Others rise up and attack the fourth941 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 enemy thrice. Twice he drives him across the frozen regions of the north and a third (time) he (still) grants the mercy that he asks, so that the stars flee through all portions of the fields.
The terminus a quo is the rout of Winchester for this prophecy. The ‘Twice’ refers to the two previous times King Stephen crushed King David’s aggression but still let him go. Henry Blois is insensed the third time he does this straight after the rout of Winchester.
While writing the prophecies, at the end of the VM, Henry gets very specific about some of the incidents in the Anarchy and to certain people. No account of the Anarchy would be complete without hearing the account of the Scots and the part King David played as Empress Matilda’s uncle and ally during the troubles. Unfortunately, the copy of the Gesta Stephani is missing several pages and most importantly….one part is about the two defeats of the Scots which are referred to in the Vita Merlini prophecy as the ‘Twice’. Fortunately, Henry refers to them later in the GS, so that we can be sure that this is what the above prophecy refers to.
Henry Blois does not like the Welsh and he does not like the Scots either. Both, he considers to be savages and were the cause of much strife to the Kingdom during the Anarchy. Henry Blois does not like David, King of Scotland; but during the time when Stephen was imprisoned, Henry had spent time with David as he followed Matilda around as part of her retinue. In this Vita prophecy, the ‘others’ who rise up and attack the fourth (Stephen) are the Scots, but the reference is to King David himself.
Stephen had defeated him twice and made a deal with King David; but after the rout of Winchester King David was caught a third time, at which, he begged to be set free and paid a bribe for his freedom. This is the ‘Thrice’ referred to above.
This is part of the extract from the GS we saw in appendix 22:
What am I to say about the Knights, nay, the greatest barons who cast away all the emblems of their knighthood and going on foot, in sorry plight, gave false names and denied that they were fugitives. Some fell into the hands of peasants and were most terribly beaten; some concealed themselves in sordid hiding places, pale and full of dread, and lurked there until they either had a chance to escape all were found at last by their enemies and dragged out in shameful and unseemly fashion. And what am I to say of the King of Scotland who was taken for a third time as the story goes, but let go as always, on consideration of a bribe and in grief and weariness could hardly get away to his own country with a few followers? What of the Archbishop of Canterbury, with some bishops and others of the most distinguished men in all England, who when their comrades were scattered and horses and clothing captured from some and viley stolen from others could scarcely escape the safe hiding places from this rout? The Countess of Anjou herself, who was always superior to feminine softness and had a mind steeled and unbroken in adversity, was the first to fly, going to Devizes with only Brien and a few others to accompany her.
941William the Conqueror was accounted the first, William II, was the third son of William the conqueror of England, called William Rufus. He was the second. The third was Henry 1st and the fourth was King Stephen.
It is not coincidence that the author of GS who opines that King David is set free a third time is the same person writing the Merlin prophecy.
Again, in the section below from the account concerning the rout of Winchester, we hear that the other defeats (the two earlier) have already been covered by Henry in the section of folio’s now missing from the GS manuscript:942…so strong and numerous swarm of warriors was as suddenly conquered and scattered, captured and annihilated as I shall show more fully in what follows. King David of Scotland was there, he who, as has already been said, had twice been chased in shameful flight from England and was, with countless others, to be disgracefully chased from it a third time, not without information to himself and very great danger to his men.
However, it is worth covering the early passage in the Gesta Stephani concerning the Scots until the point at which it breaks off at the missing folio’s:
In Scotland, which borders on England, with a river fixing the boundary between the two Kingdoms, there was a King of gentle heart, is born of religious parents and equal to them in his just way of living. Since he had in the presence of King Henry, together with other magnets of Kingdom, or rather first of all of them, found himself with an oath that on King Henry’s death he would recognise no one as his successor except his daughter or her heir, he was greatly vexed that Stephen had come to take the tiller of the Kingdom of the English.
But because it had been planned and carried out by the barons themselves without consulting him, he wisely pondered the ultimate result and waited quietly943 for some time to see to what end the enterprise would come. And last King Henry’s daughter sent him a letter, stating that she had been denied her father’s will and deprived of the Kingdom promised to her on oath, that the laws had been made of no account, justice trampled underfoot, the fealty of the barons of England and the compact to which they had sworn broken and utterly disregarded, and therefore she humbly and mournfully besought him to aid her as a relation, since she was abandoned, and assist her as one bound to her by oath, since she was in distress.
942See Chapter: Henry Blois and the Gesta Stephani.
943Henry of Huntingdon relates the eruption of the Scots into Northumbria, in the first month of Stephen’s usurpation, and the two occurrences at Durham.
