It was Henry Blois who gave the Roman de Brut to the court in England. Henry managed to disseminate the popular Historia in England and on the continent. Neither a struggling ‘Geoffrey’ nor ‘Wace’ would have had such access to nobility or to be able to propagate their work in scriptoriums. Henry Blois had the capacity to spread his Arthuriana quickly through the Crusader community and courts on the continent.
Henry Blois had commenced composing the Roman de Brut (his vernacular form of the Historia) employing the First Variant as a template, which points to the fact that the composition was in progress before the Vulgate version reached its final completion. As I have maintained throughout, the Vulgate HRB only started to disseminate after 1155 when the dedications, which make mention of Archdeacon Walter and the updated Merlin prophecies had been added to the HRB. ‘Wace’ claims he was not the source of the Round Table.
Supposedly Wace credits the Roman de Brut story to the Bretons and Layamon follows later by reiterating Henry Blois’ propaganda.The source of the HRB is not Brittany as Geoffrey would have us misdirected.
It is quite ridiculous that any scholar would not see that the introduction of the ’round table’ into the Roman de Brut is a Henry Blois device based upon an idealistic solution to the problems that his brother Stephen had at court with rowing barons all trying to curry favour with the King; especially when Wace writes: Arthur made the round table about which the British utter many a fable.559
Before the impersonation of Wace by Henry Blois there was no ‘Round Table’, but Henry can assert this about the British because the Roman de Brut was proliferated mostly on the continent. The introduction of the ’round table’ into the Roman de Brut is just another example of the evolution of additional fabrications to the body of the ‘novel’ which was the last edition of the evolved prose i.e. the Vulgate version of HRB.
Certainly, Marie of France and Chrétien had the Arthurian icon of the round table in their work and of course Robert de Boron but the concept came directly from Henry Blois’ experience with Henry Ist and King Stephen, witnessing the competing of the Barons for the favour of the King.
559Le roman de brut v.9998
Throughout the Roman de Brut, Henry makes out that the tales of Arthur are everywhere, but it was only through the HRB that the ‘chivalric’ Arthur found renown. Hence, for ‘Wace,’ who is using the First Variant to make the claim, while understanding that the First Variant was not circulated widely, can only mean that ‘Wace’ and ‘Geoffrey’ have something in common in their promotion of Arthur. We now know it is Henry Blois who since the feedback from his ‘Beverley’ edition had been such a success had thrown caution to the wind and published the Vukgate version.
Layamon’s claim of Cornish carpenters for the ‘Round Table’ might have some weight if my assumption is correct that Henry Blois went over to Mont St Michel in 1155 from Cornwall when leaving the country without the King’s permission to avoid Normandy. It was here we recall that he met Robert of Torigini to give him the news of ‘Geoffrey’s’ elevation to be Bishop of Asaph.
The fact that the Wace version of the Historia seems to follow the First Variant for the first half indicates that Henry Blois was composing the versified French version probably before he left for Clugny in 1155 and thereafter finished off the Arthuriana section when he had already completed the Vulgate HRB, since he had recently re-worked it. Henry then presented the Roman de Brut, so named in contrast to Wace’s unfinished original Roman de Rou, (even though ‘Wace’ refers to it as the Geste des Bretons (“History of the Britons”), and probably presented it innocuously to either Eleanor or Henry II on his return.
To me, it seems strange that throughout Henry Blois’ façade in secreting his authorship where he has chosen only dead people to implicate as witnesses, he should now turn to someone alive. Why, if he is responsible for rearranging the text of the Roman de Rou is he bent on backdating the Roman de Brut to 1155, if Wace was alive and still signing charters as we discussed above. It is a puzzle…. as it is the complete opposite of what we have been used to. But what needs to be understood is that if Henry did bring the Roman de Brut to Britain on his return in 1158, then maybe nobody cared, since Geoffrey was now dead.
However, modern commentators are convinced by Wace’s long life simply because of what is written in the Roman de Rou (concerning the siege of Rouen and this cannot be accountable to Henry Blois) and the fact that there is also a charter witnessed by Wace at Frécamp. We have already seen the use of charters to substantiate the created persona of Geoffrey of Monmouth. It would not be surprising then that a charter would be signed at Frécamp abbey in 1162 to substantiate a living Wace where Henry’s Nephew Henry de Sully was abbot.560 (Eustace at one stage was the favoured nephew as he was being groomed for when he eventually became King, but he was now dead).
560We should remember Henry de Sully was nominated in 1140 by Henry of Blois to be Bishop of Salisbury, but the nomination was quashed. As compensation, Henry of Blois then named Henry de Sully the abbot of Fécamp Abbey. Again in 1140, Henry de Sully was nominated to become Archbishop of York by Henry Blois, but his election was again quashed by Pope Innocent II.
However, on balance, since Wace is still signing charters after Henry Blois is dead, we might assume that Henry Blois propagated the Roman de Brut without Wace’s knowledge or Wace was not in a position to deny such a work. It would seem that Wace had given up on the Roman de Rou and since we can see interpolation regarding material concerning HRB within it and we can conclude Henry wrote the Roman de Brut…. it is not silly to suppose Henry Blois bought or obtained the Part III and rearranged the whole work.
The point of this charade and impersonation of Wace was bringing the Historia to an entirely new continental audience. The whole concoction of history was now able to be enjoyed (and propagated) by a vastly increased Anglo-Norman audience who would not have read the more formal Latin Historia which mainly won its readership in the monastic system. In ‘Waces’s’ vernacular form, it opened the work of HRB up to a hugely increased audience.
It really makes no sense that for some unknown reason King Henry II later transferred the honour of that which was obviously a commission to another poet. We know that King Henry would have read Part II in order to commission Part III and if our speculation is correct about Henry Blois being the interpolator of the Roman de Rou we might assume that Henry Blois is somehow the go between. Maybe Wace and the King never met. Wace’s comment that Eleanor and Henry II do not let me waste my time at court may imply this.
We are led to believe Wace laid aside his pen, left his work incomplete, and probably soon after died:“Since the King has asked him to do this work, I must leave it and I must say no more. Of old the King did me many a favour; much he gave me, more he promised me, and if he had given all that he promised me, it had been better for me. Here ends the book of Master Wace; let him continue it who will.”
One would not think that after his efforts Wace was going to hand it over to an anonymous continuator. In Henry’s mind however, it was not about the money…. and the Roman de Rou was drab and really not worthy of a continuator. We might suggest that Wace’s only claim to fame is that fortuitously the Roman de Rou fell into Henry Blois’ hands; probably while researching the HRB.
The Roman de Brut, was based initially on the First Variant, but Henry Blois at the time he impersonated ‘Wace’ c.1155-60, is no longer interested in the campaign for Metropolitan. He is interested in propagating the Arthuriana which he had invented back in 1138 and had developed over the years in the evolving editions of HRB.
‘Wace’ in the Roman de Brut abridges passages originally devoted to gaining Metropolitan status in the production of the First Variant. Passages on religious history are therefore shortened in the Roman de Brut including the evangelisation of Britain (which had featured so much to coincide with DA) and when speaking of Vortigern there is no mention of the Pelagian heresy which became such a vital part of the First Variant’s use at Rome in evidence of the Briton church’s early establishment. Henry omits details concerning the martyrdom of St Alban where he sacrificed his life for the founder of Winchester, his confessor Amphibalus and the list of bishops etc. All of this was in the First Variant but now the point of its inclusion into the text of the Roman de Brut had become redundant with the changing of Henry’s agenda.
