Chapter 23
Wace and the Roman de Brut
In the composition of the Roman de Brut, Henry Blois has employed similar
devices to those which we have discussed already by the impersonation of
Wace. The stamp of Henry’s authorship is on the Roman de Brut. Henry
Blois has usurped the persona of Wace; just as he did with Gaimar,
‘Geoffrey’, Caradoc, William of Malmesbury etc. The genuine writer of the
Roman de Rou and the hagiographic accounts of Lives of Sainte Marguerite,
St Nicholas and the Conception de notre Dame were written by a genuine
person called Wace.
It is commonly accepted by modern scholarship that the reason why
L’estoire des Bretons, (purportedly written by Geffrei Gaimar), has been
overshadowed, is because of the superiority of Wace’s poetry, as Gaimar’s
L’estoire des Bretons was supposedly of similar material. This, we are lead
to believe, is because ‘Geoffrey’s’ HRB, from which the versified Roman de
Brut is derived, is thought to stem from the same source book as the
mythical L’estoire des Bretons. It is rationalised by modern scholars as
adequate explanation as to why L’estoire des Bretons is no longer extant.
The presumption is that L’estoire des Bretons was supposedly derived also
from the ‘good book of Oxford’. This conclusion is deduced from the fact
that there is no part of ‘Geoffrey’s’ pseudo history (except the few anecdotal
interpolations) in Gaimar’s l’Estoire des Englesand yet the epilogue refers to
Walter’s book just like the HRB does. Therefore L’estoire des Bretons is
assumed to have contained much of ‘Geoffrey’s’ material. Until scholars
wake up and realise that was the point of composing the Gaimar’s epilogue,
I expect this rationalisation will remain intact; and Gaimar’s information
regarding the good book’ will be believed along with the erroneous
assumption that the fully developed Vulgate version of HRB existed in 1138
at Bec.
As I have noted, in all four manuscripts of Gaimar’s l’Estoire des Engles,
Wace’s Roman de Brut has supposedly taken the place (or substituted)
L’estoire des Bretons’ supposedly written by Gaimar as stated in the
interpolated/added epilogue in Gaimar’s l’Estoire des Engles. It is rather the
case that there was never any L’estoire des Bretons composedand Henry’s
work of Roman de Brut has been added as a complimentary work. As I have
made plain, the point of Henry Blois using Gaimar’s work was to implant
the ‘epilogue’ and a few corroborative Arthurian interpolations in l’Estoire
des Engles.
Now, if ‘Geoffrey’s’ Historia was already versified by Henry Blois (as we
know it was because Roman de Brut commences mirroring the First Variant
and therefore was commenced before 1155), in reality, there would be little
to be gained by composing another version in French vernacular i.e.
Gaimar’s Brut. Especially if Gaimar had written it much earlier as we are
led to believe. We are led to believe the Roman de Brut by Waceand the
L’estoire des Bretons by Gaimar were both derived from the same ancient
source book (one as a versified account of Geoffrey’s work .... the other
supposedly having been obtained by Gaimar).
We know, Henry Blois started his versification (supposedly written by
Wace) at an early stage (i.e. around the time Alfred of Beverley is recycling
‘Geoffrey’s’ work c.1150)…. as he is using the First Variant version as the
template at the beginning of the Roman de Brut. Not forgetting that the
latter half of theRoman de Brut follows the Vulgate version of HRB which
was only completed in 1154-5 (or at least that is when the updated Merlin
prophecies which included the ‘Sixth in Ireland’ were added).
It seems highly unlikely that all four of the present manuscripts
containing Gaimar’s work (from different institutions) would have
expunged L’estoire des Bretons in favour of Wace’s Roman de Brut in such a
synchronised fashion. This specific conundrum can only reasonably be
solved if the Gaimar MSS all derived from one exemplar. If so, is it not more
likely that the substitution was purposeful?.... accepting that no L’estoire des
Bretons has ever turned up and the epilogue of the L’estoire des Engles
makes us believe that Gaimar’s other work started with Brutus. It is far
more plausible if a versifier of the Historia (like ‘Wace’) composed his work
after the ‘original’ author’s death (i.e.’Geoffrey’); and this is why Henry Blois
has ostensibly given us the date of composure for Wace’s work where he
concludes with a date of completion in the year 1155.
