Tatlock90 has diligently shown how Geoffrey of Monmouth constructed the HRB by elucidating the provenance of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s source material. Tatlock never understood that Henry Blois was the author of the Merlin prophecies or the HRB but he tells us that it is impossible to believe that ‘Geoffrey’ wrote all the prophecies. Nearly every argument put forward by him to show that some prophecies were written by a separate individual other than Geoffrey would bolster the case for Henry Blois as the author of VM, HRB and the Merlin prophecies.
Modern scholars have tirelessly inquired into the HRB but have not applied the same diligence to the prophecies. It is obvious to those who have studied the prophecies that they were composed by the same person who invented the historicity of HRB. It seems unlikely that any researcher will discover any primary source which indicates that Henry Blois was the author of HRB because he went to great lengths to conceal his identity as the composer . Therefore, the only way to uncover Henry Blois’ fraud is through a deep incisive investigation into all the versions of the prophecies of Merlin composed by Henry Blois in the VM, HRB and the John of Cornwall edition of the prophecies. Of course the John of Cornwall rendition of the prophecies which is discussed at length later in this work leaves no doubt that the author is Henry Blois.
It is doubtful anyone will fully understand all the prophecies of Merlin in HRB, but Tatlock is misguided where he says it is hard to believe the prophecies ever had any intelligible meaning for anyone.91 They were certainly written by Henry Blois in the HRB, just as VM was composed by Henry Blois.
In the VM it is clearly shown in this work that all of Merlin’s sisters prophecies clearly refer to events in the Anarchy and these events are clearly replicated in the Gesta Stephani. Therefore it is necessary to show the reader that the GS was composed by Henry Blois also which I cover in the next section. For the most part, the Merlin prophecies certainly had an intended goal and meaning originally for Henry Blois.
The problem with getting to the heart of the Matter of Britain is that the scholarly exegesis requires imagination of the reasoning and persona of Henry Blois, where he has set out purposely to hide his authorship of the manuscripts examined in this work. Sadly the hands which endeavour to elucidate the sources of the Matter of Britain lie with people who by the nature of their work have little imagination. Especially in their perception of the real character of Henry Blois.
For consistency, many of Merlin’s prophecies are repeated from the Vulgate edition of HRB into VM, but there are many additions to the VM prophecies. Once we understand all the prophecies of Merlin were written by Henry Blois, we can then see why many of the prophecies themselves (supposed to have come from a sixth century Merlin), substantiate parts of the pseudo-history comprising HRB, which, supposedly ‘Geoffrey’ wrote. Yet, because the two works corroborate each other’s erroneous history, we can take it that HRB was written by Henry Blois also; with other substantive facts taken into account. The reason we may never fully understand every prophecy is that they have undergone editorial changes by Henry Blois in the final HRB Vulgate version published in 1155 which became the most prolific edition.
90If indeed one of the many hundreds of scholars over the past hundred and fifty years had indeed entertained the possibility of Henry’s authorship, we might be able to assign the title scholar to any one of them. However, the myopia which persists in the scholastic community is like a genetic disease passed down, where no-one can see the wood for the trees. This is more testament to Henry Blois’ brilliance than their lack of it.
These were followed by new Merlin prophecies in the VM and other prophecies supposedly by Taliesin also incorporated into VM. Ganieda’s introduction into VM also helped substantiate Merlin’s vaticinatory reliability. I do not wish to bore the reader who does not need to know why and when VM was written and the quickest way to establish who wrote VM is to read Merlin’s sister’s prophecies; because all of them are itemised as events written in the Gesta Stephani also authored by Henry Blois which becomes apparent in the next part of the investigation.
As Henry Blois changed the sense to some prophecies and added to the original set (which we may suppose Abbot Suger had be given a copy by Henry Blois); it becomes difficult to divine the sense or purport on occasion or in certain cases, to whom the prophecy refers; yet at other times it is crystal clear that the prophecies speak of events which are wholly translatable to Henry’s world view and interests, especially being the author of the Primary Historia, the First Variant and Vulgate HRB.
In the VM some prophecies have purposefully been squewed by comparison to those in HRB when Henry Blois released his updated edition, in order to further hide Henry’s authorship. Henry had previously been less guarded at the time when he initially published the Libellus Merlini. There seems to be a defining reason for writing the VM with several prophecies seemingly repeated from HRB.
Not only has Henry Blois squewed some prophecies from HRB when composing the VM but he has added two more sets of prophecies which see clearly on other subjects not touched by Merlin i.e. through Taliesin and Ganieda (Merlin’s sister). Henry even uses ‘icons’ from Taliesin’s original work so that it might appear that it is Taliesin himself who is contemporaneously in conversation with Henry Blois’ Merlin; as witnessed in the text of VM.
Henry’s reason for composing VM after having added the seditious prophecies and ‘made public’ the Vulgate version with updated prophecies are plain to see. He needs to place Merlin historically and the easiest way to do this is have him associated with others of a similar ilk i.e. Taliesin. He also needs to locate him in time and geographically. Those inquiring after ‘Geoffrey’ were suspicious of the updated seditious prophecies. So, VM confirms these seditious prophecies were one and the same with the updated set of prophecies found in HRB, but also were seemingly extant before ‘Geoffrey’ died….or so goes the logic of Henry Blois.
However, the whole of VM has a half-hearted approach in layout and purpose by comparison with the well-structured HRB. So, we should try to find out why Henry Blois went to the trouble of producing the seemingly uninspired VM.
Henry wishes to demonstrate or corroborate that the updated prophecies in HRB which differed from those known by contemporaries to have existed in the earlier libellus Merlini, were in fact written or understood to have existed (in another work) authored by the now dead ‘Geoffrey’. This is the main reason that Henry Blois composed the VM. After 1155, those sceptical of the antiquity of Merlin’s prophecies were trying to discover who had added seditious and updated prophecies to the originals.92 This is why many of the prophecies in VM are changed in purport from the Vulgate HRB’s new updated set, (making some prophecies a lot less specific).
92This argument is also given credence by the fact that the colophon of HRB, which, in effect adds a confirmation that the dedicatees were alive at the time the prophecies were added…. is an addition to the Vulgate to counter the argument that the dedicatees were not found in the First Variant version and were added subsequently. The colophon pretends to appeal to William of Malmesbury as alive and in effect dates the Vulgate version to at least 1143 when Malmesbury died, but what is a fact… is that the First Variant was published in 1144 and pre-dated the Vulgate version of HRB.
In effect by writing VM, Henry not only locates Merlin in antiquity (not accomplished in HRB), but has him surrounded and interacting with sixth century contemporaries. But most importantly the seditious prophecy which encourages the Celts to unite to re-establish the crown of Brutus is found in VM as well…. which in reality puts VM’s composition in between 1155-1158. Contemporaries were fed propaganda so to them ‘Geoffrey’ had supposedly died in 1154
Therefore, if ‘Geoffrey’ is now known to be dead, then those trying to find the person who added the most recent prophecy are non-plussed because the seditious prophecy concerning the Celts exists in another of ‘Geoffrey’s’ works…. which, since he died in 1154, could not (as the logic goes) have been added to de-throne Henry II. This same argument applies to the ‘Sixth’ in Ireland prophecy also.
Gerald of Wales relates that the VM Merlin is clearer and Gerald comments on the modern insertions he detects in the prophecies saying that ‘not all these prophecies are probable, nor all fabulous’, but Gerald says “King Henry II wants to read a copy”. So, the idea that the VM was instigated to counter the argument that someone was inciting sedition is not so silly; especially if Henry II wanted to check to see if the prophecies were the same as found in Vulgate HRB or the Libellus Merlini.
The Vita Merlini is written in classical Latin hexameters and considering what is achieved in converting prose source material from Isidore into this form of verse, it is a remarkable achievement. It has been paid little attention by commentators. Tatlock93 believes the VM was written in 1154. It is a certain fact that it was not written until after 1155 because of the reference to the 19 years of King Stephen’s reign and Ganieda’s reference to the battle of Coleshill in 1157 puts it even later if the interpretation of the prophecy is correct.
The VM begins with a dedication much like the HRB. Where VM is dedicated to Robert de Chesney, most HRB copies are dedicated to Robert of Gloucester. These two (along with Alexander) were detested by Henry Blois and therefore the act of dedication allays any suspicion that either work might have been composed by the Bishop of Winchester. Both works offer their dedicatees the humble offer of being corrected. In the Vita Merlini: I am preparing to sing the madness of the prophetic bard, and a humorous poem on Merlin; pray correct the song.
In the HRB Vulgate edition:
Robert, Duke of Gloucester, show favour in such wise that it may be so corrected by thy guidance and counsel as that it may be held to have sprung, not from the poor little fountain of Geoffrey of Monmouth, but rather from thine own deep sea of knowledge, and to savour of thy salt.
Let me state for the record categorically that no dedicatee ever received a copy of HRB or VM from Geoffrey of Monmouth. Modern scholars have derived their entire analysis of dating based on these late insertions of the dedicatees names into Vulgate HRB. Such dedications were neither present in the Primary Historia found at Bec nor the First Variant version constructed c.1144.
93Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini. J. S. P. Tatlock. Speculum Vol. 18, No. 3 (Jul., 1943), pp. 265-287
The First Variant HRB composed in 1144 by comparison with the latter Vulgate version obeyed a stricter adhesion to source material from known annals with direct quotes from Bede. Descriptions of gore from battles scenes were more tempered, along with other unpleasing details found in the later more developed version which might offend the pious such as rape. Proud and arrogant speeches of British pride were originally more toned down or excluded if they were even developed in composition at the time. Prayer and God’s judgement abounded in the First Variant for the lot of Men much more so than witnessed in the Vulgate version and biblical references were splattered throughout along with classical quotations.
The First Variant was designed for one purpose; to endear papal approval of Henry Blois’ designs on Metropolitan for southern England. In other words, Henry had deposited his first edition Primary Historia at Bec in 1138 and then when he had lost the chance of becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry tempered the edition of HRB toward a papal audience in pursuit of metropolitan status for Winchester along with his other proofs of antiquity. Proof of antiquity ranked ecclesiastical institutions as we can see was the purpose of Henry Blois’ commission of the DA. The First Variant was a book employed as evidential support for Henry Blois’ agenda for gaining Metropolitan status for Winchester.
All dedications were subsequent and added to the Vulgate HRB after the dedicatee’s deaths.94The First Variant had no dedications originally but now from recopying several dedications are included in some manuscripts of the First Variant HRB and even posses copies of the updated prophecies found in the Vulgate version. The difference is that when the VM circulated Robert de Chesney was alive until 1166. Unfortunately, and by a huge coincidence ‘Geoffrey of Monmouth’ aka the ‘Bishop of Asaph’ had been consigned to death by Henry Blois. It is not certain if De Chesney even saw a copy because the VM was mainly circulated on the continent.
This anomaly in Henry Blois’ methodology may explain the lack of copies of VM which were propagated. It may even be the case that the dedication to Robert de Chesney was added by Henry after Robert de Chesney’s death just as he had done with all95 the dedicatees in the copies of Vulgate HRB. Most commentators date the VM to 1154 as they assume Geoffrey died in 1154-5. The ploy of Henry Blois by appearing to ask ‘correction’ is so that the reader is duped into thinking that he is humbly appealing to a contemporary patron or dedicatee physically capable of ‘correcting’ his work while at the same time seemingly seeking to improve his circumstances as most poets bards and chroniclers did.
Henry Blois makes a pretence in both HRB and VM as if his dedicatees were patrons of his work; but in both cases, to propel his work into the public domain, this is a ploy. The ploy is just a smoke and mirrors routine whereby Henry Blois appears to be a cleric ‘Geoffrey’ trying to advance his position. Henry Blois is clever at this, where he gives the appearance (in the dedication of VM) of seeming to be dissatisfied with the acknowledgement he had received from Alexander (having supposedly toiled on translating the Merlin prophecies found in the Vulgate HRB) and hopes for better reward with Robert de Chesney. It is no wonder the scholars are duped!!!!
Henry in character as ‘Geoffrey’ the struggling cleric, makes out that his last patron in Lincoln (Alexander) did not recognise him by just reward ; especially since ‘Geoffrey’ had broken off midstream in composing HRB so that Alexander’s request might be carried out with haste. This propaganda the scholars have swallowed.
Writing the VM after 1155, Henry predates his work to c.1148-9 by the use of the word ‘just’ regarding his fictional relationship with his patron Robert de Chesney: whom you have just succeeded, promoted to an honour that you deserve… The reason for doing this was to show by pretence the continued patronage of the bishops of Lincoln. Alexander did not commission the translation of the prophecies of Merlin simply because they are all made up by Henry Blois. The dedications found in Vulgate HRB were written after the death of the dedicatees and as I have stated, did not exist in the Primary Historia found at Bec (where no prophecies were even included in that first edition).
94There may be an original dedication to Robert of Gloucester in a First Variant version but this also would have post-dated 1147 and as I shall cover in progression was the 1149 edition of First Variant.
95This even applies to the Count of Meulan Waleran de Beaumont who also died in 1166.
No-one had ever met or seen Geoffrey of Monmouth and although Henry Blois had consigned him to death in 1154-5, it is clear that the tone and compositional content of VM was authored in Henry’s time at Clugny between 1155-58. Henry authored VM while in a state of depression at his sudden loss of power, status and wealth.
The word ‘just’ in the dedication implies Robert de Chesney is recently installed. Therefore, many commentators have assumed the Vita Merlini was written in 1148. This point will be addressed when I cover the backdating of the HRB. For the moment the dedication has little bearing on our investigation. The false air of humility for the most part ensured for the contemporary reader that it ‘had been’ a commissioned work.
Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, had no regard for Robert de Chesney. Henry had tried to secure the bishopric of Lincoln for one of his nephews but was thwarted by the pope and others. The pope agreed with the Lincoln chapter in their election and appointed Robert de Chesney as bishop. Chesney employed Foliot as a clerk at Lincoln. It is Gilbert Foliot’s letters which give some background to Chesney’s96 election, showing that King Stephen of England and his brother Henry of Blois, attempted to secure Lincoln for one of their relatives.
The candidates put forward by King Stephen and Henry Blois were Henry de Sully, abbot of Frécamp; Gervase, abbot of Westminster; and Hugh, abbot of St Benet of Hulme. Henry de Sully was the son of William, Count of Chartres…. Stephen and Henry Blois’ eldest brother. William, as oldest of the 6 other Blois brothers, had not received his birthright as the eldest son to the comptal throne. He was considered too aggressive and mentally incompetent.97 However, another candidate put forward for the bishopric of Lincoln was Gervase, the illegitimate son of King Stephen and his mistress, Damette. The third proposed candidate was Hugh, abbot of St Benet of Hulme. He was the illegitimate son of Stephen also.
Henry Blois in VM makes a pretence flattering Robert de Chesney calling him a leader and a teacher in the world… promoted to an honour that you deserve… and the clergy and the people all were seeking it for you. This is really a case of saying the opposite to how one feels i.e. contrary to Henry’s sentiments in reality. Henry Blois betrays himself as author with his constant reference to muses: were all to sing with my mouth and all the Muses were to accompany me, and betrays too much knowledge of the Muse’s provenance established in Greek literature later on in the Vita Merlini.
Henry Blois again refers to muses on his personal epitaph on the Meusan plates. It is as if Henry believes he is inspired by muses. Again, to Alexander in the dedication to the prophecies of Merlin in HRB: Howbeit, since it so pleased you that Geoffrey of Monmouth should sound his pipe in these vaticinations, eschew thou not to show favour unto his minstrelsies, and if so be that he carol out of time or tune do thou with the ferule of thine own muses.
96In about 1160 Chesney became embroiled in a dispute with St Albans Abbey in the diocese of Lincoln, over his right as bishop to supervise the abbey. The dispute was eventually settled when the abbey granted Chesney land in return for his relinquishing any right to oversee St Albans; a dispute Henry Blois was involved in.
97There was an incident where he threatened to kill Bishop Ivo of Chartres over a jurisdictional dispute and his mother Adela conferred the inheritance to Theobald II, the second eldest son.
Henry Blois in VM then launches into the body and purpose of the text of the Vita Merlini: Well then, after many years had passed under many Kings, Merlin the Briton was held famous in the world. He was a King and prophet; to the proud people of the South Welsh he gave laws, and to the chieftains he prophesied the future.
Reassuring his reader, Henry picks up the same Merlin that the HRB had made famous. But in VM he now consciously attempts to locate him by the historical cross referencing of bardic Welsh literature of Myrrdin rather than the mythical un-defined and fabricated Merlin Ambrosius of HRB. (See Note 2). This is the first time we hear that Merlin is a King.
Merlin had come to the war with Peredur and so had Rhydderch, King of the Cumbrians.
Merlin is found lamenting as the battle took place around him: O dubious lot of mankind! as blood flowed all around. Henry Blois assumes Cambri (Cymry), (now applied to the Welsh), was formerly used of the Britons just as he does in the HRB and has them making war on Gwenddoleu and routing the Scots.
Next in VM we find Merlin refusing food and filling the:
air with so many and so great complaints, new fury seized him and he departed secretly, and fled to the woods not wishing to be seen as he fled…
Henry Blois had departed secretly from England in 1155 and he (like Merlin) hides himself away at Clugny hidden like a wild animal, he remained buried in the woods, found by no one and forgetful of himself and of his kindred. In the monastery at Clugny surrounded by the great hunting forest known to him from his youth, Henry reflects back on the years of his brother Stephen’s reign. Henry is depressed and reflects on how God has brought him from the most powerful man in Britain to be in self imposed exile leaving behind in England all that he was used to.