Much of Henry Blois’ artistry is in the fact that he has never been discovered as the author of so much material which comprises the Matter of Britain. So that Wace appears entirely independent of ‘Geoffrey’, Henry Blois calls the Severn Habren and the river Avon which he knew so well (which met the sea at Christchurch), the Avren. All of these tricks confuse commentators, but were employed ostensibly to give the aura of independent authorship.
‘Geoffrey’ in the Historia makes a pretence of not knowing the distance from Barfleur to Mont St Michel where Arthur takes on the Giant (because supposedly Geoffrey is Welsh), but Wace assigns a full night for the journey as Wace should have known. Henry Blois takes on the character of the author he is impersonating. It has been remarked that Wace knew many nautical terms probably learnt from living in Jersey, but Henry Blois crossed the channel at least twenty times if not more and so he would have a good grasp of the sea.
Henry would have been as able as Wace to describe a storm at sea. It is often remarked upon that ‘Wace’ was able to describe so vividly the hustle and bustle of the scene at Southampton or ‘Geoffrey’s’ Hamo’s port. More importantly legend has it that in 1144 Gosport received its name from Henry Blois landing there after a storm at sea. Henry allegedly after inquiring of the name of the town after finding safe harbour, decreed that from then on it should be called ‘God’s port’. If Wace was not as well travelled by sea, certainly Henry Blois was.
That Wace was a translator into vernacular is clearly established in his Life of St Nicholas: For those who have not learned their letters and have not been intent upon learning them, for those people the clerks must demonstrate religion, telling why the feast of each saint has been established. Also: I wish to write a little romance about something we hear in Latin, so that lay people may understand this, people who cannot understand Latin.
We can see that the Roman de Rou is written by a genuine Wace who is less inspired (to put it mildly) than the writer of the Roman de Brut. In the forest of Broceliande, where fays and many other marvels were to be seen, a genuine Wace determined to visit it in order to find out the truth of these stories. I went there to look for marvels. I saw the forest and I saw the land; I sought marvels, but I found none. A fool I came back, a fool I went; a fool I went, a fool I came back; foolishness I sought, a fool I hold myself.
So mundane an attitude makes us wonder whether Wace ever composed truly imaginative verse in the Romanz.561 Does not the Roman de Brut run contrarily to this prosaic attitude toward imaginative detail like the Round Table?
If one connects all the dots, we can see for instance Broceliande forest, with its fountain is first related by the genuine Wace in the Roman de Rou. Chrétien de Troyes then uses this in Yvain, but as we will see in part III of this enquiry, Chrétien de Troyes has heard of Henry’s propaganda concerning Arthur and the Grail. Robert de Boron, likewise at the same court, has heard Henry’s tales and then employs Henry Blois’ own invention of the ‘round table’ from ‘Wace’s’ Roman de Brut. Henry Blois is not bothered with consistency or accuracy as each troubadour apparently develops Henry’s original stories in his own way. The overall effect has been that our scholars have believed many of Henry’s inventions to have substance seemingly having derived from such varied accounts.
The Round Table, out of the many places it could surface, just happens to turn up at Winchester and no-one can say who put it there or when it arrived.562 Our Scholars have puzzled over its sudden appearance. It is not silly to suppose that the inspirational idea for the Round Table as an icon was derived from Henry’s own experience at court witnessing the pecking order of the squabbling barons. He simply wanted to find an idealistic solution for King Arthur’s idealistic kingdom and found it in the Round Table.
561Mathews. Norman literature and Wace p.63
562In 1976, the Winchester Round Table became the subject of scientific investigations. It was first recorded at Winchester in 1463 and had probably been painted with a likeness of Henry VIII in 1522. Our tree-ring ‘experts’ and radiocarbon dating methods and a study of carpentry practices reveal by expert consensus that the table was constructed in the 1270’s. Winchester Castle dates from the reign of William the Conqueror (1066-1087). By the end of King John’s reign in 1216 the castle and its royal palace needed extensive repair. It was where the Empress Matilda was besieged at the rout of Winchester. Between 1222 and 1235 the Castle’s hall was replaced by the building which stands today. And yet of all possible places in Britain, Arthur’s Round Table exists in Winchester. It is inside the magnificent Great Hall, the only part of the former Winchester Castle that remains intact. It has this inscription: “This is the round table of Arthur with 24 of his named knights.” Are the ‘experts’ right? They could well be a hundred years out. It would not be the first time expert opinion was made to fit with perceived historical convention.
It just seems a coincidence too far that Wace’s Roman de Brut evidently written by Henry Blois, just happens to posit a round table and then that object surfaces at Winchester where Henry was Bishop without any record of how it got there. I am sure Henry commissioned it. Who else would and why house it at Winchester?
Henry’s ideal Arthurian world was to prevent a hierarchy by creating a place of council where all barons have an equal place…. as he presents it in the Roman de Brut:
Arthur made the Round Table, so reputed of the Britons. This Round Table was ordained of Arthur that when his fair fellowship sat to meat their chairs should be high alike, their service equal, and none before or after his comrade. Thus, no man could boast that he was exalted above his fellow, for all alike were gathered round the board, and none was alien at the breaking of Arthur’s bread. At this table sat Britons, Frenchmen, Normans, Angevins, Flemings, Burgundians, and Loherins. Knights had their plate who held land of the King, from the furthest Marches of the west even unto the Hill of St. Bernard.563
That the Round Table was an emblem of some Pan Celtic tradition as many commentators have determined, because of the various references of supposedly independent source, is pure piffle. Henry Blois, who had witnessed the ingratiating favour shown by barons toward King Stephen and his Uncle at banquets whose idealistic solution envisioned all the barons not competing with each other. If this ideal had been attained there may not have been a nineteen year Anarchy.
‘Wace’ would have us believe that most of the account Geoffrey has told is not without foundation but based on history:
‘I know not if you have heard tell the marvellous gestes and errant deeds related so often of King Arthur. They have been noised about this mighty realm for so great a space that the truth has turned to fable and an idle song. Such rhymes are neither sheer bare lies, nor gospel truths. They should not be considered either an idiot’s tale, or given by inspiration. The minstrel has sung his ballad, the storyteller told over his tale so frequently; little by little he has decked and painted, till by reason of his embellishment the truth stands hid in the trappings of a tale. Thus, to make a delectable tune to your ear, history goes masking as fable.564
563Is it not a coincidence that the Aravis range which no previous commentator has identified or commented upon while attempting to elucidate the Merlin prophecies, associates with Rome/Alps in geographical terms. It is here as a Geographical reference used and understood by Wace with the same meaning; synonymity is understood between Aravis range/and Hill of St Bernard supposedly by two completely different authors.
564Wace Roman de Brut
The evidence is all there when Master Blehis is at last recognised as Monseigneur Blois, the propagator of the Grail stories and we know Henry Blois has invented Arthuriana and swapped a genuine Island’s ‘truth’ relating to Joseph of Arimathea’s burial site to an Island where supposedly King Arthur is buried. The fact that Arthur’s manufactured grave turns up in Avalon eventually after Henry Blois’ death and the fact that where to find this grave was stated in DA before the disinterment, shows that Avalon at Glastonbury and Arthuriana were the Brainchild of the bishop of Glastonbury.
