The dispute between Canterbury and Glastonbury over the relics of St Dunstan.
We have arrived at this point demonstrating Henry Blois to be the author of several tracts concerning Glastonbury lore. The letter written to the Glastonbury monks by Eadmer indicates at what an early stage Henry Blois can be implicated in disseminating falsities. If we can read between the lines and understand the motives, the letter corroborates what I have maintained through this discourse about Henry’s ability to fabricate. Henry Blois is a fabricator…. a person who has no qualms about bending the truth to suit an end. Henry Blois is internally, vainly imperious, but ostensibly portrays an exterior of an educated and outwardly balanced man who eventually fostered a persona of ‘venerable patron’ of the church.
In his early days before the Machiavellian usurpation of the crown by his brother King Stephen, Henry is presented as humble monk with time for the common man as William of Malmesbury portrays him in the prologue to DA in the early stages of his career. It probably only took until 1135 until William of Malmesbury fully understood Henry’s true nature. By this time the nonsense of this dispute over Dunstan’s relics had probably passed, as its main instigator had moved on to greater ambitions and more fantastic fabrications.
I hope to show the reader that Eadmer’s ire in his letter written to Glastonbury Monks is aimed at the young Henry Blois. Also, that William of Malmesbury’s strange stance on lambasting Osbern’s work is on account of the pressure brought to bear by Henry Blois, who had instigated the rumour concerning Dunstan’s translation from Canterbury. William, in Henry’s employ and ensconced at Glastonbury, most probably knew that it was the young enterprising abbot who had put about such rumours, but being a mere historian could in no way implicate the new abbot and nephew of King Henry I.
The earliest and only written concocted Glastonbury account of how the abbey came to possess the body of St Dunstan is written in the interpolated first 34 chapters of DA. Eadmer does not imply that the events of St Dunstan’s translation to Glastonbury is written down anywhere. We can grasp fully the original account of Glastonbury’s pretensions and the details of the concocted legend through Eadmer’s refutation of the Glastonbury claim. In fact, Eadmer implies the spreading of the Dunstan rumour is verbal and he had never heard that anyone who was there at the time has ever said or written anything concerning these matters which you have put about… Not a single word, spoken or written, that any sane man could accept………..Have you, pray, any writings to prove matters stood thus?
Sir Archibald Campbell Lawrie466 claims Eadmer died in 1123 on the 13th, January. There is no definitive evidence for this and most commentators put Eadmer’s death at 1126 at the earliest and more probably afterward as we shall see. However, no-one to my knowledge has answered sufficiently why this rumour suddenly appeared which spurred Eadmer’s sarcastic refutation by correspondence to the Glastonbury monks. This letter to the Glastonbury monks in occasional indirect references infers that Henry Blois could be the abbot at the time when the letter was written. So (if I am correct in this analysis) Eadmer must have lived after 1126, the year Henry Blois joined the abbey of Glastonbury.
466Early Scottish Charters, prior to 1153. Sir Archibald Campbell Lawrie. Glasgow, 1910, Published by James Maclehose and Sons, Glasgow, 1905, p 291
My proposition is that the person who established the rumour of Dunstan’s relics at Glastonbury in his early life then provided the only written account of the Glastonbury concoction by interpolating William of Malmesbury’s DA i.e. Henry Blois. This has not been posited before because it has always been assumed that an interpolator after the fire at Glastonbury is responsible for the insertion in DA.
However, we know of the existence of another interpolator who added to DA after Henry Blois had inserted his final interpolations which constitute chapters 1 and 2 of DA. This consolidator may or may not be responsible for the T version of DA, but what is a certainty is that the amount that the consolidator achieves is far less than Scott accounts to his efforts.
Scott, our present authority on DA is unaware of the interpolations of Henry Blois and concludes a much later coalescing of DA. I would say that an intermediary consolidator after Henry’s death (or even another redactor before the scribe of T) has expanded upon Henry’s initial interpolations in DA. Certainly at least one interpolator writes after the fire in 1184.