At Clugny in 1156 when Henry II is on the throne and King Henry II has recently confiscated six of Henry Blois’ castles and virtually made him powerless, Henry Blois is in somber mood and thinking how he is going to rid himself of the Empress’ son. Henry hated the Empress Matilda. She had inflicted punishment on Henry Blois through the power of her son as the new King. In the treaty between Duke Henry and King Stephen made in 1153 at Westminster, Henry Blois had sworn that on the death of his brother Stephen he would hand over his castles at Winchester and Southampton. King Henry made sure Henry Blois adhered to his previous pledge.
The VM can be summed up in mood as a reflection upon Henry Blois’ part in the Anarchy causing a sense of depression and questioning if his present circumstance is due to God’s punishment. The Anarchy and Henry’s part in it, encountering constant violence has taken its toll and now he has come to centre himself in the forests surrounding the monastery at Clugny and evade the shallowness and excesses of the court life he had lived previously.
The ‘forest’ is Clugny. The quiet of the monastery is far from the life of the previous 19 years of political intrigue in which he was central as a Machiavelian manipulator of events. Henry Blois is full of grief at the loss of his brother and his reduced circumstances, so, like his subject Merlin, he is full of grief also. This is how we get to understand the ‘Madness of Merlin’.
Henry Blois fled across the channel without permission just as Merlin reflects in VM. Christ, God of heaven, what shall I do? In what part of the world can I stay, since I see nothing here I can live on…. Here once there stood nineteen apple trees bearing apples every year; now they are not standing. Who has taken them away from me?
Who has taken them away from me is Henry Blois’ fearful looking for of judgement and he thinks that God is behind his downfall and even he feels a bit mad and this is the partial template for ‘Madness of Merlin’. Henry Blois would have read and understood Hebrews 10:27: only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
The 19 trees which are now not standing are the years that his brother was King, (fruitful years), but now his brother King Stephen is dead along with all the power . King Stephen reigned for 19 years from 1135-1154. There are so many facets to this investigation of our three genres of study, but it is at this stage Henry introduces the apples that become a feature of Glastonbury lore; as they are part of his design in the translocation of ‘Avalon’, the island he had named in the HRB into the geographical identifiable location of Glastonbury.
Henry’s methodology in the creation of what became known as the ‘Matter of Britain’ is the creation of a ‘conflationary soup’ of detail where icons are subconsciously and hazily cross referenced. Through this confusion, allowance is given for the appearance of inaccuracy through the ages. A connection of apples and the county of Somerset leave no doubt in the readers mind when reading the VM that the Avalon of HRB is synonymous with an Insula Pomorum simply by reasoning that Barinthus and his actions toward King Arthur delivering him to an island just as in HRB: Thither after the battle of Camlan we took the wounded Arthur, guided by Barinthus
Geoffrey’s reference to the battle of Camlann is made to accord with an entry in the 10th-century Annales Cambriae, recording the battle in the year 537 which mentions Mordred (Medraut). ‘The Strife of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut (Mordred) perished’.
Henry further opines in VM in the persona of Merlin and sees that it is the will of God that he has been brought low so quickly from such lofty office. Henry Blois cannot hide from the fact that many blame his interference and manipulation of events for much of the cause of the violence incurred on the population of Britain during the Anarchy:
Now I see them – now I do not! Thus, the fates fight against me and for me, since they both permit and forbid me to see. Now I lack the apples and everything else. The trees stand without leaves, without fruit; I am afflicted by both circumstances since I cannot cover myself with the leaves or eat the fruit.
Henry Blois at his monastery in Clugny with Peter the Venerable his mentor (who he refers to as a ‘Wolf in old age’), marvels that Clugny, the greatest of all religious houses is in financial trouble. Henry has to bail out the establishment and feed 400 monks out of his own personal wealth. Peter the Venerable had secreted and moved Henry’s movable wealth abroad to Clugny after Henry had attended the last council of King Henry II’s court held at Winchester in September 1155. It was at this council at Winchester the assembly had discussed invading Ireland. Also Henry Blois knew from this moment on through the confiscation of his castles that King Henry II was going to make sure that Henry Blois’ power-base was diminished.
Peter the Venerable in old age had found himself unable to turn around the decline at Clugny and Henry Blois relays this as if conversing with a wolf in the wood metaphorically in the verse of VM:
You, O wolf, dear companion, accustomed to roam with me through the secluded paths of the woods and meadows, now can scarcely get across fields; hard hunger has weakened both you and me. You lived in these woods before I did and age has whitened your hairs first. You have nothing to put into your mouth and do not know how to get anything, at which I marvel, since the wood abounds in so many goats and other wild beasts that you might catch. Perhaps that detestable old age of yours has taken away your strength and prevented your following the chase. Now, as the only thing left to you, you fill the air with howlings, and stretched out on the ground you extend your wasted limbs.”
As with some split personalities, Henry Blois was shy and suffered from bouts of depression and certainly this must have been the case in 1155. It is interesting to note that during Henry’s upbringing at Clugny the austere victuals that the monastic life of denial had inflicted on him he referes to here as having weakened him. The ‘gruel’ served in medieval monasteries was barely enough to nourish the body and this is why we witness in DA that when Henry goes to Glastonbury as Abbot, he makes sure all the monks are well fed.
As the VM reflects, Henry is in a state of depression and in places in the script one can perceive the sentiments are like an ‘ode’ to how Henry had strayed from his upbringing at Clugny in the pursuit of ‘Mammon’ and worldliness, to become a material bishop knight at the heart of violent times; the Anarchy, much of which he is responsible for. He reflects that all the monks are starving and yet are surrounded by food and marvels that Peter the Venerable has been so reduced by age that he can no longer hunt and now is reduced to prostrate wailings in prayer.
The impetus for much of the updating of the Merlin prophecies which the reader will understand in progression is designed to unseat Henry II. Whereas in the first prophecies i.e. the libellus Merlini, the Norman’s were seen as fellow kindred freeing the Britons from the Saxon worms, there is now a distinct change in that Merlin now foresees the downfall of the Neustrians; especially Henry II.
The one vital observation about the change of attitude in VM and HRB from previous positions in Libellus Merlini, where the evolving hope of the Britons was in the return of a saviour or national hero King Arthur; Merlin in his future outlook does not hold this position now. Merlin in the updated prophecies now foresees Conan and Cadwallader along with the Scots and Cornish overcoming Henry II in the updated Vulgate version of the prophecies as well as in the in VM where Merlin says: Normans depart and cease to bear weapons through our native realm with your cruel soldiery.
So, after the Winchester council, where it was plain to see King Henry II was going to make sure Henry Blois could no longer cause turmoil for him having caused mayhem for Henry Beauclerk’s mother the Empress Matilda; King Henry II in effect curtails Henry Blois’ power by demanding he hand over all his castles. So Henry Blois took flight to Clugny because without the castles and no longer the brother of the King he felt vulnerable and Peter the Venerable was charged with taking all his transferable wealth to Clugny while Henry travelled seperately down to Devon or Corwall and sailed over to Mont St Michel, avoiding King Henry’s watchmen at all the major ports as he was leaving without permission.
It is not until the reader gets to read John of Cornwall’s prophetia at the end of this investigation that Henry’s true design is unveiled as will become apparent in progression. Briefly though, Henry Blois had to run because he refused to give up his castles but he was certainly not going to let this upstart new King remove his power. Instead Henry Blois was going to do his utmost to remove that King and self elect himself through prophecy. If the world of historians and Medieval scholars was connected then they would understand that Henry Blois wrote all the prophecies of Merlin and the updated version of those prophecies for a specific reason.
Anyway, back to the Vita Merlini. Henry Blois now in VM sets the scene of the madman Merlin being overheard by a traveller in the glades of the Calidonian98 forest:
Now this traveller was met by a man from the court of Rhydderch, King of the Cumbrians, who was married to Ganieda and happy in his beautiful wife. She was sister to Merlin and, grieving over the fate of her brother, she had sent her retainers to the woods and the distant fields to bring him back.
98Jocelyn’s life of Kentigern is Scottish in theme and also has a madman.
Merlin is found lamenting in a long naturist soliloquy. The traveller sent to bring him back to his sister then sings in the hope of soothing his madness by music on the cither about Guendoloena:
O the dire groanings of mournful Guendoloena! O the wretched tears of weeping Guendoloena! I grieve for wretched dying Guendoloena! There was not among the Welsh a woman more beautiful than she… for she does not know where the prince has gone, or whether he is alive or dead.
While on the subject of Guendoloena as mentioned here in VM, is it not strange that supposedly ‘Geoffrey’ brings into the text somebody who Henry Blois witnessed killed at Kidwelly. This point is of vital importance in the proof that Henry Blois is in fact Geoffrey as clearly witnessed in the Gesta Stephani. Gwenllian or as Geoffrey calls her Guendoloena was 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. Henry Blois was at Kidwelly in 1136 as it was his castle!!! 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.
Anyway also,Ganieda weeps with her, and without consolation grieves for her lost brother…. so great is the grief that consumes them both. Not otherwise did Sidonian Dido99 grieve when the ships had weighed anchor and Aeneas was in haste to depart; so most wretched Phyllis groaned and wept when Demophon did not come back at the appointed time; thus Briseis wept for the absent Achilles.100
Merlin’s madness is gradually assuaged by the music and he became mindful of himself, and he recalled what he used to be, and he wondered at his madness and he hated it. Henry hated his circumstances and reflects on what he had and who he was and who he used to be and now at Clugny brought so low. These are the internal wranglings of the mind of Henry Blois foisted on Merlin as a kind of Madness.
Merlin then asked to be led to the court of King Rhydderch. Gaineda his sister was there at court and Merlin was reunited with his wife Guendoloena.
Henry Blois’ artifice throughout the Vita Merlini is to express his views using Merlin as a voice piece. He also does this in the same way through Ganieda and Taliesin. Henry Blois includes in the VM what can be termed as ‘padding’ in the main body of the text. Amongst this padding, the real reasons for writing the Vita are revealed.
I have no wish to bore the reader by traipsing through the VM, but by doing so it lays the groundwork which shows Henry’s authorial subtlety i.e by witnessing the death of Gwenilian at Kidwelly she now becomes Guendoloena Merlin’s wife.
As the narration of the Vita continues, Merlin points out his sister’s affair to the King by correctly predicting the calamitous death of someone. His sister tries to hide her infidelity by ridiculing Merlin’s prediction in the hope of proving her innocence against the accusation of the affair. Merlin goes back to the woods; he unselfishly frees his wife Guendoloena from their marriage bond, and then for some unknown reason decides to kill her suitor. Henry’s sources for the Vita Merlini are mixed as with HRB. But most in the VM are what can only be called narrative filler and are from Irish, Welsh, and Scottish sources along with constructs of his own experience just as he had constructed the HRB.
After these distractions Henry Blois again gets down to the real business behind his construction of the VM and remembers he is Merlin in the sixth century and he is now on:
the top of a lofty mountain the prophet was regarding the courses of the stars, speaking to himself out in the open air. “What does this ray of Mars mean? Does its fresh redness mean that one King is dead and that there shall be another? So, I see it, for Constantine has died and his nephew Conan, through an evil fate and the murder of his uncle, has taken the crown and is King.
99Sidonian Dido here with solemn state, did Juno’s temple build. Virgil’s Aenid, book 1.
100Henry Blois was familiar with the Heroides of Ovid. In reality it is silly to think a welsh cleric from Oxford had such a wealth of knowledge of the Greek and Roman classics and of Cicero.
Henry reminds us of the Merlin from the HRB; and we are now in the reign of Aurelius Conan, which according to the HRB began about two years after the voyage of Arthur to Avalon and lasted for about two years putting us around 542.101 Henry Blois pays little account to dating, more an overall chronology as seen in the HRB. The Battle of Arfderydd where Henry Blois has set the stage for Merlin at the beginning of the VM poem, was fought about 573-7. The problem is Henry’s two Merlins (Sylvestris and Ambrosius) live in two different centuries. Merlin from HRB in the fifth century where he is contemporary to Vortigern and Merlin from VM where he is said to go mad at the battle of Arfderydd now becomes a northern Merlin.
However, Henry’s aim is to anchor the Merlin of the HRB by morphing him into a more traceable Welsh Myrrdin by becoming what commentators term the Merlin Sylvestris. This Merlin became more Welsh by association with Rhydderch and by contemporaneous association with Taliesin. This then allowed Henry to set his narrative in a known and traceable historical era even though anachronistically connected.
The narrative padding for a large part of the VM is only secondary to Henry Blois’ main purpose. Henry’s purpose is to manipulate events by his audience believing the prophecies of Merlin come true, both from the HRB and the VM.
Henry of Blois posing as Geoffrey of Monmouth just uses the backdrop of Merlin in the woods and the characters he involves, to set a stage ready for his polemic. The disjointed appearance of subject matter of the VM is caused by inconsequential situation and narrative which sets up his main speakers, Ganieda, Merlin and Taliesin, which all speak to Henry Blois’ agenda. By comparison to his character development of protagonists in HRB, Henry as author offers little in VM…. which renders the whole composition as rather flat.
Going further into the text of VM, we now find Merlin in the woods again in a house and his sister is supplying him food. Then wandering about the house Merlin would look at the stars while he prophesied (for example the following), which as past historical events he knew were going to come to pass as Bede and Gildas had recounted.
“O madness of the Britons whom a plenitude, always excessive, of riches exalts more than is seemly. They do not wish to enjoy peace but are stirred up by the Fury’s goad. They engage in civil wars and battles between relatives, and permit the church of the Lord to fall into ruin; the holy bishops they drive into remote lands.
This sentiment exactly is reiterated in the HRB by ‘Geoffrey’s’ historicity rather than through the supposed words of Merlin. Essentially, Henry is taking up the mood of Bede and Gildas bemoaning the downfall of the warring factions of the Britons while presenting himself as a Welsh author being partisan with the same values, but more so presenting Merlin in true character as a sympathetic Briton. Any contemporary reader would never guess the author was a Norman aristocrat.
The nephews of the Boar of Cornwall cast everything into confusion, and setting snares for each other engage in a mutual slaughter with their wicked swords. They do not wish to wait to get possession of the Kingdom lawfully, but seize the crown.
101As we shall discuss further on in the Vera Historia Arthur supposedly reigned for 39 years and died in his fortieth year. HRB states that Arthur died in 542 and also says that Arthur acceded the throne at the age of 15. We can calculate therefore that according to Henry Blois (the writer of HRB and the Vera Historia) that Arthur must have been born in 486 acceded to the throne in 503 and died 39 years later in 542.
Ironically, this could be a description of Henry Blois and his brother Stephen. However, this reference to the Boar of Cornwall, which his audience associates with Arthur, betrays Henry Blois’ real affiliations and motivations. It is possible that he sees himself and his brother as part of the heritage of ancient Britons from Brittany who emigrated during the 6th century when the Saxons encroached on Dumnonia. We start to understand why Henry Blois (as Geoffrey) has such a positive attitude toward Brittany102 throughout the HRB. Contrarily, we can understand why he holds the Welsh in such low regard as they revolted against his brother Stephen. Yet, commentators have been puzzled by this attitude believing ‘Geoffrey’ was Welsh and from Monmouth. Henry’s hate of the (contemporary) Welsh witnessed in HRB at times is plainly seen in GS and stems from his time in 1136 fighting the Welsh rebellion in Southern Wales.
The fourth103 from them shall be more cruel and more harsh still; him shall a wolf from the sea conquer in fight and shall drive defeated beyond the Severn through the realms of the barbarians.
Until one understands Henry Blois was changing the purport of previous prophecies, it is impossible to make head nor tail as Henry Blois changes icons from the original libellus Merlini. Originally the ‘Sea Wolf’ was the Danes. The description in this case of the sea wolf is in reference to the Robert of Gloucester’s and the Empress’ return to England. The prophecy specifically relates to the Empress Matilda’s brother, Robert of Gloucester, who accompanies her across the Channel to land near Arundel. Robert of Gloucester had left Arundel immediately to rally forces from Bristol before King Stephen had arrived.
It was rumoured that Henry Blois had made a pact with Robert of Gloucester to install Matilda and oust his brother from the throne as is made plain by William of Malmesbury in HN. It was clear that, in the latter part of 1138, Henry Blois’ Brother was deliberately snubbing him for the election of Archbishop of Canterbury. But this is specifically skirted over (strangely enough) by the author of the GS. Henry Blois’ meeting with Robert of Gloucester is mentioned in cursory manner in GS simply because it was undeniable. Many afterwards knew the meeting had taken place.
However, as the reader will realise when I cover the Gesta Stephani, the gist of the GS always maintains that Henry had only ‘appeared’ to change allegiance and the author of GS portrays a position whereby Henry Blois constantly supported Stephen. The GS maintains the view…. what may have seemed a change of allegiance outwardly…. was in appearance only. The GS story-line maintains that events dictated a change of allegiance, as a more propitious course of action at that moment in time. Henry would have us believe in GS that he was always loyal to Stephen. This meeting of Robert of Gloucester and Henry suggests otherwise.
Since the episode where Bishop Roger of Salisbury was abused and more specifically church rights of Canon law were broken…. Henry Blois, who was already disappointed with his brother in other previous disputes, not so much plays both sides, but has had enough of the discord which prevailed throughout the country through his own actions having installed his brother on the throne. Henry Blois had definitively been thwarted by his brother and the Beaumonts and the Archbishopric had been bestowed on Theobald of Bec.
102See appendix 18
103The Fourth is in reference to the fourth in line from William the Conqueror. The Conqueror was the first followed by William Rufus the second and then by King Henry I the third in the ‘leonine’ line of kings making King Stephen the fourth. In the updated prophecies of the Vulgate HRB and VM Matilda is only mentioned by reference, not by name and is the fifth making Henry II as the sixth.
However, through the machinations of Henry Blois, who had met Robert of Gloucester secretly, a full on battle was avoided for the present. Henry Blois met Robert on the road while Robert of Gloucester was intent with helping his sister at Arundel. Henry Blois dissuaded Robert from an attack on his brother’s forces which were presently besieging Matilda at Arundel. Henry Blois in his own words104 from the GS: as though he had not caught up with the Earl, came to the King with a large body of cavalry.
