Chapter 11
Alfred of Beverley
Another contemporary writer is also fascinated by the Galfridus Historia.
Alfred of Beverley is a contemporary chronicler in the time the Primary
Historia existed as a separate book from the Libellus Merlini. Since we
know the First Variant was employed in pursuing the goal of obtaining a
metropolitan for Winchester we might conclude that prophecies which
predict such a future state may well have been added in the interim to
bolster Henry’s case at Rome i.e. between 1139 and 1144 the early
prophecies were included into the version known as the First Variant.
Alfred was ‘sacrist of the church of Beverley’. He speaks of himself in the
preface to his book as contemporary with the removal of the Flemings from
the north of England to Rhos in Dyfed around 1110-2. Alfred also says that
he compiled his chronicle ‘when the church was silent, owing to the number
of persons excommunicated under the decree of the council of London.’ He
says that his interest in history in general was first sparked off by reading
Galfridus’ ‘Historia Britonum’. One must assume since he relates to the
prophecies but omits to comment on them saying they are ‘too long’ that he
has an evolved First Variant edition with a set of early libellus Merlini
prophecies spliced in.
Scholars seem to think Alfred recycled Geoffrey’s work from a Vulgate
copy not an evolving First Variant. They say that Alfred relates to episodes
exclusively found in the Vulgate version only. If this is a fact, I suggest that
the Vulgate was evolving from the Primary Historia and First Variant
between 1147-51, when Alfred relates to Geoffrey’s work.
Alfred admits: ‘neither the Roman nor the English historians record
anything about the illustrious Arthur, although he did such remarkable deeds
with such skill and valour, not only in Britain against the pagans, but also in
Gaul against the Romans’. He too, questions if the Ambrosius Aurelius in
was the same as ‘Geoffrey’s’ Ambrosius. Alfred wrote his chronicle
entitled Annales sive Historia de gestis regum Britanniae, which begins with
Brutus. His title informs us ad annum 1129 and so incorporates the history
of England down to 1129.
A second book or follow on takes us up to the death of Henry Ist. Some
commentators think Alfred put pen to paper c. 1143 based on Hardy’s work.
Our interest in the work is really only to establish that it was not written in
1143 as many commentators have thought, but it was published at the
earliest after the end of 1147 and more probably in 1150-51 as Offler and
Raine have concluded.Many previous commentators have concluded the
earlier date because Alfred relates that he wrote in an era of enforced
idleness and thus refers to the legatine council held in 1143. The splicing of
the early prophetia into the version known as First Variant was not
composed before 1144 and may indeed not have been spliced at this stage.
The importance of this is that the prophecies of Merlin were not in the
Primary Historia as Huntingdon unintentionally reveals; yet they had been
spliced into a First Variant or a precursor edition before the finalized
Vulgate. In Alfred’s account he does not mention dedicatees, which, since
much of his history is recycled from Geoffrey’s work one might think it an
oversight. However, since we know the dedicatees in the finalized Vulgate,
HRB are not employed until after their deaths (and Walter is not mentioned
either by Alfred) we know he is not using a finalized Vulgate version.
Although Alfred omits the prophecies he does not mention Bishop
Alexander either but this is obviously because the copy he has must have
been composed before Alexander’s death.
The Galfridus edition of HRB arrived at Beverley through William Fitz
Herbert or Hugh de Puiset, both Henry’s nephews. We may conclude
Beverley would have obtained the version from either of these relations of
Henry. We know that when the archbishop was deposed in favour of the
Cistercian Murdac in 1147, William Fitz Herbert stayed with Henry at
Winchester for some considerable time in-between 1147-53. Also during
that period Hugh de Puiset had fled to Beverley. It would not be logical to
think the provenance of the Galfridus edition at Beverley found its way
there by any other route than through Henry’s nephews since so few copies
Historia Ecclesiastica, i 16
of HRB were in circulation at that time. Henry Blois had assisted Hugh's
ecclesiastical career and Hugh held the office of treasurer of York for a
number of years, which led him into conflict with the Cistercian Murdac.
This opinion of course runs contrary to modern Scholar’s views which is
based upon the presumption that the Vulgate HRB was widely distributed at
this time because they, un-discerningly, ‘lay aside the discrepancies in
storyline related in EAW and its reduced Arthuriana and account Alfred’s
reasons for the same as a scepticism. Scholars make ridiculous
rationalisations for Huntingdon having not mentioned Merlin or his
prophecies. They aver that the Bec copy and all copies were synonymous
with the Vulgate and First Variant did not precede the Vulgate version.