However, Wace is
not the author of the Roman de Brut, but he is in reality the author of the
Roman de Rou. It should be noted that if the Roman de Brut was genuinely
completed in 1155, it must have been started in Stephen’s reign and
indicates Henry’s intention to propagate his Historia on the continent
before his brother’s death.
Henry Blois, again, as in his impersonation of the invented persona of
‘Geoffrey’, provides us with the impression of a poet looking for wealthy
patronage; but this time it is genuine in the guise of Wace. Wace really was
a struggling versifier and translator into vernacular of previous Latin
chronicles: I address myself to rich people who possess revenues and silver,
since for them books are made and good words are composed and well set
In reality events concerning Wace are very different from that perceived
by modern scholarship. What we know of Wace is derived from his Roman
de Rou (i.e. Rollo), where he says: If anybody asks who said this, who put
this history into the Romance language, I say and I will say to him that I am
Wace of the isle of Jersey, which lies in the sea, toward the west, and is a part
of the fief of Normandy. In the isle of Jersey I was born, and to Caen I was
taken as a little lad; there I was put at the study of letters; afterward I studied
long in France. When I came back from France, I dwelt long at Caen. I busied
myself with making books in Romance; many of them I wrote and many of
them I made.”
One supposes by Waces comments in the Roman de Rou that he was a
clerc lisant before 1135.
In time, presumably his writings won for him
preferment to the position of canon at Bayeux from Henry II. It is an odd
coincidence that Rouen (the founder is Rou) and Caen (where Henry’s
Grandfather and Grandmother were buried, and where the treasury of the
Ducal house of Normandy was situated) are not mentioned by Henry Blois
when writing as Geoffrey and passed over in preferment in favour of
Bayeaux. Bayeaux is given the special privilege of being the city of the Dux
of Normandy by ‘Geoffrey’ but this is totally against the obviously known
Roman de Rou 14865-6
Roman de Rou.
Roman de Rou. I saw and Knew three King Henry’s; in their time I was clerk lisant.
Just as the entire Historia never once mentions Glastonbury it is Henry’s
ploy not to seem connected or be seen to promote anything which links his
family relationships to his authorship. It is not by coincidence that Henry
Blois chose Wace as the person who was to have written the Roman de Brut.
It is obvious from what is portrayed in the Roman de Rou that the real Wace
has read the Historia and the prophecies. We can discount the reference in
the Roman de Brut to ‘Wace’s’ unwillingness to translate them. That Wace
has genuinely read the Historia is made clear from the decasyllabic
appendix (in Holden’s edition) which used to preface Holden’s part II until
Henry Blois interpolated the Roman de Rou by adding the current preamble
known as the Chronique Ascendante. As we shall cover shortly Henry Blois
also interpolated and reconstructed the introduction to part III of the
Roman de Rou also.
Wace was approximately the same age as Henry Blois. He received a
prebend at Bayeux by King Henry II which he refers to twice. As to Wace’s
existence, we have four documents which contain reference to him. One is a
charter which Bishop Henry II of Bayeaux (1165) signs and Wace is one of
the witnesses as Magister Wascius. Another is an agreement c.1169 between
the bishop of Bayeux and abbot Gilbert of Troarn where Wace is designated
as Cononicus. So it would seem he was appointed cannon sometime
between 1165-1169. Wace’s name is also on a document confirming
possessions and privileges for the abbey at St Etienne in 1172, and lastly in
another charter in 1174.
It is plain therefore that Wace outlived Henry Blois so the usual
backdating process which Henry Blois employed in the past is not
applicable here. There are two factors which need to be taken into account
before we can determine the precise manner in which Henry Blois
introduced and propagated the Roman de Brut into the public arena. Firstly,
as we shall see, when we cover the Roman de Brut that the writer of the
Historia has the same mental image on several occasions as the writer of
the Roman de Brut yet the words are different. So, the Roman de Brut is not
an improvised and versified translation of the Historia with a few points
expanded or introduced as is commonly thought. It is not written by Wace,
but the several additions or changes from the First variant and Vulgate are
Henry Blois’ own additions. Secondly, if Henry was impersonating Wace,
we must look at the Roman de Rou to find out what changes he introduced
into that text and for what reason; and how is it that in the 1160’s we hear
no objection from Wace. The relationship between Henry Blois and Wace is
unsure but given their mutual interests and the fact that Henry would have
passed by Caen several times before 1160 it is not hard to assume they
knew each other or their paths crossed. The permutations and possibilities
are endless as to what their relationship was and whether Wace was aware
that his work had been interpolated while he was alive. Let us assume for
the moment that the date given for the Roman de Brut of 1155 is fallacious
and meant to misdirect.