Henry had manipulated events so that his brother King Stephen would not have to besiege Arundel or witness a staged full on battle. Henry had cleverly come up with the plan of escorting Matilda to her brother’s castle in Bristol. In a way, Matilda’s and Robert’s plans were temporarily defused and they were then both in Bristol (by the Severn).
Now back to the following prophecy in the VM which is fairly complicated: This latter shall besiege Cirencester with a blockade and with sparrows, and shall overthrow its walls to their very bases.
The obvious inference is that ‘the latter’ is the fourth just spoken of i.e. Stephen. basically, this whole mish mash through warping of the prophecies concerning Cirencester and the severn started in the Libellus Merlini where Merlin was repeating history backwards about the event of Cerdic besieging Cirencester and then all the Britons being pushed back beyond the Severn as witnessed in Gaimar’s Estoire des Engleis. This original reference then becomes warped in the updated prophecies.
At Cirencester in 1141 the Empress and Robert, Earl of Gloucester built a ‘motte and bailey’ castle near the Abbey church105 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. According to William of Malmesbury,106 Stephen must have come looking for the Empress who had just escaped the besieged castle at Oxford, but she was thereafter at Wallingford. Stephen might have heard of the amassing of the Empress’s troops there, but they had recently moved off and thus the ‘motte and bailey’ castle was easy to capture and destroy.
Henry writing as ‘Geoffrey’ in VM has another objective in mind. He wishes to squew and confirm the words of Merlin found in HRB which appeared in Henry’s first edition Libellus Merlini (written while Stephen was alive). This reference to Cirencester was squewed in VM to conform (corroborate) with the Battle of Cirencester spoken of by Bede which was fought in 628.
‘Geoffrey’s’ original allusion to Cirencester is that Gormund made war upon Careticus, and after many battles betwixt them, drove him fleeing from city unto city until he forced him into Cirencester and did there beleaguer him. Both Gormundus the African and Isembardus the Frank, allied to the Saxons, carry out the siege. Gormundus the African is wholly an invention by ‘Geoffrey’ as he tries to concoct history along the lines of the Chansons de Geste and history found in the insular annals by employing fictional characters.
104The Gesta Stephani is part apologia for Henry Blois’ own tarnished reputation as a manipulator. It is also a sentimental memorial to his dead brother, and part genuine history. The details are too specific on occasion for GS not to have been written by Henry Blois himself even though it appears otherwise. Henry Blois conceals himself by employing devices to deflect suspicion of his authorship.
105Walker, David. “Gloucestershire Castles,” in Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 1991, Vol. 109.
106William of Malmesbury, Historia Novella, 523
The later ‘Wace’ versified version of HRB titled the Roman de Brut also composed by Henry Blois has tinder-carrying sparrows which also feature in Gaimar’s Estoire des Engleis. This idea is also found in Brut Tysilio which as we shall see later has had Henry Blois’ hand upon it also; seen clearly in the references to Walter and reference to Caradoc of Llancarfan two clear references to the colophon in HRB.
‘Wace’ adds that Cirencester was, subsequently after that event transpired, called Sparrow-chester. There appears to be no etymology that will explain Sparewenchestre except like so many other instances….. ‘Geoffrey’ loves his etymology and will create a story round it. Now so does it appear that Wace has the same attributes as Geoffrey. Could it be that Wace and Geoffrey are one and the same person i.e.Henry Blois. Gaimar107 gives a slightly longer account, making Cerdic (as below) the leader of the besieging force, but also we shall see from Gaimar’s epilogue when I cover this in progression, that Henry Blois has indisputably had his hand in this publication also but obviously through this passage we can see Geoffrey’s association with Gaimar and Thus that of Henry Blois.
The reference in VM is the fire that Henry saw at Cirencester with his brother. We know he was there as the detail of the episode is eyewitness clear in the GS and as I will cover, Henry Blois is indisputably the author of GS.
Tatlock has pursued the source of most of Geoffrey’s fabrications and it appears nearly every fabrication or embellished episode has a definable source of inspiration; but these events and the names seem to be taken from the Chanson de Geste, Gormont et Isembard and are ‘melanged’ with Guthrum’s occupation of Cirencester in the year 879, mentioned in Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC). Coincidentally, Seginus Dux of the Allobroges, Henry’s family’s own territorial people around Blois appear in the Chanson which ante-dates ‘Geoffrey’s’ work and Henry probably associated the name with Sewinus archbishop of Sens…. again, in Blois lands.
Before Cerdic could conquer
Much from the Britons.
Then was Cirencester besieged.
But by the negligence of the Britons
It was set on fire by sparrows,
Which carried fire and sulphur into the town.
And set light to many houses.
And the besiegers who were outside
Made an assault with great courage.
Then was this city conquered. (Gaimar)
In VM we find more detail concerning Robert of Gloucester: He shall seek the Gauls in his ship, but shall die beneath the weapon of a King.
Robert went to France to get aid from Matilda’s husband, Geoffrey IV of Anjou, and returned to England with the Empress’ very young son Henry, (later to be King Henry II). Robert of Gloucester died at Bristol Castle, where he had previously imprisoned King Stephen. Gervase of Canterbury places Robert of Gloucester’s death in 1146 and this date is corroborated by the Annals of Winchester. The Annals of Margan Abbey, has October 31, 1147, and the date John of Hexham gives is 1148. However, Henry Blois seems to understand more about Robert of Gloucester’s death than historians portray. No chronicler attests how Robert died, but we shall see further evidence here in the VM that Henry assumes his audience is apprised of the same information he has…. and hence Henry’s allusion to the ‘weapon of a King’.
107Historie des Engles, 11. 855
Once we understand Geoffrey of Monmouth’s, (Henry of Blois’) ploy of mixing his own recent prophecies, updating them, and sometimes changing the sense from the previous prophecies originally put out in the form of the Libellus Merlini and weaving his inventions around these first set of prophecies and then squewing them more than the Vulgate version in VM prophecies which echo; Merlin appears to relate to certain topics consistently. Certain icons reappear over the three sets.
We can then understand in the later Vulgate HRB and VM prophecies that the sense has been changed. Commentators on the VM (like San-Marte)108 naïvely believed the prophecies portend events further than 1158. Some try to unlock the meaning of the prophecies believing they are consistent and actually did predict events from the sixth century. This is plain nonsense! Henry Blois in his construction of the prophecies uses the artifice of splicing what is known history and interlacing it with his own knowledge of recent events which are also couched as prophecy from that same ancient era when Merlin is supposed to have prophesied.
Henry, on occasion refers back to his own fabricated false history in the HRB which establishes further both Merlin’s prophetic powers and HRB’s historicity as credible for those that are gullible. Henry confirms known historical events which add to the aura of prescience and here in VM makes the effort to attach Merlin’s prophecies to Welsh and northern bardic tradition. Once the authorship of the VM is established and once this mechanism is perceived, it is easier to pick out which mode of deception Henry is using. Academics like Jean Blacker have no idea what is going on in the prophecies or who wrote them or for what reason but just mindlessly state: A translation of the verse prophecies of Merlin that Wace chose not to include in his translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae because “he did not understand them.” Let me tell you Jean Geoffrey did not write them nor did wace translate them, Henry Blois did!!!!!!!!!!
The reason for the mix of anachronistic events in the prophecies constructed by Henry Blois is to seem more like biblical prophecies which have no strict chronology but ‘see’ through time, present and future indiscriminately. Part of Henry’s devise here is to give the air of antiquity; as if Merlin’s Prophecies were all foreseen back in the dark ages.
Much of the archaic content which Henry employs can be understood by his audience historically as seemingly accurate; especially when considered in conjunction with the false history as presented in HRB. These are events which already have passed, but which Merlin supposedly predicted correctly and have verifiably come to fruition, or can be understood historically. The overall effect of a mystical prophet foretelling of events that his audience can directly relate to (some of which is set on a contemporaneous stage of recent history), is testament to Henry’s illusory brilliance.
Rhydderch shall die, after whom long discord shall hold the Scots and the Cumbrians for a long time until Cumbria shall be granted to his growing tusk. The Welsh shall attack the men of Gwent, and afterwards those of Cornwall and no law shall restrain them. Wales shall rejoice in the shedding of blood; O people always hateful to God, why do you rejoice in bloodshed?109 Wales shall compel brothers to fight and to condemn their own relatives to a wicked death. The troops of the Scots shall often cross the Humber and, putting aside all sentiment, shall kill those who oppose them.
Henry’s complaint against the Southern Welsh, the Northern Welsh, the Scottish and the Cornish is that they always fought amongst themselves. In various places in the HRB and Vita Merlini, Henry (as Geoffrey) bemoans this tribal hate as the main cause for the depletion of the Briton’s power before the Saxons and Danes arrived as witnessed by Bede. Henry sees these old Britons, (more properly the Celts), clearly as relatives with the Bretons because of the exodus of the remenant after the Saxons invaded.
108San Marte, Die Sagen von Merlin, Halle1853
109Henry, from his own experience at Kidwelly in Wales looks on the Welsh as savages as is clearly expressed in GS and thus accounts for the contradictions of ‘Geoffrey’s’ attitude in HRB. Originally the pseudo-history written by Henry was destined for Matilda and his Uncle. It was intended to be presented as a history where the Welsh were rough warriors. This then became hard to compliment the idea of a Chivalric (highly civilised) Arthur from Wales when the Arthuriad was added to the already composed psuedo-history; hence the contradictions remaining after the sections were joined.
What has confused most commentators with ‘Geoffrey’s’ seemingly contradictory stance (regarding the Welsh especially), is that Henry personally hates the Welsh of his present day, but understands that they constitute part of what he sees as a ‘once ancient independent Christian culture’ prior to the Saxon invasion and prior to Augustine’s arrival which he has glorified through the ‘Chivalric’ King Arthur and his Norman values. A hugely important point is that Henry Blois as a Norman is fully cognisant of the early establishment of Christianity in Britain, being concerned with this issue from his earliest days at Glastonbury, as we shall get to when covering DA.
As I have implied already, Henry Blois tries to manipulate events against Henry II by rousing sentiments of these old Britons as a collective, through his prophecies. This takes place after his self-imposed exile between 1155- 1157. However, the above prophecy is pure skimble-skamble based on what Henry knows of British history from ASC, Bede and Gildas.
Not with impunity, however, for the leader shall be killed; he shall have the name of a horse110 and because of that fact shall be fierce. His heir shall be expelled and shall depart from our territories. Scots, sheathe your swords which you bare too readily; your strength shall be unequal to that of our fierce people.
Henry was no fan of the Scots either and especially King David as we shall clearly witness when I cover the GS. Anyway, not wishing to bore the reader, it is worth looking at these prophecies as some are more modern than the latest version of prophecies which constitute those already updated found in Vulgate HRB.
The city of Dumbarton111 shall be destroyed and no King shall repair it for an age until the Scot shall be subdued in war.
Carlisle, spoiled of its shepherd, shall lie vacant until the sceptre of the Lion shall restore its pastoral staff.
These two prophecies not in the Libellus Merlini or Vulgate HRB are inserted in VM just so that Merlin’s association appears to come from the north.
Carlisle was destroyed by the Northmen and restored by William Rufus. In 1133 Henry Ist, the “Lion of Justice” of the Prophecies, re-established its bishopric. Æthelwulf (1133-1155), an Englishman, who Henry Ist had established at Carlisle in 1102 died in 1156.
It was a recent event at the time of writing of the VM and Henry either knew the Bishop personally or had news of his death by a traveller en route to Rome. It is most likely the sense of ‘the spoiling of its shepherd,’112 but Carlisle has its relevance because Henry is portraying that Merlin is predicting about things in the north as Henry has now located Merlin there in VM.
Especially, this would have relevance to Henry’s audience of VM as this now is the most recent event to have come to fruition by Merlin the seer; especially as these prophecies supposedly hail all the way back into antiquity. Our Merlin has a remarkable focus on events just prior to and including the Anarchy and to the time when Henry is writing (the year after the nineteen years of his brother’s reign).
Segontium and its towers and mighty palaces shall lament in ruins until the Welsh return to their former domains.
The ruins of the old Roman station of Segontium are on the hill above the modern city of Carnarvon. It was situated on higher ground to the east giving a good view of the Menai Straits. There was a ‘motte and bailey’ castle in the area in Henry’s day, but it is doubtful Henry made it this far north in 1136 to have knowledge of the location personally. However, having read the Roman annals, Henry Blois would know Segontium was founded by Agricola in 77 or 78 AD after he had conquered the Ordovices in North Wales. The reason for naming Segontium is it implies Merlin knew the place by that name; thus, giving the illusion of antiquity for the VM prophecies. More importantly, Merlin is again seen to be prophesying about things further north than the Merlin Ambrosius of Vulgate HRB.
‘Geoffrey’ ever faithful to his illusion of the prophecies coming from a Brythonic Merlin, proposes a location with Roman ruins so his audience would be fooled into thinking the prophecies so old that even the old name was current when the prophecies were told. The Earl of Chester, Hugh d’Avranches, gained Norman control of north Wales in 1088 by building three castles; one at Caernarfon. The Welsh recaptured Gwynedd in 1115, and Caernarfon Castle came into the possession of the Welsh princes and so Merlin is acquitted again with the powers of accurate prophecy.
Porchester113 shall see its broken walls in its harbour until a rich man with the tooth of a wolf shall restore it.
The city of Richborough shall lie spread out on the shore of its harbour and a man from Flanders shall re-establish it with his crested ship.114
The fifth from him shall rebuild the walls of St David’s and shall bring back to her the pall lost for many years.115
The prophecy here changes in time as Henry Blois harks directly back to the narrative of HRB confirming material derived from the British annals (from which the HRB was partially constructed) and concerning the emigration to Brittany at the advent of the Saxon encroachment.
The City of the Legions shall fall into thy bosom, O Severn (Sabrina), and shall lose her citizens for a long time, and these the Bear in the Lamb shall restore to her when he shall come.116
Saxon Kings shall expel the citizens and shall hold cities, country, and houses for a long time. From among them thrice three dragons shall wear the crown. Two hundred monks shall perish in Leicester117 and the Saxon shall drive out her ruler and leave vacant her walls. He who first among the Angles shall wear the diadem of Brutus118 shall repair the city laid waste by slaughter. A fierce people shall forbid the sacrament of confirmation throughout the country, and in the house of God shall place images of the gods.
This last section of VM prophecies is set out to appear to conform to known events on the Saxon arrival and the eradication of the British church. ‘Rome’, in the next prophecy, refers to Augustine of Canterbury who became Archbishop. Henry Blois however, by stating he is bringing God ‘back’ establishes the fact that Augustine was not the founder of the Church of the Britons and this fact would not be lost on Papal authorities regarding Henry’s application for metropolitan for Winchester. Therefore, Henry’s intended polemic is that primacy should not be held by Canterbury when both Winchester (by the accounts in HRB) and Glastonbury by the accounts in GR3 and DA (and Caradoc) clearly were established before Canterbury (even though fictionally by Henry’s interpolations).
Afterward Rome shall bring God back through the medium of a monk and a holy priest shall sprinkle the buildings with water and shall restore them again and shall place shepherds in them. Thereafter many of them shall obey the commands of the divine law and shall enjoy heaven by right. An impious people full of poison shall violate that settlement and shall violently mix together right and wrong.119 They shall sell their sons and their kinsmen into the furthest countries beyond the sea and shall incur the wrath of the Thunderer.120 O wretched crime! that man whom the founder of the world created with liberty, deeming him worthy of heaven, should be sold like an cow and be dragged away with a rope. You miserable man, you who turned traitor to your master when first you came to the throne; you shall yield to God.121 The Danes shall come upon [you] with their fleet and after subduing the people shall reign for a short time and shall then be defeated and retire. Two shall rule over them whom the serpent forgetful of his treaty shall strike with the sting in his tail instead of with the garland of his sceptre.122
This section of the prophecies would seem to be Merlin referring to historical events in the Saxon and Dane era which Henry Blois’ audience would naturally accept as historic events, especially the Danes coming in ships. It is however, dispersed with allusions to recent events which the audience can also recognise. We see here Henry Blois’ mechanism of employing prophecy so it appears as genuine like biblical prophecy operates i.e. the prophet sees across time and picks out events from different eras as they appear to him.
In the next section, Henry refers to Neustrians123 as if he has no connection with them and to inappropriate behaviour of the Bishops in his time.
119The Danes and the Dane law
120Perhaps Geoffrey’s reference to the Viking Thunder God Thor, yet in two cases in HRB it seems to refer to God.
121See appendix 11
122This refers to Matilda and Stephen ruling at the same time. He also was forgetful of his oath to the church and Henry himself. Instead of being able to rule with ‘garlanded sceptre’, Stephen is stung as if from a serpent’s tail. Henry Blois makes plain in the Gesta Stephani it is God’s judgement against Stephen for wrongs against the church.
