Chapter 24
The Roman De Brut
It was Henry Blois who gave the Roman de Brut to the English court. This is
how Henry managed to disseminate the popular Historia in England and on
the continent. Neither ‘Geoffrey’ nor ‘Wace’ would have had such access to
nobility and have had the capacity to spread the Arthuriana quickly
through the Crusader community and Royal courts on the continent. Henry
Blois had started the Roman de Brut or his vernacular Historia with the First
Variant (as template) which points to the fact that it was in progress before
the Vulgate version reached its final completion. As we have maintained
throughout, the Vulgate HRB only started to disseminate after 1155 when
the dedications, mention of Archdeacon Walter and the updated prophecies
were added. ‘Wace’ claims he was not the source of the Round Table.
Supposedly Wace credits its story to the Bretons and Layamon follows. It is
quite ridiculous that any scholar would not see that the introduction of the
round table is a Henry Blois device based upon a solution to the problems
that 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.
1
Before Wace there was no
Round Table, but Henry can assert this about the British because the Roman
de Brut was proliferated mostly on the continent. Certainly Marie of France
and Chretien had it in their work and of course Robert de Boron.
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,
1
Le roman de brut v.9998
can only mean that ‘Wace’ and ‘Geoffrey’ have something in common in
their promotion of Arthur. We now know it is Henry Blois.
Layamon’s claim of Cornish carpenters constructing 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.
However, 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.
2
(Eustace at one stage was the favoured
2
We 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.
nephew as he was being groomed for when he eventually became King, but
he was now dead).
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 common to 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 pseudo-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.
In its 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 he 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.
The Roman de Brut, was based initially on the First Variant, but Henry
Blois at the time he impersonated ‘Wace c.1160, 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.
‘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
narrative about the evangelisation of Britain (which had featured so much
to coincide with DA).When speaking of Vortigern there is no mention of the
Pelagian heresy which became such a vital part of the First Variant’s
portrayal of a pious Briton at Rome in evidence….and of the Briton church’s
early establishment. Henry as Wace now 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.
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 riverHabren 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 he takes on the Giant (because
supposedly he is a Welsh Geoffrey from Monmouth living in Oxford), 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’sHamo’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 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 another 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.
3
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 later in 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.
4
Our Scholars have puzzled over its sudden appearance. It is not
3
Mathews. Norman literature and Wace p.63
4
In 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’
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 barons. He simply wanted to find an idealistic solution and
found it in the Round Table.
Henry’s ideal Arthurian world was to prevent a hierarchy by all barons
having 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 meet 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.(This like Geoffrey’s Geography is the Aravian mount. It istoo
coincidental to see geographical Alps as similarly accounted by Wace and
Geoffrey).
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. It was Henry Blois who had
witnessed the ingratiating favour shown by barons toward the king at
banquets. Henry Blois thought; ‘what if’ all the barons had not competed
with each other, 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 notif 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
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 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 fitted 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 it appears 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?
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.
5
The evidence is all there when Master Blehis is at last recognised as
Monseigneur Blois, the propagator of the Grail stories. ‘Wacesays 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!
Many have thought by this passage that Wace has a scrupulous regard
for the truth. Henry simply has no use for the prophecies anymore post
1158-60. This is pure misdirection as Henry Blois uses the same gambit of
seeming probity in DA while interpolating William of Malmesbury. In the
DA he crucially says, he omits to tell of Arthur, but lets the world know that
Arthur lies between the pyramids at Glastonbury. How is this possibly
reconcilable with the William of Malmesbury in GR 1,
6
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.
Wace, the writer of the ‘Lives’ and the Roman de Rou, is doubtless 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 ‘Wacewas 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
5
Wace Roman de Brut
6
GR 287, Arthur's grave however, is nowhere to be found, whence come, the traditional old wives’ tales that he
may yet return.
originated with Breton poets is pure misdirection. I shall cover this in the
chapter on Marie de France where the same mis-direction is used for the
same reasons.