The most propitious method of determining what might have transpired
given the amount of permutations possible is to describe a viable scenario
of events before we look at the interpolations in the Roman de Rou. Without
going over that which G.S Burgess
has adequately covered in the history of
the manuscripts we shall refer as he has done (like Holden before him), to
the four portions of what constitutes the Roman de Rou: The Chronique
Ascendante classified asPart I, Part II, Part III and what Holden called the
Appendix. The Chronique Ascendante is written in twelve syllable lines
arranged in stanzas known as Laisses. Part II is written in the same using
‘Alexandrines’, but slightly different in that he employs assonance rather
than rhyme. The Appendix and Part III are written in octosyllabic. The
Appendix and Part III were once part of the same work i.e. Wace’s
continuation due to his commission from Henry II, but the Appendix has
been set aside by an interpolator.
What I believe transpired next is the crux of the puzzle to unravelling
the various puzzling comments made by Wace in the Roman de Rou. It is my
guess that Henry Blois met Wace returning to England in 1158. Henry while
passing through Caen meets Wace, a struggling clerk who has written a few
hagiographical pieces and Henry Blois offers to try to find a patron for
Wace’s newly completed Le Romanz de Rou et des Dus de Normendie i.e. Part
II both written in Alexandrine verse.
Henry Blois presents this to King Henry II who rewards Wace with a
prebend and asks for the history to be updated from where Wace had
terminated his chronicle in part II at the confirmation of peace between
King Lothar of France and count Richard I of Normandy. Henry Blois would
The History of the Norman people. Wace’s Roman de Rou. Boydell press
have had especial interest in this work as it gives account of the history of
his family name and the struggles of his forebears on his father’s side in the
foundation of the region of Blois and mother’s side through William the
Conqueror. The family of Blois was associated with Champagne Province,
the House of Châtillon the Dukes of Brittany and, later, with the French
royal family, but the family resided in Blois. Wace’s chronicle recounts the
disputes between Theobald I, Count of Blois and King Richard I. Theobald I,
served as Regent to Drogo, Duke of Brittany. Bertha of Blois, the daughter of
Odo II of Blois as we have covered earlier, became Duchess Consort of
Brittany through her marriage to Alan II, Duke of Brittany. Many
commentators have never understood why ‘Geoffrey’ so favoured Brittany
in the Historia.
Anyway, news arrives to Wace of the favour bestowed upon him along
with a gift and payment and a request (commission) to further his work.
Wace in his own words was not at court.
Wace then continues the enterprise by composing part III in octosyllabic
rhymed couplet verse up to the battle of Tinchebray in 1106. Originally it
existed with what is now the appendix, but as we shall see shortly Henry
Blois has concocted his own preamble to Part III up to the point where
Wace’s original script starts: We have dealt with the history of William
One problem for Wace has arisen in the interim between Henry II and
Eleanor of Aquitaine promising further reward for a continuation to Part II.
Henry Blois, who originally started composing his versified Historia some
years previously mirroring a pattern of the information supplied in the
Primary Historia, First Varian and variant; completes Le Roman de Brut
finishing the work with the recently composed Vulgate version of the
Historiawith the expanded Arthuriana. Henry impersonates Wace as the
author; and based on the title of Wace’s original work, (the Roman de Rou)
calls the poem Le Roman de Brut. This finds its way to court through
Speaking of the King and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Wace says at the beginning of the Chronique Ascendante: They
do not let me waste my time at court; each of them rewards me with gifts and promises.Henry Blois
impersonating Wace using the same tactic as a struggling Geoffrey’ looking for acclaim and compensatory
wherewithalsays: the king soothes mewith gifts and promises, but I am often in need; need that comes very
quickly and obliges me to put a penny and a pledge.