123See appendix 32
Then the Normans, sailing over the water in their wooden ships, bearing their faces in front and in back, shall fiercely attack the Angles with their iron tunics and their fierce swords, and shall destroy them and possess the field.124 They shall subjugate many realms to themselves and shall rule foreign peoples for a time until the fury, flying all about, shall scatter her poison over them.125 Then peace and faith and all virtue shall depart, and on all sides throughout the country the citizens shall engage in battles.126 Man shall betray man and no one shall be found a friend.127 The husband, despising his wife, shall draw near to harlots, and the wife, despising her husband, shall marry whom she desires.128 There shall be no honour kept for the church and the order shall perish. Then shall bishops bear arms, and armed camps shall be built. Men shall build towers and walls in holy ground, and they shall give to the soldiers what should belong to the needy. Carried away by riches they shall run along on the path of worldly things and shall take from God what the holy bishop shall forbid.129 Three shall wear the diadem after whom shall be the favour of the newcomers. A fourth shall be in authority whom awkward piety shall injure until he shall be clothed in his father, so that girded with boar’s teeth he shall cross the shadow of the helmeted man.130 Four shall be anointed, seeking in turn the highest things, and two shall succeed who shall so wear the diadem that they shall induce the Gauls to make war on them.131 The sixth shall overthrow the Irish and their walls, and pious and prudent shall renew the people and the cities.132
When he has made these predictions, Henry Blois, as far as he can into the present, reminds his reader that they are from the same source as those prophecies of Merlin found in the HRB and the libellus Merlini. However, not only has Henry Blois updated prophecies in the Vulgate HRB, but now he has come up with new prophecies. Some which are designed to have us believe that Merlin is connected to the north of England and others which have insights into the anarchy which were not in the original updated prophecies found in Vulgate HRB.
124The faces front and back refer to figureheads fore and aft of the Norman ships, but the allusion is to the Norman Conquest and more specifically the battle of Hastings.
125The Norman subjection of Wales and Scotland and the subsequent power feuds of continentals.
126This directly relates to the Anarchy.
127To convey the mistrust that prevailed throughout the country during the Anarchy is the aim of the prophecy. This could be a personal reference to Henry’s own snubs from Stephen and the changes of allegiance, ‘no one keeping their word’.
128See appendix 9
129See appendix 10
130See appendix 12
131See appendix 13
132See appendix 14
All these things I formerly predicted more at length to Vortigern in explaining to him the mystic war of the two dragons when we sat on the banks of the drained pool.
We should not think that the composer of VM is any different from the author of HRB and most commentators assume ‘Geoffrey’ is the author of VM. There are those commentators though, who still think VM was written by another author other than ‘Geoffrey’.
The foremost device which locates Avalon at Glastonbury is found in VM as Henry Blois now informs us it is called Insula Pomorum. It is unfounded to believe that the prophecies were written by any other than Henry Blois. We just have to understand that ‘Geoffrey’ is Henry Blois but for most scholars interested in ‘Geoffrey’ it is too incomprehensible to unlearn what they have been taught and to accept ‘Geoffrey’ never actually lived.
Henry Blois convinces his audience these prophecies were made while sat next to Vortigern. His gambit of remixing some of the prophecies found in the Vulgate HRB and the Libellus Merlini are so that the prophecies of Merlin in the Vulgate HRB and those found in the VM are convincingly contemporaneous i.e. they are consistent and came from Merlin…. who ‘Geoffrey’ had originally founded upon Nennius’ boy Ambrosius.133 Suspicion about ‘Geoffrey’ must have been much more acute as the updated Vulgate prophecies were published in 1155 and seen to have additions which were not in the Libellus Merlini. The VM was finished c.1157-8 but what is important is that through Insulam Pomorum Glastonbury is connected to Avalon at this early date. But I think Henry Blois had not yet manufactured King Arthur’s grave at Glastonbury because he only returned to England in 1158.
William of Newburgh angrily protests against the prophecies and the historicity of HRB. William of Newburgh who wrote around 1190 had problems with ‘Geoffrey’… challenging the authenticity of the Arthurian legends. ‘Geoffrey’s’ pseudo-history did not concur with Gildas or Roman annals. William of Newburgh wrote: It is quite clear that everything this man wrote about Arthur and his successors, or indeed about his predecessors from Vortigern onwards, was made up, partly by himself and partly by others, either from an inordinate love of lying, or for the sake of pleasing the Britons.
One wonders if Newburgh thought the descent from Brutus and Troy was any more real by expressing: from Vortigern onwards
William of Newburgh also says: only a person ignorant of ancient history would have any doubt how shamelessly and impudently he lies in almost everything.
William of Newburgh comments again: But in our own days, instead of this practice, a writer has emerged who, in order to expiate the faults of these Britons, weaves the most ridiculous figments of imagination around them, extolling them with the most impudent vanity above the virtues of the Macedonians and the Romans. This man is called Geoffrey, and his other name is Arthur, because he has taken up the fables about Arthur from the old, British figments, has added to them himself, and has cloaked them with the honourable name of history by presenting them with the ornaments of the Latin tongue….
Since these events agree with the historical truth set forth by the Venerable Bede, all the things which that man took care to write about Arthur and either his predecessors after Vortigern or his successors, can be seen to have been partly concocted by himself and partly by others, either because of a frenzied passion for lying or in order to please the Britons, most of whom are known to be so primitive that they are said still to be awaiting the return of Arthur, and will not suffer themselves to hear that he is dead….
For how could the old historians, to whom it was a matter of great concern that nothing worthy of memory should be omitted from what was written, who indeed are known to have committed to memory quite unimportant things, how could they have passed over in silence so incomparable a man, whose deeds were notable above all others? How, I ask, could they have suppressed with silence Arthur and his acts, this king of the Britons who was nobler than Alexander the Great…..
With even greater daring he has published the fallacious prophecies of a certain Merlin, to which he has in any event added many things himself, and has translated them into Latin, [thus offering them] as if they were authentic prophecies, resting on immutable truth….134
133See Appendix 35.
134William Newburgh Historia regum Anglicarum.
We can see it is mainly the Arthuriad that Newburg has a problem with. What is worthy of note is that Newburgh’s accusation to Geoffrey as being almost sacrilegious in debasing Latin the language up to that point of recording historical truth. Another important fact even writing 20 years after Henry Blois’ death is that Newburgh refers to Geoffrey Arthur giving the reason: This man is called Geoffrey, and his other name is Arthur, because he has taken up the fables about Arthur from the old, British figments. I believe the reason for this is that Newburgh has investigated Geoffrey of Monmouth and found no contemporary who had met him and then referred back to the HRB’s origins wherein was that surname and he accuses Geoffrey of taking that name because of his ‘concocted’ protagonist.
There was suspicion on the prophecies also. Abbot Suger had commented on several prophecies before 1150 and the impression of early provenance provided by the interpolation of Merlin prophecies into Orderic’s work has given modern scholars the illusion of early transmission of those prophecies found in Vulgate HRB. If the prophecies were been branded as written recently and branded a fake how easy it would be for the ‘king of backdating’ to aquire the only copy of Orderic’s history and insert what appears to be Orderic’s own recycling of the Merlin prophecies and make it appear as if the Prophecies were current in Henry Ist lifetime and by doing so making them mighty in prescience!!!
The illusion of a continuous unadulterated set of prophecies is also aided by the back dating of Vulgate HRB through its dedications, but there is less evidence of suspicion on the prophecies themselves (recorded) than that of the dubious historicity of the main body of HRB. The publication of John of Cornwall’s set of Merlin prophecies by Henry Blois greatly aids the illusion that the prophecies were originally of Brythonic origin.
William Newburgh’s comments about historians like Bede: who indeed are known to have committed to memory quite unimportant things, how could they have passed over in silence so incomparable a man, whose deeds were notable above all others?… should be enough to point out that not everyone was gullible. We should be very wary of Nennius’ testimony because we can see blatantly that Henry Blois actively promotes Nennius as Gildas’ work…. but I shall cover this shortly.
Henry reveals too much contemporary information in the VM prophecies. His vanity got the better of him specifically alluding to himself in the prophecies. However, because commentators believe ‘Geoffrey of Monmouth’ died in 1155, nowadays researchers believe it to be the main reason behind the Vita having had so much less exposure. The real reason for its apparent lack of readership is because of its lack of historicity but simply it did not get copied as much in the monastic system i.e. it was not considered important enough to be copied as extensively as ‘Geoffrey’s’ HRB.135
The veracity of Merlin’s prophecies is often given credence by scholars asking: How could any prediction of the ‘sixth Leonine King’ invading Ireland be a fraud, since the invasion was not accomplished until 1171? It is coincidental that this is the year of Henry Blois’ death. It has been this particular prediction which alludes to an event after ‘Geoffrey’s’ supposed death, which has for the most part provided the aura of prescience and substantiated Merlin’s credibility as a prophet and the belief that there was a corpus of original prophecies from a sixth century sage.
There are no Merlin prophecies which were not created Henry Blois!!! For the less gullible commentator, Henry’s knowledge of the Winchester court discussion at Michaelmas in 1155 about invading Ireland, subtracts from any predictive ability ascribed to Merlin. Robert of Torigni says in his chronicle (who met Henry Blois on Mont St Michel after Henry left England without permission in 1155): At Winchester about the time of Michaelmas in 1155 Henry II holds a council with his nobles to discuss the conquest of Ireland which he seems to have desired to give his younger brother William on terms of homage
Merlin’s predictive ability has especially been given credence by the insertion/interpolation of the passage concerning some Merlin prophecies into Orderic which also refers to the ‘sixth’ invading Ireland. Some commentators date the interpolated chapter on Merlin’s prophecies in Orderic to 1136 or thereabout. Given the nature of the prophecies it is not only preposterous but naive to think that the ‘sixth King’ i.e. Henry II, could be predicted to invade Ireland from this early date.136
135It seems fairly certain that the initial distribution and copying was carried out by Henry Blois as he travelled.
136The passage in Orderic which establishes credibility for the existence of the prophecies for ‘scholars’ by its appropriate insertion and clever reference to ‘time’ is quite obviously an interpolation and will be covered shortly. Julia Crick appears to be duped into believing the existence of a body of prophecies by stating Orderic Vitalis, first known reader of Geoffrey’s Merlinian prophecies, understood their function immediately. In the same analysis she states: the Prophecies of Merlin, the core of Geoffrey’s own Historia, was arguably Geoffrey’s own creation. How then is it possible to predict the Sixth leonine king invading Ireland if it is Geoffrey’s work and yet supposedly written prior to Henry I death (or even Orderic’s) unless ‘Geoffrey’ is an actual prophet. The evident solution is that it is an interpolation by Henry Blois into Orderic’s chronicle, as Henry Blois is the inventor of both Merlin and Geoffrey. Henry Blois dupes posterity by inserting an entire section concerning the Merlin prophecies which were originally in the early Libellus Merlini with the added prophecy (the sixth in Ireland) qualifying their existence in the time of Henry I by stating (in the Orderic interpolation): up to the times of Henry I and Gruffudd, who still,” uncertain of their lot, await the future events” that are ordained for them. I realise that to become a scholar one must spend a lot of time in dusty libraries and not much on the street. But one does not even have to be ‘street wise’ to recognise the obvious guile and intended insinuation in Henry’s interpolation. The interpolation in Orderic must have taken place post 1155. It needs to be understood that after Henry Blois had added the seditious prophecies to the Vulgate HRB critics and King Henry had noticed that these seditious prophecies were newly invented and had not been in the Libellus Merlini set. Henry, by obtaining a copy of Orderic’s work and inserting a few folios, now makes it appear that the seditious prophecies had been in the public domain since 1142 when Orderic died or prior to that date by what is implied in the interpolation about Henry Ist still being alive.
At this point in VM, it is as if Henry Blois has just remembered why he is writing the Vita and suddenly ends these prophecies from Merlin and returns to the narrative storyline of the mad Merlin. Henry closes this prophetic section by introducing Gildas and names Taliesin and records Taliesin’s recent instruction under Gildas, which immediately provides contemporaneity for Merlin with Gildas and Taliesin. Don’t forget that the fist time Arthur and Gildas were put in the same time was by the supposed Caradoc in the Life of Gildas and the author of that manuscript was the abbot of Glastonbury. Now one can see the broad spectrum of Henry Blois ediface of the Matter of Britain. Henry Blois’ hand is in the manipulation of Glastonbury material in GR3 and DA and his composition of the life of Gildas.
But you, dear sister, go home to see the King dying and bid Taliesin come, as I wish to talk over many things with him; for he has recently come from the land of Brittany where he learned sweet philosophy of Gildas the Wise.”137
Ganieda returned home and found that Taliesin had returned and the prince was dead and the servants were sad. She fell down lamenting among her friends.
We now hear in the Vita Merlini Ganieda speaking about the death of the King. With only slight variation, it is as if Henry Blois were doing the same internal lamenting for his brother and using Ganieda as mouthpiece. It is couched as a poetical and thoughtful tribute to her husband Rhydderch. As I have made plain earlier, Henry Blois has lost his power, his castles and his brother.
Henry Blois continues on until, (still speaking through Ganieda), he laments leaving all his nephews which he had fought so hard to elevate into positions of power in England and laments leaving his walls of Winchester and clothes himself in the monk’s mantle as he is, in his present state at Clugny.
Therefore, I leave you, ye nobles, ye lofty walls, household gods, sweet sons, and all the things of the world. In company with my brother I shall dwell in the woods and shall worship God with a joyful heart, clothed in a black mantle.”
137The Life of Gildas by the Monk of Rhuys (not Caradoc) tells that after Gildas settled in Brittany people began to flock to him to entrust their sons for their instruction to his superintendence and teaching.
Henry Blois is setting up his next astonishing piece in the VM, by bringing Taliesin and Merlin together with the most cursory introduction: Meanwhile Taliesin had come to see Merlin the prophet who had sent for him to find out what wind or rain storm was coming up, for both together were drawing near and the clouds were thickening. He drew the following illustrations under the guidance of Minerva138 his associate.
Henry Blois uses his scholarly knowledge of previous writers through the ‘voice piece’ of Taliesin to propagate the propaganda for his new vision concerning Glastonbury and its transformation into being coomensurate with Insula Avallonis of the HRB . He has based much of the setting of the VM on records from the Book of Taliesin who is also contemporaneous with Rydderch, so they provide the anchor of contemporaneity with Merlin. Henry in the Vita Merlini has also extracted ideas from Irish139 and Scottish sources.
Some of the information in Taliesin’s speech in VM has been traced back to men such as Pliny, Solinus, Martianus Capella, Pomponius Mela and Rabanus Maurus. Henry Blois posing as Geoffrey of Monmouth through extracts taken from Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae,140 now speaks as if in the words of Taliesin. However, he starts this long nature episode by reverting to Aristotle: Out of nothing the Creator of the world produced four [elements]141
Henry then follows on with a lengthy piece on origins and discussions on various topics concerning stars, dragons and fish etc. Just as Isidore of Seville covers a variety of naturist topics; so does ‘Geoffrey’. Isidore also leads into his discourse on Islands much the same way as Geoffrey of Monmouth does starting with Britain: Of these [islands] Britain is said to be the foremost and best, producing in its fruitfulness every single thing.
He then proceeds by describing the various British blessings found in the country culminating with the pleasing baths found in the city of Bath. Henry’s aim is to refer back to the HRB before launching into his next piece which names Bladud from the HRB.
In the HRB, Bladud is the founder of Bath. We can actually witness Henry’s mind at work here. He is enabling himself to establish as fact in the Vita, the connection between Bladud and Badon and as we know the earliest mention of the Battle of Badon is in Gildas’ De Excidio Britanniae where Ambrosius Aurelianus organised a British resistance.
But, as we know, Geoffrey does his best to conflate Ambrosius with Arthur (or even Merlin) and Nennius has Badon as the place of King Arthur’s last battle. But, Geoffrey’s Camlann is also brought into the salad of confusion from the Annales Cambriae where Arthur and Mordred fell (AC mentions Medraut, but it does not specify that he and Arthur fought on opposite sides) So, Henry Blois situates Mordred in Cornwall purely because Henry knows the topography142 and of the river Camel.143
138Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and defence also mentioned in the prologue of John of Cornwall’s prophecies
139See Appendix 16
140Adam of Damerham witnesses that Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae sive Origines was donated to Glastonbury abbey by Henry Blois and content from this volume has evidently been used in the fabrication if the Vita Merlini.
142It becomes plain that Henry knows Cornwall, but this only becomes evident when we cover John of Cornwall’s prophecies.
143From the Annales Cambriae, Camblanus becomes Geoffrey’s Camlann. However, more probably Colchester was called Camulodunum and Henry changed the location having visited Cornwall and Tintagel. Henry Blois knows the river Camel is four miles distant from Tintagel and on it stands Camelford. Henry Blois has conveniently used conflation for his own end and located the battle in Cornwall and thus we find Mordred there.
Henry Blois’ intention in VM is to conflate Badon (where Arthur’s battle took place) with Avalon. As the reader will understand shortly, the purport behind Henry’s very clever design is to set up Arthur’s last known location, the Island of Avalon of HRB fame as being synonymous with Glastonbury. So, let us see in this next extract from the HRB, why Bladud’s name is important to Henry and why this contrivance is essential to his overall plan for the future of Glastonbury.
Next succeeded Bladud his son, in whose hands the Kingdom remained for twenty years. He builded the city of Kaerbadon, that is now called Bath, and fashioned hot baths therein, meet for the needs of men, the which he placed under the guardianship of the deity Minerva, in whose temple he set fires that could not be quenched, that never turned into ashes, but as they began to fail became as it were round balls of stone.144
Returning back to the VM we can now see where he is guiding his contemporary audience and every reader of the HRB and the Vita Merlini since 1157.
Besides all these it has fountains healthful because of their hot waters which nourish the sick and provide pleasing baths, which quickly send people away cured with their sickness driven out. So Bladud established them when he held the sceptre of the Kingdom and he gave them the name of his consort Alaron.145
Immediately he has named this ‘Alaron’146 which he has now established as being the same as where we find Bladud, (who we know was the founder of Badon, where Arthur’s battle took place); after one line on the healing powers found in this Alaron he does his trickiest bit of sophistry and conflation, he calls the same place an Island and to confuse us further he says it is near Thanet.147
We should not forget that on King Arthur’s instruction to the The Duke of Cornwall he chased all the Saxons from Britain after they had fled to the Isle of Thanet.