First Variant is the copy of HRB designed to aid Henry Blois in obtaining
Metropolitan status. Speeches are more pious and a theme of divine
retribution pervades, avoiding any stance which might annoy a Roman or
Papal audience or be found to be blatantly incorrect regarding historicity
found in continental or Roman annals. Biblical allusions abound in
speeches and narrative in the Variant; pleasing to a papal audience.
Another feature of the Variant Version is the tendency to tone down or to
omit altogether certain unpleasant details. The conversation between
Bedwer, Arthur’s butler and the nurse of Helen, Hoel’s niece, at the latter’s
grave mound on Mont St. Michel, What Henry truly achieves is the
assimilation of Chronicled histories from various sources into a form of
literature through his muses.
Once Henry Blois has finished with his metropolitan agenda we can
witness more anti roman sentiment in Vulgate with additional Briton pride
witnessed in rousing speech.
Alfred has an abridged or evolved First Variant in which Alfred refers to
Stonehenge twice. The first is recycled from Huntingdon’s Historia
Anglorum , where Henry provides an architectural description of the stones
One sure way of determining this (providing one can accept le roman de Brut having been authored by Henry
Blois) is that Wace’s version would hardly commence following the First Variant and finish by mirroring the
Vulgate if Vulgate had appeared first.
and provides the earliest use of the term ‘Stonehenge’. Geoffrey knew the
HA well and borrowed the name from HA recycling Huntingdon’s name
Stonehenge’. What is interesting though and concurs with EAW’s synopsis
of Primary Historia account is the evolving nature of HRB. In Alfred’s
second reference to Stonehenge recycled from the HRB and the description
of the burial of Constantine, next to Uther Pendragon, in the stone circle;
Alfred omits entirely Geoffrey’s account of the transportation by Merlin of
the giants’ ring from Ireland and their erection. Alfred mentions Merlin on
numerous occasions but he presents a substantially moderated, scaled back
version compared with Vulgate HRB. His omission of the transportation of
the giants’ ring is an example of this similarity to the un-evolved Primary
Historia. Alfred omits the prophecies of Merlin but does note their existence
simply remarking that they are too long to report here. This may indicate
that the PM was still not yet attached to the evolving HRB found at Beverley.
Given that Alexander died in 1148 and we understand the book may have
arrived in York c.1146-47 and we can see that Alexander is used as the
splice in Vulgate for the PM it may be that Alfred’s references to Merlin
were from HRB narrative and not because of their inclusion in the text. The
PM and the Primary Historia were two separate works put out by Henry
Blois. The splicing of the two books using Alexander as the impetus to
translate the prophecies only probably occurred after Alexander’s death.
The Variant is devoid of personal detail found in prefatory accounts
regarding ‘Geoffrey’ simply because a Welsh Galfridus Arthurus was the
author and at this stage c.1144 no one in particular was too concerned. The
early PM Libellus was distributed quietly and acted as an aid and
complement to HRB’s historicity. However, fortuitously once spliced, the
prophecies designed to corroborate the historicity of HRB were now found
in the same volume. Hoel’s speech like many others had not yet been
developed where he compliments Henry Blois alter ego on his ‘Tullian dew
of eloquence.
Henry Blois on the Mosan plates compares his stature in terms of legacy to that of Cicero.
Most modern scholars assume that EAW’s relatively modest treatment of
Arthur and its omission of Merlin entirely influence Alfred in his History
not realising that the Primary Historia evolved into First Variant and
Alfred’s copy had evolved from Primary Historia. If this is not understood,
researchers still think that Alfred is openly sceptical of the ‘Arthurania’ by
its reduction in his History and that Alfred moderates his portrayal of
Merlin by comparison with the expanded Vulgate. The simple fact is that
Vulgate had not been developed fully or published until 1155. Before this a
compressed less detailed evolving Variant existed.
Alfred of Beverley repeats what Britannicus says about Merlin, i.e. the
account of the young Merlin delivering the story about the two dragons
fighting, but Alfred does not include any of the 'Prophetiae' but has heard of
them. It is not a certainty that Alfred’s copy had the prophecies spliced in.
We don’t not know if he would have mentioned them if they were not. But
certainly there was no prefatory blurb concerning Alexander, so my guess
is that Alfred only mentioned the prophecies because they were known to
be authored by Merlin and the Libellus Merlini account which circulated in
Alfred’s day he had read, but was not going to divert from recycling
Galfridus’ historia.