‘Wace’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)….more than ‘Geoffrey’s’ high-sounding Latin prose which
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. ‘Wacehighlights 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 saintslives, Arthur
barely featured in writing before Henry Blois came up with the idea of a
‘chivalric’ Arthur based on Norman values. 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 a marvel to me, as I mentioned before, that the scholastic community
has rarely discussed this absurd coincidence…. supposedly ‘Geoffrey’ did
not make it all up, but found it in a book…. 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….
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.
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’ and turns
up at the precise moment Geoffrey has a mind to write on the subject!!! If
Walter had such a book already, how come Huntingdon was ‘amazed’????
Does it not seem strange that the author of Roman de Brut starts to
versify with the First Variant Historia and then finishes 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? 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.
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 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.
We see that Constant was a monk at Winchester and Henry establishes
that Christianity flourished in England. The logic is 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 thebishop.
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.
‘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 it in a different way than
‘Geoffrey’. 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. The most
likely explanation is that Henry published his Roman de Brut c.1159-60
when the prophecies were no longer relevant to his political agenda. 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.
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 pseudo-history.
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 are told 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’ orders
7
): 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…
In 1141, after the Rout of Winchester, it is the most likely time that the
dragon was fabricated as physical evidence at Winchester. This would have
corroborated the story which was subsequently to surface in the First
Variant and thereafter in the Vulgate.
We have maintained that 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 thought about the wild and savage Welsh.
‘Geoffrey’sdistaste 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. Henry Blois could not suppress his own
feelings about the Welsh. Therefore, there is a conflict as he set his glorious
(but fabricated) Arthurian epic in Wales….which, in his mind, was now full
of savages.
7
John 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.
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 ‘Waceunderstands 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.'
8
Wace’s description 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
8
HRB. IX, vii
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.
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 been written 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 the time. 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. Hence the
ecclesiastical bent 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. 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 First
Variant, yet there is still no mention of Walter simply because he is still
alive.
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
of a person named Galfridus Arthur.
It is only when the source book is needed to explain Galfridus insight
into insular history that Walter’s name is presumed upon; and therein is the
explanation of why Walter is not in the First Variant version. The good book
of Oxford nor the Archdeacon of Oxford who supplies the old source book
are not mentioned in First Variant in 1144. 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; 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. 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 the version c.1158-60.
We could possibly speculate that in the Vulgate HRB was Henry’s final
attempt at Metropolitan, where the unabashed Briton polemic is aimed at
the only English pope in 1154 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 Blois 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.
9
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.
10
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
9
Gesta 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.
10
Wace. Roman de Brut
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 seen by Merlin in the prophecy concerning Matilda. 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 shadow of him that weareth a helmet
is himself as legate to the pope…. on the other side of the mountains, to
which ‘Wace’ is also using as a Geographical divide. 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 geography:
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. If ‘Wace’ is following
the First Variant propheciesof 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.
While on the subject from this oft made journey to Rome; if we mark the
points on the map, we will see that there are two routes that Henry Blois
has taken to and from Rome in his travels. After leaving Rome and passing
through Modena and then across the Alps…. the right hand route is the one
discussed by Henry Blois in the letter with Abbot Suger (through Flanders)
11
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 fonts
12
derive…. and onto Froidmont where
Helinand resided. The left hand route would bring Henry up through the
Aravian range 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
Merlini 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. These came out while Stephen 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, 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 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
11
See Note 4
12
There 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 example being at Winchester
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 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. 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 whose 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
possessed 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) had been foreseen and therefore,
so had Stephen’s reign. 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’. 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’ and that is Henry Blois; who, at the time, was in self-imposed
exile. 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.
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.1159-60.
There are a set of twelfth century prophecies which it is worth covering
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 Wace which Henry had prepared before Stephen died. 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 ingenuous
13
as many other of his fabrications in
the Roman de Brut expand on top of ‘Geoffrey’s’ fabrications. 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 II
14
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
13
In 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.
14
One 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.
use Jean Blacker’s
15
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.
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 Bloisargument 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
15
Anglo-Norman verse Prophecies of Merlin.
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.