Our ocean also divides the Orkneys from us. These are divided into thirty-three islands by the sundering flood; twenty lack cultivation and the others are cultivated. Thule receives its name “furthest” from the sun, because of the solstice which the summer sun makes there, turning its rays and shining no further, and taking away the day, so that always throughout the long night the air is full of shadows, and making a bridge congealed by the benumbing cold, which prevents the passage of ships.
144HRB II, x
145The account of Bladud is found in the HRB, II, x.
146Geoffrey’s purposeful confusion of Avalon, the Vaus d’Avaron, used by Robert de Boron (3123, 3221) and the ‘grant valee’ in the Perlesvaus’ description of Avalon, obviously represent the same locality.
147See Appendix 15
I have shown in appendix 15 why Henry Blois has a peculiar concern regarding the island of Thanet because his interest in it is derived from Pytheas’ account through Diodorus or other ancient chroniclers who comment of Pytheas’ travels as one of the earliest of the Greek accounts of the discovery of Britain.
Even though the special status afforded by Thanet as being near to Henry’s primary purpose (a conflation with Avalon), Isidore of Seville also talks of the same list of Islands and many others beside in the Mediterranean. Isidore provides the basis of material for ‘Geoffrey’s Islands reshuffle in the VM. The ensuing Island material is derived from Isidore’s XIV.vi, De insulis (“concerning islands”) but it becomes apparent why there is a change in order from Isidore’s to Geoffrey’s list of Islands.
Vita Merlini Isidore’s Etymologia
1. Thanatos Thanet
2. The Orkneys Ultima Thule
3. Thule Orkneys
4. Ireland Ireland
5. Gades Gades
6. The Hesperides The Fortunate Isles
7. The Gorgades The Gorgades
8. Argire & Crisse The Hesperides
9. Ceylon Chryse and Argyre
11. The Fortunate Islands
Rather than reveal his real intention, Henry Blois has decided to set up his intended objective, (that of exchanging the Avalon of HRB to be synonymous with the ‘Island of Apples’) in amongst what appears to be Taliesin pronouncing upon the subject of ‘Islands’ just after the obvious intended conflation of Alaron with Badon. Henry Blois already has another project planned in the manuscript which was the forerunner of Perlesvaus, where unfortunately, he cannot change the name Insula Avallonis (for reasons that will be explained shortly).
The fact that Arthur was taken to Insula Pomorum shows to the gullible that it must equate to the Insula Avallonis found in in HRB. The logic of such an assumption is because the island now appears to be located in Somerset because Arthur had appeared at Glastonbury in the concocted life of Gildas also authored by Henry Blois. Posterity has been led to a conclusion to which Henry directed us in that: Insula Pomorum must be Glastonbury.
Daphne Oosterhout in her Classical sources of the Vita Merlini says:
Geoffrey appears to have been extremely skilled in moulding his sources to within his own texts. It is no different with these pseudo-scientific texts. A good example is his description of the ‘Fortunate Island’, based on Isidore of Seville’s Islands of Fortunate Women (insulae fortunatarum). Taliesin identifies this place with the Island of Apples to which Arthur was carried following the Battle of Camblan. In the HRB, this island is referred to as Insula Avallonis, the Island of Avalon, but Geoffrey very cleverly uses the similarity between the name Avalon and the Welsh word for apple, afal. As such, he links the HRB and the VM together while he could at the same exploit Isidore’s description of the Island of Fortunate Women, where apples grew in abundance. Moreover, he places Morgen and her sisters at Avalon, whereas Isidore never explains why the island is called ‘of fortunate women’. Curley has suggested that perhaps Morgen and her sisters were inspired by Pomponius Mela’s description of the island of Sena, where live nine virgins with supernatural powers.
She in her naivety goes on to say: These discrepancies between Geoffrey’s ‘lists’ and Isidore’s are more problematic. It could be argued that these changes were made by Geoffrey on purpose, although there is little evidence for this. This is another case of scholarly ignorance because if she recognised Henry Blois as Geoffrey she would also understand he was the Abbot of Glastonbury and the inventor of Insula Avallonis and manufacturer of King Arthur’s grave at Glastonbury. Oosterhout goes on to say: With Isidore, it was clear that the ‘changes’ made by Geoffrey did not serve any obvious purpose; in other words, there seems to have not been any reason for Geoffrey to intentionally deviate from what Isidore had written. Well, will she or any other scholar listen to the ‘obvious purpose’…. no, they will remain haughty in their ignorance going round and round like headless chickens. However, she does have one thing correct when she concludes: Nevertheless, it has shown that with Geoffrey hardly anything is ever coincidental. It is to my frustration that these coincidences are just ignored!!!!
In 1189-91 when the ‘leaden cross’ was unearthed, Glastonbury was unequivocally associated with Avalon, but the interpolator of DA has made this association long before the discovery of the manufactured Grave of King Arthur. It is only modern scholar’s erroneous chronology which assumes Avalon’s association with Glastonbury was made after the disinterment of King Arthur.
If they had the gumption to think that the Abbot of Glastonbury might be the author of HRB, the life of Gildas, the Interpolations in the first 35 chapters of DA and the author of Grail legend they would also realise that in 1155-7 when the Vita Merlini was authored, Glastonbury at that time was already associated with Avalon.
Their ridiculous theories create new and erroneous chronologies and cause red lines in deduction of the real train of events in Medieval England. Coincidences are never scrutinised and context is usually rationalised stupidity. Thus when modern scholar’s erroneous chronology assumes Avalon’s association with Glastonbury was made after the disinterment of King Arthur and is obviously pointed out by Watkin they seem to ignore this fact and obey a red line that aids another fatuous deduction. It seems, it is better to believe the theories they have constructed and invent fallacious red lines, rather than accept historical fact!!! Scholars…. My ass!!!
A Welsh ‘Geoffrey of Monmouth’ has little to gain in associating Arthur with Glastonbury. Henry Blois, not only is responsible for the connection of Arthur to Glastonbury made by impersonating Caradoc, but he is also responsible for the naming of Avalon and the invention of the character of the Chivalric Arthur. He is responsible for Arthur’s association to Glastonbury found in DA and is responsible for creating physically Arthur’s grave between the pyramids. It is hardly surprising that as ‘Geoffrey’ in VM, Henry persuades his audience that the apple country of Somerset possesses an Island which is known as Insula Pomorum where Arthur is known to have been taken by Barinthus.
The only assumption one can draw and to which the reader has been led in VM is that Glastonbury must be the same location as Avalon with all the other evidences which corroborate such a conclusion found in DA. This goes contrary to Oosterhout who says: With Isidore, it was clear that the ‘changes’ (of the islands) made by Geoffrey did not serve any obvious purpose; in other words, there seems to have not been any reason for Geoffrey to intentionally deviate from what Isidore had written. She does not understand that it is Henry Blois which locates Avalon at Glastonbury.
Henry Blois has achieved his goal and posterity and scholarship is none the wiser even today. It will become apparent also that Henry Blois, amongst other works of anonymity, is the author of the initial Perlesvaus which corroborates in the colophon long before 1189-91 that both Arthur and Guinevere are at Glastonbury/Avalon
However, the VM continues on with Taliesin pronouncing on the Islands:
The most outstanding island after our own is said to be Ireland with its happy fertility. It is larger and produces no bees, and no birds except rarely, and it does not permit snakes to breed in it. Whence it happens that if earth or a stone is carried away from there and added to any other place it drives away snakes and bees.
Isidore’s work describes Ireland: Ireland (Scotia), also known as Hibernia, is an island next to Britannia, narrower in its expanse of land but more fertile in its site. It extends from southwest to north. It’s near parts stretch towards Iberia (Hiberia) and the Cantabrian Ocean (i.e. the Bay of Biscay), whence it is called Hibernia; but it is called Scotia, because it has been colonised by tribes of the Scoti. There no snakes are found, birds are scarce, and there are no bees, so that if someone were to sprinkle dust or pebbles brought from there among beehives in some other place, the swarms would desert the honeycombs.
Isidore is not certain about who the inhabitants are and conflates the Scottish to Irish, but knows its proportion and position. ‘Geoffrey’ (Henry Blois) knows where Ireland and Scotland are, so he does not pretend to be ignorant, which obviously Isidore is.148
The island of Gades lies next to Herculean Gades, and there grows there a tree from whose bark a gum drips out of which gems are made, breaking all laws.
Isedore’s version of Gades: Cadiz (Gadis) is an island located at the edge of the province of Baetica. It separates Europe from Africa. The Pillars of Hercules can be seen there, and from there the current of the Ocean flows into the entrance of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is divided from the mainland by a distance of six hundred (Roman) feet. When the Tyrians, who had come from the Red Sea, occupied it, they called it in their language Gadir that is, “enclosed,” because it is enclosed on all sides by the sea. This island produces a palm-like tree whose sap, when mixed with glass, produces the precious stone called ‘ceraunius’.
It is a coincidence that Pytheas mentions this substance as floating. One would assume it is Amber149 since it comes from tree sap. It is here that Geoffrey of Monmouth changes the order of Islands found in Isidore’s work because Isidore follows with the Fortunate Isles. But ‘Geoffrey’ keeps this until the end of Taliesin’s discourse, so that it seemingly grafts into the main point of re-naming Avalon. However, ‘Geoffrey’ continues with Hesperides:
The Hesperides are said to contain a watchful dragon who, men say, guards the golden apples under the leaves.
148Saint Isidore of Seville (c. 560 – 4 April 636) served as Archbishop of Seville and Geoffrey surely knew his source would be discovered, however the source for Geoffrey’s purposes is contemporaneous enough.
149Herodotus in book 3 says ‘I cannot speak with certainty nor am I acquainted with the islands called the Cassiterides from which tin is brought to us….it is never the less, certain that both our tin and our amber are brought from these extremely remote regions, in the western extremities of Europe’. What Herodotus was actually referring to is known as British glass a sometime by-product of the smelting process of tin.
Isidores Hesperides150 are: The isles of the Hesperides are so called after the city of Hesperis, which was located within the borders of Mauretania. They are situated beyond the Gorgades, at the Atlantic shore, in the most remote bays of the sea. Stories tell of an ever-watchful dragon guarding golden apples in their gardens. There, it is said, is a channel from the sea that is so twisted, with winding banks, that when seen from afar it looks like the coils of a serpent.
On Isidore’s Hesperides we find Golden apples not as Geoffrey later attests they are on the Fortunate isles from where he derives his Insula Pomorum. ‘Geoffrey’s’ artifice is revealed when he would rather attach his ‘apple’ scenario to an Island described adjectively (fortunate) rather than overcoming some previous nomenclature like Hesperides. We can witness the conflation with the enchanted orchard of the classical Hesperides which is eventually doubly conflated with Glastonbury later on by Henry through ‘Isle de Voirre’ or Isle of Glass. I will cover this conflation later through Henry’s ingenious etymological conversion of Ineswitrin to Ynes Gutrin which gives the Glass Island which Caradoc (Henry Blois) first introduces as author of Life of Gildas.
All is interconnected through Henry’s work, Melvas is probably the origin of the name Meleagant in the Knight of the Cart. It is also through Henry Blois and his relationship with Marie of France and Alix, (wives to his Nephews) and their relation to Chrétien de Troyes, where we meet Maheloas as lord of the Isle de Voirre which relates to Caradoc’s Melvas and Caradoc’s Urbs Vitrea.
The Gorgades are inhabited by women with goats’ bodies who are said to surpass hares in the swiftness of their running.
Isidore’s Gorgades are described thus: The Gorgades are islands of the Ocean opposite the promontory that is called Hesperian Ceras, inhabited by the Gorgons, women with swift wings and a rough and hairy body; the islands take their name from them. They are separated from the mainland by a passage of two days’ sailing.
Argyre and Chryse151bear, it is said, gold and silver just as Corinth does common stones.
150According to the Sicilian Greek poet Stesichorus, and the Greek geographer Strabo, in his book Geographika (volume III), the garden of the Hesperides is located in Tartessos, a location placed in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. Since they are beyond the Gorgades which one must assume are the Canaries it would seem the Hesperides may be the Cape Verde Islands as Isidore states: Islands (insula) are so called because they are ‘in salt water’
151Pliny refers to Chryse as an Island and was on the Medieval mappaemundi as an Island. Mention of Argyre is made in the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea as the last part of the inhabited world toward the east. However, in Pliny’s Natural History he mentions a Land of Gold via a peninsula. Pomponius Mela, says two lands lay to the east of India one Argyre was said to boast soil of Gold and Chryse was said to have soil of Silver. ‘In the vicinity of Tamus is the Island of Argyre, in the vicinity of the Ganges, that of Chryse’.
Isidores Argyre and Chryse are: are islands situated in the Indian Ocean, so rich in metal that many people maintain these islands have a surface of gold and silver; whence their names are derived.
Celon blooms pleasantly because of its fruitful soil, for it produces two crops in a single year; twice it is summer, twice spring, twice men gather grapes and other fruits, and it is also most pleasing because of its shining gems. Tiles produces flowers and fruits in an eternal spring, green throughout the seasons.
Celon and Tiles are ‘Geoffrey’s’ addition and not found in Isidore’s account on the Islands in the Sea.
The island of apples which men call “The Fortunate Isle”152 gets its name from the fact that it produces all things of itself; the fields there have no need of the ploughs of the farmers and all cultivation is lacking except what nature provides. Of its own accord it produces grain and grapes, and apple trees grow in its woods from the close-clipped grass. The ground of its own accord produces everything instead of merely grass, and people live there a hundred years or more.
Isidore’s Fortunate Islas are described as: The Fortunate Isles (Fortunatarum insulae) signify by their name that they produce all kinds of good things, as if they were happy and blessed with an abundance of fruit. Indeed, well-suited by their nature, they produce fruit from very precious trees; the ridges of their hills are spontaneously covered with grapevines; instead of weeds, harvest crops and garden herbs are common there; hence, the mistake of pagans and the poems by worldly poets, who believed that these isles were Paradise because of the fertility of their soil. They are situated in the Ocean, against the left side of Mauretania, closest to where the sun sets, and they are separated from each other by the intervening sea. These are the Cape Verde islands which Geoffrey now relocates from off the coast of Africa to now miraculously appear at Glastonbury.
We can see that Henry (‘Geoffrey’) has made Isidore’s Islands singular; and now conflated it with the apples of the Hesperides to suit his goal in the translocation of a nebulous Avalon (Insula Avallonis) in HRB to be located geographically at Glastonbury. The implications of this are huge at this date of 1157.153 At this point in VM Henry now leaves Isidore and a versification of his work which he employed for his own ends.
In the HRB we hear of Avalon twice; once where Arthur is …girt with Caliburn, best of swords, that was forged within the Isle of Avalon.154
The second is where the renowned King Arthur himself was wounded deadly, and was borne thence unto the island of Avalon for the healing of his wounds.155
152See Appendix 17
153Scholars have contrived an a priori which assumes the name Avalon has no association with Glastonbury until Arthur’s disinterment when the leaden cross is found.
154HRB IX, iv
155HRB XI, ii
We were not introduced to Morgen or her sisters156 in the HRB, but one assumes that ‘Geoffrey’s’ reason for their inclusion in VM was to give a valid reason why his hero of the HRB was taken to Avalon, i.e. she can cure the sick and his wounds. Of course, the nine sorceress priestesses of Pomponius Mela’s island of Sena are to be conflated with the nine maidens on Insula Pomorum in VM and of course again, in Henry’s interpolation into DA.
Now, an important point which becomes relevant later when investigating the interpolations into the DA is that the DA was altered for each of Henry Blois’ ‘agendas’. These agendas are threefold. Firstly, Henry Blois altered DA in 1144 for his first attempt at gaining metropolitan status for Winchester. He altered it again in 1149 for his second attempt when the St Patrick charter was added and thirdly when Henry Blois added all the Joseph of Arimathea material after 1158.
We can certainly state that the DA was interpolated after 1157 when VM had been composed because it is on Isidore’s Hesperides that we find Golden apples not as ‘Geoffrey’ later attests they are on the Fortunate isles from where he derives his Insula Pomorum. The Cauldron of the chief of the otherworld and the nine maidens who tended it are conflated with the nine sorceress priestesses of Pomponius Mela’s island of Sena…. and then again, with purposeful intent, with the nine maidens on Insula Pomorum in VM.
The VM now has the confirmation of Arthur’s trip to Avalon with Barinthus backed up by Taliesin, who ‘accompanied’ Arthur to Insula Pomorum, but it is now not just an Island, but a court of the maidens: After it the King, mortally wounded, left his Kingdom and, sailing across the water with you as you have related, came to the court of the maidens.
So, any researcher would have to accept that in chapter 5 of DA, it is Henry Blois’ own words which compose the conflation with the Welsh Afallennau: Apple island from avalla in British is the same as poma in Latin. Or it was named after a certain Avalloc who is said to have lived there with his daughters i.e. to conflate with the nine maidens. I hope the reader now gets a picture of what a ‘rats nest’ this is for scholars to unpick!!
To add to Henry’s salad of conflation in DA, Avalloc just happens to have daughters and supplies the eponym for Avalon just to complete the confusion.157 In this instance alone we can witness Henry’s brilliance which started out innocently by randomly picking a name from a Burgundian town and as in his muses and events mixed and evolved over the years since 1138 when he composed the Primary Historia where he had not even thought of Avalon; Avalon morphed into a location at Glastonbury. Just as he had selected the environs of Autun for Arthur’s fictitious continental battle through Henry Blois’ proximity while an oblate at Clugny, so too was Avalon eventually based at Glastonbury because he was Abbot there.
To not recognise that the conversion of a completely fictitious island to which a fictitious chivalric Arthur was taken to, (to what is nowadays understood to be a real location of Avalon) is to underestimate the brilliance of Henry’s subtle method of translocation. The translocation also bears witness to the evolving of Henry’s propagandist thought processes where Arthur was firstly associated with Glastonbury in the Life of Gildas.
