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.
At the very beginning the Merlin prophecies originally went to four Kings and this first sentence was in the Libellus Merlini just to confirm that it was foreseen by Merlin from long ago that King Stephen was the acceptable fourth King. Part of Henry Blois gambit in employing the prophecies was to show that the Normans unlike the Saxons were good for Britain and were fated as the newcomers by a supposedly Celtic seer.
For consistency’s sake not all prophecies are changed from the original version but some are squewed in the updated Vulgate HRB prophecies from the original Libellus Merlini version and then the same words with another sense may be found in the VM. For instance, in HRB we find similar: They that come after shall strive to outsoar the highest, but the favour of the newcomers shall be exalted.
Henry Blois is writing prophecies for consistency’s sake for HRB and the VM which originally had occurred in Libellus Merlini. Prophecies have been subsequently altered long after they have lost their usefulness. So, whereas Henry Blois may have composed a prophecy during the early reign of Stephen which spoke of ‘three wearing the diadem of Brutus’, to be followed by a fourth, and he and his brother were looked upon as new men or newcomers…. Henry has now diluted the meaning in VM, now his brother is dead; while mixing these with more pertinent prophecies from the anarchy which his audience can now recognize as having transpired.
The earliest set of prophecies which were in the Libellus Merlini which circulated separately were those which Abbot Suger refers to; and concerned themselves with recent historical events such as the ‘White ship’ sinking, the cut of coins, and dress code of the outer apparel etc. etc.
However, we will go back to the VM prophecy above concerning the three wearing the crown. These are William the Conqueror, William Rufus and Henry Ist up until the fourth which is Stephen. To understand this fully, the prophecies found in the Libellus Merlini and those found in the Vulgate HRB are used as a device by Henry Blois to expand upon and redeploy prophecies which have their sense changed or perhaps have been outdated and not come to fruition.
Henry ostensibly displays to his Anglo-Norman readers that the prophecies of Merlin in the Vulgate HRB are spoken of by the same person as those found in the VM….so a level of consistency is required. Any update or additional detail to the prophecy is still linked back to the concept of an original sixth century seer, but the reader allows discrepancy having had the sense of his prophecies slightly mistranslated or misunderstood and relying on the fact that if the same icons are used perhaps it will not be noticed that in the particular version the reader is reading the sense has been changed.
The extract below from the HRB prophesies to which the prophecyabove is intrinsically linked back (to events at the Norman invasion of his Grandfather William the Conqueror)…. is so that both the updated HRB prophecies and VM prophecies seem to come from and are consistent with the earlier Libellus Merlini. It also relates to how Henry Blois’ view of the world stood, 10 years before Henry wrote the Vita Merlini
The island shall be drenched in nightly tears, whence all men shall be provoked unto all things. Woe unto thee, Neustria, for the brain904 of the Lion shall be poured forth upon thee; and with mangled limbs shall he be thrust forth of his native soil. They that come after shall strive to outsoar the highest, but the favour of the newcomers shall be exalted. Piety shall do hurt unto him that doth possess through impiety until he shall have clad him in his father. Wherefore, girdled about with the teeth of wolves, shall he climb over the heights of the mountains and the shadow of him that weareth a helmet.905
The island of Britain is in tears because of the bedlam caused by the invasion. referring to the Normans; as if the author (i.e. Merlin) were not a part of their heritage. Henry Blois posing as Merlin then turns to the episode of his uncle Henry Ist body being readied for burial.
King Henry Ist (the lion in both HRB and VM) died on 1 December 1135. Henry’s uncle’s corpse was taken to Rouen accompanied by the barons, where it was embalmed; his entrails were buried locally at Port-du-Salut Abbey in Normandy, and the body preserved in salt was taken on to England, where it was interred at Reading Abbey. Henry of Huntingdon tells us a man named Ewan was paid a large reward to sever the King’s head with an axe.
904Henry of Huntingdon, VIII. Meanwhile, the remains of King Henry unburied in Normandy; for he died on the 1st of December 1135. His corpse was carried to Rouen, where his bowels, with his brain and eyes, were deposited. The body being slashed by knives, and copiously sprinkled with salt was sewn up in ox hides to prevent the ill effluvia, which so tainted the air as to be pestilential to the bystanders.
905HRB VII, iii
Therefore, as the supposed Merlin prophecy states, King Henry Ist soft tissue (brain included) was buried in Normandy and his mangled limbs (the body), was buried in England (thrust from his native shore) i.e. Normandy. We are appraised that Henry Blois (through the voice of Merlin) is referring to his ancestors and what is common knowledge to his readership. Henry Blois as Merlin now turns to himself and his brother Stephen as he betrays his expectancy of future events: They that come after shall strive to outsoar the highest, but the favour of the newcomers shall be exalted.
The Anarchy was unfinished at the time these were originally written. Henry expects great things as he will be in charge of spiritual affairs (Legate) of the church and his brother those of state. As a team of ‘newcomers’, he envisages a new system of Gregorian values or Cluniac vision; of both state and church existing together, perhaps without papal interference.
Henry Blois envisions his brother accepting piety even though it was through impiety his brother gained the crown and predicts that his brother will be clothed in the father i.e. will embrace the church. Piety shall do hurt unto him that doth possess through impiety until he shall have clad him in his father. Henry Blois then refers to himself as his brother’s protector: Wherefore, girdled about with the teeth of wolves, from Wolvesey906 using possibly ‘the tooth of the wolf’ originally.