The legend of the translation of Dunstan would be easier to maintain or concoct after the fire if there were initial evidence backing up the claim supposedly written by ‘William of Mamesbury’. One would then only have to ‘re-find’ the grave site as the later redactor of DA achieves in the post 1184 account of the Dunstan exhumation which constitute chapters 24 and 25 of DA.
There are many reasons for positing Henry’s involvement in propagating the translation rumour. Let us see if the evidence drawn from not only William of Malmesbury but from the narrative of Eadmer’s letter implicates Henry Blois.
Eadmer admired William of Malmesbury and knew him as a friend. William’s obvious avoidance of this Dunstan translation story rather than its inclusion or rebuttal in his own unadulterated VD, tells us that he was aware of the story. It should be clear that William’s refusal to compromise his integrity by going along with the rumoured Dunstan translation from Canterbury was the main impetus (alongside the abbey’s proof of antiquity) for being commissioned to write DA.
This is made plain in the prologue of DA. William refers to the ‘original plan’ which was to counter the most consequential of Osbern’s errors; which stated that Dunstan was the first Abbot at Glastonbury. There is no doubt that the Glastonbury church stood long before Augustine’s arrival and William makes this plain in the prologue to VD I: In fact, Glastonbury passed under the sway of the church long before St Patrick, who died in AD 472, while Dunstan saw the light of day in AD 925. Incidentally, there is no indication that William’s VD I or II were interpolated.
So, the ‘original plan’ or intent mentioned in the prologue of DA was not only to counteract Osbern’s inaccuracy, but also to show that by merit of age, Glastonbury had greater cause for celebration and respect. Age generally established primacy in church rank but because Augustine was a Roman envoy, Canterbury was conferred with that honour. This was obviously an ongoing dispute over time when Henry arrived at Glastobury and involved nearly every religious house as age of establishment defined the ecclesiastical pecking order. Anyway, William’s curious snipes at Osbern’s work in the two prologues to VD in conjunction with certain statements in the prologue to DA indicate that there was some political manoeuvrings going on. I believe the cause of most of it is in deference to Henry Blois.
Henry Blois arrived at Glastonbury in 1126. He may have arrived back in England with his uncle from Normandy after settling differences with the princes of France. Huntingdon has King Henry’s return date at September 1126, when he was accompanied back to England by the recently widowed Empress Matilda.
I envisage a young abbot, around 25 years of age, eager to impress his uncle by contributing knight’s service and funds to the royal coffers, sorting out Glastonbury abbey which once had been a very rich institution at the time of Doomsday. One choice of action would be to gain advantage of Glastonbury’s association with Dunstan, enhancing the visits to Glastonbury by pilgrims and increasing the alms they brought. Henry has a penchant for crosses and understands the power they have over Christians.
It seems by inference of the image of the redeemer, he sets one up at Glastonbury specifically relating to Dunstan as we can gather from Eadmer: If you listen to my advice, you will remove those bones which you have loaded onto the image of our Redeemer, before He is Himself angry with you. It is sufficient that He be honoured for Himself and there is no need to keep up holiness on Him through dead men’s bones or otherwise.
Henry attested in his own libellus that he set about regaining misappropriated lands after the previous bad practises by former abbots had diminished the abbey. He also re-gained lands previously belonging to Glastonbury which had been gifted in reward by his former relatives as past Kings such as King William. Henry capitalises on the known association of Dunstan at Glastonbury by claiming his relics rest there.
In my scenario, Henry puts about a story which adds credence to such a claim and an explanation of how the circumstances transpired that such a relic is fortuitously found at Glastonbury. Author B’s account of the life of Dunstan relates his early saintly life at Glastonbury and certainly a Dunstan tradition existed at Glastonbury. All Henry did was capitalise on an asset through tradition. Eadmer in his letter makes it clear that when he himself visited Glastonbury, no translation myth existed. In fact, Eadmer states that Glastonbury monks were known to pay their respects to Dunstan at Canterbury only in the recent past.
