The fifth from him shall rebuild the walls of St David’s and shall bring back to her the pall lost for many years.
This refers back to the passage in the Prophecies of Merlin where Menevia shall be robed in the pall of the City of the Legions,874 Henry Blois, writing as Geoffrey of Monmouth associates the metropolitan of Caerleon to St David’s (completely fictitiously and put forward to create Arthur’s utopian metropolis presented in HRB). It is upon this premise (from Rhygyvarch’s Life of St David) that bishop Bernard (a good friend of Henry Blois), worked to reinstate the Archbishopric. We know Henry Blois has read875 Rhygyvarch’s Life of St David and because of the information supplied in the Life of St David, Henry Blois attempts to help his friend Bernard to reinstate the Archbishopric,(as Merlin) which once (according to Rhygyvarch and Asser), existed in Menevia.
‘Geoffrey’s’ HRB makes Caerleon one of the most important cities in Britain where he creates for it a long and glorious history from its foundation by King Belinus. King Belinus is fictional, but Caerleon becomes a metropolitan see in HRB; the location of an Archbishopric superior to Canterbury876 and York, under Saint Dubricius. We are told in the fiction found in HRB that St David therefore moved the ‘City of the Legions’877 archbishopric to St David’s Cathedral.
At that time two of the Metropolitan Sees, York, to wit, and the City of the Legions, were vacant without their shepherds. Wherefore, being minded to consult the common wish of his peoples, he gave York unto Samson, a man of high dignity and illustrious by the depth of his piety; and Caerleon unto Dubricius, whom the providence of God had before singled out as like to be right serviceable in that same place.878
874HRB VII, iii
875Henry names Padam and Teilo in DA; both names lifted from Rhygyvarch’s work to accord with the fictions presented in DA about St David.
876The point being that Augustine had not even arrived in Britain yet.
877Nennius ’City of Legions’ is synonymous with Caerleon in Geoffrey.
878HRB VIII, xii
The importance of the See is clear…. because ‘apparently’ Kings were crowned there, not in Roman Canterbury:
Dubricius, Archbishop of the City of Legions that he should crown as King Arthur.879
In 1115, when this part of Wales was under Norman control, King Henry Ist of England appointed Bishop Bernard as Bishop of St David’s who commenced construction of a new Cathedral consecrated in 1131. In 1123, Pope Calixtus II had granted a compromise of Bishop Bernard’s request and bestowed a Papal privilege upon St David’s, making it a centre of pilgrimage, the Pope decreeing “Two pilgrimages to St David’s is equal to one to Rome, and three pilgrimages to one to Jerusalem!”
This brought many pilgrims to West Wales. Henry pretends in the prediction found in the prophecy that the Menevian See is the same as that of Caerleon and it is also synonymous with the city of Legions of the HRB (as in Nennius)…. but now had moved its inherited status to St. David’s. Bishop Bernard of St David’s was a friend of Henry Blois and we saw them together at Winchester880 (without the archbishop of Canterbury) both of them seen to be setting up the new short-term monarch ‘in waiting’ Empress Matilda as recounted in GS.
However, ‘Geoffrey’s’ rendition of events is fictional:
At that time also died David, that most holy Archbishop of Caerleon, in the city of Menevia, within his own abbey, which he loved above all the other monasteries of his diocese, for that it was founded by the blessed Patrick who had foretold his nativity.881
Our expert on HRB Julia Crick, in her attempt to understand Gerald’s relationship to Geoffrey and his work, only struggles in her interpretation by not understanding that Henry Blois was Gerald’s patron and mentor and severely influenced how he viewed the HRB. Gerald’s involvement in the debate over St David’s impinges on our argument in two ways. First,it attests a surprising level of commitment to Galfridian history. Given how much depended on his presentation to the pope, one would not expect him to have jeopardised his case by the inclusion of elements which he considered ﬂippant or incredible. On this occasion he sought in earnest to endorse Geoffrey’s ‘History’, not to undermine it. Secondly, the dispute at St David’s has been used to explain Gerald’s hostility to Geoﬀrey. Geoﬀrey, it has been suggested, succeeded in mangling the rival claims of St David’s and Llandaf by introducing an entirely new candidate for the metropolitan seat, Caerleon.
If the reader is still in doubt who is driving this myth one should consider that it was Henry Blois who miraculously found a ‘gem’ at Glastonbury belonging to St. David and know that St. Patrick’s association with Glastonbury is fictitious (which I will cover in the chapter on DA). Henry is using Rhygyvarch’s Life of St David and his own fabrications found in HRB to substantiate his further fictions presented in the interpolated part of DA.
This prophecy in the VM expresses the aspirations cherished by the Welsh of a re-established metropolitan long before Giraldus Cambrensis took up the cause from Bernard. It also shows that Henry repeats prophecies formerly made in Vulgate HRB for consistencies sake in VM. ‘Geoffrey’s’ readership recognises these nuanced changes while he subtly changes the sense of some previous prophecies in HRB and also introduces us to new ones in VM.
879HRB IX, i
880Gesta 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.
