Chapter 29
Henry Blois and Magister
Gregorius, De mirabilibus urbis
Romae
The Narracio de mirabilibus urbis Romae is a strange little book by an
unknown author who was from England. He describes a visitor’s account of
the marvels he witnessed while visiting Rome. The author is highly
educated and has a taste for statues and the architecture of buildings
interest him. He is also interested in monuments such as triumphal arches.
The mysterious author has taken upon himself to write a short piece in
Latin of about 4,500 words of what he witnessed while visiting. Many of the
descriptions though, are of pieces not traceable and may never have existed
there; and appear to be derived from a pseudo-historical book supposedly
written by Bede on the seven wonders of the world, the anonymous De
septem miraculis mundi. Some of the accounts describing the Art pieces or
buildings have highly original material attributed to them not corroborated
elsewhere.
It would seem as if some accounts had been invented by the author
Gregorius himself. He is a man not unfamiliar in forthrightly adducing a
sometimes bogus historical anecdote to interest his reader. So, the question
is whether this Narracio is written by Henry Blois on one of his many trips
to Rome. It has startling similarities not only regarding the interests of
Henry Blois, but also Gregorius has a fascination with a statue of Marcus
Aurelius which he dwells upon more than any other object in his short
exposé.
The Narracio was first known through an extract found in Ranulph
Higden’s Polychronicon a monk at Chester. A later and more complete copy
was then found at Cambridge. Having now seen that Henry Blois is
reluctant to put any manuscript to his name it would seem that this
Gregorius calls himself Magister also, not unlike Galfredo Arthur had done
when he signed his supposed charters at Oxford.
Gregorius never alludes to where he is from, but he is staying at an inn
in Rome as a visitor. A few of the historical accounts relating to the objects
he describes in Rome, he attributes to information supplied to him by
Cardinals. This is certainly no uneducated or unconnected visitor with an
interest in casual art, but a man so interested in antiquity, statuary and
architecture, who, without ostentation subconsciously portrays his
extensive reading by giving quotes or anecdotes arrived from Livy, Lucan,
Virgil and Ovid; and these are some of the authors which ‘Geoffrey’ has
used as source material for his HRB. From Dark Age sources, he refers to
Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae
1
which constitutes a large part of the
naturist source material for the VM as we have covered. Gregorius also
quotes from memory a recent Hildebert of Lavardin, who as bishop of
Tours he might have met. In 1125 Hildebert was translated unwillingly to
the archbishopric of Tours from Le Mans, where he came into conflict with
the French King Louis VI about the rights of ecclesiastical patronage, and
with the bishop of Dol about the authority of his see in Brittany. Certainly
Hildebert sent letters and poetry to Adela of Normandy, Henry Blois’
mother advising her on clemency, and praised her regency of Blois.
Hilderert of Lavardin’s poem ‘par tibi Roma’ from which Gregorius quotes
from memory the first two lines (as the sense but not the same words are
used), shows that the era was awakening with a new regard for antiquity
and the glories of a bygone age, much as ‘Geoffrey’ searched back to the
roots of the Britons.
It is not improbable to suggest that Henry is posing as Gregorius. As
usual the one place to which Gregorius is said to be returning (presumably
in England), is omitted from the Cambridge text and is not mentioned by
Higden. In his prologue to the Narracio, similarities are found much like the
dedications found in the HRB and Vita Merlini where Henry establishes that
1
Adam of Damerham witnesses that Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae sive Origines was donated to Glastonbury
abbey by Henry Blois.
he is someone other than Henry Blois, demeaning his composition with self
deprecating humility calling it a ‘poorly composed report’ but ‘overcomes
his bashfulness’ in setting down his ‘unpolished prose’ by the insistence of a
Master Martin and a Lord Thomas.
It is a device so similar to that used in the dedication to Alexander in the
Prophecies of Merlin and that to Robert de Chesney in the Vita Merlini.
