It is an odd occurrence that Winchester is mentioned 16 times in the HRB and given much prominence, yet Glastonbury is not mentioned once. Many of the 12th century episodes alluded to in the Merlin prophecies in the VM and Vulgate prophecies in the HRB are found similarly referred to as events recorded in the GS. What I will show here, by a short review of the GS, is that the author of the GS is Henry Blois also. We can then establish a pattern of deceptive authorship which, once understood, we can then extend to other texts partially or wholly authored by Henry Blois and explain why Henry’s self-proclaimed epitaph on the Meusan plaques compares himself as another Cicero202 …. and an ‘author’ above all things material is accountable as of the highest worth.
There are too many sentiments and events which are common to the GS which are found in the HRB and the Vita Merlini. There are too many observations in the GS which coincide with personal interests that Henry Blois is known to have had. There are too many highly detailed accounts in GS that could only be eyewitness and Henry Blois was coincidentally at the scene recorded (supposedly) by another chronicler. The GS is the only detailed contemporary history which covers the whole of King Stephen’s reign.
What first strikes the reader of the GS is that it appears as a chronicle, but from the construction, one can see it is written by a ‘diarist’ reflecting back on notes made previously and on details supported by memory. One can discern that episodes are observations of a person close to events from which a biography on the ‘acts of King Stephen’s’ reign is constructed. It is clear that the GS was written by someone who on many occasions gives accounts of specific events which are very detailed; enough on occasion to be considered eyewitness accounts.
202See Note 5
In some instances, Henry Blois as the author of GS witnessed the scenes and some episodes he recounts having heard second hand. There are certain events where Henry Blois is known to have been historically at the scene described in GS which other chroniclers have recounted that he was present also , yet in GS it is not expressly stated. All these scenes are where detail in GS could only be from an eyewitness adding weight to the conclusion that GS was composed by Henry.Conversely, Henry might have obtained first-hand accounts with blow by blow detail from contemporary courtiers at the heart of the affairs but the occurrence is too high to be dismissed. As a diarist, these events were recorded and used in the construction of the GS along with Henry Blois’ memory after King Stephen’s death. Henry was intimately tied to events concerning King Stephen’s reign and this at times becomes heartfelt, rather than reading like a chronicler has composed the manuscript.
The GS is written with interested involvement for the subject matter, affection for Stephen and with retrospective empathy; understanding the viewpoint of the King, his travails and the events to which Stephen reacted in the 19 years of his reign. It was written after Stephen’s death and there is no animosity or pique displayed by Henry against Stephen in most of the episodes.
It has been remarked by numerous commentators that the GS was written by a churchman. The bishop of Bath has been posited as a possible author but the time period for covering such a high level of detail rules him out. I do not believe Henry’s diary details were in any way meant specifically for the construction of the GS but were simply employed retrospectively as a record of Stephen’s reign; because so many episodes involved and concerned Henry Blois. The reason for thinking the GS is taken from a diary is that there are no dates throughout, yet the whole account follows the passage of time as events recorded by other chroniclers.
Our anonymous author, hiding his identity, wishing to present an apologia for himself, in the form of a biography of Stephen, did not concern himself with dates because nearly all the events followed chronologically in his own mind.203 One event leads to the next from itemised sections in his own diary record; not forgetting the diary was acting as more of a prompt for memory, providing him retrospectively the train of events in time.
Henry passed through several stages in his life; from the bookish pious cloistered young man to the self-assured high-born favoured nephew of King Henry Ist who arrived at Glastonbury to prove his merit and worth. After the election to Bishop of Winchester until the death of Stephen, material rather than pious concerns take precedent. There are other contemporary historical chronicles which portray Henry Blois in a non-complimentary light; and even as a dark force in much of the political manoeuvrings of the Anarchy.
It is with this in mind, we should also consider the benefits of writing such a dedicated history about his brother. The way the GS is presented distorts the truth for readers in posterity. It acts at times as an apologia to accusations and perceptions of Henry Blois’s underhanded role in events; often contradicting perceived views which were held by contemporaries or recorded by chroniclers such as Huntingdon and Malmesbury.
Therefore, the purpose of maintaining anonymity is firstly to present Henry ‘the persona’ in a more positive light than contemporary chroniclers have recorded. In effect by composing what I have termed an apologia Henry Blois hopes to be held in high esteem by posterity by leaving a more positive view of his own deeds and persona than contemporary chroniclers have otherwise left to posterity. Secondly, Henry is writing a polemic apologia and therefore; if many of the views are to be accepted as unbiased and credible, there must be no suspicion of authorship by Henry Blois.
203Strangely enough, similarly in ‘Geoffrey’s’ work, it is the chronology of events from which we can determine the approximate date when the various forms of his authored works were composed by Henry Blois.
Henry understands history and how it is conveyed through the actions of Kings and grandees by chroniclers. Henry wishes to present the saga of the Anarchy to posterity (retrospectively), by presenting a positive spin for his Machiavellian part in the cause of the Anarchy. Henry has a two-fold agenda in writing GS: Firstly, to present his own side of the story so that his character in history is not that which is left negatively portrayed by other chroniclers. Second, his intent is to account for his brother’s and his own actions. But we must not be duped into thinking anything other than the GS’s main purpose is the aggrandisement of Henry’s place in history.
We know Henry has delved into history having accomplished the composition of HRB. He knows that the GS will be studied by posterity. Without the information found in GS, there would be some Merlin prophecies in the Vita and HRB which would be difficult to elucidate.
Some views pertaining to events specifically involving Henry or his brother’s actions are duplicated exactly in GS and presented as prophecy in the Merlin prophecies an also the Vita Merlini in its story-line. A case in point would be how Henry finds it difficult to understand how his brother makes a pact with King David for a ‘third time’204 when David has broken the previous two agreements. It is an impossibility that the writer of the Merlin prophecies just happens to hold the exact same view as the author of GS and it is even less likely that Merlin, the sixth century seer, (if he had ever existed as Ambrosius or Caledonian/Sylvestris) would have commented upon what Henry Blois in reality had such a hard time understanding about his brother’s forgiving nature. (See appendix 25)
The powerful bishop of Winchester opens himself for criticism if the authorship of the GS were claimed. Many of Henry’s deeds are made to appear in a better light as recorded in the GS as opposed to how contemporaries understood his actions. Henry refers to himself as Legate in the GS before it even happens chronologically in the text of GS,205 but this is mere artifice on his behalf to feign third party authorship.
Henry Blois uses other devices which we will come across in the text, but Henry Blois is a master of deception. He refers to his own nephew by the wrong name as if a chronicler was misinformed.206 This instance is virtually the only factual mistake in the manuscript of GS apart from the glaring truth that Henry did indeed momentarily swap allegiance to the Empress Matilda, but this is never admitted in GS. Henry Blois’ sister Agnes has a son Hugh de Puiset who he purposely names as Henry ‘whom we have since seen become Bishop of Durham’.
Just to put Hugh de Puiset in context, Murdac excommunicated Hugh de Puiset who was at the time Treasurer of York when Murdac laid the city under interdict. Hugh de Puiset, in return, excommunicated the Archbishop Murdac and ordered church services to be conducted as usual. In this he was supported by Eustace, son of King Stephen. John of Hexam relates that Hugh de Puiset fled to Beverley where even when Prince Eustace requested Hugh’s return to his see, he still refused. It is by Hugh de Puiset’s presence at Beverley that Alfred of Beverley obtained a copy of the evolving HRB from which he recycles ‘Geoffrey’s’ work.
Henry Blois’ reference in the GS to Henry of Anjou as ‘the lawful heir’ (the future Henry II) is also artful deception. It is evident by the tone of the text that Henry Blois set out to give the impression to his readers that his sympathies or allegiance as the anonymous author of GS has shifted to the Angevin cause.
In reality Henry never shifted his allegiance after the rout at Winchester. It was always Henry’s hope that Eustace (Stephen’s son) until his death in 1153 would inherit the crown. Henry had fostered his relationship with Eustace as a loving uncle in prospect of him becoming King. Yet the ‘lawful heir’ gambit is posited as if our author held this view in 1147 about the future Henry II.
204The third time was after the rout of Winchester.
205This would infer that that the GS was not written as a chronicle contemporaneous with the passage of time but was written retrospectively.
206Antonia Grandsen is sucked into Henry Blois’ reverse psychology: it has been suggested that the author was a clerk of Stephen’s brother, Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester. But this is unlikely as he does not praise Henry without reserve and gives an erroneous piece of information about him. This is just how Henry Blois planned it, so his authorship of GS would be hidden. What is it with this era of scholars? Do they not get out enough?
Henry Blois was certainly involved with the events preceding the Anarchy in Bristol and Bath. His contempt for the Bristolians and the Duke of Gloucester’s stronghold is evident, referring to it as the pit of perdition and of the people, ‘unrestrained in the commission of every crime had by open robbery and stealthy thefts thrown the country into confusion’. It was probably Henry’s engineering prowess that hatched the plan to build a dam across the harbour mouth and flood the city of Bristol…. which is recounted at this time in GS.
The reason we can assume the GS is transcribed from detail supplied by Henry Blois’ diary is that Henry, when writing, anticipates events in the future i.e. he references the diary which when written he was unaware of the future outcome of the event and often refers futuristically to people’s demise or the conclusion of an event in the future that he is referencing beforehand in the text of GS.
When giving account of how his brother came to be crowned, he gives himself a glowing reference, and already accounts himself as legate of all England:
then rapidly gathering a strong body of knights, who had flocked altogether from every quarter, he (Stephen) hastened to Bishop Henry, on whom his enterprise entirely depended. For that man was his brother by both parents, a man of inexpressible eloquence as well as wonderful wisdom; with fortune smiling favourably on his wishes he became Abbot of Glastonbury and Bishop of Winchester and was enthroned in the Kingdom by the apostolic see as legate of all England.
The position of papal Legate did not transpire until 1139. Also, when speaking of Miles of Gloucester, in reference to events in 1136, Henry already knows of his death in 1143 and says he will expound more fully in what follows…. which means, when he gets to that point chronologically in his diary he will deal with Miles’ death. These are not the only examples of anticipation, but there are several more in the GS script.
To take into account that GS is written after the fact and not as a record of current events, we should consider who is keeps the King’s company, or at least who would have had such in-depth knowledge of affairs for the length of time spanning nineteen years that the GS covers chronologically. Our author is obviously a churchman and the only person eligible (as possible author) at the centre of events is Theobald of Bec…. but GS starts three years before his election when he was still at Le Bec. In any event, Theobald is hardly likely to write such an empathetic and heartfelt biography of Stephen.
Some episodes at the beginning of the GS such as Henry Blois description of Wales (if the folios were not missing) and at the end are in such detail like events at the rout of Winchester and Wallingford; we can see chronological order is being recounted as an account from previous record and memory. the question on most researchers minds is ‘who would have this record’?
The Bishop of Bath who many have supposed was the author of GS was not on hand for the length of time the GS covers and the bishop would probably not be equipped to provide detail in such minutiae from start to finish retrospectively; especially, at times with such intricate eyewitness detail of the scenes described at which he was not present.
Our supposedly anonymous author, on many occasions is physically next to his King Stephen. It is on these days that the diarist’s record comes alive with narrative. Also, if we look at the detail in the GS’ account and match it to the movements of Henry Blois, there are four or five periods in the account where the detail is lacking. For instance, there are 17 pages covering the year 1136. The period in 1137 for instance has half a page because Henry Blois was in Normandy for a large part of the year countering the Angevin rebellion on behalf of his brother Stephen. This is in fact where and when Henry Blois was composing his Primary Historia which he then deposited at Bec in 1138. We can see then that as an account constructed by a diarist, the gaps in GS would make sense as a diarist records his own daily events. Under normal circumstances if the GS had been composed by a regular chronicler, the gaps in the coverage of events would not be accountable.i.e. it is Henry’s absence which explains the gaps!!
Henry was in Normandy for quite a time. Apparently, according to Gervaise of Canterbury Henry Blois left England in Advent 1136 to do his brother’s bidding abroad as vice regent of Normandy since Geoffrey of Anjou had raided in September. Previously in 1136 and we can see that Henry Blois in GS gives such an eyewitness description of Wales which chronologically we can determine came from this period Henry Blois was at the Battle of Maes Gwenllian which was fought a short distance away from Kidwelly castle in1136.
Orderic Vitalis gives account of what Henry Blois has to deal with207 countering the Angevin rebellion until his brother King Stephen lands in Normandy in March 1137. Stephen arrived in Normandy briefly in 1137, where he met with Louis VI and Theobald (Henry’s other elder brother) to agree to an informal alliance against ‘Handsome’ Geoffrey208 and the Empress Matilda, to counter the growing Angevin power in the region. Stephen also probably also attended his mother’s funeral near Clugny with Henry at this time. However, Henry for this period is not recording events concerning Stephen in England, hence the gap in the GS usual chronology of events in England. For the other periods mentioned where detail on Stephen is scant, Henry is either at Rome or Cluny.
The GS account is mainly centred on what transpires in Britain and our author certainly covers all of Britain geographically sometimes with certain eyewitness detail which would imply a biographer following contemporary events as they transpired, but this is certainly not the case; but we know Stephen and Henry both concern themselves with actions on the continent and this has been left out because it would lay bare the author of GS. Henry is feigning the appearance of authorship by an insular cleric by leaving time spent abroad by Stephen blank. The whole purpose of GS is to airbrush the fact that Henry manipulated his brother onto the throne rather than it being a matter of ‘expediency’ and to paint himself in a better light than other chroniclers have portrayed Henry; also to leave his name and apparent good deeds on the landscape of history to posterity. He certainly could not lay claim to any of his other written works, so again, why does he liken himself to Cicero on the Meuse Plaques which we know he commissioned himself?
In 1137, Stephen attests a charter at Rouen with his brother Henry renewing a grant to St Mary de Fontrevault. It is possible Henry Blois went to Rome sometime from March through to December to try to secure the job of Archbishop of Canterbury since he was acting incumbent as Archbishop Corbeil had died. Another blank period of the GS is late in 1138 where Henry heard of Theobald of Bec’s elevation to Canterbury and may have visited Rome again.
Henry Blois was however, present at Theobald’s of Bec’s inauguration according to Gervaise on the 8th of January 1139. Some chronicler’s dispute Henry was present. It was just after this event that Henry of Huntingdon, accompanying Theobald of Bec to Rome, discovers the Primary Historia while tiding over at Bec en route. The GS picks up on June 24th where the Bishops are arrested and Henry has out-manoeuvred Theobald in terms of power. It is possible Henry Blois arranged to receive the Legation at Rome before Theobald of Bec receives his pallium. William of Malmesbury thinks it was March 1st that Henry Blois was appointed Legate. So, this may put Henry in Rome and therefore explains the gap in recorded events in England and of Stephen’s exploits. The first anybody hears of Henry’s appointment as Legate is on the very day where events relevant to Stephen start again in the GS as Henry returns back from Rome as Legate.
When pope Innocent died on Sept 24th 1143 Henry again went to Rome. A year later after Celestine died, he was back in Rome in 1144 requesting to be the Legate once more. It was at this time Henry Blois uses an interpolated DA along with a First Variant version of the Historia to make a case to obtain metropolitan status over south west England. In 1145 John of Hexam relates that Henry, Bishop of Winchester, on his way to Rome again tarried at Clugny as pope Innocent had died. In 1149 Henry travelled to Rome again to request Winchester be made a metropolitan as foreseen in the Merlin prophecies.
207Oderic Vitalis, VI, xiii, 479
208Geoffrey V, le Bel known as Geoffrey Plantagenet was the Count of Anjou, Touraine, and Maine by inheritance from 1129 when he married the Empress Matilda and then Duke of Normandy by conquest from 1144
In 1151 there is only half a page in the GS and the Winchester annals say Henry went to Rome to refute the charges of the monks of Hyde abbey. If Henry Blois was not in the country and not being fed detail at court (about Stephen and detail relevant to the subject matter of GS), this would account for the lack of material and eyewitness detail concerning King Stephen. If Bishop Henry had missed current events because he is known to be elsewhere, there is usually a corresponding gap in detail regarding King Stephen in GS.
The first thing to realise about the GS is that it is in part an apologist’s view. In effect it conveys a sentiment which makes Henry Blois appear in a better light historically. Considering it took only 22 days from the death of Henry Ist until Stephen was crowned…. we should look at the introduction in GS to identify the principles of Henry’s polemic.
The GS starts off by saying when King Henry was alive peace pervaded the country. But then it tries to maintain that throughout the country it was heard that the King had died and general anarchy reigned. It also goes on to say that the animals that had been carefully nurtured before were now extremely rare. Henry Blois is trying to create an appearance of a shambolic state of affairs, so that the reader can accept the reasoning’s behind the rushed crowning. It seems fair to posit that Henry and his brother had previously hatched such a plan knowing that few of the barons, (even though having sworn allegiance), were keen on a queen Matilda and reticent about a female as ruler.
The GS establishes the rationale and makes excuse (as an apologia) for the train of events running contrary to those pre-planned by King Henry Ist before his death. The GS supplies contrary evidence against the accusation of usurpation of the crown by King Stephen to make it seem as if all actions were considered for the good of England…. rather than the train of events occurring by Henry’s manipulation.
Contemporary historians had the correct view as Henry of Huntingdon makes clear: Henry, bishop of Winchester, who had taken the lead in disturbing the Kingdom, by giving the crown to his brother Stephen. The GS provides sound reasoning in apologetic terms for what many considered an underhanded and rushed crowning by a small elite.
Whether the barons and the rest of the clergy would have supported Matilda’s election or not made no difference…. the coronation was now an irreversible fact, consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The GS pretends a state of disorder and maintains that in the short period between King Henry Ist death and that which Stephen had managed to cross the channel, the countryside had suddenly become barren: it was wonderful how so many myriads of wild animals, which in large herds before plentifully stocked the country, suddenly disappeared, so that out of this vast number scarcely two could now be found together. They seemed to be entirely extirpated, insomuch that it is reported a single bird was a rare sight, and a stag was nowhere to be seen.
This is not to deny, as most chroniclers recount, an animal plague hit Britain in 1131…. as the Anglo-Saxon chronicle for example relates: This same year was so great a murrain of cattle as never was before in the memory of man over all England. That was in neat cattle and in swine; so that in a town where there were ten ploughs going, or twelve, there was not left one: and the man that had two hundred or three hundred swine, had not one left.
This is entirely different from a state of peace to Anarchy in three weeks, since most of the country would not have heard of the King’s death before Stephen’s arrival. We are presented with a scene that represented the British countryside during the Anarchy and shortly after; not as it is portrayed here, pretending that all had been plundered and pillaged and all the people plotted against each other. The author purposely conflates two issues to portray a bleak scene which in the author’s mind presents a good rationale behind the solution found to overcome the circumstances i.e. to inaugurate a good strong leader as soon as possible.
The GS continues with this pretence, ‘one man pitilessly assailed another each his neighbour’, presenting a scene of Anarchy before it happened. Events are thus presented so that Stephen’s crowning appears as ‘expediency’, providing national stability. The GS is used as a vehicle to present the rationale behind the alacritous anointing, which most in the Kingdom believed to be caused by the manipulations and machinations of Henry Blois.
The GS presents a scene of complete breakdown in civil society in the space of two weeks. Henry starts by saying ‘when the English were conducting themselves in so disorderly and disastrous fashion and, loosening the restraints of justice, Stephen count of Boulogne a man distinguished by his illustrious descent landed in England with a few companions’. We are then told that Stephen is the dearest of all the nephews of King Henry Ist, the peacemaker; and the GS states that after landing, he journeyed hastily to London.
The GS goes on to tell us that ‘those shrewd in Council summoned an assembly and taking prudent forethought for the state of the Kingdom on their own initiative they agreed unanimously to choose the King’. This of course, made necessary because in the preceding paragraph there had been anarchy. The GS presents the account as a response to the march of events rather than its real purpose of providing an apologist view: ‘For this they said every Kingdom was exposed to calamities from ill fortune when a representative of the whole government and the fount of justice was lacking’. Notice the all-inclusive and cohesively concordant ‘they’, rather than any hint of a singular manipulator.
Henry Blois has just supplied himself the excuse for the rapid crowning. He goes on to say ‘it was therefore worth their while to appoint as soon as possible a King who, with a view to re-establishing peace for the common benefit, would meet the insurgents of the Kingdom in arms’. The apologist view-point is continued when referring to the Londoners, ‘it was their own right and peculiar privilege that if their King died from any cause a successor should immediately be appointed by their own choice; and they had no one at hand who could take the King’s place and put an end to the great dangers threatening the Kingdom except Stephen, who they thought had been brought among them by Providence. The Londoners had no such prerogative or precedent, but the GS presents the evidence as if it was the Londoner’s will that was duly carried out, and not that of Henry Blois.
We are then led to believe that when these arguments had been heard in the general assembly and had been favourably received by all, without any open objection, they all universally approved Stephen as King. In confirmation of the point that his brother had been crowned to prevent the apparent breakdown of society, Henry Blois goes on to say, ‘so Stephen, having with such good fortune obtained both the title of King and the Royal crown, armed himself like a man to establish peace in the Kingdom’.
Our supposed anonymous author then launches into how ‘Stephen rapidly gathering a strong body of Knights, who had flocked together from every quarter, he hastened to Bishop Henry, on whom his entire enterprise depended’. Henry would not deny what is reliably known but downplays his part as matter of fact. Now, this may seem a diversionary point to make at the present juncture, but Henry’s vanity is never too far away as we shall see when I cover the Perlesvaus and Grail literature by a certain Master Blihis (Monseigneur Blois) concerning ‘Gawain who overcame Blihos-Bliheris, whom no man at Arthur’s court knew’.