‘Wace’ says he omits the prophecies of Merlin from his narrative, because he does not understand them. I am not willing to translate his book, because I do not know how to interpret it. I would say nothing that was not exactly as I said. The prophecies were now redundant to Henry Blois, especially now that the seditious prophecies found in the Vulgate Version of HRB had not come to fruition.
Many have thought by this sentiment supposedly expressed by Wace that he has a scrupulous regard for the truth. Henry simply has no use for the prophecies anymore post 1158-60. Wace’s statement is pure misdirection because Henry Blois uses the same gambit of seeming ‘probity’ in the interpolation of DA, when interpolating the first 34 chapters of William of Malmesbury work.
In the DA Henry Blois crucially says, he omits to tell of Arthur, but lets the world know that Arthur lies between the piramides at Glastonbury. How is this possibly reconcilable with the William of Malmesbury in GR 1,565 who states he has no idea where Arthur’s grave is? For this reason, our scholars have thought any mention of Arthur in DA is an interpolation after his disinterment. This is simply not correct as Giraldus plainly attests in his two accounts of King Arthur’s disinterment which I will cover shortly in the section on Gerald of Wales.
565GR 287, Arthur’s grave however, is nowhere to be found, whence come, the traditional old wives’ tales that he may yet return.
yWace, the writer of the ‘Lives’ and the Roman de Rou, is most certainly a different writer from the Roman de Brut. Such sedentary plodding reflections with which he begins his Life of St. Nicholas are not worthy of the inspirational or poetical writer of the Brut:
Nobody can know everything, or hear everything, or see everything … God distributes different gifts to different people. Each man should show his worth in that which God has given him.
‘Wace’ makes some few additions to ‘Geoffrey’s’ Arthurian history; a liberty which would not have been taken if ‘Wace’ was really composing the Roman de Brut in 1154 while the fictitious Geoffrey of Monmouth was supposedly still alive. The common understanding that parts of these tales originated with Breton poets is pure misdirection. I shall cover this point in the section on ‘Marie de France’ where the same mis-direction is used for the same reasons.
‘Wace’s’/ Henry’s real contribution to the Arthurian legend is the new spirit which enabled French conteurs to transmit the chronicle of Arthuriana in the swift-moving metrical octo-syllabic couplet.
In Arthur’s ‘European’ campaign, the continental forces were aligned with Arthur. The HRB was therefore opened to a wider audience (with a common anti Roman sentiment)….even though the it was the Romans language that had initially been employed which generated ‘Geoffrey’s’ high-sounding Latin prose which then propagated through the monastic system.
‘Geoffrey’s’ VM and the Roman de Brut of ‘Wace’, bridge the transformation between the prose Vulgate HRB and the later Romances. It is these later Romances which occupy Henry Blois and I shall refer to his involvement in their propagation as his ‘second agenda’, on which he worked in the latter half of his life, post his return to England in 1158.
While impersonating Wace, Henry Blois is always aware to hide the fact that he himself is the main propagator of Arthuriana; but he has us believe that Wace was conversant with stories of ‘chivalric’ Arthur quite independent of the Historia. Fables about Arthur he himself says that he had heard.
Henry Blois’ craft is a pretence that he is merely adding to an existing body of material. ‘Wace’ highlights the ‘Hope of the Britons’ which Huntingdon alluded to in regard to the Bretons. This may have been implied in the original Primary Historia or it is merely commented on by Huntingdon in EAW.
What modern scholars have misunderstood is the fact that Henry Blois is merely the embellisher of oral fables which William of Malmesbury refers to in GR1. Apart from the Life of Cadoc and a few other saints’ lives, Arthur barely featured in writing before Henry Blois came up with the idea of a Chivalric Arthur.
We are led to believe that just at the time ‘Geoffrey’ considers writing about the history of the Kings of Britain, low and behold, Archdeacon Walter turns up with just such a book. It is also incredibly fortunate that Alexander ‘pressed’ Henry to insert the prophecies of Merlin into his ‘translation’ of the book, which by ‘Geoffrey’s’ own account he had been thinking about writing; and amazingly these same prophecies substantiate the Historicity of the book passed to Geoffrey to translate; which coincidentally featured a King which had the same surname as ‘Geoffrey’. One would have to be a Medievalist scholar to swallow this convoluted drivel and rationalise it into the current understanding of Geoffrey held by modern academics.
It is a marvel to me, as I mentioned before, that the scholastic community has rarely discussed this absurd coincidence…. supposedly ‘Geoffrey’ a real person did not make it all up, but found it in a book, so why would he need to plan a history which merely needed translating:
Often at times turning over in mine own mind the many themes that might be subject-matter of a book, my thoughts would fall upon the plan of writing a history of the Kings of Britain, and in my musings thereupon it seemed to me it a marvel that, beyond such mention as Gildas and Bede have made of them in their luminous tractate, nought could I find as concerning the Kings that had dwelt in Britain before the Incarnation of Christ, nor nought even as concerning Arthur and the many others that did succeed him after the Incarnation, albeit that their deeds be worthy of praise everlasting and be as pleasantly rehearsed from memory by word of mouth in the traditions of many peoples as though they had been written down. Now, whilst, I was thinking upon such matters, Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford, a man learned not only in the art of eloquence, but in the histories of foreign lands, offered me a certain most ancient book in the British language….
Henry Blois in an earlier preamble to his edition had stated it was he who had the plan for a history and at the introduction of Walter being the supplier of the History source has to square this obvious contradiction. He does this by making out that by good fortune (Nay whilst, I was thinking upon such matters) just such a book appeared. Of course there is no mention of Archdeacon Walter until his source book was needed to deflect from the accusation of invention.
Our scholars know HRB is a fraudulent pseudo-history, yet still discuss the relevance of Archdeacon Walter’s book as if it were independent of the fraud. Of course, they are easily misled because their naivety leads them to believe that Gaimar’s testimony in his epilogue refers to the book. That is the point of the impersonation of Gaimar and the interpolations into his text. ‘Geoffrey’ can’t even make up his own mind if he is translating a book from Brittany or a book from the British tongue.
What scholars should have scrutinized is why there is no mention of Walter in the First Variant or EAW. Of course, there is no book…. and therefore, Gaimar’s epilogue is also part of the fraud. How can one reconcile, knowing that HRB is a constructed pseudo-history (as Tatlock clearly demonstrates), with the existence of a book in which is all that information ready to be translated, and exists prior to ‘Geoffrey’. If Walter had it already; how come Huntingdon was ‘amazed’ when he perused the Primary Historia.
Does it not seem strange that the author of Roman de Brut starts to versify with the First Variant Historia and then finish composing the Arthuriana of the Roman de Brut with the Vulgate prose version? This to me indicates the Roman de Brut was completed in two phases.
It would not take a cryptologist to work out that the First Variant preceded the Vulgate. If scholars were correct in their assessment of the Vulgate preceding First Variant…. why, one must ask, would ‘Wace’ compose his work with an existing Vulgate version (half way through a work) and then swap to a (supposedly) later but inferior exemplar to record the beginning of the account?
