no way unfamiliar to the Anglo-Saxons themselves. The use of the heroic past as a golden age as

30 George Miles Cooper, ‘On the Ancient Refectory House in the Parish of West Dean’, Sussex

Archaeological Collections, 3 (1850), 13–22 (p. 21). 31 In my study of the construction of the Anglo-Saxon past in the Proverbs I will be making use of

Arngart’s critical edition: The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text. 32 Crépin, p. 51.

18

Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century evidenced in Beowulf and other Old English poetry is commented upon by James Earl: ‘It is not exactly a reconstruction of earlier history, but a narrative representation of contemporary social concerns, energies, and ideals, projected onto the past.’33 The Proverbs seem to operate in a similar manner. The Anglo-Saxons themselves made use of more immediate pasts. King Alfred, in the prologue to his translation of Gregory the Great’s Cura Pastoralis, constructs the past in a similar manner: Ond ðe cyðan hate ðæt me com swiðe oft on gemynd, hwelce wiotan iu wæron giond Angelcynn, ægðer ge godcundra hada ge woruldcundra; ond hu gesæliglica tida ða wæron giond Angelcynn; ond hu ða kyningas ðe ðone onwald hæfdon ðæs folces Gode ond his ærendwrecum hiersumedon; ond hie ægðer ge hiora sibbe ge hiora siodu ge hiora onwald innanbordes gehioldan, ond eac ut hiora eðel rymdon. 34 And I would have it known that very often it has come to my mind what men of learning there were formerly throughout England, both in religious and secular orders; 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 maintained their peace, morality and authority at home but also extended their territory outside.

Where Alfred looked backwards to the glory, peace, and stability of the golden age of Bede, the Proverbs look back to Alfred’s time in a similar search for a past that was more stable and enlightened than the present. The notion of continual societal decline, in accordance with the outline of Christian theological history, makes the use of the golden age motif a common one in texts of social commentary such as the Proverbs. The first strophe of the Proverbs establishes the scene in which Alfred teaches the beliefs of this Anglo-Saxon golden age to his people. The formal setting of the poem establishes the auctoritas of the Proverbs.35 This is especially important in a collection of proverbs, with the value of the maxims being relative to the reputation of their originator. 36 At Seuorde;37 seten þeines manie. Fele biscopes; and fele boc-lerede. Erles prude; and cnihtes egeleche. þer was erl Alfrich; 33 James W. Earl, Thinking About Beowulf (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), p. 34. 34 Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson, A Guide to Old English (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), pp.

204–5, translated by Keynes and Lapidge, p. 124. 35 Crépin, p. 51. 36 The strophe form here follows that used in Arngart’s critical edition, The Proverbs of Alfred: An

Emended Text. 37 The semicolon stands in place of Arngart’s symbol for the punctus elevatus.

19

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance of þare lae swiðe wis. And ec Alfred; engle herde. Engle derling; on engelonde he was king. Hem he gan leren; swo e muen iheren. Hu hi here lif; leden scolden. Alfred he was on Englelond; an king wel swiðe strong. He was king and clerc; wel he luuede Godes werc. He was wis on his word; and war on his werke. He was þe wiseste man; þat was on Englelonde an.38

Alfred addresses a meeting of the chief men of his kingdom for the purpose of teaching them how they should conduct their lives and instructing them as to how they should govern. The composition of this gathering includes both religious and civil leaders: Fele biscopes/ and fele boc-lerede/ Erles prude/ and cnihtes egeleche. Singled out for attention within this meeting are erl Alfrich and the king himself. I will return to the intriguing figure of Alfrich later in this chapter, but for the moment it is of interest that he seems to occupy a position of importance second only here to Alfred. The last sixteen lines of the strophe consist of a portrait of Alfred himself. He is described as being both king and clerc, a construction that is reinforced in strophes two and three by the exhortations that a king must be educated and able to instruct in both temporal and spiritual matters. This dual role of the king is noted by Crépin who compares it to Wulfstan’s use of Cristes gespeliga, Christ’s preacher, to describe the king in a version of the Institutes of Polity.39 Alfred is described as an exemplary example of the mixed life: He was king and clerc/ wel he luuede Godes werc/ He was wis on his word/ and war on his werke/ He was þe wiseste man/ þat was on Englelonde an. The king’s actions (werke) and words are equally important. His ability in both word and action, and his devotion to the work of God, result in his wisdom and renown.40 Establishing the instructional role of the king is also vital 38 The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text, p. 8, strophe 1. Arngart translates thus: ‘At Seaford sat

at council many thanes, many bishops and many book-learned men, proud earls and valiant knights. There were earl Alfrich, very learned in the law, and also Alfred, the protector and darling of the English; he was king of England. He taught them, as you may hear, how they were to lead their lives. Alfred was a very strong king of England, he was king and scholar, he loved well godly works. He was wise in his words and prudent in action. He was one [of] the wisest man [men] that was in England’ (The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text, p. 24). 39 Crépin, p. 57. 40 The alliterative collocation between ‘words’ and ‘works’ is evident in Old English poetry, as seen

20

Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century within the Proverbs: Alfred is presented as a teacher. He teaches his gathered nobles not only how they should govern their lands, but also how they should lead their lives: Hem he gan leren/ swo e mu en iheren/ Hu hi here lif/ leden scolden. In this manner the governance of one’s own life is presented as a pre-requisite for social governance. In the second strophe we first hear the voice of Alfred. He asks his people to listen to him, so that he may instruct them to live in a manner that will benefit them in this world and also prepare them for the next. Þus cwað Alfred; engle frofre. ‘Wolde e nu, leden; lesten eure louerde. He ou wolde wissien; wisliche þinges. Hu e mihten werldes; wurðscipes welden. And ec eure saule; samnen to Criste.’ Wise weren þe cweðen; þe saide þe king Alfred. ‘Mildeliche ic munie; mine leue frend. Arme and edie; lede liuiinde. Þat e alle adreden; ure drihten Crist. Luuien hine and likien; for he is loured of lif. He is one god; ouer alle godnesse. He is one gleaw; ouer alle gleawnesse. He is one blisse; ouer alle bliðnesse. He is one manne; mildest maister. He is one folce; fader and frofre. He is one rihtwis; and swo riche king. Þat him ne scal ben wane; noht of his wille.

in Beowulf, lines 287b–9b: ‘Æghwæþres sceal/ scearp scyldwiga/ gescad witan/ worda ond worca/ se þe wel þenceð’ (Beowulf, ed. George Jack (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994), p. 45). For a more complete analysis of alliterative collocations in early Middle English alliterative verse, see Oakden.

21

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Hwo hine her on werlde; wurðien ðencheþ.’41

The dual nature of Alfred’s teachings is emphasised here. Success, both worldly and spiritual, is promised to those who listen and follow his advice. This duality represents the need for a wise man to live well in this world, but to also remember to prepare his soul for the next. The repetition of the devotional formula He is one god . . . He is one gleaw . . . He is one blisse . . . reinforces Christ’s primacy in the hierarchical social order of the text. Ultimately, as the final four lines tell us, all worldly prosperity depends upon the worship of Christ. Strophes two through five continue the discussion of the roles of the different members of this hierarchical society. Crépin points out that ‘La deuxième strophe pose la pierre angulaire: le Christ-roi, de qui dépend toute prospérité. Les strophes 3, 4, et 5 examinent par ordre hiérarchique les devoirs – du roi (str. 3), des comtes et barons (str. 4), des chevaliers (str. 5).’42 The primacy of Christ as the cornerstone, la pierre angulaire, of the society constructed in the Proverbs reinforces the image of the earthly king, Alfred, as being modelled on the construction of Christ in the text. Christ too is fader and frofre to his people, as Alfred is engle frofre.43 The second highest position in the hierarchy is that of the king, subject only to Christ. In this third strophe, Alfred defines how a king should rule: Þus cwað Alfred; engle frofre. ‘Ne mai non riht king; ben under Criste seluen. Bute if he be; boc-ilered. And he his writes; wel icunne. 41 The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text, p. 8. ‘Thus quoth Alfred, the joy of the English, “If you

now, my people, would listen to your lord, he would show you truly how you could enjoy worldly honour and also gather your souls to Christ.” Wise were the sayings that King Alfred pronounced. “Mildly I admonish my dear friends, poor and rich, anybody alive, that you all fear our Lord Christ, love him and cherish him, for he is the lord of life. He alone is good beyond all goodness; he alone is wise beyond all wisdom; he alone is bliss beyond all joy; he alone is the most gracious lord of mankind; he alone is the father and the comforter of peoples; he alone is righteous and so mighty a king that he shall lack nothing of his desire whoever thinks to worship him here in this world” ’ (The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text, p. 24). 42 Crépin, p. 51. 43 Crépin highlights the use of the term Engle frofre (comforter to the English) in the text, and makes the comparison with Beowulf line 14a, where Scyld is given folce to frofre (p. 57). Bishop Wulfstan also uses this terminology in his Institutes of Polity, where he designates the king as folces frofer (K. Jost, Wulfstanstudien, Swiss Studies in English, 23 (Bern: Francke Verlag, 1950), p. 40). It is problematic to assess the significance of this term in the Proverbs. Whether it is used to recall the Anglo-Saxon period, or whether it was a part of the Middle English dialect in which the text is written, is difficult to determine. However, it is a term that has a demonstrable association with earlier constructions of Anglo-Saxon kingship, suggesting continuity in the construction of kingship in English.

22

Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century And he cunne lettres; locien himseluen. Hu he scule his lond; laelice helden.’44

Firstly, for a king to be judged riht, that is lawful, he must rule under Christ. In the hierarchical order, all virtue flows from above, and a king must rule in his rightful place. A just Christian king is also defined as one who is boc-ilered: he must be literate in order that he can read and understand his own laws, and thereby rule his kingdom through and within the constraints of the law. In order to rule la elice, the king must not merely be aware of the laws of the kingdom, but also be able to read them for himself, so that he is aware of how, and under what legal constraints, he should rule. These laws are both the laws of man and the laws of Christ. 45 This concern with the just government of the kingdom under the law is continued in strophe four. The text continues down the hierarchical scale with a discussion of the roles of the erl and the eþeling. Þus cwað Alfred. ‘þan erl and þan eþeling; iberþ under þe king. þat lond to leden; mid laelice deden. And þe clerc and þe cniht; demen euenliche riht. For after þat man soweþ; al swilch he scal mowen. And efrilces mannes dom; To his oere cherreþ.’46

Here we see once more that the construction of a just Christian society relies to a large extent upon the enforcement of just laws. The erl and the eþeling rule the land under the king and according to the law. The appeal for knights and clerks to be judged equally may have been contentious. Is this an appeal

44 The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text, pp. 9–10. ‘Thus quoth Alfred, the joy of the English,

“There can be no right king under Christ himself unless he is book learned, and he can well know his documents, and he can inspect records for himself how he shall rule his land lawfully” ’ (ibid., p. 24). 45 The classic exposition of the nature of medieval law is that of St Thomas Aquinas, who divides law into three types: divine or eternal law, that is the will of God; natural law, to which all reasonable men should assent; and human, or positive, law, which is that legislated by mankind. For a further discussion of the divisions of law in medieval legal thought, see John A. Alford, ‘Literature and Law in Medieval England’, PMLA, 92 (1977), 941–51 (p. 942). This concern for the lawful rule of a rightful king is addressed further in Chapter 5. 46 The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text, p. 10. ‘Thus quoth Alfred, “It belongs to the earl and the atheling to govern the land under the king with lawful deeds and judge both the cleric and the knight impartially. For according as a man sows even so shall he reap, and every man’s judgement comes back to his own door” ’ (ibid., p. 24).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance for the clergy to be subject to the same law as knights, rather than canon law – one of the issues that come to the fore in Henry II’s dispute with Thomas Beckett – or is it a more general call for equal treatment of knight and clerk? Without having a clear idea of the origin of the text it is difficult to determine, although the tone of the Proverbs, and its probable clerical authorship, makes it unlikely that the text would advocate a removal of the clerical privilege to be judged under church law. Considering the admonition regarding the behaviour of knights in strophe five, it would seem that this is a call from the clergy for equity of judgment. The demand for equal treatment of þe clerc and þe cniht under the law is given moral impetus by the reference to the biblical proverb For after þat man soweþ/ al swilch he scal mowen.47 This agrarian proverb introduces the lowest of the ranks of the social hierarchy: the peasant. Together with the cniht and the clerc, these three groups comprise the Three Orders of society.48 After the introduction of the idea of the Three Orders at the end of the fourth strophe, it might be expected that the text would proceed to discuss the roles and responsibilities of each of the orders within a Christian society. In its tripartite construction of an ideal society, the Proverbs draws upon a structural scheme commonly linked with the ideal Christian society. The relationship of workers, fighters, and preachers is constructed in the Proverbs in terms of what each estate must do in society. Þus cwað Alfred. ‘þan cnihte bihoueð; kenliche on to fone. Uor to werien þat lond; wiþ hunger and wiþ heregong. Þat þe chirce habbe griþ; and þe churl be in friþ. Hise sedes to sowen; his medes to mowen. Hise ploes to driuen; to use alre biliuen. Þis is þes cnihtes lae; to locen þat hit wel fare.’49

47 Arngart attributes this proverb to Galatians vi.8, ‘Quae enim seminaverit homo, haec et metet’ (The

Proverbs of Alfred, II, p. 155). 48 For one major treatment of the idea of the Three Orders in the Middle Ages, see Georges Duby, The

Three Orders: Feudal Society Imagined, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1980). Patrick Wormald also discusses the influence of the Three Orders on the development of English law in The Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century, 2 vols (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999). 49 The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text, p. 10. ‘Thus quoth Alfred, “It behoves the knight boldly to go to work to guard the land from famine and from invasion, so that the church may have peace, and the churl be protected to sow his corn, to mow his meadows, to drive his ploughs for the sustenance of us all. This is the knight’s duty to look to the welfare of the country” ’ (ibid., p. 25).

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Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century While the basis for the ordering of society within the Proverbs is that of the Three Orders, this does not seem to be the main emphasis of the text. Rather, we see in strophes one to four a concern primarily with the role of the ruling structure of king, erl, and eþeling. Only in strophe five do we find something that resembles the conventional medieval notion of the Three Orders. Here the social roles of the bellatores, oratores, and laboratores are defined in a manner that emphasises the functional nature of each group. Of particular concern is the proper role of the knight within society. The knight must protect the church, so that it may perform its vocation in peace, and the churl, so that he can grow food to provide for society’s needs; the strophe ends with a plea that the cnihtes la e be sufficient to compel him to keep the peace. The first five sections of the Proverbs present an ideal conception of a Christian society. The role of the king is constructed as both a pedagogue and a ruler, and thus is imagined as the font of both religious and social instruction in the poem. This instruction is to be based in both the laws of man and in the laws of God. The laws of the land are to be recorded in law books so that the enforcement of these laws can be carried out in a just and equitable manner. Those charged with enforcing these laws, both the king and the judges, must be conversant with the laws of the kingdom, and the proper rule of law will then allow the members of the three estates to fulfil their functions within the ideal Christian society. Here we have an image of the Anglo-Saxon past, or more correctly, an Anglo-Saxon past – an image of an Anglo-Saxon past that was imagined by the author of the text as embodying the social structure and regulation that was seen as central to the operating of a peaceful Christian society. However, aside from the setting, is there anything in the text that distinguishes this society from the everyday reality that would have been familiar to a twelfth-century audience? On the surface there seems little in the construction of social order in the Proverbs that differs markedly from what would have been familiar to a mid-twelfth-century audience. The most marked difference that might have been recognised by a reader contemporary with the text is that between the ideal presented in the Proverbs and the reality evident in the history of twelfth-century England. The alterity of the depiction of social order found within the text seems to owe more to the difference between the reality and the ideal of society than between the twelfth-century present and the Anglo-Saxon past.

Alfred’s Social Ideology Carolyne Larrington, in her study of Old English and Norse wisdom literature, comments that ‘the absolute value of the wisdom remains unchanged: the distilled lessons of experience constitute a uniting ideology’.50 In contrast 50 Carolyne Larrington, A Store of Common Sense (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 224.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance to the long-held view of proverb collections as random collections of folk wisdom, Larrington understands such collections as texts that represent social ideology: it is a reading that is significant in understanding the way in which the Proverbs constructs its image of the Anglo-Saxon past. The sententiae in strophes 6–29 construct the moral framework – the uniting creed – of the society that Alfred envisages and addresses, and are therefore of integral importance in constructing the text’s image of the Anglo-Saxon past. Important here is how the sententious sayings in these strophes contribute to the text’s image of an Anglo-Saxon society: how do these sententiae operate within the text to create the moral structure of this imagined Alfredian society? The concerns that are raised by the wise sayings, and the remedies and advice that are offered, act to produce an image of the type of society that is being advocated by the text. 51 How should a man live his life? The Proverbs provides a body of advice that instructs the reader on how to live well in this Alfredian society. Initially, there is the realisation that life is not always easy, especially when a man is young and establishing his place in the world: Scole nefre ungman/ iven him to euele/ Þeh him his wise/ wel ne likie. A man must not despair, but must struggle against adversity, For God mai iven/ god after euele/ Wele after wrakesiþ. This notion of continuing to try to live a honourable and virtuous life despite your circumstances is continued in strophe seven: Strong hit is to rowen/ a en þe seflode/ Swo hit is to swinken/ a en uniselþe. To struggle against adversity is to spend one’s youth well, and to provide wealth and success for one’s later years. However, with this wealth comes the responsibility to use it well. The principal theme of the Proverbs is expressed in strophe 12: wealth is transitory and should be utilised for the best possible ends. Here we find a restatement of Alfred’s desire to teach his people: Lesteþ e me, lede/ and ic eu wille leren/ Wit and wisdom/ þat alle wele ouergoþ. While worldly wealth will pass away, wisdom will make a man secure in both this life and the next. The transitory nature of wealth is further explored in strophes 9 and 11. In strophe 9 the people are advised not to place great pride in their wealth, as it is only through God’s gift that they enjoy this favour: Ahte nis non eldre istren/ ac hit is Godes lone/ Þanne hit is his wille / þarof we sculen wenden. Strophe 11 continues this theme by criticising the pursuit of wealth and by warning that it is not worth incurring God’s disfavour: Mani man for his gold/ haueþ Godes

51 While the sententiae have attracted much comment from their various editors, there has been little

consideration of their function within the text: rather, the primary interest has been in identifying the sources of the maxims. Arngart has extensively examined the sources of the proverbs in his study The Distichs of Cato and the Proverbs of Alfred. Here Arngart concludes that the majority of the proverbs are drawn from the Distichs of Cato, a well-known collection of Latin proverbs that was in common use as a medieval school text for much of the Middle Ages. While I will briefly discuss the sources of a number of proverbs when they become pertinent to my argument, the sources of the individual proverbs are not the focus of this study. Rather, I see the aphorisms as a significant and integral part of the text’s construction of the Anglo-Saxon past.

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Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century erre/ And for his seluer/ his saule he forleseð. In order to avoid this fate, Alfred teaches that a man should accept his lot in life, whether he is rich or poor. While wealth is not seen as the ultimate goal of life, it does have its use within the society of the Proverbs. Riches that are used unwisely are of little use to a man: Wiðuten wisdome/ is wele wel unwurð. Rather, as strophe 6 tells us, wealth should be used to gain friendship: . . . he for his wele/ nefre þe wurþere/ Bute he min of fremðe/ frend iwerche. It is not enough, however, simply to use your wealth and generosity to make friends and allies. It is also important to maintain these friendships. In strophe 25 we find the warning: Ac if þu hauest a frend todai/ and tomore en driuest hine awei/ þanne best tu one/ also þu er were/ And þanne is þi fe forloren/ and þi frend boþen. Patronage is important in both the gaining and the maintaining of friends and allies, and seen as part of the social economy that ties social groups together. The last four strophes of the Proverbs give advice on what a man should do with his riches as he grows older. In strophe 26 we find a warning against the folly of the hoarding of wealth: Ne gin þu nefre þi lif/ to narwlice leden/ Ne þine faires/ to faste helden / For þer ehte is ihed/ þer is armþe inoh. Strophe 27 adds that an aged man should share out his wealth to his friends before he dies, as they will remember him and keep his memory alive, while his heirs will soon forget him. However, not all members of a society find themselves with great wealth to utilise, wisely or otherwise. The text also addresses the question of what a man should do if he finds himself without wealth. Strophe 28 advises on the best course of action for an aged man: if þu in þin elde/ best welþes bideled . . . Þanne þonce þu þi louerd/ of alle hise lone/ And of þin o en lif/ and of þe daies liht. Life, then, is not about wealth, but about being thankful to God for whatever life delivers to you. Worldly wealth is to be viewed as a God-given gift, and the proper role of wealth in society is to create social harmony through the construction and maintenance of networks of friendship and alliance. It is not an end in itself, merely a tool to be made use of while in this life. The ephemeral nature of wealth is reinforced in the final strophe, where Alfred summarises his advice by stating: Werldes welþe/ to wurmes scal wurþen/ And elches cinnes madmes/ to mixe sculen imelten/ And ure lif/ scal litel iliesten. If wealth is to be used well to ensure the stability of society, speech is also something to be governed carefully. As the text tells us, speech is as important as action. Alfred is praised as being both wis on his word/ and war on his werke. Words are shown to be as important in this text as actions are in the pursuit of a successful Christian life. Þurh sa e man is wis/ and þurh iselþe man is gleu/ Þurh lesinge man is loð/ and þurh leþere wrenches unwurþ. Here, in strophe 24, we find the definition of what makes a man both wise and good, or hateful and worthless: the words and deeds with which he interacts with his society. This concept of socially defined virtue is born from a need for security, as he who makes many friends through his life can sikerliche/ seli sitten/ And ek faren ouer londe/ hwider-so beþ þi luste. How a man 27

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance expresses himself in social settings is thus of great importance, and this is reflected in the advice given by Alfred in the text. The predominant tone of this advice is prudential and cautionary. In strophe 18 we are advised never to divulge the full extent of our thoughts, as those to whom a man relates this information may one day use it against him. Words are seen as powerful, and dangerous in the wrong hands: For oft tunge brekeþ bon/ þeh he self nabbe non. Therefore a man should avoid arguing with drunkards, fools, and those who would misuse what he has said. The threat of information passing into the hands of those who would use it against you is expressed in strophe 13: if þu hauest sore e/ ne sei e þu hit noht þan are e/ Sei e hit þine sadelbo e/ and rid te singinde. A man should keep his troubles to himself. Here we again witness the suspicion that seems to characterise the advice about speech that we find in the Proverbs – speech is dangerous, and must be husbanded as prudently as wealth. A man must not only be careful with his own words, but must also be aware that others may misuse words for their own reasons. Not all men speak the truth, as not all men follow the precepts of society. A man should take everything he hears with a degree of caution, because an enemy will not give prior warning before he tricks you: Nele he þe keþen/ hwanne he þe wile bikechen. Not only are the words of men deceiving but so are many other things in life. Mani appel is briht wiðuten/ and bitter wiðinnen/ Swo is mani brede/ on hire fader bure/ Scene under scete/ and þeh he is scondful/ Swo is manu gadeling/ godelice on horse/ Wlonc bi glede/ and unwurð at need. Companions at arms, the closest of friends, can prove untrustworthy. Women too are unworthy of trust, and as strophe 16 advises, a man should not chose a wife for beauty alone, nor for the wealth that she may bring to his estate. Rather he should lerne hire keste before agreeing to any match, as an ill-considered choice of wife will haunt a man for his entire life: Wo is him þat euel wif/ bringeð to his cotlif. Alfred then states that once a man has chosen a wife, he must learn how to handle her. A woman must be kept busy in order to keep her from idleness and pride, although this will not always be effective because ofte museð þe cat/ after hire moder. Despite this, a man must endeavour to master his wife, or he will never again be his wordes loured. To this end, it is important that a man should never reveal too much of his thoughts to his wife – especially when drunk. Wurþ þu nefre swo wod/ ne swo windrunken/ Þat efre segge þu þine wife/ alle þine wille. This once again reinforces the need for prudence in speech. A woman, we are told is word-wod/ and haueþ tunge to swift/ Þeh he wel wolde/ ne mai he hi nowhit welden. In addition to the warnings about the untrustworthiness of women in general, a man should not place too much weight on the words of his wife. A woman will often seek to beguile a man through tears or complaint, and will not always have her husband’s interests at heart. This warning is supported in the text by reference to Solomon’s warning against the evil counsels of women: Salomon hit haueþ ised/ þat he can wel euelne red/ Þe hire red fole eð/ he bringeþ hine to sore e/ uor hit seiþ in þe leð/ as cuenes forteþ/ Hit is ifern 28

Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century ised/ þat cold red is cuene red.52 Despite the misogynist nature of the advice regarding women that we find in the Proverbs, the text does recognise the worth of a woman who proves herself to be supportive and trustworthy: I ne segge hit noht biþan/ þat god þing is god wimman/ Þe man þe hi mai cnowen/ and ichesen ouer oþre. The trick, it seems, is in the choosing. In Alfred’s society, wealth and women must be managed, and so must children. It is the responsibility of members of a society to raise their children to adhere to the social contract. Children must be taught to be well mannered while they are young, and then they shall be a credit to their father when they are older. If however a man fails in this duty of care, his children will not respect him or obey him: For betere is bern unboren/ þanne unibeten (strophe 14). The judicious handling of wealth, family, and speech is the primary focus of the advice given by Alfred to his community. However, the text also harbours other concerns. We have already seen a warning against a man getting so drunk that he tells his wife his thoughts, and in strophe 15 we find a more general call for moderation in drink. Moderate drinking is nothing to be frowned on, but he þat drinkeþ/ and desi eþ þeramong/ Swo þat he fordrunken/ desi inde wercheþ shall sleep little that night but shall sleep long the next day. That the warning is against drinking to excess, rather than against drinking per se, can be seen as illustrative of a society in which the consumption of alcohol is viewed as an important act of social cohesion. This then is the advice that Alfred gives to his people, and as a whole it comprises a social code of conduct that allows the members of this society to live their lives in a wise and pious manner. That a man should live a life that is beneficial to both his body and his soul is important because, as Alfred cautions in strophe 10, Drihten hit one wot/ du eðe loured/ Hwanne we ure lif/ leten sculen. The immediacy of death and the uncertainty of life that resonate through this strophe remind us of the ultimate purpose of the advice in the text – to allow the recipient to live a life that will allow them to werldes/ wurðscipes welden and at the same time to eure saule / samnen to Criste. The text is concerned with the right way to live on earth, but ultimately returns to the advice of Solomon: Wis is þat her wel doþ/ he cumeþ þar he lyen foþ/ On his liues ende/ he hit scal auinde. What does this say of the text’s Anglo-Saxonism? How does this text function as a mediation of the Anglo-Saxon past? In reconstructing this Alfredian society as an idealised image of contemporary society, the Proverbs utilises the past for that most common of purposes – to comment upon the present. That the Anglo-Saxon past is the locus of this idealised society seems to indi-

52 Here we find the authority of the proverb regarding women’s advice founded in both Scripture and

in Germanic oral wisdom. Arngart attributes the source of cold red is cuene red as being ‘definitely of Scandinavian origin’ (Arngart, The Distichs of Cato and the Proverbs of Alfred, p. 100). He provides as a parallel the Old Norse proverb ‘Kold eru kvenna ráð’ (women’s counsel is cold) from Njálssaga (Arngart, The Proverbs of Alfred, II, p. 182).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance cate that the Anglo-Saxon period was still remembered fondly by sections of twelfth-century English society. The Anglo-Saxon past is conflated in this text with a just Christian society, one that enjoys peace and stability despite the innate wickedness of man. By following a social code based on wise and cautious advice, the Anglo-Saxons are viewed as having been able to deal with the untrustworthiness of others and the misfortunes of life. The construction of Anglo-Saxon England in the Proverbs is one that owes more to the idea of an ideal past than to any kind of accurate historical remembrance. After all, the Anglo-Saxon period was no less violent and racked with discord than was twelfth-century England. The imagined Anglo-Saxon world of the Proverbs is constructed through the articulation of wisdom that was still current in the twelfth century, thus highlighting the text’s function as a mirror for social organisation and behaviour for its twelfth- and thirteenth-century audience. However, despite having little grounding in historical fact, the text retains its significance, as it is illustrative of how Anglo-Saxon society was imagined to have been.

The Genesis of the Proverbs The Proverbs present a highly structured view of an imagined Anglo-Saxon society; but why was this image of the past produced, who produced it, and what discourses underlie the production of the text? The historical and geographical context of the poem may aid us in trying to answer these questions. The text is anonymous, and so it is difficult to talk with any degree of certainty regarding notions of authorship. It may be more useful to look for the text’s point of origin in a particular geographical area or societal group. In a text of this nature, questions of genesis and social context are inevitably intertwined. In attempting to identify the origin of the Proverbs, it is useful to consider what can be determined about the likely source of the text from the evidence within the poem. From the text we can determine that the author of the Proverbs will have been literate in English and may possibly have been a monk. Both his dialect and his knowledge of the local tradition connecting Alfred and Seaford make it likely that he was either writing in, or had close ties with, the East Sussex region. Finally, it is likely that he had some knowledge of Latin, owing to his familiarity with the Distichs of Cato. The fact that the text is written in English has to be taken into account in any discussion of its origin. On first impression, the use of English might seem to suggest a purely oral origin for the text, but Arngart’s analysis of the sources of the Proverbs show that much of their content is based on the Latin Distichs of Cato.53 The Proverbs seem to represent some kind of fusion of the 53 While versions of the Distichs did exist in English, Arngart points to the Latin tradition as being the

source of the proverbial material in the Proverbs.

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Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century popular tradition of Alfred’s wisdom with the content of the Distichs. As an English text, it may seem surprising that the Proverbs should have been written down at all, as English was a language that was largely out of favour in the literary world. Richard Mortimer, summarising the state of English literature in the twelfth century, notes that: There is no doubt that the century after the Norman Conquest represents the lowest point in the whole history of English literature. The language lost its prestige, and writing in it was largely confined to a few old-fashioned monasteries. The Anglo-Saxon chronicle ceased in 1154, the year of Henry II’s ascension to the throne.54

The Proverbs, probably composed during the early years of Henry II’s reign, can be seen as being a highly unusual text if this account of the state of literary production in English is correct. If the use of English as a literary language was in fact restricted to a ‘few old-fashioned monasteries’, this fact may be of use in determining the likely origin of the Proverbs.55 The Proverbs is notable for its use of names: Seaford, Alfred, and Alfrich all feature in the text. These three names operate in the text in a manner that makes them integral to an understanding of its context. The names within the text are signifiers that can be seen to refer to multiple signifieds. Seaford is at once that textual place where Alfred speaks and simultaneously a local village familiar to the conjectured original audience of the text. It exists as both past and present, tying the audience into a historical continuum that connects them with their own geo-historical environment. The other names within the text, both that of the main protagonist, Alfred, and that of Alfrich, of þare la e swiðe wis, can similarly be read as having more than a single referential field in the text. These names become important to a social contextualisation when the Proverbs are read in their role of social commentary. The range of meanings that these names may have held for a contemporary twelfth-century audience is intriguing, and I hope to demonstrate how they can affect a reading of the text and its context, and how they can aid in determining the origin of the poem. As has been discussed above, the identification of the text with Seaford in East Sussex has been well established. Arngart identifies Seuorde and comments upon the significance of the relative obscurity of Seaford in the medieval period:

54 Richard Mortimer, Angevin England, 1154–1258 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), p. 217. 55 It is to be noted that there is an ongoing debate as to the degree to which English remained in use in

twelfth-century monastic circles. This debate, and the wider continued use of English in monasteries after the conquest, is discussed by Susan Irvine in ‘The Compilation and Use of Manuscripts Containing Old English in the Twelfth Century’, in Rewriting Old English in the Twelfth Century, ed. Mary Swan and Elaine M. Treharne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 41–61 (pp. 56–60). 56 Arngart, The Proverbs of Alfred, II, pp. 57–8.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Seuorde is to be identified with Seaford in East Sussex. As this was an insignificant place in the twelfth century (it is not mentioned in the Domesday Book, v. PNSx, p. 363), it is not likely to have been known outside the immediate neighbourhood, and the fact that the compiler of the Proverbs chose Seaford for the scene of the gathering described in the introductory section indicates that they were composed not too far from that place.56 There seems to be no reason not to follow Arngart’s suggestion that the poem, or at least the opening setting, is to be associated with Seaford. While the setting of a text does not necessarily correlate with its origin, in the case of the Proverbs the comparative obscurity of the setting and the corroboration of the Southern dialect features point to a text produced by a writer either dwelling in, or having originated from, the southern Sussex area near Seaford. The presence of Seaford within the text is paralleled by the naming of Guldeforde in the Owl and the Nightingale, a text that is closely linked with the Proverbs.57 In this text we find a reference to one Nicholas of Guildford, who has been assumed by many scholars to be the author of the poem.58 This use of a real place-name within the text strengthens the case for associating the Seaford of the poem with the real town of Seaford in East Sussex. That the origin of the Proverbs is to be found in a localised legend, thus linking the poem with a precise geographical area, is important for an understanding of the use of names within the text. As Arngart states, Seaford was not a well-known place in the twelfth century, and this suggests that the original composer of the poem, and perhaps the intended audience, must have been familiar with the area. The positioning of the Proverbs in an identifiable and historically significant locale is an example of the powerful connection between cultural memory, narrative, and geography. A text of this nature acts to preserve local memory within the written record, and by doing so participates in the commemoration and preservation of the past within this geographical area. Place can be seen as an important element in the construction of the past by the Proverbs, anchoring its imagined Anglo-Saxon world in the known and knowable geography of twelfth-century England. If we

57 There is a close, yet uncertain, relationship between The Owl and the Nightingale and The Prov-

erbs of Alfred. The two texts share the use of Alfred as a speaker of proverbs and are both found in MS Jesus College E. 29 (J). Neil Cartlidge notes that ‘Guldeforde is presumably Guildford in Surrey’ (The Owl and the Nightingale: Text and Translation, ed. and trans. Neil Cartlidge (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 2001), p. 101). 58 Kathryn Hume, The Owl and the Nightingale: the Poem and its Critics (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1975), p. 5. Scholars have been content to treat the poem as a plea for advancement from Nicholas, although this issue is still very much under debate. Eric Stanley comments that the case for Nicholas being the author is unproven, and concludes that: ‘The most likely view is that the unknown poet sent his poem to Nicholas, his friend, esteemed by all the world for his sound judgement’ in hopes of gaining advancement (The Owl and the Nightingale (London: Thomas Nelson, 1960), pp. 20–1). Neil Cartlidge, the most recent editor of the text, suggests that ‘Nicholas’s prominence in the poem certainly demands explanation–and the simplest and most parsimonious one, it seems to me, is that he was indeed its author’ (Cartlidge, p. xiv).

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Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century accept that the apparent obscurity of the setting of the text restricts the likely origin of the text to a defined geographical area, then other names within the text should perhaps be analysed in the context of this locale. One of the more intriguing names within the Proverbs is that of Alfrich.59 Introduced two lines before Alfred in the text, Alfrich is described as being an erl who is very wise in the la e, and as such seems to occupy a position of privilege just underneath that of the king. Crépin questions the precise standing of Alfrich within the text.60 The Oxford English Dictionary points out that in the Anglo-Saxon period an erl (OE eorl) was a term that encompassed any member of the nobility, but under the Norman kings an erl ‘was a specific order of rank, corresponding to Count in the nobility of other European nations’.61 It seems clear that Alfrich is an important figure in the hierarchy of the text’s society. Alfrich is described as being wise in the la e, which held a range of associated meanings in the medieval period. The Oxford English Dictionary gives various medieval definitions of the term: as civil law, canon law, positive law, natural law, or simply as a term for a particular system of behaviour. 62 A possible historical origin for Alfrich is worth considering here. Crépin suggests that there is perhaps a historical confusion at work in the text: that the Alfrich of the Proverbs is the result of the author having either read or heard of Abbot Ælfric, the friend and correspondent of Wulfstan of York, who had been involved in the writing of Cnut’s laws in the early eleventh century.63 The author of the Proverbs may then have associated Ælfric and Alfred with the entire Anglo-Saxon legal corpus. While this seems to be one possible explanation for the presence of the name in the text, the range of meanings that may be attached to the name is more extensive than this. If we return to the geographical context of the Proverbs, it is possible to see the use of the name Alfrich as a mistaken local connection. A few miles to the northeast of Seaford lies the village of Alfriston. In the Dictionary of English Place Names the entry reads: Alfriston E. Sussex. Alvricestone 1086 (DB). ‘Farmstead or village of a man called Ælfric’. OE pers. name + tun.64 59 Here I will use Alfrich to refer to the figure within the Proverbs and Ælfric to refer to the historical

figure(s) who may have been the basis for the character in the text. 60 The epithet erl is considered by Crépin to be problematic, and difficult to translate. He solves this

61 62 63

64

problem by examining how modern historians have translated the term in translations of medieval diplomatic documents. He settles on using the term comte for his translation into modern French, but does not address the meaning of the term in a twelfth-century context (Crépin, p. 51). Ibid., prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), sv. Earl. Ibid., sv. Law. Crépin, p. 57. Ælfric was well known in the twelfth century as a homilist, but his other writings were known primarily through anonymous inclusion in other texts (Irvine, pp. 56–60; Mary Swan, ‘Aelfric’s Catholic Homilies in the Twelfth Century’, in Rewriting Old English in the Twelfth Century, pp. 62–82 (pp. 81–2)). A Dictionary of English Place Names, ed. A. D. Mills (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 6.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance It is possible that there may have been a connection between this Ælfric and the Alfrich of the Proverbs. The Place-Names of Sussex records that ‘the tenant in TRE [The time of Edward the Confessor] was one Ælfric, but this is doubtless only a coincidence – the Ælfric who gave his name to the manor probably belonged to a far earlier time’.65 Perhaps, but the connection between the manor of Alfriston and the name Ælfric is further supported in the Domesday Book: Gilbert holds 1 hide from the count in Alfriston at a revenue. Ælfric held it as freehold. Land for 1 plough. 66

There seems to have been a longstanding and long-remembered connection between the landowners in Alfriston and the name Ælfric. The original name-giver of the manor, the tenant at the time of Edward the Confessor, and the freeholder in 1086, are all named Ælfric. It is possible that this was a name passed down by the landowner of the manor from father to son to celebrate their connections with the man who gave the manor its name, and perhaps one of these manorial owners had been remembered as the erl Alfrich of the Proverbs. If such a tradition existed in the Seaford area, commemorating a local manorial erl named Ælfric, this may explain why the name would be included in the Proverbs. There also seems to be a possibility of a connection between Alfriston and the author of the Proverbs – a connection that I will examine later in this chapter when discussing the possible authorship of the text. In the Proverbs, the name Alfred without doubt refers primarily to Alfred, king of Wessex from 871 until 899. Alfred’s reputation was widely known during the twelfth century through chronicles and saints’ lives, legal codes, and local legends. The name Alfred must have continued to hold associations with political power in the English imagination, and stories of his wise rule, such as the one that we find in the Proverbs, may well have been commonplace in popular memory. William of Malmesbury certainly found this to be the case, and he records for the first time a number of legendary narratives concerning the king.67 Given this background, it is an interesting question whether the name may have had any additional connotations for the local audience of the Proverbs. Given the association of the name with power and authority, there seems to be at least one possible complementary connotation that the name may have held in the Sussex area in the twelfth century. The name of Alfred, or more precisely its Normanised equivalent Alvred, appears to have been associated with the exercise of power during this period. 65 A. Mawer and F. M. Stenton, The Place-Names of Sussex, Volume I: The Rapes of Chichester,

Arundel and Bramber (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1929), p. 415. 66 Domesday Book: Sussex, ed. and trans. John Morris (Chichester: Phillimore, 1976), 21d. 67 Rodney M. Thompson, William of Malmesbury (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987), pp. 16–17. William

‘did not exclusively rely upon literary sources for his historical information: oral testimony, the traditions of “seniores”, first-hand or reliable second-hand observation, monuments such as the famous Glastonbury “pyramids”, . . . ornaments, inscriptions, tombs and buildings were all grist to his mill’ (ibid., p. 17).

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Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century Onomastic evidence for this association exists in the form of two men, Alvred pincerna, butler of Pevensey Castle under Robert of Mortain, and his son William fitz Alvred, holder of the Pevensey lands in the time of King Stephen. Interestingly, Seaford is in close proximity to both Eastbourne and Firle, the lands assigned for the support of the warders (vigiles) of Pevensey.68 When Robert of Mortain acquired the lordship of the Rape of Pevensey in 1067, only 27 of the 52 pre-conquest burgesses remained.69 This massive exodus may be indicative of the unease that led to the exodus of important Anglo-Saxon families in the immediate aftermath of the conquest. Robert seems to have taken great advantage of this situation, acting as the archetypal absentee landlord and enriching himself and his followers through his new lands.70 Much of this activity, however, seems to have been carried out by Robert’s officials, chief among whom was his butler, Alvred. Alvred seems to have been involved in the collection of taxes for his lord: surviving records show that he received payments from the lands of Pevensey Castle, namely estates at both Eastbourne and Firle. Alvred seems to have been an important figure in the Rape of Pevensey during the late eleventh century. He held a great deal of land, and, considering Robert of Mortain’s frequent absence from the Rape, would seem to have been the pre-eminent secular figure in the area.71 What we know of Alvred is that he benefited greatly from his position as Robert’s butler (pincerna) and was in a position to act as a benefactor to a number of religious houses in both Sussex and other counties. He is recorded as gifting a chapel at his manor of Charleston72 to the Norman Abbey of Grestain, and the church of East Grinstead to Lewes Abbey.73 Furthermore, Alvred endowed St. Alban’s Abbey with the tithes of Crundel in Yorkshire, a gift that was recorded in the register of benefactors alongside portraits of Alvred and his wife.74 Of Alvred’s life and career little else is known, but it seems that he was still alive in 1102, as he appears next to his son, William, as a witness to the foundation charter of Montacute Priory in Somerset. 75 On Alvred’s death his son William seems to have inherited most of his 68 L. F. Salzmann, ‘Documents Relating to Pevensey Castle’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, 49

(1906), 1–30 (p. 2). 69 Kathleen Thompson, ‘Lords, Castellans, Constables and Dowagers: The Rape of Pevensey from

the 11th to the 13th Century’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, 137 (1999), 209–20 (p. 210). 70 Thompson, p. 210. 71 He was the most well-endowed baronial official in Pevensey, and at the time of the Domesday

72

73 74 75

survey he held estates in nine counties including Sussex, Somerset, Cornwall, and Yorkshire (J. F. A. Mason, ‘Barons and their Officials in the Later Eleventh Century’, Anglo-Norman Studies, 13 (1990), 243–62 (pp. 245–9)). A description of the chapel, still known as Alvred’s chapel in the nineteenth century, is provided in George Miles Cooper, ‘Illustrations of Wilmington Priory and Church’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, 4 (1851), 37–66 (pp. 46–7). L. F. Salzmann, ‘Some Sussex Domesday Tenants’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, 57 (1915), 162–79 (p. 163). Ibid., p. 163. MS Cotton Nero D. vii. f. 94. Salzmann, ‘Some Sussex Domesday Tenants’, p. 163.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance estates.76 In 1130 he is linked once more with lands at Pevensey. The Rape of Pevensey had by now passed into the control of Gilbert of Laigle, following the loss of the Rape by Robert of Mortain’s son William, the consequence of his opposition to Henry I. The lands that once had supported the garrison of Pevensey Castle, which was now a royal castle funded by the king, seem to have passed into William’s control. William is recorded as paying £19 and 4 shillings into the treasury of Pevensey from the lands at Eastbourne and Firle.77 It seems that William must have died around 1155, as his son Richard is recorded as taking over the financial duties for the Sussex estates in 1156.78 Richard fitz William fitz Alvred79 appears to have had a turbulent career, being heavily fined and forced to forfeit control of the warder’s lands of Pevensey by Henry II in 1165.80 Richard seems to have had the family trait of longevity, as he is last recorded in 1195 paying twenty marks of silver to avoid knight service in Normandy.81 The family name of Alvred seems to have died out with the death of Richard circa 1195. His two sons, John and William, both took the surname of Montegue82 (de Monte Acuto), for reasons that are unclear.83 Alvred and his descendants were men of some considerable power in the East Sussex region, as can be seen from the extent of both their land holdings and their gifts to religious houses. Seaford, less than four miles from their estate at Charleston and their lands at Firle, would have been well known to this family. It seems unlikely that Alvred would have been unaware of the historical connections between his namesake King Alfred and the local area in which he lived and governed. It is tempting to consider the possibility that Alvred may have taken his name in order to take advantage of these connections, but there is of course no evidence for such a suggestion. It is difficult to imagine, however, that a Norman official, faced with the difficulties and challenges of governing part of the newly conquered England, would have neglected to make use of whatever political and social connotations his name may have provided him with. While it is by no means necessary for Alfred’s reputation to have been influenced by these three men, their existence provides a further possible reading of the Proverbs. The association of the name of Alfred / Alvred with 76 He is shown in the twelfth-century Northamptonshire Survey to have held the estates of Buckby,

77 78 79 80 81 82 83

Lilbourne, Yelvertoft, and Guilsborough that had been held by Alvred in 1086 (Salzmann, ‘Some Sussex Domesday Tenants’, p. 164). Thompson, p. 212. Salzmann, ‘Some Sussex Domesday Tenants’, p. 165. As witnessed in a charter given to Lewes Priory c.1170 (The Cartulary of the Priory of St. Pancras of Lewes, ed. L. F. Salzmann, vol. 38 (Lewes: Sussex Record Society, 1932), pp. 74, 130). Salzmann, ‘Some Sussex Domesday Tenants’, p. 165. Salzmann suggests that this may have been in connection with the Beckett controversy, but provides no evidence to support this suggestion. Ibid., p. 166. Richard, being at least 60 by this time, seems wisely to have abstained from the previous year’s expedition to Normandy. Not to be confused with the long-established Montagues of Montacute in Somerset. Although perhaps we can speculate that the growing distance from the Anglo-Saxon period may have made the Alvred name seem increasingly outdated and archaic.