Likewise, in the GS, Henry can’t suppress his own vanity when he expresses: ‘for that man was his brother by both parents a man of inexpressible eloquence as well as wonderful wisdom; with fortune smiling favourably on his wishes he became Abbot of Glastonbury and Bishop of Winchester and was enthroned in the Kingdom by the apostolic see as legate of all England. He then, overjoyed at his brother’s success, came to meet him with the Winchester Citizens of chief consequence, and after they had had a short communal conference escorted him respectfully into the town, the second place in the Kingdom’.
The point is, once one establishes the deception, it becomes easier to identify the methods employed in the extensive fraud of Henry Blois which utilizes many more means of transmission than the GS, HRB and VM.
Firstly, in the GS he refers back to himself as legate at the time of Stephen’s crowning which he knows to be inaccurate. He refers to himself as a third party ‘Bishop of Winchester’ and imbues the sense of a recorder of events…. i.e. anyone could be the author, but one is led to believe it could not be Henry Blois. For instance the chronicler refers to the ‘Bishop of Winchester’s brother’s success. The ‘dupery’ must be pointed out, as Henry goes out of his way to make sure that his authorship is not suspected. On the subject of authorship and before we move on to analyse several points in the GS, it is necessary to clear any doubt that Henry Blois is the author.
Amazingly, Potter and Davis are duped by Henry’s devices saying: if we proceed to the question of the author’s political affiliations, there can be no doubt that he belonged to a party of the Kings brother, Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, whom he describes as ’a man of inexpressible eloquence as well as wonderful wisdom’. He explains not only his activities, but also his motives, defends his conduct in the crises of 1139 and 1141 and disparages the members of the Beaumont family.
Howlett’s theory is that the author was Henry Blois’ chaplain. In either proposition, all commentators seem to be bemused by how the author censures Henry Blois. They also find it difficult to understand how the author writes ‘not like an underling but as a man of stature’ and conclude that many of the statements made in the GS ‘sounds not like the voice of the bishops chaplain, but like the voice of the Bishop himself’. Both Potter and Davis conclude that ‘the author was a reformer in the tradition of Henry Blois’, yet they cannot see through the obfuscation simply because no-one in the past has asked why would Henry Blois compare himself with Cicero but more to the point how is it that Geoffrey in creating Insula Pomorum in 1155 and the Grail literature both coalesce at Glastonbury; especially when King Arthur’s grave ends up being discovered there. No Scholar to date has thought about the Abbot of Glastonbury being and author but we can see it clearly in the GS text. In looking at the GS text we can see clear parallels in events recorded in GS that are also miraculously recorded by Merlin in his prophecies in VM. So this is why we need to understand the Gesta Stephani was written by Henry Blois.
One thing becomes very plain before the end of this exposé: it is my irritation with scholarship’s inability to join the dots of the three genres under investigation. They are so close to the answer trying to rationalise ‘for if Robert Bishop of Bath is to be identified as the author of the GS and the study of his entourage has failed to produce any other candidate; it must follow that the account of his capture is autobiographical’. Wrong! Henry Blois as author of GS was there at the Bishop of Bath’s capture also. Its as if there is a conspiracy to look in any direction in any of our three genres of study in the investigation rather than peep at the possibility Henry Blois might be responsible for the Matter of Britain.
However, Potter and Davis do recognize that the GS was written by a scholar and admit his literary composition is far grander than any ordinary Chronicle…. yet if they had done a comparison with the HRB they would see that the ‘affected’ high tone in which the GS is written stems from Henry Blois’ great learning in classical literature and in having written the HRB in comparative high tone. Henry Blois’ tone is not affected…. but consistent with everything we know of Henry Blois the orator who held Cicero as an idol.
It is Henry’s learning, evident in the composition of HRB, which has evidently changed his choice of words which gives the classical tone. Thus, at times, Henry forgets himself, that he is now writing a history chronicle when he refers to Woodchester in Gloucestershire as Castellum de Silva. Potter and Davis assume this is an affectation, but this is a man who likens himself to Cicero, who has read the classics in Greek and Latin and therefore is merely making a choice of words that come freely to him like the commanders of towns being called: praeses, praeceptor, primipulus, commanipularius or summus primas and soldiers as Legionarii and Centenarii. These classicism’s are a story teller’s tools and are found throughout the HRB and VM where men breathed forth the life that now can never know the longer day, and dying men have, his own last hour and are replicated in the GS where men have classically their last breath, ad extema deveniens.209
The aftermath of Geoffrey’s battle at Autun and the burial of the dead is out of the siege of Troy with all the literary conventions of the classics from the Aeneid and Pharsalia, where the fallen vomit forth their lifeblood and the slain drum the earth with their heels; all part of Henry Blois’ voracious reading of the classics while growing up at Clugny. That Henry could put in the mouths of his protagonists of HRB so well the tone and temperament of a classical battle speech or rousing retort is testament to his vast knowledge of the classics.
It is evident that the devices employed by Henry Blois to mislead his readership as to the authorship of the GS, have manifestly worked. Henry Blois in the GS never claims to have seen any of the events which he describes because the authorship could be traceable, and much like the HRB, there are few dates. Bishop Robert of Bath was not the author; although he was a Cluniac and a protégé of Henry of Blois who employed the said Robert at Glastonbury Abbey before becoming Bishop of Bath. His appointment was through the direct influence of Henry of Blois in March 1136.
The vocabulary syntax and style of the GS match exactly with that of the HRB and sentiments of the Merlin prophecies; laced with affiliations concerning the church. The most obvious clue is the detail in description of certain episodes that Henry Blois attended and also the wide range of locations visited; described with eyewitness detail in most cases, throughout the Anarchy. The most commonly mentioned place in the GS is of course Winchester and the events that transpired there are not only mentioned in minute detail but are also replicated for the most part as prophecies in the Vita Merlini. The one place that is never mentioned is Glastonbury except in the one allusion to Henry Blois being the Abbot of that institution. Can modern scholarship not see that Glastonbury is not mentioned in HRB also…. and deduce the reason?
209In the Vera Historia, which may have been Henry Blois’ own addition to a First Variant version, the youth who threw the Elm spear at Arthur had it immediately thrown back by Arthur and lodged in the youth’s back: Qui transfixus, spiritum mox exhalauit uitalem.
Henry Blois continues on to confound those seeking the identity of the author. If scholarship does not recognize this next reference as guile, they will remain duped by Henry Blois’ brilliance: ‘at this time there was in the town of Winchester a certain William, a most faithful guardian and steward, of King Henry’s treasures, who had often been implored by the Bishop, with the added inducement of a bribe, to handover the Castle to him and open the Treasury. But the more insistent the Bishop in entreaty, the more inclined was the treasurer the refusal’.
If anyone in the future were to be suspicious of the GS authorship falling to the bishop of Winchester…. who would suspect that somebody would write in such a derogatory tone about oneself? This is precisely one of the devices used throughout the GS. If the author was with Stephen, it seems unlikely he would know this detail anyway.
However, we are then told that the treasury was very rich from the time of the most ancient Kings; a point which would interest the writer of the GS as the one who had tried to access it and who was bishop of the city in which the treasure was kept.
We then hear that ‘reports spread through the Kingdom, the tidings of the new King’s arrival, a great many, and those especially who before the accession had found themselves in friendship to him or his brothers, received him with joy and jubilation. This sentence alludes surely to himself mainly. Although elder brother Theobald had gallantly deferred the crown to Stephen, by the time Theobald could have done anything about it; it was already a fait a compli …. even though the nobles in Normandy had proffered Theobald210 as the preferred replacement for the Empress Matilda.
The GS then informs, (in concordance with Henry of Huntington), that William of Corbeil, ‘Archbishop of Canterbury, a man having the countenance of a dove and the habit of a monk, but more greedy in keeping money he had got than lavish in spending it’. Firstly, it should be noted that it was Henry Blois who was charged with running the see of Canterbury when William of Corbeil died and Henry will probably be the one who found his treasure. Henry makes out that it was the King’s agents who found a countless quantity of coin laid up secretly in his strong boxes.
After a brief negative biography concerning William, the account continues where, the King’s supporters were engaged in persuading William of Corbeil to anoint Stephen as King. William replied, ‘that it mustn’t be done lightly or done in haste’. William also brings up the objection that King Henry had bound his chief men of the whole Kingdom by oath to his daughter Matilda and therefore it was contrary to this arrangement to desire anybody else as King.
King Stephen’s supporters, we are told (probably Henry Blois, Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, Hugh Bigod and a few others…. as it was only a small conclave present), did not deny that they had given their oaths to King Henry’s daughter; but rather they had been compelled to make the oath. On the attestation of Hugh Bigod,211 we are conveniently informed by our author that King Henry had subsequently relieved the barons of their obligation of allegiance. The spurious grounds on which this miraculous volte face is rationalized is ’that they swore unwillingly and that the oaths would not be kept’. What the GS leads us to believe is that King Henry lay on his deathbed at his hunting lodge at Lyons-la-Forêt and regretted that he had previously made the nobles swear unwillingly, not once but twice…. and thus, relieved them of their vow just before death.
210Many of these barons had taken an oath to stay in Normandy until the late king was properly buried, which prevented them from returning to England.
211It seems fair to assume Henry persuaded Hugh Bigod, the late King’s royal steward, to swear that the King had changed his mind about the succession on his deathbed, nominating Stephen instead. Historians doubt that Hugh Bigod’s account of Henry Ist final hours was truthful.
King Henry Ist attempted to build up political support for Matilda’s future crowning in both England and Normandy, demanding that his Barons take oaths first in 1127, then in 1128 and again some in 1131. There is no doubt that the GS’s account in part is accurate in what it portrays, as to the arguments and persuasions used to convince William of Corbeil to go ahead with the coronation; but King Henry Ist did not release his barons; no matter what Hugh Bigod is said to have professed in GS.
It was also posited and publicly maintained by Roger of Salisbury that he was released from the oath he had taken to the Empress Matilda because he had sworn only on condition that the King should not give his daughter in marriage to anyone outside the Kingdom.212 These are the echoes of the real arguments used to convince William of Corbeil to hurry up with the process of crowning Stephen.
Henry Blois understood that most in the realm were cognisant of his manipulations in the usurpation of the crown. This is borne out by contemporary chroniclers such as Malmesbury and Huntingdon. Henry fully understands how his reputation will be understood in posterity, thus the need for the GS composition presenting his manipulations in a glossed apologia with a reasoned rationale for his involvement; especially writing after Stephen’s death when the two main chroniclers were dead and cannot contest Henry’s position put forward in this GS apologia.
Understanding the political acumen of Henry Blois, it would not be too improbable to suggest that Henry dreamt up the following. As part of the polemic to persuade, William of Corbeil, he is told that: ‘in his (King Henry Ist) death agony, with very many standing by listening to his truthful confession of his errors, even very plainly showed repentance of the forcible imposition of the oath on his barons’.
If this were really true, we would never have had the Anarchy because there were virtually no Barons who wanted a Queen to rule.
And therefore, William of Corbeil as archbishop is advised that ‘it is eminently advisable to accept gladly as King a man whom London, the capital of the whole Kingdom, has received without objection, and who, moreover, was a suitable candidate owing to his just claim of close relationship’. Especially propitious when the rationale is added to the bogus proposition that the Kingdom is being plundered and torn to pieces, (or so goes the gist of the apologia). How, one wonders, does our anonymous author know all this detail at the beginning of Stephen’s career?
William of Corbeil is convinced by all present that he should crown a man ‘of resolution and soldiery qualities, who, exalted by the might of his vassals and by the fame of his wise brothers who will supply their assistance and whatever is lacking to him’. Then Henry Blois goes on to explain: ‘therefore, swayed by these arguments and some others that I passed over for the sake of brevity, the Archbishop, with the bishops and numerous clergy present, consecrated and anointed him as King over England and Normandy’.
212William of Malmesbury. Historia Novella, 452
There certainly were not numerous clergy present at the time William de Corbeil was being browbeaten and it is no wonder that Henry Blois wishes to pass over the arguments that prevailed at the proceedings with brevity…. as many must have been contrary. But not one is mentioned.
We are led to believe the coronation, (when numerous clergy were present), was all part of the same proceedings. As the other historians note, it was Henry Blois (as he himself nearly expresses), who manipulated the crown onto Stephen’s head. There is no part of the contemporary audience that would have believed that Henry played a minor role in the proceedings which led to the crowning.
William of Malmesbury also concurs that Stephen was aided by his brother Henry ‘granting him an easy acquiescence, allured indeed by a very strong hope that Stephen would continue the ways of his Grandfather’.
The manipulations are enshrouded in the GS by a portrayal of events and rationales, which, in effect, act as an apologia for Henry Blois…. even though his intentions were noble toward the church. One point to consider is that, if Robert of Lewes the future Bishop of Bath is thought to be the author of the GS, he must have thought to make note of all the various points of contention and persuasion with a view in mind to writing an account of Henry’s brother from the outset.
Henry Blois’ artifice continues in GS as he refers to ‘Robert Earl of Gloucester, son of King Henry, but a bastard, a man of proved talent and admirable wisdom’ as he establishes the tone of a balanced chronicler. Most would think Henry Blois would only have animosity for Robert of Gloucester. Henry would have had numerous encounters against him and in fact probably even conspired with him on one occasion to prevent a blood bath occurring at Arundel. This view is held according to the GS version. Gervaise of Canterbury has a different point of view and thinks that Robert of Gloucester ‘had been urged to do this (invade with the Empress) by the council and assent of Henry, Bishop of Winchester, because he had not been elected to the archbishopric of the church of Canterbury after the death of William’.213Gervaise thinks that their meeting and their relationship was partly due to Henry Blois conspiring to help Matilda and Robert; after having been snubbed by Stephen in denying the post of Archbishop of Canterbury to Henry Blois .
Apparently, Henry wrote letters to Robert of Gloucester conspiring and inviting the return of Matilda, since he had been overlooked by his brother for the archbishopric appointment. He was accused of this change of allegiance later…. and it is only the GS which presents the view which runs contrary to what seems to have been commonly understood by other chroniclers. Referring to Robert of Gloucester as a man of ‘admirable wisdom’ (as the GS does), would surely exclude Henry Blois as a possible author and is all part of his deflection of authorship device.
The illusion of dedicating some copies of the HRB to the Duke of Gloucester is all part of distancing himself from suspicion of authorship when he publishes the final the Vulgate version of HRB.
213Gervaise of Canterbury, II,73
Henry Blois goes on to say in GS (covering the fact that he is the advisor), that when Robert of Gloucester was advised: as the story went, to claim the throne on his father’s death, deterred by sounder advice, he by no means assented, saying it was fairer to yield it to his sister’s son to whom it more justly belonged.
It was probably Henry Blois who persuaded a truculent Robert of Gloucester to do nothing as Stephen was already King. Matilda had nearly died giving birth to her second son Geoffrey and Matilda at the time of coronation was recently pregnant again. Robert, being a bastard, could not claim the throne, but his sister was at Argentan more concerned with getting through another pregnancy. She eventually gave birth to her third son (third nesting), William, on 22 July 1136 and Robert stayed reluctantly compliant until he declared for Matilda in 1138. The broken oaths of the barons, gilded over by Hugh Bigod’s false testimony is aptly described by Henry Blois posing as Merlin in the HRB prophecies where he posits Matilda as the Eagle: This shall the Eagle of the broken covenant be gilded over, and the Eagle shall rejoice in her third nesting.214
Another indicator of Henry Blois’ authorship is that the same exact point of view and polemic which are found in the beginning of the GS were recorded as being voiced by Henry himself at Winchester on April 17 1141. Henry Blois had summoned on behalf of the Empress Matilda, a large body of clerics to his Legatine Council and before he had even written the GS, in a brilliant piece of oratory, he explains to the Council why it was that he changed allegiance, while maintaining the moral high ground, and Henry, as recorded at the time by William of Malmesbury, makes the same point as that stated in the GS (written after Stephen was dead), in that; King Henry had ‘died in Normandy without a male heir. Therefore, because it seemed tedious to wait for the lady, who made delays in coming to England since her residence was in Normandy, thought was taken for the peace of the country and my brother allowed to reign’.215
Henry Blois also makes it clear in the GS that Stephen’s defeat and captivity in 1141 was not down to bad luck ‘but was a judgment from God’. This is Henry Blois’ view, so we hear Stephen ’crying out in a voice of humble complaint that his mark of ignominy had indeed come upon him because God avenged his injuries’. Henry Blois leaves us in no doubt that the injury in question was that of the arrest of the three bishops, Roger, Alexander and Nigel which, here in the GS, he describes as a monstrous sin against God himself. As we have mentioned before, Henry Blois found this such an affront to the church, he again mentions it in the Vita Merlini. I see the city of Oxford filled with helmeted men, and holy men and holy bishops bound on the decision of the Council.
Henry Blois sets up his apologia with an aura of national satisfaction where Stephen has taken the crown by general consent and Robert of Gloucester dutifully pays homage to the accepted King. Henry Blois establishes in the GS that an air of peace, now pervaded over the country and King Stephen, attended by a large bodyguard made a progress throughout England with the splendour that befits the Royal Majesty and he made very great efforts to re-establish peace in the Kingdom.
214Orderic Vitalis is thought by some commentators to have possessed the Merlin prophecies in 1135. This is incorrect…. see Tatlock, The legendary history of Britain, The Merlin prophecies p. 421. I will cover this interpolation into Orderic’s chronicle shortly.
215William of Malmesbury. Historia Novella.
Henry of Huntingdon while referring to previous Winchester bishops shrewdly depicts what is in store for the nation: Their seat is occupied by Henry (Blois) the King’s son, who promises to exhibit a monstrous spectacle, compounded of purity and corruption, half a monk, half a knight.
However, in GS, Henry Blois now sets the state of affairs in Britain as a whole by starting out his commentary with the Welsh and Wales. We know from the HRB his distaste for the Welsh, even though Geoffrey of Monmouth is supposed to be from there.
Now Wales is a country of woodland and pasture, immediately bordering on England, stretching far along the coast on one side of it, abounding in deer and fish, milk and herds; but it breeds men of an animal type, naturally swift footed accustomed to war, volatile always in breaking their word as in changing their abodes. When war came and the Normans conquered the English, this land also they added to their dominion and fortified with numberless castles; they perseveringly civilised it after they had vigorously subdued its inhabitants; to encourage peace they imposed law and statutes on them; and they made the land so productive and abounding in all kinds of resources that you would have reckoned it in no wise inferior to the most fertile part of Britain.
In other words: had it not been for the presence of the Norman overlords the poor Welsh would have remained savages! This man has seen the effects of Norman domination of Southern Wales. As the reader will become aware before the end of this exposé Henry Blois is in Wales in 1136 dutifully aiding his brother at the outbreak of the Welsh rebellion while Stephen is in the North dealing with King David.
This is the very reason our author starts here chronologically when he commences his account in GS: But when King Henry died and the peace and harmony of the Kingdom were buried with him, the Welsh who always cherished a deadly hatred of their masters, broke their compact with them utterly, and appearing in bands at different places; they made hostile raids in various directions; they cleared the villages by plunder, fire, and sword, burnt the houses, slaughtered the men. And first they advanced into a district by the coast, called Gower, very pleasant and rich in every kind of produce, and when knights and footmen to the number of 516 massed in one body against them, they surrounded them on every side and laid them all low with the edge of the sword. Then rejoicing greatly at this first success in their insurrection, they streamed boldly over every quarter of Wales; addicted to every crime, ready for anything unlawful, they spared no age, showed no respect for any order, were not restrained from wickedness either by time or by place. When the first occurring’s of this rebellion were reported to the ears of the King, proposing to check their wanton recklessness he sent to subdue them Knights and archers whom he had hired at very great expense.
The writer of the VM has similar views on the Welsh: Wales will always enjoy spilling blood. Nation abominable to God, why do you enjoy spilt blood? And again, in the HRB: into the parts of Wales, not knowing what to do against this accursed people.216
216HRB VI, xvi
The writer of the HRB has a good knowledge of Wales. Does it not seem strange that a man writing a biography of Stephen launches into his initial text after covering the coronation of king Stephen as a prologue, with a description of Wales? The writer does this because he went there!!! Henry Blois certainly visited Wales on a few occasions, probably in King Henry Ist era to begin with; but also, at the beginning of Stephen’s reign as a trusted brother, to quell the Welsh rebellion in Wales. Not only did Glastonbury Abbey have land217 in Gower, but it was a short sail from Bridgewater to that area. King Henry Ist took control of the port at Swansea and seized the Gower peninsula from the Welsh changing ‘Gwyr’ to Gower.
As we know from the GS the author says that Kidwelly castle (Lidelae) belonged to Henry Blois. The most prominent proof that Kidwelly is known by Henry Blois is because the tidal fens in the huge expanse to the south east of Kidwelly is described as only an eyewitness account could describe the tidal flats of the Towy estuary. In progression, I will get to the section on Wace, where Wace describes these same tidal flats which border Pembrey West Wales airport. Amazingly Wace describes this area without following ‘Geoffrey’s’ description but with added detail in the Roman de Brut. The area described is just south of Kidwelly. To the discerning mind this could only mean Wace who is supposedly recycling the HRB in verse should only follow Geoffrey’s description and not expand on it. This is a huge point that I will cover later in showing amongst many other details that the Roman de Brut was in fact composed by Henry Blois. However, it seems improbable that ‘Wace’ would know that there were fields/fens in the same location ‘Geoffrey’ is describing.