The Roman de Brut was started before Henry had to leave England in 1155 and subsequently finished with the Vulgate version after Henry had encountered Wace at Caen on his return in 1158 and had now made public566 his Vulgate version.
566The dedication in one copy of Vulgate HRB both to Stephen and Robert is where we see the issue of my book now made public. Scholars today believe the edition with this dual dedication was written in 1136-7 at the only time Stephen and Robert, the two dedicatees, were not at war with each other. Robert renounced Stephen in 1138. Scholars seem to think I am mad!!! If Huntingdon was ‘amazed’ when the book had been ‘published’ for two-three years already, Huntingdon was really disrespectful of his patron Alexander by not even mentioning to Warin, Merlin or his prophecies which were in this Vulgate volume alongside this dedication. Huntingdon had previously flattered his patron and would have taken the opportunity here if Alexander had been mentioned; there is no mention of his patronage or Alexander’s commission to ‘Geoffrey’ in EAW.
We could speculate that in Wace’s Roman de Brut, Henry Blois introduces Guerguesin Count of Hereford because he realises that there is no noble at Arthur’s coronation from Southern Wales where Arthur supposedly has his stronghold and powerbase. This invented anomaly could have something to do with the death of Henry’s arch enemy Miles. Miles, who became the Angevin grandee of the region after the death of Robert of Gloucester was, 1st Earl of Hereford. We can see from GS, Henry dislikes Miles intensely and therefore is using the same ploy as used in the dedications by introducing people with whom he is actually at odds.
Unlike the HRB, ‘Wace’ starts his Roman de Brut with Constantine at Totnes. Constantine takes a wife and has three children the eldest was called Constant who he caused to be nourished at Winchester, and there he made him to be vowed a monk. The other two sons were Uther and Aurelius whose surname was Ambrosius. We know why Aurelius has a surname Ambrosius…. so that he parallels with the insular annals of Bede and Gildas. Ambrosius Aurelianus is one of the few people that Gildas identifies by name in his sermon De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae.
Now we have also understood the First Variant was used as a basis for the first half of the Roman de Brut, we can safely assume the Roman de Brut was started earlier than the completion of the Vulgate. Therefore, given the early date that Henry first started to compose the Roman de Brut, we can see Henry Blois is following his own creation of the First Variant which was aligned with his desire of metropolitan. He had undertaken to versify it before completion of a Vulgate addition.
When we consider the First Variant being authored by another other than ‘Geoffrey’and the Variant following the Vulgate chronologically; poor Maistre Wace must have commenced his work with the older Vulgate version starting halfway through his text of the Roman de Brut deciding to ignore the beginning of the Vulgate that he is supposedly using as a template…. and then gone in search of the other more recent author’s text of the First Variant so he could complete the beginning of Roman de Brut. And modern scholars think my propositions are mad!!!!
We see that Constant was a monk at Winchester and Henry establishes that Christianity flourished in England. The logic was in the original polemic that Winchester should be granted metropolitan if monks were there long before Augustine’s arrival in Britain.
There should be no doubt that Henry Blois is impersonating Wace as the author of the Roman de Brut. Henry Blois dates Constantine to Vortigern’s era by having Wace say: But many a time have I heard tell that it was Vortigern who caused Constantine to be slain. In HRB Constantine aligns with the dates in the annals.
Henry Blois, posing as Wace, purposefully informs us in a seemingly innocuous deliberation about who Constantine’s successor should be; that the eldest in that era was residing at the existing abbey, which, without overstating his case, is at Winchester: As to Constant, the eldest son, who was of more fitting years, they dared not to pluck the habit from his back, since all men deemed it shame and folly to hale him forth from his abbey.
We would be naïve if we did not realise that there is only one person who is intent upon having us believe that there was an abbey at Winchester in the sixth century. We would be silly to believe this is not the same man who inserted the biblical allusions in the First Variant Historia. The most prominent interpolator of DA is the same as the man requesting a metropolitan in 1144 from the pope; the very same man to whom the DA is dedicated.
Henry’s gambit is to highlight Winchester as an existing Abbey in the time of Vortigern: Vortigern, purposing evil in his heart, took horse, and rode swiftly to Winchester. He sought Constant at the abbey….. If anyone should be in doubt that Winchester was well established as a bishopric long before Augustine’s arrival, Arthur’s dragon supposedly resided there: One of these dragons he caused to be borne before him when he went into battle. The other he sent to Winchester to be set up in the church of the bishop.
The next piece may even be semi-autobiographical, reflecting the very sentiments of Henry Blois, as Constant is offered the Kingship: Very desirous was Constant of the lordship, and little love had he for his abbey. Right weary was he of choir and psalter, and lightly and easily he made him ready to be gone.
The story is close to Henry’s heart as it involves the usurpation of a crown: Constant reigned in his father’s stead. He who had betrayed the commandment of God, was not one to hold his realm in surety; and thus he came to an evil end. This sentiment was held about his own brother and the author of GS makes this very clear.
There are also other traces of experience from Henry’s time in the Anarchy where it is evident in GS that Henry laments his brother’s actions: Draw now together thy men, to guard the realm and thee. Set food within the strong places, and keep well thy towers. Above all, have such fear of traitors that thy castles are held of none save those true men who will hold them to the death. If you act not after this counsel right speedily there must reign another King.
Henry wrote GS after his castles had been seized. Henry asked his men to guard his castles when he left stealthily for Clugny in 1155. At the Council of Winchester he had been ordered to give them up. His men for a time held out against HenryII forces and this is why he was concerned about returning to England.567
567In late 1157 a letter was written to Henry from Theobald of Bec ordering Henry to return to England: 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….
‘Wace’ expands upon how it was that the mother of Merlin became pregnant by an Incubus and expands upon how these spirits live, but when ‘Wace’ comes to the prophecies, he deals with them in a different way if indeed the versified set below did accompany Wace’s version in origin or he just omitted them. It should not be forgotten that the first draft of prophecies were initially written while Stephen was King. Merlin dealt in generalities foreseeing the future and the advent of the Normans. Later, Henry Blois expanded and got more specific in the Vulgate HRB by continuing to enumerate the Kings.
‘Wace’ completes Roman de Brut after Stephen is dead and post 1158, therefore, Henry has no political advantage of the Merlin prophecies to include them in the Roman de Brut. His hope of a seditious Celtic uprising has now been extinguished, but this is not to say that the Durham versified prophecies were not at one time to accompany Wace’s work.
In the Roman de Brut, he therefore chooses not to translate them with the pretence of not understanding them. One thing he does understand is that they are about the various Kings, but it is highly probable that what was obtuse skimble skamble in prose would be difficult to transpose into meter except by giving away some unintended understanding of the sense.
For whatever reason, Henry chose not to include the prophecies but it seems likely that the Roman de Brut was mainly for the continental courts and since nearly all the prophecies were surrounding Henry’s family and things concerning the elite in Britain, the prophecies would in all likelihood be lost on the continental audience.
The most likely explanation is that Henry published his Roman de Brut c.1158-60 when the prophecies had mostly focused on ancient past British and contemporary events in Britain. These now were no longer relevant to his political agenda or to a continental audience who were not knowledgeable about the historical events that the prophecies were supposedly meant to foresee.