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Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century power and authority may have been reinforced by the influence held in the local area by Alvred pincerna and his descendants. It is possible that the Proverbs are in part reflecting upon the virtuous rule of King Alfred in comparison to the Norman rule of Alvred’s master, or perhaps this connection had no impact on the genesis of the tradition that underlies the text. Regardless of any possible influence on the text, the association of the name Alfred with the exercise of power seems to have been present in the East Sussex region throughout the late eleventh and twelfth centuries. It may be that the Proverbs may have been written for an audience that would have been well aware of the connection between the Alvred and the Alfred names. It may even be the case that the text was written to appeal to either Alvred’s son William, or his grandson Richard. It is not inconceivable that the poem may have been produced in anticipation of, or as a result of, one of the many donations of land that the Alvred family made to religious houses during the late eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Possible Origins While it is impossible to identify any individual as the author of the Proverbs, a strong possibility is that the text is associated with a religious house.84 The reputation of Alfred seems to have been preserved in many centres of Christian learning,85 and it is not inconceivable that a writer who was native to this area may have used a local tradition regarding Alfred and Seaford. The twelfth century saw an increasing interest in Old English manuscripts. By the late twelfth century, Old English texts had been collected in a number of religious centres, through the efforts of scholars such as Beckett and Wulfstan, and many of the monasteries had an interest in the Anglo-Saxon past, as the collections of Old English manuscripts in monasteries such as Glastonbury, Crowland, and Malmesbury illustrate.86 In addition, many of the concerns articulated within the first five sections of the text can be seen to support the idea of a monastic origin of the Proverbs. The notion of the king being under the rule of the laws of man and God is one that would have been attractive to the monastic mind. In comparison with some of the criticism of the early 84 Christopher Cannon comments upon the preservation of English literary forms and culture in the

Benedictine monasteries in the century after the conquest, which suggests that the Proverbs are likely to have originated within such a monastic house (‘Monastic Productions’, in Wallace, pp. 316–48 (pp. 322–3)). 85 Elaine Treharne discusses the continued copying and editing of Alfred’s texts in the twelfth century in ‘The Production and Script of Manuscripts Containing English in the First Half of the Twelfth Century’, in Rewriting Old English in the Twelfth Century, ed. Mary Swan and Elaine M. Treharne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 11–40 (p. 12). 86 An example of this enthusiasm is the compilation of Anglo-Saxon laws in the Textus Roffensis. This text was compiled in 1124 at Rochester and includes Alfred’s law-code. For further discussion, see Chapter 4 below, and Patrick Wormald, ‘Laga Eadwardi: The Textus Roffensis and its Context’, Anglo-Norman Studies, 17 (1994), 243–66.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Norman kings in such sources as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a text such as the Proverbs can be seen as a monastic critique of twelfth-century kingship practices. If the text is monastic in origin, and represents a synthesis of the Distichs of Cato with a local oral tradition of Alfred holding councils in the Seaford area, then the nearby monasteries become possible sources for the text. The weight of the manuscript evidence, slender though it is, seems to support the likelihood of a monastic origin for the Proverbs, although this is by no means certain.87 The manuscript evidence that exists points to either a Cluniac or a Benedictine origin, but despite these clues, we are no closer to the source of the archetype manuscript, as the possibility of texts moving either between these orders, or from another order, cannot be discounted.88 If one accepts that 87 Brown, the first scholar to write on the Maidstone MS of the Proverbs, initially connected the

manuscript with the Cistercian house of Revesby Abbey. However, later that same year he retracted this claim and established that the manuscript was to be associated with the Cluniac Priory of St Andrew at Northampton (‘The Maidstone Text of the Proverbs of Alfred’, Modern Language Review, 21.3 (1926), 249–60). This identification allows us to place M within a particular house and order. There is also some internal evidence regarding the affiliation of T. This manuscript is one of the two manuscripts that have the addition of the section of fatherly advice. Earl R. Anderson sees a connection between the Benedictine order and the content of one of the strophes of this additional section (‘The Source of Trinity College Proverbs of Alfred, No. 31’, Notes and Queries, 222 (1997), 102–3). In an analysis of strophe 30 of the Proverbs (the first strophe of the additional section), Anderson notes that while the first part is derived from Leviticus xix.32, the second part has yet to be explained: ‘Skeat (p. 62, note to line 627), Borgstom (p. 67, note to lines 588–9) and Arngart (p. 188, note to line 591) call attention to Leviticus xix.32, ‘Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head’, as the source. . . . Clearly the author of the Alfredian proverb was familiar with Leviticus, or with a popular saying drawn from Leviticus; but this does not explain the rest of the passage – the advice to the young man to sit beside his elder, if invited, and hear his wisdom’ (p. 102). Anderson suggests that the additional details in the strophe can be accounted for by a passage in chapter 63 of the Rule of St Benedict: ‘When a senior passes by let the junior rise and make place for him to sit down; neither shall the junior presume to sit unless the senior bid him to do so’ (p. 103). Anderson views this as indicative that the author of the additional section of the Proverbs knew the Rule well. However, Anderson’s conclusions seem rather too definite given the rather general nature of the advice regarding not sitting before one’s elders. Deference to age was a common element in medieval advice literature, and it is difficult to see Anderson’s argument as making a conclusive link between the Proverbs and the Benedictine order. However, it remains possible that T was a Benedictine manuscript. Unfortunately, there exists no evidence regarding the pre-dissolution provenance of J. After the dissolution the J manuscript seems to have been in the West Midlands or Glamorganshire, but this is of course not determinative of its place of origin. 88 A conjectural textual history of the Proverbs might be outlined thus: The autograph was composed in the mid-twelfth century by a monastic author, possibly associated with a Cluniac or Benedictine monastic centre either in, or with connections to, East Sussex. The text was produced through a synthesis of a local tradition regarding Alfred and a number of proverbial sayings drawn from the Disticha Catonis, local oral culture, and the Bible. At this point the history of the text diverged, with one line of transmission heading westward, ultimately to end in Worcestershire with the production of MS J sometime between 1276 and 1279, and the other travelling north. At some time either before or after this divergence, the poem passed through Winchester, where a reference to the text seems to be recorded in the Annales de Wintonia (Annales Monastici, ed. Henry R. Luard, 5 vols (London, 1864–69), II, p. 10). The northern line of transmission produces C in the first quarter of the thirteenth century in the southern Midlands. This manuscript is the earliest that incorporates the additional ‘Father’s Advice’ section. Although the manuscript only contains fragments of strophe 30, the correlation between what survives in the manuscript and the text as found in T seems to indicate that these two manuscripts contained similar additions. Contemporary with C, M

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Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century in view of the relative obscurity of Seaford, the author of the Proverbs is likely to have had local connections, then a number of possibilities arise. Two of the major religious houses with influence and interest in the area of East Sussex that includes Seaford are Battle Abbey and Lewes Priory, which are Benedictine and Cluniac respectively. Both houses can be considered as potential milieux for the Proverbs. Battle Abbey was founded as a Benedictine house in 1067 by monks from Marmoutier at the direction of William I.89 As part of its establishment, Battle was granted lands with which to support itself, some of which were in East Sussex. Battle held portions of fifteen manors in Sussex.90 Recorded in the Book of Fees in 1212 we find: ‘Abbas de Bello tenet Alsiestun’ cum pertinenciis, set nescitur per quod servicium.’91 Alsiestun (Alciston) lies on the road between Seaford and Alfriston, and includes the manor of Alfriston. This hundred was formerly part of the Domesday Book hundred of Wandelmestrei, and when it was separated it comprised the manors and land belonging to Battle Abbey.92 Lewes, the major Cluniac house in the Seaford area, was the first Cluniac foundation in England, established in 1077.93 Founded by William de Warrene, and sited at the foot of the hill on which stood the Warrene castle, it became the site of the family burials. As such, Lewes was the major monastic beneficiary of the generosity of the Warrene family,94 and as we have seen, Lewes was also a beneficiary, on at least three occasions, of the Alvred family.95 Both Battle and Lewes had a familiarity with the East Sussex region that would have afforded knowledge of any local legend that associated Alfred with Seaford. Considering the information that is available, there are few conclusive answers to the questions that surround the genesis of the Proverbs of Alfred. The author of the Proverbs, possibly associated with either Battle Abbey or Lewes Priory, seems to have viewed the tale of Alfred at Seaford as worthy of preservation, embellishing the original legend with learned proverbs. The date of composition of the text, in the

89 90 91 92 93 94 95

was produced at the Cluniac Priory of St Andrew in Northampton. The text of the Proverbs found in this manuscript is not complete, lacking the first three and the last five strophes. This, unfortunately, prevents us from determining whether the additional Father’s Advice section was added to this text. The last stage of the text’s history that we can determine is the production of T in the West Midlands some time between 1253 and 1275. This manuscript also contains the additional Father’s Advice section. Although the additional sections of the T text correspond to a certain degree with those of C, other differences preclude T from being a direct descendant of C (Arngart, The Proverbs of Alfred, II, p. 64). David Knowles and R. Neville Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales (London: Longmans, 1971), p. 59. Neil S. Rushton, ‘Parochialization and Patterns of Patronage in 11th-Century Sussex’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, 137 (1999), 133–52 (p. 148, n. 82). The Book of Fees, ed. H. C. Maxwell Lyte, 3 vols (London: H.M. Stationery Office, 1920–31), I, p. 72. Mawer and Stenton, p. 414. Brian Golding, ‘The Coming of the Cluniacs’, Anglo-Norman Studies, 3 (1980), 65–72 (p. 65). Golding, p. 72. The Cartulary of the Priory of St. Pancras of Lewes, ed. Salzmann, pp. 74, 75, 130.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance third quarter of the twelfth century, places the text in a period of renewed interest in the pre-Conquest past. However, as I have suggested above, it may be that the production of the text had more to do with the attempt to gain the patronage of the Alvred family than with a sense of nostalgia for the Anglo-Saxon past. Given the information that we have about the text, it is probable that the text has its genesis originally in the form of a local legend associating Alfred with Seaford. This narrative seems to have been used as the setting for a collection of proverbs which, when presented in the form of a depiction of Anglo-Saxon society, acts as a form of social commentary. In a similar fashion to the way in which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle uses the Anglo-Saxon past to compare the reigns of the Norman kings, the Proverbs can be read as a reaction to the ‘anarchy’ of Stephen’s reign, functioning as a prescriptive solution to society’s problems. Through the representation of a king ruling justly in an ideal Christian society, the Proverbs utilises the Anglo-Saxon past as a standard by which to measure its own turbulent time.

Connections with the Historical Alfred? The question that occurs to most first-time readers of the Proverbs is whether they have any tangible connection with the historical King Alfred. Most scholars have dismissed this possibility out of hand: The Proverbs of Alfred are ascribed to King Alfred with as much or as little reason as proverbs or maxims have been fathered on other prominent persons noted for their wisdom, for instance Solomon, Cato the Censor or Charlemagne.96

Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge broadly agreed with Arngart’s conclusions, writing somewhat wistfully: ‘Alas there is little reason to believe that any of the sayings derive from Alfred himself.’97 Robert T. Lambdin sums up the general scholarly consensus: ‘It is doubtful that Alfred is actually responsible for any of the proverbs.’98 Despite these misgivings, or perhaps in response to them, André Crépin readdresses the issue of Alfred’s possible influence on the Proverbs. He writes: Pour moi, l’attribution de ces maximes du XIIe s. au roi du IXe dépasse la simple convention d’utiliser le nom d’un roi réputé pour sa sagesse. L’esprit 96 Arngart, The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text, p. 5. 97 Alfred the Great: Asser’s Life of Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources, ed. and trans. Simon

Keynes and Michael Lapidge (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983), p. 47. 98 Encyclopaedia of Medieval Literature, ed. Robert Thomas Lambdin and Laura Cooner Lambdin

(Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000), p. 429. Lambdin unfortunately makes the misleading claim that the Proverbs are extant in only one manuscript, and fails to cite Arngart’s seminal study of the text.

40

Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century du roi, bien connu par ses préfaces et ses traductions, est encore à l’œuvre dans certaines strophes des Proverbs.99

Crépin sees more than a casual resemblance between Alfred’s writings and the Proverbs,100 drawing attention to the second strophe of the text, which positions Christ as the foundation of all earthly and spiritual prosperity: Le roi historique Alfred a fondé toute son idéologie politique et culturelle sur le Christ. Que se soit dans son interpretation de Boèce où Alfred remplace Dame Philosophie par la Sagesse, qui est le Christ, ou dans ses introductions et traductions des psaumes, où il privilégie la lecture christologique, ou encore dans la préface de son recueil de lois, Alfred partout pose le Christ en pierre angulaire.101

Alfred’s writings do indeed emphasise the importance and centrality of Christ to his social ideology. Alfred’s view of society appears in his writings to be one in which Christ is at the centre. However, the idea of Christ as central to medieval society is ubiquitous in the medieval period, and can hardly be used on its own to support a specific textual influence.102 Despite this, however, Crépin argues that this similarity between the Christocentric construction of society in both Alfred’s writings and the Proverbs, when viewed in conjunction with the other thematic similarities, suggests the possibility of Alfredian influence on the genesis of the Proverbs. The second important parallel that Crépin observes is the aspect of Christological centrality that links sanctity and worldly prosperity. In strophe two we find Þat him ne scal ben wane/ Hwo hine her on werlde/ wurðien ðencheþ, and Crépin associates this with the cultural ideology that Alfred lays out in his preface to the Cura Pastoralis. Alfred writes that in former days the kings assured both eternal blessedness and material prosperity. Further to this, Crépin notes that in the preface to his translation of Augustine’s Soliloquies, ‘Alfred met en parallèle le confort d’un manoir terrestre et le séjour de la beatitude éternelle.’103 This metaphor is continued throughout his translation to compare and describe the temporal and spiritual lives. In the third strophe Crépin recognises the Alfredian ideal of literacy, especially for the king. The Proverbs tell us that Ne mai non riht king/ ben under 99 Crépin, p. 59. 100 However, this resemblance does not apply to the entirety of the Proverbs. As Crépin points out:

‘La probabilité de la participation du roi historique Alfred à l’inspiration de nos Proverbs diminue à mesure que l’on s’éloigne du début.’ Unfortunately Crépin fails to explain his reasoning for this statement, deigning only to explain himself by commenting that the final strophe of the Trinity manuscript warns against people who are too tall, too short, or have red hair. Crépin regards this criticism as a caricature of the principles of moderation that he views as having been dear to the king. The initial strophes, he suggests, are more indicative of an authentic Alfredian influence (p. 57). 101 Crépin, pp. 57–8. 102 As Crépin himself admits that ‘Certes la primauté, la royauté du Christ ont imprégné toute la pensée politique de la chrétienté médiévale . . .’ (p. 58). 103 Ibid., p. 58.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Criste seluen/ Bute if he be/ boc-ilered/ And he his writes/ wel icunne/ And he cunne letters/ locien himseluen. For Crépin, this brings to mind Alfred’s command to his Bishops in the preface to the Cura Pastoralis, where he writes that it seems better to him ðætte eall sio gioguð ðe nu is on Angelcynne friora monna, ðara ðe ða speda hæbben ðæt hie ðæm befeolan mægen, sien to liornunga oðfæste, ða hwile ðe hie to nanre oðerre note ne mægen, oð ðone first ðe hie wel cunnen Englisc gewrit arædan.104

Crépin notes that this Alfredian desire for literacy is further supported in Asser’s Vita Ælfredi where Alfred is described as obliging those involved in enforcing his laws to either learn to read or to employ an assistant who is able to.105 Crépin concludes on the question of Alfredian influence in the Proverbs that: ‘les strophes initiales, en revanche, transmettent des institutions et des idées authentiquement alfrédiennes’.106 Crépin is correct in his assessment that the Proverbs of Alfred represent a conception of kingship that is not dissimilar to the one depicted in Alfred’s writings. However, the themes of Christological centrality, the correspondence between sanctity and prosperity, and the social benefits of a literate populace are far from being unique to Alfred’s social ideology. These are commonplaces within the wider discussion of the nature of Christian society that we find both in the twelfth century and in the Middle Ages in general. Regarding any authentic Alfredian influence in the Proverbs, the most that can be reasonably allowed is that the broad tenor of the text is certainly consistent with the priorities and principles expressed in Alfred’s own writings, and as such the possibility cannot be completely discounted, even though the weight of the evidence makes this unlikely.

Alfred’s Reputation in the Twelfth Century If it is unlikely that the Proverbs have any direct connection with the historical Alfred, then how does Alfred come to be represented as a speaker of wisdom? The Proverbs seem to be just one example of a popular twelfthcentury tradition that represents Alfred as a wise man type. Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge, in a discussion of Alfred’s medieval reputation, note: One of the most persistent themes was Alfred’s wisdom. His reputation in this respect may have originated in Asser’s Life, where he is called 104 Mitchell and Robinson, p. 207. ‘So that all the youth of free men now amongst the English people,

who have the means to be able to devote themselves to the study of it, may be set to study for as long as they are of no other use, until the time that they are able to read English writing well’ (Michael Swanton, Anglo-Saxon Prose (London: Everyman, 1993), p. 62). 105 Crépin, p. 58. 106 Ibid., p. 57.

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Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century veredicus, ‘truthful’ (chapter 13), and where references to his love of wisdom abound; but he is called ‘the wise King Alfred’107 in an alleged writ of Æthelred the Unready, which may testify to the existence of an independent and popular tradition. 108

This ‘independent and popular tradition’ raises a number of implications for our understanding of the representation of Alfred in the Proverbs. One intriguing question is whether the representation of the wise Alfred that is found in the Proverbs was solely a popular oral tradition or whether there is a textual tradition underlying the connection. In addition to the Proverbs, there are three other twelfth- and thirteenth-century texts that illustrate Alfred’s reputation for wisdom. The first of these is the additional section of the Proverbs found in the Cotton and Trinity manuscripts – a poem of a father’s advice to his son.109 Arngart considers that the last strophes of the Proverbs in these two manuscripts were originally part of a different poem that was adapted to the style of the original text, and places their composition circa 1200 in the Fenlands.110 These last strophes differ linguistically from the rest of the Proverbs, in that they contain a higher percentage of French and Norse loan words. Each of the strophes in this addition to the Proverbs begins with an address from Alfred to his ‘beloved son’.111 Elaine Tuttle Hansen discusses the widespread occurrence of this ‘parental advice’ in early cultures, and shows that it is a common form in the Anglo-Saxon literary heritage of the English.112 The existence of this Alfredian wisdom text points to the geographically widespread nature of the ‘Alfred as wise-man’ tradition. The influence of this tradition is also found in the Owl and the Nightingale. John Atkins, in his edition of the text, identifies eighteen proverbs of which eleven are attributed to King Alfred.113 These proverbs are situated within an orally framed tradition by the author through the use of formulae such as ‘For Alured King hit seide and wrot’114 and ‘Hu Alured sede on his spelle’.115 Although the proverbs found in the Owl and the Nightingale point towards a textual collection of Alfredian proverbs, the collection drawn upon by this text does not seem to have been the Proverbs of Alfred in the form in which they have survived. None of the Alfredian proverbs in the Owl and the Nightingale are found in the Proverbs. Whether the author of the Owl and the 107 ‘Se wis cing Ælfred’ (Anglo-Saxon Writs, ed. Florence E. Harmer (Manchester: Manchester Uni-

versity Press, 1952), p. 395). Keynes and Lapidge, p. 47. Arngart prints the additional text (The Proverbs of Alfred, II, pp. 128–34). The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Edition, p. 23. ‘Sone min so leue dere’, or ‘leue son dere’. Elaine Tuttle Hansen, The Solomon Complex (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), pp. 41–67. 113 The Owl and the Nightingale, ed. by J. W. H. Atkins (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922), p. lxxi. 114 Stanley, p. 56. 115 Ibid., p. 57. 108 109 110 111 112

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Nightingale is referring to a different collection of Alfredian proverbs, now lost, or is attributing the proverbs to Alfred in an attempt to give them authority, their attribution to Alfred supports the existence of a more widespread tradition than is represented by the Proverbs of Alfred alone. Alfred’s twelfth-century reputation for wisdom can also be seen in Marie de France’s attribution of her source for her Fables: Le reis Alfrez, ki mult l’ama, le translata puis en engleis, e jeo l’ai rime en Franceis, si cum jol truvai, proprement.116 King Alfred, who esteemed it highly, then translated it into English, and I have rendered it, exactly as I have found it, into French verse.

Marie’s attribution of a translation of Aesop’s Fables to Alfred seems to have been the result of onomastic confusion: Mary Lou Martin suggests that Marie seems to have confused King Alfred with Alfred the Englishman, who was the translator of a twelfth-century Latin version of the Fables.117 Martin argues that this Alfred worked closely with a Jewish grammarian named Berechiah ben Natronai Ha-Nakdan to produce an Arabic-influenced Latin version of the Fables.118 Given King Alfred’s twelfth-century reputation for wisdom and for translating texts, Marie’s conflation of the two Alfreds seems understandable.119 Alfred’s sagacity is illustrated in these three texts through his knowledge of sententiae, the traditional sign of the wise man in many cultures. In the medieval period we find collections of proverbs attributed to Solomon, the original model of the biblical wise-king type, and to numerous other wise kings. Alfred’s reputation as a wise-king is further supported by comments found in two twelfth-century chronicles. In the Annals of Winchester, dated c.1150–1200 and attributed to Richard of Devises, we find written of Alfred: Eluredus in proverbiis ita enituit, ut nemo post illum amplius. 120 Alfred shone thus in proverbs, more than anyone since.

116 Marie de France, Fables of Marie de France, ed. and trans. Mary Lou Martin (Birmingham, ALA:

Summa, 1984), p. 252. 117 Ibid., p. 22. 118 A number of critics, according to Martin, have argued for the Latin text as the source of Marie’s

French verse translation, rather than her avowed English source (p. 22). 119 Dorothy Whitelock discusses William of Malmesbury’s depiction of Alfred’s exaggerated reputa-

tion as a translator in ‘William of Malmesbury on the Works of King Alfred’, in Medieval Literature and Civilisation: Studies in Memory of G. N. Garmonsway, ed. D. A. Pearsall and R. A. Waldron (London: Athlone Press, 1969), pp. 78–93 (p. 78). 120 Annales Monastici, II, p. 10.

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Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century This reputation is also evidenced by a comment about Alfred that is attributed to the twelfth-century Ailred of Rievaulx, in Henry Spelman’s Latin Life of Alfred: Extant parabolae ejus plurimum habentes aedificationis, sed et venustatis et jocunditatis.121 Many of his edifying proverbs, both elegant and witty, survive.

Although proverbs are traditionally associated with figures of wisdom, the textual history of Alfred’s connection with such material may aid in understanding the nature and development of his reputation in the twelfth century. While the use of biblical proverbs to reinforce a moral statement is a common literary technique for many writers of the medieval period, there seems to be a textual tradition that lies behind the association between Alfred and proverbial material. The origins of this tradition may be seen in Asser’s Life, which uses proverbs to illustrate many of Alfred’s actions. While the Life itself does not suggest a close connection between Alfred and proverbial wisdom, the stylistic use of proverbs in the Life may have contributed to the development of Alfred’s reputation. The Life uses proverbs in a number of places to indicate a Christian moral impetus for Alfred’s actions. Two examples of this usage are further developed in later texts within this textual tradition, demonstrating a strengthening of Alfred’s reputation as a wise-man type. 122 In discussing Alfred’s determination to devote half his time and wealth to the service of God, the Life uses two biblical proverbs to explain his actions. The first of these proverbs, taken from Genesis, depicts the sin that the king is attempting to avoid: Si recte offeras, recte autem non dividas, peccas.123 If thou offer aright, but dost not divide aright, thou sinnest.

In determining an appropriate strategy for dividing his time and resources, Alfred was influenced, according to the Life, by the advice of his typological predecessor Solomon: 121 H. Spelman, Life of Alfred (London, 1687), p. 98. 122 My argument here is based upon the assumption that Asser’s Life is authentic and was in fact

written by Bishop Asser in the late ninth or early tenth century. The genuineness of the Life has been the subject of much debate. The most prominent critic of the authenticity of Asser’s text in recent years has been Alfred Smyth, who has argued that the text is a tenth-century forgery produced by the Ramsey school, led by the monk Byrhtferth (Alfred the Great (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995): The Medieval Life of King Alfred the Great: A Translation and Commentary (New York: Palgrave, 2002)). However, Smyth’s arguments have not been widely accepted: in a number of articles and reviews published in the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) in 1995 and 1996, Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge systematically refuted Smyth’s primary claim that the Vita Ælfredi was a forgery, and until a more convincing case is made for a latetenth-century origin for the Life, it must be considered to be an authentic late-ninth-century source. 123 Stevenson, p. 86, translated by Keynes and Lapidge, p. 106.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Ut dixit Salomon, ‘Cor Regis in manum Domini,’ id est consilium.124 As Solomon says: ‘The heart of the king’ (that is, his wisdom) ‘is in the hand of the Lord.’

These two proverbs are used as a form of commentary in the Life, and as such it is unlikely that they would have a led a reader to imagine Alfred as the speaker of these proverbs. The manner in which proverbial material is used in the rest of the text follows the pattern of commentary set by these two examples. In addition, there seems to be little evidence that the Life itself was well known in the twelfth century. In England it seems that the Life was known to only a handful of medieval authors.125 Despite its construction of Alfred as a wise king, and its use of proverbs as commentary, it seems unlikely that the Life can be considered a direct influence in the tradition representing Alfred as a speaker of proverbs. This being the case, it is necessary to consider another source of textual influence. A stronger candidate as a possible textual influence on Alfred’s reputation for proverbial wisdom is found in the early-twelfth-century Historia Regum, traditionally attributed to Simeon of Durham. Although this chronicle includes much material based on Asser’s Life, a number of the passages involving proverbs differ from their source passages in the Life. Before discussing these alterations and their possible impact upon the development of Alfred’s reputation as veridicus, the nature and origin of the Historia needs to be considered. A large amount of the first section of the Historia, including sections drawn from the Life, has recently been attributed to the latetenth-century chronicler Byrhtferth of Ramsey. The early sections of the Historia have long been recognised as being drawn from a different source than the rest of the text; Thomas Arnold commented to this effect in his edition of 1885.126 The early 1980s saw the publication of two articles, by Michael Lapidge and Cyril Hart, both of which independently proposed Byrhtferth as the compiler of this section.127 Lapidge summarises parallel conclusions of these studies:

124 Ibid. 125 Keynes and Lapidge discuss the writers that seem to show knowledge of Asser, including

Byrhtferth of Ramsey, the anonymous author of the Encomium Emmae, John of Worcester, and the author of the Annals of St. Neots (p. 57). 126 Michael Lapidge, ‘Byrhtferth of Ramsey and the Early Sections of the Historia Regum Attributed to Simeon of Durham’, Anglo-Saxon England, 10 (1982), 97–122 (p. 97). 127 Hart states in his article: ‘I should explain that my suggested attribution of this work to Byrhtferth was in fact anticipated by Dr. Michael Lapidge, who made his discovery in 1977’ (p. 559). Lapidge’s conclusion rests upon his stylistic analysis of the Latin chronicle, while Hart comes to his conclusion through an examination of historical considerations within the text. Lapidge, ‘Byrhtferth of Ramsey’; Cyril Hart, ‘Byrhtferth’s Northumbrian Chronicle’, English Historical Review, 97 (1982), 558–82.

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Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century We now have serious grounds for regarding these first five sections as an historical compilation made by Byrhtferth of Ramsey, probably in the late tenth century or the early eleventh.128

The attribution of the early sections of the Historia Regum to Byrhtferth, and the confirmation of Arnold’s suspicions of a late-tenth-century date for these sections, have implications for the development of Alfred’s reputation as a speaker of proverbs. The changes in the use of the proverbs that are found in the Historia can now be dated to the late tenth century, and this seems to indicate a connection between Alfred and the speaking of proverbial wisdom at a much earlier date than the twelfth-century texts. The proverbs in the Ramsey text are more closely associated with Alfred than they are in the Life. The Ramsey text’s modified use of proverbs can be demonstrated by reference to the two examples from the Life discussed earlier. The first of these proverbs is represented in the Ramsey text as being called to mind by Alfred himself: Sæpe nominatus rex Elfredus solito suo more intra suæ mentis thalamum cœpit sagaci ingenio pertractare, et pertractando ruminare illud quod in divinis scriptum est literis. ‘Si’, inquit, ‘recte offeras, et recte non dividas, peccasti.’129 The oft-named King Alfred, in his accustomed manner within his own mind, began to meditate with keen skill upon that which is written in Divine letters. ‘If’, it is said, ‘you offer rightly and you do not divide rightly, you have sinned.’

In the Life, the proverbs are cited by Asser to show why the king acted as he did. Here, however, the proverb is associated much more closely with Alfred. From the context of the passage, it seems clear that Alfred himself remembers the proverb, rather than the author of the text. In a similar manner, the Ramsey text changes the function of the second proverb. This proverb is again represented as being more closely connected with Alfred by the Ramsey text than we find in Byrhtferth’s source. Its function is changed from external commentary to an active part of Alfred’s decision-making process. In this way the proverbs become associated much more with the person of Alfred himself, rather than remaining authorial commentary: Et illud medullitus est praemeditatus quod ait Salomon sapientissimus regum; ‘Cor sane regis in manu Domini est omnipotentis.’130 And he thought over beforehand, from the very marrow, that thing which Solomon, the wisest of kings, said: ‘The heart of the king is truly in the hand of the Lord Almighty.’ 128 Lapidge, ‘Byrhtferth of Ramsey’, p. 119. 129 Simeon of Durham, Historia Regum, ed. Thomas Arnold (1885; London: Kraus, 1965), p. 91. 130 Ibid., p. 91.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Changing the function of the proverbs sourced from the Life is not the only contribution that the Ramsey text makes to the development of Alfred’s reputation. The text also introduces a number of new proverbs into an Alfredian context. In discussing Alfred’s generous charity towards widows and orphans, the Ramsey text adds: Noverat illud scholastici, ‘Tunc est pretiosa pecunia, cum translata fuerit in alios; largiendi usu desinit possideri.’131 He knew well the saying of the wise man: ‘Then is money precious, when it has been transferred to others; in the use of bounty possession ceases.’

This is another example where Alfred is credited with knowledge of proverbial wisdom. This proverb is not found in the Life, and may be another indicator of an tenth-century tradition linking Alfred with proverbs. A further addition made by Byrhtferth is found in the section based upon chapter 30 of the Life, where Alfred quickly responds to a request for aid from his father-in-law Æthelred, ealdorman of the Gaini. In the Ramsey text this response is explained by the king’s regard for the following proverb, again crediting the king with an extensive knowledge of, and reliance upon, proverbial wisdom: Tunc incitus Elfredus rapidus cœpit præceptis exercitum congregare, illud corde tenus recordans: ‘Nunquam dives agit, qui trepidus, gemens, sese credit egentum.’132 Then Alfred, having been stirred up, gave orders to quickly assemble an army, bearing in mind the saying: ‘A rich man never acts, if, trembling and groaning, he fancies himself needy.’

The process by which Alfred becomes associated with proverbial wisdom can be documented further by the presence of a proverb in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that seems to have an Alfredian provenance.133 In the entry for 1003, the chronicler writes in MS CDE: Swa hit gecweðen is Ðonne se heretoga wacað, þonne bið eall se here swiðe gehindred.134 As it is said, ‘When the army leader weakens in resolve, then the whole army is greatly hindered.’

As Friedrich Klaeber notes, this passage is marked in red letters in MS E. Klaeber interprets this marking of the passage as indicating a quotation. This, 131 Ibid., p. 90. 132 Ibid., pp. 75–6. 133 Friedrich Klaeber, ‘An Old English Proverb’, Journal Of English and Germanic Philology, 5

(1905), 529. 134 Ibid., p. 529, trans. Dorothy Whitelock, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Revised Translation

(London: Eyre, 1961), p. 86.

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Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century in conjunction with the introductory phrase, swa hit gecweðen is, seems to indicate a proverbial origin for this saying. He suggests a comparison with the following passage from Alfred’s Pastoral Care: Sua eac bið se here eal idel, ðonne he on oðer folc winnan sceal, gif se heretoga dwolað.135 Furthermore the army shall be entirely ineffectual, when it must fight against other people, if the army leader falters.

Although the sense of this passage is found in Gregory’s original, Alfred’s rendering is looser and closer to oral proverbial wisdom. 136 Alfred’s reputation as a speaker of proverbs in the twelfth century is generally attributed to the influence of popular tradition. However, I have proposed here the existence of a textual tradition that suggests that the development of Alfred’s reputation for proverbs can be traced to Asser’s Life. While not denying that the primary location of this tradition seems to be found in popular tradition, I would suggest that the Ramsey author’s alterations to the proverbs that appear in Asser’s Life indicate the presence and influence of this reputation in the tenth century.

Remembering Anglo-Saxon England The Proverbs represents an image of Anglo-Saxon England that illustrates one way in which the Anglo-Saxon past was remembered during the twelfth century. A synthesis of local legend concerning Alfred and proverbial material drawn primarily from the Distichs of Cato and the Bible, the text constructs Alfred’s reign as an ideal of kingship and social order. This conception of Christian society, which has parallels with contemporary discourses on kingship such as John of Salisbury’s Policraticus, is situated within an Anglo-Saxon past that was imagined to have been more peaceful and more pious than the text’s twelfth-century present. It seems probable that the text was produced by a scribe who was associated with one of the monastic houses in East Sussex, with Lewes Priory and Battle Abbey being the most likely candidates, which perhaps suggests that the reason for the production of the text may have been a concern to record this local Alfredian legend for posterity, a historiographical trend that can be seen in many monastic houses during the twelfth century. 137 135 King Alfred’s West-Saxon version of Gregory’s Pastoral Care, ed. and trans. Henry Sweet, EETS

OS 45, 50 (London: Trübner, 1871), p. 129. 136 Klaeber, p. 529. The passage in Gregory is: ‘In exploratione hostium frustra exercitus velociter

sequitur, si ab ipso duce itineris erratur’ (Gregory, Regula Pastoralis, bk 2, ch. 7, cited in Klaeber, p. 529). 137 The monks at Battle Abbey produced their Chronicle at this time, and the popularity of recording the past during this period is well attested. Elsewhere, William of Malmesbury recorded many

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance However, there also exists the possibility that the Proverbs may have been produced in order to appeal to the family of Alvred pincerna. If this was the case, then a more actively political appropriation of Alfred’s reputation becomes evident. Under this speculative scenario, the monastic author, familiar with the local legend concerning Alvred’s royal namesake, embellished this narrative with a series of well-known sententiae to produce a text that was designed to appeal to Alvred’s descendants in order to elicit benefactions for his institution. It is recorded that Alvred’s son and grandson both made contributions to a number of religious houses in the East Sussex region, including Lewes, and it is tempting to imagine that the Proverbs may have been produced in order to attract, or perhaps to recognise, one of these benefactions. This remains, however, speculation, as there is no conclusive contextual or manuscript evidence that the text was produced for such a purpose. The importance of place to the Proverbs should also be noted. Seaford, as the setting of the poem, seems to have been central to the remembrance of Alfred’s reputation in the East Sussex region. Landscape has been described by Homi Bhabha as a metaphor for the ‘inscape of national identity’, and as such becomes an important element of any appropriation of the past.138 This inscape, which I take to be a term for the communal knowledge of history, custom, and legend that constitutes a society’s understanding of its past, seems to be essential to an understanding of the way place works within the Proverbs. Seaford, and the Alfredian memorialised narrative that it signifies, can be understood as part of a specifically regional inscape, representative of the past as understood and remembered by the people of East Sussex. In the Proverbs, it is this regional inscape that is appropriated by the text. The construction of the Anglo-Saxon past in the text draws upon this local idea of Anglo-Saxon England and fuses it with contemporary thinking on the nature of kingship. The appropriation of place is an important element in the process of appropriation as seen in the Proverbs, and remains a powerful element in the remembrance and re-creation of the Anglo-Saxon past in the centuries to come. The Proverbs of Alfred illustrates a number of important strategies through which the Anglo-Saxon past was remembered in the post-conquest period. Important to the process are names and places: King Alfred’s name seems still to have possessed connotations of authority in the twelfth century, as evidenced by the existence of a textual tradition associating him with the speaking of wisdom. In the case of East Sussex, this reputation was complemented by a local, presumably oral, legend of his councils at Seaford. Further still, it may be significant that Alvred pincerna, the most powerful of Robert oral legends of Alfred during his travels (Whitelock, ‘William of Malmesbury on the Works of King Alfred’, p. 82). 138 Diane Speed, ‘The Construction of the Nation in Medieval Romance’, in Readings in Medieval English Romance, ed. Carol M. Meale (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994), pp. 135–57 (p. 147).

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Remembering Alfred in the Twelfth Century of Mortain’s baronial officials, bore a name that was associated locally with rulership and power. In contrast to John Niles and Allen Frantzen’s postulated subjective appropriation of the past, the Anglo-Saxon past that is found in the Proverbs of Alfred is constructed from names, places, and concerns that have their origins within very real material and cultural remains. The Proverbs provides a construction of Anglo-Saxon England that belies any simple process of cultural appropriation, suggesting rather a complex interplay between local legends, textual traditions and contemporary twelfth-century concerns.

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The Romance of the Anglo-Saxon Past

3 The Romance of the Anglo-Saxon Past

A

MONG the corpus of Middle English romance there are many narratives ithat purport to be historical in nature. Romances of the Arthurian world vie for attention alongside legends of antiquity and of the Carolingians. Found also within this body of ‘historical’ romances are a number of texts that concern themselves with the pre-conquest history of England – those that have been termed the Matter of England romances.1 This chapter, and the three that follow it, examine the ways that the Anglo-Saxon past is constructed in these romances and the uses for which this past is employed. Concentrating upon the Middle English romances Guy of Warwick, Beues of Hamtoun, Havelok the Dane, and Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild, this chapter seeks to address two main areas of interest: the ‘historicity’ of these texts, and their use of place in constructing the past. 2 The question of whether the Matter of England romances can be considered a form of historical narrative has been a matter of some interest in recent years. Rosalind Field and Thorlac Turville-Petre have both made significant recent contributions to the debate.3 Field has proposed that romance can be read as a form of popular historiography, while Turville-Petre’s study of the Auchinleck manuscript romances has emphasised what the organisation of a manuscript can reveal about the position of the texts that it contains within a wider historical narrative. The work of these (and other) scholars has broadened our understanding of the cultural and historical significance of these texts. No longer judged solely on the basis of their apparent literary failings, these romances of England’s past have taken on new meaning, and new

1

2

3

The ‘Matter’ of England is an often-debated and amorphous literary grouping. Here I take it to include those romances that are explicitly set prior to the Norman Conquest. For one discussion of the ‘Matter of England’, see Donald Sands (ed.), Middle English Verse Romances (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 1986), pp. 4–5. Guy of Warwick, Edited from the Auchinleck MS. in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh, and from MS. 107 in Caius College, Cambridge, ed. J. Zupitza, EETS ES 42, 49, 59 (London: Trübner, 1883–91); Beues of Hamtoun, ed. Eugen Kölbing, EETS ES 46, 48, 65 (London: Kegan Paul, 1885–94); Havelok the Dane, ed. G. V. Smithers (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987); Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild, by Maldwyn Mills (Heidelberg: Winter, 1988). Rosalind Field, ‘Romance as History and History as Romance’, in Romance in Medieval England, ed. Maldwyn Mills et al. (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1991), pp. 163–73; Thorlac Turville-Petre, England the Nation: Language, Literature, and National Identity, 1290–1340 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996).

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The Romance of the Anglo-Saxon Past importance, through an analysis of the way in which they are involved in the writing and rewriting of England’s history. In this chapter I wish to ask what role the Anglo-Saxon past, and Anglo-Saxon England itself, holds in this process of historical reconstruction. As we have seen in the previous chapter, the retelling of the Anglo-Saxon past is intimately connected with place. In a similar fashion to the Proverbs of Alfred, which anchors its narrative in Seaford, the Matter of England romances make use of precise geographical detail in their construction of the Anglo-Saxon past. This connection between place and narrative, so strong in these romances, has implications for the way these texts were understood on both a national and local level, and is an issue that I examine in the second section of this chapter. The focus in this chapter is in what the Matter of England romances may have meant to their contemporary readers (or listeners), and thus I shall have little to say about their similarities to and differences from their Anglo-Norman sources. Much valuable work on the process of translation has been done, but, as Ivana Djordjevic has emphasised, the Middle English romances rework these narratives into texts that carry their own unique cultural resonance.4 Jeffrey Jerome Cohen adds that romances such as Guy of Warwick, Bevis of Hampton, Perceval of Galles, and Lybeaus Desconus continued to be copied, read, and enjoyed for several hundred years after they were first composed. Clearly, then, an argument that ties the cultural use and meaning of these narratives solely to their moment of genesis is inadequate.5

This chapter addresses the audience of the Matter of England romances in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It is to be recognised that the multiple versions of romances such as Guy of Warwick and Beues of Hamtoun necessitate multiple audiences for these texts; however, I will specifically consider the audience of the Auchinleck manuscript versions of these texts, for two important reasons: firstly, Turville-Petre’s research has identified these texts as being of interest to both the student of English identity and medieval attitudes towards the past; and secondly, that the nature of the production of the manuscript – what has been termed a London bookshop production – represents the reissuing of once regional texts in a new national, urban, and cosmopolitan context. 6 4

5 6

Ivana Djordjevic, ‘Mapping Medieval Translation’, in Medieval Insular Romance: Translation and Innovation, ed. Judith Weiss, Jennifer Fellows and Morgan Dickson (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2000), pp. 7–23 (p. 15). Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Of Giants: Sex, Monsters, and the Middle Ages (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1999), p. 91. The regional origins of these narratives, such as the attribution of the production of the Anglo-Norman Gui de Warewic to the monks of Osney Abbey (Emma Mason, ‘Legends of the Beauchamps’ Ancestors: the Use of Baronial Propaganda in Medieval England’, Journal of Medi-

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance

Romance as History An important question that impacts upon an understanding of how the Anglo-Saxon past was used in these romances is whether or not they were read as history. Did the audience of the Auchinleck Guy of Warwick or Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild understand these tales as historical accounts of the past or as imaginative fictions? The nature of the relationship between history and romance in the medieval period is a question that has engendered much debate. The blurring of the distinction between these two forms of narrative, created as much by the modes and purposes of medieval historiography as by modern (and post-modern) criticism, raises questions of how the past in many romances was, and should be, read. As any student of medieval historiography soon discovers, the writing of history in the Middle Ages was not solely concerned with the organisation, presentation, and interpretation of historical data; instead, ‘Medieval historiography is concerned with turning the past into a meaningful narrative, rather than with excavating some time-bound set of facts.’7 By highlighting the essentially narrative character of medieval historiography, medieval romance can be viewed as a form of history that, as Field tells us, appealed, and continues to appeal ‘to the popular mind’.8 As a form of popular history, many medieval romances can be seen to construct historical narratives that represent popular understandings of the past.9 The Matter of England romances are concerned with the representation of the pre-conquest English past, and in particular the Anglo-Saxon period. Field describes these romances as texts ‘which . . . affect a certain historicity’, and ‘which shaped perceptions of pre- and post-Conquest England’.10 The construction of Anglo-Saxon England in these texts is part of the ongoing process of the cultural appropriation of the Anglo-Saxon past. Within this context of cultural appropriation, to what extent is it possible to understand Guy, Beues, or Horn Childe as Anglo-Saxon figures? This question needs to be clarified: I am not asking whether these heroes existed as real historical personages in the Anglo-Saxon period – evidently they did not, at least in the form that the romances portray them.11 They are, from any modern analysis, eval History, 10 (1984), 25–40 (p. 31)), is evident from their dialects, their use of toponyms, and from the precise local geographies that they contain. 7 Cohen, Of Giants, p. 32. 8 Field, ‘Romance as History’, p. 173. 9 The term ‘popular’ is used here to differentiate the romance mode of history from that found in the dominant mode of medieval historiography: the chronicle. On the use of ‘popular’ in relation to the romances, see Ad Putter’s discussion in ‘A Historical Introduction’ to The Spirit of Medieval English Popular Romance, ed. Ad Putter and Jane Gilbert (London: Longman, 2000), pp. 1–15. 10 Field, ‘Romance as History’, p. 163. 11 While Beues has no apparent historical pre-conquest lineage, it has been argued that Guy of Warwick is ultimately (albeit tenuously) based upon the historical Wigod of Wallingford, the cupbearer of Edward the Confessor (Mason, p. 31).