In the HRB Geoffrey says: ‘Moreover,’ he said, ‘another lake is there in the parts of Wales nigh the Severn, which the men of that country do call Linligwan, whereinto when the sea floweth, it is received as into a whirlpool or swallow, in such wise as that the lake is never the fuller for the waters it doth ingulf so as to cover the margins of the banks thereof. Nonetheless when the sea ebbs again, it spouts forth the waters it hath sucked in as it were a mountain, and slashes over and covers the banks. At such a time, were the folk of all that country to stand nearby with their faces toward the lake and should be sprinkled of the spray of the waves upon their garments, they should scarce escape, if indeed they did at all escape, being swallowed up of the lake. Nonetheless, should they turn their back to the lake, they need have no fear of being sprinkled, even though they should stand upon the very brink.
Wace’s description which follows, unwittingly portrays the tidal fens just by Kidwelly with eyewitness details which could only be known by someone having visited the same spot as ‘Geoffrey is describing: This lake is close by the Severn in the land of Wales. The sea pours its tide into this lake. Yet empty itself as it may, the waters of the lake remain ever at the same height, never more and never less. The ocean itself may not suffice to heap its waters above the lake, neither to cover its shores. Yet at the ebbing of the tide, when the sea turns to flee, then the lake spues forth the water it has taken to its belly, so that the banks are swallowed up, the great waves rise tall in their wrath, and the wide fields round about are hid, and all is sodden with the foam. The folk of that country tell that should a man stare upon the wave in its anger, so that his vesture and body be wetted of the spray, then, whatever be his strength, the water will draw him to itself, for it is mightier than he. Many a man has struggled and fallen on the brink, and been drowned in its clutch. But if a man turn his back upon the water, then he may stand safely upon the bank, taking his pleasure as long as he will. The wave will pass by him, doing him no mischief; he will not be wetted even of the flying foam.
It would be improbable that Wace has the same mind’s eye and describes where ‘Geoffrey’ had in mind when recounting a bit of local Welsh lore about the tidal marshes of Linligwan; especially when supposedly Wace is ensconced in Jersey.
Anyway, Henry de Beaumont, the Earl of Warwick, was given lordship of Gower to protect the port at Swansea from invaders. Henry de Beaumont erected a castle to oversee the River Tawe i.e. the castle at Swansea. There were other castles built at Penrhys, Llanrhidian, Oystermouth and Loughor. The Battle of Gower took place on New Year’s Day 1136 a year after Stephen’s coronation. Since Henry Blois starts the GS with this account, he most certainly would have been involved in the subsequent attempts to quell the rebellion, eager to help his brother…. still being on good terms with him and being able to supply knights from both Glastonbury and Winchester.
Henry Ist had established his own base in South-West Wales at Camarthen and he then installed loyal followers across the region of southern Wales. After King Stephen had displaced the Empress Matida with Roger of Salisbury’s and Henry Blois’ help in 1135 the Welsh siezed the opportunity to recover lands lost to the Marcher lords and the Welsh rebellion began. The Battle of Gower was the first battle fought between the Welsh and the Normans between Loughor and Swansea on New Year’s Day 1136. Just after this Gwenllian was decapitated at Kidwelly.
However, Stephen gave the Lordship of Kidwelly to Roger, Bishop of Salisbury who in 1136 with Maurice de Londres in charge, defeated the beautiful Gwenllian near Kidwelly. We know by the chronological format of the GS and by the eyewitness description of the area (we would know more if all the folios had survived) that the author of the GS was in Wales at the time of the rebellion. We know Henry Blois was in Normandy in 1137-8. At a council held in June 1139, Stephen found a pretext for demanding a surrender of Roger of Salisbury’s castles, and on his refusal he and his relatives were arrested. After a short struggle, all Roger’s great castles were sequestrated. Even though Henry Blois is seemingly portrayed as demanding the restoration of the bishop in GS, he then inherits Kidwelly/Lidelae.
Funnily enough Roger of Salisbury’s arrest is also not so astonishingly covered by the prophet Merlin as can be seen in the HRB prophecies and in the Vita Merlini prophecies, both set of prophecies supposedly having been composed by Geoffrey of Monmouth according to our experts. See appendix 11.
It is from the Kidwelly defeat of Gwenllian that we get the name of Guinevere, King Arthur’s wife in the HRB. Anyway, present or not at Kidwelly, we know that Henry Blois would certainly have been in the area of southern Wales with his forces and may well have been in the Norman reinforcements which arrived by sea and defeated Gwenllian.
The GS goes on to explain that after the death of Richard Fitz Gilbert in April, the rebellion proper took hold, where royalist/Norman forces were captured, put in churches and burnt. It goes on to explain the rescue of Richard’s wife by Miles of Gloucester, who Henry despises. He relates also in the GS that Miles later became an Earl (not by hereditary right but by servility to Matilda).
One thing to notice about the proportion of space our unknown biographer of Stephen gives in his account to affairs in Wales is that there seems too much detail for a biographer of Stephen; but proportionate for someone who is concerned with state affairs and the rebellion in Wales and Henry Blois would probably be recounting much from memory about that time.
We should also note the tone of the GS manuscript is set out for interest rather like that of a storyteller would maintain in contrast to the chronicles of Orderic, Malesbury or Huntingdon. But, more importantly, attitudes are betrayed. The author of GS has been to Wales; a most vital detail to mention as it is at this date that the details for a Welsh backdrop to the geographical Arthuriad in the HRB were gleaned. It is because of Henry Blois visit to Wales that the Arthuriad is set in a Welsh backdrop in the HRB and from his experience in 1136. After this Henry composed the Arthuriad in 1137-38 while in Normandy and deposited the Primary Historia at Bec before returning to England.
Anyway, as we hear in GS without any mention of Henry Blois himself in Wales at the time, Richard Fitz Gilbert’s brother is dispatched with an ‘immeasurable sum of money’ to beat back the enemy; not the sort of detail Robert of Lewes (Potter and Davis’ supposed author of GS) the overseer of Henry Blois’ huge architectural endeavour at Glastonbury, would know about. Rather, Henry himself would have brought along the money with the reinforcements which defeated the Welsh and Gwenllian at Kidwelly.
I will include the last extract on Wales that the author of GS includes, because it highlights several points about Henry. If one is careful to observe throughout the GS, Henry, in the third person, gives many instances of his judicious council and therefore, when Henry is not mentioned explicitly, it should be understood that it is him giving the council. Obviously, Henry Blois cannot outwardly state in many situations it is him as the advisor, otherwise he would uncover his authorship. But, to advise the King to leave the Welsh for the moment and let them destroy themselves, shows a good understanding of the Welsh situation for one and he reiterates his own advise to his Brother in GS. the Author of the GS as shown below seems to know the mind of the king and that is for one reason only…. the author of GS is the Kings ‘Judicious Council’. Henry’s presence in Wales explains Henry’s knowledge of Wales’ geography and topography found in the Arthuriad.
Throughout the GS there is continual remark or concern over the status of a person’s nobility or birth. One could not be more illustrious in the Norman pecking order than the grandson of William the Conqueror. The reference to birth and nobility is simply not a recurrent observation someone without nobility would concern himself; especially after just referring to Richard Fitz Gilbert as a ‘man distinguished for his truly noble birth’.
Robert Fitz Harold, a man of very noble descent, was also dispatched to subdue the Welsh, but in another direction; and there, after gaining many glorious victories over the enemy, he impregnably fortified among them a castle which at the time was almost unoccupied, and when he had carefully garrisoned it with men prepared for any fate, he returned to England with a small escort, after many notable exploits, to procure reinforcements. The enemy, greatly encouraged by his absence and fearing his return, gathered in one body, and when they had besieged his Castle for a very long time, since the occupants were short of food and Robert could not bring aid soon enough on account of the unbearable fury of their attack, at length they forced its surrender and destroyed it. Therefore, when the Welsh were troubling the land in this fashion, it seemed to the King that he was striving in vain, in vain pouring out his vast treasure to reduce them to peace; and so, advised by more judicious council, he preferred to endure their insolent rebellion for a time, in order that, with fighting at a standstill and disagreement setting them all at variance, they might either suffer a famine or turn on each other and be exterminated by mutual slaughter. And indeed, we have seen this happen in a short while. For being continually occupied in slaughter and plunder218 they left the whole land so untouched by the plough and so empty of men that no hope at all of the future livelihood remained, but worn out with plague and hunger, after the death of the animals which followed on the plundering of them, they themselves shared the same fate, since the air became pestilential from the rotting bodies. These things which happened in Wales at different times, I have brought together and dealt with briefly, that I might not have to stray from the course of my narrative whenever some conspicuous event required more adequate treatment in its proper place.219
217William of Malmesbury. Antiquitates Glastoniensis. See chapter on Abbot Herluin.
218This same attitude to the Welsh (and Britons) is coincidentally held by ‘Geoffrey’ and by Merlin.
219What this actually means is that Henry dealt with this issue as it occurred in his diary because he was present in Wales.
Henry Blois as author of GS then moves on from his account of Wales and gives a loving assessment of his brother’s character. Henry is concerned about his brother’s well fare as he describes King Henry’s old stalwarts Miles of Gloucester and Payne Fitz John…. (again, referred to as being of low birth), being brought into subjection.
The author of GS’s concern for the state of political affairs and certain barons’ non-compliance to Stephen’s Kingship, comes across as a personal affront also. No humble biographer is going to cite a baron of ‘low birth’ except he himself has impeccable ancestry, being the Grandson of William the conqueror.
Robert of Lewes, who Potter and Davis have concluded authored the GS was Flemish, and it was Henry Blois himself after Robert had been a monk at Lewes priory, elevated him to carry out administrative functions at Glastonbury Abbbey, before he was made prior of Winchester. Henry eventually selected him as Bishop of Bath. There is no way that Robert has access to the kings mind and thoughts as the author of the GS continually portrays. Scholars have simply hit upon Robert as the author because they do not understand the reasonings behind Henry Blois writing this Manuscript and have swallowed Henry Blois’ misdirection at every turn.
Anyway next in the GS we hear:The Pillars of the church sat arranged according to rank, as the chief leaders of the church held Council at London. A discussion of the state of the church takes place where the faults in King Henry’s reign were now to be rectified along the lines of what Stephen had agreed when Henry Blois had manipulated the crown on his brother’s head.
Henry Blois had acted as guarantor and had convinced William of Corbeil to crown Stephen under oath about the restoration and maintenance of the freedom of the church; The King listened to this patiently, freely granted them all their requests, and gave orders that the freedom of the church should be firm and inviolable, its laws valid and unshakeable, and that its servants of whatever profession or order, should be treated with the utmost respect. And he would have kept his word, had it not been that perverse councilors who sometimes lead a good disposition astray… urged him to break these promises.
We can see what was agreed by Stephen’s charter at Oxford and Henry Blois directly refers to the Beaumont twins’ (perverse councillors) accusation against Roger of Salisbury, Alexander, and Nigel. The Beaumont’s are jealous of Henry Blois’ burgeoning power base and give advice to Stephen, all of which Henry Blois disagrees with.
We then move on in the GS to Robert Bampton, a Knight not of the lowest birth who Henry had already, (even at the point being related in the GS), had problems with (as we related earlier) regarding when he was abbot of Glastonbury. Robert Bampton was an Angevin supporter and was summoned to court for rebellion and disloyalty and compelled to put his Castle at the King’s disposal and deliver all he possessed to his merciful discretion. And this certainly was a just a provision and a very fitting sentence, that he who from desire of other men’s property had laid hand on what was not his, should by a just decision of equity, lose what was his own. The King was advised because needs so required to send the body of Knights to take over his Castle accompanied by Robert himself.
Vengeance indeed for Henry Blois and indicative of authorship should the reader of these pages still be in any doubt. Anyway, on the way to Devon, Robert Bampton catches his escorts off guard and when all had feasted lavishly at a splendid banquet and were buried,220he stole away from them. Henry, because of his personal disputes with Robert Bampton, is pleased to tell us of his dreadful death amongst strangers while exiled in Scotland.
The next episode in the GS concerns Baldwin de Redvers, Exeter and Plympton where, by the details of description, we know it is an eyewitness account of the sieges seen by the author. We know Henry Blois is at Exeter anyway. But we can deduce Henry is writing the GS, as it is him who comments on architecture throughout GS; one of his great interests. There is also Henry’s insight into military strategy and the use of siege engines. But, how does the author know that the expenditure by the King for the three months siege is fifteen thousand marks?…. unless he is someone engrossed in affairs of state as the King’s brother would be.
Why would our anonymous author comment on someone’s eloquence? Certainly, someone would, whose own epitaph vainly likens himself to Cicero and bequeaths Quintillian’s Institutio Oratoria to Glastonbury abbey. The three-month siege at Exeter in 1136 is coincidentally mentioned by Merlin in Vulgate HRB prophecies221 where the ‘bull breaks it horns against the Walls of Exonia’ and was probably a prophecy in the Libellus Merlini.
At once two of them, the first in rank and dignity of the whole Castle, were sent to the King, men already skilled to adorn their speech with charm and give their words, whenever it suited them, the term that wisdom and elegance most required. But he, under the persuasion of his brother the Bishop of Winchester’s advice, showed them a front of iron, refused to listen to them, and drove them from his presence with threats; for the Bishop, observing their sagging and wasted skin, the look of torpor on their faces, drained of the normal supply of blood, and their lips drawn back from gaping mouths, perceived that they were suffering from agonies of thirst and that therefore it was anything but wise to give them permission to leave the Castle, it being certain that they would very soon surrender on whatever terms the besieger desired.
220‘Buried’ is Virgil’s word for inebriated. We know Henry starts the HRB provenance from Troy where the Aeneid leaves off and also displays material that came from it. One could count this as coincidence finding echoes of Virgil by the author of GS, but when added to the ‘high tone’ in other instances, the evidences of Henry Blois authorship mount up.
221HRB. VII, iv
Henry Blois betrays himself as a scheming strategist firstly, but then provides detail of personal discomfiture of the besieged, the author himself of GS recalling facial details not supposedly second hand from the bishop of Winchester’s viewpoint. Henry then shows his pique also at the other Barons who persuaded the King to have pity on the occupants of the castle and obviously thought it an error of judgement to let all these rebels free…. to come again another day. (And so, it turned out to be so in Henry Blois’ hindsight when writing GS much later in life).
Baldwin de Redvers gathered new forces and went directly to the Isle of Wight where Baldwin had a Castle… very finely built of stone and very strongly fortified. And the King followed him, because the King had anticipated his crafty design, left the Castle of Exeter together with the neighbouring county in charge of the Bishop of Winchester and rapidly followed Baldwin, to Southampton. Stephen defeats Baldwin who is forced into exile. Baldwin goes over to Normandy and stirs up trouble for Stephen over there, obviously complaining of his mistreatment to the Empress Matilda.222
Before coming to a section in the GS where pages in the manuscript are missing, we hear: when the King had learnt more fully that these things were happening in Normandy, he sent envoys across the sea for he could not go there so quickly himself on account of the heavy burden of pressing affairs…
We know that one of those envoys was Henry where Orderic Vitalis informs us Henry Blois: heard from weeping plaintiffs heartrending accounts of the wicked crimes committed by traitors in that leap year,(1137) listened to the woeful complaints of the terrible disturbances in Normandy, and was able to see with his own eyes clear evidence of these things; burnt buildings roofless and desecrated churches, devastated villages emptied of their settlers, and people utterly destitute in the heart of their native land, since they had been roughly deprived of everything they possessed and pillaged with impunity by their own rulers as well as foreigners, and still struggled on without the presence or protection of their rightful ruler to hearten them.223
We then move on in GS to the siege of Bedford in 1138 where we know from descriptions that Henry is there as an eyewitness to events. By this time Henry Blois has already deposited the Primary Historia at Bec. Orderic also says: Stephen was so indignant that he took arms unadvisedly against the rebels and, against the advice of his brother Henry, bishop of Winchester, laid siege to Bedford, but as it was the season of Christmas, and the winter was very rainy, after great exertions he had no success ; indeed, the sons of Robert de Beauchamp defended the place with great resolution, and until the arrival of the bishop, the King’s brother, rejected all terms of submission to Stephen……At length, when five weeks after the bishop came to Bedford, they submitted, and following his advice, which they thought good, and by his help, they were reconciled to the King and surrendered the place.
Henry does not state in the GS that he negotiated the settlement whereby a deal was struck by Miles and Henry that the castle went to Stephen and the surrounding estates were left in the hands of the Beauchamp’s.
222This essentially is the cause of Henry Blois being on location in Normandy in 1137 where he composes the Primary Historia (the HRB found at Bec). Henry Blois was in essence the King’s envoy who, coincidentally, the author of GS omits to name.
223Orderic Vitalis. VI, xiii, 479
Next in GS we hear in 1138 (when we know Henry is back in England) of the effects of ash making the sky red from some volcanic eruption. (Probably Eyjafjallajökull or Grímsvötn in Iceland). Henry, (pandering to the superstitious portents understood by his readers) seems to think the red sky an omen of what was to come i.e. events in Northumbria with King David and the return of the Empress Matilda and the ensuing ‘Anarchy’.
As Henry does in his section on Wales as author of GS, Henry launches into the Scottish expedition and its causes, being very careful not to say that Matilda had been disinherited, but that she had not received what her father had willed and she was deprived of the Kingdom promised to her on oath by the barons. A subtle nuance from a person who is wholly guilty of the said deed and incidentally not accusedof underhanded manipulation of the events in said apologia i.e GS. As we know, deals were struck by Stephen much against Henry Blois’ better judgement because Henry Blois opines that the King of Scotland breaks deals three times in both the prophecy of Merlin found in the Vita Merlini and here exposed like-mindedly in GS. See index 25.
When Stephen was crowned on 22 December, David went to war.After two months of campaigning in northern England, a treaty ceding Cumberland to David was agreed. King David’s son Henry was also made Earl of Huntingdon but David declined to swear the required oath of loyalty to Stephen, since he had already sworn allegiance to Matilda. In the spring of 1137, David invaded again and a temporary truce was agreed. In November, David demanded to be made earl of the whole of Northumberland but Stephen refused to grant his wish. So, in January 1138 David invaded for a third time.
It is hard to say if Henry was present in the north because much of the text is again missing in GS yet at this stage in 1137-8 he was in Normandy. It is only from Henry Blois’ description of the battlements that we get a sense of his presence but this description could have come from Knights in the northern campaign or his brother.
However, King Stephen departs Scotland after the 1st treaty of Durham. Stephen went west in an attempt to regain control of Gloucestershire, first striking north into the Welsh Marches, taking Hereford and Shrewsbury, before heading south to Bath. Stephen hears that Bristol is being fortified with provisions for those committing against the King.
Our widely read author of GS cites Bristol’s fortifications and situation being similar to Brindisi from Lucan’s Pharsalia.224He goes on to describe Bristol’s ideal military and commercial situation and the existing royalist faction of Bath and the Bristolian Angevin forces. While Stephen’s men are scouting Bath a hostage is caught, so the Angevin’s force presents itself at Bath asking to see the Bishop of Bath who is duly kidnapped and used as hostage in exchange. Henry knows the lay of the land in Bristol and Bath, but we can identify Henry as the author of GS by his outrage at the kidnapping and treatment of the Bishop of Bath who is a personal friend. Robert of Lewes was a protégé of Henry Blois who employed him at Glastonbury. Robert also was the prior of Winchester and was consecrated Bishop of Bath through the influence of Henry of Blois in March 1136. So one can understand the authors outrage at his treatment in the GS.
At once they laid sacrilegious hands on the preacher of the gospel, the ministrant at God’s holy table, and the venerable sower of all men’s faith and religion, the steward of the grain in the Lords Granary, who carries in his breast the ark of God and the divine manna, they addressed with shameless insult and threatened to hang unless he handed Geoffrey back to them.
224We know that Henry Blois posing as ‘Geoffrey’ has read the Pharsalia as he twice quotes from it…. Once in a sneer at Caesar and then actually naming Lucan. It is not impossible to conceive that Henry travelled to Brindisi but He may also have heard of its fortifications from crusaders heading to the Holy land such as his Father as it is an obvious embarkation port.
It seems silly that the Bishop of Bath is postulated as the author of the GS by Potter and Davis. Who would refer to himself as a simpleminded man who believes every word? This is Henry Blois knowledge of Robert’s pious character. The Bishop of Bath if he had indeed authored the GS would hardly refer to himself as like another Jacob who lived guilelessly at home. This is why Henry Blois chose and supported Robert because he was able to manipulate him. If Robert had really composed the GS, he would not plant purposeful misdirection as we see Henry Blois doing and would certainly not self-assess himself in the words above.
In the following extract in GS, from where does our author get his interest in military stratagem and incisive engineering knowledge? Who would be giving his brother advice and commenting on those opposing his good advice: urging in opposition that it was a waste of time and labour without profit.