Because of the incitement to rebellion which was found in the
Merlin prophecies which enticed rebellion against Henry II (which were
evident in ‘Geoffrey’s’ Vulgate HRB), Le Roman de Brut is not well received
(even without the prophecies
) and Wace not knowing his ‘fault’ is shunned
as versifier for the further commissioned history which he has been
working on (as promised) and King Henry’s patronage goes to Maistre
Beneeit de Sainte- more did not continue Wace’s work but Henry
Blois will have known he was writing Estoire des Dus de Normandie
We might suppose that Wace hears this news via Henry Blois who then
procures his unfinished journal into which he then interpolates. Henry
interpolates and intertwines what was a preamble to Part III i.e. Holden’s
Appendix and constructs a piece which now replaces that, but still is a
reworked preamble to part III. In effect Henry Blois employs parts of the
material (Trinovantum, Neustria, etc.) which Wace had derived from the
Historia which originally had been part of what is now termed the
Appendix. He creates a preamble to Wace’s part III. Thus, corroborating
through Wace’s chronicles certain aspects of the pseudo-history posited in
the Historia.
Henry Blois now composes The Chronique Ascendante as an introduction
to Part II. It is my belief that this was constructed from a dedicatory or
Layamon says that Wace finally dedicated the leaves of his great poem to Queen Eleanor but she is not
mentioned in the text so I would image le Roman de Brut was given by Henry in the name of Wace.
The Durham Cathedral Chapter Library MS.C.IV.27 may at one stage have been attached to the Roman de
Brut. The preamble and many of the prophecies are written in decasyllabic rhymed couplets and show an
uncanny ability to change the sense of the prophecies. For example Les Venedoz entisant de Bataille (v.454) is a
slant on the HRB prophecies we have not encountered before i.e. enticing the Venedoti to make war. We have
already discussed that Henry Blois is the driving force behind the enticing, but it is odd that it is explicitly
exposed. In Fact once the sense of the ever morphingfont Galaes’ Galabes or Fontes Galahes is realised as
Henry’s original hocus pocus appellation for the region of Gwent, we can see in these prophecies (which are
sometimes much clearer than the HRB prophecies) that Henry might well be trying to slander his arch enemy
Matilda even in the 1160’s:She will join herself to the spring of Galabes full of treachery and wickedness. From
her will be born, without a doubt many treasons, enticing the Venedoti to make war (v.450-454). Certainly the
Merlin of HRB never spoke of the Welsh being ‘enticed’, but it was the author of John of Cornwalls prophecies
who can be clearly seen as the instigator. Another such example which shows the composer of the verse
prophecies might have been Henry Blois himself (calling himself Helias), is seen in depicting the standoff at
Wallingford where he, as the Bishop, along with Theobald (the staffs) intervene: Two Kings will fight and
struggle dealing each other blows like champions at the Ford of the Staff for the sake of the Lioness. Most
importantly of all in that the invasion of Ireland did not take place as Henry Blois had envisioned after the
conference at Winchester in 1155 ; we now see the prophecy written probably sometime c.1160stating : the Sixth
will be banished from Ireland (v.164)
The writer referred to isBenoît de Sainte-Maure who died in 1173 and composed in the 1160’s the lengthy
Roman de Troie or what we now call the Chronique des Ducs de Normandie.
edificatory piece by Wace which somewhat was intended to flatter Henry II
which is no longer extant while mixing it with material found in the
Appendix. The strange thing is that if we look at the last few lines of the
Appendix, we shall see that it might have been connected to what Holden
has called part II: Bjorn set off with his ships, I do not know whether to
Scythia or to Hungary, and Hasting came to the King of France and took up
residence with him. The King, on the understanding that he would maintain
peace, and defend him against other peoples, gave him Chartres and the
Chartrain which he had in his power at the time. Hasting remained there for a
long time, and France had been at peace for some time when Rou arrived in
Rouen, bringing men from the north; they were called Normans because they
had been born in the north.
If we remove the interpolated bridge which is the first five lines of Part II
which reads: We have reached the figure of Rou and we will speak to you
about Rou; the tale we have to tell begins at this point, but to speed our task,
we will reduce the number of lines in each Stanza; the road is long and hard
and we fear the toil; the last line of what is deemed the appendix runs
straight into the start of Part II which begins: Hasting, who never did
anything but harm was in France….