Another example of the unexpanded evolving version of Merlin is Alfred's
reduction of Geoffrey's entire detailed story in Vulgate of Merlin's powers of
illusion allowing Uther Pendragon to take on the appearance of Duke
Gorlois of Cornwall and sleep with his wife Yegerna when Arthur is
conceived to the briefest mention.Concerning the story of Leir and his
daughters, Alfred provides a highly condensed abbreviation of this story in
his account, taken from the First Variant. His treatment is far more concise
than that of Huntingdon’s précis which I think can be put down to the papal
audience for which First Variant was designed.
To modern scholars Huntingdon seemingly devotes more time and
attention to this story of Leir in EAW than he does to the Arthurania.
Alfred’s recycling of comparative Arthuriana found in Vulgate is obviously
reduced because it is not yet developed. Wright’s category H constitutes a
huge expansion on the Variant of about 50 additional chapters of narrative
and speech. This is positive development in Vulgate and cannot be
accounted as reductive in a proposed late Variant. ‘Geoffrey’ in these
chapters spices up Vulgate with harangues and Battle scenes and generally
throws caution to the wind where historicity is concerned while having
held much closer in the Variant version to accounts known in continental,
British, and Roman annals. Henry Blois actually shoots himself in the foot
by adhering in the Variant to Bede too closely by repeating that the British
population first migrated from Armorica which contradicts his Trojan
foundation; but he then corrects this discrepancy later as Wace intoning
that Amorica was the last location of continental adventures before arriving
at Totnes.
Again, this proposition of a late Variant would never be considered if the
differences in EAW had been taken into account and early researchers had
not subconsciously assumed that a Vulgate version was that which was
found by Torigni and passed to Huntingdon in 1139.
Alfred in his preface says that others around him had already read
Geoffrey’s Historia and their mouths were full of his narrations. Alfred was
by his own admission accounted an ignoramus (notam rusticitatis
incurrebat) for being a stranger to Geoffrey’s work c.1149-50 by the other
monks. We can gauge that the book arrived c.1147 through either of the
author’s nephews and Alfred recycled c.1150-51. Alfred witnessed charters
in favour of the town of Beverley, the nearby religious houses at
Bridlington, Warter, and Watton, and Rufford, between 1135 and 1154, but
probably died about 1157, when a certain Robert attests as sacrist of
The point is that, when Alfred says:‘when the church was silent, owing to
the number of persons excommunicated under the decree of the council of
London’…. he is not referring to the time of the council in London but what
was agreed ‘at’ the council regarding ex-communication. The time that
Alfred says he was composing his book must be after 1147 and up until the
time Henry Murdac died in 1153. The reason for concluding this time span
for Alfred’s publication is again linked to affairs concerning Henry Blois
and his brother Stephen.
The poor state of the church at Beverley, which Alfred refers to, was a
direct result of events which took place at York. William Fitz Herbert, as we
covered earlier, was the son of Henry Blois’ sister and was Archbishop of
York (twice); before and after the appointment of Henry Murdac. William of
Newburgh records that William Fitz Herbert is ‘received with honour’ (put
up) by Henry Blois at Winchester until re-established at York after Murdac’s
King Stephen and Henry Blois helped secure Fitz Herbert's election
to York after a number of candidates had failed to secure papal
Fitz Herbert faced opposition from the Cistercians who, after the
election of the Cistercian Pope Eugene III, managed to have the archbishop
deposed. Henry Murdac was a personal friend of the pope himself who was
at Tiers at the time and thus consecrated Murdac as the new archbishop of
York, on 7 December 1147…. effectively replacing Fitz Herbert.
However, York's cathedral chapter and King Stephen refused to
acknowledge Murdac’s appointment and Stephen imposed a fine on the
town of Beverley for harbouring Murdac. In retaliation, Murdac
excommunicated Hugh de Puiset (who later became Bishop of Durham),
another (appointed) Nephew of Henry and Stephen who was at the time
Treasurer of York, and laid the city under interdict. Hugh de Puiset, in
return, excommunicated the Archbishop Murdac and ordered church
services to be conducted as usual. In this he was supported by Eustace, son
of Stephen.
