Abbot Suger built a church in the Gothic style at St Denis. Suger wrote extensively on the construction of the abbey in Liber de Rebus in Administratione sua Gestis, Libellus Alter de Consecratione Ecclesiae Sancti Dionysii, and Ordinatio and was also a keen historian and moved in influential circles being a confidant of the French Kings, Louis VI and Louis VII. Not only was abbot Suger friends with Henry Blois, they had similar interests, in architecture and history and both were central to power politics and correspondence between them is shown in Note 4.
We can only assume that Henry gave Abbot Suger a copy of an early version of his Libellus Merlini, but Suger’s gullible attitude toward Merlin is noteworthy and may have been affected by Henry Blois’ own ‘insightful commendation’ when presenting the copy to him.
While writing about Louis le Gros and Henry Ist, Abbot Suger interjects a few comments on extracts taken from the Libellus Merlini:
‘At that time, it so befell that Henry, King of the English, had come into the parts of the Normans, a right valiant man renowned alike in peace and war, whose excellency, admired and famous throughout well-nigh the universal world, Merlin, that marvellous observer and recorder of the continuous course of events amongst the English, rustic prophet though he be, doth with no less elegance than truth extol with exceeding honour; for, bursting forth abruptly, as hath ever been the wont of seers, in his praise, he thus up-lifteth his prophetic voice:
“The Lion of Justice,” saith he, “shall succeed, at whose roaring shall tremble the towers of Gaul and the Dragons of the Island. In his days shall gold be wrung from the lily and the nettle, and silver shall flow from the hooves of them that low. They whose hair is crisped and curled shall array themselves in parti-coloured fleeces, and the garment without shall betoken that which is within. The feet of them that bark shall be cropped short. The wild deer shall have peace, but humanity shall suffer the dole. The shape of commerce shall be cloven in twain; the half shall become round. The ravening of kites shall perish, and the teeth of wolves be blunted. The Lion’s whelps shall be transformed into fishes of the sea, and his Eagle shall build her nest upon (over) the mount Aravium.”
Just to indicate to the reader how Henry has twisted these original early prophecies over time, notice there is no mention of a ‘third’ nesting. Another indication which would define some of Crick’s eighty-five copies of the prophetia as deriving from the early versions, would be to see which omit mention of the ‘third nesting’. Abbot Suger’s copy would have been part of Henry’s initial set of prophecies which constitute what I have termed the Libellus Merlini and we should note they are close to those interpolated into ‘Orderic’s’ section. However, unlike Orderic’s there is no mention of a ‘sixth’ in Ireland. The reason for this is obviously the proof that the seditious prophecies found in the Orderic interpolation are an updated set produced after 1155 and the set to which Abbot Suger refers was probably made c.1139-43 and was a set of prophecies entirely seperate from the HRB. As Merlin was introduced into HRB (after the Primary Historia edition found at Bec), then in about 1149 they were introduced into the first Variant.
So, let us not think that Orderic’s section which purposefully tries to mirror the content of the real Libellus Merlini as found in that which Abbot Suger recounts is contemporaneous in content with a prophecy which predicts Henry II i.e. the sixth in Ireland. Since the Eagle is included, it dates to around 1139-43 given that there is no mention of passed events in the Anarchy like the events at Wallingford of the two kings and the two bishops. These are present in the Vulgate set of updated prophecies and further extended in the VM and also found in the prophecies supposedly translated by John of Cornwall.
It is interesting, the amount of fervent support such a sober and influential man lends to the credibility of Henry Blois’ concoction of the Merlin prophecies. One may speculate Abbot Suger’s view of the Merlin prophecies may have been influenced somewhat by Henry Blois’ commendation of his own work. Abbot Suger comments on the prophecies thus:
‘The whole compass of this prediction, so weighty and so ancient, fits in so exactly with the strenuous character of the person indicated and his administration of the realm, that not one single iota, not one single word can be regarded as inconsistent with the precise applicability thereof. For even from this which is said at the end about the Lion’s whelps it is abundantly manifest that the prophecy hath proven true, seeing that his sons and daughters were shipwrecked, and being devoured of the fishes of the sea were physically transformed into them.
The aforesaid King Henry, therefore, happily succeeding his brother William, as soon as he had by the counsel of experienced men and upright, ordered the realm of England to their liking according to the rule of their ancient Kings, and in order to secure their goodwill had confirmed by oath the ancient customs of the realm, made for the haven of his Norman duchy, and, relying on the help of the King of the French, bringeth back order to the land, restoreth the laws and imposeth peace upon compulsion, promising robbers nought less than the tearing out of their eyes or stark hanging, gallows-high. Presently, therefore, under the strokes and stress of these and the like promises, and stricken, moreover, by their frequent fulfilment, for any man can be profuse in promises, the land is dumb at sight of him, and the Normans, in whose fierce Dansker blood is no peace, keep peace against their will, thereby again verifying the words of the rustic prophet.
For the ravening of kites doth perish, and the teeth of wolves are blunted when neither gentle nor simple durst presume to pillage or plunder save by stealth. And when he saith that at the roaring of the Lion of Justice the towers of Gaul and the Dragons of the Island shall tremble, he intimateth this, that well-nigh all the towers and whatsoever castles were strongest in Normandy, which is part of Gaul, he did cause to be either levelled with the ground, or otherwise subdued unto his will either by settling men of his own therein, or, if they were destroyed, by confiscating their revenues to his own treasury. The Island Dragons also did tremble when none of the nobles of England, whosoever they might be, durst even grumble during his whole administration. In his days was gold wrung by him out of the lily, that is, from the religious of good odour, and from the nettle, that is from the stinging seculars; his intent being that as he was a profit unto all, so also should all do service unto himself. For safer it is that all should have one to defend them against all, than for all to perish through one man for lack of such a defender. Silver flowed from the hooves of them that low when the strength of the castle safeguarded the plenty of the grange, and the plenty of the grange assured abundance of silver in the well-filled coffers.’
Note that the Abbot does not care to elucidate on the meaning of Montem Aravium because the meaning will have been obvious to him personally and any ecclesiastical servant having travelled through the mountain range before crossing the Alps on the way to Rome. Henry’s cryptic allusion to the Empress of Rome i.e. the Empress Matilda, seems to have been indecipherable to others in the contemporary audience. Maybe this is why Henry Blois needed to add the ‘third nesting’ allegory in the Vulgate set of Merlin prophecies to obviate that the Eagle was the Empress Matilda, just for those who had not travelled to Rome. Yet strangely enough, Wace knows exactly what it means and supposedly he does not want to deal with the prophecies because he does not know how to interpret them, but we will get to that very important point later.
Abbot Suger selects these prophecies as an exemplar bearing directly on the subject he is writing about i.e. (Henry Ist)…. interpreting some as evidence that Merlin’s words have come to fruition. The ‘Sixth in Ireland’ prediction is not part of this block of prophecies obviously at this early date. The ‘Sixth in Ireland’ prophecy is found in the Vulgate HRB and VM in the same clump inserted in that position post 1155 after the Winchester council had been held, but naturally, that particular prophecy could not be part of the prophecies before Suger’s death. If only Suger (writing c.1147) had said by what means or from whom he had received these Merlin prophecies or Robert of Torigni had stated from whom the Abbey of Bec had obtained a copy of the Primary Historia, we could then probably make one more connection back to Henry Blois.