It is plain to see that someone has been interpolating the text and has
purposefully given a bogus reason for the Chronique Asendante (now in
Alexandrine which was constructed from the dedicatory or eulogy note and
preamble to what was part III originally in octosyllabic) inordinately
changing to the Alexandrine of part II.
The last sentence to Part III also seems to be based on what Wace might
have written or on how someone knew he felt. I am very suspicious that the
author of the last paragraph is attempting to have us believe that Wace is
writing after 1170
with reference to Henry the young King
: Let he whose
Wace in the Chronique Ascendante supposedly dates the work in the first sentence: One Thousand, one
hundred and sixty years in time and space had elapsed since God in his grace came down in the Virgin when a
clerk from Caen by the name of Master Wace undertook the story of Rou and his race….
He was known in his own lifetime as "Henry the Young King" to distinguish him from his father. His
Coronation was in 1170 and ‘reigned’ until 1183. Because he predeceased his father, he is not counted in the
numerical succession of Kings of England. Nonetheless, he was an anointed King and his royal status was not
business it is continue the story. I am referring to Master Beneeit who has
undertaken to tell the affair, as the King has assigned the task to him; since
the King has asked him to do it, I must abandon it and fall silent. The King in
the past was very good to me. I could not have it, it did not please the King;
but it is not my fault. I have known three King Henry’s and seen them all in
Normandy; all three had lordship over Normandy and England. The second
Henry, about whom I am talking, was the grandson of the first Henry and
born to Matilda, the empress, and the third was the son of the second. Here
ends the book of Master Wace; anyone who wishes to do more, let him do it.
The last paragraph does not seem natural, but seems to be giving a free
permission (to whom it may concern) to take up Wace’s text. There is
another puzzling insertion in Part III where verse 5296 reads: When the
King had died, it was Philip, his eldest son, who was crowned after him; the
Duke was a very close friend of his. The verse chronicle would then naturally
lead into the next section at verse 5319: The story is a long one before it
comes to an end, about how William became King….
Instead, midway through Part III for no apparent reason ‘Wace’ has seen
it necessary to implant his personal details in what seems to be an
interpolation with seemingly innocuous details concerning the composition
of his many other works from verse 5297-5318:
The history of the Normans is a long one and hard to set down in the
Vernacular. If one asks who said this, who wrote this history in the
vernacular, I say and will say that I am Wace from the Isle of Jersey, which is
in the sea toward the West and belongs to the territory of Normandy. I was
born on the Island of Jersey and taken to Caen as a small child; there I went to
school and was then educated for a long time in France. When I returned
from France, I stayed in Caen for a long time and set about composing
works in the vernacular; I wrote and composed a good many. With the help
of God and King- I must serve no one apart from God- a prebend was given me
in Bayeux (may god reward him for this). I can tell you it was Henry the
second, the grandson of Henry and the father of Henry.
This, in my opinion, seems highly suspect, not only by its position in the
text but by the facts that it ostensibly portrays. The most essential piece of
the Roman de Rou which clearly shows an interpolator has been at work is
witnessed at the beginning of Part III. Originally Part III began with some
sort of dedicatory piece some of which has been absorbed into the present
preamble which is mostly composed of what is now termed the Appendix.
Originally Wace started part III with the Appendix but it has been reworked
to the point where the story resumes from part II: We have dealt with
William Longsword, up to the time when the Flemish, as the wicked do, killed
him treacherously.
The Chronique Ascendante and part II were separated from Part III and it
was Andre Duchense in the early seventeenth century who rescued them
from oblivion by copying them in his own hand from a now lost
manuscript. So, it may be that Henry Blois only tampered with part III.
Just to be clear, the introduction to part III is constituted from what was
Wace’s original dedication to Part III and the first part of the Appendix,
which as we have covered, was Wace’s original preamble and introduction
to what is Holden’s part II.
In the part which Holden has now termed the Appendix it is evident that
Wace has read the HRB. He regurgitates Geoffrey’s invention that London
was called Trinovant and before that New Troy along with other previous
names of places.
However, in the new composition to Part III (written by Henry Blois)
and rearranged from Wace’s original work we have some startling new
additions which are clearly not elucidated in the HRB. But the mind which
composed the introduction of Part III has a good grasp on the geography of
Wales. He states that Demetia was southern Wales and North Wales was
Venedocia, just as ‘Geoffrey’ had understood it, but never clearly defined it
in HRB. Also, the area of Burgundy is made clear to be that of the Allobroges
which is defining the region of Blois. The Allobroges were definitively the
Burgundians, but for the reason of secreting Henry’s authorship, it was not
made clear in the HRB either.