Henry had initially posited Ineswitrin as synonymous with Glastonbury in life of Gildas because by doing so it established the 601 charter’s credibility. At that time Henry wished Glastonbury to be recognised as Ineswitrin. This was part of his first ‘agenda’ By the end of the evolution of his propaganda Henry has effectually converted Ineswitrin at Glastonbury into Avalon at Glastonbury.
Even though ‘Geoffrey’ in VM places Taliesin at the scene of Arthur’s arrival, it is irrelevant, since we can clearly see Taliesin’s inclusion in the narrative is because Henry Blois utilises material derived from Taliesin’s bardic work which comprises some parts of the VM.
There nine sisters rule by a pleasing set of laws those who come to them from our country. She who is first of them is more skilled in the healing art, and excels her sisters in the beauty of her person. Morgen is her name, and she has learned what useful properties all the herbs contain, so that she can cure sick bodies. She also knows an art by which to change her shape, and to cleave the air on new wings like Daedalus; when she wishes she is at Brest, Chartres, or Pavia158 and when she will she slips down from the air onto your shores. And men say that she has taught mathematics to her sisters, Moronoe, Mazoe, Gliten, Glitonea, Gliton, Tyronoe, Thitis; Thitis best known for her cither. Thither after the battle of Camlan159 we took the wounded Arthur, guided by Barinthus160 to whom the waters and the stars of heaven were well known. With him steering the ship we arrived there with the prince,161 and Morgen received us with fitting honour, and in her chamber she placed the King on a golden bed and with her own hand she uncovered his honourable wound and gazed at it for a long time. At length she said that health could be restored to him if he stayed with her for a long time and made use of her healing art. Rejoicing, therefore, we entrusted the King to her and returning spread our sails to the favouring winds.”
156It will be discussed later on in the chapter on Vera Historia de morte Arthur, where Morgan is also mentioned, Henry’s later addition of this lore to an HRB version.
157We should remember that the DA interpolations which associate Avalon with Glastonbury existed in DA long before the unearthing of the Arthur in 1189-91.
158Pavia is presumably Paris; Brest and Chartres are also locations more relevant to Henry Blois than a Welsh Geoffrey of Monmouth.
159Geoffrey’s reference to the battle of Camlann is made to accord with an entry in the 10th-century Annales Cambriae, recording the battle in the year 537 which mentions Mordred (Medraut). ‘The Strife of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut (Mordred) perished’.
160There seems little doubt that the Navigatio Brendani is the source; the early eleventh century account of the voyage of St. Brendan. Followed by the Norman poem (ed. Fr. Michel), Voyages Merveille de St. Brendan (Paris 1878), where a certain ‘Barintz’ does the same (II. 75,101). This version would certainly be known by Henry Blois because it was written for his uncle’s Queen Adeliza. Barint in the St Brendan legend starts the Saint off on his voyage by telling him of a marvellous isle.
161‘Geoffrey’ has based Arthur’s arrival at Avalon after the battle of Camlan. ‘Geoffrey’s’ artifice is clearly revealed in setting up the association of ‘Alaron’ with his various Island material which leads into his Fortunate Isle scenario. ‘Geoffrey’s’ statement in the HRB where Arthur ‘wounded deadly and was borne thence unto the island of Avalon for the healing of his wounds, where he gave up the crown of Britain unto his kinsman Constantine’ assumes that giving up his crown, he died there at Avalon and was never seen again. It is this same assumption that facilitated credence given to the fabricated find of Arthur’s remains at Glastonbury in 1191. As we know, initially in the Primary Historia, Arthur is not taken to Avalon….otherwise this would have been mentioned by Huntingdon in his synopsis of HRB i.e. EAW. In the First Variant (Bern 568) Henry Blois uses the ambiguous word letaliter ‘mortally wounded’, so a clear progression in story-line is witnessed; ultimately, to where a grave is manufactured by Henry Blois to coincide with Arthur having died at Avalon. Also, if we take Alfred of Beverley’s evolving HRB, we can see that Henry Blois has not reached his ‘second agenda’ in the development of Avalon: Alfred omits mention of Avallon in his reworking of the passage concerning ‘Caliburnus’. Henry got his idea of the sword being made on an island from the Aeneid where Aeneas’ arms are made by the Cyclops on the isle of Lipari.
Henry Blois, not forgetting that Merlin is supposedly speaking prior to the Saxon invasions, makes recorded British history into predictions that appear to have come true.
Merlin said in answer, “Dear friend, since that time how much the Kingdom has endured from the violated oath, so that what it once was it no longer is! For by an evil fate the nobles are roused up and turned against each other’s vitals, and they upset everything so that the abundance of riches has fled from the country and all goodness has departed, and the desolated citizens leave their walls empty. Upon them shall come the Saxon people, fierce in war, who shall again cruelly overthrow us and our cities, and shall violate God’s law and his temples. For He shall certainly permit this destruction to come upon us because of our crimes, that He may correct the foolish.”
Taliesin then postulates by means of prophecy the expectation of the Britons. Henry Blois using the voice of Taliesin pretends to state ‘the hope of Arthur’s return’ into a current hope of the 6th century. I would not be surprised if Henry Blois left the prophecy open so that at some future date it might apply to him; especially as he would be returning by ship if some mishap were to happen to Henry II.
Until the the reader is acquainted with the prophecy of the seven Kings supposedly composed by Merlin and translated by John of Cornwall this proposition seems foolish, but Henry Blois definitely had plans to return as a ‘chief’ if Henry II had been overcome by the Celts.
In any case, the meaning reiterates the same feeling current at the time, to which William of Malmesbury and Newburgh referred. It also conveys the same sentiment as that found in the prophecies of HRB of a lost noble nation needing to be returned to its former peace. The return of an Arthurian figure, a saviour, might be more in line with what Henry Blois is trying to propose.
Merlin had scarcely finished when Taliesin exclaimed, “Then the people should send someone to tell the chief to come back in a swift ship if he has recovered his strength, that he may drive off the enemy with his accustomed vigour and re-establish the citizens in their former peace.
Henry Blois then cuts Taliesin short with an unequivocal prediction through the mouth of Merlin. Merlin speaks with powerful authority as he did in the HRB prophecies. He contradicts Taliesin’s generalised hope and sets about telling us what will transpire which his audience knows has already taken place historically (having read HRB). This in effect confirms Merlin’s accuracy in the prediction about the Britons being enslaved for many years.
“No,” said Merlin, “not thus shall this people depart when once they have fixed their claws on our shores. For at first they shall enslave our Kingdom and our people and our cities, and shall dominate them with their forces for many years. Nevertheless three162 from among our people shall resist with much courage and shall kill many, and in the end shall overcome them. But they shall not continue thus, for it is the will of the highest Judge that the Britons shall through weakness lose their noble Kingdom for a long time, until Conan163 shall come in his chariot from Brittany, and Cadwalader164 the venerated leader of the Welsh, who shall join together Scots and Cumbrians, Cornishmen and men of Brittany165 in a firm league, and shall return to their people their lost crown, expelling the enemy and renewing the times of Brutus, and shall deal with the cities in accordance with their consecrated laws. And the Kings shall begin again to conquer remote peoples and to subjugate their own realms to themselves in mighty conflict.” “No one shall then be alive of those who are now living,” said Taliesin, “nor do I think that any one has seen so many savage battles between fellow citizens as you have.”
162The ‘three’ Geoffrey refers to may be Cadvan, Cadwallo, and Cadwallader, on the basis of Book XII of the HRB originally, but since this is the VM updated prophecies c.1156, hoping to cause rebellion against Henry II; the three are more probably Conan Cadwallader and the Scottish in general as a nation since the heir apparent and King David had recently expired.
164See appendix 19
165See appendix 20
We now have Henry’s true desire of unseating Henry II confirmed in actual speech by Merlin rather than found in a list of other prophecies. It is hard to grasp to which three Henry is relating to because Henry has morphed the prophecies since he published the initial Libellus Merlini to which his friend abbot Suger refers. Maybe originally the three were Constans Uther and Ambrosius166 against the Saxons. Maybe it is a case of Henry squewing the number three of the Kings used to indicate William the conqueror, William Rufus and Henry Ist, but it is not clear.
What is clear is that the prophecy’s main purport, whether originally relating to the Saxon era (as is indicated by an initial resurgence and then an eventual subjugation of the Britons) is that the end of the subjugation comes through Conan and Cadwallader both coincidentally fighting against Henry II in 1155.
So, here we have a clear indication that Henry Blois is trying to rouse the indigenous Celts through prophecy. Henry Blois writing as Geoffrey has made it clear that if the Bretons (with Conan) and the Welsh (with Cadwallader), along with the Scots, Cumbrians and Cornish rise up against the invaders (specifically the Angevin Henry II) they will once again retain the crown of Brutus.
I hope the reader can get an insight into how manipulative the real Henry Blois actually was. Not only did he invent the story of Brutus in HRB, he is now predicting that the fictitious crown would return to the indigenous Britons. When the reader understands the JC prophecies, we will see upon whose head the crown of Brutus is foreseen i.e. the seventh King, Henry Blois!!!
All these things Merlin recapped for our benefit to run according to the history as it was understood, so that we and ‘Geoffrey’s’ Anglo-Norman readers were amazed at Merlin’s accuracy. Merlin, speaking in the sixth century, comes out with a prediction, remarkably up to date by coincidently naming two people167 on the current political landscape. Henry Blois affects sedition through a fraudulent prophecy of Merlin inciting Conan and Cadwallader to rebel against Henry II; prompting them to join in firm league, to subjugate their own realm to themselves.168 In John of Cornwall’s rendition of the prophecies of Merlin (also fabricated by Henry Blois) it becomes evident that Henry sees himself as the natural replacement of Henry II once the rebellion has succeeded.
The last statement of Taliesin’s in the passage above underlines that Henry Blois’ conception of Merlin is as someone who lives through the ages169 and has witnessed these battles fought between the Britons themselves, the idiocy of which he laments constantly in that their power is reduced which has allowed the foreigners to dominate them obviously parroting this sentiment from Gildas and Bede to appear empathetic with their national admonishment of the warring Britons. Merlin has seen the various foreigners through the ages and the chaos they bring to Britain, and the sentiment of Merlin can be understood as: ‘Oh, if only the Celts, (the Britons of a bygone age) would stop fighting amongst themselves they would not have been invaded down through the ages’.
166Ambrosius’ name is employed in HRB to conflate with Gildas and Bede’s accounts as he is the resistance leader conflated with Arthur by ‘Geoffrey’.
167Not Cynan and Caduallo or Caedwalla
168We can see the same seditious prophecy in Vulgate HRB: Cadwallader shall call unto Conan, and shall receive Albany to his fellowship. Then shall there be slaughter of the foreigners: then shall the rivers run blood: then shall gush forth the fountains of Armorica and shall be crowned with the diadem of Brutus. Cambria shall be filled with gladness and the oaks of Cornwall shall wax green. The island shall be called by the name of Brutus and the name given by foreigners shall be done away. Here again, we are told the he-goat from the castle of Venus with a silver beard will succeed and there will then be peace in his time. It does not take too much imagination to see who this might refer to.
169The same is posited by Robert de Boron who obtained his sense of Merlin from Henry Blois as will become clear at the end of this investigation.
Merlin said, “Indeed, that is the truth. For I have lived long and seen much; our own folk turning on one another, and the chaos the barbarian brings.
The brief exchange acts as a conversational narrative conjunction before Henry Blois launches into the next lot of text in the VM, the object of which again is to endorse the historiography of the HRB.
“And I remember the crime when Constans was betrayed and the small brothers Uther and Ambrosius fled across the water.170 At once wars began in the Kingdom which now lacked a leader, for Vortigern of Gwent, the consul, was leading his troops against all the nations so that he might have the leadership of them, and was inflicting a wretched death upon the harmless peasants. At length with sudden violence he seized the crown after putting to death many of the nobles and he subdued the whole Kingdom to himself. But those who were allied to the brothers by blood relationship, offended at this, began to set fire to all the cities of the ill-fated prince and to perturb his Kingdom with savage soldiery, and they would not permit him to possess it in peace. Disquieted therefore since he could not withstand the rebellious people, he prepared to invite to the war men from far away with whose aid he might be able to meet his enemies. Soon there came from divers parts of the world warlike bands whom he received with honour. The Saxon people, in fact, arriving in their curved keels had come to serve him with their helmeted soldiery. They were led by two courageous brothers, Horsus and Hengist,171 who afterwards with wicked treachery harmed the people and the cities. For after this, by serving the King with industry, they won him over to themselves and seeing the people moved by a quarrel that touched them closely they were able to subjugate the King; then turning their ferocious arms upon the people they broke faith and killed the princes by a premeditated fraud while they were sitting with them after calling them together to make peace and a treaty with them, and the prince they drove over the top of the snowy mountain.
Henry Blois in this last section confirms his HRB’s historiography, whereas, before, it was written in the form of historical record in the body of HRB, it is now re-iterated here in the VM as a future awaiting…. predicted by the prophet, whose vaticinations undoubtedly have materialised as history for Henry’s audience. If the reader needs any help understanding this; this was revealed to Vortigern at the same time as the original prophecies in the HRB.
These are the things I had begun to prophesy to him would happen to the Kingdom.
Henry Blois then goes on to relate that Vortigern had tried to repel the Saxons he had initially invited to Britain until he was betrayed by Rowena Hengist’s sister who he was infatuated with and who poisoned him. Rowena recalls her brother back to Briton. Henry never forgets to put himself in character as Merlin, supposedly speaking as an ancient Briton and of ‘our’ army.
170HRB, VI, v-xix.
171See appendix 1.5
This therefore he did, for he came with such force against our army that he took booty from everybody until he was loaded with it, and he thoroughly destroyed by fire the houses throughout the country.
We then hear a complete contradiction in the story line where, (while these events were happening), Vortigern, now alive again, is defeated by the returning Britons from Brittany.172 The only reason I suspect for doing this is to locate Vortigern’s tower (for the narratives sake) in Wales so that he is differentiated from the good Britons who returned from Brittany and associated with the savages (in Henry’s mind) that now inhabit Wales. This is entirely consistent with ‘Geoffrey’s’ sentiments. By doing this, Henry allows himself his own personal views on the Welsh and offers by way of explanation the reason he is derogatory toward them.
“While these things were happening Uther and Ambrosius were in Breton territory with King Biducus and they had already girded on their swords and were proved fit for war, and had associated with themselves troops from all directions so that they might seek their native land and put to flight the people who were busy wasting their patrimony. So they gave their boats to the wind and the sea, and landed for the protection of their subjects; they drove Vortigern through the regions of Wales and shut him up in his tower and burned both him and it. Then they turned their swords upon the Angles and many times when they met them they defeated them, and on the other hand they were often defeated by them. At length in a hand to hand conflict our men with great effort attacked the enemy and defeated them decisively, and killed Hengist, and by the will of Christ triumphed.
This episode is aligned with the pseudo-history concocted in HRB but has nothing to do with the inciting to rebellion of the Celts found in the prophecies.
After these things had been done, the Kingdom and its crown were with the approval of clergy and laity given to Ambrosius….
Henry Blois always conscious of the role of Church in the state mentions its relationship far too much throughout the VM and HRB which betrays his own sentiments of the Cluniac, Gregorian reformation he had high hopes of achieving when he installed his brother Stephen on the throne.
Henry carries forward with the story line repeating and setting in order the events for the most part recorded in the HRB. The point of recapping of all this to Taliesin is fairly pointless except for reasons of corroborating the historiography of the HRB, Taliesins words giving credence to ‘Geoffrey’s’ invented history and by padding out the text. That is until Henry arrives at his real objective in this section of VM which is to splice in new prophecies as if told contemporaneously with those found in the Vulgate HRB.
Ambrosius dies and his younger brother Uther takes to fighting battles over by the Humber. He is then succeeded by his son Arthur who is still a boy and ‘Therefore after seeking the advice of clergy and laity he sent to Hoel, King of Brittany, and asked him to come to his aid with a swift fleet, for they were united by ties of blood and friendship’……whom at length conquered his enemies the Saxons and forced to return to their own country, and he calmed his own Kingdom by the moderation of his laws. He also subdued the Scots and Irish and subjugated the Norwegians far away across the broad seas, and the Danes whom he had visited with his hated fleet.
172HRB XII, xix: And, as barbarism crept in, they were no longer called Britons but Welsh, a word derived either from Gualo, one of their Dukes, or from Guales. Also, we can see Henry’s hatred of the Welsh of his era: But the Welsh, degenerating from the nobility of the Britons, never afterwards recovered the sovereignty of the island…
He conquered the people of the Gauls after killing Frollo to whom the Roman power had given the care of that country; the Romans, too, who were seeking to make war on his country, he fought against and conquered, and killed the Procurator Hiberius Lucius who was then a colleague of Legnis the general, and who by the command of the Senate had come to bring the territories of the Gauls under their power.173 (Vita Merlini)
Henry has no option but to invent fictional Roman names because of the existence of the Roman annals. Merlin is now re-iterating and corroborating the historical fictions as presented in HRB. Henry had already tried to infer that Britons had overtaken Rome, but one cannot have a fictional battle at the valley of Siesia without a commander which could be conflated by his name with a real Roman in the annals. However, Henry has neatly brought us to the juncture in the HRB where Arthur has to return from France to take on Mordred.
Meanwhile the faithless and foolish custodian Modred had commenced to subdue our Kingdom to himself and was making unlawful love to the King’s wife. For the King, desiring, as men say, to go across the water to attack the enemy, had entrusted the queen and the Kingdom to him. But when the report of such a great evil came to his ears, he put aside his interest in the wars and, returning home, landed with many thousand men and fought with his nephew and drove him flying across the water. There the traitor, after collecting Saxons from all sides, began to battle with his lord, but he fell, betrayed by the unholy people confiding in whom he had undertaken such big things. How great was the slaughter of men and the grief of women whose sons fell in that battle!