This is Henry Blois speaking. He is annoyed that his ideas are not being acted upon, so that the siege might be terminated. Don’t forget these are details from a diary and memory with hindsight included as opinion; as the certain verification that had Henry been listened to by his brother, the outcome would have certainly been more beneficial for king Stephen:
And then, going away towards the impostor Bristol, he led his army near the town and when he called a council of war and asked his barons how he could most effectively besiege it, by what engines he could put most weight into an assault, by what means he could most readily bring it to submission, he received differing and doubtful advice according as some obeyed him loyally, others deceitfully.225 Some recommended the throwing in of a huge mass of rocks, beams, and turves at the point where the approach to the town narrowed and the two sides nearly met, that with the mouth of the harbour blocked the enemy might no longer get supplies from rowing boats, in which they chiefly put their trust, and also the rivers that wash around the sides of the town, as has been said, might be forced back with rising waters when their current was checked, gathered into a lake broad and deep as a sea, and immediately flood the town. They also approved the King’s building castles on each side of the town to prevent the constant traffic both ways over bridges, and of his keeping his army in front of the Earl’s Castle for some little time and afflicting the inmates with hunger and many kinds of suffering. But others and those especially who only pretend to serve the King and rather favoured the Earl, made these men’s sound and acceptable council of no avail, urging in opposition that it was a waste of time and labour without profit to try to block up the unfathomable sea with masses of timber or stone, since it was very clear that anything rolled in would either sink and be swallowed up from the mere depth of the water or else be entirely washed away and brought to nothing by strong flooding tides.
What Henry Blois is intoning is that his engineering advice was been confuted by devious advisors who did not have Stephen’s best advantage at heart. Interestingly, when Henry wrote the prophecies of Merlin, he had foreseen and designed such an engineering feat for Winchester involving the river Itchen, (even though he changes it to the Thames later in the updated squewed edition to obfuscate his original prophecy about Winchester), the renown of which would reach Rome; and we know also (in engineering terms) the ‘Hedgehog hiding his apples’,226 is a reference to the underground chamber in the Cathedral at Winchester that Henry Blois excavated for viewing the saints relics as we see in the Merlin Prophecies: He shall add thereunto a mighty palace, and wall it around with six hundred towers. London shall behold it with envy and trebly increase her walls. The Thames river shall compass her round on every side, and the report of that work shall pass beyond the Alps. Within her shall the Hedgehog hide his apples and shall devise ways under-ground.
Three fountains shall well forth in the city of Winchester, whereof the streams shall dispart the island into three portions.227
225This is not a clerical chronicler at work, but someone who fully understands the duplicity and deceit of certain barons close to Stephen i.e. those especially who only pretend to serve the King and rather favoured the Earl…
226Henry knows he has built the subterranean passage under Winchester cathedral and plays on the word hericius for Henricus. Some translators trying to make sense of the passage have translated: It shall be rebuilt by Eric, loaden with apples
227HRB VII, iv
It is a strange coincidence that tradition says it was the Bishop of Winchester that is said to have devised a grand plan for improving the trade both of Winchester and Alresford by the construction of a “navigation” on the river Alre228 and Itchen. Alresford Pond was started by Henry Blois as the Merlin prophecy predicts and it was constructed in order to create a head of water for a canal. This canal is supposed to have run from Alresford Pond to Winchester. It is said to have been constructed on the orders of the Bishop of Winchester. Henry was an ‘engineer’ in many respects seen in the arrangements for a water supply at his palaces. Gerald of Wales noted his creation of ponds, aqueducts and fountains at Wolvesey palace.
In reality as we can witness iun the GS, Henry wished his advice had been listened to by Stephen as he was a good engineer.
Anyway, I just mention this to show that our author of GS is telling us that similar engineering feats were being posited by Henry as a solution to overcome Bristol. One must ask how is it that our author of GS understands that the engineering of a ‘dam’ as an idea has any veracity or should be given more credence; as opposed to the deceitful advice of other advisers?
Once the Bristol episode in the GS is over, we move to Castle Cary which Stephen also besieges and then moves onto Harptree where we hear that; had it not been suggested to him by the advice of wise men that this Castle too he could most conveniently treat in check by the soldiers he had left at Bath….
The point is, that the person relaying the GS also gives account from the route down to Bristol and what happened at Harptree on the way; so, it would hardly be the Bishop of Bristol who was earlier castigated by the King for exchanging Geoffrey, before he arrived at Bath. He must have been en-route with the King’s forces down to Bristol and Bath. Henry Blois is purposely disguising himself as the author. It is the same tactic used for disguising himself as Geoffrey of Monmouth by pretending to be ‘pudibindus Brito’. Henry never forgets to put himself in character as when speaking as Merlin, supposedly prophesying as an ancient Briton and speaking of ‘our’ army.
Potter and Davis state (while trying to discover who the mysterious author of the Gesta Stephani might be): the author writes like an underling but as a man of stature and pronounces moral judgements as if his opinion were one that mattered…and his learning is such that it must surely have marked him for promotion at any rate in the eyes of Henry Blois… Our author pretends to be an underling and is a man who hears and sees much of what the King sees and is in audience to hear opinions. Scholars seem to possess an ineptitude which, they, by their naivety, conceal the very thing they wish to elucidate or expose.
The Bishop of Winchester at this stage is eager to see Stephen’s reign flourish, but next, Henry Blois opines in the GS that Stephen had:
to deal with various anxieties and tasks of many kinds which continually dragged him hither and thither all over England. It was like what we read of the fabled hydra of Hercules; when one head was cut off two or more grew in its place. That is precisely what we must feel about King Stephen’s labours, because when one was finished others more burdensome kept on taking its place without end and like another Hercules, he always girded himself bravely and unconquerably to endure each.
228In some texts it has Fons Annae and we know the camp of Venus (which will be renewed) is Winchester after Henry’s reconstruction. Thus, we can speculate that Henry had plans for the three springs appearing in Winchester, one of which was to be navigable to Hamos port which is Southampton. One the other hand, we might sat that Henry Blois is talking about the three Metropolitans, York, London, and his new hoped for Metropolitan at Winchester by saying Three fountains shall well forth,one in the city of Winchester…
Our cleric (for it is obvious the author of GS is a churchman) has studied Greek Mythology; but we know Henry has read Orosius, Suetonius, Silius Italicus, Horace, Livy, Virgil, Ovid, Statius, Quintillian, Plato, Aristotle, Sallust, to name but a mere few of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s classical sources for the HRB and the VM. Henry Blois then mentions in the GS, Alexander’s wondrous battles against foreigners. It is a strange coincidence that quite a few old HRB manuscripts have the Epistola Alexandri ad Aristotelum bound up with them.
Following on, the GS continues:
but you will find King Stephen’s afflictions and struggles many times as great and far heavier to bear, and of course all the more grievous in that they were brought on him by servants from his own country and vassals bound to him by oath. For that the persecution of friends and countrymen is wont to be more painful and more bitter the Lord bears witness, complaining of him that ate his bread and yet raised his heel against him more than he complains of others. Hence, he says elsewhere ‘a man’s foes shall be they of his own household’. For that reason too, some philosopher says ‘there is no plague more deadly than an enemy under your own roof’. Then let him who wishes to read and know wondrous things hearken and learn more fully the story laid before him.
The Philosopher is Boethius and the quote from the Consolation of Philosophy which again shows Henry Blois’ wide array of reading.
Unfortunately, we will never know just how the election of Theobald of Bec was covered by Henry Blois as more pages are missing from the GS. It almost seems that anything that could definitively confirm for us that Henry is the author is on a missing page. Anyway, one can certainly ascertain where the narrative is heading before going blank because we are warned of propitious events concerning what most likely would have been in progression if the pages were not missing, the double dealing of Stephen. King Stephen, as we know, denies Henry Blois what he wants i.e. the Archbishopric of Canterbury and bestows the post on Theobald of Bec. We also know Henry’s reaction to that news by aquiring the post of Legate so that he maintained his power and was not subordinate to Theobald of Bec.
However, it is plainly stated elsewhere that God’s judgement rested on Stephen (again hind-sightful). Henry Blois in his own mind and as the author of the GS puts ‘God’s judgement’ on Stephen down to two incidents; Firstly, Henry’s own rebuff by Stephen in denying Henry the archbishopric of Canterbury, (considering Henry had in effect put the crown on Stephen’s head). Stephen had been persuaded by the Beaumont twins to elect Theobald to curb Henry Blois’ power. Secondly, the fact Stephen had broken canon law in arresting the three Bishops after swearing to maintain the freedom of the Church.
The whole affair is very complex and William of Malmesbury gives a concise account of how the arrests of the Bishops took place and of the council at Winchester which transpired afterward. The problem is that Henry Blois can see both sides of the argument and the reasoning behind why Stephen had them arrested. It was entirely possibly to envisage that Roger, Alexander and Nigel’s castles could have been transferred to the Angevin cause to increase Matilda’s power-base if they had swapped allegiance.However, it was the abuse to the church which riled Henry Blois after his brother had given an oath to maintain the freedom of the Church.
At Devizes, we again see the author of GS commenting on construction: a Castle of the Bishop of Salisbury, constructed with wonderful skill and impregnable fortifications. Henry Blois loved castles and their construction and was aware of their penetrability and fortifications having both defended and attacked others during the Welsh Rebellion and the Anarchy not forgetting the GS was composed after Stephen’s death.
Henry as Legate summoned King Stephen and Churchmen to Winchester. Henry’s complaint was that the church should be able to judge and hand out justice if Roger, Alexander and Nigel were guilty under canon law, rather than the King’s swift justice. see Appendix 11.
Henry is in quite a tricky position throughout this whole affair as he too is implicated when the Bishop of Rouen clarifies the point concerning churchmen owning castles. Henry was definitely allied and behind Stephen to this point in Stephen’s reign, but it is here he sees that his brother (listening to bad advice) has made a large blunder to which he personally has taken great offence.
For to do one in the sight of men is acknowledged to be a great transgression; to bring the other to pass is considered, and really is, a monstrous sin against God himself. Hence also the Lord says in the words of the prophet, ’he that touches you, touches the apple of mine eye’. And in the gospel ‘he that despiseth you despiseth me’. And to inflict dishonour so rashly and recklessly, or dishonourable extortion, on the ministrants at the holy altar he thus forbids them in the words of the prophet saying ’touch not mine anointed’. For my part, I proclaimed firmly and boldly that God himself cannot be more swiftly or more grievously offended by anything than by any man’s offence, in word or deed, to those appointed to serve at his table.
Just listen to this man’s high tone in castigating a King (or rather a brother). This is a freudian slip by Henry Blois and is passed over by Potter and Davis. Who is this that dares to correct a King proclaiming firmly and boldly? What gets me about modern scholars dealing with Henry Blois, Geoffrey, the Prophecies, Glastonbury propaganda, and the origins of Grail lore is that there is never any context.
The deductions of these learnèd Medievalists are vacuous where everything is ‘strained at’ as if under a microscope without giving the subject matter under scrutiny any context. There is no understanding from where in the body/matter (of Britain) that which is scrutinized becomes relevant contextually. Heaven forbid that after recognising that the author of GS must be close to Henry Blois and even mentioning his name on numerous occasions in commentary and proximity to Henry Blois; that these learnèd scholars could manage to discard their blinkers and ‘see the wood amongst the trees’ and even contemplate Henry as the author of GS. The blind leading the blind!!!
In the GS, it is a remarkable fact that the Bishop of Winchester is not mentioned in the bishops arrest episode and the council which followed at Winchester becomes a passing comment in GS: a council was held in England. This episode concerning the arrest of the bishops was an important turning point in Stephen’s reign. The part Henry Blois played was strictly centre stage as ‘Legate’ much as William of Malmesbury relates the events in HN.
So why has Henry skimmed over this? Because the GS is constructed as an apologia!!!! Henry after his brother died regrets his Machiavellian deeds and understands that his actions caused or contributed to the suffering of the populace in ‘Anarchy’. At the same time Henry also wants to be remembered well by posterity by putting a more favourable spin on his actions.
It becomes obvious that if this were a chaplain of Henry Blois or even the Bishop of Bath composing the GS, they both would have at least mentioned Henry Blois or the Bishop of Winchester or the Legate’s involvement in this episode. But, Henry is hiding his authorship and in reality, is plainly the reason the chief judge of these affairs i.e. the Legate is not mentioned by name.
The GS downplays Henry Blois’s part firstly, because, at the council it is plainly seen in William’s Historia Novella account of the same events that it is Henry himself who is the main force in bringing his brother to book. Secondly, if he were to vent his opinions and rationale concerning the arrests, suspicion of authorship would fall on him because all of those opinions are stated clearly in the Historia Novella to have been expounded by Henry. Also, the GS is written afterwards with a view to providing a positive spin on Henry’s actions as opposed to what is presented in HN.
Now, the reader may well think what difference does it make if Henry did write the GS. Well, if you can write one book in anonymity using guile to misdirect, you can write others; and this is not something that Henry wishes others to consider and modern scholars do not consider either.
How then may we rationalise his self-professed epitaph on the Meusan plate (see section on the Meuse Plaques) that an ‘author is greater than art or jewels, ‘unless Henry Blois sees himself as a great author and understands (like the classics) the benefit and beauty of well written literature; these surpassing the less transmittable forms of art which degrade with time. Henry is the author of the greatest contemporaneous book which has affected the outlook on British history i.e. the HRB. This is the reason for his statement on the epitaph which we will investigate shortly.
However, Henry can be seen trying to find a solution to the disagreement between Syephen and the bishops by offering advice to the three bishops i.e. to hand over their castles to the King. Henry owning more castles than any other bishop is morally compromised, yet it is not he who is being accused:
and even to peril of death unless they put at the King’s disposal the castles they had built with so much care and regarded with so much affection. However by advice of their friends, (for they still had some in the gathering at court, though very few) they were persuaded and firmly convinced that they must get their release from the dishonourable arrest under which they were kept and entirely satisfy the King’s wishes, especially as what belongs to Caesar must be rendered unto Caesar, and there is nothing that should be taken in exchange for a man’s soul.
There is a sharp contradiction between Malmesbury’s HN account and the GS account which is only reconcilable if indeed the author of GS was Henry Blois.
William of Malmesbury in HN states: however the legate and the Archbishop did not fail to pursue the course that their duty prescribed for they fell as supplicants at the Kings feet in his room and begged him to take pity on the church, pity on his soul and reputation, and not suffer a divorce to be made between the monarchy and the clergy. Though he rose respectfully and removed the stigma that their act had laid on him, yet taken up with the advice of wicked men, he showed no fulfilment of righteous promises.
In the GS account written by Henry Blois we have a stark contrast in outcome:
but because it was justly decided and judiciously determined by all the clergy that on no grounds could he lay hands on the Lord’s anointed, he softened the harshness of the church’s severity by a humble submission, and putting aside his Royal garb, groaning in spirit and with a contrite heart, he humbly accepted the penance enjoined for his fault.
There can only be two reasons for the GS’s disagreement with William’s account. Either the King privately (in his room) humbly accepted his wrongdoing in front of Theobald and Henry; or Henry as the writer of the GS, after his brother’s death, glosses over his intractability. Considering Henry Blois’ change of allegiance, it is probably the latter.
However, there is one more consideration to take into account. If Roger’s castles were seized, how did Kidwelly Castle (Lidelea) come into Henry Blois’ possession, a point we shall cover in due course.229 But, one point to make is that Henry Blois himself was suspicious of Roger and his relatives always being surrounded by guards before the arrest:
And because he (Roger) hoped that their (Matilda’s) arrival in England would be soon, according to frequent messages they had sent from Normandy, everywhere he went and especially to the Kings Court, he was encircled by a large and numerous bodyguard of troops, on pretence that he was leading them to help the King; he added to his retinue a great and surprising number of friends, that he might both please the King in the meantime on this account and at once be ready to aid if they arrive, those to whom he granted a more cordial and willing obedience.
We can witness a lovely foray into irony as Henry Blois as the author of GS pretends a distanced analysis of the taking of the Bishops castles:
so when these things had in this manner been fulfilled, we wonder at the surprising good fortune that was the Kings lot, in as much as after he had drained his own treasuries almost to exhaustion to protect the Kingdom, he suddenly came to enjoy the fruits of others toils, and what had been stored up in the castles for his own injury and damage, as was reported, was given up for his honour and profit alone without any toil at all on his part.
229It should also be noted that at the time of writing the GS, Henry had administered for a time the bishopric of Salisbury and may well have transferred Lidelea to be the possession of the Bishop of Winchester
Anyway, the outcome of the whole affair was that the three most powerful clergy (bishop knights) had submitted their castles to Stephen along with their wealth while Henry Blois as chief hypocrite kept all of his own and Henry Blois may well have gained one of Roger’s castles.
From this previous episode in GS, after a brief discourse on events in Devon and Somerset, we move on to the arrival of Matilda and Robert of Gloucester at Arundel (the beginning of the Anarchy proper).
Robert of Gloucester had left during the night and was on his way to Bristol Castle to garner support and the King was dividing his troops. Some troops stayed to ensure Matilda remained within the castle while King Stephen with his other troops pursued Robert:
But, since he was far from achieving his desire (for the Earl had not gone by the main road but by a hidden by-way), he turned hastily back to besiege those who had withdrawn into the Castle. The Bishop of Winchester, on hearing of their arrival, at once had all the by-roads blocked by guards, and at length met the Earl, it was rumoured, and after a compact of peace and friendship had been firmly ratified between them let him go unharmed. This was the popular report, but in every man of right feeling it must be doubtful, or rather quite incredible, that a brother should greet the invader of his brother’s Kingdom with a kiss and let him go uninjured from his sight to rouse the Kingdom to more violent rebellion against his brother.(Polemic gloss)
So the Bishop, as though he had not caught up with the earl, came to the King with a large bodyguard of cavalry. On observing that the King was determined to prosecute the siege he (Henry) said that the plan was useless and unacceptable both to the King himself and to the Kingdom. For if he were preparing to besiege the Countess of Anjou in one part the Kingdom, her brother would immediately rise up and disturb the Kingdom in another; and so it was wiser for the King himself and more beneficial to the Kingdom to let her go to her brother unharmed, that when both with their forces had been brought into one place he might more easily devote himself to shattering their enterprise and might more quickly arrive with all his forces for a heavier attack. So, when an agreement had been made and a truce accepted under sanction of an oath, he let the Countess go away to her brother, feeling sure he could overcome them the more freely in as much as both were being brought into one part of the country.
This extract establishes for posterity two things. It counteracts the contemporary accusation of a duplicitous Henry, but it does not deny the meeting between Robert of Gloucester and Henry Blois (which was common knowledge) and could not be denied even in this GS apologia. Our author is keen to establish that the bishop of Winchester is not accounted duplicitous. It is made to appear as if it were not so much a meeting by arrangement but by Henry having blocked the roads appearing to act for his brother. It portrays Henry not as a ‘turncoat’ but a smart strategist, genuinely concerned still for his brother’s welfare. It provides a rationale for what was a contemporary accusation against Henry’s betrayal of his brother and his duplicity. Many considered Henry Blois the main instigator and manipulator of affairs. Some contemporaries later, even accused Henry of being in touch with Robert and Matilda prior to their landing in England, corresponding secretly.
However, it will have come out into the public domain of court gossip that the meeting took place and many wondered at why Henry made no mention of it to his brother on arrival at Arundel.230 The wording, ‘as though he had not caught up with the earl’ is included as part of the narrative in the GS because it was common knowledge. It was known (or latterly discovered) that having met Robert, Henry had said nothing to his brother. This probably became common knowledge to both sides when both Robert and the King became prisoners later on. Don’t forget, Henry was now Legate and had been dealt a blow by his brother in being passed over as Archbishop of Canterbury and may have viewed his opportunities with Matilda as a more expedient course. We know this change of sides did actually transpire but it is still denied in the GS apologia.
The point is skirted over and made to appear in the GS as if it were part of the plan that both Matilda and Robert were to be brought together at Bristol for Stephen’s advantage…. as it was also known that it was on Henry’s advice that Matilda was escorted by himself to Bristol to join her brother Robert.
Now, it is a very difficult to divine at which point Henry’s allegiance changed because GS emphatically denies it did. Was it when his brother was imprisoned, and expediency dictated a change of sides; or was it before, as many accused him of corresponding with Robert and the Empress prior to their arrival? William of Malmesbury relates in HN: the ‘witness’ in the council accuses Henry and that Henry Blois’ cool lack of response to the witness was anything but a denial.
Whatever the answer, the GS in the way it is constructed acts as a polemical apologia against the proposition of Henry Blois ever having changed sides before his brother was captured at Lincoln. However, given that Henry Blois was snubbed by King and Queen in his wish to be archbishop and he had witnessed his brother’s capacity to turn on the Bishop Knights who were possessors of Castles…. there could be some truth to the proposition that he encouraged Matilda to come. But, had it not been for the episode at Ely where the writer of the GS is definitely present siding with the king…. there would be no discrepancy…..as long as the GS is understood in part, to be an apologia for Henry. It becomes clear why the narrative passage was constructed in this way. Of course, the usual obfuscation is continued throughout the GS as things are ‘reported’ or as it was ‘rumoured’, ‘so it is said’, or ‘they say that’… etc.
The GS continues with exploits at several castles such as Wallingford and Henry opines in several places the distress Stephen goes through, but always expresses it as God’s will in payment for his actions.
We then get to the point in GS where Roger, Bishop of Salisbury dies and Stephen appropriates several treasures. As we know, Henry Blois is a lover of art and comments on the pieces he has obviously seen, that his brother has appropriated:
He left Salisbury Cathedral a countless quantity of money, and likewise a great many vessels of hammered goldsmiths’ work, some of silver, some of gold, artistically and splendidly engraved. All these fell into the King’s hands, with the approval indeed by the voluntary offer of the canons themselves…
230Historians are uncertain as to why the Empress was released, but we can safely say that it was the persuasive influence of Henry Blois who was secretly siding with the Empress. The persuasion was easy as Arundel Castle was considered almost impregnable…. so why would Stephen risk deploying his army in the south whilst Robert roamed freely garnering support in the west. King Stephen may also have released Matilda out of a sense of chivalry. Henry Blois himself relates that his brother’s sense of Chivalry was his undoing. This is especially evident in the three times he allowed King David of Scotland to break a deal without learning from the previous two times. (See appendix 25) This affected Henry so much it was even included in the prophecies of VM. Stephen had a generous, courteous personality and women in general were not normally expected to be targeted in Anglo-Norman warfare. Hence, Henry Blois escorted her as was likely promised by him at the secret meeting with Robert of Gloucester earlier.