One of William of Malmesbury’s efforts being half Norman and half English was to preserve for posterity the deeds of the English saints. Yet William definitely knew of this rumour and who had started it and for what reason. William of Malmesbury’s GR states: I have followed the true law of the historian, and have set down nothing but what I have learnt from trustworthy report or written source. Moreover, be that as it may, I have this private satisfaction, by God’s help, that I have set in order the unbroken cause of English history, and am since Bede the only man so to do, or at any rate the first. If anyone therefore as I already here suggested, has a mind to follow me in writing on this subject, let him give me the credit for the collection of the facts and make his own selection from the material.
William was already there at the abbey when Henry Blois arrived, having been employed by the Monks prior to Henry’s arrival to write the lives of Indract and Patrick (St Benignus was never written).467 It appears the monks had already approved (corrected) these lives prior to Henry’s arrival. It seems of little advantage except from someone who wishes to capitalise on Glastonbury’s association with Dunstan to engage another historian to write a biography/investigation into the life of Dunstan. Author B, Adelard, Osbern, an old English author also and Eadmer himself had already re-ploughed Dunstan’s biographic field with little fresh to add without invention.
467As we shall cover shortly, this myth was created to establish St Patrick at Glastonbury rather than association relying on author B’s reference to Patrick.
My proposition is that Henry wanted William of Malmesbury to paint a version not from the angle which glorifies Canterbury’s association with Dunstan (as Osbern and Eadmer had done), but to provide a picture which implies a greater attachment by Dunstan as a ‘former pupil’ to Glastonbury. Diplomatically, Henry persuaded William to embark on the biography hoping that he would be convinced by ‘oral’ tradition at Glastonbury by implying that previous biographers had underperformed. I suspect that Henry Blois was intending to plant evidence (concerning Dunstan) in the chest of papers from which William was to glean the information for DA.
However, Henry did not bank on William’s probity or William’s close acquaintance with Eadmer or Eadmer’s tenacity and assurance that Dunstan’s bones never left Canterbury.
In VD I in the prologue, William diplomatically states that the reason for writing (and William earning his next commission): Most holy Fathers, in the celebration of the love and honour of your most blessed father Dunstan our pious zeal strives to compete with the whole of England. And it may be that ours is the greater glory in this contest, seeing that we love as a former pupil one whom they look up to as a saint and an Archbishop. So it is that we can join love to our reverence yielding in neither to those of Canterbury, who boast that they once had him as their primate. Hence it has come about that, for all our diligence in looking out writings concerning his life, we are sad that they do not come up to your expectation. For we have found that the old lives lack polish, and the new reliability. So, we have reasonably enough been to that extent saddened: for rustic writings give no pleasure, and it is shaming to repeat things that lack of firm basis in truth. It is a misuse of learning and leisure to retail falsehoods about the doings of saints: it shows contempt for reputation and condemns one to infamy. I should be glad to be unaware that this fate has befallen a recent author of a life of the blessed Dunstan; he is often either mistaken in his views or biased in his judgement.
My deduction is that while Henry was putting these rumours about, that he wished to influence William so that William would attest St Dunstan’s translation as part of history. The tensions surrounding William’s unwillingness to co-operate are evident in the prologue to DA. What is not so clear is William’s change of attitude to Osbern’s work since completing GR1 in 1125. The attitude can only be the result of a recent development and it seems to be down to the arrival of the new abbot.
William had praised Osbern for his work as a hagiographer and liturgist in GR: I would gladly add more facts…. about this great man (Dunstan) but I am restrained by Osbern, precentor of Canterbury, who has written his life with Roman elegance, being second to none in our time as a stylist as well as leading the field without dispute in music.468
William’s unwillingness to substantiate what he knew to be untrue, had to be balanced with his ‘anxiety to win your favour’ and his way out of this diplomatic mess. William, as confrater at Glastonbury, decided a course of action to mitigate this embarrassing situation and to distance his work on Dunstan from Eadmer by making almost no use of material from Eadmer’s life of Dunstan. In this way he did not contradict or diminish his friends work. William in VD made no specific reference to it for this reason. But, contrarily, William ostensibly defends Glastonbury against Canterbury by using the deceased Osbern’s work as he pillories most of Osbern’s erroneous assertions in an attempt to appear on side with the Glastonbury monks. William saw this as a way out. He could corroborate Glastonbury’s historical antiquity by seeming to counteract the false statements of the Canterbury precentor, without having to fully compromise his integrity by substantiating what he knew to be false.