In the Vulgate HRB, we have Arthur being delivered to an Island called Avalon. We can witness Henry leading from an island Alaron through pointless text lifted from Isidore to introduce us to the Fortunate Isle (singular) which is also known as Insula Pomorum. Arthur was to receive medical care there. However, the readership of VM now has the confirmation of his trip to Avalon backed up by Taliesin, who accompanied Arthur to Insula Pomorum, but it is now not just an Island, but a court of the maidens.
After it the King, mortally wounded, left his Kingdom and, sailing across the water with you as you have related, came to the court of the maidens.
The problem for Henry Blois is that Arthur is taken to Avalon in First Variant and Henry has fabricated the name from a Burgundian town and probably from the similarity of place name where174 his father was killed i.e. the Battle of Ascalon. The Island Ineswitrin is the real inspiration for his mystical isle as was originally designated by Melkin in his prophecy and to which Henry Blois has changed the name to Avalon (in the prophecy also related by JG). Only Henry knows that it equates with the same location on which Melkin has said Joseph of Arimathea is buried and had been called Ineswitrin originally. I reality, Henry Blois has no idea where Ineswitrin exists except that it is in the old Dumnonia having been presented by a Devonian King.
173See Appendix 31
174Henry’s Father died May 19, 1102 in Ramla, Holy Land at the Battle of Ascalon. This may have some Freudian bearing on the choice of name in choosing the Burgundian town’s name.
Melkin’s prophecy was the inspiration for Henry Blois’ fictitious island he has called Avalon on which he has conveyed Arthur according to the tale in HRB and (by Barinthus) in VM. Now, this small shift of definition I just bring to the attention of the reader because Arthur is now at the palace of the nymphs or court of maidens.
It is plain that it is Henry who has interpolated the piffle about Avalloc and his daughters in DA, but what I am trying to demonstrate is that Henry does not care what allusions or conflations he makes; his aim (or post 1158 ‘third agenda’) is to have the reader of DA, VM and HRB all understand that Glastonbury was once known as Avalon. He accomplished his mission because when Gerald of Wales spoke of Avalon, Gerald understood that it was the old name for Glastonbury. Gerald was not convinced solely by the leaden cross which was unearthed in front of him. He had already read HRB, VM, and most importantly, the interpolated DA (as I shall cover shortly).
However, moving on to the conclusion of this section of VM which, is in essence a recap of HRB (cleverly, more convincingly confirmed by Henry posing as ‘Geoffrey’ in the contemporaneous words of Merlin):
Each of the two sons of Modred, desiring to conquer the Kingdom for himself, began to wage war and each in turn slew those who were near of kin to him. Then Duke Constantine, nephew of the King, rose up fiercely against them and ravaged the people and the cities, and after having killed both of them by a cruel death ruled over the people and assumed the crown. But he did not continue in peace since Conan175 his relative waged dire war on him and ravaged everything and killed the King and seized for himself those lands which he now governs weakly and without a plan.
We now enter a phase where Henry remembers that he is still the narrator of a story concerning the madness of Merlin with his friend Taliesin. After the praising of God, Henry now introduces a spring which miraculously will heal his madness. Not the most original of ideas but enough to hold and delight his readers and puts the storyline in context after the whole recap of the faux history in HRB. ….and all his madness departed and the sense which had long remained torpid in him revived, and he remained what he had once been – sane and intact with his reason restored.
We should not forget either the Gaste Fontaine and the Gaste Foret both here in the VM are also both icons in the Bliocadran. But the real evidence that the Bliocadran was composed by Henry Blois might be found in the similarities to his own situation to that of Percival’s mother.
She is going on a pilgrimage to Saint Brandain and we know the Voyage of Saint Brendan is where ‘Geoffrey’ has sourced the name Barinthus found in the VM. However, a month before she departs she had secretly sent out loaded wagons and carts ahead of her departure; just as Henry Blois had done by moving all his movable wealth to Clugny, having had it transported separately in the care of Peter the Venerable. Likewise with Henry’s situation at the time of composing the VM, we find in the Bliocadran that Percival’s mother’s announcement of the pilgrimage was a ruse to disguise the fact that her flight was to be permanent just as Henry Blois by transporting all his wealth intended to stay at Clugny because he did not trust what revenge King Henry II might suffer him. (see letter 3 in Note1). Likewise also Percival’s mother travels by way of Calfle on the Mer de Gale (Sea of Wales) which I would imagine is somewhere on the north or south coast of the Severn as Henry Blois had done leaving England by avoiding the ports on the south coast. From there, after the voyage, the Mother and Percival go into the gaste foret which is metaphorically Clugny.
I will elucidate upon the connection of VM with the Bliocadran in the section on the Grail legends in progression.
Merlin then continues on in VM in a soliloquy professing to understand the movement of the heavens and the workings of animals etc. before ending with the fact that due to the water he is now normal again: For now, I have the water which hitherto I lacked, and by drinking of it my brains have been made whole. But whence comes this virtue, O dear companion, that this new fountain breaks out thus, and makes me myself again who up to now was as though insane and beside myself?
At this point in the text we are told ‘Taliesin answers’ but in effect does not. He instead enters into a lengthy monologue lifted again from Isidore’s XIII, Xiii. De diversitate aquarum, (concerning the diversity of bodies of water).
The point of which this monologue serves is to relate back to the healing of the fountain which has cured Merlin of his madness where we hear amongst other such marvels for example that of: another fountain, called Cicero’s, which flows in Italy, which cures the eyes of all injuries. And also of: The land of Boeotia is said to have two fountains; the one makes the drinker forgetful, the other makes them remember.176
175The original Duke of Brittany not the contemporary Conan Earl of Richmond c. 1138–1171.
176Similar non-sense was in the prophecy about the fountains at Winchester in the HRB prophecies.
Merlin then commences his own lengthy monologue; its main constituents sourced from Isidore’s XII.vii, De avibus (concerning Birds).
This pointless recycling of Isedore’s work goes on for some time as ‘padding’ but is also not relevant to our discussion, but it commences with: Merlin presently said to them, “The Creator of the world gave to the birds as to many other things their proper nature, as I have learned by living in the woods for many days.
Then Henry introduces another character into the story-line with the intent of carrying out a clever bit of subliminal contortion on the part of the reader; in the hope conflation is caused in his readers minds. He introduces us to a man named Maeldinus who, with the story-line in VM, is associated with apples and would naturally lead any future investigator that enquires into his name to make the obvious conflation Henry has led us to.
It is a conflation between insula Pomorum and Insula Avallonis. It is not by coincidence a certain Melchinus in his prophecy (found at Glastonbury) refers of the island of Avalon; especially now that Henry has substituted the original name of Iniswitrin to Insula Avallonis on the prophecy. I propose throughout this work that Melchinus’ prophecy and its Icons is the inspiration behind Henry naming Avalon as the mystical island where Arthur was to be buried. The source idea is based on the Island on which Joseph was supposedly buried as pointed out in the Melkin prophecy and which Henry Blois had discovered at Glastonbury along with the 601 charter and this will become clear to the reader in progression. So, King Arthur’s grave is manufactured at Glastonbury graveyard by Henry Blois and the Duo Fassula from the Melkin prophecy becomes the Sang Real by how it is described in the Melkin prophecy.
The Melkin prophecy (originally about Ineswitrin) is Henry’s template for the place Arthur is taken after his fight with Mordred. Considering Melkin’s prophecy speaks of an undiscovered sepulchre, I would suggest Henry’s notion of planting Arthur’s body in the graveyard at Glastonbury is derived from Melkin’s prophecy which in effect refers to Joseph’s undiscovered tomb. Nor would it be too difficult to work out that Melkin’s duo fassula are the template for Henry’s Grail. In progression I will show that the Melkin prophecy existed at the time Henry Blois was alive and he was responsible for the change of name on the prophecy from Ineswitrin to Avalon which JG then recycles in his Cronica.
It seems propitious therefore that a certain Maeldinus is introduced as a character in VM which suggests to readers also that his name is associated with Insula Pomorum and therefore Avalon.
After he had finished speaking a certain madman came to them, either by accident or led there by fate; he filled the grove and the air with a terrific clamour and like a wild boar he foamed at the mouth and threatened to attack them. They quickly captured him and made him sit down by them that his remarks might move them to laughter and jokes. When the prophet looked at him more attentively he recollected who he was and groaned from the bottom of his heart, saying, “This is not the way he used to look when we were in the bloom of our youth, for at that time he was a fair, strong knight and one distinguished by his nobility and his royal race. Him and many others I had with me in the days of my wealth, and I was thought fortunate in having so many good companions, and I was. It happened one time while we were hunting in the lofty mountains of Arwystli that we came to an oak which rose in the air with its broad branches. A fountain flowed there, surrounded on all sides by green grass, whose waters were suitable for human consumption; we were all thirsty and we sat down by it and drank greedily of its pure waters. Then we saw some fragrant apples lying on the tender grass of the familiar bank of the fountain. The man who saw them first quickly gathered them up and gave them to me, laughing at the unexpected gift. I distributed to my companions the apples he had given to me, and I went without any because the pile was not big enough. The others to whom the apples had been given laughed and called me generous, and eagerly attacked and devoured them and complained because there were so few of them. Without any delay a miserable sadness seized this man and all the others; they quickly lost their reason and like dogs bit and tore each other, and foamed at the mouth and rolled on the ground in a demented state. Finally, they went away like wolves filling the vacant air with howlings. These apples I thought were intended for me and not for them, and later I found out that they were. At that time there was in that district a woman who had formerly been infatuated with me, and had satisfied her love for me during many years. After I had spurned her and had refused to cohabit with her she was suddenly seized with an evil desire to do me harm, and when with all her plotting she could not find any means of approach, she placed the gifts smeared with poison by the fountain to which I was going to return, planning by this device to injure me if I should chance to find the apples on the grass and eat them. But my good fortune kept me from them, as I have just said. I pray you, make this man drink of the healthful waters of this new fountain so that, if by chance he get back his health, he may know himself and may, while his life lasts, labour with me in these glades in service to God.” This, therefore, the leaders did, and the man who had come there raging drank the water, recovered, and, cured at once recognized his friends. Then Merlin said, “You must now go on in the service of God who restored you as you now see yourself, you who for so many years lived in the desert like a wild beast, going about without a sense of shame. Now that you have recovered your reason, do not shun the bushes or the green glades which you inhabited while you were mad, but stay with me that you may strive to make up in service to God for the days that the force of madness took from you. From now on all things shall be in common between you and me in this service so long as either lives.” At this Maeldinus (for that was the man’s name) said, “Reverend father, I do not refuse to do this, for I shall joyfully stay in the woods with you, and shall worship God with my whole mind, while that spirit, for which I shall render thanks to your ministry, governs my trembling limbs.” “And I shall make a third with you, and shall despise the things of the world,” said Taliesin. “I have spent enough time living in vain, and now is the time to restore me to myself under your leadership. But you, lords, go away and defend your cities; it is not fitting that you should disturb beyond measure our quiet with your talk. You have applauded my friend enough.”
At this point in the story it looks as if Henry Blois was finding it tedious to pad out a story-line in which the main point was to implant polemic and uphold the pseudo-history of HRB. It is here that Henry decides to have one more dabble in Prophecy before an abrupt end to the work, as the three men Merlin, Taliesin and Maeldinus177 send their audience away and remain in the wood along with Merlin’s sister Ganieda.
177The fact that there is a King Melvas at Glastonbury and a Maheloas, a great baron, lord of the Isle of Voirre in Chrétien’s ‘Erec’ and here a Maeldinus (of royal race) all attached to Glastonbury, all having emanated from Melkin or the Maeldanus in the Life of Cadoc (on which Henry based his life of Gildas) just indicates Henry’s ability to conflate sources.
The next set of prophecies Henry Blois wishes to impose on the reader are supposedly spoken by Ganieda, who, incredibly sees into the future from the sixth century. Incredibly so much that is relevant to her reading audience in the twelfth century, who have just lived through the Anarchy. Even to a Norman audience her prophecies must stretch credibility; to believe that the one occasion Ganieda is found prophesying, amazingly, the content of the prophetic vision pertains to the era in which the book which contained her vaticinations was published.
The chieftains departed. The three remained, with Ganieda, the prophet’s sister, making a fourth, she who at length had assumed and was leading a seemly life after the death of the King who so recently had ruled so many people by the laws he administered. Now with her brother there was nothing more pleasant to her than the woods. She too was at times elevated by the spirit so that she often prophesied to her friends concerning the future of the Kingdom. Thus, on a certain day when she stood in her brother’s hall and saw the windows of the house shining with the sun she uttered these doubtful words from her doubtful breast.
Any reader who has just been bored while traipsing through the construction of VM as we have just done, will shortly be able to make a bonefide decision about whether or not Henry Blois is writing these prophecies. What most scholars already understand is that whoever authored the Merlin prophecies composed HRB. Once this is understood, it becomes very evident from Ganieda’s prophecies below that the author of GS is the same person also and is still alive in 1157 which total negates a dead Geoffrey from composing them!!!.
Ganieda starts with the three defining moments of the Anarchy, the seizing of Roger of Salisbury and Alexander of Lincoln at Oxford, the siege at Winchester and the battle of Lincoln. If truth were told, the Anarchy probably would not have taken place if Henry Blois had not manipulated the crown onto his brother’s head. The events are so highly relevant to Henry Blois, it is doubtful that there was anyone who would be more concerned with such issues. Again, the content exposes Henry Blois as the author, but I have put the explanation in the appendix so I can move on from VM as some elucidations are lengthy.
I see the city of Oxford filled with helmeted men, and the holy men and the holy bishops bound in fetters by the advice of the Council,178 and men shall admire the shepherd’s tower reared on high, and he shall be forced to open it to no purpose and to his own injury.179 I see Lincoln walled in by savage soldiery and two men shut up in it, one of whom escapes to return with a savage tribe and their chief to the walls to conquer the cruel soldiers after capturing their leader.180 O what a shame it is that the stars should capture the sun, under whom they sink down, compelled neither by force nor by war!181 I see two moons in the air near Winchester182 and two lions acting with too great ferocity,183 and one man looking at two and another at the same number, and preparing for battle and standing opposed.184 The others rise up and attack the fourth185 fiercely and savagely but not one of them prevails, for he stands firm and moves his shield and fights back with his weapons and as victor straightway defeats his triple enemy. Two of them he drives across the frozen regions of the north while he gives to the third the mercy that he asks, so that the stars flee through all portions of the fields.186The Boar of Brittany, protected by an aged oak, takes away the moon, brandishing swords behind her back.187 I see two stars engaging in combat with wild beasts beneath the hill of Urien where the people of Gwent and those of Deira met in the reign of the great Coel188 O with what sweat the men drip and with what blood the ground while wounds are being given to the foreigners!189 One star collides with the other and falls into the shadow, hiding its light from the renewed light.190 Alas what dire famine shall come, so that the north shall inflame her vitals and empty them of the strength of her people.191 It begins with the Welsh and goes through the chief parts of the Kingdom, and forces the wretched people to cross the water.192 The calves accustomed to live on the milk of the Scottish cows that are dying from the pestilence shall flee.193 Normans depart and cease to bear weapons through our native realm with your cruel soldiery. There is nothing left with which to feed your greed for you have consumed everything that creative nature has produced in her happy fertility. Christ, aid thy people! Restrain the lions and give to the country quiet peace and the cessation of wars.”
178See appendix 21
179See appendix 22
180See appendix 23
181See appendix 26
182On 14 September 1141, Queen Matilda and Empress Matilda, ‘the two moons’ brought their rival forces to the rout of Winchester. See also appendix 22
183Duke Henry the future King Henry II and Stephen are the two lions, and the one man looking at two and another man looking at two are Henry Blois and Theobald of Bec already mentioned at the ’Ford of the Staff’ (Wallingford). Henry Blois and Theobald of Bec are the peacemakers as neither side (situated each side of the river), wanted to fight. As Henry equates himself with Cicero he would know: A bad peace is always better than a good war.
184The one man is Henry Blois looking at the two. The two are the Queen Matilda i.e. King Stephen’s wife and the Empress Matilda. ‘Another’ is Robert of Gloucester looking at the two also, preparing for battle.
185William the Conqueror, Henry Blois’ Grandfather was accounted the first Leonine king in the Libellus Merlini which only went to four Kings originally; William II, was the third son of William the conqueror of England, called William Rufus. He was the second Leonine king. The third was Henry Ist and the fourth was King Stephen the brother of Henry Blois. Orderic Vitalis says: crowned on the eighteenth of the calends of January being the fourth King of the Norman race.
186See appendix 25
187See appendix 24
188See appendix 27
189See appendix 28
190See appendix 29
191See appendix 30
192‘In the same week, a like good fortune smiled on King Stephen in another part of the Kingdom. For the earl of Albemarle and Roger de Mowbray had an engagement with the King of Scotland,’ and having put to the sword a multitude of the Scots, avenged the cruel slaughter which these people had made of the English without any respect for the Christian religion. The Scots, it appears, fearing the sword which threatened them, fled towards the water, and rushing into the river Tweed where there was no ford, in their attempt to escape death, met it by drowning.’ After the war had continued for a length of time between the two Kings, and it had been accompanied by great atrocities on the one side and on the other, to the general loss, envoys were sent by divine inspiration, to treat of peace between the two Kings, now weary of pillage and slaughter, as well as of continual anxiety and toil; and thus their alliance was renewed’.
193See appendix 30. Also, a poem in Canu Taliesin entitled The Battle of Gwen Ystrat: “The men of Catraeth arise with the day around a battle-victorious, cattle-rich sovereign this is Uryen by name, the most senior leader.”