King Henry II was established and any thought of unseating him was now lost…. so why not just finish off and propagate his invented Historia through the impersonation of Wace to the insular and continental courtly aristocracy and the lay people on the continent. This is not to say Henry Blois secretly gave up stirring unrest behind Henry II when he returned in 1158 as the John of Cornwall prophecies relate, but overtly he augmented his false image of the Venerable old Bishop helpful to Becket etc.etc.
In the Vulgate HRB, it was the dragons which symbolised the Saxons and the Britons; the dragons did not prophecy in HRB. In the Roman de Brut: These dragons prophesied of Kings to come, who would yet hold the realm in their charge. I say no more, for I fear to translate Merlin’s Prophecies, when I cannot be sure of the interpretation thereof. It is good to keep my lips from speech, since the issue of events may make my gloss a lie.
‘Wace’ makes a statement entirely contrary to his deeds being the most prolific fabricator in history. If ‘Geoffrey’ was still alive and the Roman de Brut was supposedly in composition prior to 1155; how does ‘Wace’ take such liberties with another man’s work and declares what he does above?
Only a fool would believe there is any truth in the statement, yet scholars for years have lauded ‘Wace’ with praise for his honesty. ‘Wace’ cannot even follow ‘Geoffrey’s’ rendition of events without embellishing. It is bizarre that by using this method, Henry Blois has persuaded us that ‘chivalric’ Arthuriana in the form in which he presents it in the Roman de Brut and HRB was widespread. The only person propagating his own personal edifice of fabrication is Henry Blois himself.
Wace in reality was a clerk at Caen, yet Henry Blois was a bishop knight who saw so much carnage and witnessed many sieges in the Anarchy alongside his brother. He even saw Winchester burn!! It seems a bit odd that our clerk lisant is so able to embellish what was already written by a man who had witnessed warfare first hand. Henry Blois is the author of the Roman de Brut composing for a different audience and in a different style from the prose version of ‘Geoffrey’; but at all times secreting his identity as author:
Aurelius and Eldof laced them in their mail. They made the wild fire ready and caused men to cast timber in the moat, till the deep fosse was filled. When this was done they flung wild fire from their engines upon the castle. The fire laid hold upon the castle, it spread to the tower, and to all the houses that stood about. The castle flared like a torch; the flames leaped in the sky; the houses tumbled to the ground.
When Henry first wrote the Primary Historia he had no notion that he would be facing a power struggle in the church or even contemplating the necessity of fabricating evidence in the case for a metropolitan. However, he did want to add credence in as many ways as possible to the myth he had created around the chivalric Arthur in his expanded Vulgate version.
Huntingdon’s explanation in EAW of Uther Pendragon is just remarked upon as a name denoting Dragons head. In the interim period between the Primary Historia and the production of the First Variant version, we could speculate that Henry Blois had a Gold dragon fabricated of some description, cast from gold which was housed in the Cathedral to add witness to Uther’s supposed two dragons in the First Variant and HRB. One was supposedly kept at Winchester as we see also re-iterated in the Roman de Brut:
In remembrance of the dragon, and of the hardy knight who should be King and a father of Kings, which it betokened, Uther wrought two golden dragons, by the counsel of his barons. One of these dragons he caused to be borne before him when he went into battle. The other he sent to Winchester to be set up in the church of the bishop. For this reason he was ever after called Uther Pendragon. Pendragon was his name in the Britons’ tongue, but Dragon’s head in that of Rome.
In HRB we have the same story: From that day forth was he called Uther Pendragon, for thus do we call a dragon’s head in the British tongue. And the reason wherefore this name was given unto him was that Merlin had prophesied he should be King by means of the dragon.
This then becomes Arthur’s battle standard in the continental campaign: he set up the golden dragon he had for standard…
We should only look to John of Worchester to find out where Henry obtained the gold to fabricate the dragon which one must assume he placed in the cathedral at Winchester. After the burning of Winchester (which John reports was on Henry Blois’ orders568): After these events, bishop Henry’s anger was slightly appeased, though his greed knew no limits, and at the suggestion of the prior of the recently-burned down New Minster, recovered from the ashes of the burnt cross fifty pounds of silver, thirty marks of Gold…
568John of Worchester …the bishop is reported to have said to the earl of Northampton, ‘Behold earl, you have my orders, concentrate on razing the city to the ground.’
In 1141, after the Rout of Winchester, it is the most likely time that the dragon was fabricated as physical evidence of Arthur’s presence at Winchester. This would have corroborated the story which was subsequently to surface in the First Variant and thereafter in the Vulgate.
Henry went to Southern Wales in 1136 to help Stephen subdue the Welsh rebellion. Modern commentators have been confused by ‘Geoffrey’s’ contradictory attitudes concerning the Welsh. GS is ample witness to Henry’s attitude about the wild and savage Welsh. ‘Geoffrey’s’ distaste for the Welsh came from suppressing the uprising; and it was Henry’s advice to his brother to let them fight against themselves rather than trying to quash them outright and spending a fortune on the endeavour.
‘Geoffrey’ portrayed the current Welsh in his day as unworthy descendants of the Britons in HRB which highlights my proposition that Galfridus Arthur only latterly became Geoffrey of Monmouth. Henry Blois could not suppress his own feelings about the Welsh. Therefore, there is a conflict for scholars as ‘Geoffrey’ set his glorious (but fabricated) Arthurian epic in Wales….which, in his mind, was now full of savages clearly stated in GS. It was only after Wallingford and maybe two or three years after that….. that Henry Blois decided to invent Geoffrey from Monmouth, so in reality, Henry detested the Welsh as savages. Only after Henry Blois had added to the signatories of random charters at Oxford where he had witnessed the name of Ralf as another signatory and the name of Walter the Archdeacon did he invent the name of Geoffrey with a provenance from Monmouth dissembling his own prejudice and distancing the author of HRB as possibly being a Norman.
We can understand from GS that Henry was at Kidwelly and this is his Lidelea. But the writer of the First Variant and the Roman de Brut could not know the lay of the land unless the same author is common to both. How possibly (if Wace were not Henry Blois) could Wace know of the lay of the land not spelled out in the First Variant or Vulgate HRB?
Yet ‘Wace’ understands the topography also: ’fields round about are hid’. What Henry Blois (posing as Wace), is subconsciously describing is the miles of tidal marshes south of Kidwelly in the marsh flats. However, Wace could not know this….. as his description (if he were genuinely copying Geoffrey’s work) is not in HRB: ‘Moreover,’ he said, ‘another lake is there in the parts of Wales nigh the Severn, which the men of that country do call Linligwan, whereinto when the sea floweth, it is received as into a whirlpool or swallow, in such wise as that the lake is never the fuller for the waters it doth ingulf so as to cover the margins of the banks thereof. Nonetheless when the sea ebbs again, it spouts forth the waters it hath sucked in as it were a mountain, and slashes over and covers the banks. At such a time, were the folk of all that country to stand nearby with their faces toward the lake and should be sprinkled of the spray of the waves upon their garments, they should scarce escape, if indeed they did at all escape, being swallowed up of the lake. Nonetheless, should they turn their back to the lake, they need have no fear of being sprinkled, even though they should stand upon the very brink.569
569HRB. IX, vii
Wace’s description which follows unwittingly portrays eyewitness details which could only be known by someone having visited the same spot as ‘Geoffrey is describing: This lake is close by the Severn in the land of Wales. The sea pours its tide into this lake. Yet empty itself as it may, the waters of the lake remain ever at the same height, never more and never less. The ocean itself may not suffice to heap its waters above the lake, neither to cover its shores. Yet at the ebbing of the tide, when the sea turns to flee, then the lake spues forth the water it has taken to its belly, so that the banks are swallowed up, the great waves rise tall in their wrath, and the wide fields round about are hid, and all is sodden with the foam. The folk of that country tell that should a man stare upon the wave in its anger, so that his vesture and body be wetted of the spray, then, whatever be his strength, the water will draw him to itself, for it is mightier than he. Many a man has struggled and fallen on the brink, and been drowned in its clutch. But if a man turn his back upon the water, then he may stand safely upon the bank, taking his pleasure as long as he will. The wave will pass by him, doing him no mischief; he will not be wetted even of the flying foam.