This atandpoint of William’s is made plain in his accusation against Osbern concerning prophecy: But what he (Dunstan) foretold I do not presume to say, for I find nothing in old books. As I have said before, whoever claims to tell of the feats of saints, but goes beyond what has been written in the past, is surely of unsound mind.469
468GR chap 149.3
469VD ii 35.2
It was in Osbern’s work that the gross accusation of Glastonbury’s recent foundation was made which relates back to the primacy issue and pecking order of Clergy and religious houses. William had misunderstood that he was expected not only to counter this false accusation (that Dunstan was the first abbot), but also to authenticate the Dunstan translation rumour started by Henry Blois. This initially was Henry Blois’ intention in commissioning VD.
William on the other hand had understood the ‘original plan’ was to write a better version of Dunstan’s life, while at the same time expounding upon the abbey’s antiquity. As soon as Henry Blois understood that William was not the person to embellish the rumour he himself had started, Henry and the Glastonbury monks commissioned DA which would show through the evidence of the 601 charter that by logic St Dunstan could not have been the first Abbot. William went on to finish his first commission demonstrating to his fellow monks he was vehemently against Osbern’s original slight of their abbey.
However, William’s reasons for writing VD1 are different from Henry’s because Henry could not explicitly ask William to propagate a fabrication: it was because you had taken offence at such mistakes (of Osbern) that you appealed to me to display the obedience our confraternity demands, and to give a new description of the saints doings, using (as it were) the press of my labours to remove the lees of untruth and strain out a purified version of the facts. So that I could do this with more assurance you showed me writings, both in Latin and in English, that you had found in an ancient chest of yours.470
Even though William had previous affiliation with Canterbury; Canterbury could hardly contradict the claim of antiquity as Glastonbury was in truth more ancient: It was an ancient place as I have said, going back well beyond his time; but though it owes its first foundation to earlier benefactors, it is indebted to Dunstan for its new pre-eminence.471
470These writings would certainly be the 601 charter which William commences his DA and also probably the prophecy of Melkin both of which mentioned Ineswitrin.
471VD ii 10.3
Just as a quick comment, to substantiate for the reader that the interpolations in the first 34 chapters of DA were fabricated…. if William had truly reached the conclusion of an apostolic foundation after his researches at Glastonbury (as is commonly thought by modern scholars), he would have stated it here…. as VD II is written after the main body of DA. The material which constitutes the first chapters in DA largely unadulterated but the first 34 chapters of DA are additions largely inserted by Henry Blois at different stages of his life and reflect the ‘agendas’ in his life.
So, William in effect, would not distress Canterbury as long as he did not state that Dunstan’s relics were at Glastonbury. However, Henry was the proponent of the rumour and William came up short, not acquiescing to record falsities but instead recording as history what he knew was true. It is on these grounds DA was instigated after VD did not achieve the counteraction of Osbern’s claim. The carping nature of William’s criticism against Osbern can only be understood as wishing to appear as angered as the rest of the institution within which he mixed and ate his bread at Glastonbury.