Why Autun is equated with ‘Cacua’ is obvious in the fact that nowhere in
the Roman annals was a great battle fought at Autun as ‘Geoffrey’ posits in
Arthur’s continental campaign. This anomaly is Henry Blois’ biggest
deviation to known history, because when he composed the Primary
Historia and invented the Arthurian campaign in Autun (while he was in
Normandy in 1137-8); Henry never once thought that he would need to
corroborate his epic battle scene near Autun to coincide with the annals. He
never envisaged a First Variant being scrutinised by Rome.
Henry, obviously can’t rewrite the Roman annals so that they concur
with the continental battle at Langres and Autun in his original Primary
Historia…. so he does the next best thing. In Wace he posits that Autun is
synonymous with Cacua. It never was nor could be; but in the annals in 151
BC (Second Spanish War), the Roman general Licinius Lucullus (not quite
Lucius Hiberius) attacks and captures the town of Cauca, of the tribe known
as the Vaccaei.
Also found in the introduction to Part III is the same sentiment found
that Wace had commented upon in the original Appendix when talking of
Caesar and Alexander: Only what people say about who Alexander and
Caesar were, according to what they have found in books; all that remains of
them is their names.
Now, when Henry Blois, reiterating the same sentiments as Wace, lays
bare his real reason for why he has gone to such great lengths to create his
pseudo-history: I understand completely and am fully aware that all men die,
cleric and lay, and after their death their fame is short lived unless it is set
down in a book by a cleric; it cannot survive or live on in any other way.
Essentially, what Henry Blois has done is concoct the preamble to Part III
using much of Wace’s original text from what is now termed the Appendix
to make it seem as if it is Wace’s own preamble to Part III. It is possible he
has also done likewise with the construction of the Chronique Ascendante,
however, some later redactor has added in the later interpolation regarding
the siege of Rouen. Logically these could not be Wace’s words if he had
resigned himself to letting Beneeit resume his chronology if Beneeit died in
1173 and the siege of Rouen took place in 1174. Why would Wace revise his
text to incorporate this event?
Henry interpolating or rather composing the Chronique Ascendante from
Wace’s words on the subject of Matilda and Stephen has also reiterated his
feeling from GS.
Henry’s assessment is now put into the mouth of Wace as to why
Stephen’s reign failed: he accepted bad advice and bad advice harmed him.
However the very next sentence is so wholly inaccurate that it could only be
an apologia written by Stephen’s brother: The King so harried her that she
Henry Blois’ reference to the Beaumont twins.
recognised his right and gave him the Kingdom as an inheritance; this was
greatly to the advantage of both those whom the war pleased and those whom
peace pleased; he was King for nineteen years, after which time he died.
The main point of the rearrangement of the Roman de Rou is so that the
authorship of the Roman de Brut is never left in any doubt in that it is made
to seem as if Wace had written it in 1155. The date given for the Roman de
Brut seems highly unlikely because the VM had not been written at that
date. In the Roman de Brut ‘Teleusin’ is introduced foretelling of Christ’s
birth. Henry had just based much of the VM on old Welsh material and
Taliesin is introduced to interact with Merlin Celidonius/Sylvestris. To aid
the many anachronisms concerning Merlin and Taliesin, Taliesin is now
able to appear at different points in time and therefore ‘Wace’ has him
predicting Christ’s birth.
Strangely intuitive is Mathews in his ‘Norman literature and Waceand
he says: We may believe that Wace began his long adaptation of ‘Geoffrey’on
speculation, aware that the folk around him were ready for this kind of
narrative in popular form. Henry of Blois, abbot of Glastonbury and bishop of
Winchester was at the height of his influence at the time. The Brut is a subject
that must have suited his tastes. It was the forerunner of the romance in form
and style.
Does Mathews have suspicions of the same theory that I am proposing in
this thesis? Why would Mathew’s pick our Henry Blois in particular to
single out as being interested in Geoffrey or Romance. Wace’s Roman de
Brut IS the forerunner of Romance form and style….. but how does
Mathews know it must have suited the tastes of Henry Blois????