At this the King groaned deeply, and inflamed by zeal for justice, both on account of the ties of kinship and because he owed the woman the fealty he had promised, he determined to set the Kingdom of England in confusion, that when rebellion had been raised up everywhere against its King he might be compelled with God’s help to leave to one more just than himself what he had seized, as the King of Scots thought, unjustly. To spur him on with frequent urging to create disorder the King had with him on the one side the son of Robert of Bampton and his kinsman, who had been banished from England, as has been said, and had fled to him in the hope of recovering their Country, on the other Eustace Fitz John, a great and influential friend of King Henry, and very many others, who were cultivating strife either for their own profit or on account of defending what they regarded as justice. So King David, for that was his name, sent out a decree through Scotland and summoned all the arms, and giving them free license he commanded them to commit against the English, without pity, the most Savage and cruel deeds they could invent.
Scotland, which is also called Albany, is a land hemmed in by marshy places, well supplied with productive forests, milk, and herds, encircled by safe harbours and rich islands, but it has inhabitants that are barbarous and filthy, neither overcome by excess of cold nor enfeebled by severe hunger, putting their trust in swiftness of foot and light equipment; in their own country they care nothing for the awful moment of the bitterness of death, among foreigners they surpass all in cruelty. From this people then and from the nearer parts of Scotland the King collected a mass of rebels into an incredible army and leading towards England, and after crossing the boundary between the two Kingdoms into the region of Northumbria, which was wide and populous and filled with supplies of all things needful, he there encamped. Then, organising squadrons and battalions against all the land, which was large and rich………
The GS breaks off for the loss of folio. It is in this section that I believe we would have found the corroborative evidence to match several of the following prophesies. As we have seen throughout the VM, many events can be related directly back to information in the Gesta Stephani, both written by the same person.
Since the history is missing from the GS, I will briefly recap here to cover the known history which probably would have been covered in the missing folios. David was the brother-in-law of Henry Ist. David was probably an important figure at the English court and was the Kings protégé. At the death King Henry Ist, David supported the claims of Henry’s daughter Matilda, and so came into conflict with King Stephen as the Gesta Stephani makes clear.
However, David’s support for Matilda was used as a pretext for land-grabbing; but David made it look like a sincere quest for justice since he had been the first to take the oath in 1127 to uphold the succession of Matilda. When Stephen was crowned on 22 December 1135, David went to war against Stephen straight away. Even though the later allusion in the VM a few lines down, that it all started with the Welsh; this is in reference to the era starting with William the Conqueror.
David marched into northern England just after Stephen was crowned and by the end of January, he had occupied the castles of Carlisle, Wark, Alnwick, Norham and Newcastle. By February David was at Durham, where Stephen met him. Rather than fight a pitched battle, a treaty was agreed, and this is what Henry Blois refers to as the first part of the ‘twice’ as seen in the prophecy.
Henry was annoyed that his brother, whose forces could have overpowered David, rather than fight, made a deal with David. As Stephen was to learn, (and it would surely have been written in the missing pages of the Gesta Stephani, Henry Blois would have advised against such a deal)…. Stephen was to regret not removing David’s power first time. A deal was struck. On Stephen’s side…. he received back some castles and David would do no homage to Stephen. Stephen was to receive the homage of Henry, David’s son, for both Carlisle and the other English territories already taken.
Stephen also promised that if in the future he was to resurrect the defunct earldom of Northumberland, David’s son would be considered. However, the issue of Matilda was not part of the deal which indicates David was just using the whole affair as a land grab exercise using the affront to his niece as an excuse.
The first Durham treaty fell apart quickly after King David took umbrage at the treatment of his son Henry at Stephen’s court. King David massed an army on Northumberland’s border, to which the English responded by gathering an army at Newcastle. Once more, a pitched battle was avoided, and instead, a truce was agreed again. The treaty at Durham was broken for a second time when David demanded that Stephen hand over the whole of the old earldom of Northumberland.
Stephen’s refusal after many comings and goings led to the Battle of Standard in January 1138. Henry Blois is not alone in his revulsion for the Scots as Richard of Hexham called it: “an execrable army, savager than any race of heathen yielding honour to neither God nor man” and that it “harried the whole province and slaughtered everywhere folk of either sex, of every age and condition, destroying, pillaging and burning the vills, churches and houses”.
King Stephen had in effect let David off the hook twice as both accords were broken. Stephen, however, was not at the battle of Standard, so it is not until the ‘third time’ at Winchester that Stephen (once released) lets him off the hook with another deal.
Henry, writing as Geoffrey posing as Merlin’s sister Ganieda implies that the deal is brokered with a ‘bribe’, but what Henry is most annoyed at is setting David free one more time (thrice). Henry believes having broken his word twice why believe he will keep it a third time. Will you never learn he implies…. and writes So the stars flee throughout the field.