The accusations against Osbern were several, but above all was his assertion that Dunstan was Glastonbury’s first Abbot. William took Osbern to task for exaggeration and his use of obviously concocted speech as if Dunstan had spoken what was quoted. William also set out to confound him on theological errors: How heinously the chanter of Canterbury went astray in relating the life of our father. For apart from a very few details in which he kept on the right track, there are very many others-almost all in fact-where he confused the order of miracles or strayed from the truth by diminishing or exaggerating events. In particular following the practice of the rhetoricians, he often attributed to speakers words which they might indeed have spoken in those circumstances-but who, I ask you, could have passed them on to our day with all accuracy? Scarcely, I repeat, scarcely has a slender report of events trickled through to us; far less could I believe that words; which flew away the moment they were spoken, could have been held on to. There is nothing of the sort in the old writers following whose account I have on your instructions roll back the miracles to their proper order and corrected the details of events. I have added what is lacking, and cut out what is superfluous. But I’m afraid it will be difficult to gain pardon for this remark from the ill-disposed even though-to quote the opinion of a great orator472 -I should not be afraid to be called arrogant when I’m speaking the truth.473
If William really thought that there was any truth in the rumour that Dunstan’s body lay at Glastonbury, he would have said so. William’s only way out of this compromising situation as Winterbottom and Thompson suggest, was to propose a third book on Dunstan’s posthumous miracles. But for obvious reasons this never got written: … but a few things that have been preserved in writing will claim a place in the following book.474
The question is: does the chronology and scenario fit the statements made in the three prologues of VD 1&2 and DA? Do the set of events correspond as I have set them out above? Do they coincide as a reaction not only to Osborne but also take into account William’s reticence to mention the ‘Elephant in the room’?
It seems fair to assume in 1127-8, it is hoped William can be brought on-board to express the view of the current newly invented Glastonbury polemic that Dunstan was translated at the time of the Danish incursion from Canterbury to Glastonbury. This does not happen for reasons explained above concerning William’s integrity. While William of Malmesbury was writing VD 1, it is realised by Henry Blois that William is not going to be cajoled, therefore, DA is envisaged as a compromise to overcome William’s moral rectitude in refusing to accept the translation rumour and yet confute Osbern’s accusation.
The non-interpolated part of DA not only confutes Osbern’s accusation, but establishes antiquity prior to Augustine by inclusion of the 601 charter which came at the beginning of William’s original DA. This in essence is the goal of DA, ‘the original plan’.
VD1 refers forward to the DA and both can be seen to have been written simultaneously. William finishes VD1 quickly and concentrates on the new task of DA: And so I have made haste to obey your command, and in my anxiety to win your favour and that of the saint, I have perhaps laid myself open to the teeth of backbiters…. I have applied my pen to this topic simply to do you a favour.475
473VD ii prologue
474VD ii 35. 2
475VD I prologue,
William continues to finish his second book of the life of Dunstan from the birth of King Edgar taking up chronologically from where the VDI had left off. VDII however, was written later than the main body of DA and refers back to it: I have dealt in another work, as well as God allowed me, with the antiquity of this most holy monastery at Glastonbury in which I profess my heavenly service. If anyone is desirous of reading about it, he will be able to find it elsewhere in my output.476
This indicates that DA took priority after VDI was set aside while DA was researched and composed. Yet both books of the VD were finished by the time William wrote the prologue to DA. By then Henry is Bishop of Winchester.
William in VDII refers to GR as written some years ago: but anyone who cares to read of such matters may wish to look out the history of the English Kings, (GR) which I published some years back.477 So, we may conclude VDI was started 1127-28, and DA 1128-29. When complete DA was presented to Henry anytime between 1129 and 1134-4 before Henry’s brother became King. It seems that Henry Blois paid for the services of William in producing DA as the book was referred to him for approval by the monks at Glastonbury; the implication being he was already bishop of Winchester and the single monograph copy rested with Henry Blois at Winchester.