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The Romance of the Anglo-Saxon Past thirteenth- and fourteenth-century knights masquerading as Anglo-Saxon nobles. Rather, and perhaps more interestingly, I am asking whether they may have been understood as being Anglo-Saxon, or at least as pre-conquest English, by the late-medieval audiences of these romances. Dorothee Metlitzki, commenting upon the depiction of the Arab world in Beues of Hamtoun, concludes that ‘Sir Beues tells us what the average Englishman in hall and marketplace knew or imagined about the Saracens.’12 Given that the past is also a foreign country,13 it might therefore be reasonably argued that Beues can also inform us of what the average Englishman knew or imagined of Anglo-Saxon England. After all, as John Niles observes, ‘Anglo-Saxon England is nothing other than what it has been perceived to be by historically grounded human beings, from the time of the Anglo-Saxons to the present moment.’14 Niles makes the useful point that any representation of the Anglo-Saxon past constitutes an appropriation of Anglo-Saxon England, and thus raises questions regarding the processes that lie behind such appropriations. One commonly cited argument against claims of historicity in medieval literature is the lack of what C. S. Lewis called a ‘sense of period’ in many medieval representations of the past.15 Despite the Anglo-Saxon historical context of these romances, the world that these English heroes inhabit is essentially the world of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, albeit one that contains remnants of the twelfth-century world of their Anglo-Norman sources: Guy travels to France and to Italy to engage in tournaments, and both he and Beues travel extensively in the Saracen lands familiar to many a knight from the crusades. However, this apparent anachronistic weakness has been seen as an important strength of the medieval approach to history. Lewis argues that ‘this happy ignorance . . . gave the medieval carver or poet his power of touching into vivid life every “historical” matter he took in hand’.16 To the medieval mind, it mattered not whether figures such as Guy and Beues were authentically represented as Anglo-Saxon, even if it were possible for an

12 Dorothee Metlitzki, The Matter of Araby in Medieval England (New Haven and London: Yale

University Press, 1977), p. 120. 13 J. A. Burrow has argued for a less straightforward approach to the alterity of the past, suggesting

that that L. P. Hartley’s sententia should be rephrased as ‘The past is sometimes another country’ (‘ “Alterity” and Middle English Literature’, Review of English Studies, 50 (1999), 483–92 (p. 492)). 14 John D. Niles, ‘Appropriations: A Concept of Culture’, in Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity, ed. Allen Frantzen and John D. Niles (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997), pp. 202–28 (p. 209). 15 C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964), pp. 182–3. Lewis’s view of a uniform medieval ‘sense of the past’ has been challenged by (amongst others) R. W. Southern (‘The Sense of the Past’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th Series, 23 (1973), 243–63), Lee Patterson (Negotiating the Past: The Historical Understanding of Medieval Literature (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987), p. 198), and Peter Burke (‘The Sense of Anachronism from Petrarch to Poussin’, in Time in the Medieval World, ed. by Chris Humphrey and W. M. Ormrod (York: York Medieval Press, 2001), pp. 157–73 (pp. 162–3)). 16 Lewis, p. 184.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance audience to judge authenticity; what mattered was that the chronological period should be clearly indicated by the text, ideally in the form of a historical or quasi-historical monarch. That Anglo-Saxon England is represented as similar to the fourteenth-century world is characteristic of a narrative that emphasises continuity between the experiences of the fourteenth-century English and their Anglo-Saxon ancestors. This appropriation of Anglo-Saxon England acts to reinforce English ties with their pre-conquest past. The medieval attitude towards the historicity of these romances is evidenced by the way in which they are incorporated into that important vehicle of secular textual authority, the chronicle.17 One such example of the integration of romance into the historical record is the use that is made of the Guy of Warwick narrative by a number of different chronicles. Guy of Warwick is a figure who in many ways transcends his own genre. First appearing in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman romance Gui de Warewic,18 he is integrated into chronicle historiography in the early fourteenth-century by Pierre de Langtoft.19 The process by which Guy enters the chronicles is a curious one, and seems to centre on Guy’s role as England’s saviour from the Danes in the reign of King Athelstan. According to conventional medieval accounts of Athelstan’s reign, such as William of Malmesbury’s Gesta Regum Anglorum, the Danes invaded in great force under their leader Anlaf and were defeated in a decisive battle at Brunnanburh in AD 937 by Athelstan and his allies.20 Langtoft, aware of this narrative, relates: L’an primer ke Hilde esposez estait, Constantyn de Escose en Humbre aryvayt, Un rays paen, Anlaphe, of ly amenait; D. cc. et xv. nefs le ray Anlaphe avayt. Ly bon ray Adelstan, ke drayture amayt, Of Edmoun sun frere, dount ben s’affyait, A Bruneburge sur Humbre les feluns encountrait. Del matyn jekes al vespre la bataylle durait. Le rays Adelstan les ij. rays enchascait; Chescun en sa terre enfuaunt s’en vayt; Pur veir lur remisaille Adelstan tuait.

17 Turville-Petre discusses this process in relation to the Havelok narrative, which first makes its

appearance as chronicle history, in Gaimar’s L’Estoire des Engleis around 1135, before later finding expression in romance (England the Nation, pp. 143–55). 18 The standard edition is Gui de Warewic, ed. by Alfred Ewert (Paris: Champion, 1932). On the continued use of the Guy narrative in histories, see Helen Cooper, ‘Romance after 1400’, in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. David Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 670–719 (pp. 704–5). 19 Langtoft’s Chronicle has been the object of an interesting study of Englishness and the past by Thea Summerfield (The Matter of Kings’ Lives (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998)). 20 William of Malmesbury, William of Malmesbury: Gesta Regum Anglorum / The History of the English Kings, ed. R. A. B Mynors, R. M. Thompson and M. Winterbottom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 131–40.

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The Romance of the Anglo-Saxon Past The year after Hilda was espoused, Constantine of Scotland arrived in the Humber, A pagan king, Anlaf, he brought with him: Anlaf had seven hundred and fifteen ships. The good king Athelstan, who loved right, With Edmund his brother, in whom he placed great trust, Encountered the wretches at Brunnanburh on Humber. The battle lasted from morning till evening. King Athelstan put to flight the two kings; Each in flight went away to his land; In truth Athelstan slew those who remained. 21

However, this account of Athelstan’s defeat of Anlaf’s invading army was not the only one that was available to Langtoft. In the Guy narrative, Guy saves England from Anlaf’s invading Danish army by defeating the giant Colbrond in single combat at Winchester. In the light of this popular competing historical narrative, Langtoft was faced with the decision of which account to believe. Langtoft, in an apparent attempt to integrate these two competing accounts into his chronicle, seems to have solved this problem by simply adding a second invasion: Kant le rays Anlaphe avait perdu sa gent, Il mesmes à grant payne passa del thorment; Vers Danemarche s’en va al sigle et al vent. A la Paske après aryve en l’orient, Al porte de Sanwyce, of pople à talent. Colebrand vint of ly, Anlaphe avaunt se tent Tut drait à Wyncestre où Adelstan attent. Anlaphe saunz demore ly maunde apertement, Par ses messagers, ke la terre ly rend, Ou encountre Colebrand par un home la defent. Ly rays Adelstan tynt sun parlement, Ne trova chuvaler de tel hardyment, Ke of ly combaterayt pur [tut] le tenement. Adelstan priait à Deu omnipontent, Ke aider ly vousist, et Deu benignement En sounge of ly parlait, et dist ke prestement Ke al matyn troverayt un velz palmer et lent, A la porte del seu, et cely seurement Parfrait la bataille, pur Deu omnipotent, Si pur Deu ly priast; ço fu verrayment Guy de Warwik, sun livre dist coment Il tuayt Colebrand, par quai tut quitement. Anlaphe rethorna à cel fez dolent.

21 The Chronicle of Pierre de Langtoft, ed. and trans. Thomas Wright (London: Longmans, 1866), pp.

330–1.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance When king Anlaf had lost his people, He himself escaped with great difficulty from the turmoil; He proceeds towards Denmark with sail and wind. At the Easter following he arrives in the east, At the port of Sandwich, with people in abundance. Colbrand came with him, Anlaf advanced Straight to Winchester where Athelstan awaits him. Anlaf without delay openly summons him, By his messengers, to give up the land to him, Or defend it by a man against Colbrand. King Athelstan holds his parliament, Found no knight of such boldness, Who would fight with him for the whole domain. Athelstan prayed to God Almighty, That he would vouchsafe to help him, and God benignly Talked to him in a dream, and told him that immediately In the morning he would find a palmer old and slow, At the south gate, and he assuredly Would perform the battle, for God Almighty, If he prayed him for God’s sake; this was truly Guy of Warwick, his book tells how 22 He slew Colbrand, whereby all quit. Anlaf returned that time in sorrow. 23

A second invasion led by Anlaf has no known precedent in either the chronicle or romance traditions, and it seems that Langtoft invented it in order to incorporate what he viewed as two equally valid historical narratives. However, Langtoft’s invention of a second invasion does not seem to have found wide favour. Later chroniclers either use the Brunnanburh tradition or the Guy narrative, but rarely both. Guy’s continued presence within the chronicle record can be seen in the Auchinleck manuscript version of the Short Metrical Chronicle. Thorlac Turville-Petre describes this account of English history, titled in the manuscript as the Liber Regum Anglie, as a text in which ‘romance-fiction and historical fact are inextricably intertwined’.24 His suggestion that this text acts as both a structural and thematic backbone through which the romances of the Auchinleck manuscript can be understood seems compelling.25 Reading the Auchinleck ‘historical’ romances within the context of the Liber Regum and

22 23 24 25

Thea Summerfield suggests this book is likely to have been a romance of Guy (p. 261, n. 45). Wright, pp. 330–3. Turville-Petre, England the Nation, p. 111. Ibid., p. 112. A parallel case of the use of a chronicle text to co-ordinate the historicising of a number of romances within a manuscript can be seen in the example of MS Bibliothèque Nationale fonds français 1450, which interpolates Chrétien de Troyes’ five Arthurian romances into Wace’s Brut (Simon Gaunt, ‘Romance and Other Genres’, in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Romance, ed. Roberta L. Krueger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 45–59 (p. 50)).

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The Romance of the Anglo-Saxon Past of the manuscript as a whole, the romances can be seen as episodes within an extensive and unified retelling of the whole of English history. As part of its summation of English history, the Liber Regum makes use of Guy’s fight with Colbrond in its rapid abridgment of the Anglo-Saxon period. Again placing the combat in Athelstan’s reign, the Liber Regum provides the bare bones of what was evidently a well-known ‘historical’ event: In Aþelstones tyme ich vnderstonde Was Gwi of Warwyk in Engelonde & for Englond dude batail With a geaunt gret sem fail Þe geaunt het Colbron He was slayn þoru Gwi his hond At Wynchestre þe batail was don 26

There is nothing too surprising here – a chronicle making use of the narrative authorised by Langtoft’s Chronicle. It is not so much the text, but rather its manuscript context, that is of interest here. Turville-Petre argues that the Guy and Colbrond interpolation in the Liber Regum, which differs from other versions of the Short Metrical Chronicle, is an indication of the historical importance placed upon Guy within the manuscript as a whole.27 Guy’s centrality to the Auchinleck manuscript – the ‘handbook of the nation’ – is made clear by the presence of his eponymous romance, the romance of his son Reinbroun, and the curious Speculum de Guy of Warwicke.28 This last text, a piece of doctrinal instruction delivered to Guy by his spiritual adviser Alcuin, seems to spring from an episode in the romance when Guy seeks out the holy man for advice on how best to live his life. This short passage in the romance is expanded in this text into a treatise on how to live the life of a good Christian in the world. The Auchinleck manuscript brings together historical, romance, and personal salvation narratives in the person of Guy. Considered as a whole, the manuscript stands as an example of the textual and intellectual co-positioning of history and romance. The historicising mode of the Auchinleck manuscript may also lie behind one of the more curious elements of historical integration to be found in the Auchinleck romances. In the Auchinleck version of Sir Orfeo, we find the classical locale of the Orpheus myth translated into an English context: This king sojournd in Traciens, That was a cité of noble defens – For Winchester was cleped tho Traciens, withouten no. (Sir Orfeo, 47–50)29 26 An Anonymous Short English Metrical Chronicle, ed. Ewald Zettl, EETS OS 196 (London: Oxford

University Press, 1935), p. 25. 27 Turville-Petre, England the Nation, p. 116. 28 Ibid., p. 112 and p. 116. 29 Sir Orfeo, ed. A. J. Bliss (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance This passage, which is found in the Auchinleck version of the romance but not in the two later extant versions, suggests that the association of Thrace with Winchester can perhaps be seen as a scribal alteration, in keeping with the nationalistic agenda of the Auchinleck manuscript as a whole. 30 The historicising structure found within the Auchinleck manuscript suggests that the romances of Guy, Beues, and Horn Childe were presented in this context as histories. They may not have been universally accepted as such, but in the case of this manuscript it seems unavoidable to conclude, along with Turville-Petre, that ‘the romances are to be understood, not just as entertainments but as sources of historical knowledge’.31 As such, the Matter of England romances must have provided their contemporary audiences with a sense of the place of the pre-Conquest past in England’s history. In the conception of English history evidenced by the Auchinleck manuscript, the Anglo-Saxon past is part of a seamless stream of English history that proceeds from the Trojan Brutus to the fourteenth century. Absent is the sense of the national and racial disjunction that we encounter in chroniclers such as William of Malmesbury or Robert of Gloucester. For the nationalistic agenda of the Auchinleck manuscript, the place of the Anglo-Saxon period in English history is simply that, a part of English history: an English history that is constructed in such a manner as to emphasise above all else continuity.

History and the Land This sense of continuity between the Anglo-Saxon England and the fourteenth-century England of their audiences is also seen in the emphasis upon place that is witnessed in the Matter of England romances. History is not only recorded in texts; it is also imprinted upon the landscape. Despite the passing of some three hundred years since the conquest, geography is one thing that had remained relatively constant. Places make the past real; they provide concrete connections with the world of these historical romances by encoding the narrative into a landscape familiar to the audience. Gillian R. Overing and Marijane Osborne have suggested that as critics and readers ‘we share places with the past, and we view the experience of place as a negotiative activity whereby we may extend, develop, or invent our dialogue with the past’.32 Places are utilised by the romances in similar fashion: they engage the audience with the real world of both the past and the present. The places where these figures from history once walked were still there: one could walk where

30 Sir Orfeo is preserved in three manuscripts: the Auchinleck MS (c.1330), Harley 3810 (c.1400),

and Ashmole 61 (c.1488). 31 Turville-Petre, England the Nation, p. 112. 32 Gillian R. Overing and Marijane Osborne, Landscape of Desire: Partial Stories of the Medieval

Scandinavian World (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1994), p. xiv.

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The Romance of the Anglo-Saxon Past Guy of Warwick walked, see the field where he fought Colbrond, and gaze upon his hermitage. Embodying history, places occupy an important role within the creation of social identity. Landscape has been described by Homi Bhabha as a metaphor for the ‘inscape of national identity’, and as such becomes an important element of any appropriation of the past.33 Bhabha’s notion of ‘inscape’ refers to the shared narrative geography of myth, folktale and history that allows societies to make sense of the world in which they live. Diane Speed regards ‘inscape’ as a concept that can explain the connection between national identity and the landscape that we see in the romances. This intimate connection between history and geography is one of signifier and signified: place becomes a signifier of historical narrative – the land, as much as the text, contains the past. The past is told in terms of its relationship with the land. Places both construct stories and are themselves constructed by the narratives that surround them.34 Both Guy of Warwick and Beues of Hamtoun seem to participate in this interaction between place and romance narrative. As the Guy of Warwick narrative developed, it gained a marked engagement with place during the later medieval period. In the fifteenth century, the earls of Warwick can be seen to have reconfigured the local geography of their own lands to conform to the narrative landscape of the Guy romances.35 Richard Beauchamp, the thirteenth Earl, for example, founded a chantry just north of Warwick, which was referred to as ‘Guy’s Cliff’.36 However, even before the earls of Warwick began this process of textualising their family lands, there was already an emphasis upon the significance of place present within the text. Guy begins, as do many romances, with an explanation of the moral purpose of the text: that men should listen to the deeds of they that were borne or wee (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 11) and be instructed by their actions.37 The romance continues, situating the tale within the local geography of Warwick and the surrounding area. References to Buckinghamshire, Oxford, Warwick, and Wallingford in the early part of the text establish the

33 Diane Speed, ‘The Construction of the Nation in Medieval Romance’, in Readings in Medieval

English Romance, ed. Carol M. Meale (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994), pp. 135–57 (p. 147). 34 This relationship between place and history has not gone unnoticed by other critics. Rosalind Field

notes in the Anglo-Norman Matter of England romances the development of a romance mode ‘in which Place is precise and important’ (‘Romance as History’, p. 169). Agreeing with R. H. C. Davis, she understands this as a manifestation of the Norman and Angevin need to smooth over the disjunction of the conquest: ‘The Normans had projected themselves into the past and identified themselves with the pre-Norman history of England . . . They belonged to England as much as England belonged to them’ (R. H. C. Davis, The Normans and their Myth (London: Thames & Hudson, 1976), p. 131). The appropriation of the landscape seems to have been an important part of the Norman appropriation of the Anglo-Saxon past. 35 Mason discusses this geo-political use of the Guy of Warwick tradition (pp. 25–40), as does Cohen (Of Giants, pp. 94–5). 36 Carol Fewster, Traditionality and Genre in Middle English Romance (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1987), p. 112. 37 All quotes from Guy of Warwick are from Zupitza’s edition of the Auchinleck MS unless otherwise noted.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance narrative as being one that is at once familiar to its audience in regard to place, while unfamiliar in regard to historical setting.38 This seems to have the effect of emphasising a sense of continuity with the past, and by extension, with the future. This allies itself well with the message of the preceding moral preface: that the actions which a man performs in the present will be remembered in his locality in the future; a reminder of the importance of reputation and of keeping in mind the consequences of one’s actions. In terms of narrative technique, the situating of the narrative within well-known localities helps to immerse the audience in the world of the romance, allowing them a way to access and engage with the narrative. As Jill Frederick has observed, this technique ‘encourages its audience to make connections between the period of [the past and] that of its own’.39 The most high-profile English place in Guy of Warwick is Winchester, scene of Guy’s final battle against the champion of the invading Danish army, the giant Colbrond. Commemorated through literature, chronicle, sculpture and painting, this episode is one of the most well-remembered of the Guy narrative. It is also set in one of the most important of English cities. Winchester was King Alfred’s principal city, then Cnut’s capital, and in the post-conquest period maintained its cultural importance both through its historical position as the chief city in Wessex and the Arthurian connections that developed around it. Winchester was the object of a complex history of cultural appropriation during the medieval period, and Guy’s fight with Colbrond is an interesting aspect of that appropriation.40 An integral part of the Guy narrative, we have seen how Guy’s battle is incorporated into chronicle historiography by Pierre de Langtoft. In the romance narrative of the Anglo-Saxon past, Guy’s fight replaces Athelstan’s historical victory over Anlaf and the Scottish King Constantine at Brunnanburh. By transferring the agency of England’s salvation from Athelstan to Guy (with his conspicuously Norman name), the narrative refashions pre-conquest English history. This refashioning is also reflected in the change of place. By moving the location of the fight to a field near Winchester, the narrative appropriates what is one of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s most treasured national triumphs and moves it south from Brunnanburh.41 This transposition of the narrative seems analogous in many ways to the translation of saints’ relics. 38 These geographical locations are present in all three complete Middle English Guy of Warwick

manuscripts. 39 Jill Frederick, ‘The South England Legendary: Anglo-Saxon Saints and National Identity’, in

Literary Appropriations of the Anglo-Saxons from the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Century, ed. by Donald Scragg and Carole Weinberg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 57–73 (p. 70). 40 The literary history of Winchester, and in particular the development of its connections with the Guy of Warwick narrative, is the focus of Chapter 6. 41 Andrew Galloway describes it as ‘a clear Normanizing of a seminal instance of Anglo-Saxon heroic identity’, in his ‘Writing History in England’, in Wallace, pp. 255–83 (p. 271). The battle of Brunnanburh is the subject of an alliterative poem found in the annal for 937 in four of the seven MSS of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. AD

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The Romance of the Anglo-Saxon Past Colbrond, as a giant, is himself important in terms of landscape. In his recent study of monsters in the Middle Ages, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen has termed giants ‘vast signifiers of an untamed landscape’.42 Read in the context of the Galfridian Brutus foundation myth, Colbrond can be understood as representing the primal threat that underlies a possible Danish victory: a victory that would plunge England back into a chaos similar to that which existed before Brutus slew the giants and tamed the island for men.43 The defeat of Gogmagog’s race of pre-British giants by Brutus and his followers symbolises the domestication of both untamed landscape and untamed human nature.44 Guy’s victory thus not only saves England from the Danes (and therefore for the Normans) but also rehabilitates the English landscape once more by subjecting it to the narrative revisions of the post-conquest romance mode of historiography. The appropriation of place in Guy of Warwick contributes to the construction of an Anglo-Saxon England that conforms in many ways to the world of romance, but remains anchored in familiar and known geography. This is a construction of Anglo-Saxon England that represents both the Anglo-Norman desire to project themselves into the past and the fourteenth-century appropriation of the Anglo-Saxon period as an English past – one that can accommodate the need for a past that is familiar and knowable to its audience. Beues of Hamtoun inhabits a similarly appropriated Anglo-Saxon landscape. Ostensibly set during the reign of King Edgar, Beues of Hamtoun begins with the treacherous slaying of Beues’s father Gui in a forest near Southampton. The forest, often a place for dangerous encounters and ambushes, appears to have been associated in Beues with the New Forest, which was connected with a number of historical noble deaths.45 Earl Gui is slain by the German emperor at the behest of his Scottish wife, as a result of a May–January marriage gone wrong. Beues’s mother, never named in the Auchinleck text, complains that Me lord is olde & may nou t werche / Al dai him is leuer at cherche / Þan in me bour (58–60). Unsatisfied by this marriage, she arranges for the emperor to surprise her husband while he is hunting in the forest and to slay him. Significantly, the ambush and murder of Beues’s father is situated in the very forest where two of William the Conqueror’s sons were killed: firstly, his son Richard was slain in 1081 in a hunting accident, and in 1100 William Rufus was infamously murdered by Walter Tyrell.46 The use of the New Forest as the site of a treacherous noble

42 Cohen, Of Giants, p. 33. 43 The story of the incestuous origins of the pre-Brutian giants of Albion is related in De Origine

Gigantum (Ruth Evans, ‘Gigantic Origins: An Annotated Translation of De Origine Gigantum’, Arthurian Literature, 16 (1998), 197–211. 44 Cohen, Of Giants, pp. 31–6. 45 On the dangerous nature of medieval forests see Corinne Saunders’s study The Forest of Medieval Romance (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1993). 46 Some contemporaries viewed William I’s death in the New Forest as ‘a direct judgement from God’ due to his harsh enforcement of the Forest laws (Maurice Keen, The Outlaws of Medieval

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance death may well have been an intentional ploy by the author of Beues to make use of the well-known historical associations of the forest. An appropriation of place is also found in the origin tale of the construction of Arundel castle in Beues. Late in the romance, after reclaiming his ancestral lands, and having been made King Edgar’s marshal, Beues hears of a horse race, and enters on his trusty horse Arondel: In somer aboute whit-sontide, When knites mest an horse ride, A gret kours þar was do grede, For to saien here alþer stede . . . (Beues of Hamtoun, 3511–14)

On arriving at the site of the race, Beues discovers that two knights have stolen a march on the rest of the competitors by leaving early. Finding himself a mile behind these two riders, Beues strikes Arondel with his spurs, shakes his bridle, and entreats his steed to ride well: . . . ‘Arondel,’ queþ Beues þo, ‘For me loue go bet, go, And i schel do faire and wel For þe loue reren a castel!’ Whan Arondel herde, what he spak, Be-fore þe twei knites he rak, Þat he com raþer to þe tresore, Þan hii be half and more. Beues of his palfrai alite & tok þe tresore anon rite: Wiþ þat and wiþ mor catel He made þe castel of Arondel. (Beues of Hamtoun, 3531–42)

This episode involves the narrative construction of place – in the most literal sense. The naming of Arundel Castle after Beues’s horse provides a history for the Norman castle that stretches back into the Anglo-Saxon period, once more bridging the Conquest and ensuring a sense of historical continuity.47 The raising of the castle for loue, as compared to its origin as a symbol of occupation and control, constitutes an intriguing appropriation of place. By providing Arundel with an alternative popular historical origin and folk etymology,48 the romance facilitates the integration of Roger de MontLegend, rev. edn (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977) and Charles R. Young. The Royal Forests of England (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1979)). 47 Beues’s building and naming of the castle after his horse is perhaps influenced by Alexander’s building and naming of a city after his horse Bucephalus in the well-known medieval Alexander legend (The Prose Life of Alexander, ed. J. S. Westlake (London: Kegan Paul, 1913), p. 107, lines 17–27). 48 The standard modern etymological explanation for the castle’s name is given by John Guy: ‘Harundel, Arundelle, Har-hun-dell, hoarhound valley or hirondelle, a swallow’ (Castles in Sussex (Chichester: Phillimore, 1984), p. 21). The connection between the name of the castle and the swallow, one of the heraldic signs of the Arundel family, was noted as long ago as 1851 by Mark

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The Romance of the Anglo-Saxon Past gomery’s castle into the Anglo-Saxon landscape of this romance.49 The castle becomes a part of the ‘England that has always been’, acting as both a site of memory and a reminder of the connection between the world of the audience and that of the ‘historical’ narrative of Beues’s life. The connection between place and historical memory is a powerful and enduring one, as Adam Fox observes: ‘. . . the landscape all around was a vast repository of memory. Memories of the past comprised part of that local knowledge from which people derived a sense of identity and pride based upon place.’50 In his study of the connection between oral tradition and historical understanding in early-modern English literature, Fox provides a useful framework through which to understand how the romances constructed the historical landscape of England. He notes that ‘castles seemed particularly prone to this kind of fanciful dating’. Reigate Castle in Surrey was thought to have been built by the Saxons; Devises Castle, built by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury in the twelfth century, was said, ‘upon the authority of tradition’, to have been the work of Alfred the Great; while the Norman Winchester Castle was thought to have been the work of Arthur.51 While Fox’s observations relate to a period some two hundred years or so after the Auchinleck Beues, the characteristics of the oral culture that he is describing are as applicable to the medieval period as they are to the early modern. Beues of Hamtoun’s literary construction of Arundel Castle fits into a long tradition of reconfiguring the historical landscape. Place is also important in constructing the nation. In his reading of Havelok the Dane as a narrative of the formation of England as a unified kingdom, Turville-Petre highlights the function of place within this process.52 Havelok has at its core a concern with the integration of the Danish heritage of the North-East and the East Midlands into English history, and its use of precise regional and local geographical detail illustrates that ‘though the action takes place at a time long past, the place is here’.53 As part of the narrative of England, Havelok binds its narrative intimately to the landscape. This

49

50 51 52

53

Antony Lower: ‘it is worthy of passing notice that the noble family of Arundel, who derived their name from the town, bear six swallows in their arms, and that the armorial ensign of the town itself is a swallow’ (‘Sir Bevis of Hampton and his Horse Arundel’, Sussex Archaeological Collections, 4 (1851), 31–6 (p. 36)). It is interesting to note that Arundel Castle is provided with an even more ancient provenance in the romance Of Arthour and Merlin, another romance extant in the Auchinleck manuscript, which, no doubt by no coincidence, is the romance immediately following Beues in the manuscript. The romance relates a story of Gawain and Ywain leading a force of Arthur’s knights to free Arundel Castle from an innumerable host of Saracens (Of Arthour and Merlin, ed. O. D. Macrae-Gibson, EETS OS 268 (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), lines 8248–52). Adam Fox, Oral and Literate Culture in England, 1500–1700 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), p. 215. Ibid., pp. 225–6. Thorlac Turville-Petre, ‘Havelok and the History of the Nation’, in Readings in Medieval English Romance, ed. Carol M. Meale (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994), pp. 121–34 (pp. 123–6); Turville-Petre, England the Nation, pp. 146–7. Turville-Petre, Havelok and the History of the Nation’, p. 125.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance strengthens the effect of the narrative itself, while simultaneously reflecting the physical memorialisation of the wider Havelok tradition. Robert Mannyng writes that Men sais in Lyncoln castelle ligges it a stone / Þat Hauelok kast wele forbi euerilkone; / And it þe chapelle standes þer he weddid his wife.54 Again the Anglo-Saxon past, or in this case the Anglo-Danish, is still tangible within post-conquest England. Another of the Matter of England romances that makes use of the memorialising and historicising function of landscape is Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild.55 A late manifestation of the Horn narrative, this text ‘announces itself as one of those stories of “our elders” who once lived in this land’.56 The Horn narrative, familiar to us through both the Anglo-Norman and Middle English versions, is reworked in Horn Childe to produce a text that not only narrates the maturation process of the hero, but also one that tells the story of the unification of England as a single realm. Horn Childe begins with England divided into two kingdoms ruled by two individual kings: Y wil ou telle of kinges tvo (Hende Haþeolf was on of þo) Þat weld al Ingelond; Fram Humber norþ þan walt he, Þat was into þe Wan See, Into his owhen hond. (Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild, 7–12)

The two kingdoms of Hatheolf and Houlac neatly mirror the political division of England prior to the unification of Northumbria with Southern England that occurred under King Edgar in AD 958. Before Edgar, already king of both Mercia and Wessex, succeeded his brother to the crown of Northumbria, there had indeed been kinges tvo, one north of and one south of the Humber River. The extensive use of northern place-names in the first section of the romance suggests a Northern origin for the romance, a possibility that is supported by the dialectical features of its language.57 The Danish invaders land in Clifland bi Teseside (54); Hatheolf summons his men to meet on Alerton More (67); after defeating the Danes the king goes hunting on Blakeowe More (110) before holding a fest at Pikering (116); and finally, the king is defeated by the Danes’ second invasion in a battle on Staines More (182). This is in contrast with the complete absence of place-names that we find once Horn has been sent Fer souþe in Inglond (253) to the court of King Houlac. The geography of the Horn Childe narrative also represents the type of local memorialisation that we encounter in Havelok and Guy of Warwick. 54 Robert Mannyng, Peter Langtoft’s Chronicle, ed. Thomas Hearne (London, 1810), p. 26. See also

The Chronicle of Robert Mannyng of Brunne, ed. Idelle Sullens (Binghamton, N.Y.: Binghamton University Press, 1996). 55 Mills identifies and maps the place-names in Horn Childe (p. 8). 56 Turville-Petre, England the Nation, p. 115. 57 Ibid., p. 114.

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The Romance of the Anglo-Saxon Past Of the site of the battle at Clifland bi Teseside, the romance tells us that Whoso goþ or rideþ þerbi, / ete may men see þer bones ly, / Bi Seyn Sibiles Kirke (82–4).58 This may be suggestive of a wider historical tradition underlying the Horn Childe narrative, one that may have been, as with Havelok, written upon the landscape as well as in romance. In a similar fashion to Havelok, this romance narrates an important episode in the construction of England as a single unified nation. Horn Childe is sent south to King Houlac’s court for safety from the invading Danes. Once there, he is taught the principles of knighthood and governance, as befits a young prince (272–6). After negotiating the treachery of his companions Wikard and Wikel, which leads to his exile in Wales and Ireland, Horn restores his reputation in the court of King Houlac and is offered both the King’s daughter and his lands: Houlac king gan say, ‘Half mi lond ichil þe iue Wiþ mi douter, while Y liue & al after mi day.’ (Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild, 1113–16)

Horn then turns his thoughts northward towards his patrimony: Forþ, as we telle in gest, Horn lete sende est & west, His folk to batayle bede Into Norþhumberland for to fare To winne þat his fader ware, Wiþ knites stiþe on stede. Wiþ erl, baroun & wiþ swain, To winne his fader lond oain, if Crist him wold spede. Michel frely folk was þare Into Norþhumberland to fare, Wiþ stedes wite & broun. Horn wald for noman spare To winne al þat his fader ware, Boþe tour & toun. When Þorbrond herd þis, Þat Horn to lond ycomen is [. . .] (Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild, 1120–36)

While the Auchinleck text breaks off here, it seems evident from our expectations of the Horn narrative that Horn Childe will revenge himself upon Thorbrond, reclaim his father’s lands, and unite England under one king. Horn Childe retells an important episode from England’s Anglo-Saxon 58 Adam Fox has commented upon the surprising longevity of local remembrance of Danish

battlegrounds in local oral tradition (p. 247).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance history in the guise of romance, altering the names and changing the narrative to one that is familiar to the medieval audience of the romance, but retaining the key outcome of an important stage in the creation of England as a unified state. As Havelok relates the story of the integration of the Danelaw into the English nation, Horn Childe similarly incorporates what was once Northumbria into post-conquest England. This process is transformed through the conventions of romance in a similar manner to the translation of Athelstan’s victory at Brunnanburh to Winchester that we see in Guy of Warwick: Horn Childe re-envisages King Edgar’s unification of England in a manner attractive to post-conquest readers of romance. In addition to recasting an important episode of England’s pre-Conquest past, Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild also addresses an inevitable fact of life in fourteenth-century England: regional difference.59 Turville-Petre notes that within England there were marked regional differences, and for many purposes the country could still be divided at the Humber . . . with a northern territory that had its own traditions, its great lordships with their shifting allegiances to the crown and relationships with the Scots, and where royal control was far looser than it was in the south. 60

The Anglo-Saxon past is used here to reinforce notions of English unity by historicising the Horn tale and integrating it into the Auchinleck manuscript’s narrative of England’s history. Despite having many of the characteristics of romance, the worlds constructed in these texts are grounded in known and familiar landscapes. The appropriation of place is an integral part of the representation of the Anglo-Saxon past, providing familiar ground for the remembrance and reconstruction of historical narrative. Diane Speed writes that ‘the knowable bestows authority’, and the appropriation of familiar places by these narratives allows the audience to feel in control of, and identify with, the popular historical narratives that take place in them.61 In the Middle Ages, the idea that races came and went, but that the land remained constant, was one that helped cement the disparate strands of England’s history together.62 Places, and the narratives attached to them, were constituent parts of local and national ‘inscapes’. The materialising and memorialising function of geographical place within the romances operates to incorporate these constructions of Anglo-Saxon ‘pasts’ into the English historical consciousness, re-mapping the fourteenth-century world in a manner that emphasises both the importance of, and continuity with, the pre-conquest period. In these 59 60 61 62

A concern that I will return to in Chapter 4. Turville-Petre, England the Nation, p. 7. Speed, p. 148. Christopher Cannon discusses this idea in relation to Laamon’s Brut and its use of law (‘Laamon and the Laws of Men’, English Literary History, 67 (2000), 337–63 (pp. 341–2)).

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The Romance of the Anglo-Saxon Past romances the Anglo-Saxon past can be seen to operate as an important stage for the articulation of English history and English values, which, as we shall see in the next chapter, contributed to the developing sense of Englishness that is witnessed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

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The Romance of English Identity

4 The Romance of English Identity

T

HORLAC Turville-Petre’s work has opened up a fertile area of exploration regarding the significance of the Matter of England romances in the process of national identity formation. In this chapter I hope to throw some further light upon the question of English identity in these texts, and more specifically to question the relationship between the idea of Anglo-Saxon England and the idea of England in the Matter of England romances. English identity within these romances is a complex issue; one that is complicated by ties between England and the continent, England’s insular neighbours, and regionalism within England itself. In ‘Havelok and the History of the Nation’, Turville-Petre observes that ‘the establishment and exploration of a sense of a national identity is a major preoccupation of English writers of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries: who are the English; where do they come from; what constitutes the English nation?’1 He argues that Robert of Gloucester’s Chronicle (c.1300), the Anonymous Short Metrical Chronicle (post 1307), and Robert Manning’s Chronicle of 1338 all have important roles in this debate: they are concerned with shaping a sense of English identity that is based upon English history.2 Turville-Petre’s identification of a discourse of English with late thirteenth-century and early fourteenth-century literature is illustrative of a wider trend in the recent work of many literary scholars and historians.3 ‘Englishness’ has become a topic of vigorous interest over the past two decades: in 2002 the social historian Robert Colls listed some thirty major studies of Englishness in the previous twenty years, with the majority being written in the previous ten. 4 In this chapter I wish to focus on the continuing development of a sense of Englishness in the Matter of England romances. Firstly, however, it is necessary to consider the form that this Englishness takes in these texts. Can we read, in the manifestation of what Susan Crane has called ‘a wider perception

1 2 3

4

Thorlac Turville-Petre, ‘Havelok and the History of the Nation’, in Readings in Medieval Romance, ed. Carol M. Meale (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994), pp. 121–34 (p. 121). Ibid., p. 121. For a discussion of this, see Derek Pearsall, ‘The Idea of Englishness in the Fifteenth Century’, in Nation, Court and Culture: New Essays on Fifteenth-Century English Poetry, ed. Helen Cooney (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2001), pp. 15–27 (p. 15). Robert Colls, Identity of England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 5.

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The Romance of English Identity of national identity’, the beginnings of English nationalism?5 The historian Maurice Powicke certainly equates the expression of Englishness, witnessed during Edward I’s crises of the 1290s, with nationalism, declaring emphatically that ‘it was in Edward’s reign that nationalism was born’.6 However, it is impossible to discuss the idea of medieval nationalism without acknowledging a number of problematic theoretical issues. Theorists of nationalism, to a large extent, connect the origins of nationalism with the beginnings of the modern state. Benedict Anderson, in his influential study Imagined Communities, sums up the view that the Enlightenment engendered nationalism: ‘in Western Europe the eighteenth century marks . . . the dawn of the age of nationalism’.7 This view is reiterated by Ernest Gellner, who, regarding the ongoing debate between the modernists and the primordialists concerning the origins of nationalism, comes down firmly on the side of the modernists: ‘The latter [primordialists] claim ancient origins for nationalism; the former [modernists] seek its origins in the feature of the modern world. Our position on this issue is clear: nationalism is rooted in modernity.’8 However, scholars of the pre-modern world have increasingly challenged this view over recent years. In Concepts of National Identity in the Middle Ages, the volume’s editors note that their contributors seek to challenge Anderson’s presentation of nationalism as a modern phenomenon.9 Lesley Johnson argues for extending studies of nationalism back beyond the modern period, criticising Anderson’s understanding of medieval culture as one in which ‘the medieval past is idealised, homogenised, mythicised and made to serve as a “before the Fall” time, as a period of pre-nationalist thinking and imagining . . .’10 This is a construction of the Middle Ages that Johnson sees as reductive, and one that is far removed from the medieval world as it is envisaged by medievalists engaged in studies of nationalism. The problem, Johnson suggests (quoting Orest Ranum), ‘is not one of determining whether these [national] identities existed in the Middle Ages, but one of discerning what their components and functions were at various times’.11 This challenge is taken up in articles by Alan V. Murray, John Gillingham, and James F. 5

Susan Crane, Insular Romance: Politics, Faith, and Culture in Anglo-Norman and Middle-English Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), p. 59. 6 Maurice Powicke, The Thirteenth Century, 1216–1307, 2nd edn (Oxford: Clarendon, 1962), p. 528. 7 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. edn (London: Verso, 1991), p. 11. 8 Ernest Gellner, Nationalism (London: Phoenix, 1997), p. 13. 9 Concepts of National Identity in the Middle Ages, ed. Simon Forde, Lesley Johnson and Alan V. Murray, Leeds Texts and Monographs, 14 (Leeds: Leeds Studies in English, 1995), p. vii. Anthony D. Smith discusses the debate surrounding medieval nationalism in more depth in Nationalism and Modernism (London: Routledge, 1998), pp. 170–6). 10 ‘Imagining Communities: Medieval and Modern’, in Concepts of National Identity, pp. 1–19 (p. 5). 11 Orest Ranum, ‘Introduction’, in National Consciousness, History, and Political Culture in Early Modern Europe, ed. Orest Ranum (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975), pp. 1–19 (p. 6), cited in Johnson, p. 15.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Lydon, who address issues of medieval nationalism in Frankish Outremer, twelfth-century England, and fourteenth-century Ireland respectively.12 These historical studies have laid the groundwork for further studies of nationalism in wider medieval culture and literature. 13 Literary historians have also identified the presence of medieval nationalism. Diane Speed has argued for studies on ‘the discourse of the nation’ to be extended back beyond the traditional eighteenth- and nineteenth-century origins of the modern nation state.14 Speed suggests ‘that it could be reasonably taken back to literature of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, especially to the early romances . . .’15 A wider, and for Speed more useful, definition of the nation is articulated by Timothy Brennan, who ‘explains the nation as a myth which enables “present-day social order” by supplying “a retrospective pattern of moral values, sociological order, and magical belief”, an imaginary construct depending on “an apparatus of cultural fictions in which imaginative literature plays a decisive role” ’.16 Speed argues that the Matter of England romances play an important role in the creation of the ‘cultural fictions’ that constitute Englishness.17 The widening of the use of ‘nation’ as a critical tool has encouraged medievalists such as Geraldine Heng and Sarah Mitchell to further challenge the rigorously modern definition of nationalism, arguing that nationalist ideology is discernible in earlier literature. Heng has argued that a form of English medieval nationalism can be seen in romances such as Richard Coer de Lyon.18 She writes that ‘Medievalists agree that from the thirteenth century onward, discourses of the nation are visible and can be read with ease in medieval England . . .’19 However, Heng is at pains to point out that the medieval nationalism that she perceives is not the same as the modern one: That nation is not, of course, a modern state: among the distinguishing properties of the medieval nation – always a community of the realm,

12 Alan V. Murray, ‘Ethnic Identity in the Crusader States: The Frankish Race and the Settlement of

13

14

15 16 17 18

19

Outremer’, in Concepts of National Identity, pp. 59–74; John Gillingham, ‘Henry of Huntingdon and the Twelfth-Century Revival of the English Nation’, in Concepts of National Identity, pp. 75–102; James F. Lydon, ‘Nation and Race in Medieval Ireland’, in Concepts of National Identity, pp. 103–24. Kathy Lavezzo’s edited collection of essays on the medieval English nation illustrates the degree to which the study of nationalism has become embedded within medieval scholarship (Imagining a Medieval English Nation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004)). Diane Speed, ‘The Construction of the Nation in Medieval Romance’, in Readings in Medieval English Romance, ed. Carol M. Meale (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994), pp. 135–57 (p. 135). cf: Homi Bhabha (ed.), Nation and Narration (London: Routledge, 1990)). Speed, p. 136. Timothy Brennan, ‘The National Longing for Form’, in Nation and Narration, pp. 44–70 (p. 45), cited in Speed, p. 137. Speed, p. 145. Geraldine Heng, ‘The Romance of England: Richard Coer de Lyon, Saracen, Jews, and the Politics of Race and Nation’, in The Post-Colonial Middle Ages, ed. by Jeffery Jerome Cohen (New York: St Martin’s Press, 2000), pp. 135–72. Ibid., p. 150.