Henry Blois certainly knew Thomas a Becket archbishop of Canterbury, but
by picking this name, it may indicate the date of publication to 1162-1170
when Thomas was Archbishop.
Gregory begins his exposé seeing the city spread out before him as he
descended the slope of Monte Mario. He then includes a list of the city gates
before telling us of the marvels found inside the walls. His first subject is
that which impressed him most i.e. the Bronze statues. It is interesting that
on his epitaph on the Meusan plates, Henry seems to think at the time he
had them fabricated he would also have a bronze effigy of himself on
display in Winchester…. otherwise I can see no other sense in the meaning
of Henry, alive in bronze, gives gifts to God’.
After a brief account of a bronze bull he gets into the lengthiest account,
by comparison with any other piece, when he describes the equestrian
monument of Marcus Aurelius in two chapters with dubious commentaries
seemingly designed to explain the background story behind the bronze….
explaining the dwarf beneath the horses feet and the tale in explanation of
a cuckoo on the horses head. Gregorius then attempts various fabrications
which are derived from the anonymous ‘seven wonders of the world’
ascribed to Bede whose work is referred to (‘luminous tractae’) by Geoffrey
of Monmouth and obviously used as a source for the HRB.
Henry Blois, (our author Gregorius) goes on to identify a head and hand
having come from Nero’s Colossus, said in the Seven wonders work
ascribed to Bede, to have straddled the harbour of Rhodes and also picks
other items from the work while discussing statuary and other architectural
marvels.
The point of all this, much like the HRB, can only be accounted by
Henry’s fascination with antiquity. With his vast reading he is
interconnecting history just as he had done in the HRB basing his accounts
from the ancients and bringing them to life…. always with just enough
substance to seem credible, but drawing in the interest of his reader;
relating accounts about certain objects that formerly were said by him to
have been in Rome.
Henry is always conscious of history and is in a way re-writing it for
posterity so that they may formulate an impression from his anecdotes.
Henry Blois accounts act as a shadow of history rather than a mirror i.e.
history distorted, not always accurate, but the historical eras are connected
for the medieval mind and made more interesting and alive by Henry’s
anecdotes. Gregorius much like ‘Geoffrey’ is bold in his assertions; the
Spinario or Thorn-Plucker is confidently attributed to be Priapus a fertility
god because of the size of its genitals. Our author covers marble statues and
palaces and the Egyptian obelisk said to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar.
This reminds him of the Pharos of Alexandria, again from Bede’s seven
wonders and the ramble seems cut short and ends suddenly without
conclusion.
Not surprisingly, the characters in the Narracio are Pompey, Brutus,
Cassius, Tiberius, Augustus Marcus Aurelius, Scipio, Nero etc.not a thing
about St Peter or Constantine as one would expect a man who mixed with
the curia in Rome to be more interested in. Henry Blois has little respect for
the papacy (Roman church) although he was legate and used its power to
establish his own power in Britain. Cluniacs in general had a deference to
the pope but Henry especially because he was cognisant of a British church
which stood on a merit equal to Rome.
Henry was more remiss than most in his respect for the institution to
which he often needed to appeal to and yet often had had cause to answer
to. Because of his nobility he was bestowed with the legation in a power
play when Stephen spurned him as Archbishop. On several occasions,
Henry had been denied his wishes as a supplicant to regain autonomy from
Theobald Archbishop of Canterbury once the legation had expired.
John of Salisbury relates an account where Henry Blois was before the
pope when news of the persecutions of the church in England was
mentioned and Henry says: ‘how glad I am that I am not there now or this
persecution would be laid at my door’. Smiling the pope retorts with a fable
about the devil and a storm arising causing ships to sink, where the Devil
claims the same innocence for not being in a place at a certain time. The
pope says to Henry Blois even if you were not actually on the spot, you have
certainly trailed your tail there beforehand’ ….all aimed against Henry.
