Appendix 20
The interest in Arthuriana is well known by the Plantagenet family and it is
known that Henry II paid attention to the Prophecies of Merlin. Eleanor of
Aquitaine and her daughter Marie of France,
1
Countess of Champagne, was
patroness to Chrétien de Troyes. Henry Blois was the uncle of the
Countess’s husband, Henry Blois on occasion must have visited as he is the
first promulgator of the Grail legens. Both Chrétien and Robert after
hearing Henry Blois in the guise of Master Blihis at the court of his two
young nephews (sons of his brother Theobald) and their wives, are
responsible for further propagating the oral romances into literature.
After Henry II came to the throne of the British Isles, Brittany and Aquitaine
were in the same political area, ruled over by the Plantagenet family.
Brittany was conscious of its links to the pre-Saxon Britons and the link of
Arthur to Brittany pre-existed Geoffrey’s HRB, but much of the Breton lore
was oral.
The links between the Armorican peninsula named Brittany since the
sixth century emigration of some Britons (mostly from Dumnonia as a
Dumonian king ruled) provided a shared cultural heritage. The persistence,
until the 13th century and beyond, of a linguistic and cultural community
between Brittany, Wales and Cornwall were not ‘Geoffrey’s’ invention.
Saint Goeznovius was a Cornish-born Bishop of Léon in Brittany, who
died c.675 and is venerated as a saint in the region around Brest and the
Diocese of Léon. According to his Legenda he was born in Cornwall and
became one of many of his countrymen who moved to the continent in the
wake of the Anglo-Saxon incursions. The prologue to Saint Goueznou’s life,
written in the 11th century bears testimony to the existence of a long
standing cultural background:
And sothe Armoriciislandersandthe British, who use thesame
lawsinbrotherly love, treated themselves as apeopleof onecountry fora long
timeunderthe rule.
1
See appendix 36
The Bretons of Brittany, (little Britain) and Britons on opposite sides of
the Channel (later called Great Britain to distinguish the two) formed one
people.The same consciousness of a common past is found. In the Book of
Llandaff,
2
c.1135-1150, it relates that the Welsh prince Guidnerth, guilty of
murdering his brother, was sent to Dol in Brittany by his archbishop to do
penitence, because: He Guidnerthand the Britonsandthe archbishopof that
landare ofonetongue and of one nationalthoughthe lands are spatially
divided.
Although we can see the attestations to cultural background, in the
cartulary at the Abbey of Saint-Sauveur-Redon there are several occurrences
of the name Arthur. Also we hear of a lineage of Arthuiu, Lord of Bain-de-
Bretagne in the ninth century.
3
Lailoken also appears as Lalocan in the
middle of the ninth century.
4
Saint Judicael ap Hoel c.590658 (of Jewish
descent) was the King of Domnonee and a Breton King in the mid-seventh
century. According to Gregory of Tours, the Bretons were divided into
various regna during the sixth century, of which, were named Domnonee
and Cornouaille.
According to Saint Judicael’s Life, his fellow, Taliesin sometimes stayed
in the Abbey of Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys in Brittany to study. It relates people
asked Taliesin to explain King Judhael’s dream about his future son.
Regarding Henry Blois and his involvement in rewriting history, we can
see in Vita Merlini, where Henry Blois’ has Merlin say: Bid Taliesin come. I
have much I wish to discuss with him, since he has only recently returned
from Brittany, where he has been enjoying the sweets of learning under the
wise Gildas." (VM). All of this is tied up with Henry Blois impostering of
Caradoc and the concoction of the life of Gildas.
Henry Blois sees himself as both from Norman and Breton heritage and
part of the heritage which started to merge after the Vikings’ ravages of
Normandy along with parts of Brittany at the beginning of the 11
th
century
in an era where we see a double alliance between the ducal houses of
Brittany and Normandy. The traditional rivalry between Brittany and
Normandy continued at the close of the 11th century.
2
The text of the Book of Llan Dâv reproduced from the Gwysaneg Manuscript. Edition by Gwenogoryn Evans
and John Rhys. Aberysthwyth: National Library of Wales, 1893[1979], p. 181.
3
Fleuriot, Léon, 1974. “Old Breton Genealogies and Early British Traditions.
4
Cartulary of Redon.
The Breton-Norman war of 10641065 was the result of William I of
England's support of rebels in Brittany against Alan's grandfather, Conan II.
However, the name of Arthur was in use on the continent as early as the
middle of the 11th century and the name of Arthur is witnessed in
Normandy. We find it in Fougères (Artur de Mansionili’), in the second half
of the 11th century.
5
Also in 1087, in the course of William the Conqueror’s funeral at Caen,
Ascelin, son of Arthur, claimed that William’s grave site was owned before
by his father Arthur, and had been stolen from him by William to found the
Trinity’s church of Caen.
6
Arthur, Ascelin’s father, appeared in records
between 1056 and 1070 when he sold lands to Lanfranc.
7
Another instance
is the lord Artus of Champeaux visited the hermit William Firmat in the
forest of Passais.
8
Many Bretons came to England with William the
Conqueror’s army. Even before 1066, Normans and Bretons had already
settled and been warmly welcomed there since the times of King Alfred the
Great and his son Athelstan. This tradition of welcome even became a law
under Edward the Confessor’s reign.
9
The political relations between Henry Ist Beauclerc and Alan Fergant
were very strong. Alan came to Henry’s aid when the latter was fighting
against his brother Robert Courteheuse for the throne of England. Alan
Fergant’s natural son, Brian Fitz-Count, was fostered at Henry Ist court. His
foster brother was Henry’s son, Robert of Gloucester, to whom Normans
and Bretons had close connections even if these relations were not always
harmonious. Bretons participated together in the first crusade under Robert
Courteheuse’s command, with Alan Fergant, Duke of Brittany.
10
5
Gallais, Pierre, 1967. “Bleheri, la cour de Poitiers et la diffusion des récits arthuriens sur le continent.”, Actes
du 7ème congrès national de la littérature comparée, Poitiers, 1965, Paris : Didier, 47-79
6
See Orderic Vital. Histoire de Normandie. Traduction de Louis-François du Bois et
François Guizot. Paris: Brière, 1825-27, VII, p. 218.
7
See Gallais, op. cit., 61, A5
8
See Raison, Chanoine Louis, René Niderst, 1948. Le mouvement érémitique dans l’Ouest, fin 11ème siècle,
début 12ème siècle.
9
“Brytones vero armorici, cum venerint in regno isto, suspici debent et in regno protegi sicut probi cives. De
corpore regni hujus exierunt quondam, de sanguine Brytonum regni hujus. “ Mentioned by Joseph Loth,
1883. L’émigration bretonne du 5ème au 7ème siècle de notre ère.
10
Much of this appendix supplied by Patrice Marquand. Cultural connections between Brittany and Aquitaine in
the Middle Ages (10th-13th centuries): ‘The Matter of Britain and the ‘Chansons de Geste.’