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The Romance of English Identity communitas regni – is the symbolizing potential of the king, whose figural status allows leveling discourses and an expressive vocabulary of unity, cohesion, and stability to be imagined, in a language functioning as the linguistic equivalent of the nation’s incipient modernity.20

Heng argues that an English narrative, written in English, concerning an important English figure, both reflects and contributes to a wider English national identity. It seems to me that her suggestion is as applicable to the Matter of England romances as it is to Richard Coer de Lyon. Sarah Mitchell, in her discussion of the nationalist agenda of Robert of Gloucester’s Chronicle, identifies the Anglo-Saxon past as an important part of this ‘discourse of the nation’: It is my thesis that Robert sees this remedy [for England’s woes] as lying in the Anglo-Saxon past of the country, which he deliberately sets up for purposes of comparison with thirteenth-century England. Robert selects the Anglo-Saxon material at his disposal and treats it in a way which strengthens his polemic; this, I believe, centers upon the highly sensitive issue of the legitimacy of kingship, and such related specifics as the criteria for selecting a rightful king (and the consequences of this selection for the country), the necessity of a formal coronation, and the laws and customs that the monarch ought, once appointed, to uphold. This, I would argue, is part of his attempt to define and promote concepts of a kind of ‘cultural Englishness’ within a late thirteenth-century context, which he offers as some sort of remedy for the ills of his own day.21

Mitchell’s reading of Robert of Gloucester’s use of the Anglo-Saxon past as a period of comparison with post-conquest England is one that accords with the use to which it is put, as we have seen, in The Proverbs of Alfred, where the Anglo-Saxon past is likewise implicitly set up as a comparison with post-conquest England. Mitchell’s notion of ‘cultural Englishness’ presupposes a wider sense of England as an imagined ‘national’ community – a sense of Englishness that can also be seen in the Matter of England romances. Something akin to modern nationalist ideology is at work in these texts, and while it may not be the process of national identity formation as understood by many modern theorists of nationalism, it can certainly be understood as an example of the development of an imagined group identity. 22 Guy of Warwick and Beues of Hamtoun are, as Turville-Petre has argued, romances that are deeply concerned with the construction of Englishness. In

20 Ibid., p. 139. 21 Sarah Mitchell, ‘Kings, Constitution and Crisis: “Robert of Gloucester” and the Anglo-Saxon

Remedy’, in Literary Appropriations of the Anglo-Saxons from the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Century, ed. Donald Scragg and Carole Weinberg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 39–56 (p. 41). 22 Heng suggests that it is Anderson’s concept of the nation as essentially an ‘imagined community’ that permits the notion of a medieval ‘nation’ (p. 150).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance describing the Auchinleck manuscript as ‘a handbook of the nation’,23 Turville-Petre maintains that the manuscript’s narrative of England, written in English, ‘does not simply recognise a social need but is an expression of the very character of the manuscript, of its passion for England and its pride in being English’.24 The individual romances within the manuscript contribute to the construction of the manuscript’s idea of Englishness – as Geraldine Heng’s analysis of Richard Coer de Lyon has demonstrated. While the post-conquest figure of Richard I is one embodiment of the English nation in the Auchinleck manuscript, in pre-conquest heroes such as Guy and Beues one can see the use of the Anglo-Saxon period as an important space in which to construct Englishness. In this regard the Middle English romances differ from their Anglo-Norman antecedents: Susan Crane notes that Sir Beues of Hamtoun undertakes an important development, whose beginnings are barely discernible in Boeve, from the perception of the baronial family as a political unit owing personal allegiance to rulers on the basis of reciprocal support, to a wider perception of national identity and the importance of national interests.25

The Auchinleck manuscript, comprised as it is of regional romances that have been co-opted for a national and cosmopolitan audience,26 stands as a complex manifestation of a sense of Englishness. 27 The complication that deserves further attention, however, is that this nascent ‘nationalism‘ is found in romances that acknowledge the claims of at least two group affinities other than that of ‘English’. The first, and what from the titles of the romances appears to be the most immediate one, is that of the region or city: Warwick or Hamtoun (Southampton), for example.28 23 Thorlac Turville-Petre, England the Nation: Language, Literature, and National Identity,

24

25 26

27

28

1290–1340 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996), p. 112. Phillipa Hardman discusses the national character of the Auchinleck manuscript and examines Englishness within a number of other miscellany manuscripts in ‘Compiling the Nation: Fifteenth-Century Miscellany Manuscripts’, in Nation, Court and Culture: New Essays on Fifteenth-Century English Poetry, ed. Helen Cooney (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2001), pp. 50–69. Turville-Petre, England the Nation, p. 138. It is interesting to note that a number of unique additions to the Auchinleck MS romances can be seen as a direct result of the redactor’s ‘Englishing’: In Beues of Hamtoun, the Auchinleck version adds St George to the dragon-slaying heroes with whom Beues is compared, along with Guy of Warwick, Lancelot, and Wade (line 2817). The Auchinleck redactor’s ‘Englishing’ of the romances even goes as far as writing a prologue to the two romances of French heroes (Roland and Vernagu and Otuel a Knight), in which he introduces their exploits but neglects to inform the reader that they are in fact French! Susan Crane, p. 59. Derek Pearsall and I. C. Cunningham suggest that the Auchinleck manuscript was produced in London for a wealthy member of the merchant classes (The Auchinleck Manuscript: National Library of Scotland Advocates’ MS. 19.2.1 (London: Scolar Press, 1977)). Pearsall has recently argued that the manifestation of Englishness before the fifteenth century does not represent a popular wave of national sentiment. Rather, he sees such texts as ‘evidence of fragmentary, sporadic, regional responses to particular circumstances’ (‘The Idea of Englishness in the Fifteenth Century’, p. 17). These titles do not seem to be editorial, and are found in both the manuscripts and in other medieval references to the romances such as the Paston letters (Ronald S. Crane, ‘The Vogue of Guy of

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The Romance of English Identity Secondly, over and above the claim of the nation came the knightly duty to God, expressed territorially in the defence of a much larger realm than the homeland, namely Christendom. This complex hierarchy of group affinities and the sense of ever-expanding ‘territories of the self’,29 from region, to country, to Christendom, informs both the action of Guy of Warwick and the differing epithets that it has for the hero, who is at the same time Gij of Warwike (157), Gij þe Englisse (3889), and Guy the Cristen (110:5).30 These different identities are in no way contradictory, and represent a complex understanding of the multiple allegiances demanded of a knight in medieval society. Of these identities it is perhaps the latter that is most important, not only because it encompasses the two other identities, but also because in the world of the romances it is the one most vividly contrasted by the Other. Speed reminds us of the important role fulfilled by the notional Other in national and group identity formation: The nation is defined and asserted essentially as a response to the challenge of the unknown, what Regis Debray explicates as the ‘twin threats of disorder and death.’ Prominent amongst particular discourses signifying nationness is what Bhabha speaks of as ‘the heimlich pleasure of the hearth, the unheimlich terror of the space and race of the Other’.31

The primary Other in the Matter of England romances is not the embodiment of a national or regional enemy (e.g. a Frenchman) but is the enemy of Christendom: the Saracen.

The Saracen Other The representation of the Saracen in medieval literature has attracted a great deal of attention.32 Early interest concentrated upon the representation, or perhaps more correctly the misrepresentation, of Islamic culture within the

29 30

31 32

Warwick from the Close of the Middle Ages to the Romantic Revival’, PMLA, 30 (1915), 125–94 (p. 126)). A term taken from Erving Goffman (‘Territories of the Self’, in his Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order (New York: Basic Books, 1971), pp. 28–41). We find in Geoffroi de Charny’s Livre de Chevalerie a useful contemporary account of the expression of this hierarchy of identities, based on an ever-expanding territorial scale. Geoffroi outlines the honour gained by the knight in tournaments and local wars (good), foreign wars (better), and crusades (best) (The Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi de Charny: Text, Context, and Translation, ed. Richard W. Kaeuper and trans. Elspeth Kennedy (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), pp. 84–103). Speed, p. 146, citing Bhabha, ‘Introduction’, in Nation and Narration, p. 2. Studies of medieval attitudes towards the Saracens and Islam in medieval literature can be found in (among others) Norman Daniel’s two studies, Heroes and Saracens: An Interpretation of the Chansons de Geste (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1983) and Islam and the West: The Making of an Image, 2nd edn (1960; Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1962), Lynn Tarte Ramey’s Christian, Saracen and Genre in Medieval French Literature: Imagination and Cultural Interaction in the French Middle Ages (London: Routledge, 2001), and most recently John V. Tolan’s Saracens: Islam in the Medieval Imagination (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance medieval West. Dorothee Metlitzki’s seminal study The Matter of Araby in Medieval England provides a useful summary of the ways in which images of the Saracens were constructed in Middle English. By the time of romances such as Beues of Hamtoun and The Sowdone of Babylone the Saracen can be seen to have been most often represented in one of four ways: ‘the enamored Muslim princess; the converted Saracen; the defeated emir or sultan; and the archetypal Saracen giant’.33 In recent years, critical attention has increasingly concentrated upon developing an understanding of the function of the Saracen within the process of medieval identity formation. As the antithesis of the Christian West, the image of the Saracen provides a powerful racial, cultural and religious Other during the later Middle Ages. Making use of psychoanalytic theory, scholars such as Jeffrey Jerome Cohen read medieval images of the Saracen as acting to simplify the inherent complexities of identity formation.34 By adhering to the binary paradigm of Christian as good and Saracen as evil, the oppositional model of identity formation produces a construction of identity that, while reductive, allows a clearer and less problematic definition of self and nation.35 In Guy of Warwick we find a construction of the Saracen Other that highlights the mechanisms of Christian identity construction. Travelling into the lands of the East, Guy of Warwick is depicted as encountering one of the constituent elements in the process of identity formation – the Other. This experiencing of the racial and religious Other provides for Guy himself, and vicariously for his audience, an important element in the construction of identity. Through the medium of the romance, the cultural process of Otherness is given shape in the form of the Saracen world, enabling both the literary hero and the literate audience to ‘encounter’ the Other. The cross-cultural experience as represented in the romance of Guy of Warwick produces an image typical of medieval Orientalism. In a manner analogous to the historical crusader experience, the Islamic world is characterised by hostile territorial ambition. Making use of traditional romance generic conventions such as heathen Sultans, treacherous stewards, wrongly imprisoned knights and devilish giants, the Saracen Other is constructed through contrasting archetypes of religion, honour and physical appearance. Guy’s first encounter with the Saracen world occurs after he has already established his reputation as a renowned knight. Guy’s early career, prompted 33 Dorothee Metlitzki, The Matter of Araby in Medieval England (New Haven and London: Yale

University Press, 1977), p. 161. Metlitzki provides a useful discussion and summary of the four stock Saracen types common in medieval literature (pp. 160–197). 34 Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Of Giants: Sex, Monsters, and the Middle Ages (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1999), pp. 132–3. Cohen further develops these ideas in his recent ‘On Saracen Enjoyment’, in his Medieval Identity Machines (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), pp. 188–221. 35 A more extended exploration of the strategies of identity formation in Guy of Warwick and Beues of Hamtoun can be found in: Robert Rouse, ‘Expectation vs. Experience: Encountering the Saracen Other in Middle English Romance’, The Journal of the Spanish Society for Medieval English Language and Literature, 10 (2002), 125–40.

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The Romance of English Identity largely by his desire to win the heart of Felice, the earl of Warwick’s daughter, is spent in tournaments in Normandy, Spain, and Germany, and in numerous wars in Italy and elsewhere on the continent.36 While at the Emperor Reyner’s court in Germany, Guy and his companion Herhaud encounter foreign merchants arrived from the east and bearing momentous news. The merchants tell of the dire need of Ernis, emperor of Constantinople, who is besieged by a Saracen host led by the Sultan of Coyne. This second-hand report of the siege provokes a desire to confront the Saracen Other. Equipped by the emperor with a company of one hundred German knights, the two Englishmen travel to Constantinople and put themselves at Ernis’s command. From the very start, this aventure has a markedly different tone from those that Guy has undertaken thus far. Guy wishes to aid the emperor against the sultan’s forces, who Þat lond destrud & men aqueld, / & cristendom þai han michel afeld (2853–4). Here Guy’s motive seems to be one of Christian solidarity, although Herhaud does add as a corollary: y graunt it be / Miche worþschipe it worþ to þe (2855–6). Once in Constantinople, Guy is recognised by the emperor as a powerful ally, and is soon thrown into battle against the Sultan’s forces. It is here that Guy encounters for the first time the Saracen Other – in the person of the sultan’s nephew, þe amiral Costdram (2905). This initial image of a Saracen warrior is presented in surprisingly complimentary terms: So strong he is, & of so gret mit, In world y wene no better knit; For þer nis man no knit non Þat wiþ wretþe dar loken him on. His armes alle avenimed beþ: Þat venim is strong so þe deþ: In þis world nis man þat he take mit Þat he ne schuld dye anon rit. (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 2907–14)

Costdram is a knight of great strength, without peer, upon whom other men fear to look. However, the envenomed nature of Costdram’s weapons mark him out as Other, casting doubt upon his honour and differentiating him from Christian knights such as Guy, to whom the use of such weapons is both unknown and unthinkable. Costdram here represents an image of a knightly Other, unheimlich in comparison with the normative values of Guy’s own Western conception of knighthood. Costdram’s role as a doppelgänger figure in relation to Guy is emphasised by the way in which the battle is structured. Each of Guy’s knights is involved in individual combats within the wider 36 Felice, a particularly demanding example of the romance objet d’amour, repeatedly rejects Guy’s

advances, compelling him to undertake increasingly dangerous and time-consuming journeys to win her love. It is ironic, then, that when she does finally agree to marry Guy, he has reached a stage in his life when his mind has begun to turn to more spiritual matters, and he soon leaves her to pursue a spiritual quest as a pilgrim.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance mêlée, pairing off with named opponents: Herhaud slays the king of Turkey (2943), the French knight Tebaud kills Helmadan (2949), while the German Gauter strikes down Redmadan (2955). This initial encounter with the Saracen Other establishes a comparative paradigm for Guy’s subsequent experiences. While Guy and his knights see off this first assault with some ease, the Sultan’s host, and the Saracen Other that it represents, is not so easily dealt with. They are soon once more at the gates of the city. After seeing his first sortie beaten off, the Sultan personally leads the next attack, one that leads him into direct conflict with Guy. The Sultan strikes first, after which the following exchange occurs: Wiþ gret hete he smot to Gij, Opon his helme, sikerly, Þat he feld þat o quarter. To Gij he seyd a bismer: ‘Y-sestow, lord? bi Apolin, Þat was a strok of a Sarrazin!’ Gij to þe soudan smot þo, His helme no was him worþ a slo: Resares euen forþ þe breyn Helme & flesse he carf wiþ meyn. Þan he seyd to him a bismer: ‘Mahoun halp þe litel þer! Bodi & soule no nout þer-of No is nout worþ a lekes clof. Hou so it go of mi wounde, Of Mahoun þou hast litel help y-founde. Er þou scorndest me, Of mi wounde þou madest þi gle: Leche gode schal ich haue, Þat mi wounde schal to hele drawe; Þou hast a croun schauen to þe bon; Tomorwe þou mit sing anon. Wele þou þoutest to ben a prest, When þou of swiche a bischop order berst!’ Now biginneþ þat gret fit . . . (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 3631–55)

The sultan exalts in his blow: bi Apolin, / Þat was a strok of a Sarrazin! However, Guy returns the buffet with some interest, slicing through the sultan’s helmet and across the top of his scalp. Guy points out that Mahoun has been of little help to the sultan, and interprets this lack of martial aid as a sign of the inferiority of the Saracen religion, which, in Guy’s opinion is nou t worþ a lekes clof.37 The sultan’s lack of fortune with his blow to Guy’s 37 Mahoun (Mohammed), along with Apolin and Ternagaunt, is one of the unholy trinity of deities

commonly ascribed to Islam during the Middle Ages.

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The Romance of English Identity helmet is understood by Guy as representing the weakness of the Saracen faith, while Guy’s all-together more effective blow is given Christian meaning through Guy’s tonsorial taunt: Þou hast a croun schauen to þe bon; / Tomorwe þou mi t sing anon. / Wele þou þou test to ben a prest. Guy’s martial exegesis interprets the difference between the two sword-blows as demonstrating the relative worth of the Christian and Saracen faiths. This demonstration of Christianity’s superiority undermines the sultan’s belief in his gods, and this leads to a remarkable renunciation of the Saracen triumvirate. After retreating injured from the battle, the sultan is approached by an amiral who reports their battlefield losses. The amiral tells him that owing to their misfortune, his troops have turned away from their gods: Our godes ous hateþ, for soþe to sigge (3678). The sultan has the idols of their gods brought before him, and publicly berates them: ‘Fy, fy,’ he seyd, ‘on [þe], Apolin! Þou schalt haue wel iuel fin, & þou, Ternagaunt, also: Michel schame schal com ou to; & þou, Mahoun, her alder lord, Þou nart nout worþ a tord!’ (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 3699–704)

He then physically attacks the idols, breaking them to pieces with a stave.38 This internal crisis of faith corresponds with the breaking of the Saracen lines, and they retreat from Constantinople once more. Amid the warfare, Guy also finds time to become embroiled in the subterfuges of the emperor’s steward, Morgadour. After repeated attempts to incriminate Guy in relation to the emperor’s daughter Clarice, the treacherous steward manipulates Guy into volunteering for the near-suicidal task of acting as an envoy to the sultan.39 Upon arriving at the Saracen camp, Guy enters the Sultan’s pavilion and addresses the sultan with the following speech: Þan seyd Gij þe Englisse,40 ‘Vnderstond to mi speche: 38 This is a common motif that is also found in, among others, the early-fourteenth-century Middle

English Otuel and Roland, where the Saracen King Garcy destroys his own idols after his champion Clarel is defeated by Otuel (Otuel and Roland, ed. M. O’Sullivan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1935)). 39 The nature of Constantinople itself, as a liminal space between Orient and Occident, is particularly interesting with regard to the history of East–West contact in the Middle Ages. As the site of cultural hybridity, where cultural norms such as honour are mutable, the city operates as both the object of violent contest and the location of cultural contact. Guy’s rush to aid the emperor of Constantinople stands in stark contrast to the reality of Greco-Latin relations for much of the Middle Ages (Malcolm Barber, ‘Western Attitudes to Frankish Greece’, in Latins and Greeks in the Eastern Mediterranean after 1204, ed. B. Hamilton et al. (London: Frank Cass, 1989), pp. 111–28). 40 Guy’s Englishness is re-emphasised in the romance and is associated with his Christianity (see further, Turville-Petre, England the Nation, pp. 116–18). To my knowledge, ‘þe Englisse’ is not

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Þilke lord þat woneþ an heye, Þat al þing walt fer & neye, & in þe rode lete him pini, Al cristen men to saui, & in þe se made þe sturioun, So if ou alle his malisoun, & alle þilk þat ich here se, Þat mis-bileued men be; & þe at þe first, sir soudan, Cristes wreche þe come opan! Yuel fure breninde fast þe opon, & cleue þi brest doun to þi ton! For icham Gij e mow wel se, Yuel mot e alle y-the! Vnder-stond, treitour, mi resoun: Haue þou Cristes malisoun, & alle þilke forþ mitt te, Þat ich her about þe se. Þe heye god þat is ful of miyt Binim ou our limes & our sit! Bi me þe sent word þemperour Garioun, Þat miti men haþ in his bandoun, Þurch wham þou art y-brout to schond, & hoteþ þe wende out of his lond.’ (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 3889–914)

Guy then proposes that the Saracens find themselves a champion to fight him, and that this single combat will determine who shall rule the land.41 This offer is rebuffed after the sultan discovers the envoy to be none other than Guy, the slayer of the sultan’s nephew Costdram, and the sultan orders him to be seized and thrown into his dungeon. Guy responds to this by decapitating the sultan and fleeing the camp, pursued by a host of Saracens. Guy’s first encounter with the Saracen Other constructs a cultural opposition that leaves no room for compromise or co-existence. His speech to the sultan is notable for the uncompromising attitude of religious intolerance towards the Saracens, an attitude that is characteristic of the whole romance. Guy defines himself as one of the cristen men, who have God’s grace, in opposition to the mis-bileued Saracens, highlighting the binary nature of difference in this romance’s construction of the Saracen Other. Guy’s second major encounter with the East occurs after he has returned home to England and married his liege’s daughter Felice. Once he has won the hand of his lady, Guy comes to the realisation that all his great deeds have found in conjunction with any other romance hero, which perhaps can be seen as further supporting Turville-Petre’s argument that Guy can be seen as a ‘model of the knight of England’ (ibid., p. 116). 41 A proposal that prefigures Guy’s most memorable moment–his legendary final combat with the giant Danish champion Colbrond at Winchester.

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The Romance of English Identity been for temporal ends. Seized by a spiritual passion, Guy determines to leave his newly won bride and wander the world as a pilgrim doing the Lord’s work: Y schal walk for mi sinne / Barfot bi doun & dale. / Þat ich haue wiþ mi bodi wrou t / Wiþ mi bodi it schal be bou t, / To bote me of þat bale (29: 8–12). Guy then travels to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, before eventually arriving in Antioch, where he encounters Jonas, the Christian Earl of Durras. Jonas tells him a long tale of misfortune, which has resulted in him being sent to search for Guy, so that the latter can champion the Saracen King Triamour in a judicial combat.42 Guy, moved by Jonas’s claims that King Triamour will kill his sons if he fails to find Guy, keeps his identity hidden but offers to fight in Guy’s stead (we have here the rather strange situation of Guy standing in for himself). The two then set out for Alexandria to face the combat and to save Jonas’s sons from the axe. This judicial combat, fought against the sultan’s giant champion Amoraunt, highlights two important elements of the Saracen Other: Gigantism and Honour (or the lack thereof). The first of these, the motif of the Saracen giant, is evident in the initial description of Amoraunt: Þan dede he com forþ a Sarrazine, Haue he Cristes curs & mine Wiþ boke & eke wiþ belle. Out of Egypt he was y-come, Michel & griselich was þat gome Wiþ ani god man to duelle. He is so michel & vnrede, Of his sit a man may drede, Wiþ tong as y þe telle. As blac he is as brodes brend: He semes as it were a fende, Þat comen were out of helle. (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 62: 1–12)

The excess of the Saracen Other, previously alluded to in Guy’s experiences at Constantinople, is here manifested in the body of the giant Amoraunt. This avatar of bodily excess, the conquering of which is so important to the process of the physical and spiritual maturation of the romance hero, combines the Other of the Giant with the Other of the Saracen, creating a potent synthesis of these two elements of identity formation.43 The Saracen Giant embodies all 42 A long and complicated tale, in which Jonas and his sons defend Jerusalem from the Saracens, but

then make the fatal mistake of following them into their own lands where they are captured by the Saracen King Triamour. Some time later, Triamour’s son inadvertently slays the Sultan of Alexandria’s son following an argument over a game of chess, which leads to Triamour’s accusation by the sultan and his committal to the judicial duel. Triamour, faced with the prospect of fighting Armoraunt, seeks the advice of his Christian prisoners who inform him of the renown of Guy and Heraud, which leads to the king offering Jonas his freedom if he can find Guy (Guy of Warwick, Auchinleck MS, 48:1–72:12). 43 Turville-Petre notes that ‘the lengthy fight with Amoraunt is not just between a Christian and an infidel, but also between an Englishman and a foreigner’ (England the Nation, p. 118).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance those things that the romance hero by necessity approaches, but must not become: he is michel & unrede, huge and uncontrolled – an image of unrestrained masculine power, which Western heroes such as Guy must seek to control and sublimate within chivalric codes of behaviour and honour. This uncontrolled masculinity is given demonic form in the figure of the Saracen Giant, characterised by the blackness of the fiend, the Western archetypal construction of the uncontrolled nature of the African. Guy’s judicial combat with Amoraunt also provides an opportune moment to illustrate a third point of Saracen Otherness – the lack of chivalric honour possessed by the denizens of the East. After a long and fierce period of fighting, the giant Amoraunt is stricken by a great thirst and offers Guy the following bargain: ‘Ac lete me drink a litel wit For þi lordes loue ful of mit Þat þou louest wiþ wille, & y þe hot bi mi lay, if þou haue ani þrest to-day, Þou shalt drink al þi fille.’ (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 114: 7–12)

Guy, constrained by the chivalric code of honour, allows his opponent time to refresh himself, and when Amoraunt has done so, their battle resumes. However, when in turn Guy requires refreshment, Amoraunt reneges on his promise and replaces it with a conditional one: he will allow his opponent to drink only once he has revealed his name to him. Sorely oppressed by both the heat and his thirst, Guy declares his name and requests once more that the giant allow him to drink. Amoraunt, upon discovering that his foe is none other than the hated Guy, again refuses to allow his adversary to slake his thirst, and attacks him in the water when Guy attempts to drink without leave. The untrustworthy nature of the Saracen comes to the fore once more in the unequal exchange of drinks, and Guy’s condemnation of the giant seems to characterise all those Saracens with whom he has experience: ‘Amoraunt,’ þan seyd Gij, ‘Þou art ful fals, sikerly, & ful-filt of tresoun. No more wil y trust to þe For no bihest þou hotest me: Þou art a fals glotoun.’ (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 130: 7–12)

Fals is one of the most damning condemnations used by Guy within the poem. Of the nine occurrences within the poem, eight are used to describe Guy’s traitorous enemies, and it is fitting that Amoraunt’s double falsehood receives two of these.44 44 The ninth occurrence is reserved for condemnation of the Saracen trinity.

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The Romance of English Identity Guy of Warwick constructs the Saracen Other in a manner that provides a clear contrast between East and West. This representation is materialised in the form of Amoraunt, whose untrustworthy nature is exceeded only by the demonic origin of his grossly oversized body, and who represents a religion and culture that is worthy only of martial resistance and opposition. For Guy, and his audience, the Saracen Other is defined by its binary opposition to the West, and his encounters with this Other reinforce and illustrate the difference that is expected. For the audience of Guy, the Saracen Other stands as a point of difference by which Guy’s, and their own, Englishness is defined. Guy, as Turville-Petre suggests, ‘stands as the model of the knight of England’.45 His Christianity and his sense of chivalric honour are essential components of the construction of Guy as ‘Gij þe Englisse’ (3889). For the audiences of Guy, the religious and racial Saracen Other is an important component in the construction of the idea of Englishness articulated within the Auchinleck manuscript. The English are all that the Saracens are not: Christian, honourable, trustworthy, moderate, and human. However, it is not only the lands that knights such as Guy of Warwick travel to that are significant in terms of identity formation – it is also the land from whence they travel, and to which they return: Anglo-Saxon England. These romances are explicitly set within the time of Anglo-Saxon England, and therefore raise the question of the relationship between the past, especially the pre-conquest past, and English identity in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The way in which the Anglo-Saxon England of the romances interacts with the Other of the Saracen lands raises some important questions about the way in which Anglo-Saxon England was remembered in late-medieval England. Is the England of Guy the same England as that known by its contemporary readers, and if so, how does this literary pre-conquest England contribute to the text’s narrative of identity formation? The Saracen of the East was not an image of Otherness that was widely available in England prior to the crusades, although Jasmine Kilburn has recently made the case for the limited use of the Saracen Other in Old English hagiographical writing.46 However, by the twelfth century, popularised by the chanson de gestes and the beginning of the crusades, the image of the Saracen became available to the English as an Other against which a communal Christian identity could be defined. The anachronistic use of the Saracen in the romances of Guy of Warwick and Beues of Hamtoun represents an interesting rewriting of the Anglo-Saxon past. It may be that the pre-Conquest 45 Turville-Petre, England the Nation, p. 116. 46 In ‘From “Demonic” Ethiopians to Foul “Maumes”: The Shifting Face of the “Evil” Other’, an

unpublished paper delivered at the Identity and Cultural Exchange, 600–1600 Conference held at the University of Birmingham in April 2002. Kilburn further discusses the use of the Pagan East as a pre-conquest English Other in ‘The Contrasted Other in the Old English Apocryphal Acts of Matthew, Simon and Jude’, Neophilologus, 87:1 (January 2003), 137–51 and in ‘The Figure of the Ethiopian in Old English Texts’, The Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library, Manchester (forthcoming).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance setting of Guy may have reinforced the sense of identification between its contemporary English audience and pre-conquest England. By making use of a similar paradigm of cultural difference, and by contrasting the pre-conquest English heroes with the Saracen Other as strongly as more recent heroes such as Richard the Lionheart, the text promotes a continuity of English identity that elides England’s own colonial experience. In this manner the religious Other of the pre-conquest English past is shown to be the same as that of the English present through comparison with a mutual Saracen Other. In showing that Anglo-Saxon identity is constructed via the Saracen Other, in the same manner that thirteenth- and fourteenth-century English Christian identity is, the romance proposes a homogeneous provenance of English identity that connects the present and the past. Anglo-Saxon England thus becomes a mythic theatre of English identity formation. Cohen has suggested that protracted, messy nearby wars in Ireland, Spain, and especially France spurred the English romancers to dream of a time when self-identity was easy to assert, because the enemy was wholly Other (dark skin, incomprehensible language, pagan culture) and therefore an unproblematic body to define oneself against.47

For the readers of Guy of Warwick this time was the Anglo-Saxon past, when the English truly knew who they were.

English Identity and the Continent The same continental wars (primarily against the French) that Cohen suggests made the Saracens an attractively simple Other also brought into focus the differences between the English and their continental neighbours. In particular, the onset of the Hundred Years War with France produced a sense of an English identity that was constructed in opposition to England’s continental enemies. Heng observes that for contemporary writers the wars against the French became seen as less a matter of internecine squabbling and more a case of national struggle: ‘For Matthew Paris . . . the struggles between England and France in the early thirteenth century assume the proportions of a contest between nations.’48 Anthony Smith also sees in this period the first stirrings of Englishness, noting that ‘some would place this development after the long-drawn-out Anglo-Scottish and Anglo-French wars that contributed most to a sense of popular national identity’.49 One might expect, given England’s wars with France, that the French may have become a useful 47 Cohen, Of Giants, p. 133. 48 Heng, p. 151. See further Turville-Petre, England the Nation, p. 3 and M. T. Clanchy, England and

Its Rulers 1066–1272: Foreign Lordship and National Identity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983), p. 204. 49 Anthony D. Smith, ‘National Identities: Modern and Medieval?’, in Concepts of National Identity,

pp. 21–46 (p. 35).

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The Romance of English Identity cultural Other against which the English could define themselves. However, this does not seem to be the case in the Matter of England romances. In Beues of Hamtoun, Havelok, and Horn Childe the French are absent from the narratives, while in Guy of Warwick France serves simply as a space in which Guy can win renown in tournaments and jousts. In Guy’s travels on the continent in search of chivalric glory he travels to Normandy (785), Spain (1065), and Germany (1066). In these lands Guy moves within what seems to be a unified Christian chivalric community. On the continent Guy performs well, and returns to England having pris y-wonne in euerich cuntre (1080). However, there seems to be little to differentiate Guy, as English, from any of his opponents, and his nationality does not become an issue as it does during his travels in the Saracen lands. When Guy does encounter villains, it is his superlative ability as a knight that is the root of the problem, not his national identity. One might be tempted to read Guy’s long-running enmity with the Lombards, in the form of Duke Otoun of Pavia and his nephew Bernard, as indicative of a continental Other, given the antipathy towards the Lombards in fourteenth-century London.50 However, while the Lombards may have proved to be a popular contemporary foe for Guy, their role as villains comes directly from the Anglo-Norman Gui de Warewic. There is little in the Matter of England romances that supports the use of the French (or other continentals) as a national Other for the English.51 This may be indicative of the complex nature of the group affinities that applied to knights in medieval Europe. Guy is indeed ‘a model of the knight of England’,52 but this English identity is but one element in a hierarchy of supra-national, national, and regional affinities by which the individual identity of the medieval knight is defined.

Insular Others, Regionalism and Englishness The multiple group affinities of Guy of Warwick raise the question of whether Englishness in the Matter of England romances is constructed as a homogeneous whole, or whether there are regional tensions visible within this construction. Rosalind Field has written that medieval romance operates ‘to create a history for a country, a family, a city . . .’53 This statement at once identifies the broad scope of the romance mode of narrative history, and simultaneously alerts us to the competing historiographical voices that it may 50 Claire Sponsler, ‘Alien Nation: London’s Aliens and Lydgate’s Mummings for the Mercers and

Goldsmiths’, in The Postcolonial Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (New York: St Martin’s Press, 2000), pp. 229–42 (pp. 230–1). 51 There is, however, an apparent use of the continent as the realm of the legal Other, which will be examined in Chapter 5. 52 Turville-Petre, England the Nation, p. 116. 53 Rosalind Field, ‘Romance in England’, in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. David Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 152–76 (p. 162).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance contain. While the romances of the Matter of England participate in the telling of a history of England, they are also regional narratives, closely connected with their settings and the origins of their protagonists. The importance of an appreciation of the tension between national and regional voices within medieval historiography is clear. Michelle Warren, in her study History on the Edge, has highlighted the importance of recognising the regional origins of writers such as Geoffrey of Monmouth, Robert of Gloucester, and Laamon, to name but three.54 The existence of regional voices within these texts raises the possibility that they are also present within medieval romance. The most problematic regions of England are to be found at its geographical and ethnic margins. If the Matter of England romances had difficulty in defining the English against their Continental neighbours, then within their own islands they found a cultural Other of long familiarity: the Celts. From the earliest arrival of the English, the Celtic population had been either subsumed or marginalised, both culturally and geographically. The role of the insular Celts as Other manifests linguistically: the name ‘Welsh’ has its origins in the Old English wealas, literally meaning foreigners or strangers.55 Wealum is also used to describe the Celtic Cornish – in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle account for the year AD 981 there is a description of the Danish raids of that year on Padstow (Sancte Petroces stow) and the rest of Devon and Cornwall: Her on þis geare wæs Sancte Petroces stow forhergod, and þy ilcan geare wæs micel hearm gedon gehwær be þam særiman ægþer ge on Defenum ge on Wealum.56

The position of the Cornish as Other in regard to Englishness seems to inform one Matter of England romance in particular: Havelok the Dane. In Havelok, as we have seen, the Danes are integrated into English identity. However, it seems that this integration is at the expense of a more intimate Other, the Cornish. The chief usurper in the romance, Godrich, is the earl of Cornwall. It has been suggested that Godrich is a veiled criticism of Henry III’s brother Richard, who was earl of Cornwall from 1227 to 1272.57 Antony Musson sees the names of the two villains, Godrich and Godard, as comprising Richard’s name in a linguistic puzzle: rich / ard.58 Richard

54 Michelle Warren, History on the Edge: Excalibur and the Borders of Britain, 1100–1300 (Minne-

apolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000). 55 wealh (a) m. (gs. Weales) foreigner, stranger, slave: Briton, Welshman (J. R. Clark-Hall, A

Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984)). 56 Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson, A Guide to Old English, 5th edn (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992),

p. 213, lines 7–9. 57 Turville-Petre, England the Nation, p. 148. Turville-Petre argues that these suggestions ‘rest on a

basic misunderstanding of the poet’s treatment of history’ (‘Havelok and the History of the Nation’, p. 127). 58 Anthony Musson, ‘Appealing to the Past: Perceptions of Law in Late-Medieval England’, in

86

The Romance of English Identity certainly fills the role of a treacherous Earl of Cornwall well, as he rebelled against his brother in 1238, ‘apparently in disgust at the marriage of the king’s sister Eleanor to Simon de Montfort’.59 Richard also, like Godrich, served as the king’s regent during 1253–54. 60 However, the choice of an earl of Cornwall as the villain of the romance is also significant in terms of national identity. Diane Speed comments that the English villain [Godrich] is himself a Celt, and his defeat by a Germanic leader recalls the historical sequence of celtic then germanic holders of the land. The development of the Havelok story thus encodes a history of the English nation . . .61

Within this encoded history of England the reputation of the Cornish for treachery is more widespread than just Havelok. In Guy of Warwick, Medyok, the lord of al Cornewaile (20:2), treacherously accuses Guy’s companion Heraud of selling Guy’s son Reinbroun to foreign merchants.62 The unfounded accusation leads to Heraud’s self-imposed exile in order to find Reinbroun and to clear his own name. The perfidious reputation of the Cornish is illustrated in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, and in particular the Tale of Tristram. Here too Cornwall is constructed as a source of treachery towards an English king. There are two major manifestations of this Cornish propensity for treachery in the Morte: firstly, the involvement of King Idres in Lot’s first rebellion, and secondly, the continued problem of King Mark’s relationship with Arthur’s realm. Mark is a fayre speker, and false thereundir (31–2).63 Moreover, he is the shamfullist knight of a kynge that is now lyvynge (1–2).64 Idres and Mark stand as literary cousins of Earl Godric, representing this characteristic of the Cornish that seems to have been popular in romance. 65 Cornwall seems to be a place that is associated with treachery in Havelok,

59 60 61 62

63 64 65

Expectations of the Law in the Middle Ages, ed. by Anthony Musson (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2001), pp. 165–79 (p. 173). Richard Mortimer, Angevin England: 1154–1258 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), p. 99. Ibid., p. 69. Speed, p. 150. This conventional association of treacherous stewards can perhaps be seen to underlie the additions to the early printed versions of Beues of Hamtoun, in which King Edgar’s steward, who incites the London populace against Beues at the end of the romance, is identified as being Cornish. Thomas Malory, Malory: Works, ed. Eugène Vinaver, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 365. Ibid., p. 355. The Cornish, in addition to their reputation for treachery, seem to have a reputation as cowards. In Malory’s ‘Book of Sir Tristram’, Sir Tristram and Sir Dinadan are informed that thirty enemy knights are waiting to ambush Sir Lancelot. Tristram immediately expresses his desire to fight, which spurs Dinadan to joke that he will help, but only if Tristram lends him his Cornish shield. Dinadan’s joke is, of course, that no one will bother fighting against a knight of Cornwall given their reputation for cowardice (a point that had been made earlier when Sir Bors refused to joust with Tristram (Malory, p. 310)), and thus Dinadan will be assured of safety in the coming fight (Malory, p. 311). Tristram can thus be seen to be trying to counteract the reputation for cowardice that Cornish knights are said to have.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Guy of Warwick, and the Morte D’Arthur, suggesting that it has a role within the poetics of English identity as that of the location of an insular Other. The intimate alterity of the Celtic Cornish, who are both the central Other of England’s past and the marginal Other of England’s present, seems to occupy an intriguing place in the national discourse of England: the Cornish lie both within and without England, and this marginal nature makes them useful as a source of discord that can be internal in origin but at the same time defined as non-English. The homogeneity of Englishness is also at issue within the bounds of England itself. Many of the Matter of England romances are intimately connected with specific regions. In a number of these narratives, such as Guy of Warwick and Beues of Hampton, the connection is made clear by their titles. Other texts exhibit similar regional emphases: Havelock with Lincoln, and Athelston with London. Commenting upon Beues of Hamtoun, Susan Crane observes that ‘. . . the place of national spirit in the romance is uneasy . . .’66 Beues, a narrative with an avowedly regional focus – Hampshire – manifests an anxiety concerning centralised power in the form of both the king and of London. These regional concerns are most clearly articulated near the end of the romance, in an interpolation that was added to the narrative during the transmission from Anglo-Norman to Middle English.67 Near the end of the romance, Beues, having been in exile in the Middle East, returns to England to restore his heir, Robaunt, to his lands in Hampshire which have been seized by King Edgar: Now wendeþ Beues in te Ingelonde Wiþ is knites fel to fonde, And Terry wiþ is knites fale, Sexty þosend told in tale. Þai lende ouer þe se beliue, At Souþhamtoun þai gonne vp riue. Heruebour, Saber is wif, And Robaund anon ase blif Aen Saber come þo; Queþ Saber: ‘How is þis i-go?’ And þai him tolde at þe frome, Þat Edgar hadde here londes be-nome. Þanne seide Beues: ‘So mot y þe, Þar of ich wile awreke be!’ (Auchinleck Beues of Hamtoun, 4273–86)

From Southampton, Beues travels directly to London. Upon arriving at the king’s court in Westminster, Beues confronts Edgar and bad be-fore his 66 Susan Crane, p. 86. 67 Judith Weiss notes that ‘though the English writer could not change these final details, he played

down the conquest of Monbrant, and added a dramatic last fight in the city of London . . .’ (‘The Major Interpolations in Sir Beues of Hamtoun’, Medium Ævum, 47 (1978), 71–6 (p. 73)).

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The Romance of English Identity barnage / þat he him graunte is eritage (4299–300). The king, by this point elderly and infirm, agrees and Beues is welcomed once more by his peers – all except one. The king’s steward reminds Edgar that Beues is still technically banished from England, and when Beues hears this he is outraged and leaves Westminster to go to his lodgings in Tower Street within the city of London. The steward, not content with merely inciting trouble within the court, follows and raises the citizens of London against Beues.68 During the following battle, there is a revealing moment in which the nature of London is exposed. As the battle rages, Beues is confronted by a particularly fierce Londoner: Whan þai come, wiþ outen faile, Þo be-gan a gret bataile Be twene Bowe and Londen ston, þat time stod vs neuer on. Þar was a Lombard in þe toun, Þat was scherewed & feloun; He armede him in yrene wede And lep vpon a sterne stede And rod forþ wiþ gret randoun And þoute haue slawe sire Beuoun. (Auchinleck Beues of Hamtoun, 4493–502)

Claire Sponsler has recently reminded us of the antipathy felt towards foreign communities in London during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.69 Lombards were a particularly visible alien community in London: Lombard Street had an Italian community of long standing.70 Ill feeling and violence towards foreigners were common during this period: from the Flemish merchants murdered in the riots of 1381 to the riots against the presence of aliens (especially Italians and Lombards) in 1456 and 1457, there were frequent outbursts of anti-foreign sentiment.71 London is here constructed as a cosmopolitan, immigrant city, full of the kinds of foreigners that are dangerous to Beues and to his Englishness. Luckily for our hero, his two sons, Miles and Gui, ride to his rescue and between them they manage to defeat the steward and the citizens and make

68 Derek Pearsall notes that in the later fifteenth-century Chetham manuscript, ‘the London opposi-

tion to Beues is dominated by Lombards from the start’ (‘Strangers in Late-Fourteenth-Century London’, in The Stranger in Medieval Society, ed. F. R. P. Akehurst and Stephanie Cain Van D’Elden (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), pp. 46–62 (p. 53)). 69 Sponsler, pp. 229–42. Pearsall also notes the intermittent ‘open hostility’ towards foreigners, including Reason’s condemnation of the ‘Lumbardus of Lukes, þat leuen by lone as Iewes’ (C.IV.194) in Piers Plowman (‘Strangers in Late-Fourteenth-Century London’, p. 53). 70 Sponsler, p. 231. 71 Ibid., pp. 230–1. Anti-Lombard sentiment is also expressed in the Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, where Guy and his men are ambushed in the forest by a band of Lombards in the pay of Duke Otoun of Pavia (lines 1359–1516).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance their escape. The king and Beues (nation and province) are reconciled, and the king offers Beues’s son the hand of his daughter in marriage: & king Edgar Miles gan calle Be fore his barouns in þe halle And af him is douter be þe honde, And after is day al Ingelonde, And pes and loue was maked þare Be twene Beues & king Edgare. (Auchinleck Beues of Hamtoun, 4555–60)

Interestingly, this union of the regional and the national takes place not in London – the symbolic location of centralised power thus far in the narrative – but rather in Nottingham: Þe maide & Miles wer spused same In þe toun of Notinghame. (Auchinleck Beues of Hamtoun, 4561–62)

Beues ultimately appropriates England for his family, and for regional discourse – the response to the bad ruler here is to replace him, although legitimately, through the merging of the royal line with his own. The anxiety regarding London and its inhabitants that is apparent in Beues has provoked a number of interpretations. Susan Crane has argued that the text manifests concerns regarding the relationship between the crown and the barony,72 while Derek Pearsall has observed that it seems ‘almost as if the translator became aware that he needed to “alienize” this native opposition to an English hero’.73 However, I would suggest another reading, in which the emphasis is placed upon the contrast between Beues, as provincial English, and the cosmopolitan non-English nature of London. In terms of English identity, the figure of the Lombard looms large, characterising London as being, not at the centre of Englishness, but at the margins. Beues of Hamtoun seems to exhibit a communal anxiety about the increasing influence of London’s immigrant populace over the affairs of the state, and of their very national affinity. London, as both the locus of royal power and as a major point of contact with the foreign, is constructed in the regional discourse of this romance as both a site of the contestation and of the contamination of English identity. The social discourse that underlies this anxiety is perhaps difficult to ascertain, although one might point out the increasing centralisation of the royal court and the numbers of foreign aliens during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries as likely sources of concern. This concern about the relationship of London to English identity, as strong today as it seems to be in Beues, conveys a powerful criticism of the capital as unrepresentative of

72 Susan Crane, p. 218. 73 ‘Strangers in Late-Fourteenth-Century London’, p. 53.

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The Romance of English Identity England and of the English.74 Perhaps the marriage of Miles and Edgar’s daughter, held in Nottingham in preference to London, can be seen to represent a return of royal ceremony and power to the regional stage. Beues of Hamtoun illustrates the inherent distrust present in regional discourse for the centralised royal and bureaucratic power that is characterised by cosmopolitan London. The text demonstrates a questioning of the cultural and national centre – a characteristic element of regional voices both within the medieval period and without. The concern with the foreign nature of London in Beues suggests a questioning of the nature of Englishness that is as important as the development of Englishness itself. In Beues we find an imagined Anglo-Saxon England constructed as a space in which tensions between competing regional discourses of identity can be played out in a simplified and secure past, rather than in the complex everyday world of the audience; for if the Anglo-Saxons, despite the regional tensions that are evident in the romance narratives of the pre-Conquest past, could operate within a wider English national identity, then the rural and the urban, the regional and the central, could all see a way of identifying with an inclusive national fantasy of Englishness. In their remembrance of the Anglo-Saxon past, the Matter of England romances make a strong claim to be taken seriously as a popular form of medieval historiography. Integrated to a surprising degree into the dominant historiographical mode of the age – the chronicle – the Matter of England romances attain an elevated degree of textual historical authority. Havelok the Dane and Guy of Warwick are perhaps the two narratives most often incorporated into the historical record, with Guy’s defeat of Colbrond becoming an important national drama following Pierre de Langtoft’s inclusion of the single combat in his Chronicle. The understanding of these romances as history can also be seen in the historiographical framing of the Auchinleck manuscript constructed by its use of the Liber Regum Anglie, where the romances of Guy of Warwick, Beues of Hamtoun, and Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild are provided with a context in which they can be understood as part of the wider stream of English history. It seems clear from both the use of these narratives in chronicles and the manuscript context of the Auchinleck manuscript that the Matter of England romances were available to be read as historical accounts of England’s past – even though their historicity was at times questioned or challenged by other chroniclers. Their historical nature was further evidenced, both within chronicles and in the texts themselves, by the strong connection with local places that we find in the romances. This integral connection with place grounds these narratives in the landscape, creating a national ‘inscape’. This ‘inscape’, a meta-

74 A concern that can be seen echoed in the London populace’s frequent outbursts of violence against

the alien communities (Sponsler, pp. 230–1).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance phor for the communal store of legend, myth and story that allows a community to make sense of its history and surroundings, makes real the history of England in the places and objects that are readily available as tangible witnesses to the events they signify. Through the anchoring of their ‘historical’ narratives of Anglo-Saxon England in the landscape, the Matter of England romances emphasise the continuity of English history in the visible and knowable: the place-names, memorials, towns and cities of England itself. The sense of continuity between pre- and post-conquest England that is created by these romances can also be seen in the methods through which they construct their ideas of Englishness. By making use of the Saracen as the dominant Other of English identity in Guy of Warwick and Beues of Hamtoun, the continuity between the English of the Anglo-Saxon past and the English of the fourteenth century is made clear. Post-conquest English identity, constructed using the Saracen Other in such romances as Richard Coer de Lyon, is shown to have a provenance that bridges the conquest and connects it with the pre-conquest English identity of Guy and Beues. In the construction of a unified English identity, internal tensions are transformed into definable and controllable sub-identities. The threat of internal usurpation in Havelok is embodied in the marginal Other of the Cornish Earl Godrich, making use of a long tradition of characterising the Cornish (and Welsh) Celts as treacherous. Their marginal status within the geographical and cultural landscape of England makes these insular Others useful in removing discordant elements from the image of Englishness presented in these narratives. In a similar fashion, the figure of the Lombard personifies and makes Other the regional antipathy towards London-centric power that can be seen in Beues of Hamtoun. By transferring this hostility towards a highly visible foreign Other, the text reorients its regional discourse to strengthen rather than fragment its construction of a unified English identity. The Matter of England romances construct the Anglo-Saxon past in order to emphasise the continuity of the English as a single people. Just as the landscape of England bears the heritage of these Anglo-Saxon narratives, so the identity of the English stands in direct descent from the deeds of Guy and Beues. The story of the creation of a unified England, as retold in Havelok and Horn Childe, is also the story of the creation of the English themselves.