John of Hexam relates that Hugh de Puiset fled to Beverley where even
when Prince Eustace requested Hughs return to his see, he refused. and
probably also went to his uncle at Winchester. This era of church politics,
(testing Rome’s power to appoint bishops), is the era in which Alfred refers
to when the church was silent’ i.e. when normal services were interrupted
because numerous clergy were excommunicated. From this we may
surmise that Alfred had an evolved First Variant (because there are still no
dedicatees). We will return to Alfred’s work when we compare it to the First
Variant in a later Chapter but we can assume that there are not the amount
William of Newburgh, Cap XVIII.1
of copies floating about the monastic system at that time which scholars
seem to assume, based upon their dating assumptions derived by the
dedicatees lifespans. The copy at Beverly was rare and it arrived there
through a Nephew of Henry Blois.
Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx in North Yorkshire, author of Speculum
charitatis (The Mirror of Charity), reportedly written at the request of
Bernard of Clairvaux, Henry Blois nemesis,
contains a dialogue between
the author and his novice. The novice confesses in this exchange to being
less moved to tears by pious readings than by fictitious tales of somebody
named Arcturus’. Later Aelred brands these tales as fabulae et mendacia,
but the novice nor Aelred mention Merlin.
One would think that these could only be ‘Geoffrey’sfabulous tales and
not something anecdotal which can be accountable as having been found in
manuscripts of ‘saints livesor Nennius or Lambert of St Omer concerning
Arthur. The reason I mention this is because Powicke’s study of Aelred
reveals he wrote this in 1141-2 while novice master at Rievaulx and we
should not forget Henry’s nephew William was installed in York in January
1141 (although not consecrated until September 1143). What this shows is
that in the middle of the Anarchy, an abbot in Yorkshire only three years
(or so) after the Bec copy was found, may have been reading Geoffrey’s
Primary Historia (ex-prophetia). Now in terms of propagation we must look
to Henry Blois who has passed a copy to his Nephew, as the Primary
Historia was not in wide circulation at this early date.
In other words; what Aelred’s novice has read cannot be a First Variant
version which we know was only compiled after William of Malmesbury
had died and for the express purpose in adding evidence toward the case
Henry Blois put forward in Rome in 1144 to obtain metropolitan status for
southern England. Tatlock is drawing the wrong conclusion in assuming
The contention between Bernard and Henry Blois started over the Oxford Charter of Liberties in 1136 where
Henry Blois managed to reassert the sovereignty of the Celtic church in England. Bernard’s reforms were
nullified for a time. The Oxford charter retained power for monastic Abbots over Bishops; thus limiting Vatican
appointed Bishops to presiding exclusively over Vatican business in England. The charter effectively guaranteed
autonomy for the Abbots. The Cluniac’s were not anti-papal but recognised that the papacy was starting to
interfere with their institutions and Henry Blois, his mother and brother, all held Cluniac values. Ultimately, the
Beaumont twins, siding with Clairvaux’s aims persuaded King Stephen to abandon Henrys advice against the
Papacy. Henry was essentially displaced in 1138 as archbishop of Canterbury on the advice that the Beaumont’s
said he was becoming too powerful. To all intents and purposes it was a papal plot to undermine Henry Blois so
Roman power would not be reduced and Bishops would retain their power. This of course led to the mistrust
between the Bishop of Salisbury which we covered earlier.
the finalized Vulgate HRB was in full circulation when he understands that
it was Walter Espec who had passed this copy on to Aelred. Tatlock’s theory
is largely based upon Gaimar’s epilogue and the fact that Rievaulx was near
to Walter’s estate of Helmesley and also the fact that Aelred gives a good
description of Walter at the Battle of Standard.
The fact that Walter Espec was buried at Rievlaux aids Tatlock’s
deduction. Tatlock reckons that Aelred’s is the first reference to HRB before
1147 and the ‘earliest proof of divulgation of the Historia in England,
(which obviously is assumed as the date when Alfred obtained his copy).
But Tatlock’s date is based upon Walter Espec having received a copy of
Geoffrey’s HRB from Robert of Gloucester who died in 1147. The name of
Robert of Gloucester as dedicatee was not employed until after his death
and it is highly unlikely he ever saw any version of HRB as Henry Blois was
essentially at war with him until his death. So, Tatlock’s proposition should
be ignored. There is nothing in the novice’s tears to indicate they could not
come from the same version recounted in EAW i.e. the Primary Historia.
Certainly the story of King Lear, Helena’s rape by a giant, even the nostalgia
of a once chivalric Briton would be enough to bring the soft hearted novice
to tears.
Tatlock has been duped by the misinformation inserted in Gaimar’s
epilogue in L’estoire des Engles. Gaimar’s epilogue is vital in misleading
posterity into believing Henry’s assertions that the ‘good book’ provided by
Archdeacon Walter really existed, as posited in the Vulgate HRB.