Regardless of the local superstition, it seems improbable that ‘Wace’ would know that there were fields/fens in the same location ‘Geoffrey’ is describing. It would also be improbable that Wace has the same mind’s eye and describes where ‘Geoffrey’ had in mind when recounting a bit of local Welsh lore about the tidal marshes of Linligwan when supposedly Wace is ensconced in Jersey. The fifth as we have covered was numbered as Matilda and as we know she was never anointed as is made plain in the numbering system in the prophecies:
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.
Obviously only after the death of Stephen and the council of Winchester at Michaelmas 1155 could the prophecies be updated where we have the Sixth king and the proposition of him invading Ireland:
The sixth shall overthrow the Irish and their walls, and pious and prudent shall renew the people and the cities.See appendix 13
I will just digess on a small recap of what has been established and its relevance to Wace. As ‘Wace’ is using the First Variant, we expect to find Dubricius as one of the three Archflamens: being Archbishop of Caerleon and Legate of Rome….. as this was highly relevant to why the First Variant was composed. We know that when the Primary Historia was completed in early 1138, Henry was not concerned with metropolitan issues and does not mention the Archflamens. Huntingdon in EAW just relates: He established twenty-eight bishops in Britain, following the number of pagan priests…. So, Henry initially in the Primary Historia based his storyline on Gildas’ number of cities. Not until the metropolitan issue comes to the fore does Henry get interested in embellishing the script with Archflamens.
Now, as we have discussed, Huntingdon travelling with the Archbishop of Canterbury would have found it worthy of mention that there were three archbishoprics in Britain, if it had indeed been part of the text in the Primary Historia found at Bec. The three archbishoprics were not found in the storyline of the Primary Historia simply because Henry Blois thought he was archbishop of Canterbury in waiting at that time in early 1138. There was absolutely no agenda for the inclusion of three Archflamen’s which were only latterly posited in the First Variant, when Henry took his case to Rome and after he realised that his brother had given the position of Archbishop of Canterbry to Theobald. Hence the ecclesiastical bent of the First Variant in 1144 where anti-Roman rhetoric is toned down and accepted history in the annals is followed more closely.
The Historia was evolving and Avalon and Arthur’s last whereabouts are not developed as yet in the copy found at Bec in 1139. If Avalon had been mentioned in the Primary Historia, Huntingdon would have mentioned it out of fascination because of his ignorance of its location. Avalon is however mentioned in the later First Variant, yet there is still no mention of Walter simply because he is still alive; and Henry has not been under pressure to distance himself from the seditious prophecies or obfuscate the tracks which lead to a very dishonest author of History.
We need to understand that by 1153-4 people were starting to wonder who Galfridus Arthur was and how he knew so much British history that no previous historian had recorded. Hence the verification by signing charters in Oxford by a person named Galfridus Arthur.
It is only when the source book is needed to explain away Galfridus’ insight into insular history that Walter’s name is presumed upon; and therein is the explanation of why Walter is not mentioned in the First Variant version. It is only while Henry is at Oxford while signing those seven charters, that ‘Geoffrey’ obtains his Monmouth connection because Henry sees Ralph’s provenance on the existing charter he has chosen at randon on which to include his scribble; and therein also lies the explanation as to why only in the Vulgate HRB is Galfridus named as Geoffrey of Monmouth and thus that particular appellation dates after 1153.
As we have previously discussed, The First Variant has no Alexander dedication, but this does not negate the fact that the early set of prophecies existed in the First Variant with an evolved form bringing them up to that date, as it is probable the original Libellus Merlini may have been published by Henry c.1140 just to confirm (he) and his brother were the rightful heirs as seen by Merlin and at that time the prophecies concurred in number only to the fourth leonine king i.e. Stephen.
Once Merlin was spliced into the First Variant version, it is easy to see without any change to the structure of the text how up-dated prophecies were added after 1155 to replace the old set. We can see the progression of reasoning to the First Variant version which is here recorded and paralleled in ‘Wace’ as the metropolitan issue becomes the main agenda for Henry. But there is no mention of Faganum and Duvianum in the Roman de Brut as Henry had long since given up the quest for metropolitan by the time he had finished Wace’s version of the Historia c.1158-60 even though he had used First Variant to follow as a template at the start.
Henry’s attempt at Metropolitan, where Dubricius is incontestably Primate: Dubric of the City of Legions. He, Primate of Britain and Legate of the Apostolic See…
There were no legates to sixth century Britain but Henry himself was Legate from 1139-43. It was in fact Henry’s own persistent use of Legatine councils and their powers which he had instituted in referring problems to the pope, which eventually backfired on him and he became subject to, once he had lost the Legation when Innocent II died.
‘Wace’ (as in the Vulgate), tells of the coincidental similarities at Arthur’s crowning to another circumstance where Henry Blois and Bernard similarly escort The Empress Matilda as bishops, one each side, as in GS.570
Now telleth the chronicle of this geste, that when the morning was come of the day of the high feast, a fair procession of archbishops, bishops, and abbots wended to the King’s palace, to place the crown upon Arthur’s head, and lead him within the church. Two of these archbishops brought him through the streets of the city, one walking on either side of his person. Each bishop sustained the King by his arm, and thus he was earned to his throne.571
570Gesta Stephani: Matilda was publicly welcomed into Winchester. She took up residence in the Castle and Bishop Henry handed over to her the keys to the Treasury and the Royal Crown. He then arranged a large meeting of the citizens of Winchester in the Market Place so they could salute her as “their Lady”. From here, the party entered the cathedral with great pomp. Matilda led the procession with Henry of Blois to her right and the Bishop of St. David’s to her left. Relatives of the Bishops of Salisbury, Ely and Lincoln were also present and Henry sent for Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury who arrived a few days later.
571Wace. Roman de Brut
We might speculate that if there were no Archbishops in the Primary Historia and no Phagan and Deruvian in the passage where Lucius is mentioned, the processional of Arthur’s crowning would not be present either…. as Matilda’s crowning had not yet taken place when Primary Historia was written, and we can speculate that Henry based the version of the crowning on this incident.
So as to appear an independent author, ‘Wace’ has Lucius, the Emperor and lord of Rome in his decree to King Arthur saying: I will cross the Mont St. Bernard with a mighty host, and pluck Britain and France from your hand.