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In his time were gode lawes

5 In his time were gode lawes: Romance and the English Legal Past ‘The law occupies a crucial role in the mythology and ideology of a people.’1

D

URING the great rebellion of 1381 the tenants of St Alban’s Abbey, led by one Walter Grindcobbe, petitioned the abbot to deliver to them charters held by the abbey that related the liberties of the vill. The abbot produced these charters, but as Stephen Justice has suggested, they seem to have lacked the confirmation of the freedoms that the rebels desired.2 These deficient charters were then burned, and the rebels demanded that the abbot produce one particular ‘ancient charter . . . with capital letters, one of gold and one of azure’.3 This charter, Thomas Walsingham tells us, was believed to confirm a series of liberties and privileges that had been granted to the townsfolk in the time of King Offa for their services in building the monastery.4 These privileges, they claimed, had once been enjoyed by the town, but had been slowly eroded over time by the abbot and the monks. The abbot, faced with pressure to produce the rumoured Anglo-Saxon charter, repeatedly denied its existence. Despite these denials the rebels would not accept that the charter did not exist, and eventually the abbot was forced to write out a new charter confirming King Offa’s privileges.5 1 2

3 4

5

R. R. Davies, ‘The Peoples of Britain and Ireland, 1100–1400: III, Laws and Customs’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6th series, 6 (1996), 1–23 (p. 6). Stephen Justice, Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), p. 47. See also Paul Strohm, Hochon’s Arrow: The Social Imagination of FourteenthCentury Texts (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 4–5. Thomas Walsingham, Gesta abbatum monasterii Sancti Albani, ed. Henry Thomas Riley, 12 vols (London: Longmans, 1867–69), III, pp. 307–8, cited in Justice, p. 47. Walsingham, III, p. 365. It is an interesting fact that the liberty of St Alban’s, a zone of legal privilege centred on and controlled by the abbey itself, was also founded upon a forged charter that claimed its authority from King Offa. The rebels were, perhaps unwittingly, conforming to a model of legal appeal that underlay the very privileges of the institution they were opposing. For a discussion of St Alban’s Abbey and the charter of King Offa, see Julia Crick, ‘Liberty and Fraternity: Creating and Defending the Liberty of St Albans’, in Expectations of the Law in the Middle Ages, ed. Anthony Musson (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2001), pp. 91–103. Rosamond Faith, ‘The Great Rumour of 1377 and Peasant Ideology’, in The English Rising of 1381, ed. R. H. Hilton and T. H. Aston (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 43–73 (p. 64).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance The actions of the rebels in the St Alban’s case highlight an intriguing aspect of English law in the fourteenth century: the rebels’ claim to legal privilege is based upon a charter that was believed to have originated in the distant Anglo-Saxon past. As Rosamond Faith has observed, the legend of Offa’s charter to the town is a ‘striking piece of local political tradition’.6 However, this tradition is not only political, but also legal. Offa’s charter represents a belief that the rebels would have found what they considered to be justice in the form of ancient law. Anthony Musson sees in the rebels’ demands for such ancient charters a manifestation of the ‘pride [that] was increasingly taken in the Anglo-Saxon legal past’.7 This pride, Musson suggests, was a consequence of the keen interest in legal history that seems to have been a characteristic of late-medieval English society. This interest ‘was exhibited in a practical sense . . . both in the form of “community memory” and in the growing recourse to written sources’.8 Surveying the use of the Anglo-Saxon past within a variety of late-medieval legal and pseudo-legal texts, Musson concludes that if the recorded notions of some are representative of the majority of people in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, it would appear that the Anglo-Saxon past appealed to them specifically and that a so-called ‘Golden Age’ could be located under the codes of legislative icons such as Alfred, Cnut and St Edward the Confessor (a cult devoted to the latter was particularly strong in royal circles during the period). 9

Musson’s wide selection of written sources, which range from statutes to chronicles, legal records to romances, suggests that the idea of the Anglo-Saxon past as a Golden Age of the Law was influential and widespread in late-medieval England. The development of this idea can be seen from as early as the twelfth century. Chroniclers such as William of Malmesbury looked back to the legacy of the Anglo-Saxon kings in writing a history of England that was as much commentary upon their present as upon England’s past. In his Gesta Regum Anglorum William constructs an image of King Alfred as a great lawmaker, detailing his efforts to establish peace throughout England.10 Simon Keynes, commenting upon the significance of Alfred’s reforms in constructing English law, observes that ‘it was William who cast Alfred as the one who had divided the country into hundreds and tithings, as part of an

6 7

Ibid., p. 64. Anthony Musson, ‘Appealing to the Past: Perceptions of Law in Late-Medieval England’, in Expectations of the Law in the Middle Ages, pp. 165–79 (p. 176). 8 Ibid., p. 165. 9 Ibid., p. 178. 10 William of Malmesbury, William of Malmesbury: Gesta Regum Anglorum / The History of the English Kings, ed. R. A. B. Mynors, R. M. Thompson and M. Winterbottom, 2 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), I, pp. 188–90.

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In his time were gode lawes arrangement for the enforcement of the law . . .’11 William’s depiction of Alfred, and of other Anglo-Saxon kings such as Edgar and Athelstan, helped to establish a chronicle tradition that connected the Anglo-Saxon past with the genesis of English law.12 Patrick Wormald identifies Alfred as a key figure in early post-Conquest views of the English legal past: ‘The role of Alfred himself surely reflects his emerging reputation as the “founder of English laws (Anglicarum legum conditor)” in the Ramsey Chronicle’s words, a development upon which William of Malmesbury may have been a major influence.’13 Alfred’s reputation as a founder of English law continued to develop, eventually leading to his emergence as the reputed founder of English common law.14 To the Anglo-Latin chroniclers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Alfred and Anglo-Saxon England seem to have occupied important roles as points of origin for English law. 15 The chronicle tradition is not the only place where this relationship can be seen. There also seems to be a strong connection between the legal reputation of the Anglo-Saxon past and the wide circulation of pre-conquest law-codes during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.16 While the popularity of these texts does not entail their use in the actual procedure of post-conquest English law, it seems that these texts fulfilled some kind of role in providing a tangible link to England’s legal past. Wormald, discussing the possible significance of the twelfth-century legal compilation the Textus Roffensis, comments that the Textus Roffensis has been found ‘puzzling’ for the same sort of reason as Quadripartitus. Knowing what we do about the course taken by the development of English law from the later-twelfth century, we just cannot see how the Anglo-Saxon memorials, in all their obscurity linguistic and otherwise, could have mattered to those in charge of it in the century after 1066.17

However, the popularity of these texts leads Wormald to conclude that ‘there was altogether too much of this sort of thing going on at the same sort of time in the minds of otherwise severely unsentimental men for it to be dismissed as

11 Simon Keynes, ‘The Cult of King Alfred the Great,’ Anglo-Saxon England, 28 (1999), 225–356

(p. 230). 12 Ibid., pp. 230–2. 13 Patrick Wormald, The Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century, 2 vols (Oxford:

14 15

16 17

Blackwell, 1999), I, p. 141. Wormald cites Chronicon Abbatiae Rameseiensis, ed. W. D. Macray (London: Longmans, 1886), p. 13. Keynes, p. 234. Thorlac Turville-Petre discusses the desire to restore ‘Þe gode olde lawes’ of the Anglo-Saxon period that is expressed in Robert of Gloucester’s Chronicle (England the Nation: Language, Literature, and National Identity, 1290–1340 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996), pp. 98–103). Patrick Wormald, ‘Laga Eadwardi: The Textus Roffensis and its Context’, Anglo-Norman Studies, 17 (1994), 243–66. Ibid., p. 265.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance so many exercises in antiquarian nostalgia’.18 While scholarly opinion remains divided on the intended use of these texts, it seems clear that they represent a profound post-conquest interest in the laws of the Anglo-Saxons. Interestingly, the situation is clearer regarding the practical use of Anglo-Saxon law itself. The use of Anglo-Saxon law by post-conquest legislators has been well established by legal historians. Doris Stenton observed that a striking fact about the procedural development of the early twelfth century is its dependence on the Anglo-Saxon past. William I was not a voluminous legislator. He willed that all should have ‘the law of King Edward in lands and in all things, having added thereto the things which I have appointed for the welfare of the people of the English’.19

More recently the first volume of Wormald’s vast study of the development of medieval English law has demonstrated the indebtedness of post-Conquest legal practice to the legacy of the Anglo-Saxons. 20 During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the development of English legal practice moved further away from the traditions of Anglo-Saxon law. However, in spite of these changes, the Anglo-Saxon past retained its role as what Musson calls ‘a legitimising agent’, providing a sense of antiquity to new laws.21 To the medieval legal mind, law needed to demonstrate an ancient provenance to be considered justifiable. The legal historian Fritz Kern observes that when legislators replaced laws with newer ones, they were not replacing old with new, but rather ‘guiding the stream of genuine law back into channels which had been temporarily blocked by wrong’.22 This desire to be seen to be ‘rediscovering’ ancient laws rather than inventing new laws is seen by Kern as a reflex of the medieval understanding that laws had to be old to be good, as the immemorial customs of the land were the foundations of all law.23 In the Middle Ages, different attributes altogether were essential; mediaeval law must be ‘old’ law and must be ‘good’ law. Mediaeval law could dispense with the sanction of the State, but not with the two qualities of Age

18 Ibid., p. 266. 19 Doris M. Stenton, English Justice: 1066–1215 (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society,

1964), p. 6. 20 Wormald, The Making of English Law, vol. I. 21 Musson, p. 165. 22 Fritz Kern, Kingship and Law in the Middle Ages, trans. S. B. Chrimes (New York: Praeger, 1956),

p. 165. 23 Another example of an appeal to the power of ‘ancient laws’ can be seen in Andrew Galloway’s

discussion of the language used by the Merciless Parliament of 1388: ‘The Politics of Piety in Gower’s Confessio amantis’, in The Letter of the Law: Legal Practice and Literary Production in Medieval England, ed. Emily Steiner and Candace Barrington (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2002), pp. 67–104 (pp. 70–1).

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In his time were gode lawes and Goodness, which, as we shall see, were considered to be one and the same thing.24

Ann Williams has noticed the presence of this topos in the way in which new laws were incorporated into English law: However new it was, however, the law was always seen as old. The murdrum fine, introduced by William I, had by the time of Henry I’s accession become part of the ‘law of King Edward’, so that the law remained ‘English’ law even when it was adapted to new circumstances. 25

As Musson suggests, the Anglo-Saxon period operated as a useful era in which to situate the origins of English law, thus satisfying the requirement for an ancient provenance for post-conquest English law. Although English law after the conquest increasingly became a mélange of both Anglo-Saxon laws and post-conquest legal innovation, it was all imagined to have sprung from a common source of ancient English law. It is not my intention here to examine the Matter of England romances for evidence of the use of authentic Anglo-Saxon law: post-conquest English legal practice continued to make use of many of the laws and customs of the Anglo-Saxon kings, and therefore it is to be expected that some characteristics of genuine Anglo-Saxon law should appear in the romances. More interestingly, I wish to examine how the cultural reputation of Anglo-Saxon England as a legal ‘golden age’ can be seen to inform an understanding of the representation of law within the Matter of England romances. The reasons that underlie late-medieval English society’s interest in the Anglo-Saxon legal past are many and varied. Musson identifies three key cultural impulses that may account for the phenomenon: From the various forms of expression, however, we can draw together three interlinking motives. First there was an appeal to the past as a legitimising agent: the idea familiar to many historians of the common law that authority came (or was provable) through antiquity, tradition or long usage. The second, not dissimilar from the first, was the appeal to the past in order to inform or transform the legal present. Third and finally, it is possible to perceive an appreciation of and reliance on the legal past as a means of achieving identity, be it personal, corporate, regional or national. 26

Of these three cultural motives, the most important for this chapter is that of the law’s role in English identity formation. Musson notes that

24 Kern, p. 149. 25 Ann Williams, The English and the Norman Conquest (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1995), p.

164. 26 Musson, p. 165.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance scholars working on written law-collections have shown that by emphasising their law’s ancient origins and perhaps identifying a fundamental ‘law-giver’ people could engender and further a sense of community and collective identity . . .27

This connection between law and social identity is also evident in the romances: Susan Crane notes that the ‘legal preoccupations’ of the romances become increasingly concerned with the negotiation of English identity.28 In the previous chapter I suggested that the Anglo-Saxon past operates as a ‘theatre of English identity’ within the Matter of England romances. One of the concerns of this chapter will be to consider how the ‘legal preoccupations’ of the romances act to both construct and redefine notions of English identity in relation to its Anglo-Saxon past. That the Matter of England romances are subject to ‘legal preoccupations’ is well established. Thorlac Turville-Petre writes of Havelok: ‘Above all, the poet lays great emphasis upon legal practices and social institutions.’29 Crane also notes the widespread legal fixation of the romances: A concern for just procedure often transforms crises that could be occasions for warfare into lessons in legality. . . . Crises in which heroes and villains act as litigants abound, emphasizing the preoccupation with law and custom that characterizes the romances of English heroes.30

These romances seem to be singularly interested in the nature and operation of law, raising questions regarding both the legal fluency of their audiences and their concern with the just operation of law. It may be the case that the romances are operating as one medium through which communal concern regarding legal innovations could be articulated. Richard Firth Green notes that the prominence given to archaic legal forms, such things as ordeal and trial by battle, in the literature of the late Middle Ages is very striking, and it can be only partly explained by the dramatic potential inherent in such procedures.31

And:

27 Ibid., p. 172. See also Susan Reynolds, Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe, 900–1300,

2nd edn (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), pp. 250–76. 28 Susan Crane, Insular Romance: Politics, Faith, and Culture in Anglo-Norman and Middle-English

Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), p. 86. 29 Thorlac Turville-Petre, ‘Havelok and the History of the Nation,’ in Readings in Medieval

Romance, ed. Carol M. Meade (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994), pp. 121–34 (p. 122). 30 Susan Crane, p. 87. 31 Richard Firth Green, ‘Medieval Literature and Law’, in The Cambridge History of Medieval

English Literature, ed. David Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 407–31 (p. 426).

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In his time were gode lawes Literary responses to the perceived degenerate state of the law in the late Middle Ages generally took one of three forms: predictably some writers turned to satire, while others chose to romanticize opposition to the law in the person of the outlaw; a third group reveal their unease in a nostalgia for the old folklaw and its ways.32

The Matter of England romances, situated as they are in the Anglo-Saxon past, are highly suitable candidates for Green’s third category of cultural response to legal change. If Green is correct in his assessment of this late-medieval literary reflex, we might expect to find in these romances a critique of their contemporary legal environment in contrast to an imagined Anglo-Saxon Golden Age of law and justice. Diane Speed identifies law and justice as an important concern of the romances of England’s past: One aspect of order identified by Bhabha as a particular discourse which may function dynamically in the narrative is ‘the quality of justice, the common sense of injustice; the langue of the law and the parole of the people’.33

The concern for law in the romances, manifested through the romance hero’s judicial crises, represents the legal anxieties of the community. These anxieties can be seen to be representative of the changing interests of the romance audience. As Crane points out, the baronial concerns of the Anglo-Norman romances are gradually replaced by the more nationalistic tone of the later Middle English versions, appealing to what had by the later Middle Ages become a varied and heterogeneous audience.34 By the time of the Middle English Matter of England romances – the objects of this study – the concerns regarding English law are likely to be varied indeed. The chapter began with an examination of the important connection between law and kingship in the romances. The king, as we have been reminded in The Proverbs of Alfred, scule his lond / la elice helden. The explicit role of the king both to uphold and govern within the law is an important concern of the romances. From here, I will consider the operation of law within the romances, examining how an image of imagined Anglo-Saxon law is constructed. Analysing the operation and nature of law within the Matter of England romances produces an interpretative model through which to approach the final text, the romance of Athelston. Athelston is a text that is highly concerned with legal issues, and by approaching this text through the 32 Ibid., p. 418. 33 Diane Speed, ‘The Construction of the Nation in Medieval Romance’, in Readings in Medieval

Romance, ed. Carol M. Meade (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994), pp. 135–57 (p. 147). Speed cites Homi Bhabha, ‘Introduction’, in his Nation and Narration (New York: Routledge, 1990), pp. 1–7 (p. 2). 34 For a recent discussion of the nature of the audience of ‘popular’ Middle English romance, see Jane Gilbert, ‘A Theoretical Introduction’, in The Spirit of Medieval English Popular Romance, ed. Ad Putter and Jane Gilbert (London: Longman, 2000), pp. 15–38 (pp. 20–6).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance legal context of other Matter of England romances we can more fully appreciate Athelston’s literary, legal and cultural contexts. If the connection between the Anglo-Saxon past and English law was as popular and widespread as Musson suggests, then it seems likely that this relationship may have occupied an important role in the cultural remembrance of the Anglo-Saxon period during the later Middle Ages. An analysis of the methods through which law and justice are constructed within the Matter of England romances will illuminate the nature and significance of the role of law within the process of re-creating Anglo-Saxon England.

Law and the King’s Peace In the previous three chapters we have seen the central role occupied by kingship in the construction of the Anglo-Saxon past. In the construction of the law within the romances, the role of the king is once again of great significance. In medieval legal thought, the king was rex infra et supra legem, and as such occupied a crucial position in regard to both the creation and just enforcement of law.35 It was the role of the king to govern, and to be governed, by the laws of his realm, thus ensuring that the kingdom remained in a state of peace. This concept of the rex pacificus was an important ideal, used as a model both to criticise and to advise contemporary rulers. Havelok the Dane begins with what is arguably the clearest explication of the importance of law to a king’s peaceful rule that is to be found in the Matter of England romances. As we have seen in Chapter 3, this image of Athelwold’s peaceful reign establishes an ideal state of rulership against which the audience can measure Godrich, and to which Havelok can return the kingdom: It was a king bi are-dawes That in his time were gode lawes He dede maken an ful wel holden. Hym louede yung, him louede holde – Erl and barun, dreng and þayn, Knict, bondeman, and swain, Wydues, maydnes, prestes, and clerkes, And al for hise gode werkes. He louede God with al his micth, And Holi Kirke, and soth and ricth. Ricthwise men he louede alle, And oueral made hem for to calle. Wreieres and wrobberes made he falle, And hated hem so man doth galle; 35 Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology (Princeton:

Princeton University Press, 1957), p. 143.

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In his time were gode lawes Vtlawes and theues made he bynde, Alle that he micthe fynde, And heye hengen on galwe-tre – For hem ne yede gold ne fe. 36 Jn þat time a man þat bore ... Of red gold upon hijs bac, Jn a male with or blac, Ne funde he non þat him misseyde N[e] with iuele on hond leyde. Þanne micthe chapmen fare Þuruth Englond wit here ware, And baldelike beye and sellen Oueral þer he wilen dwellen – Jn gode burwes and þer-fram Ne funden he non þat dede hem sham, Þat he ne weren sone to sorwe brouth An pouere maked, and browt to nouth. Þanne was Engelond at hayse – Michel was svich a king to preyse Þat held so Englond in grith! . . . . . . Þe king was hoten Aþelwold; Of word, of wepne he was bold. Jn Engeland was neure knicth Þat betere hel[d] þe lond to ricth. (Havelok the Dane, 27–61, 106–9) 37

In many respects this description represents an ideal image of kingship not dissimilar from that found in other medieval texts. However, here it is specifically constructed as an image of Anglo-Saxon kingship, and as such offers a view of how this text imagined the faultless rule of Havelok’s royal Anglo-Saxon predecessor. Athelwold reigns bi are-dawes, placing the narrative far in the past when this model of rule was not just an ideal, but also the practice of all rightful kings. The foundation of Athelwold’s rule is established from the beginning of the passage – in his time were gode lawes / He dede maken an ful wel holden. The peace that the king establishes throughout England is born of a respect for law, and the equitable application of this law among all his subjects, regardless of age or status. Erl and barun, dreng and þayn, / Knict, bondeman, and swain, / Wydues, maydnes, prestes and clerkes – all the estates of Athelwold’s England are subject to and protected by his laws. This harks back to a utopian age of the universal application of law, a

36 Accusations of venality among the judiciary were common in the medieval period. See John A.

Yunck, The Lineage of Lady Meed (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 1963), pp. 148–52, and Green, ‘Medieval Literature and Law’, pp. 416ff. 37 Havelok the Dane, ed. G. V. Smithers (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance far cry from the reality of the legal segregation of the clerical and secular courts.38 A similar demonstration of the peace created by lawful Anglo-Saxon rule is found in Guy of Warwick. Guy begins with a similar, albeit much shorter, description of the peace that a wise and lawful ruler brings to a land: Speke we schull of the Stywarde: Well true he was, and highte Sywarde. This Syward was slighe and wise, Riche of kynde, and of grete prise: In his tyme no-on better was, For of grete worship was no-on in his caas . . . (Caius Guy of Warwick, 109–14)39 . . . þei a man bar an hundred pounde, Opon him, of gold y-grounde, þe[r] nas man in al þis londe þat durst him do schame no schonde, þat bireft him worþ of a slo, So gode pais þer was þo. (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 137–42)

Here the agent of the peace is the earl of Warwick’s steward, Syward. Fittingly for this romance, in which stewards are often more active than their lords, the agency is transferred from the earl to his chief official. These two accounts are linked by their use of the same motif to demonstrate the extent of the gode pais that has been established in the land. The peace and stability of Anglo-Saxon England is expressed in terms of the security of the king’s road (via regia). This motif has an intriguing literary history, to which I will return later in this chapter. That law creates and maintains peace is of course the underlying raison d’être of most legal systems, and it is no surprise that Havelok makes use of this notion. However, what is interesting is the use that Havelok makes of its construction of England as a realm characterised by the rule of lawful peace. Through the process of cultural comparison, Havelok presents an interesting construction of English legal space. The parallel construction of the narrative in Havelok invites a comparative analysis between the way in which law operates in England and Denmark. The doubling of the plot allows direct 38 This is a concern that can also be seen in the construction of Anglo-Saxon royal justice in The

Proverbs of Alfred. William I instituted the segregation of clerical and lay justice within English law. Doris Stenton writes of William that ‘he separated lay and ecclesiastical justice in conformity with continental practice and substituted mutilation for the death penalty. He reshaped the murder fine for the protection of his followers, but added little to the procedure of the courts beyond trial by battle’ (Stenton, p. 6). 39 While I make use primarily of the Auchinleck MS version in this study, the initial 122 lines of the romance are missing in this MS and thus are supplemented here by the Caius MS 107/176 reading. Both the Caius MS and the Auchinleck MS versions are found in Guy of Warwick, Edited from the Auchinleck MS. in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh, and from MS. 107 in Caius College, Cambridge, ed. J. Zupitza, EETS ES 42, 49, 59 (London: Trübner, 1883–91).

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In his time were gode lawes comparisons between the treatment of the two traitors, Godard and Godrich, and of the processes by which they are judged and punished. An initial reading of the treatment of the two usurpers highlights one immediate difference: the punishments decreed upon them. Godard is executed, in a particularly brutal manner, first by being flayed alive by a ladde with a knif (2494), then by being drawn through the streets, and finally by being hung up as an example to the Danish people (2488–511). Godrich, rather more mercifully, is led through the streets on an ass and is then burnt at the stake, while his children are disinherited (2820–37). The shocking violence of Godard’s death has been the cause of much debate, and has led to a number of varying interpretations. Some scholars have seen the pragmatic violence of the execution as an indicator of the intended audience of the poem, positioning it squarely within the realm of the tavern and the inn.40 Others have viewed the violence differently, seeing it as an indication of an unrealistic narrative mode – the ‘naive fantasy world’ of the poem.41 However, I would suggest that the representation of Godard’s death may operate as an indicator of legal difference, real or imagined, between England and Denmark – a case of different legal remedies for similar crimes. The nature of the execution aside, however, the trials of Godard and Godrich seem at a first reading to follow the same process – in both cases Havelok asks for the traitors to be judged by what seems to be some form of parliament, which then accordingly recounts their crimes and sentences them to death for their treachery. However, closer examination of the apparent similarities highlights a number of significant differences. After returning to Denmark, Havelok, accompanied by Grim’s three sons, wins over a number of followers, including the influential Ubbe, and is recognised as Birkabein’s son and heir. He then receives oaths of fealty (through the ceremony of manrede) from the Danes and is crowned king (2319). Once Havelok’s men have captured Godard, Havelok assembles a parliament and bad he sholden demen him rith (2468). We might note Havelok’s legal status when he commands his subjects to judge Godard: by this point in the narrative he has received their fealty and has been crowned king, thus putting him in a position of legal authority to impose the rule of law and order a trial for treason. In contrast to Havelok’s repossession of Denmark, the course of events upon his return to England is markedly different. The same set of events – military victory, receiving fealty, being crowned king, and judging the traitor – do occur, but in a different order. Havelok lands, leading a Danish army, and defeats Godrich in battle. He then asks the English to judge Godrich for his crimes: Lokes þat ye demen him rith (2813). Significantly, at this point 40 For a discussion of this, see Robert Levine, ‘Who composed Havelok for whom?’, Yearbook for

English Studies, 22 (1992), 95–104. 41 John M. Ganim, Style and Consciousness in Middle English Literature (Princeton: Princeton

University Press, 1983), p. 30.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Havelok has not received the fealty of the English and is not yet the king. Lacking any legal authority to order Godrich’s trial, he appears to be appealing to the innate sense of the rule and procedure of law that seems to be present in England – in contrast to Denmark, where law needs to be imposed from above, or perhaps from without. This contrast between England and Denmark is also reflected in the treatment of the two prisoners before their trials. After Godard is captured, he is bound hand and foot like a thief or a dog, and thrown on the back of a scabby mare to be brought before the king. In England the process is more lawful, or perhaps more civilised (or are these the same thing in Havelok?), and Godrich is bound in fetters of steel and brought before the rightful heir. Goldeboro reminds his captors that non ne sholde him bete / Ne shame do, for he was knith, / Til knithes haueden demd him rith (2764–66).42 As Diane Speed, among others, has previously pointed out, the rule of law does appear to be stronger in England than in Denmark.43 Law seems to be inherent to England but needs to be imposed upon Denmark by Havelok, and this difference in the legal fabric of the two realms suggests an illuminating re-reading of the initial descriptions of Denmark and England. As we have already seen, Athelwold’s England is characterised by its reliance upon and maintenance of law. The description of Birkabein’s Denmark, however, is conspicuous in lacking any reference to law or lawfulness: Jn þat time so it bifelle Was in þe lon[d] of Denemark A riche king and swyþe stark; Þ[e] name of him was Birkabeyn. He hauede mani knict and sueyn. He was fayr man and wicth: Of bodi he was þe beste knicth Þat euere micte leden uth here, Or stede on-ride or handlen spere. Þre children he hauede bi his wif – He hem louede so his lif. He hauede a sone, douhtres two, Swiþe fayre, as fel it so. (Havelok the Dane, 339–51)

In comparison to Athelwold’s England, Denmark is constructed as a legal vacuum, ready to be colonised by English legal process through the body of its Anglicised king, Havelok. However, the nature of the punishment meted out to Godard by the Danes suggests that this process of acculturation is incomplete. Flaying a traitor alive, according to the legal historian J. G. Bellamy, was an example of continental rather than English punishment: ‘In

42 Compare this with the treatment of Godard when he is captured–he is trussed up like an animal

(lines 2437–47). 43 Speed, p. 152.

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In his time were gode lawes France they might be flayed alive or hanged and quartered, first being dragged, as they were in England, to execution at the horse’s tail.’44 The Danes’ legal system, imagined in Havelok along continental lines in contrast with England, leads them to impose a particularly bloodthirsty doom upon Godard. It is evident that Denmark does not immediately become English when Havelok becomes king, rather it is in the process of becoming English – a process which, as would have been apparent to the audience of the romance, was never completed. It is important to my argument to understand Havelok not simply as being Danish, nor as entirely English, but rather a cultural hybrid-figure who both manifests and facilitates the union of the two nations. This is, of course, not to deny Thorlac Turville-Petre’s assertion that the romance integrates the Danish heritage of the North-East into the English mainstream, but rather to suggest that acculturation is by no means unidirectional.45 While the narrative (and its protagonist) integrates the Danes into England, England simultaneously has a cultural, and in particular a legal, impact upon Havelok and Denmark. Through a comparison of legal process in Denmark and England, Havelok constructs England as a discrete legal space, subject to its own laws and punishments. Situating the narrative in the Anglo-Saxon past, the text makes use of the popular post-conquest view of the Anglo-Saxon period as a golden age of law and order. This golden age is envisaged as being specifically English, and is explicitly linked to the rule of a rightful king who rules within the bounds of the law of the realm. Central to the construction of this legal golden age in Havelok is the motif of the safety of the via regia. As mentioned above, this motif is one that seems to have had a popular place within the literature of England.46 The motif, which is also found in Guy of Warwick, is particularly interesting in light of its connections with pre-conquest England.47 The literary and cultural 44 J. G. Bellamy, The Law of Treason in England in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 1970), p. 13. See also W. R. J. Barrow, ‘The Penalties for Treason in Medieval Life and Literature’, Journal of Medieval History, 7 (1981), 187–202. 45 Turville-Petre, ‘Havelok and the History of the Nation’, p. 132. 46 J. A. W. Bennett comments that the motif is ‘a traditional formula for describing a peaceful kingdom’, and cites the Peterborough Chronicle (sa. 1087), Guy of Warwick (lines 137ff), Havelok (lines 45–50), and Laamon’s Brut: ‘He sette suiþe god griþ þat ech man mihte faran wiþ fram londe to londe þeh he bere golde an honde’ (Caligula MS, lines 18486–9) (Early Middle English Verse and Prose, ed. J. A. W. Bennett and G. V. Smithers, 2nd edn (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), p. 381). 47 The Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, quoted above, is closely paralleled by the Caius, Cambridge, 107/176 MS and Cambridge University Library ff.2.38 MS versions: ‘Fastenned he had suche a pees, / That neuere sithe noon better was / Though men did bere an hundred pounde, / Vpon him, of penyes rounde, / There shulde not bee founde in all the londe / A theef that him wolde hurte no shonde, / Nor take fro him the worthe of a sloo: / So good pees there was thoo (Caius MS 107/176, lines 135–42); He helde al his lordys londe / Wyth grete honowre vndur hys honde. / He made pees, as he wolde: / Yf a man were chargyd wyth golde, / He schulde fynde no robber hym to reeve, / That wolde take oght agenste hys leeue’ (Guy of Warwick, the Second or 15th-Century Version Edited from Cambridge University Library MS ff. 3.38, ed. J. Zupitza, EETS ES 25–26 (London: Trübner, 1875–76), lines 101–6).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance contexts of this motif are, I would argue, important to an understanding of the significance of the motif in constructing these images of Anglo-Saxon England. Jn þat time a man þat bore ... Of red gold upon hijs bac, Jn a male with or blac, Ne funde he non þat him misseyde N[e] with iuele on hond leyde. (Havelok the Dane, 45–50)

It is interesting to note that while this motif is not found in any of the extant earlier versions of the Havelok narrative, it does occur in the Anglo-Norman Gui de Warewic, suggesting that this traditional insular motif was absorbed at an early date into Anglo-Norman literary culture: E faite i aveit tele peis, Si hom portast d’argent sun feis, Ne trovereit robeur ne larrun Qui li tolsist vaillant un botun. (Gui de Warewic, 107–10)48

That the peace of the kingdom should be measured by the degree of safety afforded to those who travel its roads is both an appropriate and realistic notion. Travel was, as we are often reminded by medieval texts, an arduous and at times dangerous undertaking.49 It is not for nothing that the medieval tales of Robin Hood made much of the practice of robbing travellers on the roads, nor for that matter is it coincidence that Chaucer’s pilgrims travel in such a large company. For a king to keep the roads safe, then, was a pressing and difficult task. For a king to actually succeed in doing so was especially praiseworthy, and the motif of safe travel becomes a common component of constructing the image of the rex pacificus. Aside from the literary Athelwold, we find the motif used to eulogise two historical kings in the Laud manuscript version (the Peterborough Chronicle, or MS E) of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Under the entry for 1087 we find a description of the peace enforced by William I.50 After criticising the 48 Gui de Warewic, ed. Alfred Ewert, 2 vols (Paris: Champion, 1932, 1933). 49 Jean Verdon, Travel in the Middle Ages, trans. George Holoch (Notre Dame: University of Notre

Dame Press, 2003), pp. 51–4; J. J. Jusserand, English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages, trans. Lucy Toulmin Smith (London: Methuen, 1961: 1889), pp. 72ff. 50 The Peterborough Chronicle’s account of William’s reign seems to have been the source for Henry of Huntingdon’s account in his Historia Anglorum. Henry writes: ‘Pacis autem tantus auctor fuerat, quod puella auro honusta regnum Anglie pertransire posset impune’ (He had created such complete peace that a young girl, laden with gold, could travel unharmed through the kingdom of England). Henry here seems to be following the Peterborough Chronicle’s account, but, perhaps influenced by Bede’s account of the reign of King Edwin (see below), replaces the Anglo-Saxon man with puella. Henry, like many post-Conquest chroniclers, uses Bede as a source and includes Bede’s desription of Edwin’s reign in the Historia, pp. 114–15. Henry of Huntingdon, Historia Anglorum, ed. and trans. Diana Greenway (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), pp. 406–7.

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In his time were gode lawes conqueror for his harsh rule, the chronicler allows the following passage of praise: Betwyx oðrum þingum nis na to forgytane þet gode frið þe he macode on þisan lande, swa þet an man þe himsylf aht wære mihte faran ofer his rice mid his bosum full goldes, ungederad. 51 Amongst the other things that are not to be forgotten is the good peace that he made in this land, so that a respectable man could travel through his kingdom unmolested with his chest full of gold.

Although William I was largely hated by many of his English subjects owing to his abuses, it is interesting that the monastic chronicler of the Laud manuscript still confers praise upon the peace that his reign brought to England.52 The importance of the king’s enforcement of peace is highlighted by the contrast with William’s wider reputation within English sources. Later in the Laud manuscript we find a second use of this form of motif to signify a king’s peaceful rule. As part of an 1135 eulogy for Henry I, a king treated with markedly more favour by the text than William I, the chronicler records that: Wua sua bare his byrthen golde 7 sylure, durste nan man sei to him naht bute god.53 Whosoever carried his burden of gold and silver, no man dared say anything but good to him.

Here we again find a form of the motif of safe travel ensured by a strong king. While the form of the motif differs from that used to describe William I, the sentiment is the same: a man can travel the kingdom freely without fearing robbery. These two passages, despite describing the rule of a Norman and an Angevin king, occur in an explicitly English context. The Laud manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is part of a tradition of Anglo-Saxon historiography that survives the conquest, and although there are changes in the style of the post-conquest continuations, the text remains firmly within the mode and tradition of the pre-conquest chroniclers, representing an English voice and making use of insular literary traditions. 54 The earliest appearance of this motif, and the likely ultimate source for its

51 The Peterborough Chronicle: 1070–1154, ed. Cecily Clark, 2nd edn (Oxford: Clarendon Press,

1970), p. 12. 52 The chronicler’s praise of the peace of William’s reign is in stark contrast to the prevailing tone of

condemnation and distaste for William’s actions. The entire entry for 1087 is homiletic in tone, castigating the English and depicting William’s deeds, for all their ferocity, as a deserved punishment. Cf. The Peterborough Chronicle: 1070–1154, pp. lxxv–lxxviii. 53 Ibid., p. 54. 54 While the post-conquest continuations of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle demonstrate an understandable degree of linguistic and stylistic change, the mode of historiography remains much the same as before the conquest. Cf. ibid., pp. xv–lxxxvii.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance popularity, is also found in an Anglo-Saxon context. In his Historia Ecclesiastica, Bede describes the peace that held sway in the land during King Edwin’s reign.55 Bede’s account emphasises the concern of Edwin for his people, and their love and fear of him: Tanta autem eo tempore pax in Brittania, quaquauersum imperium Regis Eduini peruenerat, fuisse perhibetur ut, sicut usque hodie in prouerbio dicitur, etiam se mulier una cum recens nato paruulo totam perambulare isulam a mari ad mare, nullo se ledente ualeret. Tantum rex idem utilitati suae gentis consuluit, ut plerisque in locis, ubi fontes lucidos iuxta publicos uiarum transitus conspexit, ibi ob refrigerium uiantium erectis stipitibus aereos caucus suspendi iuberet, neque hos quisquam, nisi ad usum necessarium, contigere prae magnitudine uel timoriseius auderet uel amoris uellet.56 It is related that there was so great a peace in Britain, wherever the dominion of King Edwin reached, that, as the proverbs still runs, a woman with a new-born child could walk throughout the island from sea to sea and take no harm. The king cared so much for the good of the people that, in various places where he had noticed clear springs near the highway, he caused stakes to be set up and bronze drinking cups to be hung on them for the refreshment of travellers. No one dared to lay hands on them except for their proper purpose because they feared the king greatly nor did they wish to, because they loved him dearly.57

The motif of the via regia, here represented by the safety of the travelling mother, is considered by Bede to be proverbial, suggesting that it was a feature of both literary and oral culture in Bede’s time.58 In Bede we find the via regia motif paired with another popular feature of the rex pacificus tradition, the motif of the hanging cups.59 Whether Bede was a source for later uses of the motif is an interesting question. Considering the pervasive influ-

55 Dorothy Whitelock notes a further borrowing of Bede’s motif in ‘Wulfstan Cantor and the

56 57

58

59

Anglo-Saxon Law’, in Nordica et Anglica: Studies in Honour of Stefán Einarsson, ed. Allan H. Orrick (The Hague: Mouton, 1968), pp. 83–92 (p. 84). Ibid., Ecclesiastical History of the English People, ed. Bertram Colgrave and Roger A. B. Mynors (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969), p. 192. Bede, p. 193. Dorothy Whitelock describes Bede’s motif as ‘a variant of popular ways describing the peace created by a famous king’ (‘William of Malmesbury on the Works of King Alfred’, in Medieval Literature and Civilisation: Studies in Memory of G. N. Garmonsway, ed. D. A. Pearsall and R. A. Waldron (London: Athlone Press, 1969), pp. 78–93 (p. 84)). Corinne Saunders, in her discussion of rape in medieval literature, has commented that ‘although Bede does not explicitly mention rape, his description of the woman’s safety seems to suggest the impossibility of sexual assault during Edwin’s reign. This safety becomes an emblem of the saintliness of the king and the spiritual well-being of his realm . . .’ (Rape and Ravishment in the Literature of Medieval England (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2001), p. 42). This motif also has a long tradition within Anglo-Saxon and Germanic culture. A variation of this motif, that of a king hanging valuable rings of gold in public to demonstrate the strength of his peace, is used to describe the reigns of, among others, King Alfred by William of Malmesbury, King Athelstan in the Annales Wittonia, and Duke Rollo of Normandy in William of Jumièges’ Gesta Normannorum Ducum.

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In his time were gode lawes ence of the Historia Ecclesiastica on later English historiography, it is possible that texts such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle may well have made use of the motif. Whether this influence extended as far as the romances is more questionable, and it may be that the motif enjoyed an independent life within oral culture, acting as a popular form of describing a king ’s peace. Judith McClure suggests that Bede seems to have been using a biblical model for this passage: Like the Hebrew editors of the Acts of Solomon, he added to his description of the peace and prosperity which were the result of Edwin’s victories what he claimed was a current proverb: in his reign a mother could cross the island unharmed with her baby. Similar conditions obtained under the powerful king Solomon, heir to the conquests of David. 60

However, while McClure is no doubt correct in her conclusion that Bede was influenced by the biblical passages describing the peace of Solomon’s rule, the via regia motif differs in its use of travel as the primary signifier of such peace. In the absence of a direct biblical parallel, the source of the via regia motif must lie in the wider Anglo-Saxon culture. If Bede is to be believed when he writes that the motif is a current proverb, the motif may also be of venerable antiquity; moreover, it can be traced within an English tradition from Bede’s time to the fourteenth-century Havelok and Guy. The biblical model of the rex pacificus seems to have been a popular one among Anglo-Saxon writers, and became an established kingship typological model. The popularity of the motif of the via regia suggests a strong connection within Anglo-Saxon and post-conquest English culture between peace and the safety of the king’s roads. As a significant component of the poetic lexicon used to construct images of the rex pacificus, the motif of the via regia seems to reflect an important social concern within English and wider Germanic culture. To place this motif within a wider cultural context, it is useful to consider its sentiments alongside those found in other sources, such as the chronicles and Anglo-Saxon legal codes that were produced in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. One well-known example of the insular concern with the security of the roads is found in Henry of Huntingdon. Henry’s account of the ‘King’s four highways’ has recently been subject to a valuable critique by Alan Cooper,

60 Judith McClure, ‘Bede’s Old Testament Kings’, in Ideal and Reality in Frankish and Anglo-Saxon

Society: Studies Presented to J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, ed. Patrick Wormald, Donald Bullough and Roger Collins (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983), pp. 76–98. McClure suggests that I Kings iv.21 and 24–5 are potential influences on Bede. The Vulgate text reads: ‘21: And Solomon had under him all the kingdoms from the river to the land of the Phillistines, even to the border of Egypt: and they brought him presents, and served him, all the days of his life. 24: For he had all the country which was beyond the river, from Thaphsa to Gazan, and all the kings of those countries: and he had peace on every side all about. 25: And Juda and Israel dwelt without any fear, every one under his vine, and under his fig tree, from Dan to Bersabee, all the days of Solomon’ (The Holy Bible: Douay Version (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1956)).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance who has demonstrated that the concept is a twelfth-century imaginative legal concoction: it is from twelfth-century accounts of the pre-conquest laws that Henry seems to have constructed his concept of the ‘Four Highways’.61 Wormald, writing of the ‘peace of the four roads’, observes that Henry ‘picks up the strand in early-twelfth-century legal treatises that dwelt upon the variety of English customs; roads and their peace were another of their obsessions’.62 Although ‘the contrast with genuine Anglo-Saxon material is marked’, Henry seems to be articulating the tradition that viewed the AngloSaxon period as the origin of laws that made explicit the concern with the peace of the roads.63 The ‘peace of the four roads’ becomes a popular motif in the twelfth-century legal codes. In the laws of Æthelred there is a pronouncement regarding ‘assault on the “king’s road” ’, while the Leis Willelme notes that assaults committed on the king’s roads constitute a breach of the king’s peace.64 The Leges Henrici Primi, a collection of laws that date from the early twelfth century but which remained of interest throughout the Middle Ages, claims to contain the laws that were current and applicable during the reign of Henry I.65 The laws contained in the Leges Henrici represent a mixture of Anglo-Saxon and post-conquest law, and it seems that the author of the Leges Henrici ‘made a conscious effort to record law which was up to date and valid’.66 The Leges Henrici presents an image of English law at the time of Henry I, but remains of interest throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, demonstrating a prolonged interest in the origins and practice of the Anglo-Saxon laws. On the subject of the via regia, the Leges Henrici records the following laws: 10,2 Omnes herestrete omnino Regis sunt, et omnia qualstowa, id est occidendorum loca, totaliter Regis sunt in soca sua.67 10,2 All highways are completely the concern of the king, and all cwalstow, that is places of execution, are wholly within the king’s own jurisdiction. 80,2 Si in uia regia fiat assultus super aliquem, forstel est et solidus emendetur regi maxime si ibi calumpniam habeat ut diuadietur uel retineatur ibi malefactor, uel si est in socna regis.68 61 Alan Cooper, ‘The King’s Four Highways: Legal Fiction meets Fictional Law’, Journal of Medi-

eval History, 26.4 (December 2000), 351–70. 62 Wormald, The Making of English Law, I, p. 140, cf. pp. 409–13. 63 Henry writes that ‘Britain was so dear to its inhabitants that they constructed four highways in it,

64 65 66 67 68

from one end to the other, built by royal authority, so that no one would dare attack an enemy on them.’ He then goes on to list these roads: Icknield Way, Ermine Street, Watling Street and the Fosse Way (Henry of Huntingdon, pp. 22–5). IV Æthelred 1–4: 2, and Leis Willelme 17–17:3, 26, cited in Wormald, The Making of English Law, I, p. 371 and p. 409. The surviving manuscripts of the Leges date from the early thirteenth to the mid-fourteenth centuries (Leges Henrici Primi, ed. L. J. Downer (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 1). Ibid., p. 5. Ibid., pp. 108–9. Ibid., pp. 248–9.

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In his time were gode lawes 80,2 If an assault is made on anyone on the king’s highway, this is the offence of forestel, and compensation amounting to one hundred shillings shall be paid to the king, especially if the wrongdoer is accused on the spot with the consequence that he is released on giving security for future appearance or is there held under detention, or if he is for other reasons under the king’s jurisdiction.