Henry goes on to say that the money was spent on good deeds for various religious institutions. But Henry does not relate about his efforts to install his eldest brother’s son Henry De Sully into the bishopric of Salisbury against Waleran of Meulan’s protégé Philip d’Harcourt.
We now arrive at the passage in the GS where Nigel decides to take revenge against Stephen where he abandons the weapons of the gospel and the discipline of the Church militant, he put on the man of blood and after hiring in Ely, at his own expense, knights….he holed up there:
Now Ely is an agreeable island, large and thickly inhabited, rich in land that is fertile and fit for pasture, impenetrably surrounded on all sides by bogland and fens, accessible only in one place, where a very narrow track affords the scantiest of entries to the island and Castle, wondrously set, long since, right in the water in the middle of the opening of the track, makes one impregnable castle of the whole island. The King then on hearing the truth about the bishops beginning a rebellion, hastily arrived there with a large army, and after examining the wonderful and unconquerable fortification in place, he anxiously consulted a number of persons about the means of breaking in with his men. When at length advice was given and approved that he should collect a quantity of boats at a place where the water surrounded the island seemed to be less wide, place them broadside on, and build a bridge over them to the shores of the islands with a foundation of hurdles laid lengthwise, the King was much delighted and ordered the work to be speedily done; and when at length a bridge had been skilfully constructed in this way over the boats, he and his men quickly came to the shores of the island beyond. But when the water had been crossed by this device there still remained muddy fens, in which a shallow ford suitable for crossing, was secretly shown to the King. They say that a monk who knew the district of Ely very well, both gave the advice about crossing the water and acted as guide, as well as informant, in the showing of the ford among the fens. We have seen him afterwards in recognition of this service, inducted into a church not by Peter’s key but rather by Simon’s, and given the title of Abbot of Ramsay, and we know that afterwards, on account of this unjust induction into a church, he endured many toils and afflictions through God’s just judgement on what he did in secret.
It would be incredible to think that someone who had such inside knowledge or able to give such detail was not present. Not only is the location perfectly described, but as always, through the eyes of a military tactician/engineer…. taking into account a location’s defences and how it might be assailed or assaulted.
As we have discussed, advice when mentioned in GS is usually that which has emanated from Henry Blois. At length, it will be him that comes up with the solution, but to avoid future accusation of a churchman laying siege to another, he piles all the blame on Daniel the monk from Peterborough, the future abbot of Ramsey. I cannot say one way or another whether Daniel himself was present, but it makes no difference to Henry, because at the time of writing the GS the abbot is dead. Even if Daniel did show them a path through the fens…. to avoid accusation, Henry implies that the whole feat (including the engineering of a bridge), which the author explains in fine detail…. rests entirely on the monk. It seems extraordinary that detail such as the hurdles being laid lengthwise should be recounted by anyone else but an eyewitness.
At this time Nigel had fallen foul of both Henry and Stephen and as he escaped to the ‘receptacle of filth’ known as Bristol, Geoffrey de Mandeville remained at Ely opposing them. This is a good indication of Henry’s guile and shows how he is able to construct the GS so as to appear that the book and its subject matter is about the ‘acts of Stephen’, while at the same time polishing for posterity his role in the Anarchy.
There follows several incidents in the southwest of England involving Robert of Gloucester and Stephen and the taking of Devizes by Robert Fitz Hubert and events involving Geoffrey Talbot. As always, judgement by the author is ‘from God’ and the author knows his bible. Henry decides not to mention his attempts as mediator as the author of GS, but this point is related by William of Malmesbury. To do so in GS, Henry would draw attention to himself and his role thus highlighting his authorship.
As we pass through the battle of Lincoln in the narrative of the GS where Stephen is captured and his subsequent imprisonment at Bristol is dealt with, Henry manages his best retrospective gloss implying his hands were clean of any connivance in his brother’s capture, but as always, puffed up by his vanity. The passage portrays his blameless expediency in reacting to events. It basically paints his actions as a man taking advice to make a pact; always with the intention (given the right moment) to revert his allegiance back to his brother. We can see later on in the GS that it was probably just his revulsion to how he was treated by the Empress, which caused him to manipulate events that were the cause of her having to flee from London.
I believe, if Matilda had not acted haughtily to Henry and with deference, Henry might not have reacted to the appeals from Stephen’s wife to help his brother.231 For those who know how events turned out in posterity, the GS portrays a scenario of a man pressed by the turn of events, who by expediency had to comply in co-operating with Matilda. The GS gives the impression that Henry had the intention of reverting sides back to Stephen given the right opportunity and thus he is portraying for posterity his unwavering allegiance to Stephen, except by duplicity and not historically correct.
The truth of the matter is that Henry swapped sides to support Matilda to have what he thought would be total control over the English church which had been denied him by his brother and then promised to him by Matilda. Matilda turned out to be a disagreeable choice to side with, so he then reverted back to his brother’s side as the lesser of the two evils… probably not on the Queen’s request only; but by rallying support for the Queen (Stephen’s wife) to turn the tide of events back to his own favour playing both sides…. hoping to escape his demeaning position under the Empress.
231In fact, William Newburgh implies it was Henry who started the siege because he had had enough of the Empress Matilda. After stating Henry Blois was inordinately fond of money, William Newburgh states: In order to raise the siege, he summoned from Kent (the only area unaffected by reason of the King’s calamity) William of Ypres and the Queen and from other districts numerous individuals who were irritated by the disdainful tyranny of the woman. After he had amassed massive forces…..
The GS tells us:
She was advised to win the attachment of Henry bishop of Winchester, the Kings brother, because he was reckoned to surpass all the great men of England in judgement and wisdom and to be their superior in virtue and wealth; for, she was told, if he were willing to favour her party he must be honoured and made her first councillor, but if he showed himself in any way hostile and rebellious the whole armed force of England must be sent against him. The Bishop was in a quandary; on the one hand it was most difficult to support the King’s cause and restore it to its former flourishing condition, above all because he had not provisioned or garrisoned his Castles well enough, on the other it appeared to him a dreadful thing and unseemly in the sight of men to yield so suddenly to his brother’s foes while that brother was still alive. So he was in bewilderment and dragged this way and that by different hooks, until, strengthened by more acceptable advice, he resolved to make a pact of peace and friendship with his enemies for a time, that with peace thus assured to him and his, he might quietly watch the inclinations of the Kingdom and how they were displayed and might rise more briskly and with less hindrance to assist his brother if the chance were offered. So when they had jointly made a pact of peace and concord he came to meet her in cordial fashion and admitted her into the city of Winchester, and after handing over to her disposal the King’s Castle and the Royal crown, which she had always most eagerly desired, and the treasure the King had left there, though it was very scanty, he bade the people, at a public meeting in the marketplace of the town, salute her as their lady and their Queen.
Henry Blois alludes to Matilda’s parade in Winchester as if by public meeting all decided to salute their Lady. No mention of his own machinations in the Chapter house where the council took place.
The ‘Deeds of Stephen’ professes to be a book about King Stephen, but Stephen is the glue around which Henry splices his polemically slanted apologia concerning himself. It is remarkable how our author of GS glosses over the defining moment of the whole period; the events which were going to decide Stephen’s fate at the council of Winchester on the 7th of April 1141. Now, if our author were anybody else except Henry Blois, it seems more than likely that even a cursory synopsis of events would have been recorded of that event in the GS.
The reason they are not is obvious! Luckily, we have William of Malmesbury’s account in HN which clearly indicates that Henry’s allegiance had changed. This is the one event whereby the illusion that Henry Blois has never changed sides morally. He is presented as doing this only ostensibly as the case presented in the GS. In reality what transpired would uncover his duplicity.
Henry skirts round the implications of the council, otherwise his carefully crafted apologia put forward in GS is contradicted. We know this by the declaration he made there recorded by William of Malmesbury. Up until these statements were made, secret conclaves had been held among the clergy by Henry and it seems as if Henry was seeing which way the wind blew before openly coming down on one side of the fence or the other. Obviously, all the clergy thought it prudent to side with the Empress Matilda.
William of Malmesbury relates by narration and quotation an un-airbrushed version of what was openly declared by Henry Blois at the time. Malmesbury’s account below which actually transpired in reality runs contrary to the position Henry himself paints in GS. William of Malmesbury records what plainly is a duplicitous piece of oratory, saying the Legate’s speech was much to this effect:
That by appointment of the pope he (Henry Blois) took his place in England and it was therefore by the pope’s authority that the clergy of England were gathered in this council to discuss the peace of the country, which was suffering a very perilous shipwreck. In the time of King Henry, his uncle, England had been the peculiar habitation of peace, so that through the activity, spirit and vigour of that pre-eminent man, not only did the natives, whatever their power or position, not venture to create any disturbance but likewise all the neighbouring Kings and princes, following his example, both inclined to peace themselves and invited or forced their subjects to it. That King, some years before his death had had the whole Kingdom of England and also the Duchy of Normandy confirmed on oath by all the Bishops and barons to his, formally Empress, his only surviving offspring by his first wife, if he failed of a male successor by his wife from Lorraine. ’And cruel fortune’ he said, (Henry Blois) ’showed a grudge against my preeminent uncle, so that he died in Normandy without a male heir. Therefore, because it seemed tedious to wait for the lady,232 who made delays in coming to England since her residence was Normandy, thought was taken for peace of the country and my brother allowed to reign. But though I made myself a guarantor between him and God that he would honour and exalt holy church, maintain good laws and repeal bad ones, I am vexed to remember and ashamed to tell what manner of man he showed himself as King, how no justice was enforced upon transgressors, peace at once brought entirely to an end, almost in that very year, bishops arrested and compelled to surrender their property, abbacies sold and churches despoiled of their treasure, the advice of the wicked hearkened to, that of the good either not put into effect or altogether disregarded. You know how often I made application to him, sometimes personally and sometimes through the bishops, especially when I called a Council for this purpose in the year mentioned before and again nothing but hatred. And if anyone will consider the matter aright he cannot be unaware that while I should love my mortal brother I should esteem far more highly the cause of my immortal father. Therefore since God has executed his judgement on my brother in allowing him to fall into the power of the strong without my knowledge that the Kingdom may not totter without a ruler I have invited you all to meet here in virtue of my position as Legate. The case was discussed in secret yesterday before the chief part of the clergy of England, whose special prerogative it is to choose and consecrate a Prince. Therefore, first, as is fitting, calling God to our aid, we choose as lady of England and Normandy the daughter of a King who was a peacemaker, a glorious King, a wealthy King, the good King, without peer in our time, and we promise her faith and support.233
William of Malmesbury says there was discreet applause, or some acquiesced to what was said by their silence. I am sure many were stunned at Henry’s duplicity. Henry Blois as orator had taken the moral high ground saying he was ashamed of his brother’s behaviour against the church. This is not someone who is quietly watching the inclinations of the Kingdom as is stated in the GS; this is the power-broker, the shaker and mover of the Kingdom and he has declared for the Empress.234
232Henry when writing GS actually borrows this expression from William of Malmesbury and inserts it in GS. Unless of course he is using his original speech as a record of what he said in the Council…. because it is doubtful William of Malmesbury used shorthand to record Henry’s speech.
233HN. Potter. p. 52-54, chap 493
234This is vainly expressed in his own self written epitaph found on the Meusan plates: lest England groan for it, since on him it depends for peace or war, agitation or rest.
Everyone in the secret conclaves and in the council knew that Henry openly declared for Matilda…. all contemporaries knew this fact. Why is it that mention of the council of Winchester and Henry’s position as turncoat is avoided in GS? Why is the impression given in GS of Henry’s undivided support for his brother? It is simply because Henry (as author) did not want to go down in history as the primordial instigator of the Anarchy in facilitating the crowning of his brother and as the continuator of it, having changed his allegiance back…. albeit with a push from his brother’s wife.
If the Empress had not disrespected Henry and broken her word to him and begun to be ‘arbitrary and headstrong’ as the GS puts it, the crown would have been on the Empress’s head. The trouble was that Henry, (the King and Queen ‘maker or breaker’) eventually decided he was better off before as the King’s brother and would have more chance of accomplishing a Gregorian state and his own personal ambitions through his brother. If his brother was eventually released by Henry’s doing, his power would be restored, and the king would be indebted. He was also offered the propitious momentum to reverse the situation by the rebellion of the Londoners, which was most undoubtedly brought about by Henry Blois’ interference.
No one should be fooled by Henry Blois or underestimate his ability. He was indeed a complex man. Henry was a supremely able financier and administrator. As a builder, art patron, connoisseur and collector of antiques, he was without rival in his age. The hangover of a proper cloistered education lingered into an unshakable belief in God and zest for the church as equal to state; but Henry’s faith was undoubtedly not in its purest form…. as his ability to lie and manoeuvre and create fraudulent tracts has little to do with God’s true ministers.
Henry Blois’ accusations against greed, witnessed in the GS, against William of Corbeil, Roger, Alexander etc. was a hypocrisy blinded by his own narcissism and he was fully culpable himself. His obsession with art and his building projects required wealth. He freely admits his wealth in the GS, but it is not until his back is against the wall, when his brother dies, that his own obedience to mammon is displayed as Henry Blois transfers his movable wealth abroad to Clugny in 1155.
We can see the reasons in this next extract for the reversal of fortunes of the Empress. The bishop of Winchester’s pique is obvious, but Henry cleverly shows that it was not his personal feelings that were offended but also those of her most ardent allies. The sense implies that the mood of the country as a whole was for change back to Stephen; since Matilda’s true character was discovered. The turn of events probably relied more on Henry’s Machiavellian orchestration of events to fulfil his own desires. Since both Robert of Gloucester and King David were dead at the time of writing the GS, the above assertion could be made freely that they were of the same inclination against the Empress.
William of Malmesbury directly confutes this assertion by stating: her brother Robert, constantly with her, increased her prestige in every fitting way, by speaking affably to the chief men…
It must not be forgotten, our author likens himself to Cicero; he has studied oratory arts and rhetoric and is a manipulator not only of events, but words. The GS continues:
Then she, on being raised with such splendour and distinction to this pre-eminent position, began to be arbitrary, and rather headstrong, in all that she did. Some former adherents of the King, who had agreed to submit themselves and what was theirs to her, she received ungraciously and at times with unconcealed annoyance, others she drove from her presence in fury after insulting and threatening them. By reckless innovations she lessened or took away possessions and lands of some, held on a grant from the King, while the fees and honours of the very few who still adhered to the King she confiscated altogether and granted to others; she arbitrarily annulled any grant fixed by the King’s royal decree, she hastily snatched away and conferred on her own followers anything he had given in unshakeable perpetuity to churches or to his comrades in arms. What was a sign of extreme haughtiness and insolence, when the King of Scotland and the Bishop of Winchester and her brother, the Earl of Gloucester, the chief men of the whole Kingdom, whom she was then taking around with her as a permanent retinue, came before her with bended knees to make some request, she did not rise respectfully, as she should have, when they bowed before her, or agree to what they asked, but repeatedly sent them away with contumely, rebuffing them by an arrogant answer and refusing to hearken to their words; and by this time she no longer relied on their advice, and she should have,……(could this be any other than the opinion of Henry Blois)…. and had promised them, but arranged everything as she herself thought fit and according to her own arbitrary will. The Bishop of Winchester, seeing these things done without his approval, and a good many others without his advice, was sufficiently vexed and irritated, yet he disguised all his feelings with caution and craft, and watched silently to see what end such beginning would have.
What we should ask is: how is it that our author is encamped so closely to Stephen in one instance and somehow ingratiates himself instantaneously into Matilda’s court. The GS acts as an apologia for Henry Blois portraying continuous commitment to his brother. He makes out that any change of side was not of his own will but under compulsion by the turn of events and was never heartfelt.
What we hear from William of Malmesbury in HN is entirely different. Henry had in fact from the beginning (when escorting Matilda from Arundel) been confederate to her cause and a witness attests to this in court to a red-faced Henry Blois.
I do not say that these words of the Legate were gladly received by all, but certainly no-one confuted them; all the clergy bridled their lips from fear or respect. There was one layman, an envoy from the Empress, who publically contradicted the Legate, by the pledge he had given to the Empress, to make any decision in that council to prejudice her position, saying he (Henry) had given her his pledge, not to aid his brother in any way, unless perchance he sent him twenty knights, but no more. Her own coming to England had been caused by frequent letters from him; the King’s capture and imprisonment were mainly due to his connivance. The envoy said this and a great deal more in very harsh terms without any attempt to appease the Legate, but the latter could not be induced by any severity of language to betray anger, being as I said before, a man not slow to carry out what he had once taken in hand.235
Having written a flattering dedicatory piece about the young Henry Blois in the prologue of DA in 1134, William of Mamesbury is quite aware of what Henry Blois is capable of…. and how his lust for power has changed him since his brother became King. Are we in any doubt as to William’s evidence? William of Mamesbury certainly knows the true nature of Henry Blois.
235William of Malmesbury’s HN, Potter p.6. William having known Henry at Glastonbury is fully aware of his duplicitous position, especially as the witness for the Empress laid bare his double-dealings against his brother. I doubt the accusation of connivance in the capture of Stephen as related in Malmesbury’s HN by the witness is untrue. This makes Henry Blois a truly Machiavellian character in his pursuit of power, but also shows the guile in the production of a book which for posterity puts the gloss on his character defects as presented here in the GS apologia. For the real inquirer into the nature of Henry Blois it becomes obvious this lust for power sees himself as the ‘seventh king’ as portrayed in the John of Cornwall prophecies.
Now we can understand why the GS was written. William even knows the inconsequential details concerning the twenty knights; so, the truth about what was implied in GS concerning Henry having met Robert of Gloucester on the road, (yet pretending to offer his brother good advice), is blatantly confirmed as a duplicitous lie. Here it is confirmed that Henry was confederate with Matilda by William of Mamesbury.
Henry may be implicated in the capture of his brother by conveying intelligence of his movements as is implied by William. It is only because of Henry’s revulsion at Matilda’s haughtiness that he decides to back the lesser of two evils i.e. his brother. It is only when everyone finds out his duplicity in hedging his bets (and the truth comes out) that Henry tries to square events by picking certain points which could rationalise his actions.
The way the facts are presented imply that never at any stage has Henry’s allegiance changed. This is simply not true. Again William of Malmesbury states that Henry who had adjourned proceedings while waiting for the contingent to arrive from London states:
The Londoners came on the Wednesday and, on being introduced into the council, pleaded their cause to the extent of saying they had been sent by what is called the commune of London and brought not contentiousness, but a request for the freeing of their Lord the King from captivity. All the barons who had earlier been received into their commune were urgent in demanding this from the Lord Legate, the Archbishop and all the clergy who were present. The legate answered them at length and with eloquence and made the same speech as the day before in opposition to what they asked. Moreover, he added it was not fitting that the Londoners, who held a special position of superiority in England, should give comfort to those who had abandoned their Lord in war, by whose advice he had dishonoured holy church…236
236HN. Potter p. 54 chap 495
William is here showing the true course of events. Henry was in opposition to his brother and had sided with Matilda. This is plainly revealed in William’s next extract:
meanwhile a certain man named Christian, if I remember rightly, a clerk of the Queen as I have heard, stood up and held out a document to the legate; he read it in silence and said at the top of his voice that it was not valid and ought not to be read out in so great an assembly, especially one of persons of rank and religion. For, he said, apart from other things written in it that were worthy of reproof and censure, the name of a witness had been added who the year before, in the same chapter house in which they were sitting, had used the most insulting language to reverend bishops. When he shuffled thus, the clerk did not fail to perform his commission, but with splendid boldness read the letter before that audience, the substance being as follows: ’the Queen earnestly begs all the assembled clergy, and especially the Bishop of Winchester, the Lord’s brother, to restore to the throne that same lord, whom cruel men, who are likewise his own men, have cast into chains’. The legates answer to this proposal was to the same effect as to the Londoners. They, after discussing the matter, said they would take back the decree of the Council to their fellow citizens and give it all the support they could. The council broke up on the Thursday after excommunicating many of the Kings adherents, notably William Martel who had formerly been King Henry’s butler and was then King Stephen’s steward. He had mightily exasperated the legate by seizing and stealing much of his property.237
All of this transpired while we are left with the impression given by the GS that Henry watched silently. Henry was in Matilda’s entourage and it was at this time (between her arrival at London and his having made the citizens of Winchester swear allegiance to her), that his vanity was obviously slighted. He had had to subjugate himself to an arrogant woman who had promised so much, but not kept her word toward him.
William of interjects with sarcasm: the lord Legate also was at hand to serve the empress with what seemed to be a zealous loyalty. William of Malmesbury understands the duplicity of Henry Blois.238
Now, I do not want to quote endlessly from passages from the Historia Novella and the GS. My intent is to show firstly the cleverness of Henry Blois and the fact that; if he could write the GS with the clear intention to deceive, we must consider the other works he has duped modern scholars into believing were written by others.
