Many commentators on the HRB and the VM are perplexed by ‘Geoffrey’s’ beneficial treatment of those from Brittany and by his deprecation of the Welsh. The HRB links Brittany as the continental deposit of the residue of the Britons from an early migration. Many modern scholars in a spurious rationalisation have assumed that ‘Geoffrey’s’ positive attitude toward Brittany is derived from a Breton association in Wales, because of the long standing assumption that Geoffrey was Welsh. If he was, he would hardly have been so derogatory about them. Henry Blois’ hatred of the Welsh is rather down to the rebellion of the Welsh against his brother Stephen, and his time spent in Wales in 1136 and his views on the Welsh are apparent by his views in the GS. To understand this point one would need to accept that the GS was composed by Henry Blois and this is a huge mountain to overcome for a modern scholar as we have covered.
We, using common sense can see how Henry Blois, who created the Chivalric Arthur, portrays the Britons in a good light before the Saxon invasion, has to rationalise how it is that the remaining population who did not flee (who he now sees as the Welsh) are so barbaric. Henry’s view is that the pocket of people left in Britain from the once noble Britons are the Welsh. This is partly the reason he sets his Arthurian epic there apart from seeing ‘the savages’ fight. Henry is clear about his favoured Britons. But they were no longer recognisable by their residue, the Welsh: as barbarism crept in, they were no longer called Britons but Welsh.912
The contemporary rebellious Welsh who Henry had been engaged with at Kidwelly913 were not to be associated as part of the Celtic Christian Briton by which Geoffrey is so endeared: ‘But the Welsh, degenerating from the nobility of the Britons’.914
Orderic gives a good account of why Henry Blois would loath the Welsh. He was with his brother when they both thought it propitious to withdraw from a full-frontal battle when Robert of Gloucester brought the Welsh hoards into England:
Robert of Caen hospitably entertained under his own roof his sister Matilda after her arrival in England, and calling in the Welsh to his aid, atrocious villainies were perpetrated in all parts. They say that more than ten thousand of these barbarians spread themselves over England, and that having no reverence for religion, they did not even spare the consecrated places, but gave themselves up to pillage, and burning and bloodshed. It is impossible for me to describe in detail the great afflictions which the church of God suffered in the persons of her sons, who were daily butchered like sheep by the knives of the Welsh.
912HRB XII, xix
913That Henry spent time in Wales is attested to by many facts which coincide during the course of this exposé.
914HRB XII, xix
Since there is nothing in the British annals that would commend the Britons to ‘Geoffrey’ to form his attitude, I suggest it stems from Henry’s recognition of an independent Christian Culture (i.e. not Roman) which existed in Britain prior to the Saxon invasion, the very culture that Gildas bemoans. Evidence of this lost ancient Briton church Henry found at Glastonbury and became a part of his case for metropolitan of Southern England. It may just be because he invented a Chivalric Arthur that he holds the pretence of their nobility before the Saxon invasion.
As can be seen throughout the HRB, Henry uses a template or anchor in the form of location, situation or persona on which to build his narrative and nearly every instance in his writing can be traced to this method of composition. I would suggest that it was Melkin himself upon whom ‘Geoffrey’ bases Merlin in the HRB.915
Henry transposes Merlin to Rhydderch’s court purely as a backdrop for the Vita…. in part because of the explosive material that the southern Merlin divulged in the Vulgate HRB. People might have been searching for the source of these seditious prophecies and Henry Blois tries to authenticate Merlin tying him to location and era and personas of the Welsh Myrrdin.916 Henry Blois was not ignorant of the history of pre-Saxon Briton as he left a copy of the life of the Caesar’s to Glastonbury as Adam of Damerham records.917
The VM has little intrinsic structure. It can be recognised as a composite and relies mainly on Taliesin and narrative ideas from Bhuile Suibhne and Isidore. Henry’s invention of locating of Arthur’s grandiose court in Wales in the HRB is based on several factors. His knowledge of Wales and their oral tradition of Arthur; and the fact that there were archaeological Roman remains at Caerleon.918
The pro-Breton stance in the HRB is evident but the reasons for it are revealed here in the Vita. Henry Blois affinity with Brittany and Stephen’s claim to the throne are couched in terms of a right of the Ducal house of Cornwall which Henry believed gave his brother (and he himself if opportunity arose) legitimacy to the crown of Brutus.
915‘Geoffrey’s’ Merlin Ambrosius might also be based on Melvas or Melkin, the King who donated Ineswitrin to Glastonbury. The VM’s Merlin is based on Myrddin Wyllt, Myrddin Emrys, who became Merlinus Caledonensis, or Merlin Sylvestris by association with such people as Rhydderch.
916O.J. Padel’s analysis wrongly questions that VM is written in response to Gaimar rather than Henry Blois’ efforts trying to substantiate Merlin in VM as an historical figure conflating him with Myrrdin: Could Geoffrey’s decision to write another account of Merlin, following the existing Welsh legend much more closely, have been an indirect result of this claim by Geoffrey Gaimar? Gaimar’s epilogue was merely composed to substantiate ‘Geoffrey’ is not lying about his source. That the Roman de Brut is affixed in manuscripts to what for the most part Gaimar actually wrote (minus the Arhur interpolations) just adds to the veraciry of what is completely obvious to anyone not indoctrinated into cabal dogma in that Henry Blois composed the Roman de Brut.
917Adam of Damerham witnesses that Henry Blois donated books to Glastonbury abbey, Lives of the Caesars, History of the Britons, History of the English, and History of the Franks amongst many others including St Isidores Etymologies.
918Galfridus Arthur did not become a Welsh Geoffrey of Monmouth until the Vulgate HRB was published.