With those events explained, I aim to show that Eadmer was alive and the letter he wrote was written just after the new abbot joined because Eadmer inferred that it was a newly concocted story. I believe the Eadmer’s letter refers to the time of Henry’s arrival in 1126 and was written in the three years before he went to Winchester. One passage hints that William is referring to Eadmer as Osbern’s defender at Canterbury in what seems to be an ongoing theological debate which otherwise has no relevance to our inquiry: Now with the help of God’s grace I shall try to clear up something I promised in a letter prefacing book one.For some people find fault with me for condemning the biographer of Dunstan because he said that the mother’s womb swelled with the sacred unborn child.478
476VD II prologue. This is the root cause of the matter of Britain. Because DA was a book written for Glastonbury and delivered to Henry Blois himself; no-one in Henry’s era got to see the DA (his output) in the form that he left it. However, others did see it as it was used in the 1144 campaign to establish a metropolitan for Henry.
477VD II 15.4
478VD ii 35. 1
Winterbottom and Thompson posit that this might refer to Eadmer. However, there is far more pertinent information in the letter itself which implies that Eadmer must be writing his letter to Glastonbury after Henry’s arrival.
The reason for labouring this point is to show from the outset, even before composing his pseudo-history which led to the Primary Historia (the pre-cursor of HRB), that Henry Blois was prone to fabricate tales. I have included the whole of Eadmer’s letter in appendix 33. The letter is interesting in that Eadmer turns around the false rumour propagated by Henry which was supposed to glorify the fact that Dunstan’s remains were at Glastonbury. Instead Glastonbury becomes a den of liars and grave robbers: There are some among you, recent members of your community, as I am aware, who claimed that your fathers of old were thieves and robbers.
Eadmer is making clear that by spreading these lies, the Glastonbury establishment also implicate the former monks and abbot as grave robbers and liars. Eadmer makes it a general accusation of rumours emanating from Glastonbury: whose name is unknown to those who put about the story….
The reason for me to implicate Henry is that he is a known fabricator of legends as we have seen as author of HRB. Again, Eadmer makes the point that the rumour is only a recent development: A hundred and more years have passed since they left this present life, those men whom these now claim to have been thieves and robbers. And now only at this late stage is such a grave reproach brought against them, and most unhappily they are now newly consigned to eternal punishment….
Eadmer cannot accuse Henry Blois directly because of his royal blood but makes out that the modern youth of Glastonbury have invented this lie: But it is not we who says so; rather it is their own modern brethren at Glastonbury. Assuredly we know for certain that those men are not guilty of this sin. What does this matter to the fellows who accuse their own brethren, nay, their own fathers, with such silly concocted lies.
By modern brethren read ‘recently joined.’ Eadmer almost says this must be a Norman invention as an Englishman would have more respect for the relics and anyway this sort of fabrication is more suited to the continentals: Your reverence must understand how, writing this, I am confounded by such patent stupidity, worthy of everyone’s scorn, especially because it is said that these tales were made up by Englishman. Alas, why did you not look overseas, where they have more experience, more learning, and know better how to make up such stories? You could even have paid someone to make up a plausible lie for you on a matter of such importance.
It is poignant that Eadmer directs his invective to the youth of the Abbey: So, my lords and my brethren, to whom God has opened the means of understanding matters of reason, bridal the wanton violence of your foolish young men who open their mouths only in order to seem to know how to speak, on whatever the flightiness of their hearts lead them to, thinking that they are something because others are innocent enough to listen to what they say.
It seems rather poignant that when Eadmer refers to how the body of Dunstan was miraculously taken from Canterbury, he is full of sarcasm suggesting it might have to do with a disgraced abbot of Glastonbury; when he knows perfectly well there were no monks from Glastonbury who came to take up the body. I call him former Abbot because as a general synod of the English church he was deposed of his abbacy by Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, and he was placed under such confinement at Canterbury as fitted his position. The reference is designed to cast a slur on Glastonbury and the fact that in the past there had been an unscrupulous abbot and his deeds are recorded. The implication might be understood to be directed at the present abbot continuing this tradition.
The point of discussing this was to show that many details which were ‘put about’ by Glastonbury and recorded only in Eadmer’s rebuttal letter are refuted mainly on the evidence of the Glastonbury story not standing up to scrutiny. Most of these obvious flaws in the Glastonbury concoction are left out of DA where we know the reference exists in the interpolated part of DA composed by Henry Blois.