The king’s highway is constructed legally as an extension of the king’s personal peace, and assaults within this jurisdiction are punished as a particular type of crime, forestel. The peace of the via regia, as we have seen in the romances, is established as an important matter that is of royal concern. Forestel is an interesting crime, defined in the Leges Henrici as occurring ‘if someone attacks his enemy unexpectedly or lies in wait for him on the road and assaults him. But if he waits until he has passed and calls out to him, so that he returns to meet him, it is not forestel if he (the person waiting) acts in self-defence.’69 The definition of forestel in the Leges Henrici seems to support the notion that the peace of the via regia was envisaged to protect the honest traveller, as it permits violence, but only in self-defence. The peace of the king’s roads is also one of the foci of the Leges Edwardi Confessoris. Produced in England sometime before the middle of the twelfth century, the Leges Edwardi does not seem to be a translation of Anglo-Saxon laws, like the Leges Henrici or the Quadripartitus, but seems to consist of ‘apparently original observations of and comments on the English law of the author’s day’.70 Although the text purports to represent the Anglo-Danish laws that William I adopted from King Edward, the laws found in the Leges Edwardi are in no way a full account of those that were current in England in the years following the conquest. Rather they represent a selective account of the state of the mid-twelfth-century legal landscape, focusing on those laws that represent ‘the types of legally established peace and security that the Church and king had power to create and administer.’71 The Leges Edwardi contain a useful definition of the ‘peace of the four roads’: [12] Pax regia muliplex est: alia data manu sua, quam Angli uocant kinges hand salde grid; [12a] alia die qua primum corontaus est, ipsa habet viii dies; in Natali Domini viii dies et octo dies Pasche et octo Penetecostes; [12b] alia per breue suum data; [12c] alia quam habent iiii chemini, id est Watlingestrete, Fosse, Hykenildstrete, Erningstrete, quorum duo in longitudinem regni, alii uero in latitudinem distenduntur. 72

69 Ibid., p. 249, passages 80,4 and 80,4a. See further, F. E. Harmer (ed.), Anglo-Saxon Writs

(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1952), p. 81 and Naomi Hurnard, ‘The Anglo-Norman Franchises’, English Historical Review, 64 (1944), 289–327 (p. 307). 70 Bruce O’Brien, God’s Peace and King’s Peace: The Laws of Edward the Confessor (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), p. 29. 71 Ibid., p. 36. 72 Ibid., pp. 168–9.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance [12] There are many types of the king’s peace; one is given by his hand, which the English call kinges hand salde grid; [12a] another [is given] on the day on which he is first crowned – this one last for eight days; at Christmas eight days and eight days at Easter and eight days at Pentecost; [12b] another is given by his writ; [12c] another which the four roads have, that is Watling Street, Fosse Way, Iknield Way, and Ermine Street, of which two extend for the length of the kingdom, the others across the width.

In the Leges Edwardi the peace of the via regia is defined as an extension of the power of the king’s peace. Having begun as a statement of the inviolability of the king’s person and palace under the early Anglo-Saxon kings, the concept had developed by the eleventh century to cover a number of different royal protections.73 This peace, as a tangible extension of the king’s royal person, provided protection for his subjects in specific geographical and temporal situations. The tradition of the peace of the via regia that we find in the romances seems to stem from the ‘peace of the four roads’ that we find in the chronicles and law-codes, a peace that seems to have existed both within pre- and post-conquest English law. 74 Both Havelok and Guy of Warwick make use of a motif that has a demonstrable provenance within historical and ‘remembered’ Anglo-Saxon culture.75 It seems to be significant that these two post-conquest texts exploit a literary motif that has a strong legal connection with the past that they are in the process of re-creating. The motif of the safety of the via regia holds an important place in the long history of literary constructions of the rex pacificus, and it is from this textual history, and in all probability a parallel oral tradition, that these two texts draw their images of the Anglo-Saxon past.

English Law and English Identity Havelok the Dane presents a construction of legal space that differentiates the two lands of England and Denmark. In Havelok legal difference is an important element of the construction of Anglo-Saxon England. Or should that perhaps be ‘of the Anglo-Saxon English’? Is legal affinity, as constructed in these texts, a quality of geography or of ethnicity? The ninth-century canonist Regino of Prüm provides a possible answer to this when he defines ethnicity

73 Ibid., p. 73. 74 A post-conquest manifestation of this concern can be seen in Edward I’s Winchester Statutes of

1285, which ordered that each side of royal roads must be cleared for a space of 200 feet in order that there be no cover for potential ambushers to hide. This responsibility fell upon the owners of the land through which the roads passed (Jusserand, pp. 76–7). 75 It might also be noted that, in their use of such a well-known historiographical motif, the romances of Havelok the Dane and Guy of Warwick can be seen as furthering their claims to be read as histories in their own right. As I have argued in Chapter 3, these texts are integrated into many chronicle histories of the English past, and their use of such a motif may well have been another legitimising device for their own accounts of the history of pre-conquest England.

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In his time were gode lawes in terms of four categories: ‘The various nations differ in descent, customs, language and law.’76 Robert Bartlett recounts the medieval principle of the ‘personality of the law’, which allocated each person their own ethnic law, regardless of where they lived or whom they served, and it is clear that during the Middle Ages ‘distinctive legal status was one way of recognizing or constituting separate ethnicity’.77 This was certainly the case within the British Isles. In certain border areas, those of Welsh origin were subject to Welsh law rather than English law: ‘In 1356 the duke of Lancaster confirmed that the Welsh of Kidwelly should be tried and fined according to the law of Hywel Dda – that is, native Welsh law.’78 This fourteenth-century legal relativism followed a long tradition of ethnically based English law: in the Anglo-Saxon period the laws of Wessex and Mercia operated alongside those of the Danelaw, and Doris Stenton notes the different laws that pertained to the English and the French in the reign of William I: Englishmen appealed of a crime by Normans were allowed to choose either ordeal or the duel. A Frenchman appealed of crime by an Englishman who was unwilling to submit to proof by ‘judgement or the duel, must purge himself by an unbroken oath.’79

Faced with the complicating factor of this ethnic legal relativism, how can England be constructed as a discrete legal space? This identity dilemma seems to be a concern addressed by the romances through their construction of English legal space. We have seen in Havelok that English legal process exists most strongly within the geographical bounds of Athelwold’s realm, and that while Havelok seems to carry some elements of English legal practice with him to Denmark, the foreign is constructed as essentially Other in regard to law. This attitude towards the distinctiveness of England and its laws can also be seen in Horn Childe during Horn’s exile from England: Houlac king wald nere wede, Þere he sat opon his seghe, & seyd, ‘Traitour, fle!’ Horn tok his leue & ede ... Wiard rode souþe & Horn rode west; To Wales Horn com atte lest: Wel long er þai [t]o mete. (Horn Childe, 589–92, 610–2) 80 76 Robert Bartlett, The Making of Europe (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993), p. 197: ‘diversae

nationes populorum inter se discrepant genere, moribus, lingua, legibus’. 77 Ibid., p. 204. 78 Ibid., p. 208. Cf. R. R. Davies, ‘Law and Identity in Thirteenth-Century Wales’, in Welsh Society

and Nationhood: Historical Essays Presented to Glanmor Williams, ed. R. R. Davies et al. (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1984), pp. 51–69. 79 Stenton, p. 6. 80 Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild, ed. Maldwyn Mills (Heidelberg: Winter, 1988).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance As Horn leaves England following his banishment by King Houlac, he adopts a new name, Godebounde. Secure within his new identity, Horn rides west towards Wales, a common destination of exiled Englishmen. Horn’s first encounter in Wales is with a knight who bars the road and challenges him to either fight or yield his possessions. Horn, accustomed to the laws of England, attempts to assert his rights of free passage, claiming that Ful leue me were to ride (621). The Welsh knight, either unwilling or unaccustomed to consider such claims, does not answer, but simply takes up his lance and charges. Denied his appeal to the rule of English law, Horn reluctantly enters into the lawless nature of this new realm and defeats the challenging knight. Following his victory, Horn interrogates the defeated knight as to the nature of his land. When he is asked about the Welsh king, the knight replies that Our kinges name is Elidan: / In al Wales is þer nan / So strong a man as he; (646–8). In contrast to the depictions of English royal rule that we have seen in Havelok and Guy, the Welsh King Elidan’s rule is based solely upon martial and physical strength.81 There is a clear opposition constructed here between Houlac’s England, where Horn is taught Þe lawes boþe eld & newe (274),82 and the demonstrably lawless Wales. 83 Wales is constructed as a legal vacuum in Horn Childe, providing an environment in which Horn can enter into the martial world of the adventuring knight without being troubled by notions of legality. The process of proving oneself and gaining martial glory is by necessity one that is often problematic in terms of its relationship with the law, and this is reflected in the way in which the heroes of the Matter of England romances leave England, either by choice or necessity, in order to undertake the aventures that will win them fame.84 England seems to be envisaged in these romances as a lawful realm where such aventures are rare. It is only once the protagonists have undertaken such deeds in foreign lands, and reached a state of chivalric maturity, that they can return to England to address more serious issues of national or patrimonial importance. The nature of Horn’s exile raises a number of further legal issues. While 81 The tradition of characterising the rule of Celtic kings as being based on violence rather than law

was a well-established one. Gerald of Wales writes that the Irish kings ‘obtained the monarchy only by force and arms’ (Gerald of Wales, Topography of Ireland, trans. J. J. O’Meara (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982), pp. 170–1, cited in Robert Bartlett, Gerald of Wales: 1146– 1223 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982), p. 164). John Gillingham discusses William of Malmesbury’s perception of the Welsh in ‘The Beginnings of English Imperialism’, in his The English in the Twelfth Century: Imperialism, National Identity and Political Values (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2000), pp. 1–18 (pp. 10–11). 82 While lawes can sometimes carry the meaning of ‘styles or modes’ (MED sv. laue n. 9 (d)) rather than laws, Mills points out that in this case rit (273) supports a legal reading of lawes (p. 122). 83 Bartlett discusses Gerald of Wales’s construction of Wales as a lawless and anarchic land (Bartlett, Gerald of Wales, pp. 162–4). 84 Of course, French writers construct England in a similar way, as can be seen in Chrétien de Troyes, Cligés (in Arthurian Romances, trans. William W. Kibler (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991), pp. 123–206). This seems to be a case of a general principle by which ‘abroad’ is constructed as dangerous, while home is familiar, known, and safe.

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In his time were gode lawes out hunting, King Houlac is informed by the treacherous Wikard and Wikel that Horn has been sleeping with the king’s daughter Rimneld.85 This lesing drives the king into a rage, and he draws his sword and cries that Horn schuld be slan (506). However, his knights petition him, and when Horn comes before him he decides to exile him instead: ‘Traitour, þou hast tresoun wrout; Tomorwe if Y þe finde, Bi mi croun þou schalt be slawe, Wiþ wilde hors al todrawe & seþþen on galwes hing.’ (Horn Childe, 560–4)

Perhaps Houlac’s decision to exile Horn rather than have him executed reflects the increasing reliance upon exile rather than execution as a punishment for treason during the later Middle Ages.86 This practice seems to have grown in popularity as the weregeld system declined, and provided an alternative to execution that was of great utility, especially when dealing with noble traitors. Bruce O’Brien, commenting upon the laws in the Leges Edwardi that govern what was known as ‘abjuration of the realm’, notes that ‘copious evidence attests to the fact that, under the Angevins, abjuration became a favoured mechanism for disposing of homicides and other felons’.87 Beues of Hamtoun is another English hero who is forced into such an exile by an English king. In Beues’s case it is not a romantic tryst that is the cause of the king’s displeasure, but rather the accidental death of King Edgar’s son. Upon his return from the marvellous East, Beues brings with him his renowned horse, Arondel, a magnificent and, above all else, loyal steed. In fact, Arondel’s loyalty is such that he will allow only Beues to ride him. The reputation of his steed is enhanced still further when Arondel carries Beues to victory in a summer race amongst the knights of Edgar’s court. Unfortunately, and not for the first time in the romance, Arondel becomes the object of conflict. King Edgar’s son, the prince, much taken by the magnificent steed, demands that Beues gives Arondel to him: Meche men preisede is stede þo, For he hadde so wel igo; Þe prince bad, a scholde it him eue: ‘Nay,’ queþ Beues, ‘so mot y leue,

85 This crime, with its potential both to impinge upon the value of the woman in terms of marriage and

dynastic succession, is defined as treason (Bellamy, pp. 226–8). 86 For a discussion of the process of ‘abjuring the realm’, see Jusserand, p. 83. 87 O’Brien, p. 82. The Leges Edwardi state that: ‘However, a murderer or a traitor, according to this

law, will not in any way remain in the country if the king grants life and limb to them, but they will swear that they will travel to the sea in the time which the justice set for them and cross it as quickly as they can have ship and wind’ (O’Brien, p. 177; cf. Naomi Hurnard, The King’s Pardon for Homicide before AD. 1307 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969), pp. 5–18).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Þou þow wost me take an honde Al þe hors of Ingelonde!’ (Auchinleck Beues of Hamtoun, 3543–8)88

However, the prince does not intend to be denied. He waits until later that evening, and while Beues is busy in hall carrying out his duties as the King’s marshal, he attempts to steal the horse. However, Arondel is not accustomed to allowing any man to handle him except for his master, and kicks out at the prince when he tries to untie him: And þo Arondel, fot hot Wiþ his hint fot he him smot And to-daschte al is brain. Þus was þe kinges sone slain. (Auchinleck Beues of Hamtoun, 3561–4)

King Edgar, upon hearing of the death of his son and heir, descends into a fury and demands that Beues be punished, and swor, for þat wronge / Þat Beues scholde ben an-honge / & to-drawe wiþ wilde fole (3567–9). To be hung and drawn by wild horses is of course a fit end for a traitor, but, fortunately for Beues, his peers among the baronage decide that this punishment would not be legal.89 In a similar manner to the knights in Horn Childe, Beues’s peers it nolde nou t þole / & seide, hii mi te do him no wors, / Boute lete hongen is hors (3570–2). This episode, expressing as it does baronial influence or moderation of the king’s power, highlights a key tenet of English law as constructed in the romances – that the king does not have free reign to judge and to impose punishment entirely as he wishes.90 As we have seen in Havelok, and as is discussed more fully below in my examination of Athelston, treason (and the killing of a royal heir is of course such) is properly a concern not only of the king but also of his parliament. As we have seen in Horn Childe, the king’s initial rash judgment condemning the traitor to death is commuted through the advice of his nobles into a lesser punishment. Complicating things still further here are the details of the case – after all, it is not Beues accused of the crime but his horse.91 The vagaries of animal trials 88 Sir Beues of Hamtoun, ed. Eugen Kölbing, EETS 46, 48, 65 (London: Kegan Paul, 1885–94). 89 Hanging and drawing was a common punishment for treason in England during the later Middle

Ages (Thomas S. R. Boase, Death in the Middle Ages: Mortality, Judgment and Remembrance (London: Thames & Hudson, 1972), p. 16). Bellamy notes that: ‘To draw a man to the gallows for execution had always been the hall-mark of treason . . .’ (p. 18). 90 Susan Crane argues that that this amelioration of royal power is a reflex of baronial concerns: ‘Magna Carta sought not to re-establish freer relations between king and barons, but to incorporate the king into his own legal system, to restrain him, too, within the fine new net of law he had cast around his barons’ (pp. 20–1). This is not a matter that is exclusive to the Matter of England romances, but it does seem to be one with which they are especially concerned. 91 Richard Firth Green writes that ‘such stories were not restricted to romance: Frederick II is reported to have had one of his falcons judicially condemned for killing a young eagle’ (A Crisis of Truth: Literature and Law in Ricardian England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,

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In his time were gode lawes and the legal responsibility of owners were no less complex during the medieval period than they are today. Richard Firth Green, commenting upon the treatment of such animal trials in England, tells us that English legal sources offer no such evidence of the ascription of culpability to animals as the Sachsenspiegel’s provision (3.1.1; 195) that all living creatures present at a rape were to be beheaded (presumably they were felt to be at fault for not raising the alarm).92

Green argues that, from medieval common law’s treatment of animal owners, we can see something of the popular attitudes towards the issue: Early law seems generally to have assigned liability solely to the offending animal itself and held its owner free of any direct responsibility for its wrongs; we hear of animals punished by death, mutilation, or even banishment, while their owners enter the picture only where they have actively assisted in the crime or sought to protect the criminal.93

Edgar’s parliament seems to be upholding this legal principle, permitting the king to punish only the horse, not Beues himself. However, the king’s judgment becomes of little significance – Beues refuses to accept that Arondel should be hung and chooses to leave England as an exile to avoid the punishment. This alerts us once again to the geographical limitation of English law: that its jurisdiction is limited to England. The medieval practice of abjuring the realm, so popular in England during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, operates in Beues as an opportunity for the text to comment upon the abuse of royal power. Beues’s self-imposed exile stands as the ultimate act of condemnation: by abandoning both England and its laws for the East, Beues highlights the medieval belief that a king must embody both the laws and customs of his realm: if he fails to do so, this makes not only the king, but also the kingdom, despicable. Both Horn and Beues are exiled for crimes that can be described as treason, Beues by his own choice and Horn at the command of King Houlac. In their exile both Horn and Beues discover that law does not seem to operate in other realms as it does in England. As we have noted in Havelok, in Beues and Horn Childe we can see a construction of the double-edged geographical jurisdiction of English law: beyond England the romance hero is safe from legal sanction, but at the same time he loses the protections that English law confers. In the romances English law is limited to England, unlike the situation in the historical Middle Ages where, as Robert Bartlett tells us, ‘individuals had their own ethnic law . . . regardless of the territory they inhabited or the lord

1999), p. 422). For a detailed discussion of this case, see Ernst H. Kantorowicz, Frederick the Second, 1194–1250, trans. E. O. Lorimor (London: Constable, 1931), p. 347. 92 A Crisis of Truth, pp. 303–4. 93 Ibid., p. 304.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance they served’.94 This allows these narratives to construct an image of English law as being specific to England, and more particularly specific to Anglo-Saxon England. This marks out England, and the English, from the rest of the romance world. Endowed with a legal heritage of demonstrated provenance and virtue, law becomes a powerful element in the creation of an English Identity, standing as a point of differentiation for the Anglo-Saxon England of the romances and, vicariously, for the post-conquest England of their audiences. This thematic concern within the Matter of England romances reflects the wider cultural reputation of the Anglo-Saxon past as the temporal genesis of English law, and contributes to the idea of Anglo-Saxon England as an English legal golden age.

Legal Archaisms: The Oath and the Judicium Dei Thus far I have been writing of English law in a very general sense. As we have seen above, English law had by the fourteenth century become a mixture of Anglo-Saxon law and post-conquest legal innovation. However, English law as presented within the romances is not simply the law of the late Middle Ages, nor is it that of the Anglo-Saxon past. English law, as presented in the romances, seems to reflect the trend that we have seen in the post-conquest law-codes such as the Leges Henrici and the Leges Edwardi, and is constructed as a commentary upon contemporary law. Richard Firth Green observes that ‘the prominence given to archaic legal forms, such things as ordeal and trial by battle, in the literature of the late Middle Ages is very striking, and it can be only partly explained by the dramatic potential inherent in such procedures’.95 The Matter of England romances make particular use of two of these ‘archaic legal forms’: the institution of the oath and that of the judicial combat. The importance of the idea and practice of the oath within English law has been highlighted by Green in his study A Crisis of Truth. Discussing the use of the oath within Havelok, he argues that it is Godrich’s oath to Athelwold, and his subsequent equivocal attitude towards this oath, that lies at the heart of his treachery: In Havelok, Earl Godric,96 summoned by the dying Athelwold, solemnly swears to protect the king’s young daughter until she is old enough to marry. Like his Anglo-Saxon and Frankish predecessors, the king makes Godric swear upon sacred objects, and his oath too (‘Withuten lac, withuten tel’) has formulaic qualities. . . . Later Earl Godric thinks that he has found a way

94 Bartlett, The Making of Europe, p. 204. 95 ‘Medieval Literature and Law’, p. 426. 96 Green prefers Godric to Godrich.

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In his time were gode lawes to reconcile his own dynastic ambitions with the terms of this oath when he stumbles over a hulking young porter called Havelok. 97

Godrich’s equivocation, of course, is no defence against a charge of treachery, and, as Green notes, ‘there is poetic justice in the fact that when he fights the betrayer of King Athelwold’s trust, Havelok should sever Godric’s hand . . . the lack of a right hand will prevent trothplight on a Bible or a holy relic’.98 By removing Godrich’s hand Havelok removes him irrevocably from the community of trustworthy men, those who could swear trothplight. The importance of the oath in English law cannot be overestimated. At the very foundation of the law stood the oath: ‘first, it is most necessary that we should instruct each man to keep faithfully his oath and compact’ reads the very first of Alfred’s laws.99 The oath lay at the core of judicial practice, governing contracts, accusations, and legal defences. Not only did the oath govern law and justice, it also acted as a social adhesive, locking medieval society together in a series of reciprocal oaths. Green discusses the institution of manrede that is found in Havelok: And siþen shal Ich understonde Of you, after lawe of londe, Manrede and holde-oþes boþe. (Havelok the Dane, 2815–7) The swearing of the hold-oath would have been accompanied by the solemn ritual of manrede (later, the Norman act of homage). . . . The hold-oath evidently defined a bilateral commitment that imposed binding conditions on both parties. . . . By Edward I’s day the Anglo-Saxon hold-oath . . . had turned into the far less egalitarian Anglo-Norman oath of fealty, yet the ethos to which it attested still lingered on in the popular imagination.100

Godrich’s breaking of the oath not only threatens Goldeboro’s succession, but also the very bonds that bind English society together. Havelok seems to express a sense of nostalgia for the Anglo-Saxon hold-oath, perhaps looking back to a time when the oath was of more importance than it had become by the fourteenth century. A respect for the institution of the oath can be seen in the Matter of England romances to operate as a marker of English identity. Although English law is limited in its jurisdiction to England, the law operates outside England as an important signifier of English identity. A personal respect for

97 98 99

A Crisis of Truth, p. 61. Ibid., p. 54. F. Liebermann (ed.), Die Gesetze der Angelsachen, 3 vols (Sindelfingen: Scientia Aalen, 1960), I, p. 166, cited in Green, A Crisis of Truth, p. 62. 100 A Crisis of Truth, p. 210. Commenting upon Chaucer’s writings, Paul Strohm discusses further the debasement of sworn relationships in post-feudal society in Social Chaucer (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 102–9. Ad Putter also comments upon the perceived weakening of social bonds in the late fourteenth century in his study, An Introduction to the Gawain Poet (London: Longman, 1996), pp. 44–5.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance the tenets of English law is one method used to characterise those English heroes, such as Guy of Warwick, who spend a great deal of time in other lands. As an English knight, Guy’s character has been shaped by English law, and he carries its influence with him on his travels throughout Europe and the East. Guy’s experiences while out of England are many and varied, but the following episode from the Auchinleck Guy of Warwick demonstrates Guy’s innate respect the institution of the oath. As we have seen in Chapter 3, Guy is involved in a judicial combat against the giant Amoraunt. At the beginning of the fight Amoraunt questions Guy, who is masquerading as a pilgrim named Youn, about his identity: ‘Tel me,’ he seyd, ‘wennes þou be; For þou art strong, so mot y the, & of michel mit.’ Sir Gij answerd, ‘wiþ-outen bost, Cristen icham, wele þou wost, Of Inglond born, y plit. (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 110:1–6)

Naming is of course an important act of identity creation, and Guy establishes from the outset his Englishness – an element of his identity that he feels compelled to preserve, despite the fact that he has effaced the primary signifier of his identity, his name, in the service of God. Guy’s uncompromising respect for the sanctity of the oath is illustrated in his response to Amoraunt’s offer of mercy during their judicial combat. After reneging on his oath to allow Guy to refresh himself with water from the river, which Guy had earlier allowed Amoraunt to do, the giant offers to spare Guy’s life if he submits: ‘Ac do now wele & vnarme þe, & trewelich eld þou þe to me: Oliue y lat þe gon. & if þou wilt nout do bi mi red Þou schalt dye on iuel ded: Rit now y schal þe slon.’ (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 123: 1–6)

Guy’s reply is emphatically negative: ‘Nay,’ seyd Gij, ‘þat war no lawe: Ich hadde leuer to ben to-drawe Þan swiche a dede to don. Ar ich wald creaunt eld me Ich hadde leuer an-hanged be, & brent boþe flesche & bon.’ (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 123: 7–12)

Presented with Amoraunt’s offer of mercy if he foregoes the combat, Guy rejects the offer out-of-hand. He would rather die a traitor’s death – being 120

In his time were gode lawes hung, drawn and burnt – than become a creaunt. Guy considers his oath, even an oath to a pagan such as King Triamour, as being of primary importance: more important even than his own death. þat war no lawe he replies to the giant’s offer, indicating that to forswear an oath is not allowed under his, English, code of behaviour. Creaunt, the word uttered by a defeated knight to indicate his withdrawing of his judicial oath, is of course extremely important here. Rannulf de Glanville, Henry II’s justiciar, refuses even to write the word, describing it as ‘that dreadful and ignominious word that so disgracefully sounds from the mouth of the vanquished champion’.101 For Guy, to renounce his oath, to utter and hence become creaunt, would be the linguistic equivalent of Godrich’s manual amputation – it would remove him from the society of oath-worthy men. Guy exhibits a respect for the institution of the oath that transcends geographical limits and locates English legal affinity within Guy’s own conception of English identity. A respect for the idea of the oath goes beyond being a simple marker of English law in Guy of Warwick, and becomes part of what defines Guy as English. The concern with oaths that we see in Havelok and Guy of Warwick reflects a wider social concern with the changing importance of the oath in English law. The crime of perjury was one of the most serious that a man could commit under English law, as can be seen in the late-thirteenth-century Mirror of Justices, which places perjurers at the top of its list of ‘De Infamis’, ahead of ‘grave-robbers, brothel-keepers, and corrupters of nuns’.102 As English law moved away from the orally founded folklaw towards an increasingly literate model of legal practice, the institution of the oath became entangled within what Green has called ‘a kind of formalized equivocation that often dispensed something very different from equitable justice’.103 The romances look back to the Anglo-Saxon era as a time in which the oath operated as an indicator of a man’s honour, rather than as an equivocal tool of the lawyer. Another ‘archaic legal form’ that is prominent in the romances is the institution of trial by combat. While the institution of the oath has a genuine Anglo-Saxon provenance, the same cannot be said for the judicial duel. The institution of trial by combat only became part of the English legal landscape

101 ‘The Legal Treatise Known as “Glanville” ’, in English Historical Documents, Volume II:

1042–1189, ed. David C. Douglas and George W. Greenaway (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1953), pp. 462–79 (p. 467). The power of the word crea[u]nt permeates much medieval literature: in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight the Green Knight warns Gawain of the consequences to his reputation if he fails to meet him in the green chapel in a year and a day: Þerfore com, oþer recreaunt be calde þe behoues (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, ed. J. R. R. Tolkien and E. V. Gordon, 2nd edn rev. N. Davis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 13, line 456). Helen Cooper comments upon the use of recreant in Malory, noting that while it ‘need mean no more than “overcome”, . . . it was also recognized as being one of the most opprobrious terms in Middle English . . .’ (Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur, ed. Helen Cooper (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 534, n. 28). 102 The Mirror of Justices, ed. William J. Whittaker (London: Selden Society, 1895), pp. 133–4. 103 A Crisis of Truth, p. 120.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance after it was introduced by William I in 1067. Trial by combat was one of the few legal innovations to be immediately introduced, and that it was new to the English is suggested by a document commissioned by the conqueror that describes the process in great detail.104 The legal novelty of trial by battle is further suggested by the fact that the law was applied differently for the English and the French within England. Doris Stenton sums the situation up when she observes that Englishmen appealed of a crime by Normans were allowed to choose either ordeal or the duel.105 A Frenchman appealed of crime by an Englishman who was unwilling to submit to proof ‘by judgement or the duel, must purge himself by an unbroken oath’.106

An Englishman accused of a crime could choose to avoid the duel in favour of an ordeal if he so wished, suggesting that the English were not familiar with the process. Pollock and Maitland see this as further evidence that the judicium Dei did not exist in England prior to 1067.107 Not only was the institution of trial by combat not in origin English, but it had also by the early fourteenth century come to be considered an outmoded legal practice.108 If trial by combat had become, as Green suggests, ‘a rare necessity reluctantly embarked upon in exceptional circumstances’, then how do we account for its popularity in romance? 109 Aside from the obvious potential for dramatic effect, one possible reason for the popularity of the judicial combat is the incontrovertible nature of its mode of legal proof. As a form of the ordeal, the judicial combat appealed not to the complex legal proofs of fourteenth-century law, but drew its authority

104 Wormald, The Making of English Law, I, p. 399. Also see Robert Bartlett, Trial by Fire and

Water: The Medieval Judicial Ordeal (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986), p. 104. 105 That the trial by combat was primarily a Norman, rather than an English, custom is illustrated in

106 107 108

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the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman Romance of Horn: when Horn is accused of treason (of sleeping with the king’s daughter Rigmel), King Hunlaf demands that he prove his innocence by swearing an oath. Horn refuses, on the grounds that ‘it is not the custom among those of my race. . . . So long as he is whole in body, if he is accused of anything, he refutes it in combat: this is how the right is determined’ (‘Romance of Horn’, in The Birth of Romance: an Anthology, ed. and trans. Judith Weiss (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1992), pp. 1–120 (p. 45)). Stenton, p. 6. Sir Frederick Pollock and F. William Maitland, The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, 2nd edn, 2 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), I, p. 50. Green, A Crisis of Truth, p. 80. Trial by ordeal, either in the form of a test or by battle, had in fact been officially abolished by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, but the practice continued unsanctioned by the church until at least the late fourteenth century (Peter Brown, ‘Society and the Supernatural: A Medieval Change’, Dædalus, 104.2 (Spring 1975), 133–51 (p. 136); G. R. Evans, Law and Theology in the Middle Ages (London: Routledge, 2002), p. 141). The institution did, as Green observes, experience a revival in the late fourteenth century following the judicial duel of Annesley v. Katrington on 7 June, 1380. This judicium Dei, fought under the auspices of the Court of Chivalry, established a worrying revival of the procedure that led to its attempted suppression by Parliament under Acts of 1384 and 1389 (Richard Firth Green, ‘Palamon’s Appeal of Treason in the Knight’s Tale’, in The Letter of the Law, pp. 104–14 (pp. 109–13)). Green, A Crisis of Truth, p. 81.

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In his time were gode lawes directly from the divine. Green notes that nostalgia for the ordeal can also be seen in other legal texts: Those dissatisfied with the dilatoriness and uncertainty of legal process in the late Middle Ages, however, looked back with longing to what they no doubt imagined had been the simple and incontrovertible proof offered by the ordeal: ‘it is an abuse’, the author of The Mirror of Justices declares flatly, ‘that proofs and purgations are not made by miracle of God when no other proof can be had.’110

As a legal institution, trial by combat was viewed as part of the ‘good old law’, and despite the fact that it had never in fact been a part of Anglo-Saxon legal practice, it became associated with the Anglo-Saxon period due to the established cultural tradition of the Anglo-Saxon legal golden age. In the Matter of England romances, trial by combat features most strongly in Guy of Warwick. Guy endeavours to undertake four such battles during the romance, and within this series we can see a progression in the seriousness of their purpose. The first use of trial by battle occurs during Guy’s defence of Constantinople. While defending the city, Guy also finds time to become embroiled in the subterfuges of the emperor’s steward, Morgadour. After repeated attempts to implicate Guy in a love-tryst with the emperor’s daughter Clarice, the treacherous steward manipulates Guy into volunteering for the near-suicidal task of acting as an envoy to the sultan.111 Upon arriving at the Saracen camp, Guy enters the sultan’s pavilion and addresses the sultan and his court, demanding that the Saracens leave off their siege and flee the land (3889–915). Guy then proposes that the sultan finde a Sarrazin oþer a kni t (3916) to fight him in order to determine who has the right in the dispute over the sovereignty of Constantinople. Significantly, the emperor of Constantinople has not in fact commanded Guy to make such an offer to the sultan, and Guy’s challenge seems to be one that comes naturally to him. A propensity to engage in such combats seems to be part of Guy’s character. However, on discovering who Guy is, the sultan dismisses the proposal, perhaps reflecting the fact that the Saracens do not hold trial by combat in the same high regard that Guy, being English, evidently does. Guy’s second judicial duel is his battle with the giant Amoraunt, which has been discussed in Chapter 3. Here Guy is championing the Saracen King Triamour against the sultan of Egypt. Guy’s defence of a Saracen in this matter is perhaps problematic, but this is rationalised within the romance in that Guy’s battle serves the purpose of freeing the Christian earl of Durras and his sons. Guy’s service also furthers a more important Christian end, as King 110 The Mirror of Justices, p. 173, cited in Green, ‘Medieval Literature and the Law’, p. 427. 111 Morgadour perhaps embodies the anti-Latin sentiment that was experienced by many Western

travellers and crusaders in Constantinople (Donald E. Queller and Thomas F. Madden, The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople, 2nd edn (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), pp. 114, 135, 140–1, 144, and 147).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Triamour vows that if Guy triumphs, so gode pes y schal festen anon, / Þat Cristen men schul comen & gon / To her owhen wille in wold (88: 7–9). Guy’s trial by combat against Amoraunt wins safe passage for Christian pilgrims in the lands of the East. While we have here a case of trial by combat being used by the Saracens, they do not seem to hold it in the same regard as Guy does. This attitude can be seen in the judicial oath that Triamour swears when accused of the crime by the sultan: King Triamour answerd þan To þat riche Soudan In þat ilch stounde Þat he wald defende him wele y-nou Þat he neuer his sone slou, No af him dedli wounde. (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 64: 1–6)

The oath that was sworn before trial by combat was of vital importance.112 As we often see in medieval romance, the two combatants swore oaths that were to be confirmed or invalidated by the outcome of the duel. Triamour swears that he did not slay the sultan’s son, the crime with which he has been charged. This is of course an equivocal oath, as it was in fact Triamour’s son Fabour who killed the sultan’s son while playing at chess.113 While the Saracen Triamour is making use of the judicial combat, he can simultaneously be seen to be subverting the institution. Guy, however, emerges from the process free of blame, as he has neither witnessed Triamour’s oath nor made an equivocal oath himself, as Guy swears simply to defeat Amoraunt on Triamour’s behalf (74: 7–12). The third instance of the judicial duel in Guy of Warwick occurs while Guy is travelling back to England for the final time. Arriving at a crossroads in Germany, Guy meets a weeping pilgrim sheltering under a cross (142: 1–12). Taking pity on the traveller, Guy shares bread with him and listens to his tale of woe. The pilgrim is revealed as one of Guy’s oldest friends, Sir Terri, who had been until recently in the service of the Emperor Reyner. Terri, who does not recognise Guy, relates a tale of how he has been wronged by the emperor’s steward Sir Berard, the nephew (soster sone) of Guy’s old enemy Otoun, the duke of Pavia. Berard has accused Terri of having been responsible for ordering the duke’s death. Terri’s lands were confiscated and the emperor imprisoned him. Fortunately for Terri his friends then ransomed him from prison and he set out to search for Guy in order to ask him to undertake his defence in trial by combat. It has been a year since Terri left in search of 112 Green, A Crisis of Truth, pp. 90–2. 113 A well-known and similar case of an equivocal oath can be seen in Lancelot’s oath that Guinevere

has not slept with any of the wounded knights in Malory’s Knight of the Cart episode (Thomas Malory, Malory: Works, ed. Eugène Vinaver, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 659, lines 8–12). Ralph J. Hexter discusses the idea of the equivocal oath in his Equivocal Oaths and Ordeals in Medieval Literature (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975).

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In his time were gode lawes Guy, and it is the very next day that the judicial duel is to be held. Guy, still unrecognised by his woe-begotten friend, agrees to travel with Terri to the emperor’s court. After their journey, which includes a strange episode in which Guy recovers a marvellous sword from a dragon’s hoard after a prophetic dream, the two arrive at the emperor’s court. Guy meets with the emperor and offers to stand as Terri’s champion in the matter: To þemperour y if mi wedde / To fi t for þerl Tirri (177: 11 – 12). Guy and Berard begin the battle, and fight fro the morwe to þe ni t (192: 8) without either combatant gaining an advantage. When it grows too dark for the duel to continue, the two knights are brought before the emperor who decides that they should resume the battle the next morning. That night, however, Berard arranges for four of his knights to ambush Guy and to sleþ him in his slepe (194: 12). The four treacherous knights break into Guy’s chambers, take up his bed, and proceed to cast both the bed and Guy adrift upon the sea in an attempt to both dispose of Guy and to conceal their crime. Awakening on the open sea, Guy prays to Christ to be saved, and some time later a fisherman, guided by divine will, rescues him from the ocean. Meanwhile, back at the emperor’s court, the emperor is enraged when Berard alone arrives to continue the trial by combat. The emperor accuses Berard of having had his opponent slain, but Berard strenuously denies this, and threatens to make war upon the Emperor unless he withdraws the allegation. At this point the fisherman enters the court and relates how he found the pilgrim afloat on the sea. The emperor declares that as the pilgrim has been found once more, the battle should be taken up again. Guy and Berard resume the duel and after a long struggle Guy defeats the treacherous Berard and restores Terri’s honour (209: 1–12). Guy’s third trial by combat represents a further progression in his role as an instrument of divine justice. Once again his opponent seeks to subvert the judicial combat and is thwarted by the will of Christ. The overt involvement of the divine in determining the outcome of the trial by combat both reinforces the theological basis of the ordeal and prefigures Guy’s role as the saviour of Christian England in his fourth and final trial by combat against Colbrond the Dane. This final battle, as we have seen in Chapter 3, represents the most important use of the institution of trial by combat in the romance. Guy’s single battle with Colbrond, in which national and religious discourses coalesce in a single struggle against both the foreign and pagan, is informed by the tradition of judicial duels that Guy has fought earlier in the romance. The battle, in which the very sovereignty of England is at stake, takes the same form as Guy’s first unproductive challenge to the Sultan of Babylon during the siege of Constantinople. The issue of national sovereignty, combined with the gigantomachia of his duel with Amoraunt and the treachery of the Italian Duke Berard, produces a duel of immense national significance in which Guy’s proven respect for the principle and practice of the judicial duel lead to his triumph in England’s darkest hour. Guy’s partiality for trial by combat, in conjunction with the ignorance or 125

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance disrespect for it shown by his Saracen and continental opponents, suggests that within Guy of Warwick a respect for the institution of the judicial duel acts as a marker of English identity, separating Guy from his non-English enemies. In the condemnation of equivocal oaths and other subversions of the judicial combat, Guy of Warwick seems to be reflecting the social discontent regarding the increasing complexity of the English legal system. The text views the honest application of such legal processes as the oath and the duel as something that is most properly associated with the Anglo-Saxon legal past, and locates its conception of Englishness within this legacy. In its use of Guy’s predilection for trial by combat as a component of English identity, Guy of Warwick can be seen to be participating in what Musson sees as the use of the Anglo-Saxon legal past to construct national identity. Guy of Warwick constructs an image of Anglo-Saxon England in which certain legal institutions are held in high regard. A respect for the oath and for trial by combat operates as an indicator of Englishness in this romance. This legal construction of Englishness can also be seen in Havelok, and to a lesser degree in romances such as Horn Childe and Beues of Hamtoun. However, while Englishness may involve a recognition and respect for the processes of law, this does not, and of course cannot, apply to all Englishmen. This presents a problem, as much for a literary society as for a real one: how to deal with those who do not live by the law. In most cases, for example that of the treacherous stewards Godrich and Godard in Havelok, such transgressors are eventually brought to justice by the rightful authorities and used as examples of what happens when one steps outside legal and societal norms. However, there is one situation that is more complex, and more problematic, for the national legal conscience: the case of the king who transgresses against the law. As is made clear in medieval legal and philosophical tracts, even the king is subject to the law, and when the king sets law aside, the entire kingdom suffers. Henry Bracton, in De Legibus, sums up the position of the king: The king himself must be, not under Man, but under God and the Law, because the law makes the king . . . For there is no king where arbitrary will dominates, and not the Law.114

The king was thought to rule both infra et supra legem, and to do so, the king must first have an understanding of the law. The education of a prince must 114 Henry Bracton, De Legibus, quoted in Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies, p. 156. Bracton con-

tinues, justifying his position by using the example of Christ’s approach to the law during the redemption of mankind: ‘And that he should be under the Law because he is God’s vicar, becomes evident through the similitude with Jesus Christ in whose stead he governs on earth. For He, God’s true Mercy, though having at His disposal many means to recuperate ineffably the human race, chose before all other expedients the one which applied for the destruction of the devil’s work; that is, not the strength of power, but the maxim of Justice, and therefore he wished to be under the Law in order to redeem those under the Law. For he did not wish to apply force, but reason and judgement.’

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In his time were gode lawes include the laws of the land, so that he can rule within them. We witness just such a royal education in Horn Childe, where Horn, after he has been taken in by King Houlac, receives what the king considers to be an appropriate education for a young prince: He bad Harlaund schuld him lere Þe rit forto se; Þe lawes boþe eld & newe, Al maner gamen & glewe: In bok þus rede we. (Horn Childe, 272–6)

Thus the prince becomes boþe war & wise (283), an epithet that we have also found applied to Alfred in The Proverbs of Alfred.115 The romances depict kings such as Athelwold, Havelok, and Guy of Warwick’s Athelstan ruling with due obeisance to English law. Helen Cam argues that this was also the case with historical Anglo-Saxon kings, concluding that when Bracton writes that the king should be subject to God and the law, he is ‘translating into abstract terms the position of the earliest tribal rulers’.116 The possibility that a king might transgress the established bounds of royal legal power was a grave concern during the medieval period. 117 One example of royal misrule can be seen in Beues of Hamtoun. When Beues returns to England he is confronted not only with the problem of reclaiming his patrimony, but also of dealing with a king who has allowed the situation to remain unresolved. On his return to England to reclaim his father’s lands and title, Beues defeats the Emperor after a short military campaign, and his mother falls from a convenient tower, nicely avoiding the problem of Beues having to punish her for her crimes. He then receives the fealty and homage of his vassals: Þanne al þe lordes of Hamteschire Made Beues lord and sire And dede him feute & omage, Ase hit was lawe & riyt vsage. (Auchinleck Beues of Hamtoun, 3467–70)

In many romances this might signal the end of the narrative, with the only remaining action being that of a marriage and the begetting of heirs. 115 ‘He was wis on his word / and war on his werke’ (The Proverbs of Alfred: An Emended Text, ed.

and trans. Olaf Arngart (Lund: Gleerup, 1978), p. 8). This epithet (war and wys) is also used to describe another maintainer of laws, Chaucer’s Sergeant of the Lawe, in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer, The Riverside Chaucer, ed. F. N. Robinson, 3rd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 28, line 309). 116 Helen Cam, Law-Finders and Law-Makers in Medieval England (London: Merlin Press, 1962), p.12. 117 In his Policraticus, John of Salisbury makes the distinction between the Christian prince, who rules subject to his own laws and the laws of God, and the tyrant who obeys no law but his own will (Policraticus, trans. Cary J. Nederman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 28–9).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance However, this being a romance that is deeply concerned with legal issues, we are forced to wonder, along with Beues, what exactly the king of England, Edgar, has been doing while the German emperor has been occupying Beues’s lands. The answer seems to be simple – nothing. The implications of the king’s inaction regarding the German emperor’s usurpation are not lost on Beues. After consolidating his hold on his lands, Beues, following the advice of his good friend Saber, seeks out the king and demands to be formally recognised as his father’s heir. Upon his arrival at Edgar’s court Edgar enquires as to his name, and Beues replies: ‘Ichatte Beues of Hamtoun; Me fader was þer þerl Gii; Þemperur for is leuedi Out of Almaine com & him slouy: Ichaue wreke him wel inouy; Ich bidde be-fore your barnage, Þat ye me graunte min eritage!’ (Auchinleck Beues of Hamtoun, 3496–502)

The king proceeds to confirm Beues before his peers, and goes further by remembering that Beues’s father, Gui, had in times past been his marshal, and therefore makes Beues marshal in his father’s place. Edgar, despite his apparent inaction, at first seems to fit the model of Anglo-Saxon king that we have seen in other Matter of England romances. He confirms Beues’s patrimony and honours him by making him his marshal, perhaps in order to compensate him for his previous lack of support. However, as I have already discussed, the king’s true character is revealed when the king’s son attempts to steal Beues’s horse Arondel and is killed. In Edgar’s reaction to the accidental death of his son we can see the manifestation of the concept of the royal tyrant. It is only through the intercession of Beues’s fellow barons that the king is forced to relent, and even then his actions succeed in driving his marshal from England. As we have seen in Chapter 3, Beues returns to deal with the tyrant Edgar at the end of the romance, forcing him to marry his female heir to Beues’s son, thus infusing the royal line with new blood. The ending of Beues, in which the rule of England is restored through the actions of the protagonist, reveals certain parallels with the events of Havelok the Dane and Horn Childe. These romances forward the idea that the baronage has it in its power to correct the actions of a wayward ruler, restoring balance to the degree of royal power that is available to the king. While in Havelok we see a usurping ruler removed and punished, in Horn Childe and Beues we see two less than perfect kings reproved for their actions and effectively removed from the English royal line through the marriage of their daughters to Horn and to Beues’s son Miles. Horn Childe and Beues represent a model of baronial correction of kingship rather than the more extreme option of open conflict.