To establish that the GS was written by Henry Blois as an apologia for the part he played in these events and to disguise his machinations which brought these events to a head, we should look to the comparison of these two accounts. William of Malmesbury states in HN:
The Londoners, who had always been under suspicion and in a state of secret indignation, then gave vent to expressions of concealed hatred; they even laid a plot, it is said, against their lady and her companions. The latter, forewarned of it and avoiding it, gradually left the city in good order with the kind of military discipline. The Empress was accompanied by the legate, David King of Scots, uncle of that woman of masculine spirit, her brother Robert, then as always sharing his sister’s fortunes in everything, and, to put it briefly, by all her adherents unharmed to a man. The Londoners, learning of their departure, dashed into their lodgings and carried off whatever had been left in haste.239
237HN, Potter p.55, chap 496.
238When William of Malmesbury dies, Henry Blois has no problem interpolating both DA and GR but can do nothing to change what is written in HN. Henry does not like William because of William having accused Henry’s father of being a liar. Henry in effect has to write GS to counter what would have been a slight on his character in posterity left by the account in HN.
239HN. Potter p.56. Chap 497
William is not present in London and hears that Matilda’s entourage left in an ‘orderly fashion’ on being averted to the possible rebellion by the Londoners. There is no doubt that Henry Blois was at the ‘well cooked’ feast with them and he was the one who tipped off the Empress’s entourage. This action gained two advantages; he was not embroiled in any fracas that ensued and was seen to be supporting the Empress should the Londoners not catch up with the Empress…. if events turned out that she remained with a grip on the country. It also avoided the imminent crowning of the Empress that was shortly to take place. Henry also saw the opportunity of separating himself from her company as is related shortly.
William of Malmesbury, therefore, knows nothing about the reasons for the Londoner’s open rebellion, which only Henry could relate, because he was present in court at the Londoner’s supplication. William’s reasoning for the later change of allegiance by Henry has to do with Stephen’s son Eustace being denied his inheritance. Henry tells us that the Empress demanded money from the Londoners and their supplications for lenience against the tax were ignored as in the GS:
when the citizens express themselves in this way she, with a grim look, her forehead wrinkled into a frown, every trace of a woman’s gentleness removed from her face, blazed into unbearable fury, saying that many times the people of London had made very large contributions to the King; that they had lavished their wealth on strengthening him and weakening her, that they had previously conspired with her enemies for her hurt, and therefore it was not just to spare them in any respect or make the smallest reduction in the money demanded. On hearing this, the citizens went away gloomily to their homes without gaining what they asked.240
The bishop of Winchester’s personal distaste for the Empress is clear. The fact that we know he is present even by Malmesbury’s account and the fact that our author of GS describes her ‘wrinkled forehead’ shows Henry Blois is there. It would be illogical that any person present in the court who could have been an admirer of Stephen, which our author of the GS most certainly is; would have been there.
Henry, seeing his brother’s wife (the Queen) being abused and the Londoners rejected, decides to incite the rebellion of them against the Empress. I would suggest the only person in the Empress’s party who could have had knowledge of the potential uprising is the one man who had decided to conspire against Matilda:
Just about this time too, the Queen, a woman of subtlety and a man’s resolution, sent envoys to the Countess (Matilda) and made earnest entreaty for her husband’s release from his filthy dungeon and the granting of his son’s inheritance, though only that to which he was entitled by her father’s will; but when she was abused in harsh and insulting language and both she and those who had come to ask on her behalf completely failed to gain their request, the Queen expecting to obtain them by arms what she could not by supplication, brought a magnificent body of troops across in front of London from the other side of the river and gave orders that they should rage most furiously around the city with plunder and arson, violence and the sword in sight of the Countess and her men. The people of London then were in grievous trouble. On the one hand their land was being stripped before their eyes and reduced by the enemy’s ravages to a habitation for the hedgehog241 and there was no one ready to help them; on the other that new lady of theirs was going beyond the bounds of moderation and sorely oppressing them, nor did they hope that in time to come she would have bowels of mercy or compassion for them, seeing that at the very beginning of her reign she had no pity on her subjects and demanded what they could not bear. Therefore, they judged it worthy of consideration to make a new pact of peace and alliance with the Queen and joined together with one mind to rescue their King and Lord from his chains, since having incurred a just censure for too hastily and too heedlessly abandoning the King they were in some fashion accepting, while he was still alive the tyranny of usurpers that was laid upon them.
240GS. Potter and Davis p.121
241Cf. Isaiah 14:23.
Notice how the Londoners and the Queen come up with the idea of rebellion all on their own with no hint of Henry’s involvement. But why, one must ask, did the entire forces of Matilda and Robert descend on Winchester thereafter, if Henry Blois’ hand was not recognised behind the uprising?
So when the Countess, confident of gaining her will, was waiting for the Citizens’ answer to her demand the whole city, with the bells ringing everywhere as the signal for the battle, flew to arms, and all, with a common purpose of making a most savage attack on the Countess and her men, unbarred the gates and came out in a body, like thronging swarms from beehives. She, with too much boldness and confidence, was just bent on reclining at a well-cooked feast, but on hearing the frightful noise from the city and getting secret warning from someone about the betrayal on foot against her, she with all her retinue immediately sought safety in flight. They mounted swift horses and their flight had hardly taken them further than the suburbs when, behold, a mob of citizens, great beyond expression or calculation, entered their abandoned lodgings and found, and plundered everywhere, all that had been left behind in the speed of their unpremeditated departure. Though a number of barons had fled with the Countess under the stress of fear, she did not however keep them as permanent companions in this disorderly flight; they were so wondrously shaken by the tumult of the sudden panic that they quite forgot about their lady and thought rather of saving themselves by making their own escape, and taking different turnings, the first that met them as they fled, they set off for their own lands by a multiple of byroads, as though the Londoners were hot on their heels. And the Bishop of Winchester for his part, who was they say, privy to this plot and its instigator, likewise some others, both bishops and belted Knights, who had assembled at London with overweening display for the enthronement of their lady, very rapidly made for various refuges. She, with her brother the Earl of Gloucester and a very few other barons for whom flight in that direction was the most convenient mode of escape, came at full speed to the city of Oxford.
How is it that our author was present to supply detail on what transpired among Matilda’s troupe? Henry writes as any chronicler would and includes the negative material implicating himself as privy to the plot as it was pointless to deny such a fact…. being common knowledge. Henry ‘waters down’ knowledge of the plot by the Bishop of Winchester in the pretence of being the unbiased anonymous chronicler of GS by implying that who was they say, privy to this plot and its instigator, but presents a justification of his being separated from the others by the first resistance that met them as they fled. Even though rumours abounded that Henry was the instigator of the plot, he cleverly includes (as any chronicler might) the common rumour ‘they say’. He makes out that his support for Matilda was at all times duplicitous.
Our author says Henry was part of the fleeing party with the Empress. How then could he be the innocent fleeing for his life (who got separated as the GS account relates) when William of Mamesbury says that the Empress was forewarned and left in good order? It would seem that William of Malmesbury heard the account, probably from Robert of Gloucester.
Henry Blois not wishing to be seen by posterity as duplicitous, manufactures a reason for flight and the ensuing separation. The outcome of which, he ends up back in Winchester and them at Oxford. However, the way the GS then presents events justifies that Henry was never a turncoat at all. Instead, the GS portrays242 that Henry had his brother’s best interests at heart continuously and it was because of events that transpired around him in which he found himself back on the royalist’s side i.e. there is no suggestion of collusion or duplicitous intention before the arrival of the Empress at Winchester. A truly marvellous piece of polemical sophistry!
242Antonia Grandsen hits the nail on the head when she says: Also, we know that the author of the Gesta changed loyalties between 1148 and sometime after 1153. And goes on to say: the Gesta has much detailed, first hand information about people and places in the west country….and then goes on to say: the author must have had first hand information about contemporary campaigns, for he correlates his accounts of military exploits with topographical descriptions.
So, when they had thus been frightened away from London, all who favoured the King and were in deep depression from his capture, joyously congratulated each other, as though bathed in the light of a new dawn, and taking up arms with spirit attacked the Countess’s adherents on every side. The Queen was admitted into the city by the Londoners and forgetting the weakness of her sex and woman’s softness, she bore herself with the valour of a man; everywhere by prayer or price she won over invincible allies; the King’s lieges, wherever they were scattered throughout England, she urged persistently to demand their Lord back with her; and now she humbly besought the Bishop of Winchester, legate of all England, to take pity on his imprisoned brother and exert himself for his freedom, that uniting all his efforts with hers he might gain her a husband, the people at King, the Kingdom a champion. And the Bishop, moved both by the woman’s tearful supplications, which she pressed on him with greatest earnestness, and by the dutiful compassion for a brother of his own blood that he felt very strongly, often turned over in his own mind how he could rescue his brother from the ignominy of bondage and most skilfully restore him to his Kingdom. But the Countess of Anjou, cunningly anticipating his craft, arrived at Winchester with a highly equipped force to catch the Bishop if she could: and when she, surrounded by a very large retinue, had entered one gate before the citizens knew anything of her coming, the Bishop mounted a swift horse, went out by another gate, and made off to his castles at full speed. Then she, sending out a summons on every side, gathered into a vast army the whole array of those who obeyed her throughout England, and gave orders for a most rigorous investment both of the bishops Castle, which he had built in very elegant style in the middle of the town, and of his Palace, which he had fortified strongly and impregnably just like a Castle.
As explained already, William of Malmesbury does not implicate Henry Blois in any collusion before Winchester and merely relates what a witness in court says, but may suspect he has a hand in such affairs. William, writing after the ‘rout of Winchester’ has obviously heard Henry’s justifications for his actions. William explains that it was the Empress’s denial of Eustace’s estates that effected the turn in Henry’s affections:
The Legate, enraged by this affront, kept away from her court for many days and, though often summoned back, persisted in refusal. Meanwhile he had an intimate conference at Guildford with the Queen, his brother’s wife, and influenced by her tears and offers of amends he resolved to free his brother; he also gave absolution without consulting the bishops, to all the members of his brother’s party whom he had excommunicated in the council. His complaints against the Empress were likewise current throughout England: that she had wished to arrest him; that all the barons of England had kept their faith with her but she had broken hers, being unable to show restraint in the enjoyment of what she had gained.243
Henry writing in the GS goes on to name all present on the Empress’s side before what eventually became known as the ‘rout of Winchester’. If we were to judge by previous comments, Henry Blois’ enmity for Miles of Gloucester is clear.
However, to continue his authorship sham referring to himself in the third person and other devices, Henry also seemingly commends someone who he loathes when he says in GS: Miles of Gloucester, whom to the pleasure and satisfaction of all, she then made Earl of Hereford.
Then continues on to say: all of them with a wonderful concentration of large forces from every quarter devoted themselves alike to the siege of the bishops Castle with one mind and the same unflagging zeal.
The GS states that Henry Blois made off to his castles outside the walls of Winchester obviously leaving his forces within. He is then referred to devoting all his efforts to harassing them outside the town. This is an important point, because later the monks of Hyde accuse the Bishop of purposefully burning not only their monastery but most of the city. The implication here is that it was the bishop’s forces cut off and being besieged, which launched the firebrands (supposedly not under his instruction).
Henry Blois was absolved from this action by the pope and probably used the excuse that he was not in his own tower at the time the firebrands were being launched from the castle. We are not even sure, (as we have covered already), if there was a separate tower from the castle in the middle of the city. The citizens of Winchester who were less morally flimsy than Henry himself, had been made to swear allegiance to Matilda by Henry initially and remained on her side.
William of Malmesbury in HN relates: But the people of Winchester gave her their unspoken loyalty, remembering the faith they had pledged to her when they were induced to do it, almost against their will by the Bishop. Meanwhile firebrands flung from the bishop’s tower upon the houses of the citizens, who, as I have said, were more zealous for the Empress’s success than the Bishop’s, caught and burnt an entire nunnery within the city and the monastery called Hyde without.244
243HN. Potter p.57. 498
244HN. Potter P.59. 499.
Henry relates the spectacle in the GS:
This was a remarkable siege, nothing like it was ever heard of in our times. The whole of England, together with an extraordinary number of foreigners had assembled from every quarter and was there in arms, and the roles of the combatants were reversed in so far as the inner besiegers of the bishops Castle were themselves very closely besieged on the outside by the Kings forces… it being clear that the town had been burnt in a frightful conflagration by the bishops troops and that the people were suffering very severely from the wasting hunger and lack of food.
Anyway, we stray from the point that I am trying to make by getting engrossed in the details of the rout of Winchester. But, before we leave it, Henry does make the point about David the King of Scotland which aggravated him so much, he brought up the subject again when composing VM (Twice he drives him across the frozen regions of the north and a third (time) he (still) grants the mercy that he ask). Henry is obviously affected by his brother’s soft dealings with King David of Scotland in GS: and what am I to say of the King of Scotland, who was taken for a third time as the story goes, but let go, as always, on consideration of a bribe. See appendix 25
This is Henry’s personal feeling because he knew that David would be continual trouble and could not be trusted to hold any deal. Stephen was tied to David by family loyalty through his wife. For this to be mentioned by Henry Blois in VM, as a prophecy shows that he thought his brother’s leniency to a person who could not keep his word was imprudent.
Henry ends the scenario with: such was the rout of Winchester, so terrible and wonderful in the eyes of all that even the oldest man can hardly remember one like it in our age.245
We all know the outcome of the rout of Winchester; the Duke of Gloucester gets captured and exchanged with King Stephen. It is here that book II of the GS starts where Henry opines that after such suffering (on both sides) there should have been a general restoration of peace. Henry blames the Countess of Anjou, ‘always breathing a spirit of unbending haughtiness’ and says that she arrived back in Oxford and strengthened her garrison while trying to keep the King’s men effectively in check; sent out men to Woodstock, Radcot, Cirencester and Bampton.
Henry Blois must have been to Bampton as is recorded in the Uffculme dispute, again displaying his interest in architecture: in the village of Bampton, right on the church tower, which had been built in olden times of wondrous form, and with extraordinary skill and ingenuity.
As regards Cirencester, where ‘Stephen gave it to devouring flames’ in the GS;246 this is also reiterated in the Vita Merlini: This latter shall besiege Cirencester with a blockade and with sparrows, and shall overthrow its walls to their very bases. The Sparewencestre of Wace we will deal with later; but suffice it to say for the moment that Henry was at the burning of Cirencester castle in 1142 and from that occasion the other inventions concerning sparrows come from Henry’s muses while posing as Wace.
The GS then passes on to the siege at Oxford where the Empress Matilda escapes the Castle at Oxford across the ice and flees to the Castle of Wallingford during the night. Henry Blois recaps as a personal observation not as a mere chronicler but someone at the heart of events and greatly affected by them: but never have I read of another woman so luckily rescued from so many mortal foes and from the threat of dangers so great; the truth being that she went from the Castle of Arundel uninjured through the midst of her enemies and escaped without scathe from the midst of the Londoners when they were assailing her, and her only, in mighty wrath, then stole away alone, in wondrous fashion, from the rout of Winchester, when almost all her men were cut off; and then, when she left besieged Oxford, came away, as has been said, safe and sound.
245GS, Potter and Davis. P135 chap 67
246As we have covered in the section on the Vita Merlini at Cirencester in 1141 the Empress and Robert, Earl of Gloucester, built a motte and bailey castle near the Abbey church and in 1142 Stephen found it virtually undefended and attacked. He captured the inhabitants and Castle with the rampart and stockade and burnt it to its foundation.
It is ironic that originally Henry Blois set out to create a precedent that would have made it more acceptable to receive the Empress Matilda as queen when he had initially composed his pseudo-history. This original script originally written as a polemical history of Britain for Henry Ist became the skeleton upon which was hung the flesh of all editions of HRB. Henry’s original pseudo-history therefore was the pre-cursor to the Primary Historia found at Bec which became the First Variant in 1144 and branched off to the un-expanded variant which Alfred of Beverley recycled and then finished as the Vulgate in 1155.247
247Until scholars understand the evolution of HRB and its chronology, there can be little furtherance in understanding why and when the prophecies of Merlin were inserted in HRB and thus expose Henry Blois’ further interpolations into DA and GR and Arthur’s introduction at Glastonbury. Discovering the true author of HRB, eventually leads to an understanding of the Matter of Britain. Of course, this is a process of re-educating scholarship to the extent of the fraud. But, without understanding first that GS is written by Henry Blois, it makes it all the more difficult to accept that the guile and inventiveness of Henry Blois is how the Matter of Britain came into being. Uncovering secretive authorship in GS becomes vital, as it can be easily understood to be from Henry’s hand, but it also obviates Henry’s subtlety in the reality.
The irony is that Henry Blois then became the Empress Matilda’s arch enemy in the Anarchy and that here in GS he is commenting on Matilda’s ability to escape his brother’s attempts to capture her; considering at one time he had totally accepted her natural right of accession by the fact he had composed the pseudo-history for her benefit along with aggrandising the illustrious lineage of British kings for his uncle. A further irony is that two of the situations i.e. the escape from Arundel and the orderly withdrawal from London were directly due to Henry’s manipulations in denying her becoming Queen.
The GS continues with Stephen capturing Wareham where Robert of Gloucester was still actively countering Stephen. Stephen then strengthens Wilton castle;
the object being of preventing the Earl’s raids through the counties. The Bishop of Winchester also came with a strong body of troops to aid his enterprise, and barons who had been summoned from every part of England had either accompanied the King on his arrival or were flocking in to him with all the reinforcements they could raise and were expected to appear shortly. When this was clear to the Earl of Gloucester on the information of trusty messengers he sent at once for all his chief confederates and came to Wilton to fight the King. And when the King, arraying his army in squadrons on both flanks for battle at close quarters, advanced from the town to meet him, the Earl in soldierly fashion, carefully divided those he had brought with him into three bodies of men closely packed together and heavily charging his opponents with the greatest resolution compelled the King to give ground, and if he had not, with the Bishop of Winchester, sought safety in flight with all speed, he would most discreditably have fallen into enemy hands a second time.
It is not by coincidence that every time we know the Bishop of Winchester is present, eyewitness detail always abounds in GS. By now the reader should be convinced that the GS was written by Henry Blois…. the same man who gives us the same battle detail describing Arthur’s escapades in Autun and Langres in the County of Blois and elsewhere in the HRB.
It is clear that an author relating an incident does not normally inject incidental detail such as the number of bodies of men and the fact they were ‘closely packed together’ unless these details mean something to the author with the visualisation in mind. Henry Blois is a military strategist always commenting on stratagems and fortifications in the GS.
The books on wars in classical history which he has evidently read in aiding the composition of HRB, betray his personal biases and interests and special areas of expertise which he subconsciously exposes in GS. The author’s concern for the Church is also brought up on numerous occasions and the quotes from the bible are disbursed throughout the GS.
Next In GS, the King and Henry have retreated from Wilton:
the Earl, since fortune favoured him so auspiciously, pursued the King’s men with spirit into the town and its churches as they sought safe refuges in their rout, and by throwing firebrands everywhere well throughout the town made the day full of lamentation in all manner of cruelty, it being clear to all that everyone was raging most terribly with pillage and the sword, violence and arson, both against the wretched citizens and against the King’s men who were discovered. What was cause for greater grief, smashing the doors in utter savagery, they plundered the holy nunnery of the mother of God and St. Etheldreda the virgin and of the virgins living there under vows, and in shameless contempt for religion bound and dragged out those who had gone within for safety. And indeed, though it seems just to deal harshly with our enemies and to mete to them in return with the same measure wherewith they have meted to us, yet the Earl of Gloucester and his supporters are to be blamed in the highest degree and particularly censured for rash presumption, because they not only violated a church, that most familiar refuge in all ages from men’s lives and for the oppressed, but also with swords unsheathed dragged from the altar and delivered over to captivity those who had fled within in the hope of safety and preservation.
Henry, getting caught up in affairs relating to the burning of the churches, goes on to elaborate the bitter judgement meted out on the instigators (by God’s judgement); relating how or when they died shortly afterward.
Our author surely is extremely well informed and has the viewpoint of a strong believer in God’s actions against the wicked, but also a peculiar interest in the political and strategic episodes he relates; even relating to Wilton as the ‘master-key’ of the Kingdom. When our mystery author feels he has named too many incidentals he has to curb himself; otherwise such specific detail does not seemingly come from a simple chronicler, but from a bishop Knight…. who of course is deeply involved with the events in the Kingdom: I should labour to insert a great many details about them in the present work were it not that I should seem to cause weariness to my readers and wander away from my subject.
The GS continues on with the state of affairs in the southwest until we reach one of Henry Blois’ arch enemies William de Pont de l’Arche who was a most loyal supporter of Henry Ist and who initially had prevented Henry Blois from entering the Treasury at Winchester.
Next William de Pont de l’Arche, a man utterly loyal, as has been said, to King Henry and his descendants, picked a very serious quarrel with the King’s brother, the Bishop of Winchester. But as the Bishop, with a very strong body of troops, always offered a firm and most resolute resistance to him and baffled all his attempts not only by force but by wise judgement, he wrote asking his lady, the Countess of Anjou, to send a very large number of knights to his aid and a leader and champion to command them who was skilled in the art of war. On receiving his request they were extremely delighted, whether because they thought that the Bishop’s power could be more easily tamed through him or that their own cause had been notably strengthened, inasmuch as he was not only considered reliable and utterly loyal to those he favoured but also was abundantly supplied with money and wealth. So, they sent Robert Fitz Hildebrand, a man of low birth in deed but also of tried military qualities, and, what disgraces and sullies the prime and the fame of soldiers, he was likewise a lustful man, drunken and unchaste. On arriving with a fine body of Knights he obtained a most cordial reception, because extremely intimate with William, and could go in and out of this Castle as he liked.