881HRB XI, iii
Bernard’s request for metropolitan is aligned with Henry Blois’ at Winchester. Bernard had been proposing a metropolitan based on Rhygyvarch’s Life of St David and Asser’s testimony, but his friend (Henry) attempted to bring his hope to fruition by predicting it in a bogus prophecy.882 According to Welsh belief (and now perpetuated by the cult of Arthur and Caerleon in the HRB), Menevia had been the seat of an archbishop until the time of Samson, twenty fifth from Dewi or David, who fled to Dol in Brittany taking the pall with him.883 The fifth as a number in the VM presents a problem in that it was Henry Ist (the third in the HRB and Vita numbering system) who rebuilt the walls and it cannot be Matilda (the fifth). So this is undoubtedly a purposeful sqewing of the meaning of the ‘fifth’ which in HRB which was always Matilda.
Henry Blois is reticent to mention her as the ‘fifth’ in any of the prophecies whereas all the other numbered monarchs are easily distinguished. Yet, Matilda is the fifth in the sequence of rulers because Henry II is the sixth.
Henry Blois only refers directly to Matilda twice in the Prophecies of Merlin, firstly as the eagle in the ‘third nesting’ and then as her of the ‘broken covenant’.884 Since the sixth (Henry II) in the normal numbering sequence had already assumed the crown at the time of writing of the VM c.1156-7, the explanation to the fifth from him shall rebuild the walls of St David’s may well be that the ‘fifth’ in this instance applies to the pope. We could speculate that Henry wrote the prophecy assuming the next pope would be Anastasius V or more probably believed St David’s would succeed in their quest after Adrian IV (1154-1159). Either way it was good odds that the next pope would be an Anastasius or an Adrian the fifth. But much more likely is the fact that people realised what was initially only four in the Leonine line of Kings had become six and the fifth had been referred to as Matilda and now in VM he is trying to cover that overt reference from an earlier prophecy.
Bernard, however, claimed metropolitan jurisdiction over Wales and presented his suit unsuccessfully before six successive popes starting way back in 1120. Henry originally wrote this prophecy when Bernard was alive as part of the Libellus Merlini which circulated prior to the latest version found inVulgate HRB. However, a pope Alexander III was the next pope; so Henry’s prediction was wide of the mark. If there had been a pope which was a fifth and St. David’s had gained metropolitan status, it would have been a major success in Merlin’s predictive ability.
David Fitz Gerald885 followed Bernard at St David’s after his death. His sister Angharad married William de Barri and she was the mother of Gerald of Wales. It was Gerald who persisted with this hope of a change in status and it is clear why Gerald of Wales was such a staunch advocate of the creation of St David’s as a metropolitan. After Bernard died, David FitzGerald was consecrated in 1148 by Theobald of Bec, at the same time as Robert de Chesney. But, Theobald secured a promise from FitzGerald to no longer seek the elevation to metropolitan of St David’s. However, this continued as a contentious issue driven partly by Henry’s Merlinian prophecy. Part of the intent of the prophecies was to manipulate events. It is fascinating that so many commentators actually relate Merlin prophecies to events after 1157. 1157 is where the VM prophecies end. In Asser’s Life of King Alfred, he clearly describes his kinsman, Nobis, (also of St David’s), as Archbishop.
882We know Henry compared himself to Cicero. Cicero has Quintus say: ‘what nation or what state disregards the prophecies of soothsayers, or of interpreters of prodigies’. When the first set of prophecies were written when King Stephen reigned, Henry was engaged in his own pursuit of Metropolitan status. If Bernard were granted Metropolitan more so would be Winchester be deserving based on the false testimony written in HRB of Winchester’s early religious house where Constans abided.
883Giraldus Cambrensis, De Menevensi Ecclesia Dialogus.
884Henry does also refer to Matilda obliquely in other updated prophecies such as when the two armies met at Wallingford: Two Kings shall encounter in nigh combat over the Lioness at the ford of the staff.
885David FitzGerald followed Bernard after his death.
There seems little doubt that there was three metropolitans and Henry posing as Geoffrey speaking as Merlin makes it plain that Augustine usurped London’s status.886 In the Annales Cambriae, Elfodd is termed ‘archbishop of the land of Gwynedd’ in his obit, under the year 809. Rhygyfarch’s Life of Saint David states Saint David was anointed as an archbishop by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, a position confirmed at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi by popular acclaim:
Then, blessed and extolled by the mouth of all, he is with the consent of all the bishops, Kings, princes, nobles, and all grades of the whole Britannic race, made archbishop, and his monastery too is declared the metropolis of the whole country, so that whoever ruled it should be accounted archbishop.
St David’s lost its status and fell under the metropolitan jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Asser’s testimony is the basis for assuming it was ever a metropolitan. King Henry Ist, intruded Bernard, into St David’s much to the annoyance of the Welsh. The Brut y Tywysogyon states that Henry Ist ‘made him bishop in Menevia in contempt of the clerics of the Britons’.
886The dignity of London shall adorn Dorobernia (Canterbury)