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Athelston: A Legal Reading A well-known example of this theme can be found in the late-fourteenth-century Athelston. In this romance the eponymous king is transformed into a tyrant figure through the treacherous advice of Wymound, the earl of Dover. On Wymound’s counsel, he imprisons Egeland the earl of Stane, his pregnant wife Edith, and their two sons. In a similar fashion to King Edgar in Beues, Athelston declares that they will be executed for their treason. Athelston then receives the same advice as Edgar regarding the limits of royal justice, first from the queen and then from the archbishop, who both assert the prisoners’ right to trial by their peers. The king violently objects to these entreaties, firstly with mortal consequences for his own unborn heir, whom he kills when he kicks his wife while in a rage, and secondly for the country, which the archbishop places under interdict. The archbishop’s interdict finally brings Athelston to his senses, and transforms him from tyrant to good king as he falls in line with the demands of both the church and the baronage. The implementation of justice is then transferred to the church, and Egeland and his family are exculpated by undergoing a judicium Dei in the form of an ordeal by fire. The treacherous Wymound is discovered and punished through the same ordeal, and the narrative concludes with the naming of Egeland’s newly born son St Edmound as Athelston’s heir. Resonant with parallels to such historical conflicts between kings and the church as the Henry II and Thomas Becket affair, the construction within Athelston of tyrannical kingship has attracted much critical attention.118 Elizabeth Ashman Rowe has argued that Athelston represents a significant shift in the depiction of kingship in the romances: The confidence in human institutions of justice demonstrated in earlier English romances (e.g., Havelok the Dane, Bevis of Hamptoun, Guy of Warwick, and Fulk Fitz Warin) had evidently broken down by the second half of the fourteenth century, for the figure of the king, once depicted as true to his coronation oath to uphold the law, has now become a tyrant who both swallows and speaks lies with equal ease.119

While Rowe is correct that the figure of the king in Athelston acts as a tyrant figure, she underestimates the degree of royal tyranny that occurs in romances such as Beues and Horn Childe. As we have seen, King Edgar in Beues has much in common with Athelston, having to be chastised by his nobles for his rash judgment of Beues and finally succeeding in driving Beues from

118 Another relevant dispute was that which occurred between King John and Pope Innocent III,

resulting in a papal interdict on England and the excommunication of the monarch (C. R. Cheney, ‘King John and the Papal Interdict’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 31 (1948), 295–317). 119 Elizabeth Ashman Rowe, ‘The Female Body Politic and the Miscarriage of Justice in Athelston’, Studies in the Age of Chaucer, 17 (1995), 79–98 (p. 79).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance England. As for swallowing lies, Horn Childe’s King Houlac and the Emperor Reyner in Guy of Warwick do so quite as readily as Athelston does. Athelston contains much in common with the other Matter of England romances. The text is concerned with treason, oaths and the conflict between human and divine modes of legal proof. In an attempt to understand the literary and cultural context of the romance, it is informative to consider it within the context of the wider attitude towards the Anglo-Saxon legal past that I have discussed in this chapter. The construction of the Anglo-Saxon past as a legal golden age, evidenced in the romances discussed above, presents us with a method of approaching the representation of Anglo-Saxon England as a cultural space in which contemporary legal concerns could be articulated during the later Middle Ages. The first ‘Anglo-Saxon’ legal element in the romance is the oath of brotherhood that is sworn by the four messengers (Athelston, Wymound, Egeland, and Alryke the future Archbishop) when they meet at a crossroads at the beginning of the romance: For loue of here metyng þare, Þey swoor hem weddyd breþeryn for euermare, In trewþe trewely dede hem bynde. (Athelston, 22–24)120

Trounce suggests that this oath descends from the early Germanic custom of blood brotherhood that was fondly remembered by descendants of the Norse settlers in England.121 However, in the context of the prevalence of the oath in the remembrance of the Anglo-Saxon legal past that we have seen in Guy and Havelok, this may suggest a more contemporary belief in the importance of the oath and of trothplight. From the central role of the oath in constructing social order in Athelston, we can see a reflection of the way in which the oath occupied a place of fond memory in the memory of Anglo-Saxon England. As we have seen in the value that is placed on the oath in Guy and The Mirror for Justices, the oath was considered to be central to the operation of Anglo-Saxon law, and the loss of its importance in fourteenth-century law seems to have been sorely lamented. The importance of the oath in society is highlighted by the events that follow Wymound’s breaking of his oath of brotherhood: social chaos ensues. 122 In the disruption that follows Wymound’s treachery, a number of other legal issues come to the fore. The first of these is the repeated attempts made 120 Athelston, ed. A. McI. Trounce, EETS OS 224 (London: Oxford University Press, 1951). 121 Ibid., p. 14. 122 Although the details of the oath of brotherhood are not laid out in the text, we can assume that they

would have precluded Wymound’s treacherous betrayal of both Egeland and the king. The type of oath implied here might well have been similar to the oaths of chivalric friendship that Maurice Keen identifies in his ‘Brotherhood in Arms’, History, 47 (1962), 1–17. Keen highlights the historical use of such oaths of brotherhood, pointing out that they exist not only in the romances of such figures as Amys and Amiloun, but also within the real world of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

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In his time were gode lawes by the queen and the archbishop to remind the king of his duty to see that Egeland and his family are tried fairly before their peers. Both the queen (266) and the archbishop (448) use the phrase In þe playne parlement. It is interesting to note that on both occasions this phrase drives the king into a rage and he cuts off their pleas. Helen Cam comments upon the origin of this legal formula, seeing it as a vernacular translation of the legal term in pleno parliamento: ‘thus in pleno parliamento comes to be used of transactions in the king’s court assembled for parleyings with people of importance’.123 The notion of a parliament here is clearly a judicial body, comprised of the peers of the realm, rather than the larger parliaments that were held to debate new statutes. When the queen and the archbishop in Athelston repeatedly demand that Egeland be judged before a playne parlement, we seem to be seeing a reflex of legal trends within fourteenth-century English society. As Anthony Musson and Mark Ormrod have pointed out, The Statute of Treasons of 1352 effectively put an end to arbitrary judgements ‘on the king’s record’, and thereafter it was tacitly agreed that all state trials involving allegations of high treason had to take place before a full session of the lords in parliament.124

We have already seen a similar social and legal concern in Beues when the nobles prevent King Edgar from executing Beues for the death of the king’s son, although as Beues predates 1352 this can be seen to reflect a more general sense of the need to moderate the king’s executive power of justice. The king has by this point been twice reminded of the right of the nobility to be judged by their peers, and it is the very presence of the body of the nobility that reminds him once more of his responsibilities and convinces him to relent. After leaving the king the Archbishop meets a body of nobles who are travelling into London. Surprised by his appearance, they ask him where his Archiepiscopal cross and ring are. Bitterly he replies: Þanne he sayde: ‘oure cursyd kyng Haþ me refft off al my þyng, And off al my worldly wan; And I haue entyrdytyd Yngelond: Þer schal no preest synge masse with hond, Chyld schal be crystenyd non.’ (Athelston, 510–15)

The nobles pledge their support for the archbishop, and are prepared to go to the extent of imprisoning the king. Fortunately, however, Athelston relents

123 Cam, p. 17. 124 Anthony Musson and W. M. Ormrod, The Evolution of English Justice (Basingstoke: MacMillan,

1999), p. 27. Treason trials could be judged by a parliament prior to 1352, but after this date it became mandatory in law.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance and relinquishes his prisoners to the archbishop, who declares that they shall be judged by an ordeal. The use of the ordeal to authorise the restoration of peace in Athelston points towards a social concern that we have already noted in the use of the judicial combat in Guy of Warwick. Through the incontrovertible proof of the ordeal, we see another manifestation of the desire for divinely determined innocence or guilt, as advocated by the author of the Mirror for Justices. The accused prisoners are vindicated through the ordeal, and Dame Edith gives birth to St Edmond immediately afterwards. Athelston names the newly born child as his heir, indicating, as in Beues and Horn Childe, that his line is unworthy of continuing to rule. Athelston is clearly set in Anglo-Saxon England, albeit an Anglo-Saxon England that is constructed as both culturally and geographically continuous with the fourteenth-century England of the text’s audience. Athelston presents, as Elaine Treharne suggests, ‘a depiction of an imaginary, hierarchic Anglo-Saxon society. . . .’125 However, while the Anglo-Saxon past in Athelston may be an imagined one, it is a product of a process of imaginative remembrance that makes use of the strong tradition containing certain elements of English law. The emphasis on the initial oath of brotherhood, and the social chaos that results from the breaking of such an oath, represents the type of nostalgia for the institution of the oath that we have seen in Havelok, Guy of Warwick and the Mirror for Justices. This legal nostalgia is demonstrated most clearly in the manifestation of justice in the romance. The repeated claims to trial before playne parlement are ultimately superseded in the narrative by the unquestionable authority of the trial by ordeal. While the text recognises the importance of these claims, it ultimately falls back on the most absolute proof that the Anglo-Saxon legal past could offer, the miraculous ordeal. Treharne suggests that the author of the romance may have ‘thought of the ordeal as representative of the Anglo-Saxon judicial process; therefore he made it a central element of the text in order to provide a perceived “authority” ’.126 This reading seems convincing in the context of the imagined Anglo-Saxon legal past that is found in Guy, Beues, Havelok and Horn Childe. Treharne further suggests that the depiction of justice in Athelston was ‘derived . . . from an imaginative reconstruction of the Anglo-Saxon legal system’.127 This is no doubt true, but, as I have shown in this chapter, this ‘imaginative reconstruction’ is not restricted solely to the author of Athelston. Rather, it is part of a wider remembrance of the Anglo-Saxon law within post-Conquest English society – a process that is itself a constituent part of the cultural remembrance of Anglo-Saxon England. 125 Elaine M. Treharne, ‘Romanticizing the Past in the Middle English Athelston’, The Review of

English Studies, 50:197 (1999), 1–21 (p. 1). 126 Ibid., pp. 11–12. 127 Ibid., p. 12.

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Ancient Law and English Identity The Matter of England romances can be seen to construct a strong relationship between ideas of legality and Englishness. To be English, then, according to the national discourse of these romances, is to have a respect for law, or at least for English law. Furthermore, this law is represented not simply as English law, but Anglo-Saxon law. Anglo-Saxon England is constructed as the locus of the legal identity of England – a concept that we find demonstrated not only in the romances but also post-conquest law-codes (Textus Roffensis, Leges Henrici Primi), legal tracts (such as Bracton), and the writings of chroniclers such as William of Malmesbury (Gesta Regum Anglorum) and Robert of Gloucester. Law, to be seen to be good, needed to be seen to be old, and this requirement helps to make sense of one of the more puzzling aspects of the use of law in the romances. While some of the laws posited as Anglo-Saxon, such as oaths and the ceremony of manrede, seem to be harking back to genuine pre-conquest laws, others such as trial by combat and the appeal for judgment by playne parlement that we find in Athelston are clearly post-conquest legal innovations. By presenting these elements of post-conquest law as having been the ancient practice of the Anglo-Saxons (a legitimising strategy that we also find used in the law-codes), English law as familiar to the audiences of these romances is given a venerable provenance. The connection between Anglo-Saxon England and the law can be seen to legitimise post-conquest English law by constructing for it a history – much as would later be done for the English church in the sixteenth-century and once again for English law in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.128 Some elements of this history can be seen to be historical, others not. The history of English law can be placed in the context of the wider process of ‘remembering’ Anglo-Saxon England – a process that combines varying degrees of memory and imagination, fact and fiction – which has implications for the understanding of the use of the pre-conquest past in the discourse of English identity in the later Middle Ages. The literary manifestation of a communal English affinity with the origins of English law – even though much of this law was in fact post-conquest in origin – illustrates both the philosophical underpinning of medieval legislation and the cultural impetus of identity formation that acts to attribute all English law to the Anglo-Saxons, underlining once more Anglo-Saxon England’s important role as a ‘mythic sphere of English identity formation’.

128 Clare A. Simmons, Reversing the Conquest: History and Myth in Nineteenth-Century British Lit-

erature (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990), pp. 15ff.

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Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes

6 Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes: The Importance of the Anglo-Saxon Past in Late-Medieval Winchester

I

N Chapter 4 I identified the important role of place within the Matter of iEngland romances. The appropriation of place is highlighted as an important technique in the re-creation of the Anglo-Saxon past by these narratives, creating a sense of continuity with the past by constructing significant and signifying landscapes. As is evident in Guy of Warwick and Beues of Hamtoun, romance becomes encoded upon the landscape, producing a historically and culturally meaningful geography through which England’s Anglo-Saxon past is used to express both national and regional discourses. In this chapter I wish to return to a discussion of place, and of one place in particular: the cathedral city of Winchester. As we have seen, Winchester has a particular connection with a number of the Matter of England romances. The city is the site of the concluding national drama of Guy of Warwick, the locus of Anglo-Saxon political authority in Havelok the Dane, and the never-when Thraciens of the Auchinleck Sir Orfeo. Winchester’s interaction with romance narrative is important to an understanding of the place of the past within the city and of the city’s place within the past. This chapter seeks to examine two important processes: firstly, the narrative construction of place within Winchester; and secondly, the construction of Winchester as a place of national and historical significance. These two processes are inevitably intertwined, and the places that constitute Winchester’s urban geography contribute to the nature of the city’s national character. Important to an analysis of these two processes is the use that they make of the city’s Anglo-Saxon past, real and imagined. By focusing upon the relationship between Winchester and its Anglo-Saxon past, and the role that narrative geography plays in the construction and civic remembrance of this past, this chapter aims to demonstrate the significance of the idea of Anglo-Saxon England to a specific place and community. The study of place, and of its cultural corollary space, has been of increasing interest to literary critics and cultural historians in recent years. My focus here is the role of narrative in constructing and articulating civic space. That places operate as sites of cultural significance is well established, and my aim here is to examine how narrative operates to produce such cultural 134

Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes significance. An intimate connection between place and narrative has been identified by contemporary theorists who, influenced by the writings of the French sociologist Michel de Certeau, have begun to develop modes of analysis that highlight the role of narrative in the construction of physical place and cultural space. De Certeau observes that it has long been noted that places acquire meaning through the stories attached to them.1 He goes on to suggest that geographical place is transformed into culturally significant space through the process of narration.2 By telling, reading, or listening to stories about places, we experience these places in a narrative manner. It is this narrative experience of place that gives rise to cultural significance – in the same way that a text is unrealised until read, a place manifests social and historical meaning only when we are exposed to the stories that surround it. De Certeau concludes that ‘stories thus carry out a labour that constantly transforms places into spaces or spaces into places’.3 Landscape is turned into narrative, and narrative once more into landscape. Today, for the visitor who walks through the streets of Winchester, the narrative mode of comprehending the city is unmistakable. Winchester’s connection with its past is made clear through the stories that one recognises: walking through the cathedral one is reminded of Winchester’s role as the home and burial place of the Wessex Anglo-Saxon kings; the statue of Alfred brings to mind stories – for many the burning of the cakes, for others Alfred’s educational and judicial reforms, victories against the Danes, and dynastic foundation; Winchester College, home of learning for more than 700 years and the resting place for so long of the Winchester manuscript of Malory’s Morte D’Arthur; the Round Table, hanging upon the wall of the Great Hall as an iconic signifier of the belief that Winchester had once been Camelot. For the urban wayfarer, it is these narratives that provide Winchester with much of its cultural significance. These signs – places, buildings, statues, and artefacts – establish a city as a text. We read a city almost as a manuscript, with the buildings, statues, memorials, and place-names acting as a tangible script in which the public history of a city is written. It is through these encoded narratives, as much as through masonry, mortar, and timber, that Winchester is constructed. A city is not just the physical environment, but is comprised of its history and of the narratives that shape and inform its identity. Through narrative Winchester is constructed as both geographical text and textual geography. As is the case with our imagined visitor, de Certeau understands that narrative geography is experienced through the act of traversing the urban land-

1

2 3

Pierre Nora’s concept of ‘lieux de mémoire’ is discussed in his The Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, Volume I: Conflicts and Divisions, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996). Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), p. 117. Ibid., p. 118.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance scape.4 De Certeau imagines the post-modern city as an immense text, constructed through an array of poly-semantic urban signifiers. He argues that the act of walking through the city, for the post-modern subject, results not in a reading of this text, but rather in a re-writing – a creation and re-creation of the city through the process of semantic selection: If it is clear that a spatial order organizes an ensemble of possibilities (e.g., by a place in which one can move) and interdictions (e.g., by a wall that prevents one from going further), then the walker actualizes some of those possibilities. In that way, he makes them exist as well as emerge. But he also moves them about and he invents others, since the crossing, drifting away, or improvisation of walking privilege, transforms or abandons spatial elements.5

Each walker re-creates the city in terms of their own itinerant narrative, selecting those signifiers that they wish to make use of in constructing urban space. The post-modern walker, in de Certeau’s view, is an empowered one, discursively navigating a personal route through a semiotic landscape comprised of polyvalent signifiers. De Certeau’s post-modern walker constructs the city in an individualistic manner, ‘transform[ing] each spatial signifier into something else’.6 However, one might question whether this conclusion holds true for the medieval city. How do medieval strategies of reading urban space relate to those proposed by de Certeau? Paul Strohm provides a masterful reading of the nature of medieval urban space in his 2000 article ‘Three London Itineraries’.7 Utilising the work of theorists such as de Certeau and Henri LeFebvre, he applies their ideas to the construction of space within the medieval city.8 Strohm supports the basic premise of the post-modern understanding of urban space, but argues for an important difference in the degree of freedom of semiotic selection that is permitted to the medieval urban wayfarer. Commenting upon the spatial nature of the medieval city, he concludes that, ‘in my view, the peculiarity of medieval space involves the extent to which it is already symbolically organised by the meaning-making activities of the many generations that have traversed it’.9 The medieval urban city is thus less susceptible to individual selection – the nature of medieval society constructs a more stable narrative matrix within which the city can be understood. This is not to say, of course, that the understanding of medieval urban space is fixed and unchanging; rather it is to suggest that the medieval city incorpo4 5 6 7 8 9

Ibid., pp. 99–103. Ibid., p. 98. Ibid., p. 99. Paul Strohm, ‘Three London Itineraries’, in his Theory and the Premodern Text (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), pp. 3–19. Strohm, p. 2, citing de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life and Henri LeFebvre’s study The Production of Space, trans. D. N. Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991). Strohm, p. 4.

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Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes rates what Strohm calls ‘a noticeably durable and complicated set of presignifications’.10 While the range of narrative meanings available to the medieval walker is less wide-ranging than those accessible within the post-modern city, this merely has the effect of lessening, rather than removing, the selective capacity of the medieval walker. Compared with the semantic indeterminacy of the post-modern city, Strohm suggests that ‘the medieval walker renegotiates an itinerary through an especially densely marked terrain’.11 One medieval wayfarer who has left us a description of the ‘densely marked terrain’ of Winchester is the sixteenth-century antiquarian and scholar John Leland. During the period from 1539 to 1545 Leland undertook a grand tour of England at the behest of Henry VIII. Leland was under instructions to visit the libraries of the newly dissolved monasteries, and to judge what should be saved.12 Leland’s record of his journey was later published in his Itinerary. Written around 1544, this account provides us with what is arguably the last medieval description of Winchester. Before examining Leland’s account of Winchester, it is important to understand the significance of his observations. Leland was of course undertaking a survey of England as part of that great act of cultural vandalism, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and his description of the city, as David Lawton has noted, constructs the ‘medieval’ while at the same time participating in its destruction. Leland’s account, standing as it does at the end of the medieval period, while acting as an agent of its end, represents a crystallised late-medieval image of Winchester. The antiquarian impulse is strong in Leland’s work, and it seems that this influenced his preservation of regional legends and local historical detail. Uneasy with the changes that he was facilitating, Leland appears to be attempting to preserve as much information about a vanishing England as is possible. Lawton has recently suggested that Leland’s response to cultural change is a survey, remapping the textuality and landscape of past and present. . . . As Leland maps however, he is engaged in a process of destruction and selective preservation that forever dislocates the cultural world of the old map and seals it away from the present.13

10 Ibid., p. 4. The italics are his. 11 Ibid., p. 4. 12 And by extension, as David Lawton observes, Leland judges what should be condemned to

destruction (‘The Surveying Subject and the “Whole World” of Belief: Three Case Studies’, in New Medieval Literatures, 4, ed. Wendy Scase, Rita Copeland and David Lawton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 9–37 (p. 33). James Simpson offers a fine discussion of Leland’s role in construction of the Middle Ages in his ‘Ageism: Leland, Bale, and the Laborious Start of English Literary History’, New Medieval Literatures, 1, ed. Wendy Scase, Rita Copeland and David Lawton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 213–36. 13 Lawton, p. 36.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance In creating his survey of England Leland was confronted with the need to produce an image of the realm that represents both England as it was in the 1540s and England as it had been in the past. Faced, however, with the political imperatives of Tudor rule, the task was not a straightforward one. As Lawton observes, Leland’s task is then to correct history, to reinvent the past. He consults older chronicles, not newer ones, tracing from Bede as historian and Joseph of Arimathea as protoevangelist a line of independent authority for the English church, and rediscovering ancient placenames such as Troynovaunt (at which ‘the Papistes and sectaryes laugh scornefully’14), and generally sharing the highly medieval Tudor passion for King Arthur. 15

In the light of Leland’s rewriting of history, and his resultant ‘selective’ re-mapping of Winchester, it is interesting to see what stories he does include in his description of the city. Leland’s record of his journey through Winchester is recorded in two different texts. The first of these is his Itinerary, in which Leland arrives in Winchester as part of his travels through Hampshire. After describing the size of the walls, the number of churches, and the city’s state of urban decay, he describes his visit to Hyde Abbey: 16 The bones of Alfredus, king of the West-Saxons, and of Edward his sunne and king, were translated from Newanminstre and layid in a tumbe before the high altare at Hyde: in the whiche tumbe was a late founde 2. litle tables of leade inscribed with thyr names. And here lay also the bones of S. Grimbald and Judoce. On the south side of Hyde Abbay betwixt it and the waulle is a medow caullid Denmark, wher the fame is that Guido Erle of Warwik killid great Colebrande the Dane singulari certamine.17

The second text that records Leland’s urban experience is his much-quoted Assertio inclytissimi Arturi Regis Britanniae. In this text, a vigorous and impassioned defence of the historical authenticity of King Arthur, Leland recalls the presence of the Round Table in the Great Hall in Winchester, and cites its existence as proof of Arthur’s historicity.18 Venté Simenorum in castro fama notissimo appendet muro aulé regié mensa, quam & rotundam a maiestate Arturiana vocant. Quid? Quod nec memoria, nec societas Orbicularis chori recentioribus séculis ex animis 14 John Chandler (ed.), John Leland’s Itinerary: Travels in Tudor England (Stroud: Sutton, 1993), 15 16 17 18

p. 12, citing Bale’s prologue to The New Year’s Gift. Lawton, p. 35. Hyde Abbey was a prime target of Henry VIII’s acquisitions programme. The Itinerary of John Leland, ed. Lucy Toulmin Smith (London: Bell, 1907), p. 272. One might note, however, that Leland does not seem to argue, as some scholars have asserted, that the table is authentic. Rather, he argues that the idea represented by the Round Table is authentic, and that King Edward I held the notion of such an Order of Knights in high regard.

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Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes nobilium, excidit. Eadueardus Longus, vt fama refert, Orbicularem illam societatem plurimi fecit, fabricata in eos vsus, si credere dignum est, tabula spherica, & tripodibus ex auro solido. 19 At Venta Symeno alias Winchester in ye castle most famously knowne, standeth fixed ye table at the walle side of ye kinges Hal, which (for ye maiesty of Arthure) they cal ye round table. And wherefore? Because neyther the memorie nor felowship of the round Trowpe of Knightes as yet falles out of Noble mens mindes, in the latter age of the world. Kinge Edward sirnamed the longe, as fame telleth, made much of that rounde order of Knightes. To those vses was the round table instituted and framed, (if it be worthie of credit) and that it was with three feete made of perfect gold.

Leland’s descriptions highlight three narratives about Winchester’s past that were of great significance to the city in the late-medieval period: its function as the place of burial for King Alfred and other royal figures of the Wessex dynasty; the location of ‘Denmark’, site of Guy of Warwick’s legendary victory over Colbrond the Dane; and the location of the Round Table, symbol of Arthur’s court and his famous Order of Knights.20 These narratives are important elements in the construction of the ‘densely marked terrain’ of late-medieval Winchester. The first of these narratives, the burial of the Anglo-Saxon kings in Hyde Abbey, is the most unambiguously historical of the three, and as such can be briefly passed over in this discussion. Leland’s account of the meadow of Denmark and the Round Table, however, plays a much more interesting role in the construction of Winchester’s urban geography. Leland recounts that ‘On the south side of Hyde Abbay betwixt it and the waulle is a medow caullid Denmark, wher the fame is that Guido Erle of Warwik killid great Colebrande the Dane singulari certamine.’ It is clear that by the time of Leland’s visit, Denemarche operated as an established and influential signifier of Winchester’s past. An important element of Winchester’s urban geography, the meadow functions as a tangible memorial to this most famous of Guy’s exploits. This battle was reputed to have taken place during the reign of King Athelstan. In the construction of English history represented in the Guy of Warwick tradition, Guy’s fight replaces Athelstan’s historical victory over Anlaf and the Scottish King Constantine at Brunnanburh in 937. In a manner perhaps analogous to the translation of a saint’s relics, the fight is re-situated from the north of England to Winchester, thereby appropriating for Winchester what was one of England’s most

19 John Leland, Assertio inclytissimi Arturi Regis Britanniae (London, 1544), fol. 10v. The English

edition is A Learned and True Assertion of the Original Life, Actes, and Death of the Most Noble, Valiant, and Renowned Prince Arthur, King of Great Brittaine . . . trans. Richard Robinson (London, 1582), from which (fols 10v–11r) the translation is provided (Martin Biddle, King Arthur’s Round Table (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2000), pp. 483–4). 20 The spelling of Colbrond’s name varies in different texts. I have chosen to follow the Auchinleck manuscript’s spelling in general discussion.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance treasured national triumphs and re-establishing the city at the centre of English history.21 Denemarche was not, however, the only urban signifier of Winchester’s role in the Guy narrative. Walking through Winchester, Leland would have had encountered a variety of spatial markers signifying the legend. In the accounts of the Winchester City chamberlains we find a record from 1455/6 naming part of the city wall as Colebrondis Hede.22 This section of the wall seems likely to have been that part of the North wall that overlooked Denemarche. The anonymous History and Antiquities of Winchester records that even in 1773 there was still visible a representation of the combat carved on a stone in the city wall known as ‘Colbrond’s Chair’.23 The memorial upon the wall above the field functions as both a site of urban memory and as place from which to view the memorialised site itself. Also preserved within Winchester were physical mementos of the combat. One such, the ‘Danish’ axe with which Guy decapitated Colbrond, was preserved within the treasury of St Swithun’s priory until the Dissolution.24 Celebrated as a relic by St Swithun’s, this artefact would have been available for the urban wayfarer to see, and further attest to the importance of the narrative to both the priory and to Winchester as whole. Like most relics, the authenticity and location of Guy’s weapons and armour were contested, with the debate regarding the location of Guy’s armour and sword becoming a particular concern of some later Guy narratives, an issue to which I shall return later in the chapter. In addition to the site and armaments of the battle, Winchester’s ‘densely marked’ urban terrain also contained secondary signifiers, created by the community to display the importance of the Guy legend to the institutional and civic pride of the city. One such secondary signifier was a wall painting depicting the battle that once graced the inner wall of Winchester Cathedral. Thomas Warton observed in the eighteenth century that the battle was depicted in a ‘rude painting against the walls of the northern transept of the cathedral’, although he did not estimate its age.25 The presence of a visual memorial to the battle within the cathedral itself constructs an important and

21 The historical location of Brunnanburh, and of the battle, remains a debate among historians to this

22 23

24

25

day. For a recent entertaining account of the scholarly debate surrounding the site of the battle, see Michael Wood, In Search of England (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2000), pp. 206–21. Winchester City Archives, 38/BX/CR 1–6, s.a. 1455–6, cited in Derek Keene, Survey of Medieval Winchester (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985), p. 947. Anon., The History and Antiquities of Winchester, 2 vols (London, 1773), II, pp. 15–20. See also John Milner, The History Civil and Ecclesiastical, and Survey of the Antiquities, of Winchester, 2 vols (London, 1798), I, pp. 144–8 and II, p. 210 (p. 221 in 2nd edn), cited in Keene, p. 947. In like manner to Arthur’s transformation of the Green Knight’s axe into a memorial in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the monks of St Swithun’s preserved Colbrond’s axe to telle þe wonder of Sir Guy’s victory (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, ed. J. R. R. Tolkien and E. V. Gordon, 2nd edn rev. N. Davis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967) p. 10, lines 477–80). Thomas Warton, The History of English Poetry, ed. William Hazlitt, 3 vols (1840; London: Reeves & Turner, 1870), II, p. 97, n. 1, cited in Nancy Mason Bradbury, Writing Aloud: Storytelling in Late Medieval England (Urbana: Illinois University Press, 1998), p. 2.

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Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes influential urban sign, which, if it existed in the sixteenth century, would no doubt have been witnessed by Leland. As well as by place-names, memorials, relics, and paintings, the episode was also remembered through performance of the narrative itself. Nancy Bradbury provides an account of a performance of a version of the Guy and Colbrond episode in the introduction to her valuable study Writing Aloud: From a rare record of a storytelling performance in fourteenth-century England, we learn that one Herbert, called a joculator, performed in 1338 two narrative entertainments in the hall of the Winchester Cathedral priory, St. Swithin.26 The occasion was a visit of the bishop, Adam de Orleton, to his prior, Alexander de Herriard, and the entertainments specified were a song (canticum) of Colbrond and a tale (gestum) of Queen Emma vindicated by ordeal of fire.27

That this part of the Guy narrative was considered to be suitable entertainment for the visit of a bishop is high praise indeed, and suggests that the process of memorialising the battle was one that was held in high regard by the monks of St. Swithun’s. Velma Bourgeois Richmond, in her encyclopaedic study of the Guy legend, suggests that the canticum Colbrondi may have been a version of the Percy Folio Guy and Colebrande, which is a tempting, albeit speculative, conclusion.28 While this performance took place more than two centuries before Leland’s visit, Bradbury goes on to note the continued popularity of the Guy narrative among minstrels during the sixteenth century.29 The continued popular currency of the Guy narrative makes it possible that Leland may have heard such a performance during his travels in Hampshire. These urban signifiers, at once both textual and topographic, act to encode the Guy narrative within the urban landscape of Winchester. They construct, along with whatever other memorials to the legend that may have been lost or forgotten through the years, one aspect of what Strohm has termed the ‘rich symbolic terrain of the medieval city’. Leland, reading the city via his travels through this terrain, selects the Guy narrative as one of the most important elements of Winchester’s urban geography and records it in his Itinerary. His reading of the city, which coalesces in his textual memorial to Denemarche, is 26 Warton cites the priory register: ‘Et cantaba[t] Joculator quidam nomine Herebertus canticum

Colbrondi, necnon Gestum Emme regine a judico ignis liberate, in aula prioris’ (II, pp. 96–7). 27 Bradbury, pp. 1–2. 28 Velma Bourgeois Richmond, The Legend of Guy of Warwick (New York: Garland, 1996), p. 76. 29 ‘In his Arte of English Poesie (c. 1560), George Puttenham speaks of “blind harpers or such like

taverne minstrels that give a fit of mirth for a groat, and their matters being for the most part stories of old time, as the tale of Sir Thopas, the reportes of Bevis of Southampton, Guy of Warwicke, Adam Bell, and Clymme of the Clough and such other old Romances or historicall rimes, made purposely for the recreation of the common people at Christmasse diners and brideales, and in taverns and alehouses and other such places of base resort”,’ quoted in J. A. Burrow, ‘Sir Thopas in the Sixteenth Century’, in Middle English Studies Presented to Norman Davis, ed. Douglas Gray and E. G. Stanley (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983), p. 78 (Bradbury, p. 36).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance produced through his selective route, both geographical and intellectual, through the city’s physical and historical landscape. For Leland, the site of Guy’s single combat with Colbrond is identified through the urban signifiers that he encountered during his visit to Winchester. By the early sixteenth century Denemarche’s reputation as the site of the battle had become unchallenged and authoritative. However, on reading the early versions of the Guy narrative it is noticeable that none of these texts position Guy and Colbrond’s contest in Denemarche, so whence develops the connection with the meadow? Neither the Anglo-Norman Gui de Warewic nor any of the three Middle English verse romances specify the location of the combat in any detail. The Auchinleck manuscript Guy calls the site of the battle simply þe plas / Þer þe batayl loked was (251:7–8), and the Caius and Cambridge University Library manuscripts agree;30 þe plas is evidently outside the city, but not far from it, as the victorious Guy is described as re-entering the city soon after slaying the giant. The location of this legendary duel seems to have been the issue of some debate during the medieval period. Henry Knighton, an Augustinian canon of Leicester (fl. 1366), identified the site of the battle in his Chronica de Eventibus Angliae as being in the Chilcombe valley to the southeast of Winchester.31 Knighton’s placement of the battle seems to have been an attempt to further associate the victory with St. Swithun’s Priory, which as we have seen already claimed to possess Guy’s axe, as a church belonging to the priory stood in Chilcombe.32 However, Knighton’s placement of the battle seems to have held little lasting influence, and was soon superseded, at least within Winchester, by the tradition placing the battle at the ‘medow caullid Denmark’. This field, known variously as Denemarche, Danemarche, or Hyde Mead, was of interest to Leland as it was part of the lands that had been confiscated by Henry VIII from New Minster, also known as Hyde Abbey.33 Part of Leland’s royal commission was to examine the monastic libraries, and it is likely that in Winchester he found chronicle accounts that authorised the popular narratives surrounding Denemarche. While the library of Hyde had been dismantled, along with the abbey itself, by the time of Leland’s visit in 1539, he does include the chronicle of Thomas Rudborne in his Scriptores.34

30 ‘When he was come into that place’ (Caius MS, line 10556). ‘When he into þe place come’

(Cambridge University MS, line 10189). 31 Chronicon Henrici Knighton, ed. J. R. Lumby, 2 vols (London, 1889–95), I, pp. 19–27. For a

discussion of the location of the battle, see Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England II: c. 1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982), pp. 313 (n. 25) and 493. 32 Richmond, p. 75. 33 Denemarche was claimed by the king in 1280 from Hyde Abbey, and a jury found the claim valid–the area called Denemarche, enclosed by a ditch and worth 3s. a year. In 1281 the king granted the land back to the abbey as free alms (Keene, p. 947). 34 John Leland, Commentarii de scriptoribus Britannicis (Oxford, 1709), pp. 471–2, cited in Richard Sharpe, A Handlist of Latin Writers of Great Britain and Ireland before 1540 (Brussels: Brepols, 1997), p. 677.

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Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes It is in Rudborne’s Historia maior de fundatione ecclesiae Wintoniensis, written around the middle of the fifteenth century, that we find the earliest extant textual connection between Guy’s gigantomachia and Denemarche.35 A monk of St Swithun’s, Rudborne follows the tradition that he attributes to Gerardus Cornubiensis, and places the battle in Denemarche. 36 It seems plausible that the connection between the Guy narrative and Denemarche may have been based upon a misconceived aetiological explanation: the name Denemarche originally meant simply a ‘boundary in a valley’, but by the later Middle Ages it came to be associated specifically with Guy’s defeat of the Danes.37 It is tempting to suggest that this folk etymology may have been encouraged by the monks of Hyde in an attempt to co-opt the legend for the glorification of their own institution, in competition with the apparent claims of St Swithun’s, but there is alas little evidence of such an active appropriation of this part of the narrative. It appears that the date by which Denemarche had become associated with the Guy episode can be given a terminus post quem of circa 1450, but it is probable that this connection existed before this date. Given the interest apparent in the Guy and Colbrond episode during the fourteenth century, and the dating of the meadow’s name to (at the very latest) 1280, it is likely that Denemarche would have been connected with the legendary battle earlier than Rudborne. In this context, Knighton’s placing of the battle at Chilcombe in the second half of the fourteenth century can be seen as either evidence of an earlier tradition, or more likely as a competing location encouraged by the monks of St Swithun ’s. As with the debate over the location of the battle, a certain tension is evident regarding the other signifiers of the battle – in particular the location of Guy’s axe, sword, and burial site. The textual mediation of these tensions can be seen in the mid-fifteenth-century Guy and Colebrande,38 a text that has come down to us in the Percy Folio. Guy and Colebrande is a curious refashioning of the Guy and Colbrond episode, dating from the mid-fifteenth century.39 The text presents the episode within the context of the larger Guy narrative, summarising the events of Guy’s career before and after the battle, while foregrounding Guy’s national drama as the centrepiece of the narrative. 35 Printed in Anglia Sacra, ed. H. Wharton, 2 vols (London, 1691), I, pp. 179–286. Rudborne locates

the battle in Hyde Mead (Wharton, I, p. 212). 36 Rudborne cites Gerardus’s De Gestis Regum West-Saxonum as his source. Gransden summarises

the debate regarding Rudborne’s sources, noting that this source is ‘now unidentified’ (Gransden, p. 395 (n. 30) and p. 492). Richard Sharpe notes that ‘Gerard of Cornwall is known only from citations in the work of Thomas Rudborne, and in another Winchester text attributed to him; his source remains unidentified, but for its reference to the founding of the university of Cambridge by Edward the Elder’ (Liber de Hyda, p. 111), which, as Sharpe suggests, indicates that it is a late medieval confection (Sharpe, p. 138). 37 Keene, p. 947. 38 The text is found in Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, ed. Ernest Rhys (London: J. M. Dent, 1906). 39 Richmond dates the poem to the fifteenth century (p. 137). Joseph Donatelli considers it to be ‘dated to the late medieval period’ (‘The Percy Folio Manuscript: A Seventeenth-Century Context for Medieval Poetry’, English Manuscript Studies, 1100–1700, 4 (1993), 114–33 (p. 126)).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance The account of the contest in Guy and Colebrande is an interesting one, which makes use of a number of motifs from various episodes in the Auchinleck manuscript narrative. The text combines elements from the Colbrond fight with elements from Guy’s earlier combat with the giant Amoraunt in Egypt. While the basic plot remains the same as in earlier versions, the battle here takes place upon an unnamed island near Winchester, and makes use of the holmgang and drinking-bargain motifs that we find in the Guy’s judicium Dei against Amoraunt.40 Interestingly, this text does not make use of the Denemarche tradition, and furthermore seeks to exaggerate the connection between both St Swithun’s and Winchester, and the Guy narrative. We have seen that there was a long-held tradition linking Colbrond’s axe with St Swithun’s, the possession of which seems to have been important to the monks.41 Guy and Colebrande continues this tradition, reaffirming the presence of the famed axe in St Swithun’s Priory. During Guy’s battle with the giant, his sword breaks after he plunges it into Colbrond’s breastplate.42 Colbrond, encouraged by this piece of good fortune, offers Guy mercy if he will forgo the contest. However, Guy is not so easily dissuaded from the national cause, and takes up one of Colbrond’s own weapons, the axe, which the giant has brought to the battlefield upon a great cart. The battle resumes and it is with this appropriated Danish weapon that Guy decapitates his monstrous foe. Up to this point Guy and Colebrande follows the standard Guy narrative; however, it then diverges from earlier versions through the agency of King Athelstan. After the battle has been won, Athelstan enters the field and orders that Guy’s sword and axe be kept and hung up in St Swithun’s church, where, according to the text, they can still be seen: & then our king after that in the honour of this battell great, this deed hee caused to be done: gard them to take vp the axe & the sword, & keepe them well in royall ward, & bring them to winchester town, & hang them vp on St. Swythens church on hye, 43

40 Gillian Rogers, ‘The Percy Folio Revisited’, in Romance in Medieval England, ed. Maldwyn Mills,

Jennifer Fellows and Carol Meale (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1991), pp. 39–64 (p. 58). The holmgang is a Norse legal procedure in which two combatants fought a battle upon an island (or a similar defined space) in order to determine the outcome of a dispute (holmgang, literally island-going). For a discussion of this Germanic custom, see Robert Bartlett, Trial by Fire and Water: The Medieval Judicial Ordeal (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986), p. 105 and Jesse L. Byock, Feud in the Icelandic Saga (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982). 41 Rudborne places it there (Wharton, I, p. 211). 42 In the Auchinleck and Caius versions the sword is plunged into the giant’s shield. 43 This suspiciously long line perhaps suggests a later interpolation at this point in the narrative.

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Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes that all men there may see, thither of they wold ffare. (Guy and Colebrande, 426–34)44

The appropriation of both Guy’s sword and axe for St Swithun’s Priory may perhaps seem to be no more than a natural accumulation of Guy’s artefacts by the text, if it were not for the existence of a well-established rival tradition placing Guy’s sword in Warwick Castle. Contrary to the claims of Guy and Colebrande, the earls of Warwick had long claimed possession of Guy’s sword as a treasured family heirloom. William Dugdale records the importance of Guy’s arms in Warwick Castle: ‘a large two-handed sword, with a Helmet . . . which as the tradition is, were part of the accoutrements sometime belonging to the famous Guy’.45 The sword’s particular importance to the Beauchamp family is made clear in the will of John, the younger son of Guy de Beauchamp, who bequeathed in 1369 ‘the Sword and Coate of male, sometime belonging to the famous Guy of Warwick’.46 Richard de Beauchamp also left the sword and armour to his son in 1400.47 This tradition was an enduring one; Richmond notes that: ‘Early sixteenth-century accounts include the “keeper of Guy of Warwick’s sword” in Warwick Castle.’48 In the light of the established Warwick Castle tradition, Guy and Colebrande can be seen as an attempt to provide St. Swithun’s, and Winchester, with another material link with the legend. While the attempt does not seem to have been successful, in that the wider Guy tradition does not seem to have been influenced by it, it seems likely that some kind of narrative appropriation is at work here. Warwick does not seem to be the only target of the text. Guy and Colebrande’s location of the battle also raises interesting question about the text’s agenda. Rather than placing the battle at Denemarche, the narrative situates it on an unnamed island. Why does the text ignore what was by the mid-fifteenth century a well established and memorialised local geographical connection? One could perhaps attribute this to a lack of local knowledge manifested within the text, but the references in the text that place Guy’s axe and sword in St Swithun’s makes this unlikely. It may be that the elision of Denemarche, combined with the text’s assertions of the authenticity of the St Swithun martial relics, is to be read as an attempt to privilege the claims of St Swithun’s to the Guy legend over those of Hyde Abbey. 44 The Guy and Colebrande text is found in Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, ed. Rhys, pp.

527ff. 45 William Dugdale, The Antiquities of Warwickshire Illustrated: From Records, Ledger Books,

Manuscripts, Charters, Evidences, Tombes, and Armes (London, 1656), p. 343, cited in Richmond, p. 234. 46 Dugdale, p. 233, cited in Richmond, p. 235. 47 Dugdale, p. 238. 48 The sword is still a treasured artefact in Warwick Castle today, although it now serves new owners in the form of the Tussaud’s Entertainment Group. The sword, ‘a rare example of a mediaeval two-handed sword, measuring 1.6 m and weighing 6.8 kilograms’, remains on display in the castle armoury (Warwick Castle (Warwick: Warwick Castle, 2000), p. 14).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance However, not all such narrative appropriations are so easily achieved. The location of Guy’s weapons does not seem to have been the only point of contestation between Warwick and Winchester – the resting place of the hero himself also seems to have been the cause of debate within the narrative tradition. As we have seen in Chapter 3, during its development the Guy tradition became a useful propaganda tool for the Beauchamp family.49 Initially valuable as an aggrandising story of a family ancestor, the romance seems to have been used by the later Earls in a more concrete manner to reshape their own estates to fit with the internal topography of the narrative. The building of a chapel at Guy’s Cliff – where Guy reputedly lived as a hermit and was buried – is one clear example of this process of ‘textualising’ the landscape. The connection between Guy and Warwick, and Guy’s Cliff in particular, can be seen in the account of Guy’s burial from the Auchinleck manuscript version of the romance: Þe leudy astite dede send hir sond After bischopes, abotes of þe lond, Þe best þat mit be founde, &, when þider was com þat fair ferred, To Warwike þai wald him lede, As lord of michel mounde. Bot al þe folk þat þer was No mit him stir of þat plas Þer he lay on þe grounde. An hundred men about him were, No mit him nout þennes bere For heuihed þat stounde. Þan seyd þe leuedi, ‘lete him be stille, Neuer more remoun him y nille, No do him hennes lede. He sent me bode wiþ his page To biri him in þis hermitage Simpliche wiþouten prede.’ (Auchinleck Guy of Warwick, 295: 1–296: 6)50

In this fourteenth-century version of the story, Guy is a figure with strong local connections, and the tensions regarding his burial are between Warwick and the hermitage at Guy’s Cliff. His wife Felice wishes to have him buried as a great lord in Warwick, but miraculously his body is too heavy even for a hundred men to lift, and he has to be buried, according to his own wishes,

49 For a useful discussion and summary of the Beauchamp’s use of the Guy narrative, see Emma

Mason, ‘Legends of the Beauchamps’ Ancestors: the Use of Baronial Propaganda in Medieval England’, Journal of Medieval History, 10 (1984), 25–40. 50 Guy of Warwick, Edited from the Auchinleck MS. in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh, and from MS. 107 in Caius College, Cambridge, ed. J. Zupitza, EETS ES 42, 49, 59 (London: Trübner, 1883–91).