The four written sources Gaimar refers to are Walter Espec's book, the
‘Good book of Oxford’, the Winchester history, and an English book from
Washingborough; all mentioned for a specific reason polemically. It is my
supposition that Walter Espec’s name is included in the epilogue because in
1132 when Henry Blois had met Walter Espec he had handed him a copy of
his pseudo-history (destined originally for Matilda) and he subsequently
was trying to confuse us and contemporaneity by inventing Gaimar’s
epilogue…. and the provenance of Walter’s book (by the invention of
L’estoire des Bretons which no-one has ever seen). I can see no other reason
for the inclusion of the name Walter Espec except to confuse by muddling
all the versions.
Henry Blois had met Walter Espec when he signed a Charter with King
Henry Ist granting permission to build Rievaulx abbey.
We will return to
Gaimar later, but more importantly to Alfred of Beverley’s use of an evolved
First Variant version because contrary to scholarships belief, First Variant
most emphatically preceded Vulgate and Alfred mentions no dedicatees or
Walter. If Henry Blois had come up with the invention to introduce Walter
to provide a provenance for Geoffrey’s work at the time Alfred was
recycling ‘Geoffrey’s’ HRB…. Alfred would surely have included this
Apart from Huntingdon there is only Abbot Suger and Alfred of
Beverley’s work from which we can deduce ‘Geoffrey’s evolution’ of HRB
before 1155 (with Aielred’s anecdote). Orderic’s interpolation we can
dismiss becausethis contains the Sixth in Ireland prophecy. Suger does not
mention the ‘Sixth in Ireland’, so has an early edition of the prophecies.
There would appear no reason to think that Alfred knew the prophecies
from any other source than from the evolved First Variant of the separated
Libellus. The omission of the prophecies (and his mention of them) occurs at
the point in the text where they appear in the First Variant and Vulgate.
Alfred clearly knew of the prophecies, before stating that they were too long
to go into. However, we can be certain that even if Alfred had discussed the
prophecies there would have been no mention of the ‘Sixth in Ireland’ as it
had not been discussed until 1155. There would have been no incitement to
insurrection by the Celts either in the prophecies that Alfred had read, as
Stephen was still King.
As far as I can figure out from when Huntingdon wrote his letter to
Warin c.1140 until Alfred’s report c.1150-51…. there is still the omission of
the account of the transportation of the giants ring. We will never know
what the prophecies contained as Alfred said they were too long to include
in his comment of Britannicus’ work.
However, another example of Henry introducing and developing Merlin
could be said to be witnessed in Alfred's reduction of Geoffrey's entire
detailed story of Merlin's powers of illusion allowing Uther Pendragon to
take on the appearance of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall and sleep with his wife
Yegerna (whereby Arthur is conceived) to the briefest mention.
With the mention of Walter Espec in Gaimar’s epilogue it is likely that he had a copy of the original Faux-
History which was later to become the material forthe Primary Historia.
‘Geoffrey’ refers to Avalon twice in the Vulgate HRB. The first is to
describe Arthur’s sword. Alfred, in his reworking of the passage concerning
Caliburnus, where it is forged in the island of Avalon in Vulgate HRB of
1155 omits mention of the island. This is possibly another reflection of
Henry having evolved the importance of Avalon. Henry in the First Variant
had not fully developed his coalescing of material around establishing
Avalon at Glastonbury. When Alfred describes the passage found in HRB
where the mortally wounded Arthur is being taken to the island of Avalon
to have his wounds tended, Alfred recycles this passage and here mentions
Avalon, but significantly, omits the ambiguous word letaliter ‘mortally
wounded’ which indicates that, like Huntingdon’s account, it is left open to
accommodate the ‘hope of the Britons. It could however just be a reductive
This may indicate that Henry Blois has not yet decided to plant the body
of Arthur at Glastonbury, but it definitely shows he has come up with the
’Mythical Island. but his muses have not fully developed the potential of
Avalon. Alfred refers to Stonehenge twice in his history. The first is
recycled from Henry of Huntingdon’s Historia Anglorum where
Huntingdon provides an architectural description of the stones and
provides the earliest use of the termStonehenge that survives. It must
have seemed strange to Huntingdon discovering the Primary Historia at Bec
because Henry Blois posing as Galfridus used the HA as a source for Primary
Historia and almost certainly borrowed the name from that source.