Earlier ‘Wace’ had alluded to: Knights had their plate who held land of the King, from the furthest Marches of the west even unto the Hill of St. Bernard. The Hill or Mount St Bernard is mentioned 5 times in Wace and not at all in HRB. The Mont Bernard pass is just over 100 miles from Clugny and after one has passed through the ‘Aravian range’ (which ‘Geoffrey’ prefers to use as the border description), it was the main track to Rome. The point is, if Wace is a clerk lisant at Caen and ‘Geoffrey’ is a magister at Oxford, it seems too coincidental that both of their defining geography involves descriptions of Arthur’s empire north of the Alps. We know that Henry must have gone this route approximately 10 times to get to Rome and we should recall ‘Geoffrey’s’ allusion to Matilda and the reference of her marriage to the Emperor of Rome as pertaining to this border with Rome: Eagle build her nest upon Mount Aravius…
It is no coincidence ‘Wace’ and ‘Geoffrey’ appear to think in similar terms geographically, yet both use different terms to define the same border of mountains and places upon them defined correctly by different names; yet both ‘Wace’ and ‘Geoffrey’ vastly geographically removed seem capable of interchanging nomenclature for something that could and should be stated as the Alps.
Yet we know why this is! It is because originally, before ‘Wace’ versified about the St Bernard pass, the Aravian mountains were used mystically as the nomenclature for the alps and thus Rome because the vision was supposedly seen by ‘Merlin’ in the prophecy concerning Matilda and the ‘seen through a glass darkly’ mystical connection to her having married Henry V, the holy Roman Emperor.
Do you really think the reason ‘Wace’ refers to the Alps as the Bernard pass is because he alone understood what the Aravian mountain prophecy referred to? To this day there was not a modern scholar who even knew what the Aravian mountain term meant. Nor did any attempt at elucidation of the prophecies ever unravel its meaning; yet ‘Wace’ knows exactly what it refers to. A Freudian slip I would say proving one mind wrote both the prophecies of Merlin and Roman de Brut.
We should also consider ‘Geoffrey’s’ prophecy saying shadow of him that weareth a helmet is Henry Blois as legate to the pope…. on the other side of the mountains; to which ‘Wace’ is also seen to be using the Alps as a Geographical divide. Too coincidental to have two minds interpreting the same icon expressed completely differently, yet have identical meaning and understanding.
We may assume that Mont St Bernard is being employed mentally as the equivalent of the Aravian/Alps Mountains. Some commentators have been foolish enough to think Mont St Bernard is Mont St Michel, but ‘Wace’ confirms his and ‘Geoffrey’s’ geography as meaning the Alps: Maximian, King of Britain, after he had conquered France and Germany, passed the Mont St. Bernard into Lombardy.
It just seems beyond coincidence that ‘Wace’ defines the border of the Alps just as ‘Geoffrey’ does, but with a different name but by comparison with all the other coincidences yet to be investigated this is by comparison a minor one. If ‘Wace’ is following the First Variant prophecies of Merlin where Mont Bernard is never mentioned, how is it that he thinks just like ‘Geoffrey’? Thankfully we know ‘Geoffrey’ is constructor of the Merlin prophecies and Wace’s Roman de Brut was written by Henry Blois. In the later Vulgate versions Henry Blois is keen to show his partiality to being Welsh to avoid discovery: since he slew the giant Ritho upon Mount Eryri, that had challenged him to fight with him….Eryri being the Welsh name for Snowdonia.
While on the subject from this oft made journey to Rome by Henry Blois; if we mark the points on the map, we will see that there are two routes from England that Henry Blois has taken to and from Rome in his travels. After leaving Rome and passing through Modena and then across the Alps is the route that passes through the Bernard pass and the Aravian range. the more Eastern route is the one discussed by Henry Blois in the letter with Abbot Suger (through Flanders)572 and goes through Montbéliard where Robert de Boron supposedly comes from; Meuse, where Henry commissioned the Mosan plates and Tournai from where the many marble fonts573 derive…. and onto Froidmont where Helinand resided.
572See Note 4
573There are only seven in England. The fact that four of the seven are in Hampshire leads to the conclusion that they were the gift of Henry de Blois; the finest being at Winchester
The route more to the West would bring Henry up through the Aravian range/ Hill of St Bernard/Bernard pass, and then through to Clugny, Autun, Langres Troyes and on up to Bec and Caen before crossing to England.
As one can see in Note 4 the chance of Wace and Geoffrey referring to two different places so close to each other…. both defining what Henry Blois sees as a geographical border is a coincidence too far. Great St. Bernard Pass is the most ancient pass through the Western Alps and is the route one would have taken from Clugny through the Aravian range and on through the St Bernard pass (so named by Mont St Bernard) on a journey to Rome.
At this point in the investigation, it is worth reiterating that the Merlin prophecies were in a state of flux. As we have discussed, there were changes in nuance and the updating witnessed between Suger’s Libellus version, the JC version, the Vulgate version and those in the VM are seen to be squewed by Henry Blois. Eckhardt’s three modes of transition are basically correct in that there was a separate ‘first’ set of prophecies which circulated separately. Abbot Suger, amongst others, would have possessed a set. The Libellus Merlini came out just after Stephen was crowned and was later slightly squewed while he was alive.
These were then updated after the death of Stephen to include such updates as found in the Vulgate (with the incitement to rebellion and the Sixth in Ireland prophecy) while the sense of some of the original verses were twisted, to include events in the ‘Anarchy’ so that these looked like the previous prophecies. These were added to and updated in VM where some prophecies concerning the ‘Anarchy’ which were not in the first set were included (specifically those prophecies supposedly spoken by Ganieda). Some were malicious in intent with the usual skimble skamble imagery. Some, which were previously established to apply to historical events and personages of known history in the original set, were subtly changed to apply to current events. Numbers were added to identify the Kings from William the conqueror (i.e. no number five with direct reference to Matilda but a sixth regarding Henry II). Cadwallader and Conan were being employed in the modern era of 1155, where most probably, previously, Cadwallon would have referred to Cadwallonap Cadfan (died 634).
As we have learnt Henry Blois was trying to unite and incite the Celts to rebellion against Henry II when he fled to Clugny in 1155 as can be seen clearly here: 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.
The fact that Henry referred to the Normans as foreigners was the ultimate cover under which to hide his seditious intent while out of the country trying his best to cause an uprising of the Celtic tribes and rebellion from Conan.
In this instance we can tell this prophecy dates from 1155 -1158, where he is trying to unite the Bretons, Scots, Cornish and Welsh. What is plain is that in none of the prophecies discussed by Abbot Suger (shown below) is there any hint of sedition. Why would there be. Henry was not in self imposed exile and his brother was King when these prophecies were published.
The Lion of Justice shall succeed, at who’s warning the towers of Gaul and the dragons of the island shall tremble. In those days shall gold be wrung forth from the lily and the nettle, and silver shall flow from the hooves of them that low. They that go crisped and curled shall be clad in fleeces of many colours, and the garment without shall betoken that which is within. The feet of them that bark shall be cropped short. The wild deer shall have peace, but humanity shall suffer dole. The shape of commerce shall be cloven in twain; the half shall be round. The ravening of kites shall perish and the teeth of wolves be blunted. The Lion’s whelps shall be transformed into fishes of the sea, and his Eagle build her nest upon Mount Aravius.