Bertha of Blois was a Duchess consort of Brittany and a countess consort of Maine who was married in 1018 to Alain III, Duke of Brittany and in 1046 to Hugh IV, Count of Maine. She was the daughter of Odo II, Count of Blois and Ermengarde of Auvergne. Conan II of Rennes (c. 1033-1066) was Duke of Brittany from 1040 to his death. Conan was the eldest child and heir of Alan III, Duke of Brittany by his wife Bertha of Blois. He was the elder brother of Hawise, who succeeded him as suo jure duchess. Hawise of Guingamp, the wife of Stephen of Tréguier, was Hawise, daughter of Theobald of Blois and Adele of Valois, making her a half-sister of Count Stephen of Blois, Henry Blois’ Father. Stephen and Hawise’s children were cousins of King Stephen and of Henry of Blois and one cousin was Alan III, Earl of Richmond, who fought for King Stephen and was a bitter enemy of the Earl of Chester
Conan II died leaving no issue, so he was succeeded by his sister Hawise, Duchess of Brittany who married Hoel, Count of Cornouaille with offspring of Alan IV. Alan IV married Constance, Princess of England and gave issue to Conan III. Conan III married an illegitimate daughter of Henry Ist, whose daughter was Bertha of Brittany. She Married Alan the Black giving rise to Conan IV.
It is this Conan IV de Bretagne who Henry Blois fixates upon as he incites rebellion as the inheritor of the ‘Crown of Brutus’ in VM; the returning royal strain and the reason he is trying to incite the Bretons, the Cornish, the Welsh and the Scottish to insurrection against Henry II. Conan had inherited the title Earl of Richmond from his father Alan the Black and became Duke of Brittany when his mother died in 1156. How Henry Blois could conceive of such an uprising and the hope of spurring Conan, Cadwallader and the Scottish into rebellion is because Henry Blois had been commanded by Henry II to surrender his castles in 1155 and his total power-base he had held throughout the anarchy was annulled in one sitting at the council held at Winchester.
Between 1155 and 1158 Henry Blois, the Machiavellian plotter, is at Clungy having had his castles seized by Henry II and fears for his life, should he return to England. Archbishop Theobald wrote threatening letters to Henry Blois at Clugny saying he had better return.919 Henry Blois on the other hand was planning to stay on the pretence of the pope’s instructions to re-organise Clugny, which had hit financial difficulties.
But here is Henry Blois’ Machiavellian hand at work provoking through his latest updated prophecies the precept…. (thought being the father of deed): It is the will of the most-high Judge that the British shall be without their Kingdom for many years and remain weak, until Conan in his chariot arrive from Brittany, and that revered leader of the Welsh, Cadwalader. They will create an alliance, a firm league of the Scots, the Welsh, the Cornish and the men of Brittany. Then they will restore to the natives the crown that had been lost. The enemy will be driven out and the time of Brutus will be back once more.
The Prophecy was supposed to inspire the warring Celts to overthrow Henry II based upon a conflation with Armes Prydein. Henry’s plan failed, but this is the reason for the inspired return of Conan which fortuitously is mirrored in the Armes Prydein through Myrddin in the book of Taliesin which relates to Cadwaladyr and Cynan (not Conan from Brittany).
It is upon this conflation Henry incites the rebellion; except, in the present era of 1155-1157, he includes the Scots and the Cornish as the Celts against ‘foreign’ invaders i.e. the Normans. The reader might think this fantastic that Henry Blois would instigate a war against his own people, but once we cover the Merlin prophecies supposedly put out by John of Cornwall the reader will understand that Henry Blois has every intention of returning as the leader of the fractious Celts as he sees himself to be ‘an adopted son’ when the rebellion is successful.
919See Note 1
In 1158, Henry II was at Avranches and finally received the submission, of Conan of Brittany as Robert of Torigni relates. Henry’s attempt at sedition had failed and he returned to Winchester. ‘Conan in his chariot’ from Brittany, and that ‘revered’ leader of the Welsh, Cadwalader920 together were supposed to depose Henry II. Supposedly Merlin the seer had predicted such a re-emergence of the Celts driving out the ‘foreigners’ and re-installing the inheritors of Brutus.
Henry’s pro-Breton stance existed already in the HRB and thus the prophecy, although appearing to support the return of a utopian Britain, has less to do with Henry’s romantic Celtic vision (the hope of the Britons) expressed in the Zeitgeist of the populace, but more of a hoped-for vengeance in the present. Henry Blois returns to England slightly sidelined yet still involved politically to his death.
For the last 13 years of Henry Blois’ life there is a mutual but guarded respect between Henry II and Henry Blois. Henry takes on the guise of the venerated bishop and statesman in the period between 1158 and his death in 1171. But, as we shall cover, he is (all the while) propagating Grail literature…. and also, in this period manufactured the grave of Arthur and Guinevere at Glastonbury.
Henry II attempted to obtain control of the Duchy of Brittany which neighboured his lands. King Henry had claimed to be the overlord of Brittany on the basis that the Duchy had owed loyalty to his Grandfather, King Henry Ist. A state of civil war had existed amongst the barons in the region since Conan III died. Conan’s uncle Hoel continued to control the county of Nantes to the east until he was deposed in 1156 by Henry II’s brother, Geoffrey.
Conan resisted the King’s brother and Henry II responded by seizing Conan’s English Earldom of Richmond. This was the state of affairs at the time Henry Blois was writing the Vita Merlini. Events did not transpire as Henry Blois had hoped or even prophesied. History relates that to put down the civil unrest in Brittany, Conan, in the end appealed to Henry II for aid. King Henry, in return, demanded the betrothal of Conan’s only daughter and heiress Constance, to Henry’s son Geoffrey Plantagenet. So the prophecy had no hope of becoming true, but the Vita prophecies had been written in this era.
920See appendix 19