The word Neustrians is employed for Normans so that an air of antiquity is maintained. Here, unlike in the original Libellus Merlini where the Normans were saviours, we now fully understand that Henry II is on the throne and Henry’s only hope of return to England is to rouse the Celts to rebellion by appearing seemingly to castigate the Normans.194 Henry Blois does not betray his Norman heritage; just as he averts all suspicion of authorship of the Gesta Stephani by being on occasion derogatory about himself. The stratagems employed to divert suspicion of authorship in the various works in the course of this exposé are varied and ingenious. Henry Blois writing as ‘Geoffrey’ in the VM, speaking as Ganieda, Merlin or Taliesin feigns British nationality as can be seen below by his inference that the author is British:
1. The war-lord Horsa and many others met their deaths at the hands of our men.
2. She promptly sent word overseas to her brother to come back with sufficiently large forces to overcome our warrior people.
3. Our men made a great effort in an attack
4. And they conquered by the sword all the territories of our native land that lie beyond the Humber.
5. During this time the faithless and foolhardy guardian of our realm
6. Your power will not prove a match for our fierce nation.
Berating the Normans has the same effect. The confirmation of that which I have maintained about Henry Blois employing the updated Merlin prophecies to rouse all the Celts to come together is laid bare here. The VM was written in the period between 1155 and 1158 when Henry was trying a desperate ploy to regain power. This upstart son of Henry Blois’ nemesis i.e. the Empress Matilda had come down hard on Henry Blois as soon as Stephen was dead. No Norman or Anglo-Norman, especially a cleric in Oxford, would have the audacity to write that the ‘Normans should depart and cease to bear weapons through our native realm with your cruel soldiery’. It is no wonder Gerald relates that King Henry II wanted to obtain a copy of VM.
194We should also note that Henry’s own self image of the importance he wields in determining national events is evidenced in a self-written epitaph on the Meusan plates: lest England groan for it, since on him (Henry Blois) it depends for peace or war, agitation or rest.
If the reader is still not convinced that Henry Blois is the author of these prophecies and the instigator of these updated prophecies which incite rebellion, he should read the version of Merlin’s prophecies supposedly put out by John of Cornwall (which I cover in the section on John of Cornwall). That version puts Henry as the seventh king and Henry Blois vainly sees himself as an ‘adopted son’ firmly on the throne in England.
However, no Norman could deny in the period just after Stephen’s death that the entire country was depleted. Henry’s readership of VM would understand that the prophecy was indeed an accurate prediction by Ganieda. Henry’s last devise is to appeal to Christ (as if it were a Briton speaking) through Ganieda that peace may come as she ends her prophecy with: Restrain the lions and give to the country quiet peace and the cessation of wars.”
Ganieda having ‘seen’ so many tumultuous events which apply to the reign of Stephen, six hundred years in her future, may have tested the whole of VM’s credibility. However, Henry’s vanity had Ganieda see things which concerned Henry Blois directly. It is not by coincidence that historical records of events to which Ganieda alludes and which provides the explanation of all of Ganieda’s prophecies are covered in detail in GS (again authored by Henry Blois). Deflection and secrecy of authorship was vital, especially when we consider the consequences if the Bishop of Winchester was discovered in such a deception and of the invention of Merlin and his prophecies.
She did not stop with this and her companions wondered at her, and her brother, who soon came to her, spoke approvingly with friendly words in this manner, “Sister, does the spirit wish you to foretell future things, since he has closed up my mouth and my book? Therefore this task is given to you; rejoice in it, and under my favour devoted to him speak everything.
‘Geoffrey of Monmouth’ speaking through Merlin then goes on to convince his readers that Ganieda spoke of future events by the spirit and contrives the rhetorical question referring to his book of the prophecies of Merlin. Such a device verifies the credibility of such a book for the naïve and gullible of his reading audience (even to modern scholars).
I think Henry realises that some of his audience may pay little respect to prophecies from a woman no one has heard of before. So, the great Merlin adds his stamp of authority explaining (so that we might understand how it is that we are blessed with Ganieda’s insight) and the reason Merlin’s mouth has been ‘shut’. This indeed must be because (in reality) Merlin’s initial book (libellus Merlini) was already published and it had already been squewed from its original to the updated prophecies found in the Vulgate HRB.
Prophecies such as the Dumbarton and Carlisle prophecies were added here in VM and it would seem odd for more newly invented prophecies to turn up that had not previously been mentioned. Henry could not help himself in referring to the major parts of the Anarchy which Merlin had somehow missed and so they were seen by Ganieda instead.
The close to VM is rather a dull and an odd circumlocution on which to end an extraordinary composition which as a whole expresses the Mental state of Henry Blois while at Clugny. He goes depressed and gets his life back but certainly he nervous of returning to England as recorded in the letter from Theobald of Bec: You need have no fear for the future, dear brother, because the King himself is longing for your return and promises peace and security of every kind; and that you may not have the least doubt of this, we are taking your safety into our hands by giving you safe conduct from the coast to the King’s presence…
So, ‘Geoffrey’ ends the VM with:
I have brought this song to an end. Therefore, ye Britons, give a wreath to Geoffrey of Monmouth. He is indeed yours for once he sang of your battles and those of your chiefs, and he wrote a book called “The Deeds of the Britons” which are celebrated throughout the world.
Whether ‘Geoffrey’ wrote this with his original or not is only contested on the point that the colophon exists in one manuscript. However, it acts as a confirmation that the two works of HRB and VM are by the same supposed author who, (even though this VM has only recently been published circa late 1156 to 1157) is now dead and supposedly died in 1154. Tongue in cheek, Henry Blois suggests a memorial to a person that never lived. The real problem would have been laying the wreath on his grave because there wasn’t one. More importantly it gives the illusion that all these prophecies were written before Henry II came to the throne. Lastly and the probable insertion of this last colophon is to show that Geoffrey of Monmouth linked back to Galfridus Artur the author of the Primary Historia which as EAW relates was titled De gestis Britonum. The later title the Historia regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain) or the Vulgate version was originally titled De gestis Britonum in1138 or the Deeds of the Britons as in the colophon of VM.
Henry Blois lived until 1171, so there is the possibility of later additions by Henry. However, considering Henry’s recall to England, by Theobald of Bec, the terminus post quem fits the recently received news at Clugny. This is the news of a July 1157 battle at Coleshill. A battle in which Henry II was victorious and remained alive and therefore Henry Blois’ wish of insurrection was doubtful to come true; hence, the sudden termination of the VM with these events and a return to Winchester and the King’s Court. Henry Blois was very nervous about his return as can bee seen by Theobald allaying his fears of return in the letters sent to him.
There may only be one objection to an 1157 completion date which Tatlock discusses,195 based upon assumptions made by Delisle,196 but these should be dismissed. Tatlock gives a completion date not much after 1148. The discrepancy arises in a comment on the differentiation between Merlinus Ambrosius and Merlinus Caledonius or Silvester. The assertion for a date prior to 1157 is based upon two library catalogue descriptions of Geoffrey’s HRB one copied from the other197 in Normandy, where we read… Libri XII, in quorum septimo continentur prophetiae Mellini, non Silvestris, sed alterius, id est Mellini Ambrosii. The comment on the two Merlin’s is derived from Bec library, but Crick198 informs us, the Leiden manuscript was catalogued in 1160, so I can see no reason to assume a date prior to 1157 given that ‘Geoffrey’ did not die in 1154-5.
Tatlock seems to assume the Leyden MS, which has the VM prefixing the whole manuscript (containing much besides the HRB), who assigns an early HRB date (basing his premise purely upon the dedication), proposes as said…. ‘not much after 1148’ for the Vita’. He dates the second of the library cataloguing ‘between early 1152 and 1154’ and the first even earlier. This would have to be wrong on account of Stephen’s ‘nineteen’ years mentioned in the text of VM and the ‘sixth in Ireland’ prophecy which must post-date 1155.
195Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini 272
196Bibl.Ecc. Des Chartres, LXXI, 506-509, and in Faral II 20-22.
197Crick’s 76&92 MSS
198The Historia regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth IV. Dissemination and reception in later middle ages Prof. Julia C. Crick, 204
No previous proposition should prevent us here maintaining a completion date for the Vita Merlini as late as Aug- Sept 1157; and the terminus post quem of Chambers, Faral, Parry and Bruce is inconsequential based mainly upon the 13 December 1148 election date of Robert de Chesney to Lincoln and its supposedly recent transpiration made to appear by reason of the word ’just/recently’ in the preamble of VM.
Dedications as a form of dating in both HRB and VM have no bearing on the date of the work as commentators such as Crick need to understand before teaching another generation of scholars incorrectly.199 Crick has certainly done a lot of legwork but I just can’t see what she achieves not establishing ‘who’ Geoffrey is firstly and by ploughing through manuscript evidence: Moreover, without manuscript evidence, there is virtually no indication of how the work was disseminated; we have only Gaimar’s description of how the Historia text he used was obtained via Walter Espec from Robert of Gloucester. As we shall cover shortly Gaimar’s epilogue is composed by Henry Blois, so Crick is wildly misled. I will cover Gaimar and his epilogue in progression.
We can rely on Ganieda’s prophecy of the two kings meeting at Wallingford to set a date of at least 1153. That is, if it had not been shown that the ‘sixth in Ireland’ prophecy could only have occurred later than 1155. If we take the later suppositions of sedition and Coleshill…. we can get a date as late as 1157; nearly ten years after Tatlock’s date. Their early reckoning too is based on Henry Blois’ propaganda insertions into the book of Llandaff which provided the date of the Bishop of Asaph’s death along with the conclusion drawn about De Chesney’s recent election in 1148
Henry’s dedication to Robert de Chesney was just another form of ruse to hide Henry’s identity by choosing and flattering those who he had little respect for. It was also made to keep up the illusion that the bishop’s of Lincoln were ‘Geoffrey’s’ patrons. Not even Robert de Chesney could deny that his predecessor might have commissioned the prophecies translation by Geoffrey and that Geoffrey had taken it upon himself to write VM for his own further advancement appealing to a patron of the same diocese. There was no request involved in reality, and of course, if de Chesney did see VM, he would assume that Geoffrey died before he could present it. My bet would be that the VM was circulated continentally first and then after 1166 was introduced with a dedication after de Chesney was dead.
Henry Blois did not need their patronage and the entire dedicatory tone was a stratagem meant to mislead. The dedication could have been added after De Chesney’s death as ‘Geoffrey’ had done with the dedications in Vulgate HRB.
The first definitive assertion of differentiation between the two Merlins’ is by Gerald de Barri in Itinerarium Cambriae written in 1188-91 long after Crick’s 1160 date for cataloguing the Leiden MS. However, 1160 is still two years subsequent to Henry’s move back to Winchester from Clugny. Even though Henry Blois was patron to Gerald,200 Gerald never suspected Henry Blois as the author of HRB. Gerald, happy to quote Merlin, had not much good to say about ‘Geoffrey’.
To my mind, (disregarding the possibility of Henry’s vaticinatory ability), the whole paragraph toward the end of VM has to have been written after the event of Coleshill. Such a flimsy detail regarding the death of Geoffrey in 1155 seems immaterial since his persona is a fabrication anyway.
199The most balanced scholar in his approach to Geoffrey’s work is Prof. O.J. Padel: What is certain is Geoffrey’s subtlety and the complexity of his work: the gravest error that we students can commit is to underestimate it. The more one learns about his work, the more one feels that Geoffrey was always one step ahead of his twentieth-century readers: anything that we may establish, by dint of hard work and detailed scholarship, is open to revision by some future discovery.
200David Knowles. Saints and Scholars. P 55. It is largely due to Gerald’s record, who only knew Henry in his later life after his return from Clugny in 1158, which has secured Henry’s reputation in posterity as a revered elder statesman of the church giving generous patronage and wise council to such as King Henry II and Becket alike.
Taliesin was a sixth century poet and bard whose work has partially survived in the Welsh manuscript, the Book of Taliesin. Taliesin who is believed to have sung at the courts of at least three Celtic British Kings would of course interest ’Geoffrey’ and provide a contemporaneous companion and bouncing board in the VM for Merlin. Taliesin’s work dated from a few poems to the sixth century, praises King Urien of Rheged and his son Owain mab Urien, and several of the poems imply that he also served as the court bard to King Brochfael Ysgithrog of Powys and his successor Cynan Garwyn, either before or during his time at Urien’s court. Some of the events to which his poems refer, such as the Battle of Arfderydd may be the source for historical annals as Taliesin seems to have been at the battle just as Merlin pretends to be.
Taliesin’s name is directly linked with the Y Gododdin from which we have the poetic account previously mentioned and he is also mentioned in Nennius’s Historia Brittonum. Strangely, it would seem that this second Merlin Sylvestris is modelled upon Taliesin because even Taliesin’s parentage like Merlin’s was suspect. Although not an incubus, Taliesin was adopted as a child by Elffin, the son of Gwyddno Garanhir, but also more to the point, he has a possible connection to the original Melkin, (Meldred, Melvas, Maelgwn, all Kings) as Taliesin prophesied the death of Maelgwn from the Yellow Plague.
Taliesin also became companion of Bran the Blessed and King Arthur which sounds suspect as a late addition. But in the life of St Cadoc we hear: ‘in those days, a certain King, of the name of Maelgon, reigned over all Britain’. This I am sure was ‘Geoffrey’s’ reason for the inclusion of Maeldanus as a contemporary with Taliesin and Merlin in VM. The triple death divination and a prophetic madman called Lailoken befriended by St Kentigern of Glasgow (d.603) certainly associates more closely with a Calidonian Merlin. The Merlin in VM is a stargazing Merlin rather than an incubus as this would be unacceptable to readers.
The reasons for reconstituting Merlin in the Vita Merlini is because in HRB, ‘Geoffrey’ had put no flesh on Merlin’s bones. His prophecies were the substance of Merlin Ambosius in HRB. Later in this exposé, we will see Henry’s ingenuity to explain how it is that Robert de Boron possesses certain knowledge i.e. of Joseph and the Grail where Merlin is posited (just as he is in the VM), as a type of reappearing time traveller through the ages.
To make Merlin seem more real, Henry needed to give him location at a point in time with the added reality of interactive contemporaries who existed in history in the era projected by ‘Geoffrey’.
Henry Blois does clearly expose his authorship of the Vita Merlini in many places, but even in the HRB Henry betrays his own sentiments too often: ‘the disaster they had suffered in the loss of the Kingdom, they sent as legate Constantius the senator,…a wise man and a hardy, who had wrought more than any other to magnify the power of the commonweal’.
Henry Blois just after the primary historia was discovered at Bec became Legate and this is the time such embellishments or expansions between Primary Historia were made. Henry Blois was papal legate in England 1139–43 just at the time where we see these expansions split one version of expansions being included in First Variant and the other branch going toward expansions found in Alfred of Beverley’s copy.
Henry just happens to be a ‘legate’ also and it should be no shock that ‘Constantius took unto himself the crown of the Kingdom and therewithal the daughter of Coel unto wife. Her name was Helena, and all the damsels of the Kingdom did she surpass in beauty, nor was none other anywhere to be found that was held more cunning of skill in instruments of music nor better learned in the liberal arts’.
We will see that Henry Blois’ prospect of a marriage to a nun is Henry Blois’ possible hope in John of Cornwall’s rendition of the prophecies.
As Tatlock points out201 ‘one must be wary of assuming that every authentic legendary or historical Briton name here reflects in the attached narrative authentic tradition. Invented narrative attached to authentic names belonging to the same period concerned or other periods, is so common in the HRB as to be fairly called its formula’.
As I have mentioned, it seems that Henry employs a metaphor, interchanging the woods or forest for Clugny as opposed to the material world at court he had been part of; full of double dealings, deceit and lies. He had been greatly concerned with affairs in the Anarchy, during the years his brother was in power. I suggest that the innocence of the cloister boy returning home was like rediscovering inner peace and assuaging his anxiety at the loss of his wealth which is mentioned in the letter from Theobald in note 1.
Clugny was the woods, the forest of Calidon, and a place to heal one’s conscience from the madness he had endured in England and this is reflected in the opening of VM (especially with the 19 years coinciding with his brother’s reign). I might suggest also that some who were religiously instructed from an early age undergo a self-realisation of past misdemeanours and account this religious experience as a form of madness within themselves. This may be part of the reason for its inclusion in the story-line of the Vita Merlini and the feeling that Merlin gets back to his old self and his previous personality is restored after drinking the water.
Although not suggested by its manuscript tradition, it would seem from the later references to the VM that it was popular, but I believe the reason for its lesser dissemination as opposed to that of the HRB is that Henry did not propagate copies throughout the monastic system on the continent…. probably because it was less acceptable in verse firstly and also the monastic system viewed the HRB as a good read of history in Latin.
The VM had much less history and was designed to be read aloud at court. Therefore, it was not reproduced and distributed on the scale of the HRB in monastic scriptoriums. HRB’s distribution was simply achieved by handing it out to grandees and abbeys in the course of Henry’s travels; innocuously secreting its authorship, by presenting it as an interesting and inoffensive work by a non-descript cleric called Geoffrey.
The Vita Merlini in general can be seen to be derived from various sources, but it has a disconnected style compared with the unique condensation and organised construction of the HRB which ‘does its best’ to follow time chronologically. The Vita is no less contrived but its structure is haltering; as if Geoffrey after a long focus has to realign his plot to make sure that the points for which the Vita Merlini was produced are made. The overall effect is a less flowing structure than the HRB, (but to have versified some of Isidore’s work is already a feat). Maybe this is acceptable to Henry, who, throughout the matter of fact HRB, presented it as believable History. Henry adjusted his sights and agenda and in his first word says:
I am preparing to sing the madness of the prophetic bard, and a humorous poem on Merlin.
He in fact carries out certain intended facets which in effect help to align his propaganda concerning a partly fictional history which was to become known as the Matter of Britain.
201Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini 269