Henry Blois must have reviled the pope as the pope continued ’ask
yourself my brother, if you have not been trailing your tail in the English sea’.
John of Salisbury relates that Bishop Henry ‘could hope for nothing more
than absolution’. However, Henry obtained permission from the pope before
leaving Rome to buy old statues, and had them taken back to Winchester. So
when a certain grammarian saw him, conspicuous in the papal court for his
long beard and philosophical solemnity, engaged in buying up idols, carefully
made by the heathen in the error of their hands rather than their minds he
mocked him thus: “buying old busts is Damasippus’ craze”.The same man
aimed another jest at the bishop when he had heard his reply to a request for
advice during a discussion. He said: ‘for this good counsel Damasippus, may
gods and goddesses grant you a barber’.
An insult against Henry’s beard could be connected to the weirdest tale
in the HRB where the giant who fights Arthur collects beards
2
for his coat.
Not by coincidence, the sculptor at Modena must know of ‘Geoffrey’s’
invented giant episode c.1140 because in the Modena sculpture Arthur has a
beard. This is not a random personal detail which a sculptor inserted by his
own free will, but one assumes was relayed by the person who
commissioned the work, who also would have dictated through description
Arthur’s non-Norman garb as seen by comparison with his compatriots or
fellow attackers.
John of Salisbury relates also concerning the statues that ’it was this
same man who was to reply for the bishop, unprompted but perhaps
expressing his point of view: that he had been doing his best to deprive the
romans of their gods to prevent them restoring the ancient rites of worship’.
The reference“buying old busts is Damasippus’s craze.” is to Junius Brutus X,
who, ‘put to death at Rome several of the most eminent senators of the
opposite party.’
Henry Blois is at Rome buying old Roman statues and we know from his
building projects at Glastonbury and at Winchester that he was interested
in architectural aesthetics to which our English Master Gregorius has
similar tastes. Is it a coincidence that our Gregorius has a fascination for
antiquity and also has the same unfortunate attribute of little regard for the
2
Tatlock p351 says Why this anecdote? Yet innocently states in consequence of comments about Henry Blois
own unruly beard: Barbering of both beards and hair was a burning social matter in Geoffreys time...
truth and the love of inventing fictitious accounts much like Geoffrey of
Monmouth’s episodes in the HRB?
There had always been interest in putting classical objects into buildings
and the re-use of Roman materials; but Gregorius’ interest, not only of
architecture, but also statuary marbles and their composition, reminds us
of Henry’s foray into the commissioning of several pieces of sculptured
Purbeck marble stonework in Winchester cathedral. There are works
commissioned for various churches in Purbeck marble by Henry and we
know he is responsible for the importation of Tournai marble which is
evident in several fonts. It can be said that Henry was the initial patron of
the infant Purbeck marble industry and Henry is buried in a coffin-shaped
tomb in Winchester Cathedral constructed from Purbeck.
Another coincidence showing Henry’s interest in marble is to do with the
statue of Venus, because Gregorius was the first to mention this statue in
medieval literature as it entranced him so much. He relates that he went
‘back three times to look at it despite the fact that it was two stades distant
from my inn’. Gregorius states that the statue is ’made of Parian marble with
such wonderful and intricate skill’ and the ‘Capitoline Venus’ which is the
same as Gregorius describes (as its history can be traced back to the
Quirinal hill) is made from Parian marble. An observation by someone who
has knowledge of the provenance and texture of marble! Is Henry Blois
writing this book not Gregorius?
As I have touched on briefly already, Gregorius covers the statue of a
horse man with more interest than any other object. Herein lies one of the
fundamentals in establishing Gregorius as Henry Blois, but furthermore….
the author of vulgate HRB and Wace’s Brut are at variance with the First
Variant version where certain contradictions concerning the death of
Maximianus occur. This, as I have maintained before, is due to Henry
having to follow more closely the chronology of the Roman annals because
of scrutiny. However, in Vulgate HRB: 'What cause hast thou, Maximian, to
be fearful of Gratian, when the way lieth open unto thee to snatch the empire
from him? Come with me into the island of Britain and thou shalt wear the
crown of the kingdom.