DA provides a general synopsis of the translation episode. It is a fact that, the translation did not take place. But, it is my opinion that Henry Blois re-iterated his initial concocted rumour which he had put about as a youth just starting out at Glastonbury when he himself interpolated William’s work which we see in the interpolated chapter 23 of DA.
We can assume this must be a later addition by Henry, as it was so easily confuted at the time and would not have been in the first set of interpolations of DA in 1144. A later redactor has added to Henry’s explanation for the benefit of the abbey after the fire when re-finding the body basically re-iterating Henry Blois position that Dunstan’s relics were at Glastonbury.
As we have touched on already, Henry planted the supposed body of Arthur between the piramides at Glastonbury to be found in the future…. so one logically might assume the site of Dunstan’s grave was his doing also. We can therefore draw the conclusion that the translation of Dunstan account in DA is Henry’s work also as I shall cover in the chapter on DA, but the story was extrapolated by a later interpolator after the fire confirming Henry’s interpolation. As we have covered, the inspiration for planting a body to be found in the future comes directly from Melkin’s prophecy.
However, the idea for the leaden cross (found in Arthur’s grave) stating that Glastonbury is Avalon and that the body was that of King Arthur’s, was oddly enough initially inspired by Eadmer’s letter. Eadmer in his confutation of the translation of Dunstan provides evidence of the earlier movement of Dunstan’s relics when Eadmer was a boy at Canterbury: With it was found in inscription on a lead tablet which clearly stated that there lay the body of St Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Henry Blois adapted the idea and used it for his biggest deception. As a ploy, it is the proof positive that convinced the world at Arthur’s disinterment firstly, that the chivalric King Arthur existed, and secondly because he was buried at Glastonbury….Glastonbury was certainly the old Isle Avalon.
Much like the composition of HRB can be traced to various sources (as clearly explained by Tatlock), we also see Henry’s inspiration from other sources, as the leaden cross is in reality one of the nucleic components of the Matter of Britain in defining Avalon at Glastonbury.
Yet the reader is aware now that the Island of Avalon in HRB was named after the Burgundian town in the region of Blois lands just as Arthur’s continental battle scene had been said to have taken place in the same region of Autun and Langres which of course Henry Blois knew well and all its topography.
Eadmer makes plain that his proof is established by the lead tablet which states it was St Dunstan that lay in the grave. Henry uses as inspiration from that example of proof the same buried inscription which showed Dunstan’s relics remained at Canterbury by employing the leaden cross in Arthur’s grave…. but changes history by implying his alter-ego was buried in Avalon. From thenceforth the world has been duped…. yet the naïve are still fascinated at how it is that there is a semblance of history which follows where ‘Geoffrey’ said Arthur was last seen.
One subtle pointer to the fact that Henry Blois was the initiator of the St Dunstan translation story is that it was included in the later interpolations of DA. Because Henry started the rumour he wished to establish it once and for all by confirming it as lore in DA because no-where else had the lore been established in writing. Most of the other interpolations early on in DA c.1144 deal with Henry Blois agenda in establishing antiquity for the abbey and St Dunstan being buried at Glastonbury does not help this cause. Secondary early interpolations in DA c.1149 like the disciplic foundation and the St Patrick charter establish further the antiquity of Glastonbury abbey by confirming several parts of the historicity of First Variant HRB like Phagan and Deruvian. These are all part of Henry’s first agenda when he is trying to get a Metropolitan for Winchester.
Henry’s second agenda in terms of interpolations in DA mainly deals with establishing the building blocks concerning Arthur being buried in Avalon and also Joseph being part of Glastonbury lore also confirming Robert de Boron’s Vaus d’Avaron must be synonymous with Glastonbury. The point is the Dunstan story is of little consequence to warrant inclusion in the final interpolations of DA and if it was not for Henry’s personal involvement in the propagation of the rumour it seems unlikelyb it would have been included. But after the fire some future monk craft perpetuates Henry’s initial story.