It should be understood that the copy of prophecies which Abbot Suger possesed were merely established to show that Merlin had seen into future and the prophecies were in essence innocuous. Their main purport was to establish that the Normans (as saviours in that set) had been foreseen and therefore, so had Stephen’s reign as a fourth King. This as we discussed gave the appearance that Stephen’s reign was fated and so was the loss of the crown by ‘her of the broken covenant’ i.e. Matilda.
Modern scholars should grasp that the prophecies in the Vulgate HRB were not finalised until 1155. The incitement to rebellion and its intent, so clearly defined in JC’s prophecies, could only benefit one ‘adopted son’ who fantastically becomes the seventh Leonine in the line; and that persion was supposed to be Henry Blois at the time of composition of the JC version; who, at that time, was in self-imposed exile and while waiting for events to transpire how he had tried to influence them by prophecy; he then turned his hand to writing VM while opining in the character of Merlin and asking himself how things have turned out so bad for him over the last nineteen years.
John of Cornwall’s set of prophecies were full of malicious intent, but end with a vision of Henry returning gloriously as an ‘adopted son’ to Britain. Henry obviously thought that the inherent in-fighting that would be the resultant of a success of the celtic tribes would only be able to be brought to peaceful conclusion by him as we see so aptly expessed on the Meusan plaques.
One might suggest that a set of prophecies which originally accompanied the text of the Roman de Brut may be the explanation as to why Henry II puzzlingly withdrew his patronage from ‘Wace’, but this seems doubtful considering the date of publication c.1158-60 as the prophecies had not been successful in their design. But, impersonating Wace, Henry understood by the reaction to the versified Historia that one could develop further this genre of story telling.
Thus, we have Arthurian literature being woven into Glastonbury lore culminating in the welding of Arthurian episodes to Joseph of Arimathea through Avalon and the Grail…. all being spliced together by the contents of the prophecy of Melkin whose Duo Fassula are morphed into the Grail and connected to Joseph. Not even Robert de Boron who has no idea the prophecy of Melkin exists could connect all this to Glastonbury but I will discuss this later in the section on the Grail legends.
There are a set of twelfth century prophecies which it is worth covering, but not wishing to bore the reader. Of the 19 MSS of the Roman de Brut, 9 are Anglo Norman and 10 French. But it is 3 of the Anglo-Norman texts which have the set of prophecies written in meter attached. These may be the residue of prophecies which were originally destined to be attached to the early copy of the Brut which Henry had prepared but ultimately decided not to. There is a fragment of these verses in octosyllabic rhymed couplets which would tie in with ‘Wace’s’ Roman de Brut.
‘Wace’s’ claim concerning his reluctance to reiterate the prophecies in essence is self-evidently ingenuous574 as many other of his fabrications in the Roman de Brut expand on top of ‘Geoffrey’s’ fabrications such as the inclusion of the icon of the round table.
So, the versifier of these prophecies seems to have an uncanny precise understanding of the meaning of the prophecies given that they were in their original form oblique and vague at best to the average reader. If these had indeed been part of the original ‘Wace’ Roman de Brut they would certainly have caused offence to Henry II575 as the interpretation in translation is more clearly detrimental to Matilda and King Henry than those by Merlin in the Historia. Subconsciously also, the versifier seems to have an uncanny likeness of understanding of Henry Blois’ agenda.
I will use Jean Blacker’s576 Durham MS translation of some of these prophecies to highlight my point.
When speaking of Arthur as the boar of Cornwall:
Rome will tremble from his cruelty;
He will have a truly mysterious end.
He will have honours from the mouths of nations;
His deeds will be food for storytellers,
Six men will follow his sceptre;
They will be those of his line.
574In the Roman de Rou a genuine Master Wace mentions an epic tale but does not continue it: I have heard minstrels in my childhood who have sung about William long ago blinded by Osmunt and dug out the eyes of Count Riulf and how he caused Ansketil to be slain by trickery, and Blazo of Spain to be guarded with a shield. I know nothing about these, nor can I discover anything further about them. When I have no corroboration of detail I do not care to repeat, nor do I wish to affirm that lies are true. This hardly sounds like the composer of the Roman de Brut and it is for this reason Henry Blois adds comments seemingly written by Wace.
575One other reason Wace might have had his patronage withdrawn may be that after reading the Roman de Brut, an interested patron such as Henry II would expect a lot more than what is found in the prosaic and rather monotonous Roman de Rou.
576Anglo-Norman verse Prophecies of Merlin.
Of course, there is nothing that resembles this in HRB directly but each line can be linked to Henry through JC or Wace or the ‘hope of the Britons’, the six kings etc. Again, concerning Henry Blois’ argument that the Briton church was long established before Augustine, our versifier seems to avow the same position:
Among the seats of primacy there will be change:
Canterbury will be decorated
In the dignity that belongs to London.
Our master Gregorius was intent on having us believe that the unknown bronze horseman at Rome was Maximian. Our versifier also paints a similar picture of possibility:
He who will do this will occupy London
As a Baron of bronze and will sit proudly
On a horse of bronze.
Our versifier is even clearer than Merlin in his meaning. This man understands the meaning of the prophecies:
The offspring this Lion will have
Will be turned into fish in the sea
And a female Eagle which will be born from him,
Will make her nest on Mount Aravius.
Until it is understood that the prophecies of Merlin in their various forms were manipulated by Henry Blois over time, they will never be understood definitively as they are never consistent. We cannot cover all the prophecies in the Durham MS; but one thing is clear, the time of Henry’s previous set of prophecies are past. Insurrection is no longer an option. If I am correct that these once were destined to coexist with Wace’s Roman de Brut, before they were separated and ‘Wace’ declared he did not understand them, we can see that Henry Blois refers to his futile beginning (i.e. crowning his brother) but has not given up on the idea that he might unite the Celts and be crowned with the head of a lion and will make a metropolitan of Winchester and St David’s.
This one will arrange the parts in one whole
And will be crowned with the head of a Lion
For a time his beginning will be futile,
Then his end will soar to the highest ones,
For he will renew the holy sees;
He will put pastors in suitable places.
He will clothe two cities in archbishop’s palls.
Further, after what happened at the rout of Winchester, Merlin now cleverly predicts (which he does not in Vulgate prophecies) about what happens to the pastoral see:
Of Winchester: all will fall down
And the earth will swallow you up
The pastoral see there will be razed.
As we have noted before, The Hedgehog is Henry’s own reference to himself:
A hedgehog which will be loaded with apples
Will rebuild her (Winchester)
To their odour sweetly, for they will smell sweet,
Birds from many woods will fly
And a grand palace will be built
Which will be surrounded with six hundred towers
Nowhere else in the various formats or versions of the prophecies are the next two lines found. I believe they were put there to deflect the notion that many suspected the Bishop of Winchester of having fabricated the Merlin prophecies as just possibly his castle at Winchester had six hundred crenulations.
Each tower will have six guards,
Who will give laws to those of their charge.
Even though the Roman de Rou was probably put out in 1160, if these prophecies originally accompanied the Roman de Brut, we would now see why it was necessary to assert that the Brut was written c.1155.