3
3
HRB V, ix
Before Henry Blois arrived in Rome the most likely candidate who was
thought to be represented by the horse man was Constantine; yet
‘Gregorius’ is bent on persuading us that this horseman is the image
ofMarcus Aurelius Mausaeus Valerius Carausius. If no-one knew who the
statue represented…. can we see Henry Blois constructing evidence that it
was a British commander so that we see a parallel with First Variant.
Marcus Aurelius died 293 and was a military commander of the Roman
Empire in the 3rd century. He was a Menapian from Belgic Gaul, who
usurped power in 286, declaring himself emperor in Britain and northern
Gaul. He distinguished himself during Maximian's campaign against the
Bagaudae rebels in northern Gaul in 286. This success, and his former
occupation as a sea pilot, led to his appointment to command the Classis
Britannica, a fleet based in the English Channel, with the responsibility of
eliminating Frankish and Saxon pirates who had been raiding the coasts of
Armorica and Belgica.
Henry Blois surely knew of him as he ran his fleet from a base near
Porchester Castle which Henry Blois went on to rebuild (which we see
mentioned in VM) and it is no doubt what inspired his purposeful
conflation with Arthur. He was suspected of keeping captured treasure for
himself, and of allowing pirates to carry out raids and enrich themselves
before taking action against them…. and Maximian ordered his execution.
In late 286 or early 287 Marcus learned of this sentence and responded
by declaring himself Emperor in Britain and northern Gaul. In HRB we
even hear of Maximian: Whilst that they were debating these matters
amongst themselves, in came Caradoc, Duke of Cornwall, and gave it as his
counsel that they should invite Maximian the Senator and give him the King's
daughter and the kingdom, that so they might enjoy perpetual peace.
4
As Geoffrey of Monmouth does throughout the HRB he changes a
historical persona to suit his purpose, the hapless reader conflates to make
the connection himself. Thus, Master Gregorius pits Marcus Aurelius
against a king of the Miseni in his account of the story behind the statue.
Anachronisms are one of Henry Blois’ ploys that he uses in both the HRB
and the Vita while feigning ignorance of the connection himself. Henry
Blois, the master of conflation, knows his audience will make the
4
HRB V, ix
connection as he refers to the statue of the rider as being that of Marcus
knowing that his Roman audience might think it Marcus Aurelius
Antoninus Augustus, but a British readership would immediately think it
was the British warlord sometimes confused with Arthur conflated through
Gildas’s Aurelius Ambrosius at Badon and possibly through a lovely twist of
Geoffrey’s into Merlin Ambrosius from Nennius’ boy.
Not to be too blatant in naming the bronze horseman as Marcus Aurelius
which might expose him; instead, Henry Blois as Gregorius just refers to a
Marcus. He may even wish us to associate the statue with Cadwallo from
the HRB as a captured trophy. I would suggest it is from this statue seen at
Rome on his first visit that gave him his inspiration for this passage in HRB:
within a brazen image cast to the measure of his stature. This image,
moreover, in armour of wondrous beauty and craftsmanship, they set upon a
brazen horse above the West Gate of London.
Henry Blois’ has a known penchant for statuary and this may have led to
his exposure as the author ‘Geoffrey of Monmouth if links were made
between HRB and Marcus Aurelius. The intended subliminal link is
obviously made to Aurelius and then to Arthur in the HRB. Henry Blois’
point is that there is a statue of an Aurelius in Rome. In this instance is
Gregorius seen to be constructing a tentative link between two works (both
composed by him) by inserting this proposition (given on good authority by
Cardinals) of the statue being an image of Marcus Aurelius the British
emperor. If he came out and said unequivocally there was a connection
then suspicion would follow that ‘Gregorius’ was Henry, since prior to
writing this book the statue was attributed to Constantine. The only reason
for labouring this connection is that HRB indicates that (at some stage)
Rome was defeated by Britons.