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Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes simply and without pomp near his hermitage.51 This episode links well with the contemplative theme of the final section of the Guy narrative, emphasising both Guy’s humility and his connection with his local environs. However, as the Guy tradition develops and becomes more popular during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, we witness a shift in the geographical affinity of both Guy and of his romance. As the narrative tradition develops, we find an increased emphasis upon Guy’s connections with Winchester – the centre of political power within the romance and the stage for Guy’s great national drama – his single combat with the Danish giant Colbrond. The development of the connection between Guy and Winchester can be seen in the changes that the Percy Folio Guy and Colebrande make to the scene describing Guy’s burial. In contrast with the Auchinleck Guy, Guy and Colebrande represents King Athelstan as actively involved at the initial stage of the arrangements for Guy’s funeral: The king said, ‘soe Christ me saue! This Erle to winchester I will haue; His body there I will interre.’ But all that about him there cold stand, They cold not remoue him with their hands Nor ffurther thence him beare. Guy and Colebrande (615–20)

Frustrated in his attempts to have Guy’s body moved, Athelstan buries him before the high altar in Warwick and founds a fair abbey in his honour. Removed from this account is the agency of Guy’s wife Felice, and gone too is Guy’s wish to be buried simply wiþouten prede. The choice is now between Winchester and Warwick, and Guy’s hermitage is elided from the narrative. Guy is now a national hero, and deserves a hero’s burial – the narrative has been co-opted for national rather than religious or instructional ends. For the mid-fifteenth-century Guy and Colebrande, Guy seems more properly associated with Winchester than with Warwick, and in this passage we can see the text attempting to deal with the problem that Guy’s tomb is not in the city of his greatest triumph. By making use of the existing motif of the miraculous immobility of the body, the text avoids the need to deviate too far from the established narrative. It still, however, manages to emphasise the by now well-established connection between Guy and Winchester. In this way the text both articulates the centralising and nationalising desire of the developing Guy tradition, while at the same time resisting this desire by holding true to the established facts of the narrative. This represents both the revisionary desire to translate historical events and the practical difficulties in 51 However, his body is later removed by Terri, with the permission of King Athelston, and reinterred

in a newly built abbey in Lorraine: ‘When sir Tirri herd telle þis, / Þat Gij, his fere, ded is, / & birid in þe clay, / He com to þis lond, wiþ-outen lesing, / & bisout Aþelston þe king / His bodi to leden oway. / He it graunted him ful are, / Into Lorain wiþ him gan fare, / Into his owhen cuntray. / An abbay he lete make þo / For to sing for hem to / Euermore til domesday’ (Guy of Warwick, Auchinleck MS, 298: 1–12).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance doing so, especially with a figure with such a definite regional origin. Guy is after all Guy of Warwick, and despite the wishes of King Athelstan, and of the text, to move him to Winchester, his toponym, and the established narrative tradition, prevents this – he is connected from the start with Warwick, and unlike King Arthur, his final resting place is fixed and cannot be moved to suit the developing narrative tradition. Guy and Colebrande thus appears to be a text that rewrites important details of the Guy narrative for institutional and civic ends.52 Whether this is a part of an active campaign in the interests of either St Swithun’s or Winchester, or simply the result of a divergent narrative tradition, the implications of the text’s rewriting of the legend remain the same. The location of Guy’s victory seems to have fulfilled an important function in the public remembrance of Winchester’s past. The narrative literally encodes history within landscape through the construction of ‘sites of memory’. Through the development of the Guy tradition we can see an increasing connection with Winchester, expressed through the creation and appropriation of signifiers such as Denemarche and Guy’s weapons, and through the civic celebration of the narrative via performance, painting and sculpture. Monika Otter has described this process of memorialisation as the ‘spatial deployment of collective memory’ – a process responsible for the construction of the urban signifiers through which Leland was able to navigate Winchester’s past in the early sixteenth century.53 The Anglo-Saxon past is once more the stage for the mediation of post-conquest, this time fifteenth-century, social and institutional tensions. If the Anglo-Saxon past can be seen to be an important element in the late medieval construction of Winchester as a city, Winchester’s citizens seem to have also considered both the city’s Anglo-Saxon royal affiliations and its connection with the Guy narrative as important constituents of its role in English national history. However, as we can see by Leland’s final observation about Winchester, there was another pre-conquest past that also seems to have been of importance to the city: At Venta Symeno alias Winchester in ye castle most famously knowne, standeth fixed ye table at the walle side of ye kinges Hal, which (for ye majesty of Arthure) they cal ye round table.54

Winchester’s Arthurian heritage, manifested in the presence of the Round Table, fulfils an equally important, and ultimately more enduring, role in the construction of its urban geography. In this section I will examine the origins and development of Winchester’s Arthurian connections, and examine how 52 The text may represent a separate circulation of the Guy and Colbrand narrative, a possibility that

seems also to be supported by Bradbury’s reported canticum Colbrondi. 53 Cited in Michelle Warren, History on the Edge: Excalibur and the Borders of Britain, 1100–1300

(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), p. 37. 54 Biddle, p. 483.

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Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes they contribute to the creation of the city’s ‘densely marked terrain’. I will also suggest that Leland’s three recorded civic narratives, the Anglo-Saxon kings, Guy of Warwick, and the Arthurian cycle, intertwine in a process of spatial and narrative competition during the construction of Winchester’s historical geography. The table that Leland saw on his visit to Winchester in 1539 is without doubt the table that still hangs in the city’s Great Hall to this day. For Leland, as for many visitors over the centuries, the table functioned as an iconic signifier of Winchester’s historical role as the site of Arthur’s court, identifying it as that most Arthurian of British cities, Camelot.55 The table would have looked very similar to that encountered by a twenty-first-century visitor, having reached its final appearance with its repainting at the special orders of Henry VIII in 1516.56 Martin Biddle, in his comprehensive study King Arthur’s Round Table, argues convincingly that the table was repaired and repainted as a symbol of Henry’s ambition to succeed Emperor Maximilian as the Holy Roman Emperor.57 The emperor had twice offered to abdicate in favour of Henry, and it seems that both the king and Cardinal Wolsey felt that there was hope of Henry being elected to the imperial throne.58 However, Henry’s imperial ambitions were in vain, and the table once more lost its immediate political resonance as England moved away from its ties with the Habsburgs towards closer relations with France. 59 Prior to Leland’s record of the table, there exists what is perhaps the most well known reference to the table’s role within Winchester’s urban landscape. Caxton, in the list of Arthurian relics found in his 1485 preface to Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, tells us that the table still hangs in Winchester, but does not go so far as to identify the city as the site of Camelot.60 Malory himself makes this leap when he writes: ‘the cité of Camelot, that ys in English called Wynchester. . . .’61 Malory, writing in 1470–1, is the first Arthurian authority to explicitly identify Winchester as Camelot;62 prior to Malory, Winchester is mentioned simply as one of the sites of Arthur’s court, as we see in Chrétien’s Cligés.63 Various explanations have been put forward to explain Malory’s 55 Beate Schmolke-Hasselmann discusses the historical and cultural context of the table (‘The Round

Table: Ideal, Fiction, Reality’, Arthurian Literature, 2 (1982), 41–72). 56 The table’s painting was touched up during the Victorian period, but the basic design of the decora-

tion remains faithful to the sixteenth-century table (Biddle, p. 473). 57 Ibid., pp. 432–45. 58 Ibid., p. 473. 59 The Habsburg Arthurian pretensions are discussed in both Biddle (pp. 445–9) and in David

Starkey, ‘King Henry and King Arthur’, Arthurian Literature, 16 (1998), 171–96. 60 In fact, Caxton claims that Camelot is in Wales (Thomas Malory, Malory: Works, ed. Eugène

Vinaver, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. xiv). 61 Malory, p. 58. 62 He glosses Winchester for Camelot four times (Malory, p. 58 (line 39), p. 505 (line 34), p. 621 (line

27–28), and p. 624 (line 11)). 63 ‘Et quant il furent atorné / De soz Hantone sont torné, / Si ont le droit chemin tenu / Tant qu’a

Guincestre sont venu, / Ou li rois estoit a sejor.’ (‘Once ready, they left Southampton and, following the direct route, came to Winchester where the king was staying’) (Chrétien de Troyes,

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Arthurian privileging of Winchester, but the most compelling remains George Stewart’s 1935 article in which he argues that the presence of the Round Table itself in Winchester’s Great Hall determined Malory’s identification. 64 Biddle’s study has since demonstrated that the Round Table was certainly available to be seen during Malory’s life, and it is possible that a popular tradition connected to the presence of the table may have influenced Malory in his identification.65 It seems likely, considering the intrinsic role of the table in materialising Winchester’s links with the Arthurian legend, that the origins of Winchester as an Arthurian city are entangled with the origins of the table itself. Summarising Winchester’s role as an Arthurian city in literature prior to the creation of the table, Biddle concludes that the idea that the Round Table began at Winchester probably owes more to the actual presence of a round table hanging in Winchester Castle hall than it does to thirteenth-century ideas of the role of the city in Arthur’s world.66

Biddle’s study of the table suggests that it was initially constructed at the orders of Edward I as a centrepiece for a royal tournament held in Winchester in 1290.67 It seems that Edward held the tournament, which Biddle places on Thursday 20 April, to celebrate the arrangements for the impending marriages of his three children: his heir Edward’s marriage to Margaret, the queen of Scotland; Joan of Acre’s marriage to Gilbert de Clare; and the marriage of Margaret to John, heir of Duke John of Brabant.68 The importance of these marriages to the stability of Edward’s kingdom, especially since he was planning to embark upon crusade, combined with his undoubted enthusiasm for the Arthurian legend, synthesised in the idea to hold a grand Arthurian tournament held around the concept of the Round Table. That Winchester was regarded as an Arthurian city by Edward is interesting in its own right, but what is of particular interest is that it was considered to be an appropriate site for an Arthurian tournament. As we have seen, prior to Malory, Winchester was not considered to have been Camelot, but there is an important literary connection between the city and an Arthurian

64 65

66 67 68

Cligés, ed. Stewart Gregory and Claude Luttrell, Arthurian Studies 28 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1993), lines 299–303, cited in Biddle, p. 352). George Stewart, ‘English Geography in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur’, Modern Language Review, 30 (1935), 204–9 (p. 204). Sue-Ellen Holbrook has suggested that Malory’s familiarity with Hardying’s Chronicle may have influenced his choice of Winchester, but the suggestion seems unnecessary in the light of the popular connection between Winchester, the table, and Camelot (‘Malory’s Identification of Camelot as Winchester’, in Studies in Malory, ed. James W. Spisak (Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan University, 1985), pp. 13–27). More recently, Earl Anderson has noted another potential textual source, suggesting that Malory may have connected Camelot’s ‘Church of Seynte Stevins’ with the ‘Chapel of S. Stephan’ that Leland mentions in his Itinerary (‘Malory’s Camelot, Winchester, and The Chirche of Seynte Stevins’, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, 92 (1991), 211–12). My thanks are due to Professor Peter Field for his invaluable advice regarding this debate. Biddle, p. 357. Ibid., p. 390. Ibid., p. 362.

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Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes tournament. In the Old French Mort Artu, composed around 1230–5, Arthur ‘fist crier un tornoiement en le praerie de Wincestre . . .’69 As Biddle points out, ‘The tournament at Winchester is the great set-piece of the early part of the Mort Artu,’ and he suggests that this text, or at least the tradition that it represents, may have provided the underlying rationale for Edward’s staging of the 1290 tournament in the fields outside the city.70 This text establishes Winchester as an Arthurian site: ‘From the time of the Mort Artu, however, it was possible to see Winchester as a proper place for the holding of a tournament, above all because Arthur had chosen the city himself. . . . ’71 Edward’s Round Table tournament of 1290 was held at a site that is recorded in the records of the King’s Wardrobe.72 A payment of 1 mark is recorded, paid to one Robert Dote for the preparation and levelling of the tournament ground iuxta Wynton. Biddle makes an interesting suggestion regarding the location of the site, suggesting that it may have been held in the very place that later became associated with Guy’s famous battle. Biddle suggests that the Guy and Colbrond tradition may have become associated with Denemarche through an earlier, Arthurian, reputation as a field suited to important combats. Biddle supports his proposition by demonstrating that Denemarche had been, in 1280, determined by a jury to have been the property of the king, and thus is marked out as an appropriate and available site for Edward to hold his tournament.73 If Biddle is right in placing the tournament here, we encounter an interesting geographical and narrative synthesis. Denemarche becomes a physical manifestation of referential plurality, acting as a signifier of two separate historical narratives. The potential polyvalent signification of Denemarche is not unexpected. Paul Strohm has alerted us to the fact that spatial signifiers within the medieval city were never clear and uncomplicated: ‘Boundaries overlap, temporalities jostle together, spatial claims and counterclaims abound and proliferate . . . .’74 If Denemarche was the site of Edward’s tournament, this suggests a long-established use of the site as a cultural and historical signifier, and prefigures the meadow’s importance in Leland’s reading of Winchester’s urban geography. The meadow outside Hyde Abbey becomes a site of narrative competition within Winchester’s historical topography – a contest in which, interestingly, Guy seems to once again carry the day. Here we have the 69 ‘Declared a tournament on the meadow at Winchester . . .’ (La Morte Le Roi Artu: roman du XIIIe

70 71 72 73

74

siècle, ed. Jean Frappier, Classiques Français du Moyen Age (Paris: Champion, 1954), § 3, cited in Biddle, p. 354). In the stanzaic Le Morte Arthur, two tournaments are held at Winchester (Le Morte Arthur, ed. J. Douglas Bruce (London: Oxford University Press, 1903), line 42 and line 240). Biddle, pp. 354–7. It is also interesting to note that Malory places the judicium Dei between Lancelot and Mador de la Porte outside Winchester (Malory, p. 615). Biddle, p. 357. Ibid., p. 367. Ibid., p. 369. One problem with this argument is, of course, that Edward granted Denemarche back to Hyde Abbey in 1281 as free alms, although this does not preclude its use as a site for the battle (Keene, p. 947). Strohm, p. 4.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance case of the Anglo-Saxon past, or at least an imagined Anglo-Saxon past in the form of the Guy narrative, replacing Edward’s construction of Denemarche as an Arthurian site, perhaps signifying the changing fortunes of the Arthurian legend within the construction of Winchester’s, and England’s, history during the fifteenth century. In considering the use of the Guy narrative and the Arthurian legend in constructing Winchester, we must ask why the city required these literary–historical pasts. Of what cultural utility were these stories to the city and its clerical institutions? One might wonder whether Winchester’s royal Anglo-Saxon heritage might not have sufficed to provide Leland with a sense of the city’s importance, without having to make recourse to Guy and Arthur. In order to provide a context for Winchester’s appropriation of these narratives, a brief summary of the city’s rise to, and fall from, national importance is required. Winchester’s rise to prominence seems to have begun during the reign of King Alfred during the ninth century. By 878 Winchester can be seen to have replaced Southampton (Hamwic) as the seat of royal administration for the Wessex monarchs. This seems to have been a direct response to the Viking raids on Hamwic of the late ninth century. Barbara Yorke concludes that although ‘to speak of a “capital” would be misleading in a ninth-century context’, it is undeniable that Winchester seems to have taken over many of the administrative functions of Hamwic during Alfred’s reign.75 An example of Winchester’s growing importance during the late ninth century can be seen in the founding of the city’s first royal mint.76 Winchester’s importance as the seat of royal administration continued to develop throughout the tenth and eleventh centuries, becoming the one of the two principal cities, alongside London, of the later Anglo-Saxon and Danish kings. It seems to have been in the immediate post-conquest period that Winchester reached its zenith. The early Norman kings recognised both Winchester’s royal heritage and its proximity to the important southern ports. They rebuilt palaces and minsters, establishing the city as an important centre of their cross-channel realm. However, the centuries after the Conquest were not so kind to the city. Winchester’s decline as a royal centre can be seen as early as the reign of Henry I. The royal palace next to the Old Minster seems to have fallen into disuse, and was finally destroyed in 1141 by fighting involving Henry de Blois. Although Winchester Castle still held the royal treasury during Henry II’s reign, the thirteenth century saw the castle lose its importance as a seat of royal administration. The last king to show a marked engagement with the city was Henry III, whose interest seems to have prolonged a fading tradition 75 Barbara Yorke, ‘The Bishops of Winchester and the Kings of Wessex’, Proceedings of the Hamp-

shire Field Club and Archaeological Society, 40 (1984), 61–70 (p. 67). 76 Michael Dolley, ‘The Location of the pre-Alfredian Mints of Wessex’, Proceedings of the Hamp-

shire Field Club and Archaeological Society, 27 (1972), 57–61.

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Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes of royal attachment to Winchester. Under his son Edward I, despite the tournament of 1290, the city seems to have fallen largely out of royal favour. The fire in 1302 that destroyed the royal apartments in the castle seems to have signalled the end of royal habitation there. The damage was not restored. The rupture with the crown, largely accomplished by 1300, was not the sole reason for the city’s decline. Changing patterns of trade, Winchester’s life-blood during the previous centuries, led to sustained emigration to larger centres such as London and Southampton. During the fourteenth century, Winchester shrank considerably in size and population. 77 That the inhabitants of Winchester were concerned about Winchester’s decline is evident from the surviving records. Much of this concern seems to have focused on their inability to meet their financial responsibilities to the royal coffers – what was known as the royal farm. During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the townsfolk made numerous appeals for remission of their royal dues.78 During the fifteenth century, when Malory may well have visited it, Winchester was literally a city falling apart: a remission petition of 1452 lists some seventeen churches that had fallen into disuse within the city, and describes certain areas where hundreds of houses were unoccupied and in disrepair.79 While some of these figures may well have been overestimated, such as the 1417 figure of 81 houses that were said to have collapsed in disrepair during the three years since the previous parliament, the lists build up a picture of considerable and sustained urban decay. The royal grant of remission of the royal farm in 1440 seems to have been in response to a carefully argued appeal from the townsfolk that emphasised the previous royal connections with Winchester as a place of coronation and royal burial. 80 It is within the context of this continual urban decline that we can understand the social utility of the Guy and Arthurian narratives. A community’s history is one of the most important elements in its sense of communal identity, and as Winchester declined, its past seems to have become ever more important to the civic pride and local identity of its citizens. Despite the contracting population and financial hardship of the community, the people of Winchester could point to their past as a sign of the city’s importance, and the past that they celebrated was not solely one grounded in what we would consider to be historical fact. Rather, Winchester’s civic past was one that celebrated episodes from literature and legend – a montage of heroic events that was constructed from romance and chronicle, memorialised in literature and landscape. Winchester seems to have found some utility in these narratives, as it tried to reaffirm a diminishing sense of regional importance. We have seen how urban signs such as Denemarche and Guy’s sword became both the loci and the objects of competing narratives, and on a 77 78 79 80

Keene, p. 93. Ibid., pp. 94–5. Ibid., p. 97. Ibid., p. 96.

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance national scale Winchester itself can be seen to be another such contested signifier. In the early Middle Ages the city stood at the centre of an English conception of nationhood, acting as both the centre of government and the site of burial for the kings of Wessex. Even after the city’s decline in the fourteenth century, it is not surprising that Winchester maintained a literary association with pre-conquest England. The importance of the Anglo-Saxon past to Winchester must have been as self-evident in the later Middle Ages as it is today. Old Minster, Nunnaminster, and Hyde Abbey (New Minster) with their royal tombs and pre-conquest foundations stood as ever-present reminders of the city’s central place in the English past. Nor was this connection lost on the writers of romance. Winchester is connected with pre-conquest monarchs in a number of medieval romances. Prominent among those kings to be associated with Winchester is Athelstan, although not, somewhat surprisingly, in his eponymous romance. 81 While Winchester’s reputation seems to have been enhanced by the city’s connection with the Guy and Arthurian narratives, the city did not fare quite so well in another of the Matter of England romances. As we have seen in Chapter 3, Havelok re-imagines the process by which the Anglo-Danish kings came to rule England. Early in the romance, King Athelwold dies, leaving only his daughter Goldeboru as his heir. Knowing that he is mortally ill, Athelwold calls his lords together and has them swear loyalty to his daughter: Thanne he weren comen alle Bifor the king into the halle, At Winchestre ther he lay, (Havelok the Dane, 156–8)82

The king, as late Anglo-Saxon kings often did, resides in Winchester. Here again, as in Guy of Warwick, we find Winchester represented as the centre of Anglo-Saxon royal authority. Upon the king’s death, Godrich, earl of Cornwall assumes the regency until Goldeboru reaches twenty years of age. Goldeboru is established in Winchester, and the narrative leaves her there until she approaches her age of accession. However, as is often the case with literary regents, Godrich is reluctant to relinquish his power, and when the princess approaches twenty he decides to imprison her and usurp legitimate rule. He removes Goldeboru from Winchester, where she has been living since her father’s death, and imprisons her in Dover Castle. In doing so, Godrich transports Goldeboru from the traditional centre of legitimate political power, Winchester, and exiles her to the margins of the kingdom, on the coast at Dover. However, as the text goes on to demonstrate, he cannot move the locus of legitimate rule, which is ultimately to be found in the body of Goldeboru herself. 81 Although, considering the strong northeast Midland dialect in Athelston, the translation of the

crown from Winchester to London is understandable (Donald B. Sands (ed.), Middle English Verse Romances (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 1986), p. 57). 82 Havelok the Dane, ed. G. V. Smithers (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987).

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Literary Terrains and Textual Landscapes At the end of the romance, Havelok restores legitimate rule to England, by defeating Godrich and marrying Goldeboru. He then travels to London to be crowned before his subjects, both Danish and English. The locus of English political power is transferred under Havelok from Anglo-Saxon Winchester to Anglo-Danish London. However, rather than representing the political reality of eleventh-century Anglo-Danish rule, under which Winchester retained its administrative importance, this is perhaps a manifestation of the post-conquest transferral of power from Winchester to London witnessed during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In contrast to Guy of Warwick, the treatment of Winchester in Havelok seems to express a communal anxiety regarding the city’s loss of prestige – an expression of Winchester’s increasing marginalisation from England’s history. This anxiety regarding Winchester’s position within England’s history seems inexorably linked to the construction of its own urban geography. The appropriation of the Guy of Warwick and Arthurian narratives can be read as a response to the decline of the city’s role as the centre of English political power. T. A. Shippey has suggested that England has a kind of mythical geography, a network of associations and oppositions, now dwindled largely to humour and tourism, but once a vital part of the country’s being: a geography which accords special roles to Oxford and Cambridge, to Stratford and Glastonbury, to Wigan and Jarrow. In this geography Winchester has a place full of significance. 83

Winchester’s pre-eminent role within this ‘mythical geography’, so assured until the beginning of the fourteenth century, became increasingly threatened as the city declined during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. When Leland visits the city in 1539, he constructs the city almost exclusively in terms of its glorious past. Within this cultural context, the Guy narrative, recorded not only in the topography of the city, but also inscribed pictorially upon the very walls of the town, seems to have provided a reminder of Winchester’s former glory to the declining civic community. In a fashion similar to the iconic function of Denemarche, the Round Table encodes collective memory, making real Winchester’s links with Camelot by providing the city with concrete evidence of this connection. The creation of the table may well have operated, in a cultural sense, in a similar manner to Edward’s other attempts to translate Arthurian prestige from Wales, the colonial margin of his kingdom, towards the imperial centre. Analogous perhaps to the dedication of Arthur’s tomb in Glastonbury Abbey in 1278, and to the transferral of Arthur’s crown to Westminster Abbey in 1284, Edward’s creation of the table appropriates for Winchester, and thus for England, the

83 T. A. Shippey, ‘Winchester in the Anglo-Saxon Period and After’, in Winchester: History and

Literature, ed. Simon Barker and Colin Haydon (Winchester: King Alfred’s College, 1992), pp. 1–21 (p. 18).

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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance Arthurian myth.84 Camelot thus becomes one aspect of Winchester’s claims to a glorious past – the construction of which made use of romance as a mode of narrative history that, as we have seen in Chapter 3, was widely accepted during the Middle Ages. The past is an important part of any community’s collective identity, and becomes even more so when a community is faced with present decline. In the case of Leland’s selective construction of Winchester, the city’s pre-conquest pasts, both Anglo-Saxon and Arthurian, are identified as important cultural narratives, signifying the city’s importance within English history. Through the romance mode of narrative history, Winchester’s Anglo-Saxon and Arthurian pasts are located in, to use Michelle Warren’s phrase, ‘a distinctly English post-colonial landscape’.85 Winchester’s past is constructed as one in which there is space for Briton, Saxon, and Norman alike. The construction of Winchester’s past within medieval romance makes use of place and artefact as signifiers of historical narrative. Winchester itself thus becomes a complex nexus of signifiers that sits at the centre of an English narrative topography, representing an English past that, despite the fact that it never happened, lay at the heart of regional and national identity during the later Middle Ages.

84 Edward’s enthusiasm for, and political use of, the Arthurian legends are discussed by Roger

Sherman Loomis (‘Edward I, Arthurian Enthusiast’, Speculum, 28 (1953), 114–27) and Juliet Vale (Edward III and Chivalry: Chivalric Society and its Context, 1270–1350 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1982)). On the nature of Arthur’s crown and its translation to Westminster Abbey, see Thea Summerfield, The Matter of Kings’ Lives (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998), pp. 59–60 and pp. 86–7. 85 Warren, p. 84.

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Conclusion

Conclusion

D

ONALD Scragg has suggested that ‘few of the authors of the Middle iAges had an interest in the Anglo-Saxon period’, and Allen Frantzen and John Niles have argued that during the Middle Ages ‘the Anglo-Saxon period had rested in relative obscurity’.1 While these critics are no doubt correct in observing the lack of interest shown by the major writers of the Middle English canon such as Chaucer, Langland, and Gower, this book has tried to suggest that an enduring literary interest in the Anglo-Saxon past can be seen in such texts as the Proverbs of Alfred and the Matter of England romances. This study has attempted to demonstrate that, rather than being condemned to ‘relative obscurity’ during the Middle English period, the idea of Anglo-Saxon England held a significant place in the literary and social imagination of the post-conquest English. As the point of origin, both real and imagined, of English law and cultural identity, the Anglo-Saxon past was important in the construction of a post-conquest English society that was both aware of, and placed great stock in, its Anglo-Saxon heritage. This book has demonstrated the cultural importance of the idea of Anglo-Saxon England through an examination of the various survivals of the Anglo-Saxon past within Middle English literature from the twelfth century through to the fifteenth century. These texts show evidence of a continued interest in the Anglo-Saxon past that ranges from the localised East Sussex legend of King Alfred that underlies the twelfth-century Proverbs of Alfred to the institutional interest in the Guy of Warwick narrative exhibited by the community of St Swithun’s Priory in Winchester during the fifteenth century. In each of these chapters I have examined both how the Anglo-Saxon past is reconstructed, and the social and institutional discourses that inform these constructions. While these representations of Anglo-Saxon England vary in their nature, there exist many connections and continuities between them that seem to be important in the cultural remembrance of the Anglo-Saxon era. The Proverbs of Alfred constructs the reign of King Alfred as a golden age of peace and wise rule. In its description of Alfred’s ordering of Anglo-Saxon society, the text re-creates the hierarchical structure of an idealised Christian society, and goes on to outline the proverbial tenets of such a society, producing a ‘unifying ideology’ of social mores. The text acts as both a mirror 1

Donald Scragg, ‘Introduction – The Anglo-Saxons: Fact and Fiction’, in Literary Appropriations of the Anglo-Saxons from the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Century, ed. Donald Scragg and Carole Weinberg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 1–21 (p. 7); Allen Frantzen and John D. Niles, ‘Anglo-Saxonism and Medievalism’, in their Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997), pp. 1–14 (p. 7).

157

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance of kingship and a mirror of social behaviour, grounding both codes explicitly within the time of the Anglo-Saxon past. Most likely produced either at Lewes Priory or Battle Abbey, the Proverbs make use of King Alfred’s widespread reputation as a Solomon-like figure during the Middle Ages, a reputation that is also found in the Owl and the Nightingale, Marie de France’s Fables, and a range of monastic chronicles. As an example of the literary survival of Anglo-Saxon England, the Proverbs is an interesting text, appropriating a local remembrance of King Alfred and utilising this story to produce an ideological commentary upon the twelfth-century present through comparison with an idealised Anglo-Saxon past. Chapter 3 examined the survival of Anglo-Saxon England within the Middle English Matter of England romances. Through a close consideration of both the integration of romance narrative into chronicles, and of the structuring of manuscripts such as the Auchinleck MS as histories in themselves, the border between history and romance in the medieval period begins to appear somewhat less than distinct. That the Matter of England romances were understood by at least part of their audience as representing history seems undeniable, and their popular historicity is confirmed by imprinting of events from romances such as Guy of Warwick and Beues of Hamtoun upon the topography of both Warwickshire and Hampshire. As with the Proverbs, the Matter of England romances are intimately connected with the landscapes upon which they are played out. The Matter of England romances emphasise their connection with English history via the visible and knowable: the place-names, memorials, towns, and cities of England itself. As narratives of the Anglo-Saxon past, these romances become important in telling the post-conquest English about who they are: they construct the Anglo-Saxon past in order to emphasise the continuity of the English as a single people. In representing the Anglo-Saxons as similar to their fourteenth-century descendants, these texts participate in a wider cultural fiction of the continuity and antiquity of English identity. The important contribution of the romances in the process of English identity formation is highlighted in Chapter 4. English identity within the medieval period emerges as heterogeneous, complicated by the competing group affinities of Christendom and the often highly localised provincial origins of the heroes of the narratives themselves. Anglo-Saxon England emerges as an important temporal space in which these supra-national and regional tensions of national identity can be examined and incorporated into a national fantasy of Englishness. This interrelation between English identity and Anglo-Saxon England also becomes apparent in its role as the temporal font of English law. When William I took the throne in 1066, he famously promised to uphold ‘the law of King Edward in lands and in all things, having added thereto the things which I have appointed for the welfare of the people of the English’.2 2

Doris M. Stenton, English Justice: 1066–1215 (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1964), p. 6.

158

Conclusion Throughout the post-conquest period we find a repeated insistence that English law originated prior to the conquest,3 and the Matter of England romances reflect this obsession with the Anglo-Saxon provenance of English law. Some of the laws presented in the romances were in fact important Anglo-Saxon customs, such as the oath, but others such as trial by combat were post-conquest innovations. By presenting such elements of post-conquest law as having been the ancient practice of the Anglo-Saxons, English law as familiar to the audiences of these romances is given a venerable and legitimising provenance. Furthermore, a respect for law becomes a marker of English identity in the romances of Guy, Beues, and Horn Childe: Susan Crane has noted the ‘concern for just procedure’4 that characterises the Matter of England romances. Guy of Warwick in particular, in his role as ‘the model of the knight of England’,5 is characterised by a strict adherence to the tenets of English law in contrast to his non-English adversaries. The importance of English law in the construction of English identity in Guy of Warwick emphasises the role of Anglo-Saxon England as a ‘mythic sphere of English identity formation’ in these romances. The final chapter examined how the imagined Anglo-Saxon past of the Matter of England romances became one essential part of Winchester’s complex legendary history. The Guy of Warwick narrative, which as we saw in Chapter 3 became encoded upon the landscape of England, situated Guy’s final climactic battle just outside Winchester, and this romance episode became imprinted upon Winchester’s urban geography as early as the midfifteenth century. Located through tradition in the meadow of Denemarche outside Winchester’s north gate, Guy’s victory became an integral part of Winchester’s glorious past, commemorated in sculpture, painting, and performance. The waning of Winchester’s contemporary political and economic importance, as seen in both the historical record and reflected in the transferral of royal power to London witnessed in Havelok the Dane, seems to have made this legendary past increasingly important to the civic community. The narrative also seems to have taken on a particular significance for the community of St Swithun’s Priory: in the fourteenth century we find records of their commissioning of a recital of the Guy and Colbrond story for an important guest, while in the fifteenth-century Guy and Colebrande there seems to be evidence of an attempt to further their claims to the possession of Guy’s sword and axe. By illustrating the continuing influence of Guy of Warwick in the later Middle Ages, this chapter emphasises the enduring influ-

3

4 5

Anthony Musson, ‘Appealing to the Past: Perceptions of Law in Late-Medieval England’, in Expectations of the Law in the Middle Ages, ed. Anthony Musson (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2001), pp. 165–79 (p. 176). Susan Crane, Insular Romance: Politics, Faith, and Culture in Anglo-Norman and Middle-English Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), p. 87. Thorlac Turville-Petre, England the Nation: Language, Literature, and National Identity, 1290–1340 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996), p. 116.

159

The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance ence of the Anglo-Saxon past within the social imagination of the post-conquest English people. These texts provide an important insight into the manner in which the Anglo-Saxon past was remembered in the post-conquest period. John Niles views the literary re-imagining the Anglo-Saxon past as a process of appropriation: he sees Anglo-Saxon England as essentially a creation of language, which can be continually reinvented for new and varied uses by succeeding generations.6 The texts examined in this study, with the importance that they place upon names, places and local traditions, suggest that the process of remembering Anglo-Saxon England is more complex than Niles implies. Rather than being subjective imaginings of the pre-conquest past, these texts present constructions of Anglo-Saxon England that are grounded in a sense of material and historical continuity. In the Proverbs, the names Alfred and Alfrich act as signifiers of the putative temporal setting of the poem, while also connecting the text to its local geographical environment. Names are also important in the romances, with the names of Anglo-Saxon kings such as Edgar and Athelstan again providing a material indication of their temporal milieux. Landscape and place-names also function as significant elements in the construction of the past in these texts. Seaford, Warwick, Lincoln, Winchester, and the northern geography of Horn Childe act to construct a familiar and knowable England in which these narratives are played out. These events occur in real and identifiable places, creating an Anglo-Saxon past that is tangible to its audience and anchored in ‘the sense of the real’. Rather than imagining Anglo-Saxon England ex nihilo, the Proverbs and the Matter of England romances make use of these cultural and material relicts of the Anglo-Saxon past. In these texts the Anglo-Saxon past is constructed using memories, places, events and names that are part of a wider imaginative remembrance of the pre-conquest past. These texts do not represent independent re-imaginings of the past, but are rather part of a continued cultural remembrance that encompasses chronicles, folk memories, aetiological narratives, and literature. In this book, I have sought to demonstrate that the Anglo-Saxon past, far from being marginal to post-conquest English culture, occupied an important role within the social imagination of medieval England. While pre-conquest England may not have appealed as a subject to the literary elite, it proved both an attractive and enduring subject for more popular forms of literature such as the Proverbs of Alfred and the Matter of England romances.

6

John D. Niles, ‘Appropriations: A Concept of Culture’, in Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity, pp. 202–28 (p. 208).

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175

Index Alban, St, Abbey of, 35, 93 Alcuin, 59 Alfred (king of England), 31, 40–2, 135, 138 laws of, 119 law-maker, 94–5 post-conquest reputation of, 5, 35–7, 42–9, 94–5, 135 prologue to Augustine’s Soliloquies, 41 prologue to Gregory’s Cura Pastoralis, 19, 42 reputation as translator, 44 reputation as wise man, 42–9 translation of Gregory’s Cura Pastoralis, 49 Alfred the Englishman, 44 Alfrich (Ælfric), 31, 33–4 Alfriston (East Sussex), 33–4, 39 Alvred (pincerna), 34–7, 50 William fitz, 35–7 Richard fitz William fitz, 36 Amoraunt (giant), 81–3, 120–1, 123–4 Anderson, Benedict, 71 Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 40, 48, 86, 106–7, 109 Anglo-Saxonism, history of, 1–7 Anlaf (Danish leader), 56–8, 62 Annals of Winchester, see Richard of Devises Arngart, Olaf, 14, 15, 16–17, 30, 31–2, 43 Arondel (horse), 64–5, 115–17 Arthur (legendary king of England), 11–12, 65, 138, 148 tudor passion for, 138 Arundel Castle, 64–5 Asser (bishop of St David’s), Vita Alfredi, 17, 42–3, 45–9 Athelstan (King of England), 56, 59, 62, 94, 139, 154 Athelston, 88, 99–100, 129–32 Athelwold, 100–1, 119 Atkins, John, 43 Auchinleck Manuscript, 53, 58–60 nationalism in, 74–5, 83, 91–2 Bartlett, Robert, 113, 117–18 Battle Abbey, 39, 49

Beauchamp family, 145 Beckett, Thomas (archbishop of Canterbury), 24, 37, 129 Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica, 108–9, 138 Beues of Hamtoun, 52, 55, 61, 74, 115–17, 127–8, 131, 134 landscape, 63–5 regionalism in, 88–91 Bhabha, Homi, 50, 61, 75 Biddle, Martin, 149–51 Bracton, Henry De Legibus, 126 Bradbury, Nancy, 141 Brennan, Timothy, 72 Brunnanburh, 56–8, 62, 139, 140 n.21 Brutus, legendary founder of Britain, 63 Burrow, J. A., 55 n.13 Cam, Helen, 131 Campbell, James, 12 Caxton, William, 149 Charleston, manor of (East Sussex), 35 n.72, 36 Chaucer, 106, 127 n.115 Chilcombe, 142–3 Chrétien de Troyes, Cliges, 149 Cohen, Jeffery Jerome, 53, 63, 76, 84 Colbrond (giant), 57, 61, 62–3, 125, 138, 140, 142, 144 Cooper, Alan, 109–10 Constantinople, 77–80, 123 Cornwall, 86–8 Cornwall, Richard Earl of, 86–7 Crane, Susan, 70–1, 74, 88, 90, 98, 99 Crépin, André, 14, 18, 20, 22, 40–2 Cronicon Abbatiae Rameseiensis, 95 Crundel (Yorkshire), 35 De Certeau, Michel, 135–6 Dene, East, 17 Dene, West, 17 Denemarche (field outside Winchester), 139–145, 151–2, 153, 155 Devises, Richard of, Annals of Winchester, 44

177

Index Dissolution of the Monasteries, 137–8 Distichs of Cato, 30, 38, 49 Djordjevic, Ivana, 53 Dover, 154 Dugdale, William, The Antiquities of Warwickshire Illustrated, 145 Durham, Simeon of, 17 Historia Regum, 46 Earl, James, 19 Eastbourne (East Sussex), 35 East Grinstead, 35 Edgar (king of England), 63–4, 66, 88–91, 94, 128 Edward I (king of England), 71, 112 n.74, 150–1, 155–6 Edwin, King, 108 Englishness, medieval, 9, 68–9, 70–1, 79–83, 85, 91–2, 126, 133 Faith, Rosamund, 94 Field, Rosalind, 52, 54, 85 Firle (East Sussex), 35, 36 Fox, Adam, 65 Frankis, John, 6 Frantzen, Allen, 2–7, 51, 157 Franzen, Christine, 6 Frederick, Jill, 6 Ganville, Rannulf de, 121 Gellner, Ernest, 71 Geraldus Cornubiensis, 143 n.36 Gloucester, Robert of, 60, 86, 133 Chronicle, 70, 73, 95 n.15 Gogmagog (giant), 63 Green, Richard Firth, 98–9, 117, 118–19, 122–3 Grindcobbe, Walter, 93 Guildford, Nicholas of, 32 Gui de Warewic, 56, 85, 106 Guy and Colebrande, 141, 143–8 Guy’s Cliff (Warwickshire), 61, 146 Guy of Warwick, 52, 56, 61, 75, 87, 88, 102, 134, 139 burial of, 144–8 English identity, 76–84, 85 landscape, 61–3 legal nature of, 112, 119–26 memorial to, 140 painting of, 140 relics of, 140, 142–5, 148, 153 Ha-Nakdan, Berechiah ben Natronai, 44

Hanson, Elaine Tuttle, 43 Hart, Cyril, 46–7 Havelok the Dane, 52, 86–7, 88, 100–2, 102–5, 134, 154–5 landscape in, 65–6 legalistic nature of, 98, 112 oaths in, 118–9 Heng, Geraldine, 72, 74, 84 Henry I (king of England), 11, 36, 97, 107, 110 Henry II (king of England), 24, 31, 36, 129 Henry III (king of England), 86 Henry VIII (king of England), 137, 142 Historiography, 54 History and Antiquities of Winchester, 140 Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild, 52, 113–15 landscape in, 66–8 royal education, 127 Horsman, Reginald, 2 Huntingdon, Henry of, 109–10 Hyde Abbey, 138–9, 142, 145 Hyde Mead, see Denemarche Johnson, Lesley, 71 Justice, Stephen, 93 Kern, Fritz, 96 Keynes, Simon, 40, 42, 94 Kingship national identity, 72–3 subject to Christ, 22, 40 subject to law, 23, 37, 100–2, 115–18, 126–8, 129–32 King’s Peace, The, 100–112 Klaeber, Friedrich, 48–9 Knighton, Henry, Chronica de Eventibus Angliae, 142 Laigle, Gilbert of, 36 Langtoft, Pierre de, Chronicle, 56–8, 62 Lapidge, Michael, 40, 42, 46–7 Larrington, Carolyne, 25–6 Law abjuring the realm, 115, 117 Anglo-Saxon, 94 copying of after the conquest, 95–6, 109, 133 animal trials, 116–17 archaism in, 98–9, 118, 130 Danish, 103–5 English identity, 97–8, 103–5, 112–28, 133

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Index French, 104–5 manrede, 119 Norman, 96–7, 102 n.38, 122 oaths, 118–121, 126, 130 equivocal oaths, 124 peace of the Four Highways, 110 perjury, 121 royal misuse of, 127–8 Statute of Treasons of 1352, 131 treason, 116–17, 129, 131 trial by combat (judicium dei), 113, 118, 121–6 Welsh, 113, 114 Lawton, David, 137 Leges Edwardi Confessoris, 111–12, 115, 118 Leges Henrici Primi, 110–11, 118, 133 Leland, John, Assertio inclytissimi Arturi Regis Britanniae, 138 Commentarii de scriptoribus Britannicis, 142 Itinerary, 137–9, 148 Lerer, Seth, 12 Lewes Priory, 39, 49 Lewis, C. S., 55 Lombards, 85, 89–90 London, 88–91, 153 MacDougall, Hugh A., 2 Malmesbury, William of, 11, 17, 34, 56, 60 Gesta Regum Anglorum, 94–5, 133 Malory, Sir Thomas, Morte D’Arthur, 87–8, 135, 149–50 Manning, Robert, Chronicle, 70 Marie de France, Fables, 44 Mark, King of Cornwall, 87 Martin, Mary Lou, 44 Matter of England Romances, 52, 98–9 McClure, Judith, 109 Medievalism, 3 Metlitzki, Dorothee, 55, 76 Minkova, Donka, 15–16 Mirror of Justices, 121, 123, 130, 132 Mitchell, Sarah, 6, 72–3 Monmouth, Geoffrey of, 11, 86 Historia Regum Britanniae, 11 Montecute Abbey (Somerset), 35 Mort Artu, 151 Mortain, Robert of, 35 Mortimer, Richard, 31

Musson, Anthony, 9, 94, 96–8, 100, 126, 131 National Identity, 50, 133, 156 European context of, 84–5 inscape of national identity, 61–3, 91–2 medieval concept of, 71–5 regional aspects of, 85–91 New Forest, 63 Niles, John, 2–7, 10, 51, 55, 157, 160 Nora, Pierre, 135 n.1 Nottingham, 90 O’Brien, Bruce, 115 Offa (king of Mercia), 93–4 Ormrod, W. M., 131 Osborne, Marijane, 60 Overing, Gillian R., 60 Owl and the Nightingale, 13, 16, 32, 43–4 Padstow (Cornwall), 86 Pearsall, Derek, 70, 89 n. 68, 90 Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, 93–4 Percy Folio, 141, 143 Pevensey, Rape of, 35 Pevensey, Castle of, 35 Pilgrimage, 124 Powicke, Maurice, 71 Proverbs, use of, 25–6 on age, 27 on care with words, 28 on drinking, 29 on friendship, 27 on wealth, 26–7 on women, 28–9 on youth, 26 Proverbs of Alfred, 12–13, 53, 99, 127 dialect of, 16–17 manuscripts of, 13–14 origins of, 30–40 social structure within, 18–24 social ideology of, 26–30 Prüm, Regino of, 112–13 Quadripartitus, 111 Ramsey, Byrhtferth of sections of Historia Regum attributed to, 46–9 Richard Coer de Lyon, 72–3 Richmond, Velma Bourgeois, 141 Romance, as historical narrative, 8, 52, 54–60, 112 n.75 readership of, 52

179

Index Round Table, The, 135, 138–9, 148–51 Rowe, Elizabeth Ashman, 129 Rudbourne, Thomas, Historia maior de fundatione ecclesiae Witoniensis, 142–3

Treharne, Elaine, 132 Trounce, A. McI., 130 Turville-Petre, Thorlac, 52, 53, 58, 60, 65, 68, 70, 73–4, 83, 98, 105 Via Regia, 102, 105–12,

Salisbury, John of, Policraticus, 49, 127 n.117 Saracens, 75–85 as oath-breakers, 120–1 Scragg, Donald, 6–7, 157 Seaford (East Sussex), 12, 16, 17, 30, 31–2, 34, 36, 39 Shippey, T. A., 155 Short Metrical Chronicle, 58–9, 70 Sir Orfeo, 59–60, 134 Smith, Anthony, 84 Southampton, 63, 74, 153 Sowdone of Babylone, 76 Speculum de Guy of Warwicke, 59 Speed, Diane, 61, 68, 72, 75, 87, 99, 104 Spelman, Henry, Life of Alfred, 45 Sponsler, Claire, 89 Stenton, Doris, 113, 122 Stephen (king of England), 35 anarchy of, 40 Stephenson, William, 17 Stewart, George, 150 Strohm, Paul, 136–7, 141, 151 Swithun, St, monastery of, 140–2, 144–5

Wales, 114 Walsingham, Thomas, Gesta abbatum monasterii Sancti Albani, 93 Warren, Michele, 86 Warrene, William de, 39 Warton, Thomas, 140 Warwick, 61, 74, 144–5, 146–8 Weinberg, Carole, 6 William I (king of England), 39, 62, 96–7, 102 n.38, 107, 111, 122 William II, Rufus (king of England), 63 Williams, Ann, 97 Winchester, 62, 134–56 Arthurian reputation, 148–52 Camelot, 149 Decline of, 152–3 Worcester, John of, 11, 17 Wormald, Patrick, 95–6 Wulfstan, 20, 37 Institutes of Polity, 20, 22 n.43 Yorke, Barbara, 152

Textus Roffensis, 95, 133 Three Orders, The, 24–5

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