The Castle is Portchester which belonged to his wife who was a daughter of Robert Mauduit. (See appendix 3). The reader may have noticed, just in the extracts provided here from the GS, that there is barely a mention of Henry without his wisdom being stated.
Henry Blois is more piqued throughout the GS when his brother Stephen, Matilda, or others do not take his advice i.e. he wants events to transpire as he envisages them. Henry knows that he is a wily strategist but is puffed up in that the opposition think they have sent an equal adversary, but in Henry’s mind the adversary is of low birth.
If Portchester castle, which is perched next to the sea, was indeed assailed by Henry, it would explain his allusion in the Vita Merlini, where: Porchester shall see its broken walls in its harbour until a rich man with the tooth of a wolf shall restore it. It would also explain why tradition attaches the building of Portchester to Henry Blois!
We arrive at Chapter 78 in GS where Henry Blois gives a general analysis of the state of affairs throughout England, concerning the starvation and mutilation and pillaging that prevailed. Mostly, Henry is concerned with the ransacking of church properties and the general mayhem caused by lawlessness. This is something that would normally concern a chronicler of the deeds of Stephen. However, it seems highly specified to the military knight and bishop and not the sort of résumé that any other churchman (as our supposed anonymous author is recognised to be) would apportion the amount of space given to it in the GS. Henry’s world is the state of the Kingdom and concerns himself likewise as author of GS.
After a long catalogue of tragedy, the GS text continues:
And as things so lamentable and wretched to look upon and such an utterly shameful tragedy of woe being openly performed all over England, so also was report of them brought everywhere to the ears of the Bishops. But they, cowering in most dastardly fear, bent like a reed shaken by the wind, since their salt had no savour, they did not rise-up to resist or set themselves as a wall before the house of Israel. For they should have met wise men in the flesh with the sword of God’s word, which devours flesh and to the sons of Belial, who were swooping with fury on the goods of the church and tearing the Lord’s tunic into small pieces had left it everywhere tattered and rent asunder, they should bravely have presented the countenance of Jeremiah and the horned forehead of Moses. For they are represented by the pillars that hold up God’s house, by the small lions that support Solomon’s famous Laver, by the bases that hold up the table of the showbread, for the reason that the church, which really is and is called the house of God, which also is signified by the laver, because there the filth of sin is washed off in many ways, which likewise is figured by the table, because there the food of eternal life is set forth, should not only be held up and strengthened by them, but also always be bravely and impregnably defended from its enemies. On the contrary, while plunderers, as has many times been revealed, were everywhere pillaging the property of the churches, some bishops, made sluggish and abject by fear of them, either gave way or lukewarmly and feebly passed a sentence of excommunication that was soon to be revoked; others (but it was not a task for bishops) filled their castles full of provisions and stocks of arms, Knights, and archers, and though they were supposed to be warding off the evildoers who were plundering the goods of the church showed themselves always more cruel and more merciless than those very evildoers in oppressing their neighbours and plundering their goods. Likewise the bishops, the bishops themselves, though I am ashamed to say it, not indeed all but a great many out of the whole number, girt with swords and wearing magnificent suits of armour, rode on horseback with the haughtiest destroyers of the country and took their share of the spoil; knights captured through the fortune of war; or any rich men they met, they handed over to bonds and torments; and though they themselves were the source and cause of this monstrous crime and outrage they will want to ascribe such impiety not to themselves but to their knights. And to say nothing of the others at the moment, it is unfitting to censure all alike, report openly proclaimed that the Bishop of Winchester, Lincoln and Chester were more eagerly devoted than the others to pursuits so irreligious.
Henry Blois in his obvious justifications for his actions, sets his audience straight; that under these circumstances which prevailed in the Anarchy, it was justifiable, even brave, to be a Knight Bishop, to protect the Church. All this, while giving a ‘high-toned’ monologue of how he perceived the Church’s inherited status from Solomon’s temple.
By now, anyone reading the GS will have established it was written by a high ranked churchman. This could be the only deduction of any reader and it is certainly the deduction proclaimed by modern scholarship. Logically, looking back…. too many details connect Henry Blois to the authorship. So, in Henry’s mind he thinks at this stage, he should concern himself with dispelling the scent of authorship which is riddled throughout the GS. A definitive deflection is needed, especially as he has offered justification for a bishop knight’s actions.
So, Henry Blois implicates himself as one of the worst offenders of what contemporaries openly accuse him of. The facts cannot be hidden. The rest of the apologia stands…. and it is at this point he inserts this criticism of himself to finally dissuade any curious inquirer to the authorship of the GS.
The GS next relates separate episodes which took place around the country concerning several individuals. Miles of Gloucester needs money, so he ravages the churches under his lordship, but the Bishop of Hereford along with the other clergy stand up to him by excommunicating him. They carried out no service or buried any bodies until the last farthing which had been plundered was restored. Henry Blois at last has the satisfaction of relating his arch enemies’ death in a hunting accident on Christmas eve:
his death struck a good number of rich men with considerably greater fear of encroaching so precipitously on church property afterwards, and made the rest of the bishops in England bolder in their subsequent resistance to the abandoned recklessness of the rich.
We also know Henry Blois was involved because Gilbert Foliot described the same events from a different point of view in a letter to Henry.248
248Letters of Gilbert Foliot, no. 22
Geoffrey de Mandeville a man alike, remarkable for the ability of his shrewd mind and admired for the firmness of his unbending courage in adversity and his excellence in the art of war. If we did not know this was Henry Blois speaking it would seem very strange how a churchman author is so taken by architectural fortifications, a man’s courage and ability in war and of course his social standing. Anyway, Geoffrey de Mandeville appears to have risen too high and the Barons (read Henry) plotted against him. Certain persons appeared who openly accused Geoffrey of laying a treasonable plot against the King.
He was arrested at St Albans. This as I have related it came to pass at St Albans. We know from this statement that Henry Blois was here, but the Walden abbey chronicle only relates that Geoffrey was arrested by guards at the door. However, Henry a benefactor did donate a Jewel to St Albans and the Golden Book of St Albans has Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, holding a crozier and ring pictured on it. So, the King brought Geoffrey to London under very close guard and made ready to hang him if he did not handover the tower and the castles he had built with wondrous toil and skill.
Stephen releases Geoffrey once his objective is gained. Geoffrey instantly rebels again. At last, Geoffrey is put to death at great glee to our author, excommunicated and un-absolved and as guilty of sacrilege he could not be put in the earth. Henry loves a sticky end and to see God’s Judgement on his enemies.
Next, we hear of the Earl of Chester bringing the lands and possessions of the church under his lordship as though he enjoyed a bishop’s authority. The GS moves on to Robert of Gloucester and his sons prevailing over the southwest. William of Dover who had originally refused entry to Stephen just before his reign was supported by Robert of Gloucester as he set up at Cricklade and harassed the castle at Malmesbury and Oxford, building three castles nearby. Our author has a good handle on events throughout the country. Don’t forget our other author Geoffrey of Monmouth (if he were a real person) would now be in a situation of being harassed by his supposed patron at Oxford. Malmesbury was being besieged by the Earl, so the King sent forces to resupply them. Robert of Gloucester decides to gather a large army including the Welsh ‘savages’ and take on the King. Henry Blois, we can adduce by the detail remarked on in the GS is present throughout these events
To hide his identity, Henry Blois, usually uses the term ‘Barons’ as in those that surround the King. He obviously as the narrator is present on-site:
So the barons who had accompanied the King, hearing that such and numerous swarm of foes had gathered to menace them and alarmed at the untamed savagery of Welsh and likewise the Bristol irregulars whom the Earl of Gloucester, in a host of astonishing size was leading for their confusion, dropped wise counsel into the King’s ears, namely, that he should break up the siege for the time being and march his men to another place whither necessity called him; because to face an enemy in numbers beyond computation the force he had collected was quite inadequate, or because it was ill considered and extremely hazardous to expose a much smaller body of his Knights among such a mass of cut-throats on foot, especially as his own men were far from home and exhausted by the validity of the journey, whereas the enemy on the one hand, coming from their towns and castles in the neighbourhood, would join battle with all the greater resolution in as much as they were not worn out by a toilsome march and had only just left their own district. Therefore, they said, it was wise to give up the siege for the moment, lest the King should be overwhelmed by the fierce assault of his enemies and hampered by ill fortune should suffer losses among his men. The King took heed of this and acquiesced in the good advice of his Barons and hastily removing his whole force from that region he arrived unexpectedly at Winchcombe where Roger the new Earl of Hereford had built a Castle against his adherents.
This is Henry Blois as his brother’s military adviser relating all the strategic stratagems of a considered withdrawal, just as he had done before. How is it that our bishop, if it is not Stephen’s brother, is so well informed of the counsel that the King accepts? How is our bishop even present, unless he is Henry Blois the Knight Bishop who is concerned, in the present company and able to relate these events from diary and memory? He obviously also rides with Stephen to Winchcombe and is able to give also an eyewitness account of events. We now should also fully accept Geoffrey of Monmouth’s seemingly irrational hate for the Welsh.
Finding that the Castle rose steeply on a very high mound and was surrounded by impregnable fortifications on every side, but that there was only a small garrison for resistance (for they had fled on hearing of his sudden and unexpected arrival), he gave orders that the most vigorous men should arm themselves and make ready with all speed for the storming of the Castle, that some should advance shooting clouds of arrows, others should crawl up the mound, and everyone else should rush rapidly round the fortifications and throwing anything that came to hand. As the King and his men were striving with such spirit and energy to take the Castle, the besieged were quite unable to withstand the furious onslaught of so large a force, and at last they surrendered the Castle by agreement.
Henry and his brother Stephen are at Winchcombe and move to curb Hugh Bigod who was harassing the Kings forces in Gloucestershire where we hear the King remained in this region for some time.
The GS continues chapter 90 to 107 giving a running commentary on the turn of events as they unfold; of sieges and contretemps between Angevin and royalist forces from 1144 to 1147. We cannot cover all these episodes, but our author is privy to court proceedings, how the King is faring and dealings with the enemy barons. Too much insightful detail is given with an overall coverage of events covering the period, that only someone close to the King and who had made notes of these events could recall them in such detail. We should assume that apart from any polemic or apologic influence, the events recorded here are our most accurate chronicle for this period. Our author concerning himself with the plots of how barons try to undermine and entrap Stephen because it is assuredly Henry’s guile and advice that redeems Stephen from many situations.
Next in GS, we then hear of the future King Henry II being termed ‘the lawful heir’ and of his arrival in England with a small body of knights who travel to Cricklade and a castle held by King Stephen which Henry calls ‘Burtana’. This is most probably a site in Purton just south of Cricklade with a manor house now presently on the site. The young Henry is repelled and his hired knights’ fall into sloth and idleness and with Henry Blois’ usual obfuscation of authorship, the GS relates: they abandoned the noble youth, their Lord and lawful heir to the Kingdom, with whom they had come, and at length all broke up and went away.
Now, a very strange event takes place in which Henry Blois (as he draws to an end of his GS account) tries to present his brother in a positive light:
Overwhelmed, and with good cause, by the affliction of this disaster he (Duke Henry) appealed to his mother, but she herself was in want of money and powerless to relieve his great need. He also appealed to his uncle, the Earl of Gloucester, but he, brooding like a miser over his moneybags, preferred to meet his own requirements only. As all in whom he trusted were failing him in his critical moment he finally, it was reported, sent envoys in secret to the King, as to a kinsman, and begged him in friendly and imploring terms to regard with pity the poverty that weighed upon him and hearken compassionately to one who was bound to him by close ties of relationship and well-disposed to him as far as it depended on himself. On receiving this message, the King, who was ever full of pity and compassion, hearkened to the young man, and by sending money as had been asked, he gladly helped one whom, as his rival for the Kingship and utterly opposed to him, he should have deprived of any kind of aid. And so the King was blamed by some but acting not only unwisely, but even childishly, in giving money and so much support to one to whom he should have been implacably hostile, I think that what he did was more profound and more prudent, because the more kindly and humanely a man behaves to an enemy the feebler he makes him and the more he weakens him; and so he would not do evil to those who, in the Psalmist’s words, were rewarding evil unto him, but rather, as the apostle enjoins, so overcome evil for good that by good well bestowed upon his enemy he might heap coals of repentance and reformation upon his mind.
While posing in anonymity as a cleric chronicler, Henry Blois pretends he understands what must have been the final straw in Stephen’s naïve reaction to certain situations; concerning a decision of Stephen to help the future Henry II financially. Henry Blois makes pretence of condoning such action as the clerical author of GS. Henry attempts to show Stephen in a Christian light, but the episode ties itself to events of similar noble actions such as releasing Matilda from Arundel and King David’s pardoning three times.
When Duke Henry arrived in England in 1147 at fourteen his uncle the duke of Gloucester had died or was near death. It is possible that King Stephen gave young Henry the money to return to Normandy and to pay off his entourage in good faith.
This episode does however, put a character stain on Henry Blois’ and Stephen’s arch enemy Robert duke of Gloucester even though he is long dead (when GS is written), and implies Henry Plantagenet as an unworthy inheritor. Maybe the message is that by Stephen’s good grace Henry II rules in England…. a message the Bishop of Winchester, who had just had all his castles taken or destroyed, would probably wish to convey.
In chapter 109 of the GS we hear of Eustace, Stephen’s son being knighted. Henry Blois paid for Eustace’s pageant249 and pomp and you can see these are the personalised words of accolade from a proud uncle:
About the same time the King, in the presence of the magnates, ceremonially girded with the belt of knighthood his son Eustace, a young man of noble nature, and after most bountifully endowing him with lands and possessions, and giving him the special distinction of a most splendid retinue of Knights, advanced him in rank to the dignity of Count. And Eustace himself, being, though certainly young in years, settled character, eminent for soldiery qualities, and notable for inborn merit, gained the highest honours of fame and glory at every outset of his career as a knight. He showed himself extremely gentle and courteous; everywhere he stretched forth a generous hand in cheerful liberality; as he had a very great deal of his father’s disposition, he could meet men on a footing of equality or superiority as occasion required; in one place he was entirely devoted to establishing pacts of peace, in another he confronted his enemies sternly and invincibly. For on several occasions he joined battle with the Earl of Chester and a number of others in such fashion, and so shone with the magnificence of a glorious triumph, that what he did as a mere stripling (for the down was not yet on his cheeks) won admiration from men hardened to warfare.
249John of Hexam, 27, ‘Upon Eustace his father conferred with dignity of knighthood with great pomp, supported by the kindness and liberality of his brother Henry, Bishop of Winchester.
Eustace was only about 16 at the time he was knighted, and it is a personal observation of an uncle about the amount of facial hair he had at the time. This is not the observation of a detached chronicler.
The GS continues straight on after praising Eustace to further exploits near Gloucester and Woodchester as Stephen and Henry Blois try to eradicate Angevin influence in the Gloucester area and southern Wales:
And while the son laboured most energetically to beat back the enemy in one part of the Kingdom, the father in another, very often gained his accustomed guerdon of success. The Castle called the ‘Castle of Wood’, whither enemies of all peace and tranquillity had withdrawn and most severely ravaged all the surrounding district, he took by storm, arriving unexpectedly, and by putting in a garrison of his own men he obtained control of a very wide stretch of country. At this time also, he by a splendid victory, received the surrender of the Castle of Lidelea. This Castle belonged to the Bishop of Winchester, and he had it in that region to ward off various raids and plunderers and especially, to protect the lands of his church, which he owned in the neighbourhood. But when one of the companions of Brien, a man very crafty and cunning in all deeds of evil, had taken it by a trick and stripped the bishop’s lands and possessions by grievous pillaging, the Bishop who was always wise in judgement and most vigourous in action, acted on his own behalf, gathered a mighty host, and with great energy built two castles in front of this one, and by garrisoning them adequately with knights and footmen reduced the besieged to the extremity of hunger. When the Earl of Gloucester, with three other earls and his whole army in countless numbers, had planned to bring in supplies of food for them and destroy the bishops Castles, the King, on being summoned by the Bishop, arrived suddenly, put the Earl and all his men to flight in panic, and when the Castle was surrendered to him, delivered it over to the Bishop.
Once Woodchester was secured by Stephen it seems Henry tried to retrieve his own castles in the region which were probably inherited /usurped after Roger of Salisbury’s demise. I would suggest that Lidelea is Kidwelly250 castle and there has been a scribal error of ‘L’ for ‘K’ in the original manuscript from which the present text is derived. The castle was held by Roger of Salisbury until his death in 1139, but tradition does not recount to whom it passed after his death.
250Brut y Tywysogion has Cydwelli ravaged in 1149 by Cadell son of Gruffudd.
Henry took this opportunity to take back his castle from Brien Fitz Count who pillaged the region. Brien’s base would have been his castle as he held the Barony of Abergavenny. It is possible Henry did usurp or was given this castle by Stephen or even as stated he had other castles in the region to protect church lands in ‘that region’. Kidwelly is only about 10 miles from Gower mentioned at the beginning of the GS where I believe Henry was in 1136. It is possible more lands in Southern Wales were owned by Glastonbury abbey than is recorded (possibly donated recently by King Henry Ist) and that is Henry Blois’ interest in ‘that region’.
Certainly, the Bishopric of Winchester owned much land in Wales. Henry Blois knows this region well as he describes the area as Linligwan in HRB. As can be seen throughout HRB, known places and people are given slightly different spellings to either affect ignorance or antiquity. Llanglydwen is what he means and it is only 15 miles inland from Kidwelly castle and Llansteffan Castle where the tide enters across the sands to look like a lake.…there in the parts of Wales nigh the Severn, which the men of that country do call Linligwan, whereinto when the sea floweth it is received as into a whirlpit or swallow, in such wise as that the lake…251
The Castle of Lidelea in GS is most probably Kidwelly Castle and it is probably not by accident that Llansteffan Castle is named after Stephen nearby. Llansteffan castle, Ystrad Meurug, the castle of Humphrey and the castle of Carmarthen were all burnt by Gruffudd in 1136.252 It was at this time while accompanying his brother or more probably representing Stephen (before the Anarchy) on excursions into Wales to put down the Welsh rebellion; when Henry Blois received his knowledge of the landscape of Southern Wales.
Immediately Stephen gained the crown, the Welsh rebelled with an excursion into Norman held territory. They saw it as an opportunity to rid themselves of their Norman overlords since the ‘foreigners’ were at odds with each other due to Stephen having taken the crown instead of the Angevin Empress.
Henry’s description of Wales in GS starts at this date in 1136, the chronological ordering of GS…. and to my mind, shows Henry is there in Wales on his brother’s account putting down Welsh rebellion with knights from Glastonbury and Winchester. Unfortunately, much of the text in GS is missing which would have shown us that Henry’s knowledge of Wales was derived from this visit. This topographical knowledge was how Henry was able to construct his Arthurian epic…. understanding the geography of Wales; while adding the chivalric Arthur content onto an already written skeletal pseudo-history while in Normandy in 1137 and during the early part of 1138.
In William of Malmesbury’s ‘Antiquities’ it states abbot Herluin acquired land in Wales worth 10 pounds. Tatlock253 implies that Glastonbury had a grip over the Diocese of Llandaff prior to the monastic invasion of Southern Wales and perhaps Glastonbury lands were more extensive than is recorded. Tatlock does concede that ‘it would be a plausible guess that the propogandistic activities of both William and Caradoc were inspired in the abbacy of that able prelate’ (referring to Henry Blois). Amazingly Tatlock in no way suspects Henry Blois as the impersonator of Caradoc in authoring the Life of Gildas or of interpolating William of Malmesbury’s DA.
251HRB IX, vii. These are the tidal fens on the Towy estuary into which the the River Gwendraeth flows. Kidwelly Castle is perched on a prominent ridge above the River Gwendraeth.
252Brut y Tywysogion
253Caradoc of Llancarfan J. S. P. Tatlock Speculum Vol. 13, No. 2 (1938), pp. 139-152
Tatlock, even more incredulously proposes that Caradoc contributed to the DA while at Glastonbury; he too believing the contemporaneity of Caradoc to William of Malmesbury posited by the colophon in the Vulgate HRB, when in truth Caradoc died in 1129 as I will show in the section on Caradoc of Llancarfan.
It is Ferdinand Lot who recognises that it is the Life of Gildas which is the first component of the Officine de Faux. The DA, which Henry Blois certainly interpolated, tells us that the island of Glastonbury was populated by one of twelve brothers…. a certain Glasteing who found his sow sucking ‘old church apples’ there. Apart from the sow having 8 feet, the relevance for the apples is to link Pomorum from Insula Pomorum of VM fame with Somerset and thus link Glastonbury with Avalon. Interestingly the twelve brothers had several territories in Wales, one of which was Gower and the other Kidwelly. This is obviously not by coincidence!
While on the subject of Kidwelly…. the first wife of Gruffud ap Rhys, prince of Deheubarth and one of the leaders of the revolt against Norman rule in 1136, was said to have entered into combat along with her husband’s army which she had raised and is known to have been killed at Kidwelly. Her name was Gwenllian and it just so happens that ‘Geoffrey’ invented a Briton queen called Gwendoloena to lead the troops in an episode recounted in HRB. Gwenllian was a very beautiful women who alas was decapitated after being captured at the battle of Kidwelly and I believe the root of her name supplies ‘Geoffrey’s’ muses with the name Guinevere.