We should not forget Henry was in the business of re-writing History. He
always tries to substantiate his authority as he does using Archdeacon
Walter, hence the reference to the good authority of the account derived
from the Cardinals. It is relevant to my purpose to show how ‘Geoffrey of
Monmouth’s’ mind works because if we can establish that this mind is the
mind of Henry Blois and Master Gregorius and the mind which authored
the GS; then the reader will understand the links discussed previously
which show that much Glastonbury material has also been disseminated to
correlate and form a cohesive body of historicity which interrelates with
other parts of Henry’s specific design.
However, we are concerned at the moment with why Gregorius found it
necessary to find a representative of a mounted horseman at Rome, if this
same Gregorius is the Henry Blois who wrote the HRB Ambrosius
Aurelianus, Aurelius Ambrosius seems to be a combination of both Arthur
and Merlin and ‘Geoffrey’ does not have any particular anchor between the
Ambrosius and Aurelius appellation. Ambrosius Aurelianus is one of the
few people that Gildas identifies by name in his De Excidio et Conquestu
Britanniae, concerning a war with the Saxons, the survivors gather together
under the leadership of Ambrosius, who is described as: "... a gentleman
who, perhaps alone of the Romans, had survived the shock of this notable
storm. Certainly his parents, who had worn the purple, were slain by it. His
descendants in our day have become greatly inferior to their ancestors
excellence." Again this is Geoffrey’s derogatory mention of the Welsh. How
could Geoffrey be a Welshman.
From Gildas we can conclude that Ambrosius Aurelianus was of high
birth, and had Roman ancestry…. a point relevant to Marcus Aurelius
referred to by Gregorius especially if what Gildas meant by saying
Ambrosius' family "had worn the purple". Roman Emperors and Roman
males of the senatorial class wore clothes with a purple band. Given that
‘Geoffrey of Monmouth’ relates that Aurelius is born of Roman mother from
Constantine it is not hard to see how ‘Gregorius’ would love to have a statue
attributed to him in Rome: Thereupon the Britons that afore were scattered
flocked unto them from every quarter, and a great council was held at
Silchester, where they raised Constantine to be King and set the crown of the
realm upon his head. They gave him also unto wife a damsel born of a noble
Roman family whom Archbishop Guethelin had brought up, who in due
course did bear unto him three sons, whose names were Constans, Aurelius
Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon. Constans, the eldest born, he made over to
the church of Amphibalus in Winchester, that he might there be admitted into
the order of monks.
5
Gildas says that Ambrosius, alone, is worthy of praise among his
countrymen for his leadership of the British attack against the invading
5
HRB VI,v
Anglo-Saxons. Gildas refers to him as a "Roman"and goes on to say that the
Saxon advance was halted, altogether, by a British victory at Mt. Badon.
Gildas does not name Aurelius Ambrosius as the commander, but the
implication of association is there from Geoffrey trying to link his hero to a
British annal when Gildas never mentions Arthur. Geoffrey of Monmouth
also makes this link through Nennius the book which Geoffrey (and
laughably Orderic) suspiciously ascribes to Gildas…. and the reader should
not forget Henry Blois is the author of Life of Gildas.
The Venerable Bede, an eighth century monk of the monastery of Jarrow,
in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the
English People), refers to an: "Ambrosius Aurelius, a modest man of Roman
origin, who was the sole survivor of the catastrophe in which his royal
parents had perished." Bede tells us also that "under his leadership the
Britons took up arms, challenged their conquerors to battle, and with God's
help inflicted a defeat upon them."