‘Geoffrey’s’ Vulgate story of Merlin’s transportation of the stones from
Ireland recycles Huntingdon’s name for the circle as ‘Stonehenge’. The
evidence showing that the character and actions of Merlin is developed
over time is that Alfred’s second reference to Stonehenge is recycled from
the evolving First Variant which he is using. He uses the description of the
burial of Constantine, successor of King Arthur, ‘next to’ Uther Pendragon.
Since Alfred is not using (a finalised) Vulgate, he is not aware of Geoffrey’s
further developed account of the transportation by Merlin of the giants’
ring from Ireland.
Alfred mentions Merlin on numerous occasions in book five of his
History, but he presents a substantially understated and underdeveloped
version compared to Vulgate HRB; quite obviously because he has a copy of
a developing First Variant. We must assume that the prophecies that Alfred
saw were from the Libellus Merlini and not the updated set now attached to
the extant First Variant copies.
Since Beverley is only 25 miles from York, I think that the version found
its way to Alfred through William Fitz Herbert. Bernard of Clairvaux, the
Cistercian who hated Henry Blois exerted all his influence to ensure Fitz
Herbert's suspension. The fact that Beverley was under York’s authority
would suggest how such a rare volume at this stage was in circulation.
Alfred’s references to the name ‘Geoffrey’ are nil, but are still of very
singular manner. He never uses the options of naming Geoffrey as
Gaufridus Artur, or Gaufridus Monemutensis. He always uses the term
‘Britannicus. Some commentators may take Alfred’s Brittannicus reference
to mean Celt or even Welshman assuming Alfred’s reference is based upon
the author having situated Arthur in Wales. Alfred’s dismissal of the
author’s personal name may indicate a scepticism of his existence in reality.
Alfred comes across as sceptical of ’Geoffrey’s work, but still very
interested in its contents. I think even Alfred could work out that the Author
has the same name as the protagonist is going a bit too far and it is an
assumed name.
In 1147-8, when William Fitz Herbert had been suspended and the
monks at Beverley had ‘all’ read the Historia before Alfred, Henry Blois had
not come up with the name Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Britannicus as an
appellation at this stage may not be based upon pudibundus Brito…. a
reference to Geoffrey himself as ‘an unabashed Briton’ in the Vulgate
version. This was probably only introduced in a revision of the prologue to
the prophetia in the Vulgate version. Logically, (as long as we accept the
back dating of Vulgate occurred) the prologue to the prophecies could not
have been written until Alexander died in 1148. The pudibundus Brito
reference logically disqualifies Henry Blois as author (as a purposeful
The name, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Henry Blois only introduces after 1153, when he has signed the charters as
Galfridus Arthur at Oxford and seen and imitated Ralph’s provenance. No twelfth-century chronicler more
frequently refers in a historical text to ‘Geoffrey than does Alfred, but he does so by referring to him as
Britannicus. If Alfred dismissed the Gaufridus Arthur appellation as an improbable pseudonym…. then why
would he not once mention Geoffrey of Monmouth…. if his name existed with the text? The simple answer is….
the name of Geoffrey did not exist in 1151 at the completion of Alfred’s work.
misdirection). By 1155 when Vulgate was published ‘Geoffrey is dead’.
Anyone trying to trace Geoffrey would not be looking for someone of
Norman heritage….. as intended!!
As an indication that the history was talked about (at least at Beverley)
Alfred remarks: anyone not acquainted with the History of the Kings of
Britain puts himself down as uncultivated.
Huntingdon’s omission in EAW of the three archflamens when
mentioning Eleutherius’ missionaries only gets introduced into the storyline
of First Variant when Henry Blois was in pursuit of metropolitan in 1144
just after Malmesbury’s death.
Alfred had a copy of an evolving First Variant because Alfred notes by
name Faganus and Dunianus sent by Pope Eleutherius where they were
distinctly not mentioned in EAW. The preachers were not mentioned either
by Malmesbury in any of his works, except those interpolated by Henry.
These two very important figures were not included in Primary Historia.
What may be a fair speculation, given that we can see an apostolic
foundation for Glastonbury would have formed the basis for pope Lucius’
decision to grant metropolitan to Henry…. is that the composition of the St
Patrick charter followed that decision. As I shall cover later in the chapter
on DA, the St Patrick charter was included in DA for the 1149 request for
metropolitan status. Therefore Alfred and the monks at Beverley c.1148 had
the most recent recension of Henry Blois’s evolving HRB which most likely
he had originally passed to Henry’s Nephew. But, this is also the time when
Henry was steadily evolving the Vulgate HRB.