Henry Blois, with a knights’ service from both Glastonbury and Winchester finds himself in Southern Wales around Kidwelly and Gower (both mentioned in DA in the section which I show to have been interpolated by Henry Blois). All of this adds to the supposition that Lidelea is Kidwelly and this as the author of GS states was a castle which belonged to the Bishop of Winchester. This same person was also abbot of Glastonbury…. the same person who impersonated Caradoc by authoring the life of Gildas under his name and also interpolated DA to concur with ‘Geoffrey of Monmouth’s’ Insula Pomorum in VM and Insula Avallonis of HRB.
Anyway, to continue with the exposition of GS to uncover its authorship; Henry ‘summoned’ King Stephen, which indicates after the recent events where they fought side by side they have obviously patched up their relationship. This rapprochement is indeed historical. Amazingly Robert of Gloucester was Henry and Stephen’s staunchest opponent since 1138, yet Henry does not record how Robert dies.
We know Robert’s death must have been quick because Henry Blois in his usual dubious fashion writes in the GS: he came suddenly to his end and died at last in his hometown of Bristol without due profit from repentance, they say.
Yet, Henry, while constructing the Vita Merlini and referring to Robert of Gloucester’s death: ‘but shall die beneath the weapon of a King’, seems to know more about the subject of Robert’s death than ‘they say’. I would suggest that Henry had something specific in mind when he referred to the ‘weapon of the King’ in the Merlin prophecy in VM.
Next in GS, we hear of Henry de Tracy who Henry Blois has much respect for as he never changed allegiance from Stephen, even though at times Robert of Gloucester’s power was throughout the southwest.
The next episode is where Earl Patrick takes one of Henry’s Castles: About the same time Earl Patrick’s men seized by stealth the Castle called Downton, which belonged by right to Winchester Cathedral, a castle most plentifully stocked with provisions and accurately equipped for defence, and putting plunderers in it and men who laid hands on the property of others, by grievous ravages they stripped bare the whole district round about, raging in one place with pillage and violence, in another with fire and sword, everywhere with the utmost savagery against all.
The Galfridus edition of evolved HRB arrived at Beverley through William Fitz Herbert or Hugh de Puiset, both Henry’s nephews. We may conclude Beverley would have obtained the version from either of these relations of Henry. We know that when the archbishop was deposed in favour of the Cistercian Murdac in 1147, William Fitz Herbert stayed with Henry at Winchester for some considerable time in-between 1147-53.
Also, during that period Hugh de Puiset had fled to Beverley. plunderers of his possessions with the adamantine next sword of excommunication; and when thereby they were in no wise turned from the evil they had begun, but rather were confirmed in it and kept on doing still worse, he sent for his nephew Henry (whom we have since seen Bishop of Durham), opened his treasury for him and gave him most urgent instructions to make every effort to suppress them, since he himself was summoned to Rome. Henry for his part, calling to his aid a countless host, of Knights valorously checked his opponents, and by fortifying a Castle near to them and reducing the besieged to the extremity of hunger, at last compelled them to surrender the Castle.
Henry’s Nephew is purposely and wrongly named to deflect suspicion of authorship of the GS. It is a purposeful mistake which seems to have had its desired effect on modern scholars. They are just too slow to realise it is the only mistake of our mysterious author!!
How does our author remember that it was the Bishop’s nephew who held his uncles position and the circumstance pertains to the bishop being called to Rome? Any way, it was Hugh de Puiset,254 Henry’s Nephew, who became Bishop of Durham. Is it not strange that the only mistake found in the text so far is the name of the author’s nephew? It is no wonder scholars such as Potter and Davis would be misled into thinking the error excluded Henry’s authorship as this was the mistakes design.
John of Hexam confirms it was Hugh leading a force of knights in defence of the bishop of Winchester’s possessions.
254The early Galfridus edition of HRB arrived at Beverley through William Fitz Herbert or Hugh de Puiset, both Henry’s nephews. We know that when the archbishop was deposed in favour of the Cistercian Murdac in 1147, William Fitz Herbert stayed with Henry at Winchester for some considerable time in-between 1147-53. Also, during that period Hugh de Puiset had fled to Beverley.
The GS moves on next to Matilda’s son Duke Henry who, taking advice to be knighted, turns to his uncle David, King of Scotland, who duly bestows the honour on Henry Plantagenet. He then joins with his uncle and raises York, but Stephen being forewarned, arrived there to disperse their army.
Davis and Potter wrongly ascribe this as a ‘fourth flight’. What Henry Blois in the Vita Merlini and the GS is most annoyed about is that Stephen has met with David on three occasions and made a deal with a person who does not keep his word. If it had been up to Henry Blois he would have dealt with David after the first deal was broken, not continue to let him go. In the Vita Merlini, Henry Blois is piqued by Stephen’s actions after the rout at Winchester i.e. letting David bribe himself out of the third situation where Stephen could have put an end to his resistance. see appendix 25
Henry has no respect for King David and knows that King David was only at Winchester because he had been promised Huntingdon, Northumbria and Cumberland in exchange for his support of the Empress Matilda. To mention this in the GS and to write a derogatory prophecy concerning him, is a witness of Henry’s dislike for King David and shows the author of VM and GS both have the same pique at Stephen’s stupidity.
Davis and Potter for some reason think it relevant to comment that Earl Patrick being recognised as Earl must date the text after the treaty of Westminster in 1153. The fact that Hugh de Puiset became bishop of Durham in that year should be enough to establish that fact. Obviously, the end of the Gesta Stephani concludes after Stephen’s death in October 1154 and should already establish the text was written after that date.
It is a weak notion that a chronicler could have followed or been privy to such in-depth insightful knowledge continuously over the 19 years. Yet Davis and Potter would think the account written in contemporaneity.
The GS, with all its detail, could only be written by someone interested in the continual ebb and flow of the Anarchy, who was at times privy to information on both Royalist and Angevin courts, who was deeply interested in architecture and military strategy and who had the utmost regard for the wisdom of the bishop of Winchester and who also knew of his movements and that of his brother and Eustace.
The problem with modern scholars is that they are credulous of every line and do not read between them. Eradicate the obvious obfuscation of authorship by third party referrals and other devices…. and logically there is only one person who could be the author of GS.
Anyway, as the future King Henry II comes south toward Hereford, the King instructs Eustace to ambush him, but Matilda’s son (Duke Henry) evades him and gets to Bristol. It is clear that all our author’s details of the movements are from family ties and it is doubtful whether any chronicler could sustain such personalised detail page after page unless he were the Bishop of Winchester. How does our author know Eustace went to Oxford after following Duke Henry to Bristol and then continued raids in Gloucestershire? How does our author know Stephen went up to York next to put down hostilities and returned to London with great treasure? How does he know of the Kings personal deliberations?
After acquiring much treasure in those regions, he went back with great glory to London, and there, when some days had passed, he deliberated on the most effective means of shattering his opponents and the easiest way of checking the continual disorder that they fomented in the Kingdom. Different people gave advice of different sorts, but at last it seemed to him sound and judicious to attack the enemy everywhere, plunder and destroy all that was in their possession, set fire the crops and every other means of supporting human life, and let nothing remain anywhere, that under this duress reduced to the extremity of want, they might at last be compelled to yield and surrender.
Again, our author of GS elucidates the military advantages gained and lost throughout the whole country, recounting not only Eustace’s escapades, but also those of the King. Anyway, at chapter 116, the future King Henry (now termed ‘the lawful heir’) with annoying regularity, so that all readers are duped into thinking the author’s loyalties lie on his side…. takes himself off to Normandy to get assistance from his father where the Barons of Normandy, made submission to him with gladness and devotion as their lord and the lawful heir, and when after preparations, on very great scale, he had resolved to return to England to overthrow King Stephen, his father, the count of Anjou, came to his last days and made him the chief inheritor of all possessed.
Throughout the GS, Henry has no other way of seeing things but that events, whether good or bad, are directed by God and the lot of mankind may be either favoured or punished (usually for a recognisable sin). Therefore, we see Henry remarking on the fate of an arch-enemy accepting his good fortune as part of ordinary life: And though what had happened was in one regard a matter for grief and sorrow, above all because he had lost his father, yet it is astonishing how such great good fortune came to him so suddenly in a moment that within a short time, without expecting it, he was called Duke of Normandy and count of Anjou.
The King of France thinking that his daughters were to inherit Aquitaine was annoyed that Eleanor of Aquitaine, had divorced Louis and married Matilda’s son Henry. So, Louis King of France takes up for Eustace against Duke Henry and there is severe struggle in Normandy. Our author is not only covering events throughout Britain, but also is informed and concerned for Eustace in Normandy.
We return in GS back to Stephen at Wallingford with the Londoners compelling the retreat of the Earl of Hereford. Here, our author knows of a duplicitous scheme of the Earl of Hereford. How, one must ask, is our author able to relay blow by blow events since 1135 in such chronological, detail, yet purposely avoiding dates? It can only be done with this amount of supporting detail by a diarist, who is personally more often than not on scene…. and when not present, is supplied with sufficient detail to fill in the gaps. We have witnessed how our author can supply the most intricate eyewitness detail, can skip the most important events because they don’t fit with his apologia and also pull together an overview of events should he have been in Rome. The Author continually just picks up his next episode and how it affects Henry Blois’ family in a chronological fashion constructed by use of a diary and personal memory.
The GS continues as Stephen sieges Worcester and Duke Henry lands in England. This leaves his brother to contend with the King of France and Eustace in Normandy. Then Duke Henry gains Malmesbury by the duplicity of the Earl of Hereford. After a couple more chapters of closely following the political intrigues of the various Barons and their changes of allegiance, and covering which castle was now under whose command, we arrive at Wallingford with the potential showdown that is to conclude the Anarchy.
Henry Blois, we know is present at Wallingford,255 but as we can see by the descriptions, it is the same as many of the other eye witness accounts in GS because of Henry’s interested on-site details in strategic manoeuvres: when, behold, the Kings men, who on hearing of the Duke’s arrival had withdrawn to places where they could not be seen, though a few kept up a show of resistance in the outer part of the castle, burst out in small parties from different hiding places and made a gallant charge on those who had already climbed the mound and entered the outer part of the Castle….
255In the Merlin prophecy which refers to the two kings at Wallingford i.e. the future Henry II and King Stephen, where the bishops (metaphorically the bishop’s staff) were Henry Blois and Theobald of Bec…. Must naturally post-date 1153. Two Kings shall encounter in nigh combat over the Lioness at the ford of the staff. The ‘ford’ mentioned is as the GS relates: ‘with only a river between them’. Obviously, the two opposing armies fighting over the Empress also referred to as the Lioness in VM. The Nigh Combat means they nearly fought; Henry Plantagenet (Henry II) and King Stephen agree terms for ending the civil war. Under the terms of the Treaty of Westminster, Stephen is to remain King for the remainder of his life, but thereafter the throne passes to Duke Henry. A treaty was made and combat averted. How clever is Merlin!!!
The Treaty of Winchester was the agreement ending the Anarchy to which the infamous Bishop of Asaph put his name right next to Henry Blois. The ‘Treaty of Winchester’ seems to be the addendum following in 1153, allowing Stephen to remain King of England for life but appears to be after the death of Eustace as it mainly makes provision for Eustace’s brother. These documents made clear that Stephen had adopted Henry Plantagenet as his heir.
Like so many other situations in the GS where we know Henry historically is present, the strategic events in the narrative are described in more detail. As Henry bemoans the native Britain’s constantly warring amongst themselves in the HRB; foreseeing the outcome of the two armies meeting as a potential needless total devastation, he finally as the GS recounts advises Stephen to seek peace:
And as the two armies, in all their warlike array, stood close to each other, with only a river between them, it was terrible and very dreadful to see so many thousands of armed men eager to join battle with drawn swords, determined, to the general prejudice of the Kingdom to kill their own relatives and kin. Wherefore the leading men of each army and those of deeper judgement were greatly grieved and shrank, on both sides, from a conflict that was not merely between fellow countrymen but meant the desolation of the whole Kingdom…
The terms of peace were obviously agreed at Wallingford where arms were laid down. But it is strange how the account is presented in the GS in that the peace is all down to Henry Blois where Stephen yielded to the advice of the Bishop of Winchester, seemingly at a time after the armies had left Wallingford and the Barons were still encouraging him to continue the struggle against Henry Plantagenet. I think the GS presents the account in this way to show that peace was eventually brought about by the peacemaker Henry Blois. Henry vainly describes himself and his importance in determining historical events in a self-written epitaph on the Meusan plates: lest England groan for it, since on him it depends for peace or war, agitation or rest.
The reader should not forget also…. the face off at Wallingford is mystically referred to by Merlin as the ‘ford of the staff’ in the prophecies where both bishops negotiate the truce.
Henry of Huntingdon has captured the real portrayal of events at Wallingford:
Meanwhile, Archbishop Theobald was deeply concerned in discussions with the King on the subject of making a peace treaty with the Duke. He had frequent conversations with the King in person, and with the Duke through intermediaries. He had as his helper Henry, Bishop of Winchester, who earlier had thrown the realm into grievous disorder, delivering the crown of the Kingdom to his brother Stephen, but now, seeing everything destroyed by robbery, fire, and slaughter, he was moved to repentance, and worked towards the ending of such evils through concord between the Princes.
One can understand with this negative press toward Henry Blois from Huntingdon that an apologia was the only way to rewrite Henry’s part in that period of history.
The GS ends with Eustace’s annoyance at the peace accord which inevitably means that he will not inherit the Kingdom and his suspicious death shortly afterward which fortuitously meant a long-lasting peace. The last passage in GS ends with the balanced chronicler’s joy in the beginning of a new era:
But at once he yielded to the advice of the Bishop of Winchester, who made himself a mediator between the Duke and the King for the establishment of peace, and consented to the Duke’s inheriting England after his death provided he himself, as long as he lived, retain the Majesty of the King’s lofty position. So, it was arranged and firmly settled that arms should be finally laid down and peace restored everywhere in the Kingdom, the new castles demolished, the disinherited restored to their own, the laws and enactments made binding on all according to the ancient fashion. The Duke also willingly and gladly agreed to all that the clergy and barons had wisely arranged, and when at length he had destroyed very many castles that harmed the Kingdom, after doing homage to the King with all his followers, withdrew to Normandy. But after a very short time he returned to England with more happiness and glory, because the King, after he had reduced England to peace and taken the whole Kingdom into his hand, caught a slight fever and departed this life, and the Duke, returning gloriously to England, was crowned for sovereignty with all honour and the applause of all.
The GS tries to infer that it was Henry Blois the peacemaker who brought the sides together at Wallingford, but at the death of Eustace on 17 August 1153 and the death of the King’s allies, the Earls of Northampton and Chester, (even if there was prevarication about submission before this time), the King eventually signed the Treaty of Winchester on the 6th of November 1153.
The Treaty took into account a lengthy statement on the inheritance of William, Stephen’s younger son, since Eustace had died suspiciously on 17 August 1153. Henry II came to the throne in March 1133 and one can imagine Eustace’s death 5 months later has to be the most fortuitous death. Henry Blois had nurtured Eustace knowing he would be king one day and there would have been more strife if Eustace had not died and the circumstances about robbing a church or dying of a broken heart just highlight that these are residual rumours and no-one actually knows who murdered him.
the Peterborogh Chronicle relating that Eustace: was an evil man and did more harm than good wherever he went; he spoiled the lands and laid thereon heavy taxes. Henry of Huntingdon does relate that Duke Henry was a little dissatisfied that certain castles were not being destroyed as arranged. You can be sure that If the author of GS had Eustace as an option to rid himself of Matilda’s son he would not have fled to Clungny.
I have tried to show, by picking certain extracts from the GS, that the book could only reasonably have been written by Henry Blois. Although it matters little in the broader expanse of this expose, it does demonstrate the guile involved in secreting Henry Blois authorship of a polemic apologia, which in part encourages the reader to look upon Henry Blois in historical terms in a kinder light than other contemporary chroniclers have portrayed him.
Once we can understand the cleverness of Henry Blois as an established anonymous author, we may then attempt to show by what same craft he managed to fool all his contemporary readers into thinking it was a man called Geoffrey of Monmouth who wrote the ‘History of the Kings of Britain’ and the prophecies of Merlin. I have demonstrated some crossovers between the Vita Merlini and the GS and how these points directly relate to Henry.
Since we have covered the Treaty of Winchester which takes into account Stephen’s son’s inheritance, obviously of great import for both Stephen and Henry Blois, I would posit by the terms referred to within it, one can assume it was drawn up at Winchester by Henry Blois himself. The treaty would have been kept at Winchester probably in the public records at the treasury. As well as Archbishop Theobald’s signature on the treaty is that of Henry Blois, Bishop of Winchester. Amongst other bishops, the last ‘inserted’ signature on the treaty is that of a certain Gaufridus episcopus sancti Asaphi. I presume to define the difference…. that the Treaty of Wallingford, also known as the Treaty of Winchester, was a precursor to the finalized form of the treaty of Westminster after Eustace had died:
The Treaty of Westminster, 1153
Stephen, King of the English to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, justices, sheriffs, barons and all his faithful subjects of England, greeting.
Know that I, King Stephen, have established Henry duke of Normandy as my successor in the Kingdom and as my heir by hereditary right, and that I have granted and confirmed to him and to his heirs the Kingdom of England. The duke, on account of this honour, grant and confirmation to him by me, had performed homage to me and has given me surety by oath, that he will be faithful to me and maintain my life and my honour to the best of his ability, according to the agreements discussed between us, which are contained in this charter. I have also given an oath of surety to the duke, that I shall keep his life and his honour to the best of my ability, and that I shall maintain him as my son and heir in everything possible and guard him as far as I can against all men.
Moreover my son William has done liege homage and given surety to the duke of Normandy. The duke has conceded to my son William, to hold of him. All the lands which I held before I obtained the Kingdom of England, in England, in Normandy, or in other places, and also whatever he has received with his daughter or the earl Warenne, in England, in Normandy, and whatever pertains to these honours. The duke gives full seisin to my son William and his men, who are of the honour of Warenne, of all lands, towns, boroughs and renders pertaining to that honour which he now has in his hands, and specifically the castles of Belencombe and Mortemer. However, Reginald de Warenne many have custody of the said castles if he wishes and give the duke hostage for them; if he does not wish to do this, others of the liege men of the earl Warenne chosen by the duke shall have custody of them, giving hostages and guarantees of safe custody. The duke will return other castles pertaining to the county of Mortain to him [my son William] at my request when he is able to do so, receiving guarantees of safe custody and hostages. All the hostages will be returned to my son when the duke has the Kingdom of England. Also the duke has conceded to my son William the increment which I gave him, namely the castle and town of Norwich with 700 pounds worth of land, the render of Norwich being reckoned within the said 700 pounds, and the whole shire of Norfolk, excepting the lands belonging to churches bishops, Abbots and earls, and especially excepting eh third penny that makes High Bigod an earl, but saving and reserving royal justice in all things.
Also, the better to secure my gratitude and affection, the duke has given and conceded to him [my son William] whatever Richer de l’Aigle had in the honour of Pevensey, as well as the castle and town of Pevensey, and the service of Faramus, excepting the castle and town of Dover and what pertains to the honour of Dover.
The duke has confirmed the church of Faversham in all that pertains to it, and will, by the counsel of the holy church, and by my counsel, confirm other grants or restorations made by me to other churches.
In return for the honour I have done their lord, the earls and barons of the duke which have never been my men have done homage and sworn an oath to me, saving the agreements made between the duke and myself. The others, who have dome homage to me previously, have sworn fealty to me as their lord. And if the duke breaks his promises, they will cease entirely to serve him, until he puts right his errors. My son also, by the counsel of the holy church, will do likewise if the duke withdraws from these agreements.
My earls and barons have done liege homage to the duke, saving their fealty to me as long as I live and hold the Kingdom, and by a similar rule, they will entirely cease from serving me if I break my promises, until I rectify my errors. The citizens of the cities and the men of the castles which I have in my demesne by my order performed homage and have given surety to the duke, saving their fealty to me as long as I live and hold to the Kingdom. Those who have custody of the castle of Wallingford have done homage to me and have given me hostages for their fealty to me. By the counsel of the holy church I have given surety to the duke for my castles and strongholds so that on my death he may not incur any loss or damage to the Kingdom because of this. By the counsel of the holy church the Tower of London and the motte of Windsor have been given to Richard de Lacy to keep. But Richard has sworn in the hand of the Archbishop that after my death he will hand over these castles to the duke, and has given his son as hostage.
In the same way, by the counsel of the holy church, Roger de Bussy keeps the motte of Oxford and Jordan de Bussy the castle of Lincoln; they are the duke’s liege men, and have sworn and given hostages in the archbishop’s hand that on my death they will hand over thee castles to the duke without any hindrance. The bishop of Winchester has pledged himself in the hand of the archbishop of Canterbury, in the presence of the bishops, that on my death he will hand over to the duke the castle of Winchester and the stronghold of Southampton. If any of those who keep my strongholds prove contumacious or rebellious concerning castles which belong to the crown by common counsel the duke and I will constrain him until he is compelled to make amends to the satisfaction of both of us.
The archbishops, bishops and abbots of the Kingdom of England have at my command sworn an oath of fealty to the duke. Those made bishops or abbots henceforth in the Kingdom of England shall do the same. The archbishops and bishops on both sides have undertaken that if either of us departs from these agreements, they will visit him with ecclesiastical justice until he amends his errors and returns to his observance of the aforesaid compact. The duke’s mother, his wife, his brother and all his men whom he can involve in this have likewise given surety.
I shall act in the affairs of the Kingdom with the duke’s advice. I myself shall exercise royal justice in the whole Kingdom of England, both in the duke’s part and my own.