Nennius, however, the early 9th century monk of Bangor in his Historia
Brittonum, has two different Ambrosius'. Firstly, he refers to a clearly
legendary Ambrosius as being a fatherless child who displayed prophetic
powers before Vortigern which could well be a Blois interpolation. Then
Nennius also says that Ambrosius was a rival whom Vortigern dreaded,
and, in a later passage, calls him "the great king of all the kings of the British
nation."
Now there are problems with Nennius
6
in that it is an ancient tract
probably comprising one or two original sources and compiled to a form
which was attributed to Nennius. Some also attribute it to Gildas and this
may be down to Henry himself and analysis does show some Arthurian
material could have been added. The Arthurian part of Nennius on the
whole is tricky to know if our arch-interpolator has been at work. It would
appear, however, as I have maintained before, that it was Henry who had
copies made with Gildas’ name attached. There is therefore always a
suspicion about Nennius.
After the reader has been appraised of the interpolations of Henry Blois
exposed in this work, there would be no reason not to ascribe the reworked
version of Nennius to Henry Blois as it seems to be Henry (through
6
"Doubts concerning the British History Attributed to Nennius" article from PMLA, Volume 20. W.W.Newell
1905
Geoffrey) that ascribes the adulterated 11
th
century recension to Gildas in
the HRB.
Another reason for suspecting Henry Blois is that Nennius’ Historia
Brittonum describes the settlement of Britain by Trojan expatriates and
states that Britain took its name after Brutus, a descendant of Aeneas just as
Geoffrey maintains. The work also was the first source to portray King
Arthur, who is described as a dux bellorum (military leader) or miles
(soldier) and not as a king so may well be original. It names the twelve
battles that Arthur fought, but like ‘Geoffrey’s’ habit in the HRB, none are
assigned actual dates.
Assignation of date would automatically throw up difficulties in
confluence concerning much of the HRB, but the earliest known reference
to the battle of Camlann is an entry from the 10th-century Annales
Cambriae, recording the battle in the year 537 which mentions Mordred
(Medraut). The Arthurian part of Nennius is tricky to evaluate. But as I
have covered earlier we just have to accept Nennius as it is.
The accusation against most of the evidence supplied in this exposé will
be that I have apportioned manuscripts too often to Henry Blois or
contrived evidence to make it appear as if he is the author when others
believe he is not. On that basis I would rather leave Nennius as it stands
holding a healthy suspicion of interpolation. I would add that often as we
have covered just a changed folio can have a big effect on how a manuscript
is viewed historically. But, lastly on the subject, since Henry as ‘Geoffrey’ is
seen to have employed a source book for his inspiration on nearly every
occasion, this adds credence that it was an extant manuscript as it stands in
1126. William Newell in his ‘Doubts Concerning the British History
Attributed to Nennius’ (1905) is no more able to elucidate further and has no
suspicions that the author of Chivalric Arthur is culpable of equating
Nennius with Gildas.
However, after that brief digression, we can see how Henry Blois melds
Aurelius, Ambrosius, with Arthur and Merlin and how these old British
annals anchor for him (now posing as Master Gregorius) his Marcus
Aurelius into Rome and on such a stunning piece of statue artistry. If we
were to follow Henry’s mind we get from Marcus Aurelius through the
three British annals by associating Marcus Aurelius with Aurelius
Ambrosius which, by his links to battles, (specifically Badon) against the
Saxons and Roman heritage, imply Arthur as the hero.
Gregorius who assigns much of his small exposé to Marcus Aurelius
posits an explanation of a marvellous statue of a Roman warlord or
emperor, who, if one lived in Henry’s mind, might be construed as Arthur.
Aurelius, with the Arthurian connection derived from the British annals, is
very important to ‘Geoffrey’ and implies Arthur’s Roman roots following the
detail found in the annals and one can see the references in the HRB where
the Ambrosius appellation is attached to Merlin as a surname, but both
Aurlelian and Ambrosian references are frequent.