The point Henry was making is that the Merlin prophecy alluded to himself by vaticinatory pun, the Wolf from Wolvesey. Henry Blois wrote the original Libellus Merlini c.1141-5, a copy of which he had given to his friend Abbot Suger. When Henry brought out the updated version of prophecies found in the Vulgate HRB, some of his future expectations written at that earlier time for the Libellus Merlini had not come to fruition in 1155. Yet in some cases the original icons were re-employed sqewing the sense. This work of comparing the prophecies once it is accepted that Henry Blois wrote them would be a useful scholastic endeavour, more so than trying to understand the inserts and extractions of speeches and events in the HRB. The reason for stating this is because the prophecies would have had so much less copying and correcting as they are Prophecies from the famous Merlin and scribes would not think to alter them.
These prophecies were in some cases squewed in the later updated Vulgate edition, but seemingly (appeared to all) to have remained consistent with the Libellus edition. We can speculate that in the interim period the First Variant had a set of the Libellus Merlini prophecies added which have since been substituted to the updated version from Vulgate.
Now, the thorny question would arise in that if scholars can accept that the first Variant preceeded the Vulgate and it was indeed employed as evidence for Henry’s request for Metropolitan status in 1144; when were the prophecies attached to the first Variant? The answer would be that the initial attempt in 1144 when the first Variant was presented may have had the separate Libellus Merlini presented also alongside HRB, but obviously the 1149 trip to Rome (after Alexander was dead 1148) would have been the catalyst for inserting the Merlin prophecies in the first Variant. But firstly, scholars have to accept HRB was written by Henry Blois, secondly the Vulgate follows the Fist Variant edition and thirdly the prophecies of Merlin were written by Henry Blois. This small mountain to climb as a conversion to a new view is virtually impossible to gain traction and that is even before we get to the broader aspects of the Matter of Britain. This ties back to the deduction that Alfred of Beverley did not have a Vulgate version and had what I have termed an ‘evolved variant’ because his edition is dated to 1147 and therefore there is no dedication to Alexander.
906Wolvesey Palace is the residence of Henry Blois. Bishop Æthelwold, Bishop of Winchester 963 – 84, was the one to build the first Bishop’s Residence on the small island in the middle of the Itchen. This island was originally called Wulf’s Isle, a name that corrupted in time into Wolvesey.
The prophecy concerning the ‘Sixth’ was never even thought about in the numbering system of Kings when the original Libellus was handed to a few of Henry’s circle like Abbot Suger. The numbering system of Leonine Kings in the Libellus Merlini only went to four. No original First Variant has survived because all copies have the corrected and updated 1155 prophecies in all copies.
The next sentence is one of the most important in the HRB and prophecies as it dates the original Libellus Merlini prophecies terminus post quem to 1st March 1139. Briefly, as I shall discuss this later, so as not to be led into digression, the first reference to the Primary Historia is in 1139 at Bec, but the man crossing the mountains (the Alps) is Henry Blois to receive his legateship from the ‘Helmeted man’ i.e. the Pope.
Henry refers to himself in fatuous vaticinatory language as the shadow of the pope i.e. the Legate. From 1143 to 1963, the papal tiara was solemnly placed on the pope’s head during a papal coronation and resembled a helmet:907 Wherefore, girdled about with the teeth of wolves, shall he climb over the heights of the mountains and the shadow of him that weareth a helmet.908
On 1 March 1139, during the reign of his brother Stephen, Henry obtained a commission as papal legate, which in effect gave him higher rank than Theobald of Bec and therefore rule over the English church. Now, to any scholar reading this Nota bene: The Merlin prophecies are interpolated into Orderic’s chronicle. One cant’s have the sixth in Ireland prophecy and one can’t have the seditious prophecy in Orderic’s chronicle because both of these propheciesc antedate 1155. Why do you think Henry Blois is making such a point about Henry Ist still being alive at the time when Ordeeric is supposed to be commenting on the prophecies?
If a scholar does not get the principle of backdating it does not detract from the truth of what Henry has achieved in inserting this comment on the Merlin prophecies into Orderic’s book. This is very important because the supposed Orderic testimony is like kryptonite to a scholar researching ‘Geoffrey’ that understands the Merlin prophecies corroborate the Historicity of HRB. Logically to the scholar scratching his head he must then believe in Merlin’s powers of prophecy. This is why some scholars do!!!!!!
What I want to make plain to the reader, as we have just covered this prophecy from the HRB, is to show Henry Blois’ artifice in anchoring one point, person, location, icon or episode to appear consistent with what he had written many years before in the Vita Merlini or first set of prophecies.
Here in the Vita Merlini it still talks in the same vein as if the sense had not changed but with Stephen’s death in the past now the prophecy is squewed: The fourth in power will be harmed by his clumsy piety until he puts on his father’s clothes and so, girt with boar’s teeth, crosses the shadow of the Helmeted Man.
907See Note 3, Papal Coronation
908HRB VII, iii
Any person who studied the prophecies in the late twelfth century would cross reference this with the passage from the HRB or the Libellus thinking the sense had changed through interpretation of the oblique Latin and the skimble skamble nature of the way the prophecies were written. This essentially highlights the erratic way in which Henry’s mind works and why little sense has been made by comparison of the two or three sets of Merlin prophecies in the VM, the variants and those in the final updated Vulgate HRB with a terminus a quo of Michaelmas 1155.
Even if the different sets of prophecies had been compared and the icons changed no commentator has taken into account that essentially three versions were written.909 Most commentators have allowed the inaccuracies and inconsistencies and blatant addition because they have been duped into believing the prophecies were written by Merlin at one time long ago in the distant past. Most scholars up to this date have not even bothered looking at the sense because they have determined ‘Geoffrey’ only invented them as a devise to corroborate HRB’s historicity rather than looking at WHO might have composed them and for what reason.
909The fourth version is that of John of Cornwall, written also by Henry Blois.