‘Gregorius’ has not only written his short tract to perpetuate Henry’s
design which substantiates the Arthur-Roman connection which readers of
the HRB will undoubtedly make; but Henry is genuinely interested in
antiquity, architecture and Roman art and thus the book takes the form it
does. Gregorius says that pilgrims to Rome think the Horseman statue is
that of Theodoric or Constantine, however the ‘Cardinals’ say the bronze
horse-rider is Marcus (meaning Marcus Aurelius) or Quintus Quirinius.
Gregorius explains how the statue once stood on four bronze columns in
front of Jupiter on the Capitoline but blessed Gregory took the rider down’,
and set it up outside the Papal palace. Gregorius then goes on to say that he
is going to give a wide berth to the worthless stories of the pilgrims and
Romans in this regard, and shall record what I have been told by the elders,
the cardinals and men of greatest learning’ before launching into his own
description of a dwarf king of the Miseni, more skilful than any other man in
the perverse art of magic’ who this Marcus (the horse-rider) on the statue
overcame. Because of his bravery ‘supposedly’ the statue was erected.
The second possibility that Gregorius provides in explanation which
accounts for the statue in Rome involves Quintus Quirinius who supposedly
jumped into a chasm in Rome from his horse to save the citizens of Rome.
Strangely enough another account of similar date known as the Graphia
aureae urbis Romae, or the Mirabilia states that the horseman is a Marcus
Curtius whose story is also told by the Roman historian Livy with similar
details. The name given by Gregorius in the Narracio is, as we have said,
alternatively, Quintus Quirinus which has puzzled most commentators until
we realise this tract is probably written by Henry Blois who employs the
same artifices of associating people to historical events; because we have on
the Roman ranks pitted against Arthur in Gaul a certain Quintus Carutius.
7
Of course the wholly fictional ‘Lucius Hiberius’ Procurator of the Republic of
Gaul in the HRB against Arthur had a nephew Caius Quintilianus
8
who had
his head cut off by Gwain and may be the reason for Henry introducing this
possibility, but all these possibilities are highly tentative and conjectural on
my part.
The only other medieval writer to refer to the Narracio as we have said
is Ranulf Higden in his introduction to the Polychronium who gives the
Horse-riders name as Quintus Curtius. Given Henry Blois record in
conflating and providing confusing accounts of personages in the HRB; it is
slightly coincidental that both of these explanations of who the rider might
be, given by Gregorius, (a Magister from England), tentatively tie back to
fictional characters in the HRB. Given that Henry Blois was often in Rome
and the time the book was written and Henry has an indisputable interest
in statuary and architecture; it is not ridiculous to suggest that this small
book has many coincidental factors where Henry Blois could be the author.
Henry Blois speaks of a Bronze horse in the HRB: The Britons embalmed
his body with balsams and sweet-scented condiments, and set it with
marvellous art within a brazen image cast to the measure of his stature. This
image, moreover, in armour of wondrous beauty and craftsmanship, they set
upon a brazen horse above the West Gate of London in token of the victory I
have spoken of, and as a terror unto the Saxons. They did likewise build
beneath it a church in honour of St. Martin, wherein are divine services
celebrated for him and the faithful departed. Coincidentally, Henry Blois,
always keen to promote those institutions he has control over, is Dean of St
Martin’s. Henry Blois writes a letter to Robert Neufbourg while papal legate
stating: Know that the church of St Martin of London and all things
pertaining to it are mine.
It is my suggestion that Henry Blois is trying to imply the bronze horseman
in Rome came from London as a prize like many of the other trophies found
in Rome. When we throw the same bronze rider into the soup from the
prophecies it is not silly to suggest that Henry is implying the Horse rider in
7
HRB X, i and v
8
HRB X, iv
Rome was the Marcus Auraelius from Britain: He that shall do these things
shall clothe him in the brazen man, and throughout many ages shall keep
guard over the gates